Picture This…

I like pictures, photographs to be exact. It’s likely a family thing. My parents had lots of photos. My mother in particular had many photos of her teenage and college years. She had even more, but her mother, enveloped in what must have been emotional or mental illness, shredded her photo albums. Still, there were a lot of photos of my mother at various stages of her life. She always looked like Mom in them, even if the image was of a younger and smaller version.

My paternal grandmother loved photos. She had many boxes full. We usually visited Granny on Sundays in the small Eastern Kentucky town of Evarts. Granny had framed photos scattered about her house in addition to the boxes. She said she would save money to have photos taken of her children whenever there was a photographer in town. Granny’s love of photos is why I have a framed photo of my father at 4 months old:

 babydad

Dad often said that this “little fellow” had no idea what a tough world he was being sent into in 1925.

Photos tell stories, of course, but often you must know a lot of background before you know the story. That is certainly true of this photo (of my favorites):

fam

As photography goes, it’s unremarkable. The lighting isn’t ideal and the color is a bit odd. My mother, for example, was quite pale. She never had that much color. Regardless, I like the people in it. The date was August 11, 1987, my 25th birthday.  It’s in my parents’ home in Loyall, Kentucky. It was my home, too, from age 12 on. That’s me, the Birthday Boy, behind the cake. On the left is my younger brother, Richard Kent Williams, born March 16, 1967. My parents are behind me–Earl Malone Williams and Anna Muriel Dye Williams. I’m not sure about the photographer, but I assume it was my future wife, Sherry.  It was important to my mother that I come home for my birthday, so I did in 1987 like every year expect 1982 when I was stranded in Lexington, Kentucky without a car. So, I guess the story is that I came home for my birthday, and we posed for a photo. It is also worth noting that birthdays were the rare occasions when my mother would pose for a photo. Otherwise, she was like pursuing J.D. Salinger for a portrait sitting.

There’s more there, of course. My Dad was 62 years old. Mom was 57. My parents shared the same birthday–January 19. From a young age, I knew that at any given time, they were five years apart in age. Dad was in remarkably good health, considering that he didn’t exercise or eat right or even ever see a doctor. Mom, on the other hand, had only recently passed her five-year anniversary of a breast cancer diagnosis. Her health had been poor, not so much because of the cancer but more from the “cure,” a toxic cocktail of chemicals which eradicated cancer cells but left her weak and unsteady. Today, I also know that Mom suffered from depression, at least that’s my unprofessional diagnosis. In this photo, I didn’t think any such thing. I thought she was just prone to spells of sadness, much like she described her own mother.

As I write this, I’m 52, but I’m not 52 in that photo. I’m 25. It’s tempting to wax nostalgic or melancholy and think about what was or what was to come. For example, almost six weeks later to the day this photo was taken, Richard was dead. As far as I know, this is the last photo of him. He’s fine in the photo. I like that. Like most people who die young, he became his death. Here, he’s just a 20-year-old posing for a birthday picture with his brother.

Here, Dad hadn’t had a heart attack, like he would two years later, radically changing his lifestyle (for the better, I should add). Mom would have her share of health woes in years to come, but not on that day. Me? I was a 25-year-old who finally finished school and was about to start a career as a lawyer. I hadn’t had the ups and downs of that career and the self-imposed stress which would help make me the exact type of person that this young man loathed–pompous, self-important and with an over-inflated view of his own significance.

I know that house well. My parents built it, and I thought it was a mansion when we moved in.  It was a classic 1970’s split-level home with four levels, but it had things I’d only imagined in my 12 years–air conditioning, for example. It had carpet all over the house, too! I still shared a room with my younger brother, but that was much better than sharing it was my younger and older brothers. After my father died in 2008, I sold the house, but I never out-grew my fascination with it.

A friend once told me that life “comes at you at the speed of light at point-blank range.”  What he meant, I think, was that things happen all the time, every day, and we just have to deal with them. It’s tempting to look at this or any other old photo and ponder all the things that were to come. I prefer to think that none of those things, good or bad, happened to those folks. They are frozen in that photo.

Sometimes, though, I do wonder about what those folks would think about what was to come. None of us would have accurately predicted the future. Unlike that young fellow in the photo, I’m the father of three sons. I didn’t even ponder such things in those days. Now, I’m the one who poses with his sons for photos:

fathersday2014

None of us in this photo knows what’s coming, either. It will surely come, of course, and we’ll deal with it. Or we won’t.

In the years after my 25th birthday, I wasted much of my young adulthood planning and hoping for the future, much of that little more than self-centered scheming to try to make the world suit my desires. This peculiar form of madness masqueraded as ambition. When I see these old photos, I realize how little I knew then. Then again, that 25 year old would be stoked to know about all the cool things that were to come. His view of the future sold himself short. There was a lot more growing up to do and the pains that go with it. Everything turned out pretty sweet.

In some sense, we’re still in 1987, I suppose, celebrating that birthday. At least that’s what they’re doing in the photo. That’s where I go when I look at it. I can’t claim to be the same person I was at 25, but that is me in the photo. I know, because I have the picture to prove it.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2014

Hometown Loyall-ty

I’m told that I had a bad upbringing.  Oh, no one says I had bad parents, mind you.  Nevertheless, I had it bad.  Why?  I grew up in Eastern Kentucky.  Apparently, that’s bad.

I’ve written about Eastern Kentucky before and probably will again.  I haven’t lived there in three decades, but it is as much a part of my life today as it was then.  It’s home.

WHERE (OR WHAT) IS LOYALL?

I grew up in Loyall, Kentucky.  Here’s where Loyall is:

loyallmap

Exactly where is THAT?  As I told a guy who picked me up hitchhiking, it’s three miles outside Harlan, to which he responded “Where the hell is that?”  Harlan is the county seat of Harlan, County, Kentucky in the Eastern Kentucky coalfields.  When I was growing up, about 40,000 people lived in Harlan County.  Today, that number is closer to 30,000 and dwindling everyday.

Aerial view of Loyall today.

Aerial view of Loyall today.

The first thing to know is how to pronounce “Loyall.”  It’s not LOY-al, like the word “loyal.”  It’s kind of like “Lole.”  More accurately, it’s pronounced “Lowell” but without the “w.”

Harlan County is known for two things:  Coal mining and stone cold bad asses.  There’s not nearly as much mining  as there used to be and there never were as many bad asses as people thought.

Here’s what I can tell you about in which I was raised:

  • I always heard it was named after a railroad executive.  That might be true.
  • It had around 1,000 residents when I was a kid.  The welcome sign now says 776.  Frankly, that might be a bit of stretch.
  • Loyall consists of two parts:  Loyall and Old Loyall.  Old Loyall is exactly what it sounds like–the old part of Loyall.
  • The CSX Railroad Yard is in Old Loyall.  When I was kid it was the Louisville & Nashville Yard.  A lot of people in Loyall worked at the yard.
  • Trains ran day and night out of the yard hauling coal out of the county.
  • We had one traffic light.  It’s still there.
  • We had a full service gas station (long gone now).  They’d fill your car, clean your window and always ask:  “Check that oil for ya?”
  • We had a soda fountain, The Corner Store.  It sat on the corner, of course, by the traffic light.  They had fountain drinks and excellent hotdogs with chili.  They also had a pinball machine.
  • We had a movie theater until I was about 6 or 7.
  • We  had a barber, Gene Harber.  Very nice man.  He always asked “How do you want it?  ‘Bout the same?”
  • The Cumberland River ran through Loyall and washed us away in 1977.  Thanks to the largesse of the federal government, the river now runs through a man-made channel so it won’t flood.  Of course, they cut the town in half for that bit of high-tech engineering.
  • We had a school.  It was Loyall High School until the late ’60’s and then became Loyall Elementary and Junior High.   It still stands but hasn’t been a school for several years now.
  • We had a post office, City Hall, Fire Department and Chief of Police.
An artist's rendering of the Corner Store adorns my law office.  This was done from an old photo.

An artist’s rendering of the Corner Store adorns my law office. This was done from an old photo.

In other words, it was Small Town, USA.  You knew your neighbors and lots of the folks in town.  We slept with the windows open and the doors unlocked.

I must confess that I was not raised within the city limits of Loyall.  I spend my first twelve years in Rio Vista, a neighborhood just outside Loyall.  I spend the last years on my childhood on Park Hill which overlooks Loyall.  Still, we thought of it as Loyall.

I lived in this house until I was 12.

I lived in this house until I was 12.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH HARLAN COUNTY?

I thought it was a pretty good place, but I learned differently.  My first lesson was when I attended the University of Kentucky.  I talked funny.  Evidently, I had (and have) an accent.  That’s weird because I never noticed it.  I did know people at home with heavy accents, but I wasn’t one of them…or WAS I?  I was also a redneck, at least by Lexington standards.  Trust me on this one, but I was NOWHERE close to being a redneck by Harlan County standards.

I took a class at the University of Kentucky called “Appalachian History” or something like that.  It was taught by an odd fellow who had visited Harlan County on several occasions.  He had read Harry Caudill’s book Night Comes to the Cumberlands. He had been to Evarts (where my father grew up), which he pronounced EE-varts.  So, he was some kind of an expert.

I was told three things that I didn’t know:

  1. I was the victim of abusive Robber Barons who operated coal companies.  OR I was the victim of a well-meaning but misguided government which institutionalized poverty.  OR both.
  2. As a result, I lived in stifling poverty.
  3. It was likely that I was too ignorant to comprehend points 1 and 2.

