Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jim Ed's Wild Ride

Years ago a friend of mine told me about Jim Ed's ride.

It seems that somewhere back in the 40's or 50's some young men were hanging out by the depot in Middleton Tennessee. As it often happens, three girls drove up in their car to see what was going on. Now you would have to see Middleton to understand that there isn't much there at all, a hardware store, small tire store, masonic hall, and maybe a service station at that time. The boys were eying the girls as boys always do unless something is wrong with them. The girls were uninterested or at least pretended to be. The more disinterest shown the more the guys began to act fools and grab-ass around.

Well as luck would have it, Southern Railroad's passenger train number 36 rolled in, picked up a couple of passengers and some mail. Jim Ed saw his chance to go down in history as a dangerous man. Girls like reckless guys though not all of them will date these dare devils. So three or four minutes passed. The conductor walked up the steps of the passenger gar with his little stool and closed the door. The train was already moving. Jim Ed ran for one of the steps on the mail car. He jumped on and held to the vertical hand rails glancing over his shoulder to catch one of the girls covering her mouth in amazement. The other two were riveted to the scene. Now you understand that Jim Ed planned to ride for less than one hundred feet and jump off, but he didn't consider the line of box cars on the side track preventing him form making his exit without crashing against one of them. So by the time Jim Ed was clear of a half dozen freight cars the train was going too fast to jump off. There was nothing to do but hold on. The girls were half screaming half laughing in amusement but with a hint of concern as Jim Ed continued to accelerate. His buddies realized that their friend had to hold on until he reached Corinth Mississippi some twenty miles away. They jumped in an old Mercury throwing gravel as they hit the pavement making a small squeal as the tires grabbed. The glass pack mufflers roared as they made their way to U.S. Highway 72 and turned east toward Corinth. The old car sat low to the ground and bellowed toward their lost comrade. Somewhere just west of town they met Jim Ed walking home. He smiled from behind an embarrassed face and beneath a shock of uncombed hair. The boys did a U-turn in the highway and pulled over in front of the hiker. They bailed out and met him as he came upon the rear bumper. He looked a little shaken but did his best to cover his mild shock with " boys, how bout that ride?" They laughed and smacked him around a little, then noticed that the windy ride had beaten every button off the front of his shirt.

This ain't no shit

In the belly of a B-17 flying fortress

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State, and I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze, six miles from earth, loosed from the dream of life, I woke to black flack and the nightmare of fighters, when I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

Randall Jarrell

Most know all its meanings but for those who don't:
Small men had to man the ball turret guns, they could hunch up and roll upside down and shoot at planes coming from below
They wore leather jackets with fur collars
Flack is antiaircraft shells from the ground exploding at a designated height set by the gunners
Nightmare of fighters - German fighter planes much faster than the heavy bomber trying to defend itself

Thursday, November 20, 2008

He swore that it was the truth

I had a professor in college form West Virginia. He talked about how steep the hills are in his home state. Since there is not that much cultivatable land there, some people were forced to put their gardens on the hillsides. He claims that his neighbor was plowing one day and to the man's shock and amazement his mules fell out of the garden!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sleeping Chickens

As most of you know, the old farmers have small rods in their chicken houses so the chickens can to into the houses at sundown, jump up on the poles and go to sleep. It seems that the grip of the chicken's feet doesn't let go even though he is sawing some logs. (the same for wild birds)

When I was a kid there were still sharecroppers around the South. The ones I knew were white. They would work for a large or small farmer tilling the land for part of the harvest. Most of the time they would become disenchanted after getting such a small part of the crop, and move to another run down house and try their luck on another farm. When they moved they would go out to the chicken house the night before, catch their chickens and tie their legs for traveling.

I knew a family once that moved so much that every night the chickens would go on the roost and cross their legs in anticipation of another move.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ole Hammer

My papaw loved dogs. He always had dogs partly because he lived in the wilderness of Southwest Tennessee. He had squirrel dogs, possom dogs, bear dogs and they were, according to him, very intelligent. One of them was actually a member of Mensa. But his favorite dog was Ole Hammer. Years later when he spoke of that dog, tears would fill his eyes and my mamaw would come stand by his chair and put her arm around him with comforting words.

Now I have to fill in some valuable information before I can go forward. A coon hide was skinned out without cutting down the belly, that is, his hide was taken off like one would remove a sock. A trapper would have boards to slide through the hide and stretch that pelt until it dried ready for market. These boards were about 1/2 inch thick 8 inches wide and about 24 inches long gradually tapering to a rounded point on one end. The coon hide would be pulled over the board with the pointy end fitting in the upper lip of the pelt. (do you have a mental picture of this?)

