It’s the Crate Bumpkin, Harley Crown – Part 1

Note: Here’s a little series that I used to run annually about this time on one of my blogs, although it’s been dormant for a few years now. I can see in the ancient archives that I have already shoved this one out here on Bonnywood Manor multiple times, which means that some of you are most likely sick to death of it and wish I could just move on with my life. Mea culpa. But this one makes me smile, in a purely self-interested way, reminding me as it does of the personal reasons for writing it. Enjoy.


Little Harley Crown was sitting at the breakfast table in her momma’s kitchen, quietly studying a list of names and occasionally glancing at several stacks of reference materials spread around the table. She did this for quite some time, until Momma Crown, realizing that it was approaching the dinner hour and she would soon need Harley to help her stuff some bell peppers, sat down across from her youngest daughter.

“Harley,” said Momma Crown, carefully choosing her words because her special child was apt to veer into parts unknown without any warning. “What are we working on?”

Harley looked up from her tattered list and made a slight grimace. “I’m trying to figure out who to invite to my Halloween party.”

Momma Crown was taken aback. Halloween? That had been weeks ago. It was nearly Thanksgiving, in just a few days. Momma Crown chose her words with care once again. “Harley, do you understand that Halloween is already gone? You’ve already been trick-or-treating. The parties are all over.”

Harley sighed, in the overly-dramatic fashion which was very popular with youngsters who were firmly convinced that their parents had no intelligence whatsoever. “I know that, Momma.”

“Then help me understand why you’re still working on this list.”

Harley’s little face hardened in determination. “Because Daddy always says you should finish everything that you start.”

Now Momma Crown sighed. “Sweetie, your daddy’s a drinker.”

“I know that, too, Momma. I’m not a Ignor Aunt. Daddy told me he drinks all the time because he’s just trying to get it right. He’s not a quitter. And I don’t wanna be a quitter. So I want to finish this list before I start something else.” Harley suddenly snatched up a nearby sheet of paper, scribbled something on it, then shoved it back to its original position.

“What was that all about? Did you decide who to invite?”

“No,” smirked Harley. “I was making a note. To not make lists when mothers are close.”

Momma Crown sighed again. “Look, Harley, if you still want to make this list, you can do that. But you need to hurry. We have the Fischbeins coming for dinner.”

Harley wrinkled her nose. “I don’t like them.”

“And why not?”

“They smell like fish!”

“Harley, they do NOT smell like fish. They are perfectly-decent, non-smelly people.”

“Then why do people call them the fish-bins? That’s not a name, that’s something you smell like. And they smell like fish bins. Everyone knows that.” Harley again snatched up her wrinkled list as if the matter was now settled and dismissed.

Momma Crown quietly stood up, walked to one of the kitchen counters where she calmly fixed her seventh cup of coffee for the day, then brought her treat back to the table. “Harley, let’s work on the list together. Momma is good with lists.”

Harley eyed Momma suspiciously. “You aren’t going to make fun of me, are you?”

Momma took a sip of her coffee. “Why would I? You have plenty of brothers and sisters to take care of that for me. Now, this list. What’s the hard part about deciding who gets to come. Can’t you just invite everyone?”

“Oh no!” breathed Harley, horrified. “We can’t do it that way. I can only invite five people, so I have to decide who can’t come.”

“Five?” asked Momma Crown. “Why only five?”

“Because only six people can fit in the Crate Bumpkin, just me and five friends. Everyone knows that.”

Momma Crown languidly stirred her coffee. “Well, then, I guess I’m not everyone. I had no idea that the Crate Bumpkin had an occupancy restriction. And Harley?”

“Yes, Momma?”

“What’s a Crate Bumpkin?”

Another look of horror crossed Harley’s face, filling it with utter shock and outrage. “How can you not know what the Crate Bumpkin is? You’re a grown-up. You’re supposed to know about everything.”

Momma Crown absently fiddled with the handle of her cup. “Well, I might have known what it was at one time. But then I had seven kids, none of whom bothered to follow the same flight pattern as the siblings before them, and I’ve been married for ten years to a man who apparently thinks his last name is Crown Royal. Things start to get by you. So, please. Tell Momma what this dang Crate Bumpkin IS.”

“You said ‘dang’…”

“Dang is fine. Dang is wonderful. You can say it from the time you get up until the time you go to bed and Momma will love you just the same as always. Now. The Crate Bumpkin. Explain.”

Harley sighed again, an expression which would have normally been cute on her cherubic little face, but was not particularly so at this moment. “The Crate Bumpkin. Linus and Sally? “The Peanuts?” It comes on Halloween and gives a ride to all the good little boys and girls.”

Momma Crown immediately went to the counter and poured herself an eighth cup of coffee. While she poured half the jar of sugar into the lukewarm liquid, creating something akin to molasses, she pondered. Was it worth trying to explain the real story to Harley? Momma glanced at her watch. Nope. It was too late in the day. There were peppers to be stuffed.

She returned to the table. “Okay, then. You can only invite five people. Who’s first on your list?”

Harley grinned, now somewhat excited about the turn of events. After all, there had been a few times when Momma had actually proved worthwhile, so maybe this wouldn’t quite be the drudgery things often were when parents tried to provide direction and guidance. Harley snatched up her list and read the first name. “Tiffany Davis.”

Momma Crown’s eyes widened. “Tiffany? Sweetie, you know that Tiffany can’t come. She’s… away for now.”

The grin disappeared from Harley’s visage, replaced by an expression somewhere between crestfallen and defiant. “I know she’s in the Santa Torium. But I thought they might let her out of her cage just for my party. They can lock her back up when we’re done.”

