Out of Afghanistan for the summer and probably forever, so back to oddball Americana topics. This month’s piece is from a correspondent who spent the earlier part of this decade building a powerplant in rural Eastern Texas. Excerpt from a letter:
June 2001 Ennis, Texas
Statement from a friend: “Hey man, sounds like you and the wife are doing well in Texas. I can see it is playing to your considerable redneck side.”
Texas does play to my considerable redneck side, but only too much so. Most of the time it is more than even I can bear. The level of ignorance in parts is just astonishing, let me tell you. A drive by the parking lot of any Wal-Mart would more than reassure you of an esteemed place in the gene pool. Among that store’s patrons in these parts, education ranks in value someplace vastly below a dually pickup (diesel, please) and a good bass fishing show.
The other day, as the wife and I visited a friend who lives in a trailer, the friend’s neighbor, a man with the self-applied handle of “DC” came by. I do not know the origin of this name, but I am confident his handle is not familial to the District of Columbia. This old boy would be hard pressed to find that city on a map. DC was a riding a lawn-mower about two sizes too small, wearing filthy Wrangler jeans, no shirt (better to see the contrast between his white back and, yes, that red neck), and some creased-over class of a ball cap.
The lawn mower had no mower. This was for transport only, the kind of lowly vehicle built to traverse the sub-sea-level swamp terrain of a densely forested trailer park on the way to the snake-infested fishing holes. That’s where the unemployed DC spends his days, out yonder in the swamps around his single-wide, aluminum manse, free from the long arm of the law. Free to DUI his days away on a mower with no blades. The long arm of the law don’t reach that far, not to DC in his pre-fab wilderness.
DC was toting a fishing pole, a tackle box between his legs — suspended precariously on that mower’s ancient transfer case — and a five-gallon bucket with the largest bass I have ever seen not on a picture postcard folded half out of the damn thing. Without pause or warning, amid whoops and rebel yells, DC grabbed that Large Mouth by its large mouth and hoisted her into the air, proud as hell, pond water scurrying down DC’s arm all the way to the foulness.
He hauled that fish up the roughshod “stoop” (actually some rotted boards nailed together toward some purpose of ascent) and flung himself up into the trailer, through the crooked door, to show his champion bass to my friend who lives inside, to my friend’s wife, to the wife’s parents who were inebriated and visiting from out of town, and to my much startled wife, and to two fornicating turtles that my friend keeps caged in his brown-shagged, brown-paneled parlor. My friend had warned me that his turtles “fuck all the time.”
DC proclaimed, “Boys, that there is TEXAS(!!!!!!!) BASS (!!!!!) Shitch-yeah! SHITCH-YEAH!!!!!“
Shitch-yeah is right. What do you say to that?
Oh I known, David Byrne said it first: And you may find yourself…living in a shotgun shack…and you say, My God, how did I get here?
On the way home, she and I let out a deep breath. We decided, you know, it’s a good experience to see this side of life in rural America. But maybe soon it’s best to shake hands, say it’s been real, and put it behind, way behind, like the memories of one who has been freed from some sort of bondage, not to be revisited, save for those moments when checking that your escape is not just a vapid dream. And goddamn, you best get out before the kids start coming along, learning to talk from the likes of initialed hombres like DC.
You boys keep in touch. Briggs, I don’t guess you have journalism conference in Texas anytime soon. Most folks can’t read. But if you ever did, we have the light on for you.
PS. That said, I still have a ’77 Chevrolet.
Need a more visual stimulation? A few years later, once Algore hatched his internet, these two videos emerged for the whole world to see. It isn’t actually DC, but Steve here must be pretty close to him on the same narrow family tree.
Like the boss said about Cool Hand Luke, “what we have here…is a failure…to communicate. Some people you just cain’t reach. I don’t like it anymore than you do.”