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There are people living on the edge in what is called Appalachia. They‘re called ridgerunners, rednecks, hillbillies and mountaineers. No one thinks of them very often. They don‘t earn much and usually don‘t live well according to society‘s standards. They stay where they are because they love the area. They are hard workers when they have work and self-sufficient to an extent not known to “outsiders.‘They are also very funny; they have a great sense of humor about themselves. They are the salt of the earth and the backbone of America. Their stories are America‘s stories. They are The Stories Of Appalachia
When Joe Bob got the job as deputy at the sheriff‘s office he finally was making a decent dollar. No more scrounging around doing odd jobs to make a little extra cash. Jobs like cleaning out cesspools and skinning cows. Now, along with the added respect, he‘d be able to live better. The county was so poor being a deputy sheriff was a high paying job in contrast to most. It was highly prized and made Joe Bob‘s selection even more puzzling. After all, the Sheriff had other nephews.
Joe Bob was a large man. He wasn‘t all that fat-looking but he was a large man. Clarence Williams once said , “Joe Bob is a six-foot two man in a five-eight body and he sure ain‘t goin‘ to grow no taller.”
Maybe now he could move the trailer to a paved road. If not, at least one that had some gravel. Trying to drive through the mud was hard enough for him with his four wheel drive. For the little woman, in her 77 Chevy, it was the nearest thing to impossible. Many a time Joe Bob had to hook the chain to her and pull her out of the mud. The Chevy, not the little woman. When it was dry the ruts would almost shake her apart. The little woman, not the Chevy.
Speaking of the trailer, maybe a new one. If not new, at least newer. Maybe one of those double wides he‘d heard so much about. Put it on blocks, plant some flowers here and there and maybe it‘d look like something. Well, the trailer he had looked like something , just not like something he liked or something.
He thought back to the words the Sheriff told him. “Now, son, ya‘ll listen up real close here. I runs a clean office. You go on out thar and keep tings peaceable like. Make sure no one drives too awful fast or gets into to many fights and things‘ll be fine. Don‘t be takin‘ no bribes or nothin‘ and could be when the day comes that I retire my son‘ll keep you on.” It sounded great unless you realized the Sheriff didn‘t have a son. Joe Bob never quite got it.
The Sheriff gave Joe Bob the keys to his patrol car and told him to go keep an eye on things. He also told him not to get carried away with his job. Joe Bob was so proud. He was a deputy Sheriff! He was driving along out by the lake when he spotted Mosh Henry. Mosh was a moonshiner. Everyone knew it. No one cared. Joe Bob decided to pull Mosh over. It gave him a chance to use his siren and his authority. He wanted to make an impression and impress someone on the first day. That made his choice to pull Mosh Henry over all the more wrong.
“Why, if it ain‘t Joe Bob. I heerd you be a new deputy. How is you, Joe Bob?”, Mosh said to Joe Bob. Mosh had known Joe Bob his entire life. He‘d sold boze to his father. That might explain Joe Bob.
“Jus‘ fine, thar, Mosh. Now, Mosh, everybody be knowin‘ you run shine. I looked up under your car and you gots two tanks there. I reckon one be for gas and the other be the shine. I gotta run you in.‘ Catching a shiner on day one was great Joe Bob thought.
“No, Joe Bob, no you don‘. Runnin me in just be a waste of yer time. Ya got no business stoppin me in the first place and you sure ain‘t got no business a lookin‘ at my tanks. Reckon they not be no law agin havin‘ two gas tanks. Ya got no reason to be checkin‘ them tanks. They calls it “unreasonable search” or somethin likes that. My lawyer fella know that stuff.”
“Well, I reckon the Sheriff can sort that out.” Joe Bob didn‘t care about what happened to Mosh after the arrest. He only cared about making the arrest.
“I reckon the Sheriff be pissed off like wildfire if you get my lawyer on him. My lawyer be Squire Davis an‘ he be a good one as ya darn well knows. You be driving the back roas the rest of your life. That be the truth, Joe Bob. Now, I be a reasonable man. I gonna go on ‛bout my business and you gonna mind your own. You hear me, boy?” Mosh thought that should set things straight with Joe Bob.
Joe Bob heard the truth. He didn‘t like it much but he knew it. Mosh had been running shine for years. The Sheriff, like everyone else in these parts, knew it. If the Sheriff didn‘t do anything about it then maybe Joe Bob shouldn‘t. Mosh‘s lawyer, Squire Davis, was a tough, smart old bird. He could cause Joe Bob some problems. Joe Bob‘s life was full of problems and perhaps he didn‘t need to add one more.
“OK, Mosh. Have yerself a nice day.” Have a nice day? What a way to start his new career. Outwitted by a half-wit like Mosh Henry. Back in the old days Mosh would be sweating bullets along about now. Joe Bob would have him scared to death. Not that Joe Bob knew much about the old days. Joe Bob was 23 years old.
“Well, lookie here. If it ain‘t Joe Bob. That‘s a nice car you be driving. That‘s a shiny new badge you be wearin. Going to a costume party, are you, Joe Bob?”, Mother Mary herself called out to him. She knew he was a real deputy since her son was the Sheriff.
The rest of the crowd hooted and hollered. Joe Bob began to feel like coming here was a mistake, a bigger mistake than pulling Mosh Henry over. After all, there was only one of Mosh Henry and there was a whole crowd here. With Mosh there wasn‘t a witness although Mosh would tell the story and make it worse and worse with each telling.
“I just came in for eats. This is still an eatery, ain‘t it?”
“Why, sure it is, Joe Bob. Just having a little laugh with you. Don‘t have to be uppity about it. Sit yourself down here and have some grits. Then you can go on back out there and protect us some more.‘ The others laughed some more.
That sounded OK but Joe Bob knew they were still laughing at him. Well, he couldn‘t do too much about it. For one thing, Mother Mary was the Sheriff‘s ma. That‘s all Joe Bob needed to do was arrest the Sheriff‘s ma. He‘d like to, though, the heartless old crone. She couldn‘t cook very well either. The grits were awful. How can she not cook grits right? Come to think of it, Joe Bob didn‘t recall ever seeing the Sheriff eating in here. Maybe he shouldn‘t either.
Joe Bob drove back out to the lake. He saw the Sheriff‘‘s car behind him so he pulled over. The Sheriff got out and walked up to Joe Bob‘s. He wasn‘t happy and intended to let his newest deputy know it. How could his brother have such a stupid son although his brother was as stupid as a rail post.
“Well, Joe Bob, you‘ve sure had a fine start. Ya pulