Jebbadiah had gnarled fingers. His heart was bad. His toes were cold. He couldn't even scratch his itch.
But one thing for sure, he knew about the snowman. He learned about the snowman from Oui-do Pickett: The Best Chicken Farmer in the WHOLE world. According to Oui-Do, of course.
One day, a long time ago when Jebbadiah could still jump five feet in the air and eat a dozen eggs in a sitting, he decided to visit Oui-Do at his teeny-tiny cave where Oui-Do always went to sing and think and sleep at nights when he wasn't tending the chickens. Jebbadiah could hear music coming from the cave. Banjo, then harp
and even big drums. How Oui-Do managed all that Jebbadiah never did understand because the instruments always would disappear right when Oui-Do answered the door of his cave. Not a single sign of anything. Not even a little wooden drumstick.
Jebbadiah would ask Oui-Do about all the music. Where are all the instruments? But Oui-Do wouldn't say much. Just nod his curly topped head with the wiry black hair and say with the faintest smile, "Ya sure ya heard all that? I think it must have been the wind in the trees. The way it moves in these parts."
The thing Jebbadiah learned about Oui-Do so very long ago was how very special he was and would always be because Oui-Do is just like Santa Clause. He lives forever and magically does stuff. Just like Santa does. EXCEPT. He doesn't do things quick-like. None of that dashing around stuff. And definitely no reindeer. He does have a horse of course, but otherwise he walks when he needs to get somewhere, but mostly he only likes to amble.
"How come," Jebbadiah asked as they drank soup out of tin cups and watched the candle flames lick the air, "how come you mostly amble? How come you aren't in a hurry? Except that one time when there was a real emergency and you forgot to call The Remember Company and ran like crazy down Shady Lane, shouting, "How could I forget to call The Remember Company and order next year's batch of thank you cards!" That was really something. I thought your suspenders were on too tight that day maybe. And your bowler cap might have stabbed you with one of those little pins you stick in it to count how many times you notice something nice in the world.
At the time of Jebbadiah's quizzical renderings, Oui-Do had taken to mmming, "mmm," he said as he nodded and played with sand he'd collected in a clear glass
bowl intended for salad or chips depending upon who you are. In Oui-Do's case it was sand and who's to know why except for Oui-Do and maybe even...
"I don't know Oui-Do answered Jebbediah before he spoke at which time Jebbadiah said, "How did you know I was going to ask you about the sand?" And now's about the time Oui-Do goes from "mmming" to "ah-ha-ahing". You noticed "The Inexplicable." Very impressive, Jebbadiah, but which question do you want me to answer first?
Jebbadiah tried to remember what he'd just asked, but couldn't. It was then that he noticed Oui-Do's posture: that hugging of his legs that made him seem like a tadpole caught in the midst of a stirring pond. The coiled look of an infant, his knees were snugged up against his chest and served as a table for his chin. He swirled the sand with his pointer finger. It occurred to Jebbadiah that his own posture kept shifting. Like the flame. Like the sand. But Oui-Do sat neatly on the ground, leaning onto his knees and wondering about something. Was it the sand? Or was that just a cover?
Oui-Do lifted his gaze from the sand at that very moment and said, "Everything is a cover for something else."
There was a long pause then. So long that Jebbadiah realized the number one question he really wanted to ask.
"Oui-Do," he began, as he brought his knees to his chin, trying to feel what it might be like to be the best chicken farmer in the whole world according to Oui-Do his very self. Jebbadiah cleared his throat and whispered, like he'd suddenly lost his voice, like too much sound might cause the earth to shift and the cave to cave in. "How come you aren't famous like Santa Clause?" There. He said it. Or whispered it, but no matter, Jebbadiah felt proud. Not only did he ask, he also thought he'd done a pretty good job, at this moment anyways, at sitting like someone who knew a lot of a lot. Only someone like Oui-Do could hug his knees like and infant and still look like a king, but Jebbadiah was managing a pretty good attempt.
Something fluttered back in the shadows of the cave. Maybe a bat? A lost butterfly?
"I'm not famous like Santa Clause because..." Oui-Do said, and then curled himself even more tightly, coiling like a ball of yarn. His eyes squeezed tight as he tipped over gently onto the soft cave floor where an invisible wind rocked him to sleep. Jebbadiah got up promptly and covered Oui-Do with the old quilt they had discovered one day in a box addressed: Oui-Do's Cave #3.14 Twenty-two over Seven Olden Forest. For a long time Jebbadiah waited, but Oui-Do slept like a bear. It would be a long time before he would wake up. Somehow, Jebbadiah knew.
He also knew that someone had to tend the chickens. So he did. But during his days and even at night in his dreams he wondered why Oui-Do wasn't famous. Oui-Do could make you feel special even if you weren't. He talked about far off lands where you didn't feel so heavy and shoes were not a requirement. Jebbadiah thought so long and hard about "the Santa Clause question" he realized he'd forgotten about the gift he'd received from Oui-Do, many moons before he'd ever even asked "the Santa question" in the first place.
"I've never seen such a thing," Jebbadiah had said, looking at the cover of the little book. A little mouse is on his way somewhere. Somewhere. He's pulling a sled with a big pot of something... Something. Soup! It must be soup! The title reads: Perfect Soup in nice bright red ink. Jebbadiah sits in front of the fire tonight. The book is in front of him on the old wood table that somebody made at sometime. Sometime. His fingers are gnarled. His heart is bad. His toes are cold. He can't even scratch his itch. But he remembers the snowman.
It was so long ago, but he could jump five feet in the air and eat a dozen eggs. The magic of memory brings the very day back once again. In the cobwebs of his
eyes, the years disappear and Jebbadiah is young again. "Jebbadiah," calls the Amishian voice of Oui-Do, "What else is on the cover of the
book? Besides the mouse. Besides the pot of soup.
"Yes. But what else?"
"And snow... Snow-something-else..."
"Yes!" Oui-Do chimes like the happiest clock in the world. "Way up in that top left hand corner, smiling and waving."
"Oui-Do," Jebbadiah says, a bit of wonder etched in his crescent eyebrows, "Why are you so excited about the snowman? You can barely even see him in the picture."
Oui-Do, takes a tiny pin out of his pocket and affixes it to his bowler cap before placing it back on his head.
"I'm excited because you're about to find out," says Oui-Do. "When have you got the time to read it with me?"
"I've got all the time in the world," says Jebbadiah, "I'm a kid!"
Snow falls outside the window of Jebbadiah's window. He returns to the moment. The moment. And the fire before his woolen socks covering his cold toes. The fire has awakened him once again.
Very slowly, slower than an amble, Jebbadiah opens the book. "Let's find out why that snowman is so important, shall we?" says Jebbadiah to his
cat, Rupert, whose just curled up like Oui-Do in the cave. Rupert trills. "Mrrr."
Jebbadiah begins. *If you would like to discover what's the big deal about the snowman and find some of the magic Jebbadiah found, amble on over to: Big Deal About Snowmen
There you'll find a link to what is one of my favorite children's books and a recipe for what might be the best soup in the world of the Olden Forest.