Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘On Life’ Category

TheLineThatHeldUs

A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects. –Herman Melville

Chapter One

Darl Moody didn’t give two shakes off a monkey’s dick what the state considered poaching. Way he figured, anybody who’d whittle a rifle season down to two weeks and not allot for a single doe day didn’t give a damn whether a man starved to death. Meat in the freezer was meat that didn’t have to be bought and paid for, and that came to mean a lot when the work petered off each winter.

The buck Darl’d seen crossing from the Buchanan farm into Coon Coward’s woods for the past two years had a rocking chair on his head and a neck thick as a tree trunk. Coon wouldn’t let a man set foot on his land on account of the ginseng roots buried around his property like jars of money, but Coon was out of town. The old man had gone down to the piedmont to bury his sister, and wouldn’t be back for a week. Darl’s mama asked Darl to keep an eye out on things since he lived close by and so he did. He parked right there at that old man’s house, camoed up in Coon Coward’s driveway, and marched off into the woods like he owned the place.

The cove was full of sign: rubs that stripped bark off maples and birch, scrapes all over the place where button bucks scratched soil with something instinctual telling them to do so but lacking any rhyme or reason. A mature buck knew exactly what he was doing when he ripped at the ground like he was hoeing a line with his hooves, but the young ones just ran around wild. They’d scrape all over the place, trying to add to a conversation they were too inexperienced to understand.

Darl locked his stand around a blackjack oak that grew twenty feet high before the first limbs sprung off. He climbed to a strong vantage and surveyed a saddle of land where early autumn cast patches of the mountains gold in afternoon light. Some of the ridgeline was already in full color with reds and oranges afire like embers, but none of that could be seen from here. Down in the valley, there was still green in the trees, the acorns yet to drop, the nights yet to frost, and it would still be a month or more before the first few breaths of winter stripped the mountains to their gray bones.

Darl sipped a pint of whiskey he had stashed in the cargo pocket of his camouflage jeans, took off his ball cap and slicked the sweat from his forehead back through a thick mat of dark hair that was shaved down to an inch. He scratched at the stubble on his chin and listened closely for any sign of movement, though just like the past two evenings, he’d yet to see or hear a thing. Soon as the sun sank behind the western face, the woods dropped into shadow and it wouldn’t be long for nightfall. Still he would stay because there was no telling when that buck might show, and in full dark, he would find his way out by flashlight.

Somewhere up the hillside, a stick cracked beneath a footstep and that sound ran through Darl like electricity. His heart raced and his palms grew sweaty, his eyes wide and white. Dried leaves rustled underfoot and behind the scraggly limbs of a dead hemlock he could see a slight shift of movement, but from such a distance and in such little light, what moved was impossible to make out. Through the riflescope, he spotted something on four legs, something gray-bodied and low to the ground. The 3-9×50 CenterPoint couldn’t match the reach of the .30-06, but it was all Darl could afford at the time and so that was what he had to work with.

Sighting the scope out as far as it would extend, he played the shot out in his mind. At 200 yards, the animal filled a little less than a third of the sight picture, a fluke shot at best for someone who’d never been all that great a shot. He rolled the bolt and pulled back just enough to check that a round was chambered, then locked the bolt back and thumbed away the safety.

A boar hog rooted around the hillside for a meal. Each year those pigs moved further and further north out of South Carolina, first coming up out of Walhalla ten years back and now overrunning farms all over Jackson County. There was open season on hogs due to the damage they caused. A father and son out of Caswell County were hunting private land between Brevard and Toxaway just a month before when the son spooked a whole passel of hogs out of a laurel thicket, and the father drew down on a seven hundred pound boar. That was just over the ridgeline into Transylvania County. That pig weighed 580 pounds gutted, and they took home more than 150 pounds of sausage alone. Do the math on that at the grocery store.

All his life there’d been a calm that came on just before the kill. It was something hard to explain to anyone else, but that feeling was on him now as he braced his back against the trunk of the oak and tried to steady his aim. A tangle of brush obstructed his view, but he knew the Core-Lokt would tear through that just fine. He tried to get the picture to open by sliding his cheek along the buttstock, but the cheap scope offered little play. When the view was wide, he toyed with the power ring to get the picture as clear as possible, nothing ever coming fully into focus as he drew the crosshairs over the front shoulders. He centered on his pulse then. Breathe slowly. Count the breaths. Squeeze between heartbeats. On five, pull the trigger. The sight wavered as he counted down. Three. Two. Squeeze.

