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Authors: Great Brain Reforms

John Fitzgerald GB 05 Great Bra

BOOK: John Fitzgerald GB 05 Great Bra
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The Great Brain Reforms


The Return Home 3
The Tin Can Swindle 19
The Tug of War 35
Tom Hooks a Fish Named Sweyn 57
Alkali Flats 74
The Runaway 92
The Magnetic Stick 106
The Good Raft Explorer 117
The Wreck of the Explorer 134
The Trial of The Great Brain 150

The Great Brain Reforms

The Return Home

MY BROTHER TOM and eldest brother Sweyn arrived home for summer vacation on Sunday, June 5, 1898. I remember the date very well because, just two weeks later, the entire town of Park City was 4estro”yed by the worst fire in the history of Utah. My brothers had been attending the Catholic Academy for Boys in Salt Lake City. We only had a one-room schoolhouse in Adenville where Mr. Standish taught the first through the sixth grades. I had just finished the fourth, grade and wouldn’t be going away to the academy for two years.

Tom kept looking around when he got off the train at the depot, as if he expected Mayor Whitlock with a welcoming committee and the town band to meet him. But for my money he was lucky the mayor wasn’t there with an unwelcoming committee. And, if the town band had been there, they would have been playing a funeral march and not “Hail The Conquering Hero.”

I know this sounds like a cruel thing to say about my own brother. But Tom was different “from any other kid in town because he had a great brain and a money-loving heart. And, when you put them together, you get the youngest confidence man who ever lived. Tom was so smart, that he’d skipped the fifth grade, so he was only twelve when he came home from the academy. But he had begun his career as a swindler at the age of eight. There wasn’t a kid in town he hadn’t swindled, including me. I guess that was why the only kids at the depot to meet him were me and our five-year-old foster brother, Frankie. Tom. had also made fools out of a lot of adults in town with his great brain. I think that is why the only grownups to meet him were Papa, Mamma, my Uncle Mark, and Aunt Cathie. Aunt Bertha had remained at home to start pre-paring supper. She really wasn’t our aunt. She had come to live with us after her husband died and was like one of the family.

After the hugs, kisses, and handshakes were over, Uncle Mark patted Tom on the shoulder. “It has been mighty dull around here while you’ve been gone,” he said.

Uncle Mark should know. He was the town marshal and a deputy sheriff. He had spent a lot of time in the past telling people’why fee couldn’t arrest Tom, The Great Brain always made sure he didn’t break any laws when pulling off one of his swindles.

Papa stared steadily at Tom. “And you had better see to it that things stay that way, T.D.,” he said.

Papa called all of us boys except Frankie by our ini-tials. All male Fitzgeralds in our family had the same middle name of Dennis because it was a tradition. But for my money, Papa telling Tom to keep things dull was like telling a fellow standing in a rain storm not to get wet,

We left the depot and started walking up Main Street which, as in most Utah towns, was lined on both sides with trees planted by early Mormon pioneers. Adenville had a population of about two thousand Mormons, four’hundred Protestants, and only about a hundred Catholics. We didn’t have a Catholic church. Protestants and Catholics went to the Community Church. Papa ofteja said that any church was better than no church at all. The only time we Catholics saw a priest was for one week out of the year when a Jesuit missionary priest came to town.

Adenville was one of the few towns our size that had electric lights and telephones. There were wooden sidewalks in front of the places of business. East of the railroad tracks were a couple of saloons, the Sheepmen’s rtotel, the livery stable, a rooming house, and a couple of stores. Biit most of the places of business and-the residential district were west of the railroad tracks.

We walked up a block, out of the business district, to our house. Uncle Mark and Aunt Cathie left us when we reached the gate of our white picket ^ehce. “Every time our house needed a new coat of painr, Papa .would spend days deciding what color to use. I don’t know why because Mamma always had the house painted white with green trim. We had a big front porch ‘running the width of the house, and Aunt Bertha was waiting there to meet us. She was a big woman in her sixties with hands and feet as big as a man’s. She kissed Tom and Sweyn on the cheeks.

