Linthead Stomp, Act One

The Cast:

  • Jimmy Shepherd
  • Wesley
  • Matt
  • Mrs. Shepherd
  • Mr. Tinsley
  • Mrs. Watson
  • Johnnie Watson
  • Billy Herndon
  • Josh Sims

 

 

ACT ONE

 

The action all occurs inside a log cabin that is furnished sparsely and simply. There is a horseshoe over the door on the outside and a shotgun hanging over the door on the inside. A 1927 calendar is tacked to the wall. There is a portable wind-up gramophone in the room. A banjo is hanging on the wall. 

A late middle-aged woman is sitting in a chair, shelling peas. 

She hears the voices of men approaching outside, shouting and laughing. She stands up, wipes her hands on her apron and walks toward the door. Just before she reaches it Jimmy, Wesley and Matt burst in. Wesley walks with a bad limp. Jimmy rushes over, laughing. He grabs the woman in a hug and lifts her off the floor. 

            MRS. SHEPHERD: Put me down, you durn fool!

Jimmy, laughing, puts her down and kisses her on the top of the head. Wesley and Matt laughing while they watch. 

            MRS. SHEPHERD: Jimmy Shepherd, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Coming home all liquored up in the middle of the day and acting like you ain’t got good sense.           

            JIMMY: Aw, Mama. We’re celebrating! (Looking at the other men) Ain’t we boys?

WESLEY (jolly): That’s right!

MATT (jolly): Yes, ma’am. We are.

MRS. SHEPHERD (skeptical): Celebrating? What in tarnation could y’all be celebrating?

JIMMY (pulls a wad of bills from his pocket, beaming, and shows it to her): Nothing but this here $300! (teasingly) I bet that’s more money than you done ever seen at one time in your whole life.

MRS. SHEPHERD (surprised): How in the Sam Hill to you get that much money?

WESLEY (excited): We all got that much Miz Shepherd! (takes his money out and shows it to her) Me and Matt got us $300 too!

Matt nods, smiling, and then pulls a wad of bills out of his pocket too. 

            MRS. SHEPHERD: Well, I know doggone well that y’all didn’t get all that money by doing no honest labor.

JIMMY (cheerfully): Honest? We was honest, won’t we fellas? (Wesley and Matt laugh and nod) We just honestly run us a load of first rate liquor up to the fine thirsty citizens of Winston and the man there just honestly gave us one thousand United States dollars for it and we just honestly thanked him kindly and drove honestly back home with his money in our pockets.

MRS. SHEPHERD (scoldingly): Y’all laugh all you want to, but you’re lucky you didn’t get yourselves shot by the revenuers. You don’t know them people down there and you take a mighty big risk when you run across the state line like that. (pauses) Y’all all gonna end up in prison if you ain’t careful.

JIMMY: Careful? Careful is our middle name, ain’t it boys? (they nod and laugh)

MRS. SHEPHERD: Well, what happened to the rest of it?

JIMMY: What do you mean?

MRS. SHEPHERD: You said y’all got paid one thousand dollars and if y’all each got three hundred then that leaves another hundred dollars. What happened to the other hundred?

The men squirm and seem to grow a little nervous. 

            JIMMY: We give the other hundred to Daniel Everett, for letting Annie Mae help us.

MRS. SHEPHERD (incredulous): Annie Mae? Annie Mae?? Annie Mae ain’t nothing but a child! How in the world did she “help” you?

JIMMY (trying to stay cheerful, but a bit uncomfortable): She ain’t had to do nothing but just right by me in the front of the truck.

MRS. SHEPHERD: You took that child with you?!

JIMMY: Just for looks, Mama. Ain’t nobody gonna stop a truck with a little girl sitting in the front seat. (smiling) Who ever heard of a moonshiner taking a little girl with him on a liquor run?

Mrs. Shepherd slaps Jimmy on the shoulder.