I had a substandard education and health care.  Bad teeth, too.  Inadequate clothing.  Wow.  You’d think I would have noticed some of that, but I didn’t–maybe all the inbreeding made me less perceptive.

Later, after I graduated from the University of Kentucky with degrees in Finance and Law, I continued to learn about my homeland.  It was a bad, bad place.  Bad coal.  Bad government.  Bad drugs.  Bad, bad, bad.

Eastern Kentuckians, it seems, can’t take care of, or think for, themselves.  Others, though, can do it for them.  They need help.  Here’s why:

  1. Schools are horrible.
  2. Health care is horrible.
  3. Everyone is poor, even people with jobs.
  4. All the unemployed people are victims of something or other.
  5. Everyone is a drug addict.
  6. There is no drinking water.
  7. There are no roads that can be driven on.
  8. The people aren’t smart enough to know that they are unhappy.

Honest to God, it sounds like Somalia.  How the Hell did I survive?

LIVING IN REALITY

Fortunately, I grew up in the Real World.  It wasn’t a perfect world, mind you, but it was far from what was (or is) portrayed.  Imagine if your hometown–whether small town or large city–were always portrayed according to lowest and worst performers.  I now live in Lexington, Kentucky, the self-proclaimed “Horse Capital of the World.”  We have about 300,000 people here, but it’s a college town at heart.  It’s a nice place to live, and I’ve enjoyed raising my family here.  We don’t promote Lexington by showing our homeless shelters, the rundown shotgun shacks that litter downtown, the hobo jungle or our public housing projects.  If we did, one would wonder why anyone would set foot here–except maybe for the horses who wouldn’t know any better.

I like Lexington, but honestly I don’t see it as being that much better than Harlan County.  Lexington has poor people–a lot of them.  Unlike my life in Harlan County, I don’t see them here.  They don’t live near me.  My kids might go to school with them, but they really don’t socialize with each other.  That’s just how works.  You won’t see Lexington’s homeless shelters, unless you go looking for them.  The last time I went to one of them, I saw two men I know–LIVING IN THE SHELTER!  I didn’t know anyone who was homeless in Loyall.

In Harlan County, there was no insulation.  Your friends might live in poverty.  I had a good friend who lived in a housing project.  Housing projects in Harlan County are no nicer than anywhere else.  His father was chronically unemployed.  It didn’t matter. We were friends. Same with my friend whose father was illiterate.  He was a good man.  He just couldn’t read and write at any functional level.  I don’t see that here in Lexington, not because it doesn’t exist, but because it’s well-hidden.

My friends’ parents included teachers, railroad workers, government workers, politicians, coal miners, coal operators, dentists, barbers, doctors, lawyers and just about every other walk of life in the mountains.  Both of my parents were college graduates.  That certainly was not common in those days, but I was hardly the only kid with that distinction.

Growing up, we lived like kids.  Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Little League Baseball, school, dances, romances, fights and all the rest.  I have raised two sons to adulthood and have been surprised how they occupied their time much like we did–chasing girls, hanging out with friends, watching TV, all the while complaining about having nothing to do.  Like my kids, we had all the teen angst that exists everywhere else–wanting to leave our small town, broken hearts, drinking, drugs and general teen mayhem.  We just happened to be in Harlan County while it was going on.

We played Little League in Harlan County.  Your author is on the front row, far left end.

We played Little League in Harlan County. Your author is on the front row, far left end.

WHAT ABOUT ALL THAT BAD STUFF?

There were plenty of people who had hard lives in Harlan County and elsewhere in the mountains.  Poverty and unemployment rates have always been high and, in the remote parts of the county, people could live bleak existences.

As far as I know, my parents weren’t related to each other.  I did know a guy who married his cousin, but I know someone who did that in Lexington, too.  That kind of thing is frowned upon everywhere.

Did I know people who didn’t have indoor plumbing?  Yep.  I had an uncle in Pike County, Kentucky who had an outdoor toilet until the mid-70’s. By the way, my wife’s grandparents had an outdoor toilet, too.  But they lived in Franklin County, Kentucky, home of our state capital.  That’s not as sensational as one in Harlan County.

Did I know people on food stamps?  Yes sir.  I also knew people whose only goal in life was to “draw a check,” our Harlan County way of saying that a person just wanted to be on the dole.  Some did. My Dad called them “people living off the grid.”   They were cautionary tales.

Did I know any criminals or, as we liked to say, “outlaws?”  You bet–a bunch of them, too.  My Dad had a friend who killed his own father-in-law.  The guy who lived across the road from us served time for attempted murder.  For a time, we lived next door to a notorious bootlegger. I knew a bunch of people who’d been shot.  Like I said, it’s a small place.  You don’t get to hide from people.

Some parts of our county were so remote that most Harlan Countians never saw them.  Jones Creek, Bailey’s Creek, Smith, Black Star, Holmes Mill and many such places were well off the beaten path.  Still, those folks went to church and school and had jobs–a good number of them, at least.

The funny thing, though, is that the overwhelming majority of folks I knew didn’t fit these extreme profiles.  Most people had jobs and took care of their families.  Some families, like mine, had two working parents.  Like parents everywhere, most wanted something better for their children and tried to help them.  It was nothing unusual, just typical American life.

SO, WHAT’S THE  DEAL?

Have things changed since I left Harlan County?  Of course. Time changes everything.  When I grew up, good jobs were fairly plentiful.  That’s not the case today.  The economic base in Eastern Kentucky is shrinking and may well not recover.  The population continues to decrease and is likely to drop precipitously as the Baby Boomers fade.  We didn’t have the prescription drug scourge that has devastated Eastern Kentucky in the past few years.  Regardless of the changes, on my frequent trips to the mountains, I see the same sorts of folks I knew growing up.  These aren’t characters from a Norman Rockwell painting nor are they the “salt of the Earth” or any other such overblown characterization.  They’re just good, solid people for the most part.  They don’t see themselves as victims nor are they trawling for handouts. They’re just living their lives as best they can.

I had an uncle who was fond of saying “Mountain people have mountain ways.”  He meant that there were certain things about life in the mountains that were different–and not always different “good.”  For instance, a lot of people threw their trash in the river.  If we had high water, you see it hanging in trees when the river receded.  We use to have a county trash dump on the side of mountain.  No, it wasn’t a landfill.  It was exactly what it was called–a big, stinking trash dump.  People would line up on the side of the road and shoot the rats.  It was really fun, but you don’t see that everywhere.

Now, as then, some people don’t take care of themselves or their families, either.  They don’t go to the doctor or dentist or do much else.  They pretty much live like their ancestors.  Some of us might  have called these folks “trash.”  I’ve never been any place in this country that doesn’t have its pockets of trash.

Of course, like anywhere else, some people are born into bad circumstances and struggle.  Sometimes, they can’t overcome that.  They aren’t bad people.  They just start life with two strikes against them.  That still happens.  Everywhere.

Are some of my memories skewed by the prism of nostalgia?  Of course.  My father used to rail against people talking about the “good old days.”  He would then talk about Harlan County in the 1930’s when he grew up.  He always concluded with “There were no good old days.”  Fortunately, I don’t have those memories.  I remember the good people and the nice life we had.  Like a lot of people, I didn’t appreciate it enough at the time and probably spent too much time wanting to “get out.”

You may have never been to Eastern Kentucky, and this may not make you want to even visit.  You may have lived there in tough times or under bad circumstances.  Maybe your memories are not fond.  Consider this:  People from every part of this country have the same experiences.  Perhaps we should condemn their culture or treat them all as victims.  I leave that to you.  All I can tell you is what happened to me and most of the people I knew.  We were alright.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

The Harlan County Way

harlansgn

I grew up in Eastern Kentucky–born and raised as we say. What is Eastern Kentucky? I guess you’d call it a region or sub-region of Central Appalachia. It is not, as you might think, simply the eastern half of the great Commonwealth of Kentucky. Here’s my personal map of the area:

Kentucky_county_map2

This seemingly random boundary results in some folks calling it Southeastern Kentucky which, geographically speaking, is more accurate. A few notes:

  • We can’t include any counties on the Ohio River. They aren’t isolated enough. This excludes Boyd, Greenup, Lewis, etc.
  • I-64 runs through Montgomery, Bath, Rowan and Carter Counties. Again, they are excluded because of lack of isolation. Elliott County is an exception because–well–you just have to visit there to see.
  • Once you push too far north, you get out of the mountains, and we have to exclude you. Goodbye Fleming, Nicholas and Robertson Counties. Robertson County is the toughest to exclude. It definitely has an Eastern Kentucky feel to it, but it’s out.

The qualifications for Eastern Kentucky status include:

  • Mountains. You have to have mountains, not hills. Fleming County has beautiful, rolling hills, but they aren’t mountains.
  • Isolation. It has to be kind of tough to get there or at the very least it’s just on the way to somewhere else. Rarely is an Eastern Kentucky county a destination. On this criterion, Robertson County would qualify, but again, it’s just too far north.
  • Coal Mining. You need some coal mines, either now or in the past. We’re from coal mining stock.
  • Accents. You have to sound like us. Now, people in Carter County pretty much sound like us, but they have that Interstate.

I hail from Harlan County, the Eastern Kentuckiest of all counties. We’re isolated. Very isolated. Harlan County is not on the way to anywhere. If you need to go someplace that can be accessed through Harlan County, I guarantee that there’s an easier, quicker way to get there. Harlan–that’s what we call it–isn’t a destination, either. There aren’t any hotels to speak of, really. No Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn, etc. There are a couple of places to stay, and they’re okay. If you’re spending the night in Harlan, you probably have family there anyway.

