My paternal grandfather was somewhat of a practical joker. He thoroughly enjoyed playing pranks on other people. Although he died when I was eight or nine, I remember some of his antics and others I learned from my Daddy and Uncles.
He made one keg of ‘Persimmon Beer,’ every year. When I was very small and was permitted to visit him, he would let me sit on his lap; puff on his pipe; and sip this concoction. This made me feel very grown up and was a secret between the two of us.
He was also a champion teller of tall tales. One of his favorites to tell young children was about ‘ABBIE-DALE.’ (I never knew the correct spelling, because this was a figment of his imagination).
‘ABBIE-DALE’ lived in a hollow tree stump and was; covered with hair. He would only come out of his lair at night, to prowl the area looking for children that had been bad.
Abbie-dale’s favorite food was young children who, for some reason, had not obeyed their parents or had failed to do something that was expected of them.
Sitting there on his lap, terrified of this monster; but afraid to move: I would listen until he got to the part about what he would do if this monster got after me. He would simply get his ‘DUM-DEVIL’ and chase him back into his stump hole.
Grandpa’s Dum-Devil was his own invention. It was a hollowed out log that he had smoothed on the inside as well as outside. Over one end; he had stretched a piece of rawhide.
In the center of the rawhide he had made a small hole through which he passed a twisted string. Fastened on the outside of the rawhide, it ran the length of the log. The last operation was to wax the string.
Always careful to wait until a dark night, Grandpa would carry the Dum-Devil to a location near anyone’s house that he planned to “scare.” Cradling the contraption in one arm, he would slowly slide his fingers down the string inside the log. The tightly twisted string together with the wax caused vibrations in the stretched rawhide and produced a blood curdling moan.
If a lamp was ‘IMMEDIATELY’ lighted in the “victims” house; or sounds of voices were heard; “Grandpa’s mission had been accomplished and he would return home and hide the Dum-Devil until another time.” I’m not sure if anyone,”other than our family knew about Grandpa’s Dum-Devil; but we all knew how much enjoyment that he got from it.
My older brother has told me of two, other favorite “Boogers” of Grandpa’s; that were similar monsters called “Rawhide and Bloody-Bones.” I am glad that I was not subjected to these two because I’m not certain that I could have handled more than ‘Abbie-Dale’: “Even if I had been fortified with Persimmon Beer.”
After his death, I remember seeing the Dum-Devil around his house. I tried to operate it as did others in the family; but no one else could produce the hair raising sounds that Grandpa could coax from this simple invention from which he got so much pleasure.
“Our Family did not know, then: That it was possible, a “Gran-pa and a ‘six-year old;” could have planted the seeds for a thriving, ‘Multi-million dollar’ industry called; “Toys – R – Us.” “Simpler things have happened.”