The Distant Drums - Part Two

By A. H. Watson

My fetish, my sick interest, if you will, concerning Wal-Mart, had gone on for weeks. I fought it for a time; after all, I had given up a 40-year two-pack cigarette habit, one morning, fifteen years ago - by simply stopping.

Same thing with booze; by drinking every Yankee woman in Christendom pretty, I had helped the Kennedy Clan bootleg Scotch into a low class of social acceptance and wealth. This too I had abandoned easily? even though it caused a mighty protest above Mason Dixie Line.

For many weeks I fought my desire to be amongst the shoppers - swirling, pressing, in constant intellectual torpor, accompanied, in my mind, by a constant babble of strange language and smells; much as a Marrakech slums on market day. My mind could not break clean from all those thoughts

Daily I would settle some 300 yards from the front entrance and with powerful binoculars spend hours watching the people. Just as Lewis Gizzard once said, ?Line up ten blonds and I?ll bet you a thousand bucks I will pick out the one truck stop waitress in the crowd.?

To my knowledge, Lewis never lost that bet.

Like Lewis, I now believe that I can sort trash, goobers and upper class by transportation considerations. One peek at their means of ?motation? and I am fairly certain of my picks. Let me also take a quick look at the interior, and I will seldom miss.

Starting with the ?better off?? thought to my knowledge no one with a million dollar paycheck has ever shopped directly at Wal-Mart. To that end, I have never seen a Rolls Royce or Austin Martin in the main lot at the mall.

The very rich, and the very poor Blacks, surprisingly, own the most expensive cars in the lot. Doctors, lawyers, and other local businessmen arrive in various makes from Volvo, to Cadillac ? so do the middle class and very poor, but with some notable differences in the cars themselves.

The rich, invariably, arrive in cars with all the bells and whistles; A car salesman?s wet dream; but then so do the very poor blacks? but for different reasons.

The wealthy buy toys to use ?GPS, maps, locator systems, perhaps even air conditioning in the glove compartment. In fact, they continually convince themselves that they would be cheating or endangering the family not to purchase the over priced goodies. This secret rationalization easily overcomes the normal desire of the wealthy to put the money under a rock ? that urge being the reason they are in fine monetary fettle to start with.

I am reminded of a legal buddy who had soaked in the vat of funds from the robbery committed by the legal Johns and their whores in Congress - the rape of smokers, and the brave companies that supplied them.

Invited to his new home one evening, I was ushered immediately to the solarium at the rear of the house. It looked out upon an Olympic sized pool at the foot of a ?pool house?? a structure many square feet larger than my own home.

Hands in his recently acquired smoking jacket, Kent?s first words to me, standing there, mouth open, had been?

?Just had to build that damn pool house, Bubba. You see Doris has a tendency to worry about skin cancer and she needed a little shade.?

?Yeah?and an ant needs to fuck just one elephant before he dies.?

It had just slipped out, but Kent continued to pout until we were well into the after dinner liquors. The rich, it seems, both need and yearn for understanding, as well.

From my time watching the mall and Wal-Mart, I have seen that blacks and the rich sometimes own the same type cars, this including all those expensive extras.

I know, the question begged is? ? Then how do you tell??

Well, understand?blacks buy the same automobile as the rich because they can. Yes, it is that simple? the middle class pays for everything else ? most blacks, therefore, have fine credit. Think - if you didn?t have to pay for school, food, rent, utilities, and health - could you afford a more expensive car?

Nor do the blacks care if cars are repossessed. At its deepest level it is all a case of ?get whitey.? Unlike the middle class white community, there is little shame in repossession. ?Didn?t have the car last week - won?t have it next,? so we will drive hard this week. An attitude held, as well, by the local white trash? a group, if possible, harder on an automobile than even blacks.

But how do you tell just who owns the car in the parking lot?

Look inside. If the GPS, map and depth finder look like children have been playing with them (they have) - and the radio is gone, it is a black?s car.

If the car looks much older?say thirty days, and the holes have been filled with plywood, then just check out the back seat for junk. Old Battery, McDonald?s, Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes and piles of crap that you don?t even recognize, all are a major tell.

You ask about the full-blown black Caddy with all the bells and whistles, but with one additional item?full tinted windshield?Well, sure, you could guess Black ownership because of the windows, but it could be a Hollywood owner as well. So, then what is ?the tell? in that situation?

If the black caddy is perfectly clean on the outside ?just washed, then it is a Black owner.

The wealthy will allow a light dust to gather on the car. It makes them feel as though they are mixing with the masses ?and it saves a couple of bucks a year. So, the wealthy male will allow dirt to build until it looks a wee shabby, or until the wife bitches.

Blacks may have to wait until things stop falling out into the front yard before getting behind the wheel, but he would never leave home with out washing the car - It is in the genes. But then, in truth, he will drop the hose (still running) and leave it all day. The water bill is normally paid by whitey. That too is in the genes.

Of course, you can shortcut all of this by looking at the wheels. If they are mags with rotating spinners ?

Then you just know.

The knowledge of upper/ lower class automobile owner ship now under stood, what about the vast middle class of all colors?

The middle class drives every thing else! It may be foreign such as Honda or Toyota, BMW or Volvo. It may well be one of the ?near? American autos such as Ford or Chevy, Buick or Chrysler. The one clear thing is that, no matter what the make, all will look the same. Just as the Japanese autos seem to all have the same interior designer and parts. As for the American cars, no matter the front name plate, each seem to have been built on interchangeable platforms?perhaps even from the same provider.

