Take my advice

There was another one the other evening that brought me right up out of my chair. Maybe other folks don't notice these things the way I do. It was a long time ago now that I proposed to Hollywood that I be retained in a general way as consultant on rural matters, to spare the movie industry numerous absurdities, and probably since I was never retained for this charitable service I'm more critical of the lapses. It was the appearance of the Hollywood "Heidi" that started me off on this. In that "Heidi," the old man of the Alps was shown splitting his stovewood with a Snow & Neally double-bitted ax. The two-faced ax with its limber moonbeam handle is strictly State o'Maine, and even if it were known in the Alps and Juras it would be used for chopping and not splitting. The wedge ax -- quarter, half, and full -- was the tool for splitting, and it keeps but one edge.

Well, here was this old man in "Heidi" lifting this double-bitted ax high over his head and bringing it down whack into a stick laid flat on the ground. There he was with the thin blade bedded in the wood, and no progress. I immediately notified Hollywood that I was available, but such absurdities continue and I remain unemployed movie-wise, so to speak.

The one the other evening showed an old joker blowing out a kerosene lamp. He was a Forty-Niner, and had just received a letter from home, which rendered him moody. Emotion shook his frame and tears welled up in his tired eyes. He stood up and blasted down the chimney of the kerosene lamp and, I suppose, went to bed. Just like that. Whoooof! Reposed, in the post-prandial languor, perhaps even torpor, that adorns my evenings, I saw this on the TV and leaped, still partly adoze, to fetch in the hoseline and extinguish Sutter's Mill. "It's just a picture!" I assured myself before I'd gone too far.

No, no! Turn the wick down, first, and give the flame a moment to reduce. Then do a gentle puff, which is all it takes, and you will neither set the countryside on fire nor "sut the chimbley." Even better, you will not experience the indignity of having the lamp whoooof back and clean off your eyebrows clear'n around to the back of your neck, including your yak-hair beard from the property department. There is no other surprise quite like the echo from a lamp that is blown ill.

Do you remember that scene in which the Frankenstein monster sniffs a daisy and his features betray a momentary pleasure? Did you ever smell a daisy?

Watering the horses has been my favorite Hollywood lapse. Once in a great while you'll see two riders pause at a scenic ford to let the horses drink, and once in a while a set will have a drinking tub. Mostly, though, the interminable and perpetual watering of animals has been ignored in the Wild West Hollywood. Some movies go the whole distance and never lead a horse to water. "Give him a little water and then cool him off before he gets some more!" ran the instructions to us forlorn country youngsters who had to pump for the team after the day's work. Did you ever see a teen-year-old boy struggling to get a man-size horse away from the watering tub after "a little bit" of water? No. Ol' Tige would be a-thirst, sweaty from the field, and it was not considered good animal care to let him gulp his fill of cold water. So give him a little and walk him some. Ol' Tige didn't understand this, and he ran to 13-cwt and I was barefoot. Ol' Tige meant to drink. "Don't let him have any more right now!" they'd yell. Good ol' Tige.

The up-and-down churn has also caught my notice, but never for its verisimilitude. The scene opens with heroine at churn, clearly preoccupied, lifting handle gently up and pressing it gently down, and there is no audible splash. Knock at the door. 'Tis Charles, come to woo. Dialogue ensues. Churn is forgotten. Believe me, a country girl at a dasher churn is athletic, in full glow, and she has only butter on her mind. One does not work the handle three hours and fifteen minutes and then quit. A churning heroine would probably yell , "Beat it Charlie, until it gathers!" Butter always comes in the next ten minutes.

And have you seen people interrupt actresses who are knitting? They just come walking on and start talking. Never! Repeat, never do that. Always come into the room softly and look about to size things up. If somebody is knitting and you wish to speak to her, commence by saying, "You countin'?"

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