CHAPTER 2—LARRY MURFIN
Smivey Stepward and Larry Murfin have been best friends since second grade. They sat on opposite sides of the room and had never spoken to each other until after Tuesday, October 23. That was a day they will never forget, and probably no one else will either. Their second grade teacher, Miss Haverts, will always remember that awful Tuesday.
It was the middle of the afternoon just before second recess. Smivey and Larry both threw up all over their desks at the same time. That made other kids get sick too, especially the girls. The janitor, Mr. Berkey, had to come to the class with that sawdust stuff and spread it around to clean everything up. Everyone thought maybe there was something wrong with the food in the cafeteria because it happened so soon after lunch, but no one else got sick in other classes, and the boys brought their lunch boxes from home just like they did every other day. They both sort of felt sick when they left for school in the morning, but neither wanted to stay home. They were best friends after that day. It’s not very often that two boys throw up in class at the same time.
Smivey and Larry have a lot in common. They both wish they lived somewhere else, and their birthdays are on the same day. Smivey wishes he could live with Larry. His parents have a van and a truck, and they live on a farm. He wouldn’t have to ride in the old green station wagon anymore and he wouldn’t have to live in town. The best part is Larry’s mom can whistle so loud it makes the dogs on the next farm start barking when she calls everyone to the house for supper. Smivey asked Larry’s mom to teach him how to whistle. He practices all the time, but so far he has only managed to spray spit all over the front of his shirt.
Larry hates living on a dairy farm. “Cows are so stupid” he often complains to Smivey. “All they do is eat, sleep and poop all day.” Larry hates getting up every morning before 5 o’clock to help with milking. He has been out in the barn, helping his dad and “Cob,” the other man who works on the farm, every morning since he was old enough to carry a bucket. After all this time it is still Larry’s job to wash the cows’ bags and udders before the men begin milking. “Why can’t someone else do this now?” he once asked his dad. “That’s your job, son. You should be proud that you have your very own job.” He didn’t argue. It never does any good to try to argue with his dad.
“I have a great idea!” Larry shouted. “You come and live at my house and wash udder bags every morning and night, and I will live at your house and ride in your green station wagon!”
Smivey thought about it for a while. “My parents would never let me do that. Besides, I don’t think your mom and dad would let you leave either.”
“Wouldn’t it be neat though if we could trade places?”
“I suppose” Smivey replied, kicking a stone across the driveway. He doesn’t really like the thought of having to get up early every morning and shovel manure, but he does like spending time with Larry at his house. At least it gets him away from his own spooky house.
Larry’s parents like Smivey. They’re happy Larry finally has a best friend. After school, Smivey rides his bike over to Larry’s house almost every day. The only time he doesn’t is when his mother has to go grocery shopping. She makes Smivey go with her to help carry the bags.
“Couldn’t I go over to Larry’s house and then help you with the bags when you come home?” Smivey protests.
“Smivey Stepward, I look forward to the time we spend together grocery shopping. You can tell me everything that happened at school, and I can tell you everything that happened at home.”
He already knows everything that happens at home while he’s at school. It’s the same things that have happened every day since he was born. It might be different if she bought interesting things at the store, but his mother always buys a half gallon of Haverson’s 2% milk, one loaf of whole grain Homeworthy Bread, Spunker’s Bran Cereal, Baker’s Brown Eggs, celery, carrots, and a pound of Wertzer’s Balogna, sliced thin for sandwiches.
Every week at the meat counter Smivey’s mother says, “Please slice the baloney thin. If it’s sliced too thick it gives my husband gas, and we don’t want that.” It drives him crazy.
On the way home, Smivey is always nervous because he is afraid his mother will talk about how important it is to have healthy bowels. His grandma said something about bowels once at the dinner table on Sunday afternoon, but Smivey wasn’t really paying attention. He was shocked when his mother started talking about it. She went on and on about fruit and vegetables. He wanted to jump out of the car. It almost made him sick to hear his mother say the words “healthy bowels.” He didn’t want it to happen again. If it gets too quiet Smivey tries to think of things to say before she has a chance to bring it up.