We have mountains all around us.  We’re hemmed in.  We mine coal and have for over 100 years.  We also have accents, heavy mountain accents–the kind that can be indecipherable even to natives of the area.

I don’t live in Harlan now, but I’m still a Harlan Countian. Always.  So, I speak of how it was 30 years ago.  One of the great things about Harlan is that changes very little.  It’s still pretty much the same.

Now, don’t confuse Harlan County with the town of Harlan, our county seat. If someone tells you that he or she is from Harlan, they could mean any town from Pathfork to Holmes Mill to Cumberland to Cranks. Only if we’re talking to another Harlan Countian would we narrow the description to the town. Myself, I’m from Loyall which is three miles from the town of Harlan.

loyallsign

I’ll say I’m from Harlan, but don’t get confused. I’m from Loyall.

Unless you lived in the town of Harlan, you don’t go to the “city” schools–Harlan High Elementary and Harlan High School. I attended Loyall Elementary and Junior High and James A. Cawood High School. Cawood was named after James A. Cawood, long time Superintendent of the Harlan County Schools. None of my schools still exist. Now kids go to Harlan County High School which consumed Cawood, Evarts and Cumberland High Schools. We used to be territorial based on our schools. When we went to high school, we identified as being from Loyall or Hall or Wallins. We rarely hung out with anyone from Evarts or Cumberland–in those days, they had their own high schools. They might as well have been in different states.

WE ARE BAD

The vast majority of Harlan Countians are proud to be from Harlan. We are our own world. We like that it’s called Bloody Harlan by some folks even though that name is based upon events which occurred 70 years ago. Bloody Harlan is just badass. We like being the badasses of Eastern Kentucky.

bloodyjohn

Your author proudly claims his heritage.

Many people watch the FX series Justified. Justified portrays Harlan as a lawless frontier of wanton violence. Harlan Countians like Justified. We like people to think we’d kill them for some trivial reason.

Before Justified, many people got their image of Harlan from the award-winning documentary Harlan County USA which followed the Eastover coal mine strike at Brookside, Kentucky. Harlan County USA divides us into two groups: Those that love it and those that hate it. The ones who love it love the depiction of rough and ready union brothers and sisters ready to wage war with the coal company thugs. The rest of us (that includes me) hate the image of Harlan Countians as violent, uneducated hooligans. They point to the many fine folks in the county who were (and still are) horrified by the goings on at Eastover. The truth, of course, probably lies somewhere in the middle. The folks in Brookside were surely Harlan Countians as was the chief gun “thug,” Basil Collins. Basil was a neighbor of ours when I was a kid, so I know he was real. My mother drove through Brookside to go to work every day, so I also know the strike was real.  Harlan has always been divided into pro- and anti-union.  It still is in some ways, although it has been many years since the United Mine Workers Association held great sway.

That bastion of journalism, Hustler Magazine, once listed Harlan (the town) as one the three meanest towns in America. It was described as a place where people only smiled when they heard that someone had died. Harlan Countians did not like that. Not at all. I suspect it’s mostly because they didn’t care much for Hustler, at least not publicly.

Overall, we like the stereotypical portrayal of Harlan. Harlan is tough. Harlan is mean. Harlan is total badass.

Growing up, I didn’t feel particularly tough. Then, I moved to Lexington, Kentucky and found out that I was pretty tough by Lexington standards. For instance, threats didn’t faze me. I knew that truly dangerous people don’t threaten much. They just inflict harm. Of course, there’s a downside.  A mouthy little man like me finds out the hard way that bad is good, but big is better.  Bad and small isn’t a recipe for success.

WHO ARE WE?

Who are the Harlan Countians? Besides the accident of birth, we have certain commonalities:

  • We know that houses have winders and chimleys
  • We mispronounce light, fight, white and night.
  • We all know someone named Lonzo.
  • We have accents which are obscured by our penchant for mumbling.
  • We know at least one person who has been shot with a gun by someone else or by themselves accidentally.
  • We own guns.
  • We are related to at least one coal miner.
  • We say Papaw and Mamaw.
  • We know trash when we see it, and I’m not talking about garbage pick up.
  • We know at least one person whose mother was really their grandmother, and sister was their mother. Trust me on this one.

Harlan Countians can be found everywhere. Who are we?

  • The Stalwarts

These are the folks who stayed in Harlan. They are either Harlan by birth or moved there at a young age. They might have gone to college or joined the military. Regardless, they came back. Maybe they never left.

These are small town people just like in every small town. Small town life can be hard or easy. If it’s hard, it’s hopeless. If it’s easy, there’s nothing better. In that regard, Harlan is Small Town, USA. There are doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, coaches, laborers, deadbeats and criminals. There are good people and bad people. Like anywhere else, you have to hope to you don’t cross paths with the bad ones at the wrong time.

Among this crowd are those that my father called “off the grid.” He said we had a sub-culture of people “so far off the creek” that they weren’t plugged in to the modern world. That is certainly true, but I must say that those unfortunates (if that’s what they are) are the in minority.. They may be from such places as Shields, Jones Creek, Smith, Cranks, Punkin Center or Happy Top, although I can name you folks from all those places who have done quite well for themselves.

Harlan is no more defined by any subculture than Chicago should be defined by its sad history of public housing or New York by the worst of its slums. Yes, we have folks living in poverty–too many (as though there is an acceptable level of suffering) but most folks live just fine.

My parents were stalwarts. My Dad was born in Evarts and–expect for military service and college–never lived anywhere else. My mother moved to Harlan County from Pike County at around age 12 and never left except to attend college. They had no desire to ever live anywhere else. And they didn’t.

  • The Outlanders

I am an outlander. An outlander is someone who used to live in Harlan. We’re still Harlan Countians. We just live somewhere else. There are a lot of us spread over the country, but we still think of ourselves as being from Harlan. I haven’t lived in Harlan in 30 year, but if someone asks where I’m from, “Harlan” is the immediate response.

Some are like me. I went to college and had personal and professional opportunities that pulled me away. Others leave to find better opportunities.

We outlanders like our Harlan roots. It’s a kind of mountain street cred. If we meet anyone else from Eastern Kentucky, we can get instant acceptance with a simple “I grew up in Harlan.” Translation: “Despite appearances, I will kill you if necessary. So, watch your step.  I’d hate to have to kill you.  Just kidding–about the ‘hate’ part. I am a badass.”

  • The Pretenders

There are people who will pretend to be from Harlan or any place else in Eastern Kentucky. That’s right–they’ll pretend. They have cousins or in-laws or remote ancestors who hailed from the mountains. This, so they say, makes them mountain people. Of course, it doesn’t. We laugh at them but let them have their fun. They’re usually the folks who dream of turning all of Eastern Kentucky into a massive tourist destination by having all the people who live there pack up and move. Then, they can come back and pay admission to see where they used to live.

Sometimes, these people would show up to help us.  We were always suspicious of outsiders, especially those offering “help.”  We could tell if you were from Ohio or Michigan or some other exotic place.  You talked funny.  You weren’t one of us.  Go help someone else.

  • The Loathers

These folks are Harlan Countians, but they don’t like it. They might even live in Harlan, but it doesn’t suit them. It’s too dull. It’s boring. There’s nothing to do. There’s no future. It’s bleak. But they don’t always leave. They just hang around and complain.  Most of us pass through this phase at some point.  Many never leave it.

Some of these folks do leave Harlan–a lot of them, in fact. They go to other parts of the state or country and live as ex-Harlan Countians. They don’t like being from Harlan. They don’t want to sound like Harlan or look like Harlan. They pity Harlan. They know what’s best for Harlan, though, and won’t hesitate to tell you. Even though they know what’s best for Harlan, we don’t really like them.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE?

My children are fascinated and perhaps slightly horrified that I grew up in Harlan. Even though they have visited my homeland many times, they remain baffled by it.

Even though I haven’t lived there in many years, I still visit.  I’m fortunate that my job regularly takes me to Eastern Kentucky. Harlan is quiet, unless you grew up near the railroad tracks like I did. Then it was quiet except when the trains ran, which seemed like every 15 minutes or so.

Loyall had a school, a railroad yard, one stop light, a movie theater (at one time), the Corner Store (a genuine soda shop), a gas station, a barber and a couple of stores. A convenient store replaced the gas station and stores.  The school closed. All that’s left is the yard and that light.   We had our own post office, City Hall and fire station. They’re still there.   About 1,000 people lived there when I was a kid.  Maybe 700 or so now.  It was quiet then.  It’s quiet now.

We once had a train full of nerve gas pass through Loyall.  People gathered at the railroad tracks to watch it.  Why?  I don’t know.  Maybe they were hoping to see (or experience) some kind of catastrophe. Maybe they just didn’t have much else to do.

Sometimes you hear gun fire in the distance, but that’s in the woods. There aren’t running gun battles anymore like the famed Battle of Evarts many decades ago.  Oh, people still get shot occasionally but at much lower rate than we’d like you to believe.

The county is big, about 50 miles across, but sparsely populated. Like much of Eastern Kentucky, the population has declined for decades.  One can argue that it’s always been over-populated what with the chronic high unemployment and high poverty rate.

The “first of the month” is a big time in Harlan. That’s when people get their checks. Government checks. Disability checks. Welfare checks. Food stamps, too. Town is flooded with people. When I was young, the Government Cheese truck looked like a scene from an African relief mission. People were practically hanging on it. Although we certainly weren’t poor, Government Cheese is excellent, and my Dad would get us a block whenever he could. I miss Government Cheese.

