Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Walkin' the Antenna Wire

Lige Wilson sat in a chair under a maple tree in the front yard of his grandson's home an' watched as the feller from the satellite company placed a dish on a post he had secured next to the house. When he heard that Matt was getting satellite he asked if he could drive over from Teges Creek to watch. Though he had heard about them dish things, he had to see for himself.

Television had not done well in the mountains. For some reason radio and television waves just didn't cooperate and bounce down into the hollers like they should. Seems they travel in straight lines an' just flew over the tops of the hills. No one could ever explain to him how the radio waves did land in the bottom of the holler after dark.

The boy from the satellite company was Tommy White, grandson of Chester White who lived over to Teges Creek. He talked with Lige as he worked, explainin' what he was doin', how things worked and that there were satellites high up above the world shootin' signals down everywhere. Lige told Tommy he weren't too fond of the idea of them signals hittin' ever'thing. It just didn't seem fittin'.

"Now, Lige, the signals don't hurt a thing. They are harmless, light waves an' sound waves are all around us, even before TV" Tommy said as he finished up. There was a Mason jar full of sweet tea waitin' for him there in the shade an' this was his last install for the day. He eased over to the shade and had a seat by Lige.

"Didn't you and my Grandpa share a TV antenna line years ago? I heard y'all were the first to have TV back in the late 60s."

Lige smiled, took a swig from his own sweet tea, "Well yes, but that was way different from this here. We had to string antenna wire up the mountain an' then only got two channels an' they was sometimes so fuzzy a feller didn't know if he was a watchin' a basketball game or a soap opery. An' they was always problems with that antenna wire."

Tommy grinned. He suspected they was a story comin' on. "Problems?" he asked innocently.

As if on cue, Lige leaned back an' started in, "Oh lordy yes, all sorts of things happened to that dag-gone wire. Y'see me an' your Grandad agreed to split the cost to put it up the mountain an' split it at the bottom of the hill. We bought several hundred yards of the wire. It were actually two wires, not coated an' separated ever' few inches by a hard plastic piece so they didn't touch. We walked the mountain unrollin' that wire, securin' it to trees with staples, clearin' branches an' brush to make sure it didn't get broke.

It took all weekend to get it up the side of the mountain. We only paused for church Sunday mornin' an' my wife Betty an' your Grandma carried on somethin' terrible about us workin' on Sunday. We had to though, we didn't want to lose a day of real work on our farms to string that wire.

At the top of the mountain we found a tall lodge pole pine up there on the ridge. We carried a ladder up there an' cut all the branches off'n it. We mounted one of them big ol' aluminum TV antennas to the top of that tree with metal straps an' guy wires an' dozen's of screws so it would stay in a big wind.

Folks came from all over to see the TV's when we was done. We had TV night 'bout ever' Saturday night at our place or your Grandpa's place. We took turns, y'see. The women fixed cakes or pies an' coffee an' folks usually brought somethin' to share. If was loads of fun."

"Sounds like it was" Tommy said, "a lot different from today."

"Yessir, it was," Lige went on, "it was more of a get together. You should have seen your Grandma an' Betty carry on when the wrasslin' show was on. They wanted to get in that ring with them fellers.

Problem was critters would break the antenna wire an we would have to walk the wire, lookin' for breaks an' repair the wires where they was broke. Squirrels would run the wire, y'know. We always knew when they was runnin' the wire 'cause you could see a fuzzy shadow of a squirrel runnin' across the picture."

Tommy nodded in earnest as he was listenin', unaware the story had gone from fact to tall tale all at once.

"Tommy, I remember one time we was a'watchin' a UK basketball game when all of a sudden these tree like things appeared real fuzzy like on the bottom of the screen. The picture went to movin', jigglin' an' goin' all wobbly like. Ever' body hollered an' me an' Chester grabbed our tools an' started up the hill. As we climbed, Betty hollered up that the picture got better for a while then went to bobblin' an' wobblin' agin. Strange noises was a comin'' out the speakers" Lige said.

"What happened then?" Tommy asked.

"Well sir, we climbed the hill, followin' the wires, lookin' for a break. Then we saw it! The wires had been pulled loose half way up the mountain. Staples were ripped right out of the trees. We saw the antenna wire on the ground an' it was a movin'! A snakin' this way an' that.

We followed it as best we could, seein' as how it was a twistin' all over the hill. We heard terrible noises, roarin' an' growlin' an' snortin' an' carryin' on. We knew we was gettin' close, boy, so we kept on goin' in earnest."

"Then what? Then what" Tommy was leanin' forward in his chair.

Lige looked Tommy right in the eye, "Son, when we got to the ridge they was a mama bear chasin' a huge 12 point buck all over the top of that hill! We had never seed anythin' like that. Mama bear was a roarin' an' growlin' an' all wound up in that antenna wire. She was chasin' that buck aroun' an' tryin to get hold of it.

Tommy, that buck was all wrapped up in that wire too! They was both hurt pretty bad. Then we saw what all the commotion was about. A half grown cup was a hangin' from antenna wire stretched between the rack of that 12 point buck! Sure as I am sittin' here, that is what had the mama bear all riled up.

That young bear must have been crawlin' on our antenna wire when the buck came through, got its antlers caught up in the wire that was hangin' low from the bear's weight, pulled ever'thing loose as it tried to get away. The mama bear heard the youngin' carryin' on an' came to save her cub. Both got all wound up an' mortally hurt tryin' to escape, get to the cub or just get out of the mess.

Both the mama bear an' the 12 point buck died from their wounds. I raised up that cub an' it still comes round home to visit when it is in this neck of the woods." Lige paused, took a long pull on his sweet tea an' sat back.

"Oh, ho ho! What a story, that was great. You had me goin' there for a while." Tommy laughed so hard he almost fell out of his chair. "That was one of the best tall tales you ever told."

Lige looked serious, "That weren't a tall tale. Ask your Grandma. Better yet, they was 14 folks watchin' the game that day. They saw the whole thing play out in fuzzy shadow interference on the TV. They thought the UK game had been interrupted by some nature show. All over top of the UK game as they watched."

"Uh huh, Sure they did, Lige" Tommy chuckled.

"Tommy, let me ask you somethin'. You've been to our cabin. Y'ever notice that taxidermy deer mount on the wall? An' the bear skin rug hangin stretched next to it?" Lige asked.

"Yep, I sure have." Tommy still was laughin'.

"Have you seen all those stripes, bald streaks on that bear skin? An' how about all the wire wound around the antlers on that 12 point rack. Ever notice that?"

"Yes, but, but I figured that was just somethin' you had stuck up there. It weren't... it weren't?" Tommy felt a little confused. "You mean, they are? They are the real bear an' buck that was caught in that antenna wire?"

Lige just smiled, "Tell you what, Tommy, bring your Grandma over for dinner Sunday after church an' you can take a look for your own self an get the womenfolks to tell you the story."

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