Uncle Jeff and the Lamp Chimney

Uncle Jeff had to buy a new lamp chimney almost every week. He and Aunt Reba had six children at home at one time while living in the Mississippi Delta. They were a lively crew and a lamp chimney could hardly escape a week without getting broken.

A good lamp chimney in those days could be bought for fifteen cents. But fifteen cents every week was a fair outlay. Uncle Jeff was in town on a Saturday afternoon to pick up the week’s need including another lamp chimney. As he strode along the sidewalk a barker came into view. As he drew closer he heard the message and saw the demonstration. The barker was announcing an unbreakable lamp chimney for one dollar. Uncle Jeff stopped and watched. The barker would cry, “Unbreakable lamp chimneys one dollar.”, whereupon he would throw the chimney onto the sidewalk. Then he would pick it up and bark out the promise, “You’ll never have to buy another lamp chimney as long as you live.” He knew the power of his promise. Uncle Jeff got into the circle of observers and watched the demonstration for three or four cycles. The chimney did not break. He began to dwell on the promise.

Then Uncle Jeff became convinced. With figuring in the head a bit, he realized that he would be ahead of the problem money wise in less than seven weeks. The younguns could knock this one completely across the house; he would never have to buy another chimney. Surely if it could stand being thrown repeatedly against a concrete surface it could easily withstand being thrown against a more gentle wood floor. Uncle Jeff paid his dollar and got the unbreakable lamp chimney. All the way home he thought about his lucky find.

When he reached the house he went through the door and said, “Reba I have bought us our last lamp chimney.” With the announcement he threw the unbreakable chimney against the floor at Aunt Reba’s feet. The chimney broke into hundreds of pieces. Uncle Jeff said he knew that it was useless to go back to Ruleville. The barker would have gotten onto the next train and be into another town many miles away.

This was written by Roy C. Watson on October 9, 1988 at Jackson, Mississippi.