“Supper will be ready by the time you boys wash up,” she said.

Tom patted his stomach. “Can’t be too soon for me,” he said.

“Or me,” Sweyn said.

All I can say is that the food at the academy must have been pretty bad. My brothers ate as if they were - starvmg. They each had three helpings of fried chicken, mashed potatoes with cream gravy, and peas with carrots. And they each topped this off with three pieces of black-berrypie.

Everything was nice and dull, just the way Papa wanted it. We all sat in the parlor after supper. Papa sat in his rocking chair smoking his after-dinner cigar. Mamma sat in in her maple rocker with the light from the chandelier shining on her golden hair. I was the spitting image of Papa with dark curly hair and dark eyes. Sweyn was a blona like Mamma and named after our Danish maternal grandfather. He was fourteen at the time. Tom didn’t look like Papa or “Mamma unless you sort of put them together. He “was the only one in the family who had freck-les. He and Sweyn were sitting on the sofa with Aunt Bertha. Frankie and I were sitting on the oriental rug in front of the stone fireplace. Frankie had the biggest dark eyes and black hair that looked like wet coal. His parents and brother had been killed in a landslide in Red Rock Canyon. When Uncle Mark couldn’t locate any relatives, Papa and Mamma adopted Frankie.

Tom and Sweyn talked about life at the academy for awhile. Then I guess Tom figured things had been nice and dull long enough and it was time to get Papa all riled up’.

“When do you want me to start working with you at the Advocate?” he asked Papa.

Our father was editor and publisher of the Adenville Weekly Advocate, the only newspaper in town. He also did all the printing in Adenville.

“S. D. did a very good job last summer,” Papa said. “I see no reason to change that.”

“But you let him work with you after his first year at the academy,” Tom protested. “What is fair for him is fair for me!”

“You can help out when we have a big printing job,” Papa said. “Meanwhile you will have your share of the chores to do around the house.”

Tom got a sour look on his face. “Sweyn didn’t have to do anymore chores after going to the academy,” he said stubbornly.

“You will help J. D. with the chores during summer vacations,” Papa said firmly, “until Frankie is old enough to do them. And that is final.”

Tom knew there was no appealing one of Papa’s decisions. And I, knew his great brain was already at work on how to bamboozle me into doing his share of the chores, as he had several times in the past. But I was determined not to let it happen again.

The next morning after breakfast Tom and I walked from the back porch down the path leading to the combi-nation coal-and-woodshed. ‘We had a big backyard with a




vegetable garden on one side of the path and a playground on the other. The chicken coop was next to the coal-and- woodshed. Behind these buildings were our corral, our big barn, and our icehouse. There was an alley leading from the corral to the street.

Tom helped me fill up the woodboxes and coal buckets in the kitchen, parlor, and bathroom. Then we fed and watered our team of horses, our milk cow, Sweyn’s mustang Dusty, and the chickens. When we finished, we sat on the top rail of the corral fence with Frankie.

Tom put his arm around my shoulders. “It is going to be tough on your pocketbook, J. D..” he said, “losing a dime a week during summer vacation.” . “

Papa gave us each an allowance of ten cents a week for doing the chores. For doing all the chores wnile Tom was at the academy, he had been paying me twenty^ cents. Now I would have to split with Tom again. I know a dime doesn’t sound like much but back in those day’s it wakild buy what it costs fifty cents to buy today. •

,, “You’re right,” I said.

“Tell you what I’m going to do,” he said. “I’m going nf it so you get fifteen cents each week instead of just a

f, ui’.’ue.”

I knew there had to be a catch in it. “Why?^ I asked. “Out of the goodness of my heart,” he said. “I’m go-ing to let you do all the chores and all it will cost you is five cents a week.”

I knew from past experience that if I refused he would put his great brain to work on a plan to make. me do all the chores anyway. I sure as heck wasn’t going to be stupid enough to let that happen. Five cents a week was better than nothing.

“It’s a deal, “I said.

