Chapter 8: More on the Topic of Gizzards

 

Toward evening, Dorothy tired and William’s stomach grumbled.

 

“Let us make camp somewhere,” I said.

 

“Somewhere with nice grass,” said William.

 

“And fresh hay,” Scrobins said.

 

“And water,” added Dorothy.

 

I thought we were in the middle of nowhere, but when we rounded a curve, not a stone’s throw off the road, a well lit grand blue farmhouse lay ahead.

 

On the lush green lawn, many men and women were dancing. Five little fiddlers played loudly and the people were laughing and singing.

 

“This is a real party,” Dorothy exclaimed. “I’ve heard of them, but, I’ve never attended one with more than twelve people…including me.”

 

“A fine party this is,” William said as she pushed her chew under a cheek to speak clearly. “I’ve attended many barn dances, but they never had this many people.”

 

“You went to barn dances, William,” I asked. “Who invited you and how did you learn to dance?” A dancing cow named William…invited to a barn dance...what next, I thought.

 

“My farmer partied hardy,” William replied, “And I didn’t say I was invited. I said attended. My stall was located in the barn…my attendance was a given!”

 

Before I could reply, some of the Munchkins on the lawn noticed us.

 

In seconds, like bees, they buzzed around us with great excitement.

 

“It’s a dawg,” one said, “a bottom buckie…toothed dawg at that.” He stooped to poke my nose and speaking of my bangs, he said, “Doggie-thing, you need a comb or a haircut. How can you see?”

 

“And a scarecrow ridin’ a cow…”hollered another.

 

As if she had seen the Messiah, a woman whispered loudly, “It is she! It is she.”

 

A hush settled over their party. The musicians stopped in mid-tune and whispers filled the void, “it must be she…she’s given life to a Guardian of the Corn....”

 

“I like that title,” said the scarecrow, “oh, and…”

 

“It speaks!” a great gasp arose from the Munchkins. Some covered their mouths, some covered their ears, and others rubbed their eyes.

 

“No doubt, that you’re surprised to see a scarecrow riding on the back of a cow, but you must admit,” said Dorothy with a waggle of a forefinger, “that you’d be totally dumbstruck if our cow, William, was riding on the back of the scarecrow.”

 

Dumb stares and blank faces rewarded her wisdom. Dorothy continued, “Have any of you a set of overalls to spare?”

 

“And a bit of straw to fill them,” chimed in the scarecrow.

 

Immediately, several of the men had removed their shirts and more before a kindly looking munchkin approached us with a wave and smile, “Countrymen, redress. We have plenty of extra clothes in the house as well as fresh hay in the barn.” With a gracious bow, he continued. “My name is Boq. Word of your deeds and powers have spread throughout our land. You honor us with your presence. Please, join in our festivities tonight, and stay as long as you desire.”

 

To the Munchkins, I was interesting, the scarecrow was spooky, and Dorothy was their idol and savior for freeing them from slavery imposed by the Wicked Witch. William garnished greater attention when, exactly at 6:00 p.m., she silenced all with a bellow that could be heard for a mile, “G-o-o-o-t…M-i-i-i-l-l-l-k?”

 

In minutes, Munchkins came running with buckets from every direction.

 

“Where did all of these buckets come from?” I said as I darted between Dorothy’s legs to avoid being trampled.

 

“Look at them go…running hither and thither...they remind me of Leprechauns chasing after pieces of gold,” Dorothy whispered with a giggle.”

 

“Look Dorothy, they have no idea how to milk William.”

 

“Then I’ll show them.” Dorothy tossed her shoulders back, lifted her chin, and with surprising dignity and authority made her way to William where she took charge of the milking.

 

“Milking a cow,” she said, “has nothing to do with scratching one’s head, rubbing one’s chin, or plucking ones beard, so stop that and pay attention. Pull…, now squeeze. Again, pull…, now squeeze.”

 

Dorothy returned to me with a smile, “Now that they’ve had my expert coaching, their pudgy little fingers will have those buckets filled in no time.”

 

Later, I found out that milk cows were scarce in the Land of Oz.

 

These locals had milked other critters, but only a few of the elders had tasted cow milk. Peals of laughter erupted when milk squirted faces rather than filled their buckets. Munchkins have a childlike sense of humor and they never tire of a good joke or the telling a long story. William took delight in all of it and something said, set her off her chicken-choking chuckle. A Munchkin with milk dripping from his beard approached us. With great concern he asked, “Do we hurt the cow or do all cows choke and gargle when they’re milked?”

 

“This noise is made by only the happiest of cows,” I replied.

 

Dorothy’s jaw dropped. She covered her mouth with her hands and softly said:

 

“Why Toto, your bottom lip has curled around your little buckteeth and your brow has acquired a most discerning twist. If I’m not mistaken, your face has found its smile!”

 

“And I thought the poor little dog had been kicked in the face,” Scrobins said as he tossed his hands to the heavens.

 

We garnered a good deal of attention, but I was glad when the crowd about us thinned, and the festivities continued.