Well, the thing about Ole Hammer was that my papaw didn't have to trap for his coons. He would pull out a certain size board, show it to Ole Hammer, he would go off and come back with a coon that fit that board exactly. If papaw showed him a small board, the dog would bring back a small coon. If he pulled out a larger board Hammer sometimes would be gone for two or three days but he never failed to bring back a coon that fit the board presented to him.

Now my mamaw didn't like this dog, mainly because he sucked eggs. A woman don't like an egg sucking dog. She never saw him do it but she saw the broken egg shells. Her proof was that Ole Hammer's coat was growing slick and shiny. A hound doesn't get that slick eating bacon rinds.

Well, one day she'd had enough. She went in the back room and brought out the ironing board, took it out on the porch and called Ole Hammer. Hammer crawled from under the porch shook himself free of dust and took a gander at that ironing board. He went trotting off into the woods that morning and never came back.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Horse collars

This posting will have no meaning except for the very few people who work with horses and mules or William Faulkner fans.
I finally ran across a man who could identify the little horseshoe shaped hooks that hold the trace chains to the hames on the horse collars.
I was visiting an eighty something year old man (Barney McMahan) back in McNairy County Tennessee. He was showing me his car shed/workshop. We went upstairs to look around. I saw his old horse collar with the hames attached to them. On the hames were the hooks. I asked him if they had a name. In a blink he said. Loggerheads. I knew it but I couldn't find anyone from the generation before me to verify it.
Thanks Barney
Now when you read "Barn Burning" by Faulkner you will know what he is talking about when Snopes adjusts the loggerhead on the hame/collar.

Is this trivial or what?

Friday, November 14, 2008


"To my mind Judas Iscariot was nothing but a low, mean, premature congressman."

Mark Twain

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Writer's View of Washington

"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

Mark Twain

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Today was a long one. I worked in Tuscaloosa Alabama. They are happy in that little town after knocking off LSU or as the Cajuns call it LUS. Believe it or not Cajuns call themselves "Coon Ass" and don't mind being called that. I have several Coon Ass friends but I'm still not 100% on the meaning. I think its just a society of people with a rich heritage of French, African, Native American ancestry and maybe some Spanish.

Anyway, Alabama fans are fired up. They are undefeated and can smell another national championship; what a game down in the valley of death. Overtime no less. They are the Western Division Champs but will probably have to face Florida. They are bad boys standing on the corner with brass knuckles in their back pocket. Then again Ole Miss went to their hood and left them on the ground. (any given Saturday)

After working twelve hours I hardly had time to stop and pay silent tribute to all the men and women who have served their country.

I'm fascinated with ironies. I don't know why. I think that I just like to look on both sides of every issue. Now I realize that this is not Memorial Day, but many of us think about those who fell in battle as well as the veterans.

Arlington Cemetery began in a shameful way. Some of Lincoln's people thought it would be hilarious to confiscate General Lees beloved plantation for taxes. They began to bury the union dead on his farm until he could never return home to any semblance of normalcy. (it takes a hell of a man to turn down the head of arguably the greatest army in the modern world, an army that is assured victory because you are a Virginian first and an American second. By today's standards we can't understand it, all vestiges of Tennessee first or Montana have been wiped away by centralist.)

I do believe that probably every one of those brave men resting in Arlington waiting on the last roll call admired the old General, those of the Union, from the Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and other scattered wars.

The South has its own memorial day. I believe Mississippi's is April 26. It actually started in the town where I live, Columbus. Women decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate that April day in 1866
I always think about those who displayed the same valor as those so tenderly cared for in our national cemeteries with crosses perfectly aligned. I am referring to the boys in grey who fill burial bits at Shiloh, Gettysburg, Sharpsburg, and on and on without markers, known only to their maker.

Soldiers where they admit it or not have a respect for a brave foe as well as Friend. You see, an army or a football team is not truly powerful unless their opponent is equally so.

I believe that the old white haired General would remove his hat for every last soldier who faced his enemy with honor.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Log Haulers

It's about time that I wrote a totally useless blogg, but I guess they all are.

South of Chunky River I met a eighteen wheeler hauling a load of logs. The bug screen on the front of the truck said "Cane Clutter." I laughed to myself. Now I've seen loads of logs in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Maine, New Brunswick and British Columbia to name a few. I don't know If they display their handles or AKA's on their rigs like some of our old boys down here. They are all working men and have my respect.
The name brought back many memories. I didn't know if the name meant someone who cut logs like one would cut sugar cane. It seems plausible even though no cane is grown in the Pine Belt (a region in the general area between Meridian and Hattiesburg that grows mostly native pine.)

