Alvis Buttermaker’s Dairy Farm was the best in the country of Derryland. That’s what everyone who came to buy his milk and butter, and to see his famous farm and his beautiful adopted daughter Bonnie, said to anyone who would listen to their story.
Visitors certainly did not come to look at Alvis Buttermaker, and he knew it. Alvis was an old and ugly man, with great knots on his forehead and neck resulting from a childhood illness, but on the inside, where it really matters, his heart and soul were as beautiful as his outsides were unsightly.
And when one does good deeds and thinks lovely thoughts and says wonderful things one can never really be ugly no matter how one looks on the outside.
Alvis Buttermaker had been a widower since he was a young man. He lost his wife long ago to a stormy sea as she traveled alone to visit her parents in a far away land. Alvis never remarried, choosing instead to lavish his full capacity for care and devotion, which was and remains quite a lot, on his prize dairy cows.
For years Alvis Buttermaker pampered the cows completely and the cows rewarded him by giving prize winning milk. Both near and far, everyone knew Buttermaker’s milk and butter were the best. Most who came to his dairy farm for his butter and milk said it was the pampering care that Alvis Buttermaker gave to his cows that set Buttermaker’s apart. Plus, there wasn’t a single bitterweed to be found anywhere on Alvis Buttermaker’s Dairy Farm to turn the milk sour.
So it came as no surprise to anyone, really, when Buttermaker’s adopted daughter grew up to be the fairest girl in the land. Of course, there were whispers among the villagers about the baby’s origins when the news first spread that Alvis Buttermaker had a daughter. No one but Alvis Buttermaker himself knew where she had come from. The simple truth was that she had appeared one morning in a basket outside his front door with a note pinned to her blanket that read “Please care for our baby as well as you care for your dairy cows, for we are unable to. Her name is Bonnie.”
That was it.
That was all.
The simple truth.
But human nature…
Ah, human nature just won’t allow that now will it?
We must make the simple complicated, into something more satisfying, a really knotty complexity.
So as such…
On one particularly sunny Saturday morning, the Derryland Sewing Circle consulted with Mrs. Abigail Deerborn, a round-faced and kindly old woman who ran the local orphanage, and asked her if Buttermaker had adopted the girl from the orphanage.
“No one’s left us a little girl in quite a while,” Mrs. Deerborn replied to all inquiries. “We only have boys available for adoption now. So to answer your query, no, he did not get her from the orphanage.”
Like all minor controversies and scandals in almost any sleepy community, this one soon gave way to others, such as how Gregory and Gracie Grindall and their son Arsenal, who together owned the salt and alum mines on the other side of the county, could survive on nothing more or less than mashed potatoes. They grew the potatoes on the land above their mines you see, selling most and eating the rest mashed plain, without butter or even salt!
The Grindalls ate so many potatoes it was said they each resembled one with their splotchy, tan skins and the few wispy, unhealthy hairs on their heads. All of the Grindalls, including Mama Gracie, suffered from very unfashionable comb-overs, too.
The purse-faced Grindalls were also famous for their anti-freckle cream made of the alum from their mines. Some Derrylanders speculated that it was exactly because the Grindalls breathed-in alum dust from their quarries, that they, like their alum, were very bitter. For they, unlike Alvis Buttermaker, were not beautiful inside. Their insides matched their outsides and they were ugly as homemade sin. The Grindalls did not do good deeds or think lovely thoughts or say wonderful things. Not once in their lives.
And so it came as no surprise when the Grindalls’ son, Arsenal, having breathed in the bitter alum dusts of their mines his entire life, turned into the sourest boy in the land.
We can debate whether it really was the dust that made the Grindalls bitter or whether it was their own true natures that were bitter from the very beginning of their lives. We can debate this until the cows come home, but the result is still the same.
The Grindalls were not nice.
It’s worth saying thrice.
Now, regarding Bonnie’s origins:
Only Alvis Buttermaker and the girl’s parents knew the truth about how he had come to adopt Bonnie.
Bonnie’s parents were from the land of Fleur-De-Lis from far across the sea. For as long as anyone could remember, Fleur-De-Lis had been engaged in a terrible war with the country to their north. One day, Bonnie’s father, the great wizard king Rafael, performed an enchantment on a mirror which would cause the mirror to tell him who the kindest, gentlest person in Derryland was. To this person he would entrust his fair princess daughter to raise and to keep so that she would be far away from harm until the war was over. At that time she would return to Fleur-De-Lis and rule with her own husband as king and queen.
