I don't see how Aunt Tillie could have blamed the squirrel-in-the-shorts fiasco on us. The critter burrowed into Uncle Elmer's freshly flapped boxers of its own accord, proving why squirrels are known as ''dumb animals.''
But it wasn't the squirrel that Aunt Tillie was calling names.
Like I told you last week, I thought clotheslines had been outlawed on account of how they create too much excitement.
As I recall, it was a late June afternoon and I was stuck with Ollie, my third cousin twice removed - but not removed far enough for my safety.
We were running Tonka trucks through the mud holes we created by filling the ruts of the dirt driveway with buckets of water. Aunt Tillie was unclipping laundry from the clothesline when we heard the phone.
Aunt Tillie's eyes flickered between the back door, the laundry basket and us boys.
''You muddy hooligans stay out of my clean clothes,'' she barked as she raced toward the insistent ringing. ''If you touch the basket, I'll snatch up the laundry poles and light up your backsides.''
It was an invitation no boy our age could resist. What could she be hiding in there that was so important?
Still, there was some risk involved. So we decided to see from how far away we could pitch acorns into the clothes basket. If one sounded like it hit buried treasure, we'd rummage through the socks, shorts and sheets.
For the record, I still say mine was the first acorn to score a direct hit. Ollie claimed I missed and his plunk sunk into the laundry basket. I told him I was the one wearing glasses so I saw best.
It must have been while we were rolling around in the driveway settling the point when the squirrel dived into the basket to chase either Ollie's acorn or mine. Before it had a chance to escape with the booty, Aunt Tillie burst out of the house, dropped the final T-shirts into the basket and hauled it indoors.
''Good, no mud on the clothes. Finally, you boys behaved,'' she said as Ollie beaned me over the noggin with a dirt clod.
I still say that if Aunt Tillie had been paying attention to her stuff instead of fussing at us, she would have noticed the basket was a couple ounces too heavy.
I was about to rub Ollie's nose in a thistle when we heard Aunt Tillie's scream. We ran inside with the dog at our heels so as not to miss anything important, but the cat already was on the case. The dog wasn't satisfied with how she was carrying out the investigation and offered his own help.
That was the day I learned that a gray squirrel, a Maine coon cat and an Irish setter could fly.
Led by the squirrel, whose nerves had been rattled by Aunt Tillie's embarrassing screaming, they scrambled up the living room drapes, dashed across the dining room ceiling and bounded down the kitchen cupboards and cabinets before all shot out the screen door, which suddenly sprouted three progressively larger holes.
We were going to check the laundry basket to see whose acorn was there when we glanced at Aunt Tillie and decided it would be safer to join the chase.
''Grab those clothesline poles on the way by,'' Ollie yelled. ''It would be best for our health if Ma couldn't find them for a while.''
Aunt Tillie bought an electric clothes dryer the next day. I suspect the clothesline poles still are on the shed roof where we threw them.
As for the squirrel, it moved to the next farm over. We know because we saw tiny socks hanging on a little rope between branches over there.
--- It should be pointed out that Grandpa Cole's memory sometimes confuses facts. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org