But then I thought about when I was eleven years old and got my first shotgun. We hunted squirrels and rabbits mostly, before I got into ducks and deer. Now I don't know much about lagomorphs except that they have an extra pair of upper incisors for cutting off vegetation.

Sometimes we would hunt the river bottoms of West Tennessee. There is a large rabbit that lives in these watery places. They are called Swamp Rabbits or Cane Cutters. These critters are chased with beagles. I don't see it much anymore. Southerners at one time loved to hear the hounds whether it was running fox all night (three or four men standing by a fire talking about which hound was taking the lead) coon hunting, (we should talk more about this) or even deer.
Apparently we brought this sport from the British Isles. The British still love it. William Faulkner loved to hunt on horseback.
Anyway when a dog or pack or dogs jump a rabbit from a thicket or ditch bank, I'm talking about smaller cotton tails now. He scampers fast. Beagles are short legged and slow. Our objective wasn't to catch the rabbit. We wanted him to run his circle. When a rabbit runs from the dogs, he gets out ahead and runs along just enough to stay ahead. If the hunter will stay close to where the rabbit was jumped, the critter will run back to the same area and start the circle all over again. The hunter will shoot him usually on the first circle.

With a Swamp Rabbit (he's big and husky, but doesn't look like a Jackrabbit.) When he jumps, he runs a much wider circle. Sometimes the dogs will almost go out of rearing range, but eventually he comes back. Sometimes you will think they are running a deer because of the distance he runs. The hunter places himself along a stream or slough. I have shot these big boys running in the shallow water. They are not plentiful anymore fore several reasons.

For people who were raised on concrete or in another part of the country, you may have never thought about it, but there is a proper way to skin a rabbit. The helper holds the rabbit by the Nap of his back with a couple of inches between his hands. The skinner sticks the knife through the skin above the mid-spine. One sticks his eight fingers in the cut pulling toward the head. The other puts his eight fingers in the cut and pulls toward the other end. His shirt and pants are removed simultaneously. Then the head and four feet are removed with the skin. He is gutted washed and ready to cutup and put in the pan.

A squirrel takes more skill. The helper holds the squirrel upside down by the hind feet. The squirrel's belly is facing the helper's belly. The skinner makes a perfect cut across the base of the tail just millimeters above the anal opening. He methodically works his way around the tail with his small knife then severs the tail bone leaving the tail in tact. He cuts a little more to the top of the hips. While the helper holds the hind feet, the skinner digs his fingers under the skin and pulls the squirrel's shirt over his head. Then he cuts the feet off leaving the head with the skin pulled over it. The helper then holds the ball of reversed fur with the head inside. It's just a little knob. The skinner works the squirrel's pants loose at the top around his pretend belt area then pulls the skin down to the feet and cuts them off. The helper takes the bare hind legs. The skinner cuts off the head then inserts the blade into the pelvic area cutting it open and slowly cuts the thin skin down the belly to the breast bone, empties the guts. They wash him and cut him up for dinner. (We'll have to talk about fur bearing animals later. They are a totally different animal. Oops)

Now I don't know if this is common knowledge but I'm told that there is more than one way to undress a feline.
Down here we still have wild game suppers but I don't know of anyone who eats rabbits and squirrels.

You will never need to know things like this unless we have a depression. What are the chances of that?

Oh, one last thing. The National Fox Hunting Association was formed in the parlor of Waverly Mansion just fifteen miles from my house. The home is open for touring every day of the year except Christmas.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I Like Trains

On a three hour trip home today I was following U.S. 11 northword just south of Meridian Mississippi. The foliage was beautiful. Autumn comes late in Certral Miss. The Forfolk Southern Railroad runs parallel to the highway. Suddenly bursting out of the November conflagration was the City Of New Orleans. She was rolling toward the Crescent city as if the engineer's crawfish boil was starting without him. Trains are beautiful. Passenger trains glide on a loud whisper until the man at the throttle makes her speak.

For those who have never been to Meridian, back in the 20's or 30's, I don't remember; anyway, the Key Brothers set a world record for the longest time in the air. You can google it but I believe it was 28 days. They fueled from another plane and got their food in a similar manner. Later all military planes would learn to refuel in the air. Their little plane was called "Ole Miss." She is in some aeronautics museum in Washington D.C.

The Jimmie Rodgers museum is in Meridian. He is in both the country music and rock-in-roll halls of fame. He was a brakeman for the railroad.
Peavy still makes amplifiers here.

Hey. I love trains.