The rifle punched against his shoulder, and the report hammered back in waves, touching everything between here and there and returning in fragments as it bounced around the mountains. He checked down range and the animal was down.

“I got him,” Darl said. His body tingled and his head was swimming. Adrenaline coursed through him so quickly that he was out of breath just sitting there. He was in disbelief. “I fucking got him.”

Darl sucked down the last of the whisky in one slug, slung his rifle over his shoulder, and climbed his way down with his treestand. In less than an hour, the light would be gone. He knew he had to hurry. There’d barely be enough time to field dress the pig and get it out of the woods before dark. Maybe Calvin Hooper would help him dress the hog out. Cal had a nice hoist for dressing deer, and that sure beat the hell out of the make-shift gambreling stick Darl had at the house. Whether you were scraping the hair off a hog or skinning him out, a pig was an animal that was a whole lot easier with two sets of hands working than one. Cal wouldn’t want anything for the trouble. Never had. Just as soon as Darl got that pig back to the truck, he’d head to Calvin’s. “I fucking got him,” he said.

A small branch of water ran at the bottom of the draw, and, through a thicket of laurel, the hillside steepened. Darl staggered through the copse of trees and slowly climbed until he was near the ledge where the pig had fallen. He tripped on a fishing line strung between two trees, a pair of tin cans with rocks inside clanking loud in the limbs above him. Darl froze and looked around. As his eyes focused, he saw fish hooks hung eye level from the trees, trot lines meant for poachers, and he brushed them back one by one as if he were clawing his way through spiderwebs. That’s when he saw him. Not a pig, but a man rolled onto his stomach. A brush-patterned shirt was darkened almost black with blood, his pants the same grayish camouflage as his shirt.

Darl stepped closer and kicked at the man’s boots. When there was no movement, no sound of breath, he stooped beside the body and saw where the bullet had entered the man’s ribcage. He’d been quartered away, the hollowpoint opening as it cut through him and exited just behind his right shoulder blowing the top of his arm into ragged meat. The man’s left arm hung by his side, his hand open, palm up, and Darl could see a cluster of bright red berries balanced at the tip of his fingers. He realized then that he was kneeling in a thick patch of ginseng, mostly young, two-prong plants, but some much, much older. The man had an opened book bag on the ground beside him with a tangle of thick, banded roots stuffed inside, the thin runners off the main ginseng shoots snarled like a muss of hair. Darl knew the man shouldn’t have been there just the same as him. This was Coward land, and they were both trespassing, two poachers who shouldn’t have been there, but right here they were. Here they were and this man was deader than shit, and Darl had done it. Darl had made him that way.

The man’s face was turned away and angled into the ground. His neck was sunburnt red and dotted with dark orange freckles, the back of his hair thick and curled a yellow blonde the color of hay. Darl stepped across the body being careful not to get his boots in the blood around him. The man wore a camouflage hat with hunter orange lining the edge of the bill, the words Caney Fork General Store stitched across the front. The hat was crooked on his head and Darl grabbed the bill to try and turn the man’s face out of the dirt.

As soon as he saw the dark purple birthmark covering the right side of the man’s face, Darl knew him. Carol Brewer, who everyone had always called Sissy, lay stone cold dead on the bracken-laced ground. Darl had known Carol all his miserable life, a halfwit born to a family that Jesus Christ couldn’t have saved. Some people believed Carol’s daddy, Red, might’ve been the devil himself. There was a meanness that coursed through him, a meanness that carried on in his blood that was as close to pure evil as any god-fearing man from Jackson County had ever witnessed. Carol was the baby of the family and by most accounts the only one that ever had any chance at all. Some folks thought if he’d just been able to get out from under the wing of his father and older brother, Dwayne, he might’ve turned out alright. But things didn’t work out that way, and Carol wound up being just as much trouble as the lot of them.

Darl let go of the cap bill and Carol’s head came to rest on the ground. His eyes were closed with his mouth slightly opened. A yellow jacket buzzed by Darl’s ear and landed on Carol’s lips. The bee started to crawl into Carol’s mouth but Darl swatted the bug away, his fingers brushing Carol’s face. He stood and stomped the bee where it hovered above the ground with his boot then looked to the west to gauge what remained before night. Darl knew it wouldn’t be long, but nightfall didn’t matter like it had just minutes before. His thoughts were wild with what would come, but he knew the darkness was a gift now and he welcomed it as such. His mind raced as the night closed around him like cupped hands. He had until dawn to dig a grave.

