Sunday, July 15, 2007

Uber Redneck

I have written several stories about some of my friends with more than a little of the characteristic blush around the collar. I have to admit I am related to a few as well. Most of my paternal family are coal miners, entrepreneurs (shiftless), and in some cases incarcerated felons. The majority have a flirting relationship with common sense, untinged by the slightest hint of restraint.

One of my cousins is among the impressively departed, because he made a few misjudgments. His judgment wasn't always the best anyway.

Early on he tried to hang (current usage for the expression) with the older crowd, that would be me and some of the cousins. We didn't get him hurt, rather, we inspired him to excel by doing things we wouldn't dream of. He got his fanny whipped so often he didn't even notice anymore. His Mom got considerable exercise erasing our influences, mostly upper body, but some good cardio as well. That means she beat him until she was out of breath and too tired to whack him again. Not to fear, he was too hard headed to pay a lot of attention to that sort of thing.

Most every mountain boy dreams of going out of the mountains, to anywhere that's far away. He was no exception and eventually slipped away to join the Army. He had seen all the recruiting posters that show beautiful facilities at Ft. Carson, and knew it was just the place for him. No one told him who would be doing all the upkeep at those places. This was in the late seventies, all the poster shots were like real-estate photos, everything looked a lot better than it was.

He signed up, and likely got his first hint of a swindle when his Basic bus stopped in front of his new home, and he was greeted by a large angry man in a flat hat. That’s a tough day, I don't care who you are. He persevered and managed to esca,,, graduate from training.

Very soon the trouble began. The trouble included several article 15, nonjudicial punishment, assessments against his pay. Though I was never told about them, I suspect some correctional custody stays for the tail end of his military career. He decided the military wasn't for him and went home. Call it AWOL, or desertion, it's the same thing. One you are getting shot at, the other you're not. At that time the Army didn't expend a lot of effort to get you back, so his vacation was extended, considerably.

Eventually someone realized he was a fugitive until the situation was resolved, and made a call. The MP's showed up and hauled him away for a couple of weeks, then sent him home. The resolution was a discharge with no benefits. Employers in that part of the sticks couldn't care less which kind of discharge the military gave you, it didn't effect your lousy pay anyway.

He got the job of his dreams, being underpaid on a strip mine. Even his pleasure over this step up in the world couldn't motivate him to get out of bed and go to be productive. His car pool (truck pool?) was of like mind, and these boys would be so late the rest of us would just call in sick and stay home. Being the people they were, they would try to get there as quick as they could, to save having to explain to the boss.

I wonder if that few extra winks were worth dying for, probably not.

On the morning of their shuffle (sprint?) off to the next life, they were way late. The driver/pilot had a big block Ford pickup and an IQ barely escaping single digits. The roads in the mountains near their job is crooked enough to make a Nascar driver pee his pants.

I learned to drive on the same roads as Junior Johnson and some of the old drivers. I've never been known for my restraint behind the wheel, and those roads scared me!

The boys were trying to make an impression, being fashionably late and all. They made an impression all right, into a bridge abutment. The driver lost control, if he was ever in control, on the last curve before the turn into the site. The truck with its unhappy occupants sailed from the road bed in a high trajectory through a stand of large Poplars, cutting six of them off at ten or so feet above the ground. They hit the above mentioned bridge across the Clinch river and knocked it off the foundation.

People this was a concrete bridge built to carry coal trucks!

Don't try this at home!!!

The truck was compressed around the bodies so badly they couldn't be removed. This was in the days before a Hurst Tool was more than something on TV. Several hours and the careful application of hydraulics and chains, considerable retching, and no doubt some painful memories, the boys were extracted. The service was closed casket.

My Dad was in the fifth wave at Normandy, and at some point in recon, got the undertaker to open the box.

He said it was pretty bad, I'll take his word for it.


Flo said...

"...we inspired him to excel by doing things we wouldn't dream of."

I love that line! I'm gonna borrow it, if you don't mind.

Hammer said...

Oh man that is awful. I've taken some stupid rides and glad I lived long enough to not be dumb anymore.