The Prairie Spy

Alan “Lindy” Linda

I just heard on the radio about a guy who up and decided one day to clean his fireplace chimney with a 16-gauge shotgun.

Although I didn’t know this man, I felt a growing kinship with his ambitions. And admiration. Lots and lots of admiration. After all, not everyone can spend a long day at the factory punching out bunches of metal gizmos, come home that night, sit down, read the paper, and as soon as The Woman of the House is momentarily distracted, reach down deep inside himself for some creative chore solving.

Even better, reach down and find the inspiration to realize: “Hey! It’s time to break out the shotgun and kill the chimney.” The fact that he finds enough right stuff to do it with a rare 16-gauge, well, that’s just frosting on the cake. For those of you who have never hunted chimney with a 16-gauge, you should know that 16-gauges are quite rare, kind of the Edsels of the shotgun world. Me? I’d have gone in there with the more common 12-gauge. But not this guy.

To make a long chimney story short, killing it proved to take not one, not two, but a third shot, upon which the old and fragile shotgun blew up, doing quite a lot of damage to itself, and to the great white hunter holding it. That was truly unfortunate. Women of the House all the world over probably will hear about this, and now they’ll raise such a fuss each time one of us gets out a shotgun to polish up the innards of the chimney that no one will ever get to do it again. It’s a black day for flue shooters everywhere.

Personally, I always try to find my most creative solutions to obstinate problems when there are no witnesses around.

I once ground the end off The Wife’s collector Grumman canoe with the tractor-mounted snowblower, thinking at the time that it was a particularly tough snow drift, to kill the tractor like that. She returned as I was extricating three feet of the canoe’s mangled stern from the snowblower’s teeth. One more half hour, just one more half hour, and I could have blamed it on extraterrestrials.

She was also gone when her brother (all his fault) and I set her favorite chicken on fire blowing up gopher holes in the yard with gasoline. One more half hour, we’d have had the grass fire put out. Then there was the chicken who just had to run through the flames as she was driving back in. Stupid chicken.

She was gone when my antique John Deere tractor set itself and me on fire. My first thought—luckily there was a garden hose mere feet away, or I wouldn’t have had another thought at all—was to look around and see if anybody had seen me. Forget the burned charcoal pompadour which my hair had turned into, assorted second-degree burns, the place where my eyebrows used to be—they’d heal and grow back. It takes much longer to change someone else’s opinion that you are not to be trusted alone. Women of the House believe what they see, not what you tell them. One more half hour, I’d have had the fire in my hair out, and could have blamed the barber.

Dollars to doughnuts, that guy cleaning his chimney first looked around through the smoking aftermath to see if he’d wrecked The Woman of the House’s living room beyond repair, and could he fix it quick. Only then I bet did he start looking for missing body parts.

Had she been in the kitchen, though, she would have run into the living room, where, upon seeing what looked like The War of the Planets, she would have asked her idiot husband: “Are you all right?”

He, staggering across the room burned and bloody and holding a shotgun with the barrel peeled open like a ripe banana, would have raised himself as erect as possible and said: “I’m fine. I don’t need to go to the hospital.”

“Your arm is gone,” she might have pointed out.

“I’m fine,” he would have said. She can call for the ambulance only when he finally passes out from blood loss. That’s the rule.

Better yet, just before he faints, he could have made one last attempt to foist off the blame for this debacle by saying: “That darned old shotgun of your dad’s, it never was any good.” He’d have added, as he fell: “Just look what it’s done.”

I know he would have. Not just anybody would clean a chimney with a 16-gauge.

My hero.