The Spring Show & Barefoot Benny

The month of March came and went quite quickly. I was able to get a few pots fired out but I also lost a few to handling damage. This can happen often if you’re not careful with the pots. I had a bunch of pots that dried out, so I needed to dry and trim them with a mask outside. It was quite a task. One I hope to never have to repeat. When I looked back to last year, I had the same thing happen with a load of large cups. But once more, I could make lemonade out of the lemons.

The Spring Show

Tomorrow starts the Easter 2024 holiday. I should take a break from things and go visit family. But this year, my work schedule at the paper factory had me coming off nights into Easter Saturday, so such a long trip to upstate New York would have been somewhat long to make on no sleep after twelve hours of work. I decided to stay home this year and have dinner with my parents at their place.

I believe I have another leak in the pottery shed roof, and I need to climb up there with the ladder and have a look. My father was able to fix the last leak with a spare shingle and some tar, and I may need to do the same where the new leak is. I think the leak started when a nail pulled up from the plywood warping. The shelves don’t seem to be wet at all, so that is good.

I enjoyed having the Spring 2024 show on the local Bunny Trail. Turnout was a little down from last year, but I will never complain, as I am grateful for anyone who showed up at all, and I appreciate each person who stops in and might enjoy the work. We had some high winds on day 2 of the show that blew strong and blew my trash bin a bit, but the rest of the days were beautiful, and we had plenty of sun.

The pots that did not crack from handling damage came out quite nice, and the mugs, bowls, and a few vases looked beautiful in the seafoam green and blue glazes. I wanted to sell a few mugs and bowls, so after the show, I took images and hoped to post items online. It is a lot of work to post online, as you need descriptions and all types of information to have things found by search engines.

One of my big goals is to start making it every day. I have been trying to get into the studio and create as a practice, but I have been busy and feel wiped out, so I put it off. Maybe the holiday would be an excellent time to start a new practice of showing up for myself. I was really happy with the texture patterns and how they showed up under the glazes I had on the pots, and I hope to repeat that in some way.

I am currently Preparing for the Wyoming County Open Studio weekend in May. I also have a show at the Scranton Cultural Center in April. Shortly after, I planned a trip to a homesteading convention at the Washington County Fairgrounds near Greenwich, New York. In a perfect world, I would take pots there that would be used for food preservation. I need a sales tax license to sell in New York, so I may go and observe this year.

Bearfoot Benny

He didn’t always go barefoot, but he did put on boots in the winter. Year-round custom shoes would cost a fortune on his pay, so as soon as the weather permitted, Benny would kick off his boots and go barefoot until early Fall, at least. It was better that way. He had an untreated club foot on both feet, it seemed. No one knew where Bearfoot Benny came from. One day, he just showed up barefoot at the Wright Choice Restaurant, looking for the owner and cook, Big Jimmy, and a job.

His name was not always Barefoot Benny. Before, it was just Benny, but no one knew his last name, so they called him Barefoot Benny when he showed up. Barefoot Benny owned a red wagon with wooden side racks that contained almost everything he owned. He would pull it behind him as he walked to whatever place he was walking to. Big Jimmy would always expect Barfoot Benny to show up one day around the first of April, just like he had been doing for the last ten years, pulling his wagon and barefoot with winter boots in the back.

Barefoot Ben was string bean tall, almost 6 feet maybe. He had shaggy brown hair and wore an old John Deere t-shirt and blue jeans with a hole in the right knee. If you were to look in his wagon, all his jeans had a hole in the right knee. It wasn’t from kneeling to pray but from picking vegetables that were coming ripe further south in early Spring. Big Jimmy would pay him under the table to wash dishes at the Wright Choice Diner for some time, which might involve from early Spring to middle or late Summer. It was hard to tell as Barefoot Benny was his own person and mostly came and went as he pleased. So if he didn’t show a day or two for work, you know he might have just walked off again.

Barefoot Benny had a hard time remaining focused and could not follow tasks past a list of two. And every time Big Jimmy had to run, leaving Barefoot Benny to wash dishes in the kitchen alone after one or two tasks were done, Barefoot Benny would walk off. A few folks in town times were tasked with going from place to place looking for Barefoot Benny and bringing him back to The Wright Choice to finish up undone tasks and get paid. Whenever Big Jimmy asked his run-around guy Buttons to find him, the first place he would check was the Clapper Farm haymow, or he would be under the big oak tree, next to the river, out behind Mrs. Blancher’s house fishing.

Not everyone liked Barefoot Benny around. Milkman Dan would yell out his milk truck window if he saw Benny walking through town. The things Milkman Dan yelled were not all that kind, but he would never yell at Benny in front of Big Jimmy when Dan would eat at the Wright Choice because he knew better. If you worked for Big Jimmy, no one yelled at you while you were working. You had a job to do, and Big Jimmy would back you up when he had to. Big Jimmy would even find you in Church to even things up if it came to that.