 

“Food,” Dorothy exclaimed as Boq led us to a table, “…more than food, a feast!”

 

“No corn, thank goodness! I’ve had it with corn,” said Scrobins with a great sigh of relief

 

Dorothy added with a wrinkled nose, “This table is loaded with delicious fruits and nuts, pies and cakes…and meat, but there’s much here that’s new to me.”

 

Boq studied her befuddled expression. “Eat, eat,” he insisted with a smile of amusement as he pulled out a chair to make room at the table. “If you crave food that you don’t find, I’ll call for my cook. Eat while I find fresh straw and overalls for your crippled friend.”

 

“I like straw too,” bellowed William, “may I come along?”

 

The scarecrow and William followed Boq while we  joined a table of feasting Munchkins. Despite her hunger, Dorothy’s fine manners marked her as a little lady and eventually she had eaten her fill. Never before or since, have I attended a more bountiful feast. Nonetheless, when I found that fine table void of gizzards, a bit of gloom set upon me. Boq treated us like royalty and only one with less character than I, would do him the discourtesy of asking for additional food.

 

Later he returned with William and the scarecrow. Then by a warm fire, we rested contentedly, exchanging pleasantries.

 

“And where might your journey take you, William,” Boq asked, “and to what end?” 

 

“To Oz, Kind Sir,” popped off Scrobins, “to fill my empty head with brains.”

 

“I’m a cow,” William ignored Scrobins’s interruption. “Cows don’t plan or lead, and despite our exceptional intelligence, our peace of mind comes from following and providing milk. I go where they go.” William nodded toward Dorothy and me.

 

“And you and the young lady, Mr. Toto? What path calls upon your spirits?”

 

“Boq, it is from Kansas, that we hale, and to Kansas we shall return. The Witch of the North told us that Oz, in the Emerald City could help us get there. My immediate interest, however, lies with the wonderful gizzards of Oz.”

 

Eager to hear more about our homeland, the Munchkins sat before us, like children at story time. Although we spoke openly and lightly on many subjects, the Munchkins kept bringing the conversation back to gizzards. Their interest was intense as I described the exotic smell, the robust earthy taste, and their meaty leathery chew. Despite the amount of food these folk ingested at the bountiful tables of their host, they listened hungrily with rapt attention, licked their lips, and rubbed their stomachs.

 

“Tell me more of these gizzards, Mr. Toto. How is it that you became an expert on this subject?” said Boq.

 

“As I said, Kind Sir, I am from Kansas, born and raised. My family is so poor, that even that word seemed luxurious and so we use it sparingly. Our poverty is such that my family can not even afford a wooden bench for me to sit upon so I might join them at the dinner table; however their generosity is apparent in that I feast upon the best part of the chicken, which is of course, its gizzard.”

 

“Never have I heard of anyone eating chickens,” mused Boq as he pushed aside a patch of whiskers to gently massage a mole. “You’ve described well, the succulence of gizzard; please delight us further with a description of the parts of the bird that remain. I’ve often wondered what a chicken’s feathers must taste like. Munchkins, you see, only raise chickens for their eggs.”

 

“Feathers, my dear Boq, are likely for families even poorer than ours. To my knowledge, I know of none who’s eaten them. As to the delectability of the rest of the bird, you’ll have to ask Dorothy.” I nodded toward her as she sat lost in thought tapping her foot to the beat of the fiddlers. “I personally am unable to say as I’ve not  feasted on other than the chicken’s best part. I imagine the rest of the bird is tough and dry. Dorothy, Uncle Henry, and Aunt Em always spoke of it as such, as they tossed me the gizzard.”

 

When I tired of watching the dancing, I checked on William who’d wandered off to sleep. She had curled up in her favorite place, an open pasture beneath a clear sky. Scrobins rested on his back nearby looking up at the star filled sky.

 

Later, Boq led Dorothy and me into the house, where he gave us a room with a pretty bed and bid us good night. I didn’t remember falling asleep and when I awoke, it was well past first light. After breakfast, Boq assembled a fine basket of meats, cheeses, breads, and treats for our journey and walked with us to the yellow brick road.

 

"How far is it to the Emerald City?" I asked.

 

“Three, perhaps four easy days at best,” Boq replied, “Not being from around here, you’ll enjoy the countryside and the weather is divine.”

 

I bowed to Boq and said, “I thank you, Kind Sir, for your generosity, your bed, our fine meals, and the gift of your company.”

 

“Thank you for our freedom,” he replied with a bow. “Though we’ve just met, Mr. Toto, I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. I look forward to the day that I find a chicken willing to share its gizzard. In my many years as a farmer, I’ve yet to encounter one, but then…” he hesitated as he plucked at his chin, “I’ve never considered asking them for one.”

 

Our evening with the Munchkins left us well rested, relaxed, and refreshed. We embraced our journey with optimism and vitality and our first day back on the road was magnificent.

 

Two days later found us tired, dirty, and ill tempered.

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