Please Put a Penny in the Porridge Pot

Dave Skyberg

It had been a long, hard winter and times were tough up North. Especially for the McGoo family.

You see, Buzzsaw Boo McGoo had come down with the rheumatiz last December and couldn’t work in the woods that season. After spending all their savings on rheumatiz medicine, Boo and his wife Sue still had seven young’uns to feed, and they were in a real pinch.

Yup. Seven young’uns. There was the oldest boy, Boo McGoo, Jr. He was nine. Then there were twin sisters Sue (named after her mom) and Rue McGoo. They were eight. Then there was six-year-old Drew McGoo and five-year-old Lou McGoo, a boy and a girl. Then there was Hugh McGoo, three, and of course there was little Pooh McGoo too. He was their baby boy.

It was a whole gol’darn McGoo zoo! And even though Boo was all healed up and back at work, they were a’hurtin’ fer certain. But Boo and Sue were a proud Irish pair, and wouldn’t even think about askin’ for help. Providence will provide, they told the family. Providence will provide.

Well, Paul Bunyan knew of the McGoo’s pitiful plight and wanted to help them get back on their feet— Boo was a good friend and a hard worker. Paul’s lumber camp budget was pretty bare too, but there just had to be somethin’ he could do. He’d give it a good think over a pipe and a barrel of hot apple cider.

The next morning, Paul awoke with a start to the sound of loud clangs comin’ from the direction of Ole the blacksmith’s forge shanty. What in blazes? Ole knew the rules— there wasn’t supposed to be any clangin’ and bangin’ before breakfast! He’d better go over and take a look.

When he got to the smithy, what do you s’pose he saw? There was Ole, patchin’ up a big hole in the bottom of Sourdough Sam’s giant cast iron porridge pot where the fire had melted it through.

“Jeepers Ole, what’s goin’ on here?” Paul bellered. “You know the rules!”

“Yah, vell dis is an emergency,” Ole bellered right back. “I gotta get dis ting fixed before breakfast so Sam can make da porridge to feed da fellas, dont’cha know!”

That’s when Paul got an idea. “Say, Ole,” says Paul, “I’ve got a plan for that pot, so you finish up and I’ll be right back.” Then off went Paul to bend Sourdough Sam’s ear.

Pretty soon Paul was back at the smithy, with Drippy Derwood Duffenheimer, the camp painter, in tow. “Okay Drippy, here’s what I want you to paint, right on the side of the porridge pot,” and he leaned way down and whispered in Drippy’s ear.

“Ja vol Boss, I’ll get right to it!” Drippy said in his thick German accent, and he skedaddled off to get his paint and brushes.

Well, about an hour later, right on time at five o’clock in the morning, Sam rang the breakfast bell and all the loggers lined up outside the mess tent. And there, sittin’ right by the door flap, was that giant iron porridge pot, complete with Drippy’s handiwork in big white capital letters— NO PORRIDGE TODAY!

What the huckleberries!? No porridge? With yummy raisins and walnuts and maple syrup? Where’s Sourdough Sam? Git the rope!

“Simmer down fellers!” Paul boomed out. “I made that call. It was a tough decision, but that’s the way it’s gotta be. There just isn’t enough money in the budget to fix the hole in the pot. We’ll just have to go without porridge till we can get those logs downriver and collect our cash. That is, unless we all chip in a little somethin’.”

Then Paul stooped over and turned the porridge pot around. Painted on the other side was Drippy’s second painted message— PLEASE PUT A PENNY IN THE PORRIDGE POT.

Oh, there was some cussin’ and grumblin’ to be sure, but pretty soon everybody agreed that Sam’s porridge was worth every penny they could spare, and they all dug deep into their pockets for whatever loose change they had jinglin’.

Some gave a penny, some gave more. Some of the fellas who really, really liked porridge gave a whole half a dollar! Even Buzzsaw Boo McGoo chunked in a copper or two. Paul was very pleased.

For the next two weeks, those hungry loggers kept bringin’ in what change they could scrape up and chunked it into the pot until finally, it was full to the brim.

“HOORAY!” yelled the crew, “Now we can fix hole in the porridge pot!” But then, somebody in the back spouted out, “Hey, if there’s a hole in the porridge pot, how come those pennies don’t fall out the bottom?” And a hush fell over the bewildered crew.

“Now stay calm, fellers,” Paul piped in, “but Ole already had that pot patched up the morning we set it by the tent. I know it was tough goin’ without porridge every mornin’, but here’s somethin’ that’s gonna make it all worthwhile.

With that, Paul lifted that pot full of coins high up in the air and hollered, “BOO McGOO, THIS IS FOR YOU! And Sue and Boo and Sue and Rue and Drew and Lou and Hugh and Pooh!”

You should’a heard those loggers cheer as Paul set that pot down in front of the McGoo family. “The hole wasn’t in the porridge pot,” said Paul. “The hole was in the heart of this whole lumber camp, knowin’ you needed help, but were too proud to ask. And so we fixed it!”

Well as you can imagine, there were a few boo-hoos from those McGoos. But they were boo-hoos of joy and thankfulness. Providence did provide. In the form of true and selfless friends.

Oh, and if perchance you could spare a little something for the Byway, we’d be ever so thankful too!