Joe Scatterscrew Confesses (4/10/2020)

The current pandemic is creating a good bit of stress for teachers, students, parents, and just about everybody. Today’s Friday Footnote is designed to take your mind off that stress for a few minutes.

If you are a regular follower of the Friday Footnote you may remember that Joe Scatterscrew is a fictitious agriculture teacher who was created decades ago by E. V. Walton, a professor at Texas A&M. The Scatterscrew stories were used in teaching prospective agriculture teachers important lessons but in a humorous manner.

Today’s story focuses on a pandemic that was created by Joe. A toilet paper shortage resulted. There was also a school closing. Enjoy.


E. V. Walton

Joe Scatterscrew sighed happily and propped his feet up on the porch railing.

“You know, Myrt, they’s a whole lot to be said for Sundays.  I don’t know how a man would keep time divided up if Sunday wasn’t a sort of natural dividing point.” He thoughtfully added, “Besides, it helps a man to get some rest.”

Myrt nodded absently before she answered irrelevantly.  “Joe, are you going to have time to take the kids to the dentist tomorrow?  You know how Horace always acts up when I take him.”

Joe scratched his head and consulted his diary.  “Well, yeah.  If it’s after 4:00, I can.  He knows better than to act up with me.  You oughta be more firm with that boy, and that’s a fact.”

“Thank goodness you can spare a little time for your own kids once in a while.  Now don’t forget it like you did the last time.  Do you have a field trip tomorrow?”

Joe consulted in his diary again.

“Yeah, but I’ll be through by 4:00.  Gotta go out to Mr. Beamer’s Grade-A Dairy and advise him on some mastitis problem.  You know, Myrt, if it just wasn’t for the honor of the thing, I’d as soon be in the penitentiary as to run a dairy.  It’s just to confining.  I worked in one once.  Three whole months and kept my nose to the grindstone the whole dadburn time.”

Myrt looked surprised.  “You never told me that before.  When was it?”

“It was when I was in college, while I was a freshman.  The pay was good is about all that could be said for that job.”

“Did you quit–after three months?”

Joe began to pare his toenails.

“Well, you might say that.  It was involuntary on my part.” “You mean you were fired?”

“I never did like that word.  No, they wasn’t a thing said about me being fired, as such.  Mr. Wile Catlow, who owned the dairy, did make a suggestion, in a way.”

“What was it?”

“He told me to make some sudden tracks and he wanted all of them to have the heels pointed toward the dairy.  That sort of hurt my feelings and I just up and quit.”

Myrt picked up her sewing basket.  “Well, why would he say a thing like that?”

Joe pasted a loose part of his cigar down before he answered.  “It was all over that National Contest I won.”


“Yep.  Won a National Contest on the best slogan for Ex-Fax, the Chocolate Laxative.”

“Well, I never….”

“Forget just how it went now.  Something like ‘Chocolate Sweet and Chocolate Brown,” that’s all I remember of it.  Sure surprised me when I won it.”

“Well, I keep being surprised.  What was the award?”

Joe grinned ruefully.  “A lifetime supply of Ex-Fax.  A whole twenty pound case of it!”

Myrt giggled but said nothing.

Joe looked at her reprovingly before he continued.

“Time was hard and money was scarce.  I had charge of making up the chocolate milk at the dairy.  Old man Catlow give me five dollars ever week or so to buy the chocolate syrup we mixed with the milk.  I sure made a bad mistake.  Orris Holt was my roommate and that low-lifed son-of-a-gun talked me into pocketing the five dollars and dissolving all the Ex-Fax up into chocolate syrup to mix with the milk.  Right then and there I learnt that honesty was the best policy.  And I ain’t never trusted that Orris Holt since.  I don’t care if he is a big professor at the state university.  Besides, he borrowed that $5.00 the night before and he ain’t never paid back but $2.00 of it.”

Myrt managed to close her mouth and gasp.

“You mean you…you…mixed that twenty pounds of that laxative Ex-Fax into the milk and it went out for sale?”

“I sure did.  Man!  That was a mistake!  I never should of listened to that Orris Holt!”

“Well, goodness sakes alive!  What in the world happened?  Twenty pounds of Ex-Fax!”

Joe looked at her.  “What do you think happened?  Five cases of chocolate milk went to the school.  Old Mrs. Frabey, the English teacher, resigned the next day and left town.  She was a right smart chocolate milk drinker.  She tried to declaim Macbeth that afternoon.”

“How terrible!”

“Worse than that–they had to shut school down.  Especially the grammar school.  Two first grade teachers quit.”

Myrt gazed at Joe in open-mouthed horror.  He relit his cigar stub and continued.

“It affected the government, too.  They was trying old man Clytus Jackson for killing Luke Mordic.  The jury got served some of that chocolate milk and they had to keep a-recessing so much and the District Judge jumped up and ran out right in the middle of the trial.  Well, old man Clytus’ lawyers got a mistrial declared and he finally come scott clean.  Guilty as a dog, too!”

He shook his head morosely.

“Speaking of scott clean, I reckon the merchants cleaned up.  Old man Daniels’ grocery ordered a whole car load of toilet paper.  It was too late for some, though.”

“Well, did you ever let on?”

“Nope.  Couldn’t without incriminating myself.  I tried to lighten up on the syrup, but old man Catlow told me it wasn’t chocolatey enough and I had to stand right there and pour in more of that there Ex-Fax syrup.”

“That was awful.”

“I don’t know but what some good come of it.  Lots of people that had never met got acquainted in the courthouse and standing in lines here and there.  Some that hadn’t spoke in twenty years got reacquainted.  It’s hard to bear a grudge against a man and him setting right there next to you.”

Myrt shook her head speechlessly while Joe relit his cigar.  “Several couples got engaged that people said never would, out riding in cars and such.  The barriers got kinda broke down between them, so to speak.”

Myrt could not suppress a grin and Joe, encouraged, went on.  “It sure worked a hardship on me, though.  We hand milked them 60 cows and both milk hands was accustomed to sneaking in and drinkin’ down a dipper of that there chocolate syrup every day.  Me and old man Catlow had to milk them whole 60 cows by ourselves and then he got hoggish and swigged down some of that chocolate milk hisself.  Then I had to milk by myself.  I couldn’t hardly finish by the time their bags was filled up again.

“I learned something from that.  Be honest.  And don’t trust your roomate on anything.  I finally told old man Catlow when all that milking wore down my judgment.”

He shook his head ruefully.  “The way that man spoke to me was a disgrace, and him a Deacon, too.  I made up my mind right then if I ever joined the church it was going to be the different one from what old man Catlow belonged to.  I tell you it was awful the way that man talked to me!”

Joe scowled and began to whet his pocketknife on the side of his shoe before he spoke again.

“Myrt, I guess you think that experience was sorta bad.  Well, I reckon it was, but I learnt something from it.  I missed a whole semester of school on account of having to sneak out of town and hide out with my kinfolk over at Center.  It was all on account of listening to the wrong man.  To this day I just throw Mr. Holt’s bulletins in the wastebasket.  The way I figger it, a man may get a bad idea and I don’t believe in trying out anything new.

“Anything comes along, the way I figger it, a man’s better off not to take a chance.  Then smart college profs will soon be a-sendin’ out a lot of poop.  If all the ag teachers was as smart as I am, they wouldn’t pay no attention to nothing new.

“A man’s liable to make a mistake if he opens his mind.  Put it in file 13, I say!”