Of course, the enchanted mirror informed the great king Rafael about Alvis Buttermaker and of his wonderful farm in Derryland. And so with breaking hearts the king and queen sent their baby away to Derryland and to safety in a magical basinet that arrived in the early morning at the door of Alvis Buttermaker’s tidy farmhouse.
And there the infant girl lived to grow into the beautiful young lady known throughout the land as Buttermaker’s Beautiful Bonnie.
Now it’s true that the great wizard king Rafael and his wife Flower Petal could have sent their daughter Bonnie other places, but they were, unlike some royal folk, practical people. They wanted their princess daughter to learn useful, practical things. And little is more practical or humbling than learning how to run a farm.
So many years later, on a very cold Christmas night, after Alvis and Bonnie had shared their gifts and a wonderful Christmas dinner, Bonnie had a grand idea while relaxing in a luxurious bubble bath made of the scented soaps and bath salts that were her Christmas gifts. And her idea was this: That the Buttermakers should use their blue-ribbon milk to churn prize-winning ice cream.
As soon as Bonnie finished drying her flaxen colored hair and dressing in her pink, footed pajamas she rushed to tell her father. He thought it was Bonnie’s greatest idea yet and the very next day they began gathering all the machinery and ingredients they would need to churn ice cream.
Of course, for churning ice cream, salt is needed to prevent the ice in the churns from melting too fast, even in winter, so Bonnie travelled alone in her sturdy, two-horse wagon with their brace of best horses across the county to purchase a large amount of salt from the Grindalls.
When Bonnie arrived she was met outside by Mister Grindall. He was very businesslike with no time for idle conversation. When he called for his son, who was in their small office building, to come out to care for their new customer, he did so with nary a smile.
When young Arsenal Grindall exited the office building, rounded the corner, and came face-to-face with Bonnie, he stopped right in his tracks. He was completely smitten right away. Never before had he seen such a beautiful girl in spite of her plain, rough, work clothes. But he was stunned for only a moment, for immediately his malicious mind began working to devise a plan to make Bonnie his bride.
Little did Arsenal Grindall know that luck was on his side that day, and this is why:
As he approached Bonnie, Arsenal slipped on a potato peel and toppled to the ground, bashing his potato-skinned head with a sickening thud.
“Oh dear,” Bonnie yelled, rushing to Arsenal’s aid as father and mother Grindall rolled their eyes in disdain.
Bonnie immediately tended to Arsenal’s injured head, which he really had cracked hard on the ground. In a few minutes Bonnie had Arsenal sitting up with his head wrapped in clean white cloth torn from her own petticoat.
But now you see why luck was on his side that day, for no plan that Arsenal Grindall could have devised to gain Bonnie’s attention would have worked half as well as this accident, as Bonnie was the most soft hearted person in Derryland.
What happened next cannot by properly accounted for. No one can say if it was the head injury or his only ever legitimate moment of kindness, but after Arsenal Grindall recovered from the fall he offered Bonnie a ten percent discount for life on all the salt her little wagon could carry away from their mines.
This did not sit well with Arsenal’s father and made the lines around his mouth go whiter and deeper than usual into a rictus of disapproval. In fact, injured or not, he made Arsenal spend four extra hours that evening tending to the family’s potato farm.
“We’ve got worms out there!” shouted Gregory Grindall at his son. “So hop to it!”
Mr. Grindall also forced Arsenal that night to mash enough potatoes for the entire week to come– mashed potatoes being, of course, the only food the Grindalls consumed. This punishment irritated Arsenal so much that he kicked the shining ribs of many of the pitiable dogs they allowed to live around the mines and potato fields. These dogs led miserable lives, but were able to survive on the few meager scraps of potato skins tossed at them for keeping away potato poaching deer and rabbits.
The dogs hated the mean hearted Grindalls and couldn’t wait for the day when they could leave. Unfortunately the dogs were so ugly that no one else wanted them and they had nowhere else to go.
So they stayed.
Year after year.
In nearly complete misery.
Now, listen to this:
Over the next many months Bonnie’s home-churned ice cream became known as Buttermaker’s Famous Ice Cream. And partially because of the Grindall’s unlikely discount on the salt, the Buttermakers provided free ice cream to the orphanage. All the children there loved Bonnie. The favorite flavor at the orphanage was vanilla with rainbow sprinkles. It was Bonnie’s favorite, too.
During this time Arsenal did his best to woo Bonnie by smartly appealing to Bonnie’s kind heart. He did this by playing-up his own inadequacies; all of his inadequacies, that is, except for his short temper and mean streak. This he kept firmly masked by keeping his dog-rib-kicking foot to himself when he and Bonnie went on one of their long walks around the Grindall potato farm, which Arsenal beseeched her to do when she came to purchase salt.