MRS. SHEPHERD (indignantly wagging her finger at them): Shame on you Jimmy Shepherd! Shame on all y’all! Putting that little girl in danger like that! Y’all ought to be ashamed of yourselves!

The men squirm uncomfortably.

JIMMY (protesting): Aw, come on Mama. Won’t nobody in no danger. Annie Mae was just there for looks. That’s all. All she knew is that she got to ride the truck to Winston and back.

MRS. SHEPHERD: Three scoundrels, that’s what y’all are. And riding on the highway to hell.

When Jimmy begins to put his money back in his pocket, Mrs. Shepherd reaches out and snatches some of it away, then stuffs it down the front of her dress. Jimmy starts to object, then thinks better of it and says nothing. The other two men are snickering. 

            MRS. SHEPHERD: I’ve got to go milk. If y’all want something to eat, there’s some biscuits and fatback on the stove. Just help yourself.

Mrs. Shepherd exits. The men laugh nervously. 

            MATT: Your mama is more dangerous than the revenuers.

JIMMY (dismissively): You notice she didn’t mind taking the money though. Her talk don’t bother me none. Our family’s been running liquor since before she was born.

WESLEY: Good thing you didn’t tell her everything. She mighta took a frying pan to your head.

MATT: I don’t mind saying I was scared shitless. Would you have shot him Wesley? I mean, if he had looked in the back of the truck? Would you?

WESLEY: I don’t know. I reckon so. My heart was beating a hundred miles an hour.

JIMMY: Aw, y’all quit. That fool won’t gonna look in the back of the truck. Not after he saw Annie Mae looking all sweet-like.

MATT: How come he stopped you then?

JIMMY: He must notta seen her.

MATT (dubious): I don’t know, Jimmy. Seemed to me like he was fixing to search the truck.

WESLEY: He was! And he woulda found the liquor and us both if he hada took off that tarp.

JIMMY (dismissively) Everything was under control boys. Everything was smooth.

Jimmy takes a bottle from his inside coat pocket, takes a swig and passes it to Matt. 

            WESLEY: You ain’t fooling me Jimmy. I heard it. “What you hauling?” “Got me a load of watermelons.” “Mind if I have a look?”

Matt hands the bottle to Wesley, who takes a drink. 

            JIMMY (confident and nonchalant): See why it pays to be smooth? “Sure, go on and have a look,” I told him. “They’re three for a dollar if you want some for yourself.” (laughs)

MATT (sarcastically): Mr. Smooth. Well, you wouldn’ta felt so damn smooth up under that tarp holding the shotgun.

WESLEY: We can thank the good Lord that Annie Mae started squalling about having to go to the bushes.

JIMMY: All part of the plan, boys. Like when I told him I’d need his help strapping the load back down, seeing how it took an hour to do it. (laughs)

WESLEY: Seems to me like we got lucky.

JIMMY (smiling): Seems to me like we got a thousand dollars.

Wesley shakes his head, chuckling.

MATT: I’ll hand it to you, Jimmy. You bluffed him good.

JIMMY (cheerfully): Enough of all that boys. We’re in the clear now and with a pocketful of money.

Jimmy takes another swig and passes the bottle around again. 

JIMMY: Let’s celebrate with a number boys. Yonder’s Mama’s fiddle and my old guitar.

Jimmy takes down the banjo on the wall and begins playing, while Wesley picks up the fiddle and begins tuning it. Matt steps across the room and comes back with a guitar, tuning it as he walks. 

They play “Shootin’ Creek,” obviously enjoying themselves greatly.

When done they all laugh and back slap, then pass the bottle around again.

JIMMY (cheerfully): Woo-doggie, boys! Ain’t nothing I like better than some good whiskey and some good music!

They all put their instruments back. 

            JIMMY: This doggone cash is burning a hole in my pocket, boys. What y’all gonna do with y’all’s?

MATT: Mine was spent before I got it. I reckon it’s gonna be just about enough to pay my bills and keep food on the table a little longer.

