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."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mrs. Chappell's Wild Ride

Well sir, yesterday was full of excitement over to Booger Holler and at the home of my Cousin Peanut Chappell! I was not there, but heard all about it over to Buster Hollen's Barber Shop when I stopped in to get a trim.

Seems Cousin Peanut's Mama, Mrs. Chappell (we pronounce it MIZZ in the hills, of course) had determined to face the 8 inches of heavy snow and get out of the house to get some root vegetables an' gather the eggs from her hens over in the henhouse. Now that henhouse is actually a shed sort of thing built onto the side of the barn and there is a door from the barn into it. This makes it easy to go into the barn, get some corn and step in to feed and gather eggs.

She put on her husband Vergie's worn out ol' work boots that she often wore in muddy or icy weather. She thought they had better soles than her day to day shoes an' they came up over her ankles. She sort of figured they would keep the snow off her feet better. As she left the house she grabbed a big ol' dishpan so she could gather the eggs in it an' carry in some taters an' other root vegetables from the barn to make supper later that afternoon.

Goin' out weren't no problem. She was careful an' grabbed onto the clothesline post along the way to steady herself. The deep snow was covered by a sheet of ice an' her feet crunched through as she walked.

Once in the barn, she shelled some corn off the cob and put it into her apron as she held the bottom hem up to make a pouch for the corn. Steppin' into the henhouse caused a flurry of feathers an' cluckin' as the chickens gathered round her to peck at the corn as she tossed it to the ground. Though there was a small door for the chickens to get outside, they hadn't ventured out much in the snow an' it had almost closed up their exit.

She was right disappointed that they was only three hen eggs in the nestin' boxes. This cold an' snow had put the layin' hens off for the last few weeks. She gathered the eggs into her apron and went back into the barn.

After she carefully laid them eggs in the dishpan, she went to the back of the barn an lifted the angled door that led from the barn into the root cellar. Vergie had been right smart to build the barn with the henhouse an' the root cellar built on. She stepped down the two steps an' turned on the flashlight that hung from some balin' wire just inside the door. It gave her enough light to grab some taters, carrots an' turnips before she went back out an' into the barn.

That is when things went from normal to excitin'. She put them root vegetables in the dish pan, went out the barn door, turned to make sure it was latched an' turned back to start to the house. She noticed that it had started snowin' hard again when she turned an' took a step.

It was that turn that did her in, I reckon.

Y'see, Vergie had got himself a new pair of work boots a couple years back because the old ones was worn out and the sole was rubbed as slick as a slate rock from years of work an' wear. When Mrs. Chappell stepped out an' turned around she lost her feet out from under herself an' went down on her backside.

She let go of one side of that dishpan an' the eggs an' root vegetables flew out. When she put her hands down to catch herself the dishpan somehow got under her backside an' she landed in that dishpan on that icy snow.

That was just enough to start her skiddin' over the yard an' toward their ol' Ford truck. As she saw it comin' up fast, she laid back like one of them luge sled fellers goin' feet first. She went right under the truck an' out the other side but went to her left an' right into the dry branch that runs along the yard.

Once she hit that dry branch it was all down hill an' feet first. She commenced to squallin' an' carryin' on to beat the band. Vergie is a good bit hard of hearin' an' he thought it was just the snow an' wind comin' down the mountain an' through the holler. He sat back in his easy chair, closed his eyes to take a little ol' nap, smiled an' just listened, glad to be in on such a bad day. He couldn't wait for the hot beef an' vegetable soup Mrs. Chappell was goin' to make that evenin' for supper.

Well, things weren't goin' so good for his wife. She was a goin' down that dry branch like a locomotive, squallin' into the wind, the snow hittin' her in the face an' beginnin' to cover her all over. Folks paused all over the mountain, wonderin' what they heard. Most thought it was just the snow storm that had hit.

Then her foot caught on the branch of a cottonwood tree an' she commenced to spinnin' round an' round in that dish pan! The spinnin' made her squeals an' squalls sound like some sort of police (pronounced po-leese) or sheriff car or fire truck. Ever' one knew they was no fire trucks close by an' a few, includin' Dr. Percival Poovey (a purveyor of potent potables - he made 'shine an' sold snake oil on the circuit), was hopin' the sheriff weren't comin' after them an' made themselves scarce.

Just imagine that sight! Some critter comin' down the dry branch, all white an' snow covered, spinnin' like a top an' bustin' your ear drums with its carryin' on. It scared several youngin's who was sleddin' behind Booger Holler Hard Shell Baptist Church. They ran inside the church, found the preacher an' confessed they had stole some cigarettes an' had a smoke! They wanted right there to get themselves right in case that was judgement that had screamed down the mountain an' by them

Mrs.Chappell commenced to doin' some very unladylike cussin' an' carryin' on as she continued her wild ride, twirlin' like one of them there dervishes folks read about in the National Geogramic. Snow had completely covered her an' she almost looked like a purdy white weddin' cake or some store bought sweetnin' spinnin' on display in a big ol' picture window.

Finally the branch started to level off an' she dug the heel of one boot into the snow to slow her wild ride down an' stop the spinnin'. She hit a log across the branch, flew into the air, still hangin' onto the dishpan an' landed on the hood of her middle boy, Walter Nutt Chappell's (Folks call him WalNutt) vintage AMC Gremlin. Her face smashed up agin the windshield an' the wipers started to clean the snow an' ice off her face.

WalNutt had been startled as a huge snowball landed on his Gremlin. Y'all can just imagine how shocked he was when the wipers revealed the face of his little ol' Mama, all squishy agin the windshield.

She blinked a few times, grabbed an' held the wipers and stared fierce like only a Mama can. She pointed a finger at WalNutt an' spoke quiet like, "Get me off'n here an' get me home.

He lifted her off the Gremlin, shook her good an' hard to get all the snow off an sat her down. She didn't take too well to the shakin' an' slapped him hard.

"I said GIT me home, boy! An' never tell anyone about this." She said to him as she looked up into his frightened eyes. She threw her dishpan into the back seat, got in the AMC Gremlin and sat starin' straight forward.

He swore he wouldn't breathe a word of it to anyone. He drove her home, helped her in an' went out to the barn to gather the eggs an' root vegetables. He was plain ol' shocked that not one of them hen eggs was broke. He took them into the house, woke Vergie to say "Howdy" and was on his way.

WalNutt Chappell went directly to Buster Hollen's Barber Shop an' waited till he was in Buster's barber chair to say, "Fellers, do I have a story to tell you!"

I didn't hear it first round. I was over to Knuckle's Dollar Store when I was told I needed to stop in the Barber Shop to hear about Mrs. Chappell's Wild Ride!

I heard it there and now have told it to you just as it happened. I wouldn't lie to you 'bout it! That is just how it happened. I'd rather eat fried chicken than lie to friends.