(The Line That Held Us has been sold to G.P. Putnam’s Sons. The date of publication has yet to be determined. An early version of this chapter is also included as a short story titled, “Burning Off Into Forever,” in an anthology from Bottom Dog Press titled Appalachia Now. Check the website, www.david-joy.com, periodically for updates on the novel.)

Read Full Post »

Raising

An unstitched fifty-pound flour sack had sat in a bucket of bleach a week till the bunched cotton fabric lost all signs of lettering. The blue logo of Baker’s Delight Bread Flour had faded completely white. Ruth saved the fabric to make her youngest sister Helen a dress.

The “waste not, want not” mentality had taken over all and sundry as folks stitched everything from curtains and pillow cases to dresses and slips from empty flour and feed sacks. Manufacturers took full advantage and often decorated the sacks in brightly colored floral patterns that people fought over on store floors. But Mama just grabbed whatever was there. She knew the family could make do with anything.

Ruth had just finished scouring the soot from lamp globes around the house. The Duke Power rental house in Steele Creek was absent of electricity with the dim yellow glow of flickering oil lamps the only light when sun set. She didn’t mind the job, but was always fearful she’d drop one of the globes and glass would shatter across hardwood floors.

Her hands were black with the residue of burnt oil as she headed onto the back porch for a wash pan. She grabbed the pan from a long shelf, water sloshed against the sides, and she scrubbed the soot from her skin. Ignoring a towel hung from a nail in the wall, she shook her hands dry and droplets spread like rain against the floor. The smell of chlorine filled the room as she looked over at the bucket filled with bleach.

Holding the turned wooden handle of the bucket, Ruth carried the filled pail into the yard toward a pump spigot, one shoulder cocked sideways from the weight as she walked. She reached into the bucket, grabbed the fabric, wrung the bleach from cotton back into the pail, and the chemical stung a hangnail she’d picked open in church the morning before.

The unstitched sack looked more like a sheet, or a long towel, when she shook it loose. Balling the fabric back into a tightly wrinkled wad, Ruth held the fabric under the spigot with one hand and pumped the handle hard with the other. Water gurgled in the pipe at first then flowed clear and fast as brooks and soaked the cotton again while water ran down her arm and dripped from her elbow. She wrung the fabric out and repeated the process until all hints of bleach were washed away.

Ruth hung the fabric onto a clothesline at the side of the house. Unlike the family’s line at the old house strung between trees, this clothesline consisted of two coated cables stretched between aluminum Ts, crude bubblegum welds all that held the posts and crossbeams together. Whoever placed the poles had done it on the wrong side of the house. Sun only hit fabric a few hours each morning, but Ruth was hopeful that April rays and a warm spring breeze would dry the sack by dusk.

Helen was nearly a year and half old, able to waddle across the floor in short bursts, her legs still flimsy as tomato vines. She was born on the farm ten months before Papa lost it all. Ruth thought it some strange blessing that Helen was too young to watch her father struggle, gaze at held-back tears when he surrendered everything, stare confused when he got the job back four months later, and understand if the family had just held on to the farm a bit longer they’d have been fine. Helen was still innocent.

With Helen the eleventh child Mama was done raising. By the December that Helen was born in 1930, Mama had spent 117 of the past 275 months swollen-bellied pregnant. Laboring thirteen children in twenty-three years was nothing short of a miracle, so Ruth just nodded when her mother turned Helen over to her. By three months old Helen nestled in the bed beside her big sister each night.

Raising children was as familiar to Ruth as hoeing lines and the prickly squares of cotton bolls. She’d watched after Billy when she was five, Charles at seven, Doris at nine, and Don at eleven. Ruth was going on thirteen as she ran a jade colored Bakelite comb through Helen’s thin hair.

Some three years before, Ruth chased the wobbly sprints of Chaz while trying to clean up Doris as she spit up milk in the crib. At the time, Uncle Jim, Papa’s brother, built a set of brick steps onto the home in Paw Creek. “Ruth come and get the baby!” Uncle Jim would yell over and over through laughter as he teased the young girl run frantic by infants.

In those days Ruth fell asleep, back flat on the floor, while her foot rocked a cherry wood crib her grandfather built. When that didn’t work, Ruth blew in the babies’ eyes until they were too dry to stay open, and closed eyelids brought on sleep. Most of the time the trick worked. The cries of children wore at her like sirens and at that moment, right then and there, Ruth swore that no matter what ever happened, she’d NEVER have children. But something was different with Helen.