If there is still doubt, look at the bumper and rear window.

?Watch out? baby on board?

?When the right kills the whales?you are next.?

?The only choice is?. Freedom Of Choice?

?Squirrels have rights TOO!!?

You got it ?low IQ, middle class, teacher or union member.

But of all the things I learned at the mall, both the most astounding and sad, was the observation that America is no longer a first class nation nor is it comprised of first class people.

There is nothing there WORTH owning.

Hear me out.

Sometimes in the last ten years we have bred and squeezed out of the public domain all excellent work. Wall Mart has ample goods but nothing that could be considered made to the quality that would engender pride. Nothing that could be considered designed and built for a lifetime of use?much less something you could leave to your children with pride in the knowledge it would serve them as well.

Clothing? Serviceable. Yet, the weight of the cloth seems off.... coarse producing a funny feeling in the fingers many times accompanied by an off-putting smell.

Small appliances, be they name brand or not, they look and feel different ? lighter - less substantial - the model numbers are often different than those you see in smaller specialty shops ? as if made to order with lesser material and care.

I am reminded, as I think of this?of my father.

When I was about 25 years of age dad showed up at the house one Saturday with several things in tow. One was a hand made fly rod, split bamboo joined by hand over months of intense work. In his other hand was leather tennis bag that he had bought in London in the mid thirties. The bag was some 24 inches long and appx.16 inches high and made of alligator, hide taken in Africa, cured in Spain and assembled in England. As it was then the early Sixties, my father had owned and used the bag for some thirty years. Each year it had become more malleable and supple and was at a height of perfection as gym bags go. Doormen would nod; at strange clubs I would receive special treatment from the locker room waiters and help - all because of that perfect, expensive bag.

With the gym bag had come two cans of ointment and a lecture from father.

Son, you are not a lazy boy, but sometimes you don?t think. This bag cost 200 dollars in 1932. It was hand cut and sewn by the same firm that makes all the kings? luggage. If you will wash it twice a year with this saddle soap and rub the stitches with beeswax it will last three more life times. Over there they showed me items made in the early 1700?s that except for a few worn spots looked better than new.

The fly rod went together with those deep quiet well-oiled ?snicks? that give pleasure to the soul when heard?a sound of honest, close construction. A sound I have never heard in Wal-Mart.

We are a nation of no pride; living throwaway lives on piles of throwaway goods, bought simply from the boredom of what we have built.

Being for all purpose uneducated ? and seemingly ineluctable, wehave no fall back position. No other interest than ourselves.

Fools - chasing fools-gold. Walking the land with green fingers waiting to be tricked again?never knowing till the fingers turn.

The bag?

I used that bag for thirty years. For thirty years it served me well - And I it. Each month or so I washed it with saddle soap andWaxed the stitching. I even added a routine of my own.

The Zipper was a heavy copper. It moved with such a cold purpose that the bag never once fought back or buckled. I rewarded it with a light touch of machine oil on those occasions.

Fourteen years ago the bag became shuffled to the rear, the very back of my closet. I was no longer trying to impress my own locker room crowd. Several months ago I picked up the bag to check it out and send to my son. The bottom fell out and one handle fell from the bag. Dry rot had eaten up the leather stitching and even the hand-punched holes had rotted to the edge of the leather.

I know that it was cause by the lack of beeswax. When I am feeling low, however, I sometimes imagine that the poor thing died of a broken heart from lack of attention.

You laugh at an old man?but I had rather spend time with that fine bag ?than anyone I have met at Wal Mart.

The Distant Drums - Part One

By A. H. Watson

I go to the mall less and less these days. Some of this is due, surely to the lack of energy thing. Most of it, I am afraid is for reasons I am quite tentative about sharing.

The fear that you - at least those who know me best - might misunderstand, or feel I say things, best not revealed; things likely best left in the deep folds in the human mind - crevices best left not explored - no expeditions attempted.

It's foggy on the back one-eighth acre I now own...the mountain home sold, the beach house sold, the other larger beach house gone, as of today.

Like Sandburg's "small cats' feet." the mist rolls in; it no longer covers the large bay and tidal grasses of my "real" home, but rather the small pond and the single tree allotted me by deed, here at my new abode.

Strangely, in the utter silence of this place, the mist sounds loud; clattering, bumping, seemingly wheezing in the slowly rolling mix outside. Much as individual atoms of hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen might sound if encased in glass.

This new acuity to things around me started last week.

On my last visit to the indoor mall some miles from my new home, I began worrying about, not only my health, but also, my very sanity.

Soon after entering the mall, my legs felt too shaky and weak to hold me. I quickly found an unobtrusive seat at the foot of a store greeter.

Mister happy face must have been in excess of eighty years of age. He performed with a fake sense of health, and well being we see so often in the old.

Yet, a veiled panic raced across the greeter's face at each opening of the automatic doors. It was almost as though he expected a visit from the grim reaper momentarily.

Friendly to most all that entered, he would however, all but turn his back to any male with a beard. I reminded him that, most certainly, a turned head could not fool any reaper that had made its way to Wal-Mart in search of him.

This knowledge did nothing to improve his demeanor. Later the next week he was found crouching behind the electric pig since it seems a large contingent of Orthodox Jews had settled just outside of town.

Sitting there, watching this old fellow rapidly fall apart, the first group to catch my eye consisted of four pre-teen girls, dressed not unlike women I remember from my own youth. But, those women I remembered were in their twenties, attracted to the Naval contingent at Jacksonville and were the true essence of working women.

None of this crowd looked as though they ever planned on charging for it, best I could tell.