Many times on her visits Bonnie grew concerned about the dogs and mentioned their spavined condition to Arsenal, who lied about the dogs’ poor postures by saying it was an admirable, desirable genetic trait to help the dogs catch vermin such as the notorious, hissing, claw-footed three-eyed spudwanger and the venom-spitting cross-eyed tater palooka.
Having never heard of these horrible sounding creatures, Bonne agreed that perhaps the dogs’ thin condition was for the best if it really helped them.
That was Bonnie Buttermaker for you. Her nature was to trust, so she believed what Arsenal told her.
During their walks Arsenal did his best to convince Bonnie that he would be a good husband, if she would have him, and that one day the mines and the potato fields would be theirs.
“Mom and Dad aren’t going to live forever, you know,” Arsenal would say putting on his best sad face. “And then I’ll be here all alone.”
In time, Bonnie agreed to marry Arsenal Grindall. She did not love Grindall but when she saw how mean he was treated by his parents she felt sorry for him. They set a date to be married in the next month of May, which was one year after meeting each other for the first time.
The pending marriage of Bonnie and Arsenal generated another scandal. This time the sewing circle couldn’t decide why Bonnie would concede to marry a man like Arsenal Grindall, with his reputation for meanness and cruelty, if it wasn’t for his money.
So some chattered on about Bonnie marrying out of greed, that she had always had her eyes on the mines and potato farm. Still others prattled on that Arsenal had put a magical spell on Bonnie, that a girl as nice and sweet as Bonnie Buttermaker had to have been put under a spell to agree to marry Arsenal Grindall. Many more babbled on that Alvis Buttermaker was to blame; that if he had pushed his daughter to be more outgoing Bonnie would have met many more eligible, far more desirable bachelors than Arsenal Grindall.
Then, the day before the wedding, something unusual happened.
On that morning, while Bonnie was watching the donkeys turn the massive churns that made their prize winning ice cream, a traveler appeared in the distance. As he approached Bonnie saw that the man was plainly dressed and drove a pair of horses pulling a wagon. As he grew nearer, Bonnie saw that he was tall (she could tell that even though the man was seated) and that he was young, about her age, and not middle-aged, like Arsenal Grindall. He was also handsome with a kindly face, not that that really mattered to Bonnie. But she did think that the man had the looks of a prince.
Bonnie walked out to meet the stranger. He stepped down from the wagon and introduced himself as Nathan Fenway, a poor salt miner who lived with his family on the opposite side of the county from the Grindalls. He had heard what wonderful milk, butter, and ice cream the Buttermakers had. He had come to purchase some and to tell her about his family’s own salt mines, in case the Buttermakers ever needed another source of salts.
“But I already have a supplier who gives me a ten percent discount,” replied Bonnie.
The handsome, kind-faced man said they could not compete with a ten percent discount but told Bonnie what she would pay per wagon load if she traded with his family, the Fenways. Bonnie was stunned at the low price, thinking to herself, for that price we could give ice cream to orphans every day for free. Then she wondered if there weren’t perhaps something wrong with the Fenway’s salts? Perhaps they were of inferior quality? Or maybe the Fenway’s salts contained dirt?
But the young man had brought along a sample bag of salt for the Buttermakers and it was the cleanest, purest salt Bonne had ever seen or tasted.
Bonnie thanked the young man and told him that she would discuss the matter with her father. But she really could not wait to discuss the Grindall’s salt prices with Arsenal. Why were they so high? she wondered.
So Nathan Fenway departed Bonnie that morning after having what he said was, “The best vanilla ice cream with sprinkles I’ve ever had.” He wished her good luck with her wedding and told Bonnie how to find his family’s salt mines if she changed her mind.
Now one thing led to another that morning and throughout the rest of the day that kept Bonnie too busy to bring up the Grindall’s salt prices with Arsenal.
Meanwhile, the neighbors and townspeople were busy too: with speculation and clatter about Bonnie’s and Arsenal’s wedding fueling many conversations and arguments right up to the day of the wedding which was to be held outside on the Grindalls’ property.
So for many reasons, the wedding was a highly anticipated event in Derryland.
And when the day finally did arrive, as Bonnie Buttermaker approached the outdoor alter with Arsenal Grindall waiting for her, all such speculation, clatter, and suspicious thoughts among the neighbors and townspeople were replaced by awe at the beauty radiated by Bonnie Buttermaker.
But they also whispered quietly amongst themselves that she deserved better than Arsenal Grindall.
Then something strange happened.
As Bonnie arrived under the canopy that shaded the alter, with Arsenal waiting for her there, a commotion underground in the mine shafts caught everyone’s ears.