“Harley, honey, Tiffany’s not really in a cage.”

“Dewey Potter says she is.”

“Dewey Potter is a wretched little boy that you should never talk to. Anyway, Tiffany needs to stay where she is until she gets better. The doctors and nurses are trying to help her understand some things.”

“Like what?”

“Like you can’t attack the mailman because he didn’t bring the ‘Pretty Princess’ crown that you ordered. You should never hit anyone just because they didn’t bring you something that you want.”

Hayley considered this. “I guess you’re right. I don’t like it when Mellie Jo hits me just because I was borned.”

Momma Crown nodded only slightly. “Well, your big sister does have some issues of her own.”

Harley looked up expectantly. “Can we send Mellie Jo to the Santa Torium, too? So they can help her understand that she’s mean and wicked?”

“Maybe some other time,” said Momma. “We’re on a schedule right now. Okay, cross Tiffany off the list and read me the next name.”

Harley reluctantly made a squiggly line on the paper, then cleared her throat. “Laura Hopeman.”

Momma Crown’s eyes narrowed in concentration. “Laura Hopeman? Have we been introduced?”

Harley nodded. “Yes, Momma, you know her. She’s a strut.”

“A strut?”

“Yes, Momma, a strut. We learned about struts and hordes in the health film we watched at school. Struts and hordes are naughty, and they talk to boys a lot.”

Momma Crown finished the remainder of her coffee in one gulp. “Harley, just what kind of film was this?”

Harley shrugged. “I don’t know, Momma. A health film. They made us watch it or we couldn’t go to recess.” Her eyes suddenly lit up. “Oh! I almost forgot about recess. Laura is a Jungle Jim Girl, too. She’s very popular.”

Momma Crown felt the first tingles of a headache. “And who is Jungle Jim, Harley? And why does he have girls?”

“Momma!” snipped Harley with exasperation, realizing that her mother’s ignorance had become burdensome once again. “You climb on the Jungle Jim. It’s not a person. It’s on the playground, back by the fence.”

Cautiously, Momma Crown asked for further detail, ready to run if things got darker. “Okay, Harley. What do Jungle Jim Girls do?”

Harley rolled her eyes, her mother’s worthlessness cemented in her mind forever. “They climb to the top of the Jungle Jim so the boys can see their panties.”

“Oh my God!” gasped Momma Crown.

“Momma, we’re not supposed to say ‘Oh my-’”

Momma Crown waved her hand. “Not right now, Harley. We’ll talk about that part later. Why are the girls showing their panties? And where are the teachers.”

“They’re usually drinking, Momma.”

Stunned, Momma Crown glanced at the coffee pot, but decided a ninth cup would make her head explode. She turned back to Harley. “Okay, I need to talk to some people at your school. And you are not wearing any more dresses to school. In the mean time, Laura Hopeman is NOT coming to your party.”

Harley frowned. “But she’s popular, Momma. Don’t you want me to be popular?”

Momma Crown decided that the ninth cup just might be worth the risk.


Click here to read the next entry in this series…


16 replies »

  1. So THAT’S why my own momma went about looking so pained most of the time. Mo’s can’t (ain’t supposed to) drink coffee. I suspect that one of us kids asked such questions. Might have been a factor in why I dismissed that rite of passage altogether. Coffee is truly the panacea for ALL ills. “Specially if someone puts a wee nip of Crown Royal in it….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting side note: In my younger days, including my college internment wherein I could have easily benefited from liquid fortitude during many periods of late-night study, I really couldn’t stand the taste of coffee, however one might dress up the proceedings with creamers and whatnot. It wasn’t until my metabolism tossed me aside, in my 30s, that I developed an affinity for the dark nectar. These things happen when one suddenly realizes that one needs more than sunshine and chirping birds to spring out of the bed.

      On the flip side? The caffeine jacks with my anxiety. So I generally limit myself to one cup, carefully parsing and balancing my sips until I get just the right happiness without the psychotic drama… 😉


    • Perhaps it was just an Oklahoma thing, wherein the female species in “health films”, at least in the 70s, was generally presented as something to avoid, with all of them one extra application of eyeliner away from tumbling into tarty infamy… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Comment part 1: How did you know why little girls stop wearing dresses? I have a hunch you were one of the sweet boys who never took part in the general yuckiness of little boy behavior, so I can only assume a girl confided in you, or else you intuited the situation.

    Comment part 2: Regarding your reply on coffee to Melanie above – me too! I wanted so desperately to like coffee in college, yes for the energy but also for the social aspect, if you can believe that. I went to a private college my first year (before the money ran dry) and they had a coffee shop called the “Jabberwocky.” Tuesday nights they showed old black-and-whites, I think Thursdays were open mic. Seems like they had a poetry hour too. And everyone sat in there drinking coffee and I had to load in so much sugar and cream to just barely tolerate it. Then finally years later, I discover good coffee and think, hey! I like this! And that’s when I discover caffeine and I don’t get along.

    Comment part 3: Since your posts is arriving in parts, I figured my comments could too. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Reply #1: Interestingly enough, I have a story in the archives (don’t I always?) which encapsulates the seminal moment when I understood that Jungle Jim girls have feelings, too. The true-life setting? A jungle gym at Ator elementary in Owasso, Oklahoma, circa 1975…

      Reply #2: Once again, we have another example of why Fate was cruel to us by not allowing us to meet and greet many decades ago. This is one of the many reasons why I scribble mad parables in the middle of the night. For the record, I can no longer recall the name of my collegiate coffee shop (vitamin deficiency, I’m sure) but I can still remember how to get there…

      Reply #3: I think this is an admirable decision on your part…

      Liked by 1 person

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