These children - for in reality that is what they were - if added to a line of ten year old boys in nothing but jockey shorts, would have blended to the point you would be unable to chose boy from girls, except by height - at that age, girls are somewhat taller than boys,

Each of the girls wore jeans or thin cotton pants. The top of which encircled the thin bodies well below the "fall line" and at the point of pubic arch.

The tops were string type halters/see-through blouse types, open down the front, of course.

As they walked, they were oblivious to all - other patrons, employees, even the cars outside. They had crossed the front lane to the store with never a look - to the screeching of rubber and a few silly giggles on their part.

They moved past me, not as individuals, but rather as one seething moving organism. They touched, they leaned upon, and they hugged each other as though being in physical contact fueled their very survival. Yet, I could not help but feel that if lined up and asked individually, "why are you here," each would look at the others and wonder what sort of space oddity they were dealing with, as they had no clue as to why they were at the mall - why would anyone ask?

When these "last best hopes" entered the store proper, the girls become lost in the tangle of other such girls. Much like the ricebirds of winter that swirl outside in amorphous groups. They break into smaller groups...then twittering and giggling, come together again in time to drive those around to the point of madness.

The new definition of rude is teens, in a large group.

Also at the mall, there are other women, these in one-piece shifts that hang loosely from the shoulder, yet fit tightly across the belly and rear - each protruded almost equally, front and rear - much as some nature inspired counter-balance.

Most of these women look as though they have been released from the rear door of the jail. Their hair tangled in oily strings, or more formally arranged in rolls over orange juice cans. They spend hours spinning the hangers of the pants and shirts section of the store, marring all they touch, looking closely for the house dick.

On any given day in this seething, miasmal mass, you will find most of the areas illegal immigrants. They are either visiting family that work there, or are running their own, independent shoplifting venture.

How dare I make this judgment?

One: they don't care if you see them stealing. This is their land of honey. If apprehended, they know the police will release them in short order. They know that the government will do anything including break its own keep them here.

Further, when you walk up to ask - "What the do you think you are doing?" - they yell, "get out of my face you fucking gringo!"

Seems pretty definitive.

Warning: If they are having a really bad day this little encounter could leave you bleeding, literally.

The last of these mall zombie groups are the old. In wheel chairs, or pushing small oxygen tanks supplied by the store, they plow through the aisles as if directed by some formal battle plan devised by Rommel.

Out of time, they take no wounded.

They point to their oxygen bottle, look at their watch, then waving the middle finger wildly, forge ahead to the drone of the loudspeaker - "Attention shoppers: On aisle five there is a sale on..."

The only thing that can defeat them is a group of teen-agers.

Much as an amoeba might, the girls surround a wheel chair and wiggle and giggle for a short time. What is left is a much calmer geezer - eyes watering - distant gaze in a faded washed out eye and a small bump in the britches.

There is one project I wish to undertake on one of my now habitual morning visits.

Ever notice, when you look at an employee, his vest is always either, too short, too tight or too lose?

Instead of teenagers, as the old man surely dream, I now have a vision of entering a Wall-Mart and forcing the employees to line-up and swap vests...until they FIT!!!!

For weeks now, each day I am more strongly drawn to Wal-Mart, like some bad jones riding my shoulders. I am there by nine, and only leave to prospect for food, usually around 2 PM.

The store and mall next door are alive with people. I have spent a lifetime seeking not to seem condescending when dealing with the masses, but if one is to live through a Wal-Mart experience, a deep layer of calluses must cover any vestige of honor or love of mankind. No normal person can wade into the swirling mass of humanity and come out the other door unchanged in body or belief.

What is one to make of acres of women - their children dressed as whores - and fathers that should have spanked the wives and send the child to bed without supper - all oblivious to the lethal dose of ugly they represent?

It occurs to me in a fleeting thought, that all of these people have come not to shop but - like Poe's letter - to camouflage themselves, hiding among this sea of human riff-raff. Even now as I observe them, they are pawing through earlier folded and stacked items, reducing them to a tangled mess upon the tables and floor.

It had long been my belief that - even washed and dried - I could pick the white trash from the goobers and then the goobers from the so-called ruling class, in a lineup.

Most nowadays tiptoe around this truth with the same fear engendered by the broaching of other forbidden knowledge - stricken from the book-of-life by the politically correct.

Evidence of such is seen in everyone's normal daily encounters. It starts with something as simple as newspapers no longer taking note of the ethnicity of criminals and ends with the most horrendous crimes committed by "people of color" being reported perhaps once then falling off the printed page, gone forever.

Even here in Wall-Mart - in this cauldron of mediocrity - walks an occasional better-bred, perhaps lawyer or a doctor of some note - or a sole proprietor or some sort, trying to avoid doing business with the local Staples.

This type are defined by a special gait, their supercilious, haughty thoughts hidden in an effort to project an all embracing, politically correct, sense of universal tolerance.

My sojourn at Wally's World has been of sufficient length now so that I have become invisible - a part of my surroundings. Now I flit from flower to flower seeing and hearing all, yet disturbing nothing.

And thus it is largely so that most who cohabit here are used to having little personal privacy or space in their own lives. In this new world there is no judgment - all is directed towards one's own needs.

No good, or bad, need be considered. These concepts have been banned in the land of lowered expectations. As a result, the denizens of Wally's are supremely un-self-conscious, caring not about what they say, nor what you may hear them say.

The Catholic Church is hurting, not from the few stray priests, but from the abandonment of stewardship of its members. The confessionals are empty - as no crime remains - at least a crime demanding the heavy canon be engaged.

