Stephenson Tales

Ring the Bell!

Perhaps it was all those 5-cent movies at the Michigan theatre on Saturday mornings that did it: (a cartoon, newsreel, a chapter of the cliff-hanging "serial," and a full length feature - usually a "Western".)

Medium shot: (Tom Mix grooming his horse.)

Long shot: (Slim Somerville galloping from Left toward the Ranch House.)

Medium shot: (Tom sees Slim, squints)

Medium shot: (Slim reins in by Tom) (panting)

CU (close up) Tom: What's the matter, Slim?

CU Slim: It's those dang Slade boys again. You know the Mexican family that bought the Benson place?

2-shot (over shoulder, Slim) Tom: Sure do. Right nice folks. Why? What have those Slades done this time?

(reverse) 2-shot (over shoulder, Tom) Slim: Jes' knocked down one of their corral fences and scared their horses out on to the prairie. We gotta help 'em, Tom.

CU Tom: (pushes back his Stetson) Sounds more like a rescue. Go wake up Andy. Who else is here?

2-shot: Slim: Well, lessee - there's Andy Devine, like you said - and Snuffy Smith is in the kitchen. Tim Holt - he's in the barn with that new colt. And Randy Scott and James Gleason are out on the south forty working on the fence.

CU Tom: Round 'em all up. We got work to do! Go ring the bell!

Medium shot: (Slim dashes to bell by gate. Begins pulling rope; bell sounds) (Music swells)

CUs (Quick takes as each hears the bell)
     (Andy Devine waking up)
     (Snuffy Smith dunking a doughnut in kitchen)
     (Tim Holt in barn by a horse)
     (James Gleason and Randolph Scott in a field mending a fence. They drop their tools, leap on their horses, and gallop past the camera, left)

Long shot: (Men gathering from all directions around Tom. Babble of voices. They leap on their horses and gallop off left, etc. etc. etc.)

How many times have I seen that scene? A long, dramatic introduction for a pretty ordinary story:

I always wanted a bell. Mom used to have a hand held brass "school bell" (which I still have) that she used to ring for us to come in for meals or to do some chore. When that bell rang, we came!

When we bought Harper House I wanted a real bell - a church-type bell. The Methodist church on the corner in Grawn was being torn down. I found out the identity of the District Methodist supervisor. So I contacted him to see if I could buy the bell. He told me No, that it was going to be moved to another location where a new church was being built, but there was a church in Benson which was being razed and I might buy that bell. He took me over to look at it. It was still up in the steeple.

"All right, I'd like to buy it. How much?"

"Twenty-five dollars, paid in advance - and if it breaks on the way down it's your loss."

"I'll take that chance."

So I bought it.

Lawrence (of boathouse fame) and I took the baggage trailer and he and about five men who were at the site got it down, but in the process the claxon hammer was broken off. The rest of the bell (including the internal clapper) was undamaged.

They loaded it into our baggage trailer and we brought it home. Lawrence rigged up a series of ropes and pulleys between the trees and gradually swung it out of the trailer and onto a "cradle" of two cement blocks that I had placed at the top of the bank.

The bellIt is a beautiful bell. It is over two feet high, and the open end of the bell is two feet, five inches across. I have used its sound in many theatre productions.

The children fell in with our plan perfectly. The bell can be heard all over the lake and when it rings, if you are sailing, come about and head for home. If you are fishing pull up your anchor, pull in your lines and come in. if you are swimming, get out of the water and come up to the house because yer Mom or Dad NEEDS you!

Composed 25 November 2008; Transcribed by Lucky

© Jim Bob Stephenson 2008

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