Whether it was the straight brown hair or the sapphire glint of light in steel blue eyes, Ruth saw something as familiar as her reflection in water in that baby. The shy toddler, scared of anyone outside the family, was a spitting image of her sister. Ruth forgot the pact and raised Helen as her own.

Ruth sat up in bed, her back pressed against a pillow mashed in half against the headboard, and flipped through Gustave Dore illustrations in a tattered copy of Favorite Fairy Tales. Somewhere through the opening pages of “Beauty and the Beast,” as Ruth traded her name every time her eyes read “Belle,” Helen had fallen asleep. Helen’s tiny body was curled into a nook along Ruth’s side while Ruth held still and tried not to wake her sister.

Needles of numbness tingled and grew from Ruth’s wrist to shoulder where Helen lay until Ruth finally lifted her sister’s head, carefully scrunched away, and pulled a thin quilt loosely over her sleeping sister. Ruth still had a few hours to work. Mama had given Ruth permission to rock the pedal of the wooden-framed Singer sewing machine as long as she didn’t break the needle. The thin cotton fibers of bleached flour sack had somehow dried in afternoon shade and Ruth was eager to stitch Helen’s dress.

The pattern already dreamt—an all white sundress, ruffled short sleeves, tight top smocked with blue thread—Ruth sat down at the machine in the far corner of the dining room at the end of a long hall that spanned the length of the house. A wide yellow flame burned away at the woven wick of an oil lamp and the sparse light flickered shadows of Ruth’s hands against the wall as she measured the cloth and made the first cut.

Whereas most projects required saving scraps for months, Helen’s tiny frame lent itself perfectly to a single flour sack. After splitting the cloth along a seam that had once served as the bottom of the sack, Ruth measured the pattern, cut matching pieces from each sheet of cloth, and prepared for the first stitch.

Ruth rocked at the crosshatch iron of the Singer pedal. A leather strap rounding a large black wheel spun and sent the needle up and down atop the desk. As she stitched the skirt of the sundress together her mind flashed back to when Mama had first taught her to sew. The sharp needle had pierced her fumbling fingers and a drop of blood rose where point broke skin. A dresser of clothes under her belt, Ruth worked methodically, a slow pace that stitched perfectly equidistant loops along dashed pencil-drawn lines.

The heaviness of exhaustion coupled with the dying yellow light of a near empty oil lamp wore on Ruth’s eyes. Noticing a quickened pace, a few uneven stitches along the fabric, she slowed the pedal to a halt with her toe and headed upstairs to the bedroom where Helen dreamed with her tiny thumb pressed slobbery to the roof of her mouth.

Days were spent tending the toddler amidst a list of other chores, but each night when Helen fell asleep, Ruth headed into the dining room and sewed until her eyes grew swollen tired. Ornate golden scrolls along the polished black sewing machine glinted with lamplight when the last stitch was sewn that Saturday. Ruth laid the finished pattern atop the stained pine desk and ran her eyes across Helen’s new dress.

The flared skirt was pinched and pleated along the bodice. Short sleeves were ruffled from shoulder into tight cuffs. A looped design like a series of cursive Ls smocked the bodice stretchy with light blue thread. Along the back a piece of sky blue silk ribbon, salvaged from one of Mama’s old hats, was tied in a bow to seal the sundress.

Ruth was too excited to sleep. She carried the dress to the upstairs bedroom and laid it across the back of Helen while she slept under the quilt. The quilt obscured Ruth’s ability to fit the sundress to her sister. But Ruth sat there on the edge of the bed and visualized the next day, Easter Sunday, when she could fit the flour sack dress on her sister like a porcelain doll.

The April sun illuminated the growing crimson along redbud limbs as Helen waddled through sprigs of grass. The family had spent the afternoon singing hymns as Laura, seventeen now, played piano. Sometimes Papa would want to sing for hours, only the deep drum of his own vocal chords still with sound by the end, but not that day.

Mama sat beside Ruth on the front steps, her hand rested on the knee of her daughter, as they watched Helen lean down, grab a dandelion bloom, look back toward the house, and smile with chubby cheeks. The sundress fit perfectly over Helen and Ruth was proud. Mama squeezed Ruth’s leg tight and Ruth looked up into the eyes of her mother, those same graceful blue eyes of herself and Helen.

“I don’t think that I could have stitched it myself,” Mama said.

Ruth swelled and sat quietly, Mama said nothing else, and Helen, knees pressing green grass into bleached white cotton, was too busy plucking flowers to know the difference.