If presidential blowjobs - while waiting for the President of Mexico to finish lifting the WH silverware - are not sufficiently shameful to effect banning from normal society, then one must conclude that everything decent people once believed in must no longer be valid and therefore useless as a road map for life.

Bless me Father for I have...errr... what the hell these days. IS sinful?

© 2005 A.H. Watson, all rights reserved.

The Last Round-up - Part III

By A. H. Watson

Bunny lasted only two more days in the tomato fields. In that time she managed to get third degree sunburn, bitten by a snake, and attacked by fire ants. In spite of ample warnings, she had placed her cold drink on the cute little ?fairy mound" when the group stopped for lunch.

Talking later, the group realized that they should have told her that the snake wasn?t poisonous maybe then she would not have passed out cold? ?La ramera tonta tiene frío ave"? flat cold to the touch as the field help said, grinning ear to ear. But again then she had not believed them when told not to put her drink on the fire ant mound. In fact, she had taken the opportunity to point out?.

?No wonder you crackers didn?t win that ?old war??if all of you are afraid of a little tiny ant."

With that comment lingering in the air? Bunny soon left her dreams of the simple life, communing with nature, and performing the honest labor of common man. She, in fact, left for Atlanta and her two lesbian friends; then on to Boston - where she could get her fifty or so bites ?.as she said, ?tended by competent medical staff."

This remark, she had expressed vividly - between clenched teeth - to the whiff of kerosene generously swabbed on the angry red welts her cute little friends had raised."

It was oily goo, smelling of Diesel fuel and shit; much as a French patrol under a panzer attack might have whiffed

. Mexicans, grinning with delight, enjoyed the opportunity to help their fellow ?field person", swabbed this mixture on Bunny?s alabaster skin ? a white smoothness interrupted only by those small red mountains.

?Field person" was the name now insisted upon by a government that thought ?field hand" to be demeaning.

I am not sure, even to this day, exactly who suggested that the kerosene bath might help the festering hanger rash between her legs - as well as those bites dripping with the evil goo.

But, when they finally pulled her from the roof of the trailer, she was pleading to be shot. The treatment had surely given that perky little Yankee a jaded view of summertime down South.

Here, between rather heavy moans of grief, amongst us ?in-bred whites and darkies", she screamed ?I believe her actually words leaned toward?"You ignorant, two toothed, throwbacks are all the same. Mexican, near white, and nigger, none of you have sense or breeding. I swear to God?the real God ?the Episcopal God. I now live to drive nails in your feet! You damn fools think a glass of sickening sweet tea is the height of social order."

Mumbling, she pulled herself into her little roadster. ?Cook your brains and they tell you to sit down and have some tea! Get bit by a viper and some nitwit says, 'sit yo?self down and have a big ol?glass of tea.' Thousands of insects bite off big hunks of your body and some sprattled legged goose of a girl tells you to go have some fucking TEA!! Haven't any of you ever heard of the hospital or the emergency room?

?What is this place? A land of mental pellagra?"

When the dust settled, there they stood much as they had many times before ? looking at Bunny. The three Mexicans sitting, the farmer, his son and daughter in law all standing looking at a rapidly dwindling Bunny, her car but a speck now - passing the old home site burned those many years ago.

The government letters started the next week. They came, not only from the two original nemeses, but also from the Agricultural Dept. and OSHA.

Much of what was to happen later, both Henny and the Judge realized, was brought about by the inability of the boys, or any Southerner actually, to take serious? threats and pronouncements by fools.

But when OSHA wrote asking if the ?Company" had performed a "ant check" before allowing defenseless workers into the fields the day the employee Bunny was "attacked", war was declared.

Henny had written back to the agency stating it had been the farms desire to muzzle each ant, but the supply of muzzles had run out. Further, the ?muzzle?specialest, with the teeny-tiny fingers that installs the muzzles, had quit to take a job with a watch repair shop in Atlanta.

That letter, coupled with an additional letter to Human Resources asking if Bunny had recovered from her world-class case of crotch rot / hangar rash, ended with a request as to where to ship her crinolines and tiny ballet shoes. Communications then sort of petered out.

No need to bore anyone with the trial in Atlanta. If you have seen colored funerals from the inside, as all real Southerners have - and been proud to be invited - you would be well aware of the Judges? and my tribulations in the ?city too busy to hate." They are set up much the same.

You will be invited to the front pew - just as at the funeral.

You will be the only whites in the room, same as funeral.

Negroes will be behind the bench; the jury chock full of ?em. Half the crowd will be in some kind of uniform. The other half standing around looking important as one can look while calling out, ?who dat " and yelling across the room,"wher? yu be stayed at now?"

Our first setback was our white-shoe law firm. The senior Partner of ?Loss, Leader & Punt" had been a - find?em, poke?um - party buddy?for years.

Leaving court the first day, Big Jim, standing near in the shadow of that damn blind girl with the scales, turned to John and myself and said,

?Bubba, time has passed me by. Where in the hell did they all come from? I ain?t going back in that coal mine? again?. Did you notice? We were the only whites in the building. I mean only. One ?two ?three" - pointing at the three of us - that was it.

?Henny they want you for?? What is it they say at the Oscars??a life time of achievement? And you Judge? As I remember you fought the judge up there on the bench today and kept him off the State Court?

Am I right?"

?Well girls, I will fish with you; drink with you; even chase a little poon with you like the old days, but by god! I am not going back to downtown Atlanta - Federal court or no!"