“Before we shake on it,” Tom said, “Mamma and Papa are going to want to know why you are doing all the chores. This is what we will tell them. You volunteered to

do all -the chores because you need the extra money. Now shake on it.”

We shook hands to seal the bargain,

Frankie stared at me with his big dark eyes. “How

. come you are paying Tom five cents a week for letting you .do all the chores?” he asked.

^’Because that is the deal we made,” I said.

“It’s not fair,” Frankie said. “You should get the whole twenty cents for doing all the chores-I’ll bet when I tell Mamma and Papa they will say I’m right.”

Tom stared bug-eyed at Frankie. “What have we got here?” “he. demanded. “A little snitcher in the family?

Dorigt you .know, Frankie, that brothers never snitch on each other?”

“I’m not your real brother,” Frankie said, smiling.

“All right,” Tom said. “What do you want not to tell?”

“Instead of John giving you a nickel a week,” Frank’

said, “he should ^ive it to me. I at least help him do the chores.” •

“How about splitting it?” Tom asked. “You get the nickel one week and I get it the next?”

“Nope,” Frankie said, as he climbed down from the railing.. <’

I thinic that was the first time in Tom’s life that he hadn’t been able to outsmart a kid. He looked as stunned as a boy who has just been told the school term has been increased from nine months to twelve months each year. .-i i”

“Come back here,” he yelled at Frankie, who was go-ing toward the house. “You win. J. D. will give you the nickel each week.”

Frankie stopped and turned around to look at me. “I’ll help for my nickel,” he said.

Tom watched Frankie run toward the house. “He is too little to help with the chores,” he said.

“No, he isn’t,” I said. “Frankie was born and raised on a farm. He has been helping me with the chores ever since coming to live with us. He waters the livestock, and waters and feeds the chickens, and helps carry in kindling wood.”

“In other words,” Tom said, “he has been doing about one fourth of the chores.”

“About,” I said.

“And I suppose,” Tom said, “that you’ve t)eenJ>aymg him one fourth of the allowance each week for helping.”

“Of course not,” I said. “He volunteered \o hel^ for nothing.”

Tom shook his head. “I am ashamed of you, J. D.,” he said, “taking advantage of that poor little boy. By rights you owe Frankie a nickel a week for helping with the chores since Papa and Mamma adopted him. And that




would amount to about a dollar and a half. Oh well, when I tell Papa about it I’m sure he’ll make you give Frankie the dollar and a half.”

“But he volunteered,” I protested, “And besides you just told Frankie that brothers don’t snitct) on each other. I happen to be your flesh-and-blood brother.”, .

“I don’t consider this snitching at all,” Tom said. “You took advantage of our little foster brother and should be punished for it.”

I knew by the time The Great Brain got through telling about it that it would sound as if I had been beating Frankie with a horsewhip to make him help me with the




“Please don’t tell,” I pleaded.

Tom thought about it for a moment. “I had to give up a nickel a week to Frankie not to tell,” he said. “And I think you should be punished for taking advantage of a little boy. Suppose you give me a nickel a week not to tell ‘ and we’ll consider that your punishment.”

“It’s a deal,” I said gratefully. A nickel a week to Tom during the summer vacation would only come to about sixty-five cents. That was a lot better than having to give Frankie a dollar and a half, besides any punishment ?apa would hand down.


. ‘I went with Tbm and Frankie to Smith’s vacant lot after”lunch-.1 Mr. Smith let us use the lot as a playground in exchange for keeping it clear of weeds. Most of the fellows were there getting ready for a game of baseball. They all acted as if they were glad to see Tom as they shook hands and said hello, although none of them had been at the depot to meet him. I guess they were both glad and sorry to know he was back in town. Tom had always been a leader and something exciting was always happening when he 4 was around. And like Uncle Mark had said, things had been mighty dull with Tom away. I guess that’s why they were glad to have him back. But there wasn’t a kid there who hadn’t been swindled at one time or another by The Great Brain and that’s why they were sorry he was back in town. Tom had whipped every kid there

BOOK: John Fitzgerald GB 05 Great Bra
12.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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