A sign of emergency

Sandi McBride Contributing Columnist

October 2, 2013

Okay, as everyone knows I am a lover of signs.

I especially like the tacky little signs hand painted on old pieces of barn door wood. The rattier the wood the better the sign. My all time favorite sign hangs in my kitchen next to my roosters. It is of course my “raising children is like being pecked to death by chickens” sign. And a truer statement was never made.

I found this sign at a flea market some time ago and paid the grand sum of 50 cents for it, although I believe the old gentleman might have paid me to take it off his hands had I not been bent double with laughter and pointing it out to Mac who completely ignored my insanity and simply walked away from me. Another sign I found at the flea market is also on old wood … hewn fence post, or I miss my guess. It reads “Dogs have Masters. Cats Have Staff.” The wood is, well, it’s old wood colored … the dogs part is painted in some sort of blue, maybe teal? The cats part is painted in, of course, gold. No, really, I think it may have been gold … they wanted $10 for it.

Now, in comparison to my chickens sign, which I love not only for it’s truth in backwoods folklore type witticism, it’s no prettier. In fact it’s rather plain except for the gold paint. I walked by it and admired it’s truth in concept, not it’s attractiveness. It had none. For this they wanted 10 American dollars. I stopped. I picked it up. I held it in my hands and promptly got a splinter. I put it down to suck on my finger (that danged splinter hurt like 40 hells). Mac gave me the eye roll and started to walk away. The old lady behind the booth, whom I suspect drives a Beamer, says “you like that, don’t you?” It was said in one of those voices that if she had been a he I would have thought she was coming on to me. Well, she was coming on to my wallet. “I’ll let you have it for nine dollars.”

The whisper had an oily texture, and a gypsy spell. Oh Lord help me, it was the old “I’ll do you one better” game, and will I fall for it? Well, we shall see. I stopped and turned on my heel and walked back to where she was sitting half hidden from view. I looked for a microphone, because I wasn’t sure how I had heard her unless she had been shouting. It hadn’t sounded like a shout. It had sounded like a sultry whisper. I picked up the sign and, careful not to collect another splinter, looked it over again. The old woman stood up, leaning gingerly on an old cane she carried in her left hand. Heck, all she needed was a shawl over her head and an apple in her hand and she could have passed for the wicked old witch in Snow White. You know, the hag with the apple who was really the Wicked Queen.

I looked at the wooden sign and smiled, thinking of those at home who actually knock on the door to be let in and out and expect the butler to be Johnny on the spot. “Seven dollars. It’s an antique.” She rubbed her hands together either in pain or expectation. The thing measured about 8 inches high by 5 inches wide and was about 2 inches thick.

“Six dollars and your kitties will be so proud you thought of them.” Her eyes were twinkling and I was becoming more and more enthralled with the little wooden piece of what I was beginning to think of as art. Art?

I turned to look for Mac, and he was off playing with his friends and looking at the fishing poles. I looked back at the sweet little old lady and she was holding up two fingers. “A steal at twice the price.” I found myself digging in my pockets for the two dollars I knew I would find there. It was as though I were in a trance as I handed over the well worn bills that had been riding cozily in my jeans pocket for just such an emergency . She thanked me and I swear I heard her cackle.

I didn’t put the little piece of wood into my shopping bag, but carried it gingerly over to where Mac was busy dickering with a man over a fishing pole. I was turning the hateful little block of wood over in my hands when I got another splinter. As I switched it to the other hand I looked up and Mac was standing there, shaking his head. He mouthed to me “I can’t leave you alone for a minute.” I made an impolite gesture towards him and when I looked down at this weapon of lass destruction, happened to see the little round piece of paper. It read “50 cents”. Man, Barnum & Bailey were right. There’s one born every minute.