And with those remarks, Big Jim made himself small? much like Bunny the day she left our care.

Around the campfires and in the big tee pees of the world it is stated that a lawyer should never be council of himself?that is to play the fool.

The 5th District Federal Court would never be the same. John and I in an attempt to be less conspicuous and make everyone feel our ?oneness" attended our hearing the following day in black face much guided by the Al Jolson mode - In nifty white gloves and cut-a-ways -white lips and eyes to match.

But that?s another story!

© 2004, A. H. Watson, all rights reserved

The Last Round-up - Part II

By A. H. Watson

"How?s the omelette Hen?" The judge had noticed that much of Henny?s omelette remained on his plate.

?What was in it? It was all white with gray streaks partner." Henny said while looking at John?and making a face.

?You were out of sour cream so I used the cottage cheese with the gray stuff in it. The Judge winked evil-like and shrugged.

?God almighty, John! You are going to kills us!"

?Not me, sports model, I had mine sunny side up?you were the one that said you wanted a fancy omelette."

?That is so like you, you butt-headed old fool?I never said I wanted?Oh skip it?no? forget it. Talking to you is a waste of good words."

Henny?s tongue began to feel as though it had been flocked with lint from the Hoover, and a cold lump formed in his gullet. Knowing well Henny?s penchant for hypochondria, the Judge acted as though he didn?t notice his friends increasingly green countenance.

The Judge then spoke with a much deeper seriousness.

?Like I said earlier Henny, this country has lost its collective mind.Just last week one of my young clerks came to work in a tee shirt"

?A tee shirt, mind you, Henny?In the court house!"

Henny, smiled at his friends overwrought decorum, ?Judge, how old is she 18 ?19? They just don?t dress up any longer old man, and they know if you say anything all they have to do is file some lawsuit - that you yelled at them?or pinched them?or some such nonsense - and you will always be guilty in the eyes of the truly weird of this world."

?You didn?t let me finish Bubba. You never do. Always got to get your nose in the keg first." John cleared his throat.

?Henry Penny are you telling me you would not send an employee home that came to work in a tight tee shirt with her boobs juggling like balloons full of buttermilk?"

?Well John, It ?do? have its finer points"

Henny, Listen to me! Those two puppies were pushing out the writing on the shirt?and?and?and there, in three dimensions, in the sight of God, was written?"Do I look like a FUCKING people person?"

Smiling behind his hand, yet trying to mollify the Judge, Henny allowed, ?Well big fellow she just didn?t get the training or upbringing we did. Perhaps you can talk to her parents or teach her better ways yourself. She is from across the track I assume?"

?Yep Henny - sure - across the tracks; in fact, across the street from you! She is the Presbyterian minister?s daughter?Francis? Eighteen years, going on thirty!

?Well smart ass, a damned lawyer for women?s rights did call yesterday, and suggested that I put her back to work; I asked about the shirt and she suggested that I was being ?judgmental"! She said that I had no right to impose my own views on how the girl dressed."

Henny winced as knew the Judge suffered fools only to his own advantage, such as playing poker with Don at his Ford dealership once a week.

?I am almost afraid to ask what you said, old buddy."

He feared what John might have said to some nasty mouthed, most likely Jewish, federal nanny. Some protected lesbian on the make for banging men?s balls - just to hear them ring.

?She was a snide little thing, Hen?sounded like she was reading directly off the head of a pin. I told her? that no little twit was going to wear a shirt that said, ?Fucking" on it?not in my court; nor my presence?. that if SHE wished to try, she could come into court her own self, but having been warned ? bring some extra panties and a toothbrush. Unless, that is, she was willing to take seconds on the common toothbrush we keep for the town drunk."

?Jesus, ?John Jr."- His mom had always called him that when upset. You never?ever?learned not to mess with people that perform no productive work?particularly work mentioned in the title on their door!"

?Don?t you remember your mamma telling you to be careful around people with nothing important to do, but are too butt stupid to realize it, or mean and arrogant enough to advantage themselves of their undeserved position?"

?You should know all that John?I certainly do," Henny shook his head but looked with concern toward his friend of half-a-century. ?John, just tell her you are sorry, will never do it again, and the bitch will hop her broom and fly back to her boiling cauldron? cackling all the way to Atlanta."

?That would be a lie son, and you and I have come way too far for that this late a date in our journey. You want me to allow some sorry pain in the ass to turn us into liars - is that what you are saying?"

?Besides Bubba, she is not the real problem, she is just a zit on my butt."

?The real problem is the senior judge in Atlanta, Henny." A dark cloud changed the Judge?s visage. Darker even than when Wal-Mart sent the lawyers to lecture the two on their inability to stop the new Super Store in Town ? being just country lawyer?s and Mayor of a small southern village; A hick town that should be pee proud to have Wal-Mart loot the place.

But the Judge was deep in his own misery and had not heard a word of his own mother?s old advice. Henny thought, things must be awfully bad if he is this distracted.

Looking up, having never realized that I had spoken of his mother, John continued:

?That whole crowd that Carter appointed should be in jail?but hell, instead they are not only making law? but telling honest Judges how to enforce it!!"

?You remember that case last year Hen?"

And with that the Judge went on to describe a small case of little importance that had been settled to the best interest of both parties. I had been called to Jury duty that week but not struck from duty by either legal team; both of which had known for years my long-term relationship to the Judge. The case had not even come to the Jury; it was settled before ending arguments.

Bill Squires is a truck farmer with land titles that go back all the way to his ancestors grant from George II. Bill was almost driven out of business, put in jail, by two appointed Government employees wishing to enforce a rule made up by them?not even a law - by God!