We only periodically had a movie theater, the fabulous Margie Grand in Harlan. It would occasionally be condemned but re-open at some point. It was an old theater whose best days had long past. Plaster would fall from the ceiling and you could throw popcorn on the stage in front of the screen and watch the rats scurry out to eat. It was tough to find two functioning seats together. It reeked of Pine Sol. It was a movie experience like no other. Sometimes, the film would jam and you could watch it melt.  It even had an old balcony where–rumor had it–black folks used to be seated. Loyall also had a theater–the Roaden–until I was about 6 years old. For many years now, Harlan has had a multi-screen cinema. Sweet.

Mostly, we didn’t do much, because there wasn’t much to do. Oh, you might go to Gary’s Lounge and Roller Rink sometimes. Gary’s was a fun place. One side was a roller rink. The other side was the Lounge, a long, narrow open room with a dance floor. A friend of mine once drank a beer from a girl’s cowboy boot at the Lounge. You don’t see that every day.

Mostly, we just hung out. Funny thing is, that’s what my kids do, even though they live in a small city with a million things to do. I guess teenagers everywhere just hang out. Oh, and we moaned and complained about not having anything to do. My kids do that, too.

IT’S NOT ALL GOOD

When I went to college, I befriended other Eastern Kentuckians. One guy said we were like Indians who left the reservation. Even though I had been lots of places, leaving Harlan took me out of my comfort zone. Honestly, it took me years to adapt. I went from a county of about 35,000 people spread over 1,000 square miles to a campus of 20,000 + crammed into a few blocks. No wonder I was overwhelmed.

Since I’ve been gone, Harlan–like all of Eastern Kentucky–has been devastated by prescription drug abuse. We didn’t have that problem when I lived there. If we had a problem like that today in my slice of Suburbia, there would be a full-blown panic. Now, sadly, it’s a way of life in the mountains.

Coal mining runs in cycles.  Right now, it’s in a big down turn.  That hurts everyone.

There is a bleak side to Harlan, as anywhere else. Like inner cities, there are generations locked into a poverty cycle. Some escape, but most don’t. There has always been tension between those who work and those who don’t or won’t. Nothing will get a hard-working coal miner or school teacher fired up like a discussion about those “drawing a check.”  That’s how it was when I was a kid, and it hasn’t changed.

We also suffer from stereotyping.  Our teeth aren’t all that bad, although mine aren’t great.  We didn’t all drink Mountain Dew as babies.  I’ve never known anyone who didn’t wear shoes–and I knew some pretty rough characters.  I knew no one married to his own sister and just a handful married to their cousins.

We’re also the last of a breed–and this applies to all of Appalachia. We’re the last group that can openly derided.  We can be called ignorant, inbred, genetically inferior, toothless, shoeless–you name it.  If you do so, you won’t be called a bigot or a phobe of any type.  You might even become a best-selling author or reality TV producer.

My life is very much divided into two parts–before and after Harlan.  Now, far in the past, at least until I visit.  Give me about 30 minutes, and it’s like I never left.  That’s pretty cool.

If you live in Harlan, I can’t say that I blame you. If you don’t, I can’t fault you for that, either. It’s a nice place. Different, but nice. If you don’t believe me, I just might have to kill you.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

The Wonderful World of My Mother

I have written here before about my Dad. Twice in fact. He was an interesting, quotable character and a fine, fine fellow. Great father, too. I haven’t yet written about my mother. Until now.

Why not? It’s not because she wasn’t a fine person. She was. Certainly, it’s not because she wasn’t a great mother. Of that, there is no doubt. The reason, I think, is because–unlike Dad–she is difficult to capture in words. But I’ll try.

Mom died in 2003. Her life was probably unremarkable by most standards. She was born on January 19, 1930 in Detroit. (Coincidentally, my father shared the same birthday, being born in 1925). Her parents were in Michigan, because my Papaw was looking for work. Shortly after her birth, they moved back to Eastern Kentucky. She grew on Island Creek in Pike County and in Cumberland in Harlan County. She graduated from Cumberland High School and then Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee in 1951. After a year of student teaching at Benham High School, she taught at Evarts High School in Harlan County for the next 30 years. She was a Home Economics teacher. She married my Dad in 1957, and they stayed married until her death. They had three sons, of which I am the middle one.

Mom in 1945 in Cumberland, Kentucky

Mom in 1946 in Cumberland, Kentucky

She had a brilliant mind. After her retirement, she became something of an expert on investing and taxes. She was my primary financial advisor. If my Dad was the engine that drove our family, Mom was the brains of the outfit.

She survived breast cancer and the resultant toxic chemotherapy, although she suffered neurological damage from the treatment which left her with a bizarre set of symptoms for the remaining 20 years of her life. She also weathered the death of her youngest son. Overall, she had a life like most folks–ups and downs, good time and bad times.

A rare photo of Mom with all three sons.  Your author is on the right.  Note my dutiful older brother holding the purse and bottle.

A rare photo of Mom with all three sons. Your author is on the right. Note my dutiful older brother holding the purse and bottle.

She was, by turns, funny and sad; inspiring and discouraging. She could make me angry enough to yell at her (which I would NEVER have done with Dad) and the next moment be kind and thoughtful. She was generous and genuinely tried to let me know that she cared. She probably wasn’t different from a lot of mothers in that regard.

What made her different, at least to me, were the things she said, the stories she told and the myriad eccentricities to which we all became accustomed. To give you a better picture, I’ve decided to share some of those:

HAZARDOUS WARNINGS

Like most mothers, Mom had a vast library of cautionary tales which were repeated over and over and over…. Here are some of the classics:

Poor Cousin Stubby: Around the 4th of July, I would hear about Mom’s cousin, who lived in Chicago at some time in the distant past. He was just called her “cousin.” If he had a name, I’ve long since forgotten it. Cousin had a penchant for setting off dangerous fireworks. One year, he set off some particularly deadly explosive and “BLEW HIS FINGERS OFF.” That’s how it was always described to me. Not one finger, mind you (which still seems unlikely, unless he was playing with blasting caps). In my child’s mind, this meant every, single, damn finger. My little mind imagined Cousin fumbling about for the rest of his life with his stubs–all because of fireworks. Some years later, a short-fused firecracker went off in my hand. Other than making my ears ring and slightly burning me, it was no big deal. Oddly, I was a little disappointed at the lack of maiming. Just a little.

I actually did have a cousin who cut off his finger in a door. He was never presented as any kind of example. He was just an idiot.

The Medicine Cabinet Moron: We lived in a house with an old-fashioned bathroom. It had a steel tub and steel sink with a medicine cabinet over it. The toilet probably used about 10 gallons of water per flush. As a lad, I would climb onto the sink to access the medicine cabinet. This was, as Mom taught me, one of the most dangerous stunts a child could pull.

It seems there was a boy in an unspecified part of the world who also liked to climb on sinks. Coincidentally, he was about my age at the time. Sadly, he lacked my sure-footedness and fell while reaching for his medicine cabinet. He crashed to the floor, cracking his head on the tub. The result? “BRAIN DAMAGE!” No, he didn’t just split open his head. He had BRAIN DAMAGE. As a result, as Mom said, he became a moron. Not only that, but he was also a “VEGETABLE.” THAT, my friends, is a bad deal. I am now 50 years old. A few weeks ago, I was at my in-laws house (which is very similar to my childhood home). I looked at their medicine cabinet and could not help but glance at the tub to satisfy myself that there was enough distance between the two to prevent a moron-inducing fall. Oh, I didn’t climb on the sink. But I thought about it.

The Boy Who Made Out With The Toaster: I have had a lifelong habit of looking at myself any time I pass a mirror. This isn’t because I am particularly handsome. It’s just a habit. My Dad did the same thing. When I was small fellow, I used to look at myself in the side of the toaster. I know that’s weird, but the toaster had a dent in it, and you could treat it like a fun house mirror. Besides, I just liked doing it, okay?

There was once this boy who, like me, stared at the toaster. One day–for reasons I didn’t understand–he kissed his own reflection! Much like Narcissus, he was done in by his own beauty. How, you say? By ELECTROCUTION. That’s right, he was electrocuted. Immediately. Dead. Just like the other kid who tried to get his toast out with a fork. D-E-A-D.

Here’s a secret: After she told me that, I kissed the toaster. What the hell? Life on the edge. Don’t tell anyone about that.

To this day, when I see a shiny toaster (you know, the silvery chrome kind), I’m tempted to plant one on it just to see. I don’t. Usually.

Sputum: If Mom saw me touch the bottom of my shoe–even for a split second–she would say “Oh, there is nothing filthier than the bottoms of your shoes. You have walked in people’s sputum.” Not spit. Nor phlegm. Not even snot. Sputum. When I got older, I would do it just hear the word sputum. She’s the only person I ever heard say it.

THE CATCH PHRASES

Mom had a habit of saying the same things over and over about particular people or situations. I considered these to be her catch phrases. This is best described by the following examples:

Social Disgrace: This was something to be avoided at all costs. A social disgrace would bring shame upon your family name. Divorce was a good one. Marital infidelity was another. Getting arrested was a biggie. Mom’s description was “Honey, you know that’s a social disgrace.” I’ve done my best throughout my life to avoid these.