“Why can’t we drive to Parkersburg once a month and buy all the groceries we need like other people do instead of going to the same place in town every week?” Smivey asks.
“It’s important for us to shop right here so people will see us and continue buying at your grandpa’s store too. And just because other people do things doesn’t mean we should do them” Vivian calmly replies.
He wants to say, “We don’t do anything anyone else does, so I don’t think it will be a problem” but he doesn’t. Smivey thinks it would be a good idea for everyone to go to Parkersburg for hardware so he wouldn’t have to hear about owning the hardware store anymore.
“What do you wanna do Smiv?”
“I don’t know, what do you wanna do?”
“I asked you first” Larry answered.
“Well, we don’t have much time before you have to help with milking…”
“You mean washing” Larry interrupted.
“Yea, I know. Let’s go up in the haymow.” Smivey loves playing in the haymow. Even though Larry doesn’t live far from town, to Smivey it’s a different world when goes to Larry’s house.
The two boys walked into the barn through the milk house. That’s where the big tank is that holds the milk and chills it. Smivey likes to look in the tank and see the milk swirling around.
“At least we have automatic milkers” Larry said. “It would be awful to have to do it by hand every time.” The boys walked through the barn and climbed the wooden ladder leading up to the haymow. Crawling through the trap door, they stepped out onto the floor. The smell of fresh hay greeted them and they both took a deep breath.
“I love to smell the hay” Smivey said quietly.
“I know. I would miss it if I didn’t live here” Larry said looking up at the mountain of bales.
The haymow is huge. One end of the barn is stacked high with straw, the other side with hay. There is a wide space between, large enough for a wagon full of bales to be pulled in behind a tractor. High up near the roof there is a clamp that looks like a giant spider with long legs. It drops down on the bales and lifts them to the top where they are pushed over on the stack, eight bales at a time. It takes a lot of hay to fill the mow, and it’s scary to be way up on top.
“Let’s play wrecking ball. Want to?” Larry asked. “Wrecking ball” is a game the boys made up where they build two walls of bales, then swing across the barn on the rope and knock them down. Larry and Smivey each chose a side and climbed the ladders leading to the top. There is a thick rope hanging down from the spider. When the walls are finished, the two boys take turns swinging across the wide-open space to try to knock each other’s wall down.
The first time Smivey tried this it took him almost an hour before he found the courage to take hold of the rope and swing out over what seemed like a bottomless pit just waiting for him to fall. He almost wet his pants, but he didn’t tell Larry. Now the higher he swings, the better he likes it.
Another thing Larry and Smivey love to do is tunnel through the hay. They have built tunnels all the way across the barn through the straw, complete with side alleys and small rooms to stop in. It’s dark in the tunnel so the only way they can find their way through is by feeling. It’s scary to think what might be in the tunnel.
One time, Smivey was crawling through the tunnel and his hand landed on fur. The cat squealed and it scared Smivey so bad he tried to stand up, which he couldn’t do because of the bales above him. He was glad it wasn’t a skunk or a raccoon which Larry has seen before in the barn.
Just as the boys were getting ready to rebuild their walls they heard Cob’s voice boom up from downstairs. Neither of the boys knows where Cob got his name, but Larry thinks it’s a nickname, probably for corn on the cob. Cob is creepy. He’s tall and thin, and always looks like he needs to shave. Larry doesn’t know where Cob lives, but he has worked on the farm with his dad for as long as he can remember.
“Larry! Are you up there?”
“Come on down, it’s time to get started. Your dad will be out in a minute” Cob yelled. “Darn it. I wish I didn’t have to do this all the time. It’s not fair” Larry grumbled.
“I should probably go home for dinner anyway” Smivey said.
Smivey and Larry swung across the hay mow one more time before climbing down the ladder. They slipped through the trap door and went down the second ladder. Larry headed for the milk house to retrieve his bucket and sponge.
“See you at school tomorrow, Larry” Smivey said.
“Okay, Smiv” Larry answered without looking up.
As Smivey started his ride home he thought about how neat it would be to live on the farm with Larry.