?Remember Henny, that mess Bill Squires was caught up in and that little Yankee twit from ?Ha.aa...vad?" She cost this poor County close to a hundred thousand hard money?"

?I remember the girl best, John?if you remember I told Bill not to hire her at the start of the summer. But neither of you paid me the slightest attention. In fact, I distinctly remember you telling Squires to pay no attention to me ? ?that I would worry the warts off a frog."

?Well, we about all got warts on that one." The Judge ducked his head - the way he always does when about to spring something ? ?Well Bubba, they are back again?and we both have been named in a hate crime suit by that same little bitch? with the two lesbian Government gals riding shotgun."

It is a simple story made complex only by the excess of government?s rules laid down by Federal employees - rules that could never be met or results totally unobtainable except in the most fetid mind of the otherwise unemployable.

Spring a year ago, two women showed up at ?Squires Vegetable Ranch." One woman claimed to be from The Agriculture Dept. in Washington, the other from State Human Resources board. They accused Bill of not diversifying his field help and that they were here to see that Squires complied with Fed Rule 9867.5 concerning the make up of labor force - That did he realize that the year before, all of the hired help had been Mexican?

Squires told them that he most certainly did realize it? as he had hired the same two brothers and their uncle, for about ten years, sending them travel money, and providing shelter for the three months they helped him with the crops. In addition to the three he also employed his wife, son, and daughter-in-law.

?Remember what happened then, Hen?"

?Well, didn?t they ask to see the housing? Yeah! That was it! And when they finished going through the trailer they said it was sub-standard and would have to be changed immediately! And Bill told them to take it up with his sorry daughter-in-law, as it was her trailer they just inspected and if they would speak to her, it would please both him? and his son."

Henny shook his head smiling at the memory.

?Yeah Bubba," John went on, ?but what really set them off was when they inspected the two Mexican?s trailers and had a list a page long of things that must be fixed. What were some?Front and back yard piled with garbage and broken car?weeds need cutting?the inside filthy and with several holes in the walls?three old batteries?it went on down the list?"

While they were inside, Bill had gone to his glove compartment and brought pictures of the two trailers and the yard. Two years ago when he had installed the trailers, after the help had returned to Mexico for the winter, it had occurred to him that they would never look any better; thus the pictures.

?You gals need to see these" Bill had offered. ?The pictures were taken two years ago. Notice the shrubs around the edge of the Trailers?the grass front lawn?the back yard clear and cut to the wood line. These trailers were new three years ago?don?t ask me where the shrubs went; it beats the hell out of me. As for the garbage, the dump is a mile down the road. And the grass? I pay them to come up here and keep it out of the fields, but they are willing to watch it grow unless you point at each blade you want removed?and I just don?t have time to supervise them cutting ?their? own yard."

The two government women had disappeared that afternoon only to return the next day with the demand that Mr. Squires fire two of his Mexicans and replace them with an Afro-American and a female employee. The Judge and Henny were convinced that they had come to their little backwater just so they could spend the night away from Atlanta in the motel attached to the Linger Longer Lounge. This was true as we found out. Later it was to provide invaluable support against the new Federal suit.

Bill Squires had said not ?No"?but, ?Hell No!"

In the second week of the ensuing trial, the Judge dismissed the Jury for the afternoon, asked, and received permission from Squires lawyer to meet alone with the Federal attorneys in chambers. By piecing statements together - though he and the Judge had never spoken directly of that afternoon ? the account had gone much like this?

The Judge had called the two Federal/State employees and the lawyer for the two into chambers. He bluntly told them that they had no case; nor if they did, would it go to a favored verdict for them, if they continued to waste everyone?s time. It was planting time, much of the jury needed to get back to their farms. As for the three of them - they were going to need a 30-minute head start from the reminder of the jury, to keep from bodily harm, if they continued this poorly contrived suit.

After listening to all three of Federales complain mightily. John, riled beyond reason, told them that he had tried over 4000 cases. By God, he knew when a Southern jury was not only through listening? but had made up their mind.

John then suggested that he could get the defendant to hire? say an additional woman? if the Feds wished; but, that Squires was not about to give up his three Mexican helpers; nor would the Jury require him to do so.

He told them?the Feds could leave Hennyville on their shields, or in that fancy rental car? with half a loaf. That he, the Judge, didn?t much care, but it wouldn?t look too good on their resume to have gone down in flames in some small Gooberville they would most likely never see again ? unless they lost!

Laughing, the Judge told me later that it weren?t any of his golden words that turned them in to righteous people; it was the thought of another week at the Linger Longer Motel? and loosing.

In the end, Squires accepted the woman they picked to take the job and they trundled back to Atlanta and Washington DC having saved the working people of world from the ?nastiness? of the owner class.

In doing so, however, they left poor Bill with a nitwit from Harvard ?that wanted the Steinbeck experience" and ?came South to work the land with her bare hands"; no doubt tearing turnips from the red clay?. vowing never to go hungry again!

She had red hair, Irish skin, a floppy straw hat and fingernails long enough to drain Spaghetti. Bill said, at first, it was aggravating watching her?but it became mesmerizing.

It was not unusual to look up from his chores to see both the family and the three Mex?s standing staring at the girl, as she stood staring at them or the long row in front of her. Squires mentioned his idiot son had said the only truly funny thing that had come out of his lips since his marriage. He told Bill?

?Dad, I do believe that gal gets a vapor lock when the temperature get above 80 degrees." This, as all southerners know, covers almost any day after 8 am during the long Hennyville summers.

