Commentary from the boondocks. If it makes any sense, it is just by chance. email@example.com
Friday, January 24, 2003
Cletus said he has been thinking about Southern names. He said he read something by a Rick Bragg from over in Piedmont where he said he was asked by a New Yorker why so many Southerners used two first names. His answer was "Why not? It's just about the only thing that doesn't cost you something." I'm sure that is not an exact quote since Cletus tends to add his own unique touches to things, but you get the idea. Cletus says there has to be some convention to how we name our younguns. Bubba asked why he thought that we needed to get a bunch of people together to name a kid. Cletus got pretty hot about that and said that he sure was glad their Mama managed to raise one intelligent son. Before Bubba could think about that, Cletus said he was talking abut the way we picked names. He said he had been thinking about it and had decided that it was like english rules, you know, "i" before e except after "c" and that sort of thing. Bubba asked what he thought the rules were. Cletus said he is still working on it but he thinks that it has to do with flow. You can name a boy Joe Bob but not Bob Joe because it just doesn't flow. If you name a boy something like Fred, he is stuck with only one name unless you call him Freddy Ray or something like that. A boy named Floyd would never have a second first name because it just dosn't flow.
Bubba asked him if this fell under the heading of philosophy. Cletus turned a little red since he is a little sensitive about jokes about his intellectual endeavors as he calls them, but then he looked thougtful (He has been practicing that look.) and said he supposed so.
I had to get back to cooking, so I left them to their discussions. By the looks of it, it is going to cost me about a whole pecan pie.
Wednesday, January 22, 2003
Saturday morning was about the usual assortment of people here in the BBQ Emporium for breakfast which we only serve on Saturdays. There was Cletus and Bubba as usual and a few rocket scientists headed out for a day of hunting. We call everyone who works down at Redstone Arsenal a rocket scientist since that’s what they do down there. One of the scientists said that he was looking forward to Tennessee finally getting their lottery up and running so that he could go buy a ticket. Cletus said they could leave him out of that trip. Someone asked if he believed the lottery was wrong and he said no. One of the scientists asked if it was because he knew his chances of winning were so low and Cletus said no, it was because he was afraid he might win. He said his Uncle Floyd and Aunt Myrt won the Georgia lottery and it ruined their lives. Someone had to go and ask how it ruined their lives and Cletus was off and running. Here is the story as he told it.
Well, I’m sure most of you remember my Uncle Floyd McLain and Aunt Myrt. They lived on my Gramma McLain’s farm and took care of her until she passed on a few years ago. Uncle Floyd was her youngest born in 1926 and he never left home. He married Myrt and they moved into Gramma McLain’s house and lived there until after they won the lottery. They never had any younguns and Gramma used to say that it was because Myrt was cursed. Sometimes when me and Bubba and all our cousins were there, Myrt would look at us and say that a curse could be a blessing. I never did figure that out. Anyway, Gramma let Myrt cook for the family on Sundays and Floyd took care of her farm and animals after he finished his day down at the shirt mill. Floyd worked down there as a forklift driver and Myrt worked as a sewing machine operator and after a few years they were making six dollars an hour each, had doctor insurance and what with living with Gramma, pretty well had it made. Floyd even bought himself a little boat and on Saturdays, he would tow it down to the boat launch at the B.B. Comer Bridge and spend the day fishing. He never went fishing on Sundays like the rest of us because Gramma wouldn’t stand for anyone living under her roof defiling the Lord’s Day by fishing.
Floyd had an old Dodge pickup with one of them slant sixes and he never drove faster than about 50 and a little slower when he was towing his boat. He used to say that the people on US 431 were really nice since almost all of them honked and waved at him when they passed. Well, Gramma was getting along in years and she divided up her property among her younguns. She gave Floyd and Myrt the house and the farmland to the rest. Floyd didn’t seem real happy, but Gramma explained that a house was more valuable that a few acres of land. Floyd said he guessed he could spend some money and fix the holes in the walls and maybe get some insulation and that settled that.
A few months later, Gramma passed on to her reward and Floyd started fixing up the house so you wouldn’t have known it. He replaced windows and fixed the roof and painted the place and put in a Bermuda grass lawn.
About then, one of the scientists said that he thought this story was about the lottery. Cletus said he was getting to that, but he just showing that Floyd and Myrt had a good life before they won the lottery.
Floyd was working overtime to get the money to fix up his house and one night on his break, he heard on e the night crew talking about seeing a six-legged calf over at Rising Fawn, Georgia. That was something he had never imagined could exist and as Myrt said, he became obsessed with going to see the calf and all the other wonders they had over there. Floyd was spending all his time and money on fixing up his house, but one Saturday night, he told Myrt that he had saved up forty dollars and they were going to Rising Fawn the next day to see the six-legged calf. Well, they never missed church and there had even been talk of making Floyd a Deacon, so Myrt thought he had completely lost his mind. But like a dutiful wife should, she got up early and fixed them some baloney sandwiches for lunch, but Floyd said to leave them. They were going to eat lunch in the Huddle House at Rising Fawn.
