Monday, June 13, 2011


Jim Heynen


Well, everyone always told the boys not to feed bacon

rind to the ducks, but nobody told the boys why not.

So they took some raw bacon rind and threw it to

the ducks. A big duck swallowed it. The boys followed

that duck around, watching to see what would happen.

The duck looked all right.

But then the duck stopped, ruffled its wings, and

passed the piece of raw bacon onto the ground as

quickly as if it had laid an egg. Up waddled another

duck and swallowed the bacon rind. Soon this duck

passed it, and another duck quickly swallowed it.

This went on for a while, and the ducks learned to

follow the last duck that had swallowed the rind, waiting

for it to come out so they'd have their turn at it.

The boys watched the bacon rind being passed

around from one duck to another in this way until one

of them got an idea.

Let's tie a string to the bacon, he said.

The other boys looked surprised when they saw in

their minds what would happen.

The boys chuckled and ran to get some strong

string. After they tied this to the rind, they went back

to the ducks. The first duck swallowed it, then the second,

and so on, until the boys had all the ducks on the

string. They held it tight, pulling the bacon ring tight

against the bottom of the last duck.

Later the boys told this story to the men.

That would make a good story to tell some city

slickers, said one of the men. They're the only ones

who'd believe it.


The pony was blind in one eye when it was born. At

first it was easy to catch if you remembered which side

to come up on. But after a while the ear on the blind

side got strong from listening so hard for someone

sneaking up on it. That ear got so good it would hear

someone coming on the blind side farther than the

good eye could see on the other.

So the boys had to think of new ways to catch the

blind pony. First they tried trapping it in the corner of

the pasture, but the blind pony always ran with its

good eye towards the fence and its good ear towards

the boys. This way it never ran into the fence and

could still whip its head when it heard the lasso com-

ing through the air. The blind pony was a good kicker

too, and the boys learned not to try grabbing at it from


Next the boys tried hiding in trees where the pony

walked, thinking that they could drop a rope over the

head as it passed under them. But it was as if the pony

could hear that part of the tree where the leaves

weren't rustling and wouldn't walk under a tree where

one of the boys was hiding.

Finally, the boys tried coaxing the blind pony with


Why didn't we think of this before! said one of the

boys when this worked. Pretty soon the blind pony

came at the sound of the boys climbing the apple

trees. Its nose got strong too, and it could tell which

boy had an apple in his pocket.

But the boys never did saddle or bridle it. They

knew how dangerous it would be to ride a blind pony.


Their grandfather was going to show them where a

robin had built a new nest in the grove. They walked

along, staring up into the leafy branches, when one of

the boys tripped on something. His Ouch! made

everyone's eyes look down instead of up.

Until now it had been such a quit and easy day,

with the sun and breeze mixing together like whipped

cream and sugar and spreading a sweetness over

everything and everybody. Seeing the robin's nest with

its pale blue eggs would have been what this day was

all about. And now this.

The boy who tripped sat down and grabbed his foot.

Something sharp stuck out of the ground, a rusty

pointed thing.

This is where we used to bury old equipment we

didn't need any more, said heir grandfather. That's

the tooth of an old dump rake trying to sneak back

into the world.

The boy who had tripped saw that the others were

finding the metal tooth more interesting than his mis-

ery. He got up and helped them pull on the tooth,

which was curved like a sliver of moon — and when

they pulled, it was as if they were unzipping the earth,

which split open, and plant roots frayed out from the

wound like tiny threads.

Look at that, said their grandfather. He kicked at

the dirt they had loosened. He knelt down and started

into the dirt. Look, he said, and held up what looked

like a bent horseshoe. This is called a twisted clevis, he


He went back to digging. This is part of the knotter

for the binder back in the days of threshing machines.

And here's a piece of a corn shucker glove. See that little

hook that would pull the husk back? And here's the

sediment bulb off an old tractor.

The grandfather was acting like a dog going after a

hidden bone, scratching away with his strong old

hands as if digging up and naming this useless junk

was good for something.

This here is from an old harrow, he said. Those

there from a cream separator. Here's part of a stan-

chion lock. That's from a double-tree. See this? It's a

gear from a derrick for lifting the fronts of wagons off

the ground.

The boys watched and listened. What their grand-

father was doing didn't make much sense. If you're

going to throw things away and bury them, why not

forget about them and do what you were going to

so — which was find that robin's nest? But they waited,

and after a while they could see that their grandfather

must have gotten what he needed. He shoved dirt

back over what he had dug up, brushed off his dirty

hands, and looked up into the tree branches with


It sure is a nice day, he said. Perfect for finding a

robin's nest. Now be quiet. We don't want to scare her


from The Boys' House
new & selected stories
(Minnesota Historical Society Press)

Born on a farm in northwest Iowa, Jim Heynen attended one of Iowa's last one-room schoolhouses before going on to high school at Western Christian in Hull, Iowa.

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