It may well have been the heat, but ?Bunny"?she said that was what her northern college friends call her and that we should also? rather than the more formal Taylor Anne. Her mum uses Taylor when the women come for Emily?s List meetings at the main house?had problems more pressing than the actual heat.

Bunny?s wardrobe consisted of several pair of heavy bib overalls, several full skirts, Crinolines, (she had seen ?Picnic" and ?Where the Boys Are") white loafers and those no sole things that look like ballet slippers.

After the first day in the fields, Bunny wore a tee shirt and panty briefs under the overalls. Never miss a chance, if you ever have one, to see a lovely young girl in bib overalls pulled smartly over crinolines;

This, of course, was even worse. The roughness and dye from the new bibs, coupled with the raw heat from the land, made the tomato plants seem to be suspended in space, shimmering back and forth in the rising heat. The end of the day the heat and sweat left Bunny with hanger rash running from her crotch to her knees. It must have been painful beyond Bill?s understanding?. but also beyond his caring.

It seems young Miss Taylor Anne spent her day singing protest ballads of every communist singer the thirties produced, from Ledbelly to Pete Seeger. It even pissed off the Mexicans. Bill said, it was the only thing he had ever seen make them mad; other than the caterpillar at the bottom of the bottle, or Snidely Whiplash on the cartoon channel.

©2004, Andy Watson, all rights reserved.

The Last Round-up - Part I

By A. H. Watson

Here they were again for the umpteenth time, before daylight and pushing off from shore in their old wooden rowboat. John - the Judge - in a pair of bedroom slippers insisted on the wooden boat, as it not only makes less noise than an aluminum craft, but because it held the line much better in the wind.

The fact that bream couldn?t hear, that there was no wind, or that we would be anchored directly over a bream bed made no difference to the Judge, or in fact to Henny, as he carried his limited tackle needs in a paper sack rather than his oversized metal tackle box. This kept the boat from sounding too much like a New York garbage man on his early morning route, as it did when Henny would root through the box for hooks and sinkers, in the early morning blackness.

In those moments - before God blessed the world with one more day of light - there were only two sounds?the squeak of the oar locks, and the matching squeaks from the crickets drinking their last meal from a small piece of cut potato in the bottom of the cricket box,

Henny slowly stroked across the lake observing the ancient rule ? oars when crossing ? paddles later when casting the shore. The trip - the day - all planned out with the ritual precision of a Kabuki play.

The one thing Northerners never seems to understand about the South is that reverence for ancestors?for the old ways, proven solid.

In the mind of true Southerners, the present and the future are chained permanently to the past ? inscrutably so - to the outside mind.

Pushing the oars, Henny watched the dark recede in front of the prow.

The lake spread around him, smooth and tinted ? a translucent pearl. Behind him the boat?s wake was defined, twinkling in the reflection of a waning moon ? like moist oyster shells. A curling wisp of summer fog hovered just above the cool pond surface.

Even before Henny could speak, the Judge had slipped the front anchor quietly into the water. In like form, Henny did the same, pulling the hawser tight to insure that they would not drift from the bream beds that filled this cove on the waning days of the summer months.

On most of these expeditions it was the Judge that called Henny - at four am usually - asking if he were awake. Then, talking above his cursing and loud vibrations, state that since he was up already they might as well go fishing.

This time though, it was Henny that had called the Judge and suggested the trip - for days the old man had seemed out of sorts and had taken it out on the hapless that few that crossed his path.

For the most part, the Judge kept to himself at coffee each morning at a place called Rosie?s Café & Fine Dinning. It was known locally as the RC& Moon pie though it was most often called simply, Rosie?s, by the morning crowd.

Hell, among the regulars it was not even called at all?someone would just say, ?see you at coffee."

Henny had planned to use the trip as a way to feel out the Judge, without upsetting him more than he seemed to be at present.

He should have known better.

?Pass the crickets Hen. You always seem to have them at your feet when I need one. Why is that? You selfish Bubba? Or just not ever thinking about your fishing partners?"

?Selfish, is my guess." The Judge mumbled as he leaned over the seat to fetch the cricket-box from where Henny had placed it.

This was the standard gambit and more predictable than a Clinton lover screaming ?Nazi" or ?Fascist" at you when bested in debate.

Henny replied as usual before John became quiet, caught up with his own ?worry beads."

?You nasty old man," he smiled. ?Who bought the crickets? Hell, who always buys the crickets. I must have paid for every bream you have caught in the last 50 years!! How many is that?a billion?two billion? Judge, a man could throw a bream in the bottom of the boat and it would live a month, and gain five pounds, on the damn live crickets you drop trying to bait your hook! Next time I?m gonn?a bring a cricket butler along just to bait your hook and clean up after you. Be cheaper too?and I would have someone pleasant to talk to during the trip."

Henny continued, ?If it?s good enough for that dip-shit Kerry to have a butler following him around everywhere, even blotting his dick when he pees?a cricket chaser should be just fine for your sorry fanny. I set the crickets down in the boat, then push this heavy scow away from shore, getting my shoes sopping wet? while you sit there like King Tut in those tacky slippers! -listen to this!"

With that Henny wiggles his toes, which produced the sound of a teen-ager trying out his first French kiss.

?You satisfied now?big boy? By ten am, when I take my shoes off, my feet will be as shriveled and pasty as your damn tits."

Henny smiled as he saw the Judge?s face?unavoidably pouting as he called up that mental picture.

Sitting over bream beds was not Henny?s favorite morning doings. In fact, if the truth were told, it was quite a ways down the list?even below raking the yard on a brisk fall day. But John enjoyed it like a bad habit and Henny could not measure the hours he had spent watching John, with the pleasure all enjoy, seeing a friend have fun.

Henny had changed his mind that morning and had not questioned his friend about his edginess the last few days. The Judge had been lost in his own reveries. Indeed, lost to the point that the larger bream were many times forced to hook themselves if they were to be caught at all; the smaller fare stole the cricket and came back for more.

It was watching the Judges cork disappear, time and time again, with no response, which started Henny on his present thoughts.

He and the Judge had started fishing together some fifty years ago, or more?. They had started with liquor corks cut down the middle and affixed to the old cloth line, which in turn ended in an Eagle Claw hook attached to a short monofilament leader made possible by - the then newly discovered ? plastic, in the years after the war to end all wars, as it was called.

Cane poles, were selected, and cut ourselves. They were the weapons of choice?worms the only bait.

?Most worthwhile things are learned by doing," as daddy used to say. ?Book knowledge will most likely get you a broken heart or neck, long before the task is completed."

That was true with John and me.

It took us most of a year to learn that just any old cane pole would not do. Not only must the cane be long and straight, the tip must be limber and strong, cut and cured over the winter?hung upside down with a light weight on the smaller end, then the upper two sections joined with adhesive from the family bath.

Then and only then did we have a chance to land the larger bass that randomly attacked our bait.

In our twenties, worried about their stature and how it looked for grown men to be using cane poles, John and I purchased fancy fly rods, equipped then with expensive and totally useless fly line. Then we changed to small thin porcupine quills. Quills so small, that in the early light, they may as well have been nonexistent. Though the rods were uncomfortable and almost useless over a bream bed, we boys continued that foolishness until well past fifty.

At some point we became wise, reaching a time where we no longer worried about appearance when fishing with bamboo cane. We reverted to the far better fiberglass pole, and the liquor corks of old. I realized then?that as in many things the Judge and I had come full circle.

It was our last conversation before the foolish changes of old age began to take hold?the last one in which discussion was pleasing, rather than bitter to the tongue.

We had known each other so very long. Either could assume the part of the other with little fear of misunderstanding, much like a good marriage, devoid of the encumbrance of ultimate intimacy.

All things important between us had long been settled. Small differences having been ironed so flat by time and evolving views that our deepest beliefs were seamless, smooth as the perfect pebble tossed upon the surface of the mind.

?Henny, look around, as I have lately. The world had moved in directions that even twenty years ago we would not have thought possible."

The Judge balanced his mug of coffee on the rail of the porch as he eased into the wicker armchair.

?It doesn?t matter where one looks Hen, the morning paper, the television news, the pond?this nation has lost its collective mind."

?Nothing makes sense. Have we all gone nuts?"

?Think back even ten years Henny."

?If I had come to Mexico, when you were staying there, and told you that America had passed laws that encouraged some low IQ teacher to actually enable an abortion for your child and be protected by the law from never even mentioning it to you ? or that a six year old could be thrown out of school for making a pistol with his thumb and finger ? that the county could force you to sell your property to them and they resell it to others at a higher price and keep the difference ? that illegals would be rewarded with free health care and a college education?taxing you to provide it, even though your own child cannot afford to attend."

"Henny, you would have laughed me off the top of that damn cliff you lived near. Yet, this only scratches the surface of the freedoms once though to be inviolate, inalienable? that no longer even exist."

?Well, Judge what can we do? Seems to me that all the doors are closed. We have let them keep honorable men from becoming Judges, filled the schools with fools and worse?even given them tenure. Hell, John, We have allowed the Congress to purchase whole classes of Americans?insuring they pay no taxes. Now that half of the voting public no longer pays, they don?t give a good goddamn if taxes reach 100% for those that do!"

?Henny that is precisely what I have been thinking. For a while there, I thought I had developed the ?old man" syndrome."

John leaned back took a sip of coffee and closed his eyes.

?You know about that don?t you, Hen? When we were young we looked forward, thought about the long life ahead and what we wished to accomplish. Now we look back, and too many times think of those things we never achieved. But then the past is all we have left and we should be very careful not to disremember it, or assume guilts that were never ours?or at least our alone."

?We lived in interesting times my friend." I said, seated on the steps of the porch.

Judge was barely paying attention, instead looking down and eyeing an ant making tracks across the warm wood planking.

Undecorously, I spat at the tiny creature; the gob landing directly on the many-legged head of household and family provider. The ant, no doubt thinking "Johnstown Flood," struggled mightily to pull the grasshopper leg it was towing through the water, now over his head.

Shaking his head the Judge mumbled, ?Bubba you been doing that for years. You didn?t do it when Big Mama was alive, She had you broke from spitting at every thing that moves, but when she died you started back again! Damn if it isn?t disgusting to a high court Judge such as myself?least wise they give us spittoons. Did you know that? A brass one at that? this old boy gets a government issued spittoon. I guess I could requisition one every month and the fools wouldn?t say a thing?but use one extra box of paper clips and they send a GAO Inspector to audit the books.?let?s go fix an omelette."

While the Judge searched for the eggs and bacon, I eased out the porch door to the steps. I took a small twig and pushed the tired ant - and his trophy grasshopper - from the pooling spit.

Somehow this act lifted my spirits.

But had it appeased the gods?

Soon I would know?just not too soon I prayed.

©2004, Andy Watson, all rights reserved.

A. H. Watson Archives