A little bit crooked

The following picture shows the proud Bailey grandparents with several of their grandkids. Taken in 1937, the smallest in the picture, little Bobby, is a cute and innocent little guy who looks up to his older cousins admiringly. The picture also shows the interesting posture of older cousin Bob on the far left. As was discussed in detail within the family on more than one occasion, when viewed from the rear, cousin Bob’s head always tilted to the left, as is quite evident. He was never hit by a truck, or fell out of a tree that anyone can remember. What was most interesting about this is that cousin Bob thought he was standing up perfectly straight. It was the best he could do. Only when provided with a mirror for instant feedback was he able to voluntarily correct this left leaning. Remove the mirror, and he returned to what was normal for him, a substantial crook to the left.


As one of the smallest cousins, I figured cousin Bob was just a little bit crooked. He was left-crooked. It didn’t seem to diminish his brain function as he subsequently attended Harvard on a Summerfield Scholarship, and graduated from their law school. I hasten to add that the left leaning, as shown in the picture, was not the result of a Harvard education, but was a condition that existed well prior to his entering Harvard University. To this day, cousin Bob remains a little bit crooked to the left. If Harvard’s law school ever produced a lawyer who was a little crooked to the right, it has not yet been documented.

Acknowledging this aberration, I worried about whether cousin Bob might lead me astray. My fears were confirmed one evening. We had been visiting the cousins in Lawrence for several days, and had run out of exciting things to do. To rectify this situation, cousin Bob said he had a plan. As the plan might not meet with parental approval, it would have to be carried out under the cover of darkness.

Trust me, he said, and we will have a little excitement tonight.

I had no idea what he had in mind, but being cute, innocent, and trusting, I went along with him without question.

We went to bed at the usual time. Cousin Bob set an alarm for 2:00 o’clock in the morning, and put the alarm under his pillow. When it went off, he shut it down immediately so as not to awaken the family. We dressed in the dark, and before leaving the bedroom cousin Bob removed both pillowcases from the pillows. Then we sneaked down the stairs, being careful to avoid the steps that creaked, and went out the back door of the house into the fresh night air.

Cousin Bob and Marilyn’s bicycles were both parked behind the house. He said, Get on Marilyn’s bicycle, and follow me. It was a crisp evening in the early fall, and the moon was full, illuminating the streets and sidewalks clearly. I followed cousin Bob north on Barker Street to the section line road that leads out of town. We peddled east on the section line road until we arrived at the first intersection. On the southeast corner of the intersection was a big house with a driveway past the house and into an orchard. Bob may have been here before. He peddled straight down the driveway into the orchard with me following along quietly. After a hundred yards or so, he stopped and got off his bicycle.

Be quiet, he said. These trees are loaded with apples. Take one of these pillowcases, and gather as many apples as you think you can carry back home. I didn’t question him, but the be quiet part started me to worrying. These were not our apples, and we certainly wouldn’t want to get caught here in the orchard. We would have to leave through the same road and driveway that passes right by the house. I was really quiet.

In the next few minutes, we each gathered a heavy pillowcase of apples, wrapped the end of the cases around the handlebars, and peddled out of the driveway and back onto the section road toward Lawrence. As we peddled, my fears overcame me. What would we do if the police saw us with the apples riding along the county road at 3:00 in the morning? Would they take us to jail? Would they call our folks? I started peddling as fast as I could go. We got back home on Barker Street in record time.

Be quiet, Bob said again. We need to get the apples into the kitchen, and sneak back into bed without waking the folks up. We carried the pillowcases loaded with apples into the house through the back door, and set both sacks on the floor next to the kitchen table. Then we crept up the creaking stairs as quietly as possible, slipped back into the bedroom, changed into our pajamas in the dark, and crawled into bed. The escapade had taken about an hour, and not a soul seemed to be the wiser.

Early the next morning prior to breakfast, Aunt Elfie was heard exclaiming as she went into the kitchen, What are these pillowcases doing down here, and what on earth is in them? She looked into the pillowcases, which she recognized instantly, and saw the beautiful apples. Nobody answered her questions, as she was entirely alone in the kitchen, and we were making a serious attempt to be somewhere else. But she put two and two together, and probably figured out exactly what had happened the night before.

I was not aware of any additional conversations about the apples. There may have been some, as it was not like Aunt Elfie to sweep such an incident under the carpet. Cousin Bob probably caught it squarely in private, but because I was the littlest cousin, still cute and innocent, I never heard anything about it. But we had apples every which way for the next few days. We had apple pie, and apple turnover, and apple strudel, and apple fritters, and candied apples, and applesauce, and plain apples till we were out of apples. Even when we had eaten the evidence I continued to worry about whether the police would come to get us, when we least expected it!

As for cousin Bob, I don’t know if he ever worried at all. I know that we both rode back from the orchard in record time. I know that on this particular evening, he led me to and from the orchard, and I did exactly what he told me to do. But I had always known that he was just a little bit crooked, even when he was standing perfectly straight. The apples only lend credence to the story. Within a few days, we had eaten all the evidence, and the worrying, except for the indelible memory, faded slowly away.

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