The Alleyway Stinkards of Bayouville
Copyright (C) 15 Feb 2016 by Bob Hurt. All rights reserved.
Last we seen of the Nachez tribe was the Stinkards they left behind. The upper class – the Suns, Nobles, and Honored People – lit out through the Trace for Memphis. And right away, the Stinkards roamed south from the Nachez Bluffs to Bayouville and took to the alleyways beyond Pinchon Bayou Boulevard.
That, of course, became my good luck, because I married two of them Stinkard squaws, and we begat a passel of Stinkard babies, seventeen in all. In case you’re wondering, the squaws and babies didn’t actually stink. They smelt normal like most people. But the low-class Nachez must have had a powerful stink to them. Otherwise the early French traders wouldn’t have named them Stinkards.
Me, I’m a white genuine Acadian (some say Cajun, or coon-ass). But my squaws, Hakutamal (Corn Woman) and Sha-unu (Deer Berry) made me an honorary Stinkard by some ceremony they claimed had ancient origins. I think they cooked it up in secret just to have some fun with me.
They stripped me buck-naked, had me dance with them around a fire of green cypress branches that smoked the place up. It also made us cough and sweat. They giggled the whole time, and had me drink something black and nasty they called yaupon. It must have been like Li’l Abner’s Kickapoo joy juice, because it really gave me a buzz. And, it made me both horny and sleepy.
I woke up with a sore bottom, and feeling sticky all over. I asked them what they had done with me in my sleep. They looked at each other and broke out laughing, but told me nothing.
I didn’t need them to tell me the other Stinkards prefer alley life in the white community. It was obvious. Many of the white property owners let the Stinkards build lean-to shelters by their garages and outbuildings because the whites know the Stinkards are a peaceable and loyal lot. Once they make friends, they stay friends.
Also, the Stinkards will use up whatever the white folks throw out. My squaws seem disgusted with the wastefulness of whites because whites throw away so many perfectly good things, especially food. Furthermore, the Stinkards reliably perform services like baby-sitting, lawn care, walking children to school and music lessons, and putting on an “Injun Show” at children’s birthday parties. Thus, living attached to the white communities provides a benefit for both the Stinkards and the whites.
Our own accumulation of wealth derived from three factors.
First, I ran my skiff on the Mississippi during the hours when most people slept. I knew the river’s currents and bends, branches, bayous, and hiding places like nobody else. I often found beached or floating cargo that others lost from boating accidents, negligence, floods. And I brought it home for my squaws to trade it.
Second, my squaws taught our brood the fine art of negotiation and selling. They worked in harmony, partly through the alleyway Stinkards, to sell the items I found. They also scheduled my deliveries up and down the river for local tradesmen. They got other Stinkards to store the items that didn’t sell quickly in the garages and sheds of the white people in whose alleyways they lived. I never needed to pay for a warehouse.
Third, we had two bloodhounds, Snuffie the female and Belcher the male, each of which had a nose for death. By that, I mean they could not only smell a stinking carcass or corpse from far away, but they could also smell the stink of impending death on someone about to die, or with a fatal illness. They let us know of a dead body with a moaning howl. They informed us of impending death with a huffing sound, as though afraid to precipitate death faster, or trying to get something out of their lungs.
Thus, the dogs brought us two types of customers – the sheriff and the Stinkards.
The Alleyway Stinkards “rented” (actually borrowed) one of the dogs to help bolster their reputations as healers. If the dog huffed, the Stinkard healers informed the client they could do nothing but make burial arrangements. Otherwise, they sold the client a “Nachez Medicinal Remedy” that almost always caused the patient to improve. The remedy usually included one of those black-liquor-with-herbs formulations that also contained cider vinegar or lemon juice, depending on the season, with maple syrup or molasses, depending on availability, along with a 30-day abstinence from all other food. I don’t know why for sure, but the NMR always seemed to work.
The sheriff, of course, hired us to run the skiff on the river and bayous with the dogs aboard to help find missing people. They could find anything by sniffing a hairbrush or a sample of clothing, but unless it was a lost child or someone carried away in a flood, I had no interest in helping the sheriff find fugitives from justice.
Finding dead people was another matter. There were still a lot of bad and evil people up and down the Nachez Trace and along the Mississippi, and they created their share of victims, dead and alive. Many relatives of the dead showed their gratitude for our service by presenting us with gifts, often clothing of the departed, which of course we gave to the Stinkards.
Snuffie and Belcher had several litters of pups as our children grew up. Two of the boys and one of the girls became very attached to three of the pups and refused to give them up when we tried to sell them. They had characteristics similar to Snuffie and Belcher. That is, they could smell death and impending death. They often accompanied us on cadaver hunts, the kids having a pair of skiffs between them to carry their dogs.
In time, the FBI got wind of our services and the capabilities of our dogs, and invited the kids in to their cadaver-hunting course. The FBI wanted to keep the dogs, but the kids flat refused. In the end, the FBI recruited all three of the kids to become agents, and encouraged them to bring along their dogs to the training.
Hakatumal and Sha-unu and I have retired to our bayou home on the outskirts of town, along with the last litter of pups, now grown, from Snuffie and Belcher. We have friends, white, black, and Stinkard over for a fais do-do or crawfish and beer party every couple of months in the warm season. We catch our food in the bayou, including fish, eel, and alligator, and always have a nice garden for fresh vegetables. And, to tell the truth we have started feeling a little bored.
The other day, I walked out back to find the squaws holding gold and silver coins under the noses of the dogs, then burying the coins along the bank of the bayou to see if the dogs could find them. One, then two, then all five of those bloodhounds let out high-pitched squeals, and started digging furtively, right where the squaws had hidden the coins.
Those crafty women looked up, and grinned and giggled, just as they had that night they had done that ceremonial dance with me all those years ago. My butthole puckered spontaneously with the memory, and I grinned right along with them.
I believe the squaws have found a new profession for us…
Stinkard Treasure Hunters!
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