Cucklebur and Tumbleweed
by Norris Chambers
It was in this shop that Clifton and I listened to "Lum and Abner", and he said, "You know, we could do that." I was always ready to try anything. "Why not give it a try?" I asked. I had a microphone connected to a small transmitter, so we moved up close and talked a littlle. The shop was about a hundred yards from the house, so I had my mother listen on the radio and we did our stuff. He called me "Cucklebur" and I called him "Tumbleweed" in that first little skit. He complained because there were grounds in the coffee, and I explained to him that I strained it through a sock. When he complained about straining coffee through the sock, I told him not to worry, I didn't use a clean one. My mother said it sounded fine. So that was all the encouragement we needed.
We returned to the shop and I got busy on my trusty old typewriter. In a few minutes we were ready to put on a program.
I wrote to radio station KFPL in Dublin, Texas and told Mr. Baxter we would like to do a "Lum and Abner" type program over the radio. Stations were always looking for live talent, so he wrote back and gave us thirty minutes at 11:00 A.M. on Saturday.
On that first Saturday, the program opened with the announcer saying:
We now present, for your listening enjoyment, Norris Chambers and Clifton Armstrong as Cucklebur and Tumbleweed.
Then we sang the following theme song that I had composed, using the tune of "I'm An Old Cowhand". (I played the banjo.)
We're on the air to say a thing or two.
Then the announcer continued: As we look in on today's activities,we find the two old gentlemen in their cabin on Onion Creek discussing a very important subject."
Cucklebur: "Tumbleweed, Miss Allie, our pretty school teacher is fixing to quit and go back to the city."
Tumbleweed: "What fur - I thought she liked it here."
The conversation continued, indicating that Miss Allie was frustrated by the mean tricks that some of her students were playing. During Christmas holidays some mean boys stuffed sacks of cotton down the chimney and when the fire was lighted on a cold January day, it smoked everyone out of the house. The roof was covered in ice, and no one could get on top to clean it out. After a solid citizen twisted it out from the bottom with a length of barbed wire, classes continued. Miss Allie came in the next morning and opened the door, thereby triggering a booby trap. Two gallons of cold water was dumped on her. She had to go back to her room and change clothes.
When she got back to school the students were engaged in eraser and spit ball fights and were very noisy. They got quiet and school began. But when she opened her desk drawer, it was full of red ants. Everyone knew that little Roscoe had done that. He had become known as the ant man. He caught ants by burying jars up to the rim and letting them fall in. When it was full, he had a quart of ants to play mean tricks with. While Miss Allie was sweeping out the ants, a shot gun shell exploded in the large heater and almost scared her out of her wits.
When Miss Allie started to pack up and leave, Cucklebur tried to persuade her to stay. His last desperate argument was to tell her that Tumbleweed was in love with her and wanted to ask her to marry him, but was too bashful. Of course this information didn't set well with Tumbleweed. But Miss Allie agreed to stay a little longer, and a community social was planned at the school house.
Obviously, Cucklebur and Tumbleweed had to practice their music for the social. Tumbleweed brought out his fiddle, and for the first time the program had fiddle music. Then Elbert Hall came on the program to help us out. He was an excellent singer and guitar player. We put him in the story as the sheriff. The sheriff had been called to Onion Creek School to try to track down the perpetrators of the mean tricks. Someone had imprisoned a live skunk in the school house.The social was a success, but the trick kids came to life again. Someone dropped shotgun shells down the chimney, Elbert's guitar had about a pint of ants poured in it while he was at the punch bowl.
Someone handy with a paint bucket and brush made a zebra out of Tom Miller's prized black horse. One of the visitors lost a wheel off of his buggy. A wagon had the two rear wheels chained together with a padlock. A few little simple things like that.
So there was a lot of music, such as it was, on the program from then on. The letters poured in and we felt like small time celebrities. Elbert added a lot of class to our music. Clifton and I took turns playing the fiddle, and Elbert's singing and playing really enhanced the musical part of the programs. The announcer came in several times during the 30 minutes with advertisements for local businesses. The Cucklebur and Tumbleweed show eventually became the Jolly Farm Boys who peddled peanut butter, as told in another chapter. Elbert later worked for a traveling show and for awhile played with one of Bob Wills' dance bands. He was a good musician, and without him our band would never have been good enough to attract listeners.
In case you are wondering if the sheriff ever found the tricksters, he did. Miss Allie agreed to stay and she and Tumbleweed did not get married.
We did a few random programs over the Abilene radio station and the Brady radio station, but didn't appear on a regular basis.
Did we make money doing all this? No. But we did have fun - and in the long run, that's what counts.
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