Doobie had always had one big dream: to own land.
But alas, that seemed unlikely, he reckoned. The $517 monthly check he got from the government barely kept him alive. The government check was, so far as he could tell, the only benefit to possessing an IQ of 61.
Most of the people in his little rural community viewed Doobie as a harmless fool. Even when he was arrested for sniffing paint thinner they laughed it off--especially Doobie's antics when he mounted the witness stand to testify in his own defense.
"Them boys hijacked me!" Doobie told the judge.
The judge several times turned away so the defendant would not see the smile splitting his face.
"Yeah, them boys made me drive their car and that's when they hijacked me! One of 'em stuck a rag soaked in that stuff in my face. That's why I was drivin' at a high rate of speed, so the law would stop me!"
The judge fined Doobie $50 and gave him a suspended jail sentence for huffing intoxicants. He also gave him plenty of time to pay the fine and court costs.
"I need me some land," Doobie told the boys down at the feed store. "But I ain't got but twenty-seven dollars and you can't buy no land for twenty-seven dollar."
"Well, by God, I can sell you some dirt for twenty bucks," said Floyd Dobbins. "Whole damn gallon jug full. You could take that dirt and throw it in the wind by a field and then you could tell folks, 'I own that dirt.'"
This was a whole new concept for Doobie to digest. But it did seem to make a little sense.
"Tell you what, Floyd, let me think about it. I'll see you here tomorrow, you bring that dirt just in case."
"I'll be here as usual and I'll have the dirt," said Floyd.
Doobie went home and thought about it. He thought that he could scoop up some dirt of his own and do the same thing, but that wouldn't really count--he didn't own anywhere to scrape it up from. The only way he could own dirt was buy it.
He ate his baloney sandwich and drank his iced tea and thought about owning a whole gallon of dirt. It wasn't like a big field, but it was a part of the earth. He would own a little piece of the world if he bought that dirt.
And, there was that big, green field out on Mill Road. He could spread his dirt out there and become part owner of that beautiful spot.
"Hot damn, I'm gonna do it, Dookum!" he told his old redbone hound. The dog merely looked up at him with big mournful eyes and scratched.
Doobie was at the feed store the next day before any of the regular boys arrived. He sat on the old wooden porch outside and looked at his $20 bill. Soon, that would be a jug of dirt. He smiled.
Floyd Dobbins rattled in in his scarred old Dodge pickup just before noon. Smiling, he slid out of the truck with a big gallon pickle jar of dirt in his hand. It was black loam, good bottomland dirt.
"This here is some of the finest dirt in this here part of the state, by God," he told Doobie. He held out the jug. "Here, look it over, it's your land."
Doobie took the big jug. A gallon of dirt was pretty heavy, he noticed. He would own a bigger chunk of the earth that he'd even thought. And it sure was fine dirt.
"I reckon that's 'bout the purtiest dirt I ever did see," he told Floyd. "Here's your money, now you gonna give me a deed for it ain't you?"
Floyd looked a bit perplexed. But he would humor Doobie.
"Why sure, I'll fix up the deed right here, let me get some paper." He went in the feed store and came back out with a blank sheet of notebook paper.
"See here what I'm writin'," he told Doobie. "This here gallon of good fine bottom loam dirt is owned by Doobie Robertson for all times until death do them part."
Doobie couldn't read but he took Floyd's word for it. Floyd was his buddy, Floyd wouldn't screw him up. Floyd had made it possible for him to be a dirt-owner. Floyd was just about a genius.
"Well, I reckon that's it," said Floyd, sticking the twenty in his top bib pocket. "You are a certified dirt owner, boy! How does it feel?"
"Purty damn good," Doobie grinned. He felt a whole new sense of power.
Within the hour he'd ridden his wobbly old bicycle out to the field on Mill Road. He put the gallon jug holding his dirt in a croaker sack and tied it over his shoulder. He couldn't risk dropping it and losing his precious cargo.
There wasn't much wind, but there was enough. Doobie crossed the fence and walked out into the lush Jap hay. He scooped out handfuls of the rich loam and flung it to the wind. His land grew and grew as he walked in the field, until his jug was empty.
He then went up the little rise across the road and looked back down. Damn, his dirt was in a fine spot!
He whistled all the way home, pedaling that old bike. He could ride out every day and look at where his dirt was. He could tell other folks and let them see it too.
Things were looking up for him, he believed. Yep, things were turning good.
Word quickly spread around the community that Floyd Dobbins had sold Doobie Robertson a gallon of dirt for twenty dollars. The folks in town had two widely diverse opinions of that action.
