1. Tom Watson
Mar 8 2004, 9:20 pm
I've had plenty of different critters show up in the shop. There's
always mice skittering about, although I can't quite figure out why,
as there's nothing for them to eat out here. Had a young hawk fly
into the rafters one day a couple of years ago. I suspect he was
chasing a smaller bird and just took a wrong turn. I left the doors
open that night and he was gone in the morning. There was the young
groundhog that ambled on in last spring and shuffled under the
hardware storage roll around when I tried to chase him out. I
couldn't understand where he'd got to when I looked underneath with
the flashlight before closing up for the day. Later I found out that
there was a hole under there that had probably been there for a while.
I suspect that everyone's got their own tales of misplaced fauna in
These intrusions were nothing compared to the time that the monkey got
into Rube Collins' shop.
Rube has a shop in what used to be the cow barn, when it was still
profitable for a man to milk forty-some head of cows. The milking
parlor has been turned over to box stalls to house the horses of some
of the newish rich folks around here, who have more money than sense.
The area that held the cows while they awaited their twice a day
milking, holds even more box stalls (ole Rube makes a pretty penny
off these folks) and the room that used to hold the bulk tank has been
turned into a tack room.
The rest of the old bank barn is Rube's woodworking shop.
Rube makes traditional sorts of what you might call "countrified'
furniture. It subscribes to no particular style but it's strong and
the joints are snug. The way Rube turns them out suits the fashion of
the moment, they look plenty distressed, but they are strong.
Most of Rube's equipment sits on the floor between the haymows. If
you know anything about bank barns, you know the drill. The floor is
wide enough to get a hay wagon into, with a bit to spare at the sides.
Since that doesn't leave enough room for all the machinery that Rube
has collected over the years, he uses one of the old hay mows for
keeping the stuff that, "ain't been brought back into proper workin'
order, yet", according to Rube. This includes the bits and pieces of
at least six tablesaws, three or four drill presses, an old Oliver
planer, and some other stuff that I don't think even Rube knows what
Story goes that Rube walked into the barn one morning at just before
six in the morning (which was two hours later than he used to show up
when he was still milking) when he saw a small furry creature haul ass
across his workbench and on up into the rafters.
Listen here, Rube's known to be a might slow in the morning (his wife
said that he was never really awake when he did first milking) but he
don't drink, except for a bit of hard cider during it's time of year,
which wasn't then, and he don't snort, nor huff, nor shoot, nor smoke
(well, he did get into the Jimson weed a bit when he was young but
that was years ago and it don't really do nothing anyways). Rube was
pretty sure that he had seen a monkey in his barn.
Now, where in the world of all creation a monkey could have come to be
in a barn in the middle of this particular section of rural Chester
County, Pennsylvania, I couldn't tell you. Neither could Rube.
There's no circuses that come close enough to lose a monkey here.
People sometimes drive out from town and leave unwanted dogs or cats
by the side of the road but nobody had ever heard of anyone who'd even
kept a monkey, let alone leave it to fend for itself out here in farm
country. It were a mystery.
Rube had some twin-tube four-foot fluorescent fixtures hanging over
the machine area, which cast a sort of indifferent light onto his
workspace (perhaps accounting for the rough nature of his finished
product, to some degree). Thing was, the rafters were a good thirty
feet above the lights and you couldn't make out what might be lurking
about up there.
Rube says he heard a chittering sound, about like a pissed-off
squirrel will make, but decided to pay it no mind.
The day went on, with the chittering sound being heard by Rube now and
then, and him continuing to pay it no mind, until it was time to close
up for the day. Rube got out the five battery flashlight and scanned
the rafters. Said he heard some more chittering but didn't see
nothing and decided to go in for dinner.
Next morning, Rube comes in and goes to the maple harvest table that
he's working on. There was a small pile of scat on it. No one loves
a critic, least of all Rube at six in the morning and he went hunting
for that monkey that had shat on his new work. Rube was of a mind to
get out the shotgun but the thought of what the birdshot might do to
the old tin roof, and not knowing what the Game Commission might think
about shooting monkeys out of season, kept him from going in that
Rube heard the chittering off and on all that day but decided to pay
it no mind, except he said the chittering sounded a might weaker than
before, and went in for dinner at the end of work without even looking
for the critter.
Next morning, Rube comes in and sees the monkey sitting on his
workbench. No chittering. The monkey had hold of an ear of cow corn
that must have been ten years old, as that was how long it had been
since he'd put corn in the barn. Rube said the monkey looked pretty
Whether it was the age of the cow corn, or whether it was that monkeys
don't normally eat cow corn - Rube didn't know - but he'd seen enough
critters in his life to know that this one was feeling poorly - and
the old cow corn was probably the cause.
Some farmers make pets of their animals, at least the ones that ain't
marked for butchering. Every farmer that I have ever known has a soft
spot for animals, even those who won't admit to it. The monkey didn't
even have spunk enough to move away when Rube came to him and took
away the chewed up corn. He didn't offer to bite and he didn't move
away. Rube felt sorry for the little fella.
Rube called up the County Agricultural Extension Agent and asked if he
knew anything about monkeys and what they ate. The agent didn't miss
a beat and said that monkeys will eat Purina Monkey Chow and that the
Farm Bureau over in Kennett Square stocked it.
Why this didn't set bells off in Rube's head, I'll never tell you.
Rube fired up the F-150 and went to Kennett, coming back with a fifty
pound sack of Purina Monkey Chow, as they did not sell it in smaller
The monkey was still on the workbench. Rube scared up a couple of old
milk jug tops and inverted them to form bowls - one for the Purina
Monkey Chow and the other for a bit of water.
By this time the monkey's eyes were sorta rolling around in his head,
so Rube held a piece of the Purina Monkey Chow in his fingers and held
it up to the monkey's face. That little furry guy tried hard to focus
on what Rube was holding out to him, finally he sniffed a couple of
times and held out his paw to take it. The monkey chewed it up slow.
Rube patted the monkey on his head, like he was some kind of
particularly ugly but endearing dog.
The monkey got better and would come to Rube every morning for a
handout of Purina Monkey Chow. As he got stronger, he would scamper
about the rafters and Rube got real used to having him around. The
monkey had stopped leaving things on Rube's work. He chittered around
and did funny monkey things that would make Rube laugh out loud.
Couple of weeks later Rube got a phone call from the Farm Bureau guy
over in Kennett. The man had a customer who was asking around about a
missing monkey. As Rube had only recently started having an interest
in Purina Monkey Chow, the man wondered if Rube had perhaps seen any
strange monkeys in the area. Turns out that a man who boarded horses
over to Hap Longwells ex-dairy farm was missing a pet monkey, and that
was only a mile from Rube's place.
Next day the monkey's owner came over to Rube's shop. Rube brought
the monkey out to the guy's car, the monkey would come to Rube anytime
he called by this point. The man offered to pay a reward to Rube but
he'd have none of that and simply gave the man the remains of the
Purina Monkey Chow. The monkey chittered a good bit when Rube handed
him over, and Rube said he looked out the back window of the car at
him until the car and the monkey were beyond seeing.
I don't think that Rube will get a monkey of his own anytime soon.
But if one were to come into his shop again, he'd probably try to buy
some food for him - quiet like.
Tom Watson - WoodDorker
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email)