A greater Granger never was

SPANKY Waldron, who recently flunked the Dove Soap 10-day test, stopped by the other morning to bring me some of his ``Finest Kind'' pole bean seeds, and I was glad to get them. These pole beans are different, in that they climb only 18 inches and can be picked close to the ground. Spanky fell off a stepladder when he was a tot and has been scairt of height ever since, so he developed these pole beans for his own uses and, as he says, they are some old goo-ood. Best I ever knew for a handful in a soup. So Spanky came in and he says, ``I been practicing my you-knows.''

``You been what?''

``Practicing my you-knows. Been doing it now for two-three weeks. When I'm alone, of course. But yestiddy I was going at it, and along comes nosey Benjy Bibber and he catches me doing it. So this morning I hear it's all over town that I've gone soft and I talk to myself.''

``I talk to myself all the time,'' I said.

``Eyah, but that's diff-funt. You, it don't matter. But where I'm honorary master of Cheewoncook Grange, No. 547, I'm in no position to go odd. Dignity to uphold, that kind of stuff. Man in my place needs to keep seemly hours, avoid flashy clothes, shun evil companions, and keep a proper style every minute. Talking to myself's a sign of weakening intellect.''

``And I guess your intellect won't stand much weakening.''

``My intellect's just's good as it was 85 years ago. Never's twitched a doit. Goes to show. Benjy Bibber might-a-knowed I had something back of it. You-know-you-know-you-know.''

``So all right -- what gives with the you-knows?''

``Practicing. I never said you-know, did you? Do you?''

``You know I don't.''

``Me neither. So I took up practicing, and now I can do pretty well at it.''

``What brought this on?''

``Well, I'm honorary master em-mer-reet-tus of Cheewoncook Grange, No. 547, and that's quite some distinction. I don't remember when I didn't go to Grange. My mother and my old man used to take me when I still had to have a bottle or I'd bawl. Spoke Curfew-shall-not-ring-tonight at literary program when I was only four years old. Never flubbed a word. And, speaking of intellect, I can still go through the thing today. You know. That and every other piece I ever did. Next meeting I'm doing Casey-at-the-bat for at least the umpty-umpth time. Never forget anything. I can tell you the password for the Grange every year back to Forthright when we had the blizzard of '88. I guess I'm probably the greatest Granger that ever was.''

``I used to belong to the Grange,'' I said.

``How come you gave it up?''

``They dropped me for nonpayment of dues.''

``Sounds right to me. Never got me on that. I handed in my 10 cents, you know, every single meeting, right on the dot. I value the Grange, and I'd-a shelled out just as faithful if it'd been 15 cents. I'm like that -- once I grab a-holt of a thing I believe in it, and I stick with it, you know. 'Specially the Grange. I was master one string of 18 consecutive years, and I went 47 'thout missing a meeting. Quite some record. I could take any part, moment's notice, and go through it 'thout a hitch. One night we had a big storm and not too many came, so I did four parts -- even Ceres -- and we worked four candidates all to once. Kept me hopping, but I done it. Had a flair, people said. Loved the Grange, you know.''

``That's quite something!'' I said. ``So now you go around saying you-knows to yourself -- and to me, too.''

``Eyah. Practicing, as I say. It came to me that my long record as a Granger makes me something of a distinguished and interesting character, so I been practicing my you-knows in case I ever get invited to be on the Merv Griffin Show, you know.''

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