The Lowest of Trash: One big step below a social disgrace was behavior reserved “the lowest of trash.” This behavior included drinking, drugs, premarital sex, children born out-of-wedlock, foul language, poor grammar, bad table manners and general trashiness. Normally, this was used as follows: “Honey, the lowest of trash wouldn’t do a thing like that.” Often, a woman who looked like a “floozie” would be used as a living example of the lowest of trash.

Stomped-Down Moron: To be a stomped-down moron may or may not involve social disgrace or the lowest of trashiness. All it required was poor judgment. Then, Mom might observe that “You act like a stomped-down moron.” This is not to be confused with a brain-damaged moron.

As an aside, Dad once observed during an argument with Mom: “Anna, I know that it’s important for you to get the last word, but you’re the only person I know who has to get the last scathing insult in any conversation.” Stomped-down moron fell into that category.

He Wears A Diaper: My parents knew a man who became involved with a much younger woman. It was a social disgrace, of course. This guy was about Dad’s age, and the gossip horrified Mom. Naturally, she talked about it all the time. Every time it came up, her description of this fellow included this tagline: “He wears a diaper.” WHAT?!? Evidently, this fellow had suffered some sort of hideous medical condition or that’s what folks said, anyway. As a result, “He wears a diaper.” Sometimes she would say “You know he’s incontinent. He wears a diaper.” Did he? Who the hell knows? How would Mom know this? I have no idea. It’s not like he was a close family friend. He was just some guy they knew. I doubt that he ever told Mom he wore a diaper. Regardless, his name was never mentioned without reference to his diaper.

Some years later, I happened to be in Harlan on business. I was at the Hardee’s and guess who I saw? Diaper Dandy! We exchanged banal pleasantries. I must admit that I checked him out for any tell-tale signs of diaper-wearing. You know what? I think that man was wearing a diaper.

The Ugly Man: Mom went to college with a man so ugly, so repellant that he was denied admission to medical school. This man was so hideous that the mere thought of exposing him to the sick and infirm was a shock to the senses. Since Mom was quite a few decades too young to have attended school with Joseph Merrick, the famed Elephant Man, what could this man’s affliction have been? Bad teeth. Yep, poor dental work. So bad–or “deformed” as Mom always said–that he couldn’t cover them with his lips. It seems to me that if you couldn’t cover your teeth, the lack of saliva would cause them to rot. Maybe they did or maybe he licked them frequently. Either way, it had to be really gross. I tried to envision this man’s appearance, his grotesque twisted teeth protruding. By the way, I’ve seen a lot of ugly doctors. Think about how bad this guy had to be.

THE ECCENTRICITIES

Mom had a number of peculiarities or eccentricities or whatever you want to call them:

Car Sickness: Mom usually got car sick when she opened the door of the car. Sometimes, she would just puke in a plastic grocery bag. (Oh, the word “puke” is only said by the lowest of trash). Other times, you’d have to pull over to let her “get some air.” Once, we when she was a child, her father drove their family from Pikeville to Cumberland, Kentucky. When asked at the gas station how far he had driven, Papaw replied: “Nineteen pukes.” Normally, when my parents came to visit my home in Lexington, the first thing Mom did upon arrival was go to the bathroom and vomit. My wife thought it was odd, but I was so used to it that I rarely even noticed.

Camera Shyness: I suspect that there are more photographs of Howard Hughes and J.D. Salinger than there are of my mother. She hid from cameras like you were the Paparazzi. She would turn her head, hold up her hand, run from the room–anything to avoid the camera. Future generations will wonder why we have so little photographic evidence of her existence.

I took this photo of Mom in 1990.  She is telling me to leave her alone.

I took this photo of Mom in 1990. She is telling me to leave her alone.

Burning Paint: She had no sense of smell or at least that was the claim. There was one notable exception to this malady: She could smell burning paint–and she often did. It was like a super-power. Unfortunately, she would smell it when it wasn’t present. Or maybe it was but only her heightened sensitivity. “John, do you smell that? I smell burning paint.” There was never any burning paint, as far as I know. Then again, I don’t know what burning paint smells like.

The Pre-Planned Funeral: A lot of folks pre-plan their funerals, but not many do it without the help of a funeral home. Mom did. Shortly before her death, she gave my brother detailed plans, including a budget. No embalming (“It’s not required and a waste of money.”) We followed her instructions with one exception. We didn’t tell the funeral home to get all the gold out of her mouth (“They’ll steal it, if you don’t.“). But someone might have:

After Dad died, I found these in a jar.  They were Mom's.  Maybe Dad fulfilled her final wishes.

After Dad died, I found these in a jar. They were Mom’s. Maybe Dad fulfilled her final wishes.

THE TALES OF WOE

Mom had a vast reserve of maudlin stories, most of which involved her childhood. Here are the best–and most repeated–ones:

Jitterbug: She had a dog named Jitterbug. I don’t remember what kind of dog it was. Here’s what I do remember: Jitterbug go run over by a train or a big truck or something like that. It was horrific. The story had a tremendous build up of how wonderful and loved Jitterbug was. Then, he got killed. I hated that story.

The Bracelet: When Mom was a girl, her father bought her a bracelet. She got mad at him one day, took off the bracelet and threw it at him. He weeped. He didn’t cry or sob or tear up. He “weeped.” That’s how it was always said, like a Bible verse: “Daddy weeped.” My older brother so hated this story that he refused to listen to it after a while. (Dad, being cynical as he was, observed “Can you imagine what a cheap piece of junk that bracelet was?”) Nevertheless, Mom never got tired of telling it.

Poor Little George: Mom’s Uncle George was about the same age as she was. He had some kind of awful liver disease. He died when he was 8 years old while his parents were driving him to a specialist somewhere. This is a legitimately sad story. The kind of story best told once. Once.

Papaw: My grandfather–her father–was one of the finest people I’ve ever known. Kind, caring–just a nice guy. He did, however, have the cardiac history of Fred Sanford, having suffered innumerable heart attacks. Mom would recount some of those to me telling me how he barely survived each. Once, he had one while working underground in a coal mine. Again, he barely cheated death. My Dad’s version was much different: “When we got to Cumberland, your Papaw was flaked out on a lawn chair listening to a transistor radio. He didn’t look too sick to me.” Papaw later moved to Utah and any time we visited him, he cautioned that it could well be the last time we saw him. He reminded us of that, too. He died in 1998 at age 91. Oh, and I never knew him to have a heart attack.

So, that’s Mom. It’s easy to say you love your mother. I did, but I also liked her. She was funny. She cared about what happened to me. She always tried to help. She rarely raised her voice. In her later years, I don’t think she could yell. She spoke barely above a whisper, often prefacing her comments with “Oh, Lord, honey…”

When my younger brother died, sadness infected her like a bad cold she couldn’t shake. She got better but never well. Even with that, she was a good mom and grandmother. She is greatly missed but left me with a lot of good memories.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

Hunting Big Foot

This should read “Loyall, Home of Big Foot.”

I grew up in the Golden Age of Big Foot–the 1970’s.  I also grew up in the Land of Big Foot–Harlan County, Kentucky. I realize that the proper spelling of the species is “bigfoot,” but I prefer “Big Foot,” as his proper name.  I never saw Big Foot, but he was around, lurking.

Some 40 years later, my contemporaries ponder the state of the World.  They grieve over politics and social issues.  They worry about such mundane topics as prostate health and cardiovascular disease.  I, however, still think about Big Foot.

Eastern Kentucky has always had its share of tall tales.  There was Old John Shell, reputedly living to the ripe of old age of 130.  He killed a bear with his bare hands in a creek.  Thus, that creek is now known as Greasy Creek from the grease left by the bear’s carcass.  My Papaw used tell of a headless man who roamed the woods in Island Creek in Pike County.

We now live in a new era of Big Foot.  He’s making a comeback.  The History Channel used to be devoted to subjects like war–you know, history.  Now, it has shows about Big Foot.  Big Foot is on the Science Channel, The Learning Channel and others.   He’s a star again.

I first became familiar with Big Foot’s cousin, The Abominable Snowman.  The Abominable, of course, was one of the stars of the classic Christmas special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  He terrified me, even after Hermey sadistically pulled all his teeth.

I learned of the real Abominable through a magazine article–it might have been in Boy’s Life.  Someone had made plaster casts of his foot prints. They were huge!  He had to be real.

It was around that time that I first heard of Big Foot.  He might be known as Sasquatch elsewhere, but in Harlan County, he was–and will always remain–Big Foot.  Harlan County had Big Foot.

To be precise, Loyall had Big Foot.  Loyall is where I grew up.  It was–and is now–a small town.  For years, the sign into town said “Population 1100.”  I guess that was right.  I don’t know how long Loyall has been there, but I’d guess since 1911, the year the first trainload of coal was shipped out of Harlan County.

Loyall is a railroad town, home of a railroad yard.  Originally, it was the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.  Today, it’s CSX.  The “Yard” is huge, full of old relics and buildings which haven’t been used in decades, but it still runs trains.  It seems like most folks in Loyall worked for the railroad.  My uncle Jack was the Trainmaster at the Yard.  He made sure the trains ran on time–literally.

The Loyall Yard, many years ago. It looks pretty much the same today.

I lived most of my childhood in Rio Vista, a subdivision of sorts just outside Loyall.  It was 5 blocks of houses and a nice, quiet place to live.  Nice neighbors, you slept with your doors unlocked, etc–typical small town USA.  The only downside was that we lived right by the railroad tracks–as did most folks in Loyall.  Even today, I’m sure I could sleep soundly right by a train track.