Soon, what began as the low, distant noise of dogs yipping and barking, became a loud cacophony. And then, all of a sudden, the entire pack of Grindalls’ dogs erupted from below ground and began running around and around in the wedding field, in and among the wedding guests, chasing a very frightened but elusive rabbit.
The look on Arsenal Grindall’s face could have set a bale of hay on fire. Right then and there, in front of Bonnie and the guests, Arsenal lashed out at the first dog that drifted into range of his dog-rib-kicking boot. Years of practice ensured his foot struck home and the pitiful mongrel howled in pain and slunk away as fast as he could.
Bonnie had never witnessed such cruelty.
Bonnie was horrified.
“How could you?” she screamed at Arsenal. Everyone gasped. No one had ever heard Bonnie raise her voice in anger. “This marriage is off.”
“But, but,” began Arsenal.
“But nothing!” Bonnie spat, as she pulled off her wedding veil. “And I’ve also found a cheaper supplier of salt. And it’s better salt, too! Father, let’s go home. Oh, and by the way,” she said, turning to face the Grindalls. “I hate mashed potatoes.”
Those at the wedding noted great relief on the face of Alvis Buttermaker and great anger on the faces of all the Grindalls and they worried and wondered: What would the Grindalls do now?
Meanwhile, on her way to their wagon, Bonnie called the Grindalls’ dogs to her. She grabbed-up as much of the wedding reception food as she could and placed it on the floor of the wagon for the dogs to eat, which they devoured greedily.
The last sight that Arsenal Grindall had of his former fiancé on the day of his cancelled wedding was that of Bonnie seated on the back of the wagon with all the ugly dogs nudging and struggling for attention from their new caretaker, Bonnie Buttermaker.
The dogs thrived under the Buttermakers’ care and in no time their heath and appearances had improved so much they were hardly recognizable as once belonging to the Grindalls.
Now Bonnie, being a practical person, realized they needed another salt supplier, so the very next day she went to visit the poor salt seller, Nathan Fenway, on the opposite side of the county.
Nathan Fenway was much nicer than Arsenal Grindall in many ways. He even helped Bonnie load her salt into her wagon. Arsenal never did that, Bonnie thought.
With the low salt prices from the Fenways, which was much lower the the Grindalls’, the Buttermakers were able to give away more ice cream than ever. Nathan Fenway even delivered the salt free of charge, but it was soon obvious that his free deliveries were also so that he could visit with Bonnie.
As they talked on those visits, Bonnie learned that, like her, Nathan was an orphan. His parents had found him outside their door with a note pinned to his blanket exactly as hers had been pinned to her own baby blanket when she was found by Alvis Buttermaker outside his door.
And so, as one thing leads to another, it was not long before Bonnie Buttermaker was engaged to marry Nathan Fenway. The news spread throughout Derryland that everyone was invited to the wedding, which was to be held on Bonnie’s birthday.
Meanwhile, at the Grindall’s farm, Arsenal Grindall’s tan colored freckles turned red with rage when he heard the news. He wanted revenge on the Buttermakers and this horrible Fenway character. But how? he wondered.
For days Arsenal Grindall racked his malicious brains searching for a way to HAVE HIS REVENGE on the Buttermakers. But it wasn’t until he went into town to have a pick axe repaired that he finally happened upon the solution. He saw a young girl eating Buttermaker’s Famous Ice Cream with Sprinkles that was sold at the general store. Immediately he knew what he had to do and slinked away to work on his plan.
The day of Bonnie’s and Nathan’s wedding, that next October, the sky was a cloudless, perfect shade of blue. Bonnie Buttermaker was more beautiful than ever in a milky white dress. All of the former Grindall dogs (now Buttermaker dogs) were dressed in white shirts and trained to stand along the outdoor aisle where she was to walk to the groom.
This time, as the wedding proceeded, there were no disruptions, no rabbit chases, no glitches at all. And when ugly, old, but good as gold, Alvis Buttermaker gave away his daughter for marriage that afternoon there were tears in his eyes but joy in his heart. When Bonnie Buttermaker and Nathan Fenway were pronounced husband and wife, and they kissed, the shouting could be heard for miles and miles, clear across the county.
But the sound did not have to travel that far to reach the ears of Arsenal Grindall, who, at that moment, was perched on a hillside watching the ceremonies through a pair of magnifying glasses. Arsenal was waiting there impatiently for the ice cream with sprinkles to be served at the reception.
Arsenal reclined restlessly in the cool sun, fidgeting and fidgeting. He shifted and grunted. Finally, after enduring several songs and other festive shenanigans, the guests were served their ice creams.