(“Raising” is a chapter from Ruth: A Beautiful Dismantling, an unpublished memoir, posted here on a day that would have marked Ruth’s 94th year of life.)

Read Full Post »

The battle between local bookstores and mega-seller goliaths like Barnes & Noble has always existed, but the war really hit home when a recent marketing ploy by Amazon.com made national headlines. The strategy was simple, directing consumers to go into a brick-and-mortar store, scan an item for purchase using a new Amazon phone application for comparative pricing, walk out of the store to purchase the item online with Amazon, and receive a five percent discount on the purchase.

Enraged merchants nationwide shared their dismay with the online giant as the competition, which had long sense been a real concern for small town stores competing against ever-growing globalization, suddenly felt the sting up close. The biggest concern: small town stores had become mere showrooms for consumers to browse and find what they wanted only to make their purchases online.

Then local bookstores got a decree of hope on December 12 when author, Richard Russo, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times titled, “Amazon’s Jungle Logic,” which chastised the online, bookselling monolith and likened the company to the “John Candy character (minus the eager, slobbering benevolence) in Mel Brooks’s movie ‘Spaceballs’ — half man, half dog and thus its own best friend.”

Yet, it was a response to Russo’s piece that struck a nerve with me. It was a column disgustingly titled, “Don’t Support Your Local Bookseller,” by Farhad Manjoo, which appeared in the December 13 edition of Slate Magazine, which made me cringe.

First, let’s be clear. Slate Magazine is an affiliate of Amazon receiving a cut of all sales generated from links to Amazon from their own website. So in some ways Amazon can be seen as some quasi-employer for Manjoo since part of his pay stems from Slate-generated Amazon sales. Yet, it is Manjoo’s utter disregard for the “buy local” mentality coupled with his complete disillusionment toward a small-scale, communal economy that really hits me the wrong way.

In the column, Manjoo goes on a lengthy tirade against what he dubs “cultish, moldering institutions,” the “least efficient, least user-friendly, and most mistakenly mythologized local establishments you can find: independent bookstores.” At one point Manjoo even has the gall to say that anyone who prides themselves on promoting a vibrant book industry and thus a literary culture, “should thank [Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder] for crushing that precious indie on the corner.”

Reading those words I could actually feel the heart burn pushing up my throat, my right eye beginning to twitch, my fists clenching, my anger growing to rage, because in those words I could see the mentality that threatens the stores I love: tiny brick-and-mortar, mom-and-pop, locally owned bookstores. In those words, lies the reason why the shops I love stand such little chance competing in a global economy fueled by online sells. The fact is, it has become easier and cheaper to just go online.

But, that’s missing the point.

There’s a reason why the Cashiers Bibliophiles, our local book club, orders all of their books through Chapter 2, and that reason is quite simple: every dollar spent goes right back into our state, our county, and our village. It’s as simple as the need a penny take a penny, have a penny leave a penny philosophy in that as a community and as caring neighbors, we work to be self sustaining.

When my first book was released it was an indie bookstore, Blue Ridge Books in Waynesville, that opened their doors to me for a launch event and treated me like Rick Bass; when I had a reading at City Lights in Sylva, Chris Wilcox and Eon Alden handed me a copy of Daniel Woodrell’s “The Outlaw Album,” because they knew I’d been waiting on its release, and they spoke proudly of me when telling customers I was a writer from right down the road; when I went to Park Road Books in Charlotte for a signing, it brought a smile to my face to still see snow in the parking lot where the bookstore had blown flurries for a snow ball fight for kids when “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” author, Jim Kinney, had visited the night before; and this past weekend in Asheville as I walked into Malaprop’s bookstore, my chest swelled when I saw copies of my book in the window during the holiday rush, when the store could have undoubtedly sold more copies of Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” biography.

The reason for all of this is simple: these bookstores, their owners and employees, care. They care about me, they care about our children, and they care about our community. They are as close to me as blood.

You see, that’s the world I live in, Manjoo, and that’s the reason your argument is not only offensive and asinine, but just doesn’t hold up.

I live in a place where the local merchants are my friends and neighbors, where the simple fact of whether or not they have food on their table depends largely on the dollars spent locally. I live in a place where my local bookstore owner can’t wait to tell me about the latest book he’s read, where store owners get a kick out of watching a kid smile when they get their next read, where I’m a lot more likely to see that same bookstore owner cutting his grass than I am to ever see Amazon-mogul Jeff Bezos step off of a private jet into my neighborhood.

And the simple fact is, Manjoo, if that’s not the world you see, if that’s not the world you’re living in then, perhaps, you’ve had your head in a book just a little too long.