Just outside Loyall is a mammoth cemetery, Resthaven.  That’s where my parents and younger brother–and many others–are interred.  Near the cemetery was a curved railroad bridge, which I was told was the first curved railroad bridge in the country.  I doubt that, but I like to think it’s true. So, Loyall was pretty ordinary.  Our biggest claim to fame was being saluted once on Hee Haw.

Even though Loyall was ordinary, it had its mysteries.  For example, there was Good Neighbor Road.  For the most part, it was just a little road at the foot of Park Hill lined with houses.  After about a half mile, the road ran out and turned into dirt.  People lived on that stretch, too, but I don’t know who they were.  Their dogs were vicious and would chase you like a pack of wolves.  Past those few homes was the sewer plant.  Past that was a big old house full of people.  We didn’t know them or what they were about.  A friend of mine and I used to go into the woods above that house and look at it with binoculars.  It looked like the house in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  We never saw anything interesting going on, but it was still creepy.  We knew they were up to no good.  My knew those folks and said they were alright.  I’m sure he was wrong about that.

Then, there was Old Loyall which really was no different from “new” Loyall except that’s where the Yard was located, and I guess it was older.  It’s also where City Hall and the fire department were–and still are–located. But, on the other side of the Yard was a strange stretch of road running behind the Yard.  In the back of the yard were a couple of old school buses with stove pipes in the windows.  People lived in those buses.  At least, I think they were people.

Our biggest mystery was Long Hollow.  It is above Park Hill, where I moved at age 12.  We lived–literally–on the side of the mountain.  The city of Harlan was on the other side of the mountain.  On our side of the mountain was a holler (“hollow” for you city folks).  That was Long Hollow, land of mystery.  To get to it, you had to hike straight through the woods above our house, maybe 500 feet.  Then, you hit the old mine road which you could follow for about a mile.  When it ran out, you just hiked.  Long Hollow was shaded, cool and more than a little eerie.  This is where Big Foot resided.

When I say I lived on the side of the mountain, I mean it.

I think my friend Norman first made me aware of Big Foot.  Norman was a font of information, some true and some false.  He knew of Big Foot, because Big Foot lived up above his house, deep in the woods.  Deep in Long Hollow, the mysterious cove well back in the mountain.

An aerial shot of Loyall showing Big Foot’s last known whereabouts.

It was probably in the 3rd or 4th grade that Norman described the great beast to me.  Big Foot had “the eyes of man; the nose of a bear; the ears of a man; the mouth of a bear; the hands of a man; the feet of a bear.”  Whew.  That’s one scary-sounding abomination.  Even at that young age, I could recognize exaggeration or outright lying, but it was an entertaining tale.

Norman and I saw the movie The Legend of Boggy Creek at the Margie Grand Theater in Harlan.  It was sort of a mock-documentary about the Boggy Creek Monster, kind of a poor man’s Big Foot.  This film had production values that would embarrass a pornographer, but it terrified me.  If Big Foot was anything like the Boggy Creek Monster, we were in trouble.

As an aside, the atmosphere of the Margie Grand made the film all the scarier.  The Margie Grand was an old theater–really old.  Plaster hung in big chunks from the ceiling.  The balcony sagged dangerously overhead.  The only time I was ever in there when the balcony was open, some kid peed off it–on to the audience below.  That’s a special effect George Lucas never thought of.  It had an old stage in front of the screen.  Norman and I would throw popcorn on the stage and watch the rats run out to eat it.  It added a certain grimy creepiness to anything you watched.  Years later, I watched The Legend of Boggy Creek on TV.  It wouldn’t frighten a preschooler.  But, at the Margie Grand, you half-expected the Boggy Creek Monster to be selling tickets.

We hunted for Big Foot.  Imagine, two small 10-year-old kids, heading into the woods, with knives on our belts seeking a beast which would tear us limb from limb.  We would stab him to death if it came to it. We were ready to take him on.

We walked the mining road, occasionally stopping to play with the old equipment.  Hey, we might have been Big Foot Hunters, but we were still kids.  An old dump truck was pretty cool.  Sometimes we encountered feral dogs or “wild” dogs as we called them.  Skinny, mangy and growling–they were damn scary.  I don’t care what kind of dog-lover you are, these mutts would scare the hell out of you. Sometimes, we’d go inside the portals of the old coal mines, an action far more dangerous than Big Foot.

I made several treks into Long Hollow to look for Big Foot.  I never found him.  Oh, occasionally, I saw his footprints or heard him off in the distance.  But, I never had the chance to take him on with my knife, which, incidentally, my cousin brought to me straight from Vietnam.

Some 40 years later, I still have my Big Foot hunting knife.

Even though we never saw Big Foot, people still had some fun with him.  I knew a kid who was obsessed with, and terrified by, Big Foot.  His father sawed huge feet out of plywood, strapped them to his feet and stomped around in their yard when it snowed.  He made tracks right up to his son’s bedroom window.  The kid didn’t sleep for weeks.  That’s a good way to assure years of therapy.

A friend of mine and I once took another kid in the woods to show him where we “saw” Big Foot.  We had another kid waiting to jump out and scare him.  Of course, we had no Big Foot costume nor were any us 9 or 10 feet tall.  Our ersatz Big Foot leaped from behind a tree screaming his best Big Foot scream and whacking a tree with a stick.  It sounded kind of like “YOWWWWWYAAHHH!!”  He had improvised his own Big Foot costume by combining a football helmet with a green Army poncho.  Strangely, it worked and our poor dupe ran screaming out of the woods.

Mostly, Big Foot disappointed me.  Honestly, I never saw him.  I also never saw any footprints.  I tried hard to imagine that I did.  I had seen the eponymous Big Foot film (known as the Patterson Film to us Big Foot-philes).  That’s what I wanted to see, but I didn’t.

Truthfully, I’ve always been a bit of a coward.  If I had really believed he existed, I probably wouldn’t have set foot in those woods.  Nevertheless, it was fun to think about it.  It still is.

Eventually, Big Foot became like the Wallins Creek Panther.  I heard for years that there was a panther in Wallins.  A HUGE panther.  After awhile, I realized that if that many people had seen it, someone would have killed it.  Big Foot–being gargantuan–couldn’t have hidden that long. Say what you will about Harlan County, but our people won’t hesitate to kill something.

Gradually, Big Foot left my consciousness.  He became a thing of memories, like 10 cent cokes and baseball cards.  When I visited my parents, I would sometimes look up toward Long Hollow and think about hiking around.  Mostly, though, I thought about how my parents must have been crazy to allow an 10-year-old to wander off into the woods.  I wouldn’t allow my kids to walk to the corner at that age.

One night, my sons and I watched an atrocious film called Yeti on the SciFi Channel.  Yeti (or Yetti) is another name for the Abominable Snowman.  This Yeti was a maniac, able to leap 40 feet in the air and cover 100 yards in a single bound.  He slaughters most of the football team from “State University” whose plane crashed on his mountain.  Eventually, the Yeti falls off a cliff.  Of course, we find out in the final frame that there were two Yetis, setting the stage for a sequel.  It did, though, bring back my memories of Big Foot.

I’m not sure what has caused the rest of the world’s renewed interest in Big Foot.  Maybe he’s just making a comeback like zombies have done in last few years.  I hope no one captures him.  Capturing is for wusses.  Stab him to death.  That was my plan.

One thing that has always puzzled me is whether there are multiple bigfoots (bigfeet?).  I mean, there have to be, right?  They re-produce, I guess.  Or maybe Big Foot is 130 years old like Old John Shell.  That might make more sense.

So, there you have it.  An actual Big Foot hunter right in your midst.  Oh, by the way, the men’s room at the Margie Grand had its toilet at the bottom of a long flight of stairs.  You had to stand on the steps to pee.  Weird.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

What I Know At 50

Living it up on my 50th birthday.

I’m 50 years old.  That’s just ridiculous, but it’s true.  I have no problem with being 50, mind you.  I’ve known plenty of folks who didn’t make it to 50.

50 is the first age I’ve reached that sounds old.  If you’re 50, you’ve been around the block.  Lived life. Done things.  I suppose that’s all true.

If I take a close look in the mirror, I look like I’m 50.  Gray hair, wrinkles, reading glasses.  I avoid full length mirrors. As a friend of mine once said, you know you’re old when you look better in any clothes than in no clothes at all.  50.

50 is a good age, at least so far.  At 50, I know quite a few things.  Of course, by 80 I will have experienced a lot of other things, but I may not know much about them.  After all, I’ll be 80 and may not be firing on all cylinders.

Here are the things I know:

I DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING

Most people my age know everything.  I mean every single freaking thing there is to know.  They know about politics, sports, children, religion, health–everything.  They also don’t hesitate to share their knowledge.  Me?  I don’t know all that much.  Oh, I know a lot about a few things (the law, sports, coal mining, my kids, movies, TV) and a little about a few things (religion, politics, space travel, geography, books, money, my wife and sundry other topics).  Then, there is the vast universe of things about which I know nothing useful or nothing at all (computers, foreign languages, women, art, math, photography, physics, Ayn Rand, the Spanish-American War, George Soros, Broadway, automobile repair, plumbing and many, many other things).

It wasn’t always that way.  Like all of us, I was born knowing nothing.  By the time I was in my teens, I knew everything and held onto that for several years.  In fact, my knowledge level peaked with my actually knowing more than everything, that is, knowing not only all there is to know but also knowing things that aren’t even generally known.

