Rose Post: Rufus almost never misses
Editor’s note: In memory of longtime Post columnist Rose Post, who died this year, the Post is reprinting some of her stories. This story was first published Sept. 6, 1985.
SEAGROVE — Whinnnng! Shissh! WHAP! I didn’t get scared until after Rufus Hussey pulled the pouch back on his beanshooter and the stone zinged through the air and hit the Welch’s grape can off the top of my head.
Then I froze.
I mean, he’s not William Tell and I’m not his son.
That can went skittering somewhere into the gravel and the grass, landing with a magnificent clatter, and by the time I finally pried my eyes open and shook my body out of its paralyzed stupor, I was scared to death.
Why, I could have lost an eye. Or that stone could have driven my nose into reverse.
Idiocy, that’s what it was.
Or momentum. Just plain getting carried away because he told me early on the price of a story was for us to use a picture of him shooting a can off my head.
No way, I said. We don’t use pictures of reporters to illustrate stories.
But he could shoot his beanshooter at my head, I bargained, without the picture.
Didn’t need to bargain. He would have talked all day and into the night with no prompting at all if I’d only known it then.
Rufus Hussey, the Bean-shooter Man, will be at the Pooletown Threshers Reunion on the Ribelin place down on Stokes Ferry Road tomorrow, making his bean-shooters and telling his stories that he doesn’t expect anyone to believe.
So I balanced the can on top of my head and he put one of his smooth white rocks in the pouch of his beanshooter and pulled it back and the rubber stretched and he let go and it took me the rest of the day to settle down.
But mostly, I think, I let him do it because of his reputation Nobody can shoot a beanshooter like Rufus Hussey.
“See that onion stem waving in the wind? Want to see me cut it off?”
Saying it’s doing it. Whish! No more onion stem.
“See that corncob there in the grass? Want to see me shoot under it?”
Whish! Whing! The corncob doesn’t move but the rock comes skipping out the other side.
“Want to see it dance?”
Whish! Whang! That corn-cob stands on end. Another pull on the beanshooter and it stands on the other end. Another pull and it jumps up and rolls over like it’s propelled by internal combustion.
“I’m going to make you a souvenir,” he says, flipping a quarter into the air. Whish! Whick! Old George’s got a nick in his nose.
Word travels. Word of mouth. Newspaper articles. Even though he doesn’t have a phone, people find Rufus Hussey and buy his bean- shooters. “I’ve put one in every state of the union and foreign countries. I sent one to Korea a few weeks back, and I’ve sent one as far away as Jerusalem.”
But nobody orders one by phone because he won’t put in a telephone. Doesn’t want one. He’d have to stop what he’s doing to answer the telephone. And he doesn’t want to do that even if all he’s doing is sitting under the big elm in the front yard shooting wild onions and swapping tales about the old days with his double first cousin Ellis Hussey.
Rufus doesn’t have a television set either.
His real job is raising 12,000 chickens for Piedmont Poultry and raising chickens is just like raising young’uns. You got to feed ’em and change ’em and you got to make sure they don’t get too hot. Even an invitation to the Grand Ole’ Opry doesn’t entice him if the temperature is going up and he knows he’ll have to set up some fans to stir the air around those chickens….
Granddaddy Bartis Hussey had nine children and they produced 54 grandchildren. We counted ’em all by name. And all the boys could use a beanshooter. They had to. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have had anything to eat….
“I wasn’t the only one that come out of a poor family,” Rufus says, and had to know how to use a beanshooter to eat, “but I’m one of the few that’ll talk about it.”
In fact, how he got so good with a beanshooter is a long story, he says. It starts with there being 12 in his family.
“My daddy was killed when I was 6, and there was two younger than I am. His car slipped off a bridge and pinned him down and he drowned. It almost got two of my brothers. That was in 1925. My mother, with the help of my older brothers, brought the family up.
“But we only had one gun in the family, so lots of times we had something to eat when we had our beanshooters with us or we wouldn’t have had that rabbit. There were no checks then.”
But the beanshooters always kept the pot full.
“We had a big iron kettle and I’ve seen it so full you had to boil ’em a little to get the lid to come down. If we killed less than eight, we wouldn’t even call it a hunt. We had to get 15, 20, 22.”
His mother made every- thing the children wore in those days, even overalls.
“I remember when I got a bought pair of overalls. Mama always made ’em with one pocket. That pair had two. It was about like graduating to a Cadillac…”
He figures he’s given away as many beanshooters as he’s sold, some of them to folks like Sen. Jesse Helms and Gov. Jim Martin, just like he’s all the time shooting a nick in a coin that comes out of his own pocket so he can give somebody a souvenir or leaving his flying saucer in the mailbox so the children who come by can find something to play with.
That flying saucer is nothing but a piece of tin and an old spool.
“Somebody sees a spool and they wouldn’t think about it. I bring it in and do a little magic on it” and he’s got something.
“It’s just like reading the Bible,” he says. “It takes the simple things of life to confound the mighty.”
Maybe most important he can give you a memory.
“That’s all life is anyway,” he says, launching into another story. “Just memories.”
If you doubt it, try him tomorrow at the Threshers Reunion. Just put a can on your head, and WHAP! You’ll never forget the day.
??????Hussey died of a heart attack in February 1994 at the age of 74. “He was doing what he loved best,” the local paper reported, “sitting at his dining room table, listening to the radio, and carving a slingshot from a piece of oak.”