Today’s writing prompt at The Haunted Wordsmith is the image below by George Caleb Bingham.

The Jolly family was well-known infamous in the state of Missouri. A single mother trying to raise eight rambunctious boys, Molly Jolly was spread pretty thin. Her nerves were shot; she could do no more. She wondered what the boys’ father, George Jolly would have done.

“Damn you, George!” Molly shook her fist at the sky. “How could you?”

George Jolly and a few of his stupid friends had gone on a snipe-hunting expedition. George was the only one who never returned. All the search party was able to find was George’s old wide-brimmed hat and his pocket watch.

Molly Jolly was having none of it. She questioned each of his snipe-hunting buddies, and each told a different story of the nights’ events.  That’s when she knew for certain her husband had ditched her. The responsibility of raising eight boys ranging from six-months to 10-years-old was too much for him. The bum.

Molly did the best she could with the boys, but it was nearly impossible considering she had to work in order to take care of them and herself. The boys refused to go to school, and also refused to work. All they were interested in was laying around the house, tipping over outhouses, and generally causing trouble for their neighbors. When they were older, they focused on chasing girls who didn’t want to be caught by a Jolly.

At least she could count on the older ones to look after their younger siblings. Yes, the older boys taught the younger everything they didn’t need to know. In the end, Molly had raised eight wild-eyed losers.

One day, she’d had enough. Molly Jolly sat down with a cup of ‘shine and commenced to devise a plan to get rid of her Jolly Jackasses. After dinner one evening, she put her plan into action.

“Boys? Stay gathered ’round the table,” Molly said in the most serious tone she could muster. “We got plans to make.”

The eight boys sat back down in their chairs and waited for her to continue. Their mouths were half open and eyes glazed over, as was their normal expression.

One of them spoke. It was the oldest Jolly boy, Jimmy. “Plans about what, Mama?”

“Plans about gettin’ rich, that’s what!”

“How we gonna do that?”

“First, you boys are gonna build a boat, kinda like Noah did way back when.”

“I hope we takin’ animals with us like Noah done did,” Joe-Joe, the second eldest Jolly interjected.

“I reckon you can if you make the boat big enough. Its up to you boys,” Mama explained.

“But where we goin’ and how we getting’ rich?”

“If y’all’d quit askin’ questions, I’ll tell ya!”

“Sorry, Mama,” they all mumbled.

“Now listen. Y’all build the boat and take it down the Missouri River ’til you pick up the Mississippi River. Then you take it south and keep goin’ until you reach land. That’s where you’ll stop.”

Joe-Joe raised his hand slightly.

“What is it Joe-Joe?”

“How are we gonna know when we get to the Mississippi?”

“Uh, well,” Mama hadn’t thought of that. “Signs! There’ll be signs that tell ya.”

“But we can’t read.”

“Look for letters with squiggly lines.” She drew esses in the air with her finger. “Like that.”

Next, Jimmy raised his hand. “What’s this place called where we’re goin’?”

“Louisiana,” Mama answered. “In New Orleans, Louisiana, I hear tell the streets are made of gold, just layin’ there for the takin.’ Diamonds and other jewels too.”

And so, the boys built their boat and sailed away to what they assumed would be fortune and fame.

“Y’all write when you get settled, and then I’ll come on down, too!” Mama called from the riverbank.

“We don’t know how to write, Mama!” Joe-Joe hollered as they sailed rapidly down the river.

“Shoulda stayed in school!” Mama laughed and continued to wave until the Jolly boat was nothing more than a Jolly dot.




Susan Marie Shuman/SusanWritesPrecise
George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811 – 1879), The Jolly Flatboatmen, 1846, oil on canvas, Patrons’ Permanent Fund 2015.18.1

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