WESLEY (seriously): Mine’s spent too. I’m going up to Baltimore to the hospital there and get my foot fixed. I’m praying that my clubfoot days will soon be over.

Matt nods. Jimmy looks back and forth and both of them, then starts laughing. 

            JIMMY: Well, now! Y’all can just go and waste your money if you want to, but I’m gonna put mine to good use!

Matt chuckles and rolls his eyes. 

WESLEY: This ought to be good. So what are you gonna do with yours, Jimmy?

JIMMY: I am going to go to Lynchburg and buy me the fanciest banjo in the store, that’s what I’m going to do.

WESLEY: Can’t you think of something better to spend it on than a banjo?

JIMMY (laughs): No, I can’t. Not a thing in the whole damn world.

MATT: You might want to save a little of it, Jimmy. I know you got bills that needs paying.

JIMMY: Oh hell, boys. There’s plenty more where this came from!

Jimmy takes another swig from the bottle. 

            JIMMY: Just as soon as the good folks of Winston are thirsty again, we’ll run ‘em some more.

WESLEY: Not me.

Jimmy looks at him, surprised. 

            MATT: Me neither.

Jimmys turns and looks at Matt, then back at Wesley, seemingly bewildered.

JIMMY: Y’all must be pulling my leg. It’s easy money.

WESLEY: I ain’t pushing my luck, Jimmy. As soon as I get my foot fixed I’m gonna get me a regular job.

MATT: Me and Wesley are going to Leaksville. Done signed up the whole family.

JIMMY: Y’all done lost y’all’s minds!

WESLEY: It’s done got too dangerous here, Jimmy. And the mill pays pretty good money.

JIMMY: It don’t pay squat! Not compared to what you get from selling liquor. You been making whiskey since you was old enough to walk. Why you wanna quit now?

WESLEY (slyly): Who said anything about quitting?

JIMMY (intrigued): Y’all done lost me, boys. Didn’t y’all just say you was fixing to move to Leaksville to work in the mill?

MATT: Yep. Contract is for the whole family.

WESLEY: But I reckon them mill workers get thirsty too.

Jimmy seems to be in thought for a few seconds, then breaks into a big smile. 

JIMMY: I reckon you wouldn’t have to haul your liquor 80 miles no more to sell it, would you?

WESLEY (smiling): I reckon not.

MATT: And once all them hardworking folks gets to drinking good liquor, what they gonna want next?

JIMMY (pauses in thought, then laughs and slaps Matt on the back): Well, I reckon they might enjoy some good music then, wouldn’t they?

MATT (smiling): I reckon they sure might.

WESLEY: They got a dance hall there, Jimmy. And plenty of other places to play. We won’t have to hoof it all around the country trying to find an audience. And we’ll make us good money playing there too.

JIMMY (laughing): Well shut my mouth, boys. Y’all done got it all figgered out. Music and moonshine—them’s my two favorite things. Music, moonshine and a milltown—that right there might be just the right combination.

MATT: Go on and sign up too, Jimmy. We’ll paint that town. And it won’t hurt us none to have respectable jobs too.

WESLEY: Yeah, come on with us Jimmy. The world is changing. It’s time to move on from here.

JIMMY: It’s mighty tempting. Let me think on it, boys.

WESLEY: Alright. I’m going home fore Ma sends somebody out looking for us.

MATT: Good idea. We’ll see you soon Jimmy.

Matt and Wesley shake Jimmy’s hand and exit stage left. 

Jimmy seems deep in thought. Then he suddenly laughs. He picks up his banjo, takes a seat and plays “Moving Day.” When he finishes, he takes a long drink from the bottle, finishing it.

 

CURTAIN

4 comments on “Linthead Stomp, Act One

  1. I like it. Would be good to see it staged.

    Like

  2. I enjoyed it, Bill. Good characters. Captures the times. –Curt

    Like

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