Very quickly the guests who had chosen sprinkle toppings with their ice creams appeared to go into a type of shock. Their mouths began to pucker uncontrollably. The sprinkles tasted horribly of something terribly dry.
What is wrong was this ice cream? they wondered.
The answer was this:
During the night before the wedding, Arsenal had sneaked into the baker’s shop and replaced the regular sweet sprinkles with phony sprinkles made of alum. Now here, during what was supposed to be a celebration, the guests’ complaints grew louder and louder. Some ran about, begging for water or anything to wash away the bad taste. Others left, openly spitting and swearing under their breaths.
Bonnie looked around for a moment, stunned and clueless as to what was happening, but only for a moment.
Arsenal, she thought. How could he?
But she knew in her heart her suspicion was true. Somehow he had replaced the sprinkles with colored alum. She looked around the fields for Arsenal but saw no sign of him. Then she scanned the four horizons. And when she looked to the east, towards the hills, she saw a glimmering light. It was the sun’s reflection coming off of Arsenal’s magnifying glasses.
At that very moment Arsenal saw her looking at him and panicked. He jumped on the back of the spavined donkey that he had ridden on to the top of the hill and kicked it in the ribs. The poor donkey ran kicking and bucking exactly in the direction he didn’t want it to go: straight towards the Buttermakers’ farm!
Try as he might, Arsenal could not get the donkey to change course and soon he found himself rapidly approaching the angry wedding crowd. Even worse for Arsenal, the donkey ran as fast as it could towards the wedding cake and at the last possible moment put out its front hooves, plowing the ground and coming to a rapid halt. Arsenal Grindall was ejected from his seat and flew through the air, landing face down squarely in the middle of the enormous confection.
By this time, the guests were beginning to recover from the shock of alum sprinkles by washing their mouths out with lots and lots of water. “Get him!” said someone in the crowd. And they began to close in on Arsenal, who was slipping and falling in the cake, while viciously brandishing their dull butter knives and short-tined olive forks.
“No, don’t hurt him,” yelled Bonnie Buttermaker, running and waving her arms. “Let him go.”
“Th-th-th-thanks, Bonnie,” Arsenal said weakly as he finally struggled to his feet, covered with cake. Without another word he ran and jumped on his sad donkey’s back.
The last Bonnie saw of Arsenal Grindall he was riding in the direction of his family’s mines, his very unfashionable comb-over hair flopped to the wrong side and dangling in the wind.
“Well, that’s a wedding no one will soon forget,” said Nathan, her new husband.
At that moment a breeze began to flow through the wedding crowd and a prickling sensation was felt by all. Out of the sky two round orbs of shimmering light approached the wedding ceremony. The guests cowered with fright. The orbs were large, at least six feet across, and touched down near the newly wed couple.
The yellow and red orbs of light disipated to reveal a man and woman couple within each. The red ball produced a noble looking couple with blonde hair, the yellow ball a couple with darker hair. They, too, were noble in appearance.
The blonde haired man was Bonnie’s father, the Great Wizard King, Rafael. His wife, Queen Flower Petal, stood by his side. They were alarmed to see the occupants of the yellow orb.
The yellow orb couple were the leaders of the nation that Fleur-De-Lis had been at war with all these many years. The couple of the yellow orb also happened to be the parents of Nathan Fenway.
After some finger pointing and a few “what are you doing here’s,” things started sorting out. Bonnie found out who her parents were at the same time as did her husband. Nathan’s parents had decided to send their son away to a safer land exactly as Bonnie’s parents had done; and they had both created an enchantment by which their children would return to them once married so they could rule as king and queen when the time came.
What neither set of ruling parents anticipated was that their child would marry the child of their sworn enemy.
When both Bonnie and Nathan said they would never consider breaking up their marriage, something important happened that no diplomats had been able to accomplish for generations: Bonnie and Nathan’s parents established a truce, with each ruling couple promising peace for both lands.
After that, Bonnie and Nathan lived happily ever after and ruled both their countries together for many, many years, often returning to Derryland to visit the parents who had raised them so well.
As for the Grindalls…
It is said that when Arsenal Grindall returned home his parents were so angry with him for wasting alum that an argument broke out. In their anger and shouting, which led to pushing and shoving, the Grindalls all fell into a vat of alum and disappeared.
Some believe they were not killed by this, as most people would have been, but instead were shrunken to sizes no larger than ants. In fact, to this day, many believe the Grindalls may still live in one of the many ant hills that now surround their old potato farm and alum mines.
But no one ever saw or heard from the Grindalls in Derryland, or anywhere else, ever again.