Chart showing the author’s knowledge level in relation to his age. Note that for a brief time in my late teens/early 20’s I exceeded the human capacity level for knowledge of all things.

I estimate that by the time I was 35, I only knew 75% of everything, having learned through fire that I did not know many things I had taken for granted.  For example, by then I had two children and was quite aware that there were many things I did not know, like how to prevent diaper rash.

My knowledge level has continually decreased to the point that I now know only half of everything.  Truthfully, that’s an exaggeration, as I am sure that I don’t know that much.  However, knowing that gives me extra credit and justifies inflating the figure to 50%.

I have some concern that this downward trend will continue.  Perhaps it will.  I am fortunate to have two teenage sons who can fill in the gaps of knowledge with all they know.

Folks my age are fond of saying “If I only knew then what I know now….”  What they really mean is “If only knew then what I think I know now….”  Here’s the deal, if you were young and were as opinionated and grouchy and self-righteous as most people my age, you’d have no friends.  Period.  Remember when you were a teenager.  If you’d had a friend who acted like a 50-year-old man, you would have beaten him with a bag of door knobs.

The best part about knowing that I don’t know everything is that I will sometimes listen to people who know about things that I don’t know anything about.  Then, I learn.

LIVING IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS

My father was fond of saying that there were no “Good Old Days.”  This was primarily because he lived a Dickensian existence of want.  Thanks to him, I lived no such childhood.  Nevertheless, I agree wholeheartedly with his assessment, albeit for different reasons.

These are the good old days for me.  I’m healthy.  I have a good job.  I like my job.  I have disposable income.  My children are healthy and seem to be fairly decent sorts.  I have a good wife. I do most of what I want to do when I want to do it.  No one tells me what time to go to bed or get up or where to go or what to do when I get there.

Hey, what about the teen years?  Don’t you want to live that again?  ARE YOU CRAZY?  I had fun as a teenager, especially college, but I wouldn’t do that again for anything.  The angst, the drama, the idiotic decisions.  Being a teenager is best left to the teens.  By the time they realize they and their friends are idiots, they’ll be my age.

Here’s something that’s cool.  I’m not far away from the age where I can hug young women and say inappropriate things and be dismissed as “sweet.”  I’m not there, yet, though.  I’m still young enough to be considered creepy and dangerous.

I’M AN ADULT

I’m an adult. I’m 50.  I can eat pork rinds for dinner if I want.  Last night, I ate a huge piece of cheesecake.  I can do that for breakfast, too.  I can stay up late (assuming I don’t naturally just fall asleep–not insubstantial risk after sundown). These are all good things.

I also have credibility.  At 50, I’m a grown man, you know.  Gray hair helps (on a man, that is).  I look like I might know a few things.  I can call people “son” or–if I’m on edge–“boy.”

Gray hair means I’m worldly and must be taken seriously

Reading glasses also lend an air of respectability.  I can take them off and gesture with them.  I can look at things and give the impression that I’m really paying attention.  I can chew on the ear piece to appear to be deep in contemplation.

Your author demonstrates how the use of a $10 pair of reading glasses creates an authoritative aura lacking in today’s youth.

Young people have none of these tools available.  Much like wearing a tie, these simple accoutrements makes life easier.  Below is an example of my foolish efforts to be taken seriously in my youth:

At age 26, your author naively believed that such things as a coonskin cap and a noisemaker would make others respect him.

When I go to Starbucks or a restaurant, pretty young women call me “honey” and “sweetie.”  Okay, it’s a little patronizing, but I like it.  Recently, a comely lass at the gym asked me how old I was and whether I used a trainer.  “I still got it,” I thought and responded:  “I’m 49, but I don’t use a trainer.”  She said: “Oh, I just wondered.  My dad is 45 and wants to get in shape.”  Oh well.

Mostly, it’s all good.  People call me “Sir” and “Mister.”  Some of my kids’ friends’ parents even call me “Mister.”  I don’t correct them. I like it.

KIDS ARE GOOD

Most people my age have children, or so it seems.  I’m glad I have children.  They’ve been fun and only occasionally have I wanted to kill them.

When I was young, I didn’t know if having kids would be important or not.  Then, I had one.  Man, oh, man, was it important!  I changed many, many diapers.  I got thrown up on–not to mention other bodily discharges.   I was fascinated.  Still am.

I’ve blogged about kids before, so I won’t wear you out with that again.  My point:  I’m glad I have kids, and they’ve kept me young.  At 50, I have a ten-year old son.  That’s very cool.

DON’T DISCOUNT LUCK

No one likes give credit to luck.  But, like Ignatius P. Reilly bemoaning  in A Confederacy of Dunces, “Oh, Fortuna…”, we will give luck all the blame.  I’ve found luck to be a valuable asset.

Like most people, my ego whispers in my ear telling me that I deserve all the good things but none of the bad.  I deserve the good, of course, because I’ve earned it, by God.  The bad stuff is caused by everyone else or just plain old bad luck.

Branch Rickey said that “Luck is the residue of design.”  I don’t know what the hell that means.  Another Baseball Hall of Famer, Grover Cleveland Alexander said: “I’d rather be lucky than good.”  I know what that means, and I agree with it.

Grover Cleveland Alexander was a wise–and hard living–man. He looked like this at 40. Maybe he’d run out of luck.

I’ve had more than my share of good luck.  I’ve been married 24 years.  I’d love to take credit for that, but luck plays a role.  I’m lucky she married me and lucky she puts up with me.  I’m lucky to be alive.  I’ve done a stuff that could have killed me, but it didn’t.  Luck.

I’ve had bad luck, too, like everyone else.  I quit saying “Why me?” a long time ago.  Now, I say “Why not me?”  Luck cuts both ways, but I’m glad I’ve had more good than bad.

LIGHTEN UP

I’m not that important.  Seriously.  Neither are you.  Sorry, but it’s true.  If you’re lucky (that word again!), your family and maybe a few friends think you’re important.  Maybe your dog, too.  That’s about it.

What about work?  If you think you’re important in your job, try this:  Quit.  I did that one day.  Just quit a job I’d had for 18 years.  They were fine with it.  If you quit, some people will want you to stay, some will be glad to see you go and all of them will forget about you in a few weeks.

Of course, it’s possible that you actually are really important in your job.  Maybe you’re the best there is.  If you are, I’m willing to bet you monumentally suck at something very important in your life.  Back off your job and take a look at some of those other things.

You could also just die–the ultimate test of your importance.  The downside is that you may not be able to see what happens next.  Here’s what happens.  A handful of people are really upset, a few are concerned and most don’t give a damn.  That’s it.

Life isn’t a long, slow trudge to the grave.  At least it shouldn’t be.  Work, politics, religion, taxes, injustice–all those things will survive after I’m long gone.  Lighten up.

Once I lightened up (and it took years to do), I learned my final, most important lesson.

LIFE IS GOOD

When Leon Trotsky was living in exile in Mexico, he famously penned in his journal “Life is beautiful.”  He wrote this knowing that assassins were after him and would soon succeed in their quest.  And they did.  I used to think Trotsky was a nut.  He wasn’t.

Life is beautiful.  Not only that, it’s good, too.  It took me a long time–too long–to believe that.  Why is life good?  Here’s why:

  • Laughing
  • Things that smell good
  • Little kids
  • Kissing
  • Sports
  • Books
  • Movies
  • The Internet
  • Naps
  • Food
  • Friends
  • Microwave Ovens
  • Television
  • The beach

We all enjoy at least some of these.  If you don’t, you’re missing out, and it would suck to be you.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

A Touch Of Evel (Knievel)

THE EVEL ONE

I grew up in the time of Evel Knievel. If you are of a certain age, that name resonates. If you are young, you may wonder why I don’t know how to spell evil. Trust me. It’s Evel.

Robert “Evel” Knievel was an icon of the 1970’s. He dressed like Elvis. He had swag before there was swag. If you were a kid in the ’70’s, you knew Evel.

Good or bad, there was only one Evel Knievel

He rode motorcycles. “Rode” isn’t quite right. He jumped things on his motorcycle. Cars and buses mostly. Actually, he attempted to jump things. He crashed a lot, and we loved it. It was said that he broke every bone in his body. That wasn’t true, but we didn’t care.

Evel could jump trucks, cars, vans–you name it.

He would do this a lot, too.

He was a staple of ABC’s Wide World of Sports. I’d tune in to see him jump stuff. Secretly, I hoped he’d crash–that was far cooler than a successful landing. He’d ride back and forth in front of the ramp, popping wheelies. Then, he’d ride to the top of the take off ramp and give the thumbs up. Then, it was on!

There was movie about Evel called, appropriately, Evel Knievel, starring a pre-tanned George Hamilton.  It was a largely fictionalized story of his life.  It ended with Evel contemplating a jump across the Grand Canyon.  Even though I was a little kid, I had been to the Grand Canyon and knew that would be no simple feat.

My little brother had the Evel Knievel stunt cycle and action figure. Evel was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  Evel was a rock star.  He even gave me one of my favorite quotes.  “If you were supposed to hang on to money, they’d put handles on it.”  Or something like that.

The apex of his career was the Snake River Canyon jump.  He abandoned the Grand Canyon idea but still harbored dreams of a “big” jump.  Snake River Canyon in Idaho was it.  It was hyped for months.  Evel built a steam-powered Sky Cycle which would fire off a launching platform and hurl him across the canyon.  The event was so big that it was available only on closed-circuit television (the grandfather of pay-per-view, for you youngsters).  On September 8, 1974, it happened. Alas, the parachute deployed on take-off causing Evel to crash to the canyon floor without crossing the river.  I was very disappointed, but I admired his trying.  You had to be crazy to try that.