The boys at the feed store, gas station and over at Skank's Cafe thought it was a hoot. It was just about the slickest thing any of them had ever heard of and Floyd was regarded as something of a brain for coming up with the idea.
The tiny "upper crust" faction in the village had a different reaction. In their circles, what Floyd had done was take advantage of a poor idiot. Some of them were so incensed that a special meeting of the village council was called. All three members and the mayor showed up hot as wet hens. So did the other dozen or so citizens who belonged to the Country Club and felt they were community leaders.
"It's outrageous!" said the mayor, a bald, red-faced
insurance salesman. "I have ordered the town marshal to take this case under advisement!"
"I don't reckon it's fraud," the marshal reported. "What Doobie done was buy a gallon of dirt, so he got somethin' for his money. Leastways, that's what the DA tole me."
The council discussed the matter. They decided finally the only course of action was to adopt a resolution condemning Floyd Dobbins. That resolution would be published one time in the county newspaper, as required by law.
When that edition hit the newsstands the following Wednesday Floyd Dobbins hit the ceiling. There was his name in black and white, being condemned.
Floyd did what any good Southern gentleman does when his honor is questioned. He grabbed his Winchester 12-gauge pump gun and jumped in his pickup. He yanked the bottle of Maker's Mark out from under the seat and took a big guggle. He slammed the old Dodge into gear and set out for town.
"Where is that sonuvabitch!" he yelled, slamming through the front door at the mayor's insurance agency. "I aim to shoot the bastard dead in his tracks!"
Old Maude, the bookkeeper/receptionist, looked up from her paperwork.
"He ain't here and you might ought to get out of here with that shotgun," she said, looking him flush in the eye.
Old Maude was what they call an "old maid" down South, she'd never been married nor known to even date a man. Word was she might be one of those people whose gate swung the other way.
"Well, where's he gone to?" Floyd asked, calming down just a tad.
"He and the whole council have gone to Japan on an industrial recruitment trip, they won't be back for two weeks."
"Who'n hell's payin' for all that?" he asked.
"You are," she smiled. "But they had $37,000 set aside in the budget for it. Who knows, we might get one of them Jap factories out of it."
"Shit!" Floyd cried, storming out the door. He felt double screwed at this point.
Truth was, Floyd was feeling a bit bad himself. Of course it had all been a joke, but then old Doobie sure didn't have money to spare.
Back in his pickup and cooled off some, Floyd decided he was going to do what his heart told him. He was going to give the money back to Doobie.
He drove out to the little rundown shack Doobie called home. Doobie was sitting on the front porch, pointing at something out in the yard. His lips were moving, Floyd noticed.
"Hidy Floyd, I'm countin' the leaves on that there oak tree," he said. "By damn I got up to forty but now I'll have to start over 'cause I lost my place."
"Whatcha doin' that for?" asked Floyd.
"Well, it gives me somethin' to do and it's free," Doobie replied. "Ain't much free stuff to do, you know."
"Well, that's what I want to talk to you about," said Floyd, clearing his throat. "I figured maybe I ought to give you your twenty dollars you paid me for that dirt back. I don't know if it was worth that much or not."
Doobie went a little wall-eyed at that. He jumped up from his old straight chair and almost fell down.
"Hell naw, you can't back out on the deal, Floyd!" he cried. "That's my damn land and I aim to keep it! I go see it every day and it's mine!"
"But it ain't worth twenty dollars, Doobie," Floyd said. "I'll tell you what, I'll give you your money back and you can keep the dirt anyhow, how's that?"
"Hell no," said Doobie. "If I ain't paid for it then it ain't mine and I ain't gonna do it! I'm keepin the dirt and you keep the money, I don't need it no how!"
"Well, you sure 'bout that? I'd be glad to give it back to you."
"I don't want it, I want my land that's spread out over yonder.
"Well, okay then, I tried," said Floyd.
Word got around that Floyd had tried to return Doobie's money, but he wouldn't take it. Some of the boys thought Floyd was a fool for giving a damn. The bigwigs, on the other hand, thought that Floyd had learned a lesson from their condemnation.
When the city government returned from their trip, another special meeting was called. The mayor proposed a resolution commending Floyd for doing the right thing, or trying to. The council unanimously adopted the resolution.
Floyd was something of a hero when the county paper came out the next week. Far as anybody could remember, he was the only person ever mention twice in the paper who wasn't a member of the Country Club or under arrest for something.