Memories of Yankeetown: The Short Strange Life of "Abner Pooser"

A. Frank Knotts

As mentioned in "The Buoyant Years" my dad and mom, Gene and Norma, kept a flock of chickens to supply meat and eggs to the Lodge. That flock normally consisted of about twenty or thirty hens and an obligatory rooster to tend them.

When my sister, Nancy, was about eleven she took a fancy to the then resident rooster, a big Rhode Island red who carried himself with plenty of macho pride. She used to hand feed that rooster with scraps from the kitchen and before she (or Mom) knew it she had "accidentally" trained him to hang around the dining room at mealtime. I'm not sure why he wasn't in the chicken yard with the hens, but considering how Nancy liked to show him off I have a pretty good guess. Soon it happened that he showed up on the front porch most days for dinner and some of the guests who had finished eating would take a morsel or two out to give him. Soon he learned to jump/fly to a height of about four or five feet to take the item from someone's hand, He had, in fact, become the resident pan-handler who would work for food.

Of course any pet or semi-pet had to have a name and it so happened that a certain real estate man in Ocala had posted his name along every highway leading into town. That name, Abner Pooser, had a great ring to it in Nancy's ear and, you guessed it, she gave that name to the rooster. It made her giggle. It amused almost everybody. If he didn't show up people would ask, "Where is Abner Pooser today? Is he o. k.?" He usually showed up.

One Sunday afternoon Mom and Dad were busy cooking and serving SUNDAY dinner to more than the usual number of guests while we kids hung out waiting for the family's time to eat. Then all of a sudden Mom came tearing out of the kitchen with a very determined look and lined up us kids on the far end of the porch, away from the dining room. I remember the kitchen sweat on her forehead and as she leaned down in front of our faces and spoke in the most severe tones I had ever heard from her. She pointed at the rooster and said, "Tom! Nancy! Catch that rooster and get him out of sight right NOW! Frank, don't you mention to anyone that there IS a rooster or what his name is. MR. POOSER IS IN THE DINING ROOM EATING DINNER!"

We grasped immediately the gravity of the situation. Tom and Nancy made quick work of putting "Abner" into a cardboard carton and stashing him in the laundry building while I slipped in the back door of the kitchen to peek into the dining room at Mr. Pooser. I don't know what I expected but I do know that felt quite let-down. All I saw was an unremarkable middle-aged man sitting by himself and chewing his food. He even looked a bit glum, I thought.

In the end, no one spilled the beans, not even any of the regular guests who normally fed "Abner". Thank goodness! Mom had no big embarrassment, no harm done. As far as I know, Mr. Pooser never came back.

As for "Abner," he didn't last much longer. My parents' near-miss of a public relations catastrophe surely had something to do with it. More important though was "Abner's" carelessness in his bathroom habits. Mom just couldn't tolerate his repeatedly leaving deposits up and down the front porch. I don't know for sure, but I think that he came to dinner one last time, "Not (as Shakespeare's Hamlet said of Polonius) where he eats, but where he is eaten." Life in the public eye can be pretty unpredictable in Yankeetown. Even in nineteen-thirty.

Mr. Knotts may be contacted at knotts@yankeetown.com

February 2009

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