Uncle Ezra Supplies a Need

UNCLE EZRA is old and a cripple. He makes his living by buying things at sales that nobody else wants and, after mending, painting, and polishing them, selling them to someone who does want them. I always stop by at Uncle Ezra’s, for I like the twinkle in his keen gray eyes and his terse philosophy on high-pressure salesmanship.

I stopped the Ford before his decrepit truck, where he stood dusting a large gilt frame around the portrait of a most unprepossessing gentleman with a beard and crossed eyes.

‘Hello, Uncle Ezra. A relative of yours?’

‘I low I hain’t got no kin that looks lak that. I’m goin’ to sell hit.’

‘Well, that’s beyond belief. But what is that white box in the truck?’

‘That? That’s a pallpitt.’

‘Now don’t tell me you expect anyone to buy a pulpit! That’s really too much.’

‘Yeah, I low I’ll sell ‘em. I’m goin’ over beyant Whiskey Peak with ‘em. Stop by termorra an I’ll hev ye some huckleberries. Yeah, I count on sellin’ to-day. Course I did n’t git the pallpitt very cheap ‘cause hit’s outen a church thet burned down at Posey Holler, but I low to make a leetle on hit.’

The next afternoon as I drove past he limped out with a bucket of huckleberries. I reached for my pocketbook.

‘No. Them’s a present. I tuck ‘em on a debt a man owed me on a stand table.’

‘Thank you. Now I suppose you’ll tell me you sold the pulpit and the picture?’

‘Yas’m. I got a purty good deal out of ‘em. The Holiness folks is fixing up a house fer a church, and the pallpitt fitted right in.’

‘And the picture?’

‘Well,’ said Uncle Ezra, ‘I sold hit too. Done purty well. Thar’s a ol’ maid, not to say purty, that lives over beyant Whiskey Peak. Leastwise she was a ol’ maid. But a while back she went a-visitin’ over in Oklahomy and claims she married there and her man died on her to oncet. Folk don’t believe she iver married — you know how women is — and jist claimed she did, not wishin’ to be talked of as a ol’ maid all her life. Well, I stopped by, an’ while Loreny set me down to a piece of huckleberry pie and some sweet milk she wint out to look over the truck. You know how cur’ous ol’ maids is. She kim back and said: “Mr. Wheeler, effen ye kin sell me thet picter in the gold frame cheap enough I’ll buy it. It’s the spit an’ image o’ my man that died on me in Oklahomy.”

‘We made a bargain right then. Hit was a purty good sell, so I said, “Loreny, git a nail. I got some wire in the truck, and I’ll hang him fer ye over the fireplace.”

‘I was on a cheer hangin’ him when two neighbors rid by on a mule. They lit and hitched. Loreny she said, “That’s the picter o’ my man that died in Oklahomy.”

‘I says, kinder helpin’ Loreny out, “Hit was mighty good of his Pappy ter send Loreny the picter for me to frame.”

‘I see ‘em lookin’ mighty respectful at the picter an’ at Loreny. There won’t be no more talk ‘bout Loreny.

‘Ye see, I don’t sell jist to make a leetle money. I aim to supply a need. All of which I done so yisterday.’

ELEANOR RISLEY