(“Behind the Brick and Mortar” originally appeared as a column in the Crossroads Chronicle and subsequently took first place in the 2013 North Carolina Press Association (NCPA) Awards for “Best Serious Column.”)

 

Read Full Post »

I can still remember lying lengthwise on an old ratty couch, woven wool fringed and stained, in my parents’ living room when I was a kid and listening to Robin Leach describe, in some British jumble of syllables, the extravagant lives of movie stars.

As the English host detailed 10,000-square-foot homes, indoor swimming pools, helicopter pads, and private islands, I’d fantasize about the day I’d make it big (as an Atlanta Braves pitcher no doubt). I was sure of it at the time, that one day they’d have me, Sir David Allen Joy, as the headliner for “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”

Truth told, some 20 years later, not a whole lot’s changed in terms of the way I’m living. There’s still a cast iron skillet on the stove, a mason jar of bacon fat in the fridge, and when I’m lucky enough to have a fried bologna sandwich and some red Kool-Aid, I consider myself in high cotton. But what has changed is that those wishes of billion-dollar bank accounts just don’t seem so appealing anymore. Sure I’d like to have financial security, but the bottom line is that a man like me just ain’t cut out for high society and that whole idea of “financial security” is as big a fallacy as the American Dream.

This whole idea came about a few weeks ago when I was talking with a local business owner about the down-turned economy, and eventually the conversation turned to talks about potential collapse and what-if scenarios of some global economic meltdown: when banks fail, money’s gone, jobs are meaningless, and all that’s left is basic survival. At the end of our conversation, the man said, “Well, I guess you’ll be all right. At least you know how to fish.”

I think I quoted some Hank Williams Jr. song on my way out the door, something along the lines of, “A country boy can survive,” but ultimately that whole conversation got me thinking of where I come from and what my roots enable me to do.

Two generations back my family farmed cotton. I grew up on stories of flour sack clothes, hunting squirrels for dumplings, and growing vegetables year round. Those tales were usually chewed over cold cornbread and a glass of milk, but looking back now the most nourishing parts from those early morning meetings in my Granny’s kitchen are the work ethic she instilled and the belief that a man can and should live off of the land as much as possible.

Though I’m not nearly as self-sufficient as I should be, I try to do everything I can for myself in my own backyard. Last week I built myself a gun rack out of rhododendron, because I needed myself a gun rack. I canned dilly beans till the vines were empty because come this winter those beans won’t be dangling off the poles.

I know folks around here with enough canned meat (bear, deer, hogs) to last them years. I even know someone who told me they could tell if it’s going to rain by watching the fat rise and fall in the jar. There are hunters on the plateau that could shoot a flea off of a tick at 100 yards, folks who could catch a stringer of fish in an afternoon, and plenty of people with enough collards and kale to last till spring.

I had an old timer from Tuckasegee tell me one time that when he was little his daddy would make him catch salamanders, what he called spring lizards, from the creek to sell to fishermen for a nickel a piece. That same man told me that when he’d come down with the crud his mother would feed him groundhog grease as medicine. His father would shoot a groundhog, his mother would render the fat, and he’d have to eat it. When I asked if it worked his only response was, “Yeah, it worked. But you stunk to high heaven for a week.”

What emerges from stories like that is the self-sufficiency that has allowed generations to survive with little to nothing. Ultimately, poverty seems to serve as a catalyst for survival. I don’t worry so much about America’s debt ceiling, Wall Street ripping at the threads, or the rise and fall of foreign bond rates because I don’t have any money to begin with. Never have and never will.

What I do have is a nice Henry rifle, a room full of fishing rods, a garden lapping over with beans and collards, and an attitude that no matter what the day may bring, I’ll be all right.

The Dow dropped 634.76 points, its sixth-largest point loss, last Monday, August 8, but I never even thought about it. In all honesty, I’m not even entirely sure what in the world “the Dow” is. I do know that there’re a whole lot of dandelion greens growing out behind the Chronicle office and some pokeweed in the woods. So if the Dow drops again today, I might just have me some poke salad.

There’s a certain safety in simplicity. Though Robin Leach still isn’t knocking on my door, I’ll be all right because I always have been. Money comes and goes, stock rises and falls, businesses start and go bankrupt, but for someone like me, with a little hard work and dirt under the fingernails, money turns out to not be of much necessity anyways.

Until next time, moonshine wishes and livermush dreams!

(This is a column written for the Crossroads Chronicle.)

Read Full Post »