On this day, when Barefoot Benny walked off, he decided to go fishing. So he went down behind Mrs. Blancher’s under the big oak tree next to the river. Barefoot Benny waved at Mrs. Blancher through the window. She smiled and waved back. “Stop in for a cookie, Benny, when you’re done!” she yelled through the back screen door. “Are you supposed to be down there, Benny? Does Big Jimmy know where you are, or did you wander off again?”

“Everything is fine, Mrs. Blancher,” Benny yelled back.

“I won’t be long. I lost a big one here yesterday, and I’d like to try and hook him again if I can.”

Barfoot Benny threw in his hook, which consisted of some line tied to a stick. Mrs. Blancher went back to watching the Price is Right on her television. Everyone knew Mrs. Blancher watched The Price is Right because they would hear it through her screen door all summer long. Mrs. Blancher was hard of hearing so she needed the volume turned up some.

Having the volume up was the reason why Mrs. Blancher didn’t hear the first splash in the river, followed by a mother screaming for her son. Nor Did she hear the second splash of Barefoot Benny swimming out into the cold, swift-flowing Spring river to make a rescue attempt. Mrs. Blancher did not hear Benny’s calls and pleas for help as his arms and legs became exhausted from swimming while attempting to keep the little boy’s head above water. Nor did she hear the third splash, made by Buttons, who arrived just in the nick of time, rushing into the water to toss Barefoot Benny an old rope he found at the foot of the big oak tree to pull Benny and the freezing cold child in like two wet cats.

Barefoot Benny lay exhausted on the bank, and the mother, sobbing and crying, picked up her cold, shivering child and held him tight, thankful he was still alive and to warm his little cold body. Mrs. Blancher did hear Button’s loud banging as he knocked at her screen door to ask to use her phone for medical help and call Big Jimmy down. In no time flat, it seemed the whole town was down back under the big oak tree next to the river. The fire department, an ambulance, the town cops, and townspeople milling about watching the commotion.

Mrs. Blancher had never had so many people in her backyard at one time—well, not since she hosted the Sunday school picnic about fifteen years ago. The medical team wrapped Barefoot Benny up in a blanket to warm his body as he sat and shivered. Buttons sat next to him.

‘Thanks Buttons. I’m sure glad you showed up. I could go for a warm beer right now.” Benny said between coughing up water.

“Well, I’m sure anyone in town would get you almost anything you wanted right now, Benny. You’re a goddamn hero. Hell even that jerk Milkman Dan would buy you a warm beer I bet.”

“Well, If you’re not going to get me a warm beer, at least run up to Mrs. Blancher’s and get me a damn cookie.”

“Will do.” said Buttons, standing up.

“Hell, I’ll bring the whole damn plate of cookies back if I can. I don’t think she would mind one bit.”

Big Jimmy found Barefoot Benny and Buttons munching on a plate of cookies on a rock under the big oak tree near the river. The fire department had left, and the cops and medical staff were tying up a few loose ends as Barefoot Benny shivered under the warm blanket.

“Hi Jimmy.” mumbled Buttons with his mouth full of cookies.

“You all doing okay?” asked Big Jimmy with a concerned look.

“Yeah, we’re fine. It’s just Barefoot Benny here who wanted a warm beer, but we had to settle for the cookies instead to warm up,” joked Buttons.

“Well, you boys can ride with me. Buttons, I’ll drop you off at home, and Benny, you can stay at my place. I’ll put you on a cot in the living room with your feet to the woodstove. I also have a six-pack of beer I left out, so it should be warm. How does that sound, Buddy? You’re a damn hero.”

At the next big town council meeting, it was decided that a donation would be made to buy a new pair of medical shoes for the hero Barefoot Benny. They presented the gift to him with much fanfare at the Home Town Days celebration in June. They even had the high school marching band play a song or two as Barefoot Benny stood on the makeshift wood stage at the park. He sat in a chair, and they had him slip on the shoes. Big Jimmy tied them up, and everyone watched and clapped as Benny walked around on the stage some to try them out.

Barefoot Benny was never seen again after that late Summer. Some say they saw him leaving town barefoot on Route Six East, with his nice new medical shoes being pulled in his wagon behind him. Some stories say he was a victim of a hit-and-run accident. Others say they thought he had won the lottery and didn’t need to roam pulling a wagon anymore.

There may not be a real Big Jimmy, Buttons, or a Barefoot Benny. But somewhere, someone is showing up and being heroes at just the right time. And just maybe that’s what we need to make things right in the world. So be ready to answer the call no matter where you might be. This is the story of my hometown, so I get to tell it how I like.

Written By,

Al Wayman

Artist/Owner

Creek Road Pottery L.L.C.

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