Evel being lowered into Sky Cycle X-2 at Snake River Canyon.

Evel became so popular that he eventually starred in his own movie, Viva Knievel, an almost unwatchably awful film.  As with most bad films, the plot was a convoluted mess of drug dealers, conspiracies, fights and romantic subplots.     Evel was duped into performing a dangerous stunt in Mexico not knowing that drug dealers planned to kill him and then use his fabulous 18-wheeler to ship cocaine back to the US. Gene Kelly, at what had to be the low point of his career, plays an alcoholic mechanic and Leslie Nielsen is a villanous drug lord.  Evel actually heals a child in a wheelchair by merely visiting a hospital.  Evel also delivers several inspiring monologues on the evils of “dope.”   Lauren Hutton, Red Buttons and Marjoe Gortner all makes appearances, a bunch of stuff happens and Evel saves the day.

Viva Knievel is when Evel jumped the shark, as they say.  If it wasn’t then, it certainly occurred when he beat the living hell out of a writer named Shelly Saltman.  It seems that Saltman wrote an unflattering book about Evel who expressed his displeasure with a baseball bat.  Evel drew a little jail time and kinda faded from view.  He would reappear on occasions like filing bankruptcy or getting a liver transplant.  His influence on me was brief but strong.

TIME FOR ME TO FLY

I offer all this as background to explain Evel’s influence on me.  For a brief time, I wanted to be Evel Knievel wearing a leather jump suit and cape, risking my life.  His idea of jumping the Grand Canyon intrigued me.  How could you do this?  I thought a lot about it.  You’d need wings, I guess.  I got an idea.

How hard would it really be to fly?  The Evel Knievel movie came out in 1971, so I was probably 9 when I got this idea.  I would try to fly in my backyard.  Simple enough.  I just needed wings.

I thought about making some out of plywood, but abandoned that after I realized how heavy plywood was.  At my diminutive size, I wouldn’t be able to flap them fast enough.  But I didn’t give up.  What about jumping off the porch with an umbrella?  That was just stupid.  Then, I got an idea–a brilliant idea.

My little brother had an inflatable baby pool.  What if I put it on my back–kind of like a cape? I could spread it out and glide.  It was lightweight and gliding eliminated the aerodynamic impossibility of flapping hard enough to stay air-borne.  Perfect.

My test run was off the back porch.  Now, our back porch was only about 4 feet high. If it didn’t work, I wouldn’t get hurt.  I got up on the porch with my baby pool, spread my “wings” and hunkered down for the jump.  Our clothes line was about 20 feet away, and I figured that would be a good landing spot.  3…2…1…LAUNCH!  POW!  I hit the ground.  Hmmm.  I’m sure the Wright Brothers had failures, too.  The good news was that I was sure that I did sense–if only briefly–that I was suspended in air.  Not a complete failure.  Back to the drawing board.

I was a pretty smart kid, and I quickly realized that caution had been my enemy.  By using the porch, I had denied myself the benefit of (1) Being in the air longer; and (2) Catching enough air to hang up there for a while.  If I could catch even the faintest of breezes, it could make all the difference.

After some consideration, I determined that the top of the garage was the perfect launching spot.  It was probably 10-12 high and right by the clothes line.  If something went horribly awry, I could just grab the clothes line and safely swing to the ground.  If it worked–as it surely would–I would glide across the back yard and land safely on the porch, covering a distance of about 30-40 feet.

At this point, I should note that I had an older brother.  He was much smarter than I was.  If I had only consulted him, things would have been different.  I suppose I knew that and didn’t want him to crush my dreams with some brainiac explanation.

The day came.  First, I got the ladder and tossed the pool on top of the garage.  Then, I climbed up.  It’s funny how 10-12 feet doesn’t sound real high until you look down, especially if you’re about 4 feet tall.  I’ll admit that my confidence was a little shaky.  On the plus side, there was a good breeze.  The only problem was that it was blowing away from the porch toward Mr. Wade’s farm across the fence.  I really hoped that I didn’t blow over there.  He scared me a little.

I pulled the pool on my back, tightened my grip and readied myself by squatting into launch position.  I had reasoned that I needed to first launch upward, then I could bank toward the porch.  3…2…1…LAUNCH!  For split second–very split, mind you–it was working.  I was among the birds.

If you ever fall and have enough time to think about it while you’re in the air, it is terrifying.  The ground rushed up at me at around 1000 miles an hour.  Embarrassingly, I think I actually flapped my wings once in an effort to prevent the inevitable.

The ground was hard.  My ankle rolled.  I face-planted.  It hurt.  Luckily, I wasn’t seriously injured.  A scrape on my forehead and sprained ankle.  Now, I felt like an idiot, of course.  I had to pretend I wasn’t hurt since I would never admit that I had jumped off the garage with a baby pool on my back.  I hobbled around a few days and that was that.  Later, I casually asked my brother how birds could fly.  He offered me an explanation about aerodynamics.  Boy, was this all a dumb idea.  Oh, well.

BACKYARD EVEL

I wasn’t done with my daredevil ways.  There was still the matter of jumping things.  I, of course, would use a bicycle instead of a motorcycle.  This time I had a partner, my best friend Jimmy.  Jimmy was, in a sense, my alter ego.  He was the kid who would do anything, regardless of the danger involved–and he had the broken bones and scars to prove it.  Remember how your mother cautioned you about losing an eye? He did that–a stick right in his eye.

Jimmy and I were probably 12 years old, and we both admired Evel.  I’ll admit that Jimmy had a bit more Evel in him that I did.  He had, for example, invented the game of Tire Wrestling where we would roll large truck tires at each other and try to tackle them.  It was a very painful–yet fun–game.

We tried our hand at jumping our bikes off ramps on occasion, usually just a 2 x 10 and cinder block, but I had greater ambitions.  We built a ramp in my back yard.  A real ramp.  It was made out of plywood and about 3 feet high.  It looked something like this:

Artist’s rendering of ramp design

In our past efforts we had encountered two problems.  First, was the ramp itself.  A piece of wood on a cinder block was too unsteady, plus it didn’t launch us high enough in the air.  This was now remedied.  The second was that bicycles are not really designed for flight.  They tend to be heavy in the front or at least almost as heavy as they are in the back.  This tended to cause the bike to land on its front tire, a disaster as Evel had learned on several occasions.  I needed a bike with a better design.  As luck would have it, I had one available.  My brother had a Schwinn Lemon Peeler, just about the coolest bike ever made.

The Schwinn Lemon Peeler

After studying the design of the Lemon Peeler, I was confident that it was perfect.  The larger racing “slick” in the back, the smaller wheel in the front, shock absorbers–perfect.

Jimmy went first–on his own bike.  He hit the ramp flying, shot up in the air and hit the ground in a violent crash with his bike flipping backward.  He landed almost squarely on his back.   He got up laughing, ready to for another go.  But it was my turn, and I wasn’t crashing.

I made a couple of passes by the ramp, just like Evel, and I was ready to go.  I took off, got my speed up and hit the ramp.  It felt right.

I wish there was a video of my jump.  Jimmy said the landing looked good-right on the back wheel as planned.  Here’s what I remember: The handlebars hitting my jaw and the back sprocket digging into my right shin.  I don’t know what went wrong, but I was on the ground with my head ringing and my leg throbbing.

I looked down at my shin and there was hole–right on the shin.  The hole was about an inch long and a quarter-inch wide.  It was gunked up with grease from the sprocket but there was still the white gleam of bone shining through.  Oh, and the big hunk of skin on the sprocket.

I ran to the house and looked at it.  This was bad.  I called to my older brother.  He looked at it and went into a swoon.  He gathered himself and told me that it HAD to be cleaned out.  I begged him not to tell our parents.  I then went to bathroom to find appropriate cleaning supplies.

Peroxide first.  I poured it in the hole.  It stung a little but not too bad.  The hole wasn’t bleeding, just weird-looking. (Later in life, I had horrible infection in my left leg and learned that the skin on one’s shin has very little blood flow).  The throbbing subsided, but it was still filthy.  My mother had warned me of the horrors of infection, so I dabbed it with a cotton ball.  That helped, and it still didn’t hurt. too bad.

I thought about putting Mercurochrome on it, but it seemed beyond that.  I only had one choice.  Rubbing alcohol.  I knew this was the ultimate disinfectant.  Oh, I knew it would burn some.  My mother had applied to various injuries, and it always stung.  I would soak a cotton ball and drip a little in the hole as a test.

Sometimes pain in so sudden, so severe, that it isn’t really like pain.  It’s more like something you taste-like you have taste buds in the middle of your brain.  It was like someone had driven a burning nail into my forehead.  That subsided and then it focused on my shin.  It burned so deeply that I was certain it would kill me.  I then stuck my leg in the tub and rinsed it.  That helped. A little. Forty years later, I can still feel it.

I managed to hide my leg from Mom for a few days.  The hole started to turn black around the edges and smelled funny.  That’s when I showed Mom.  She cried and carried on and then took me to the doctor.  Some strong antibiotics and I was good as new.  Of course, the leg was never the same:

Your author still bears the scar of his backyard folly

That was the end of my daredevil career.  It’s probably for the best anyway.  Evel had drug problems, money problems and was crippled up pretty bad.  All I got was the scar on my leg.  But it’s pretty cool.

 ©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012