They headed off down highway 35 and got on the Interstate at Ft. Payne. It was Floyd’s first time on the Interstate and he got the old Dodge up to sixty and headed to Georgia. Floyd never had had his tires balanced and the Dodge fairly bounced its way to Georgia but neither of them really noticed since it never was the smoothest thing on then road. They got down to Rising Fawn and it was everything Floyd had imagined although the six-legged calf was pickled and the other attractions weren’t exactly as he thought they would be. He and Myrt had a great day and ate lunch in the Huddle House and that was good although they agreed that it wasn’t as good as what Myrt cooked up on Sundays. Myrt said that she would give the Huddle House food a few extra points since she didn’t have to cook it and they had a good laugh over that
After they ate, Floyd drove over to the filling station to get gas. Now he never put more that five dollars worth of gas in the Dodge at one time, but he saw that price was thirty cents a gallon less than back in Alabama, so he decided to fill it up. He had a twenty dollar bill left, but try as he may, he couldn’t get more than $19 in the tank. He went in to pay and saw a little sign that said he could win a million dollars in the Georgia lottery. He had a dollar left. He stood there for the longest time thinking about how gambling is a sin, but then he had already skipped church and wasted money eating out so he told the girl to give him one of them lottery tickets.
The next Sunday, Floyd came down here to the BBQ Emporium and looked in the newspaper to see if he had won any money. He had learned his numbers by heart, but he wrote the ones in the paper down and went back home where he and Myrt got their lottery ticket out. Myrt read off the numbers Floyd brought back and he checked the lottery ticket. Then Floyd read the numbers while Myrt checked the ticket. After doing that about a dozen times, Floyd drove back to the Emporium and wrote the numbers down again. After a few dozen more checks, they finally decided that they had won the lottery. They also noticed that they had missed church for the second Sunday in a row.
Floyd read the back of the ticket on how to get your money and discovered that he was going to get his million dollars paid out over 20 years. That didn’t seem to be quite the same as being a millionaire, but it was still more money than he ever imagined. He and Myrt got up on Monday and drove back to Georgia to get their first payment. The lottery people deducted $15,000 for taxes, but $35,000 was still more money than either Floyd or Myrt had ever seen. On the way home, Floyd bought a new Dodge pickup with an automatic transmission and a V8 motor, air-conditioning and duellies in the back. Floyd usually paid cash for what he bought and all he had was the lottery check, but when he told the car salesman that he would have to go the bank to cash it, the salesman’s boss got all excited and said that Floyd could just take the truck and come pay them when he had time. By the time they got home, there were people waiting at their house and a woman from the TV station to interview them and they were on the 6:00 News with Floyd saying that he had bought a new pickup and Myrt saying that she was going to buy one of them side-by-side refrigerators and maybe some new curtains for the living room. Myrt’s brother Freddy asked if they could give him the money to buy a new chainsaw for his logging business and several other people asked Floyd if he wanted to invest in their businesses.
The next day, they went in to work and were called into the manager’s office. He told them that he was having to let some people go since business was slow. Since they were rich, he knew that they wouldn’t want to take work from the poor working people so he was letting them go first. When they got home, the preacher was waiting on the porch. He said that gambling was a sin, but that if Floyd would give 10% to the Church, they could get down right then and there and pray for his soul. Floyd wasn’t feeling too good right then so he told the preacher he would think about it. Before the day was over, Floyd and Myrt got a dozen calls from people wanting to help them invest their money, a bunch asking them to give some of the money to the caller because they should help the poor and several calls trying to sell them land in Florida.
Well, that went on for about a week until one day Floyd said to Myrt that they needed to just go for a drive in the new pickup. They drove off toward Huntsville and passed a big Dodge pickup like theirs and it was pulling a trailer behind it at about 60 MPH. Floyd followed it into a gas station and asked the driver where he got the trailer. The man said it was a fifth-wheeler and you could buy them most anywhere. Floyd drove into Huntsville and although it made him real nervous with all the other cars and trucks around, he found an “RV’ place. That’s what it said on the sign out front, but they had a lot of them little trailers and some houses with motors and steering wheels and everything. The salesman showed Floyd how some people hooked cars to the back of the big RV’s as he called them. Floyd stood there thinking about the six-legged calf and all the wonders the he had never seen. He and Myrt traded the almost new pickup for a 30 foot RV and a little old Dodge car. They went back home and Floyd spent a few days getting someone to buy the old home place. He practiced driving the RV and then towing the car. He even got a ticket for driving 70 in a 65 out near Gurley.
After a month or so, Floyd and Myrt got in the RV and headed west. We haven’t seen them since. That was about 15 years ago. We get a card from them at Christmas. They have a post office box somewhere in Texas. You can write them there and Floyd has a cell phone so we can call him if someone dies, but they never come back here. Mama always says that Floyd was a happy man until he won the lottery and now he is a vagabond spending his winters in some place called Tempe, Arizona.
“See”, Cletus said, “Winning the lottery ruined his life. You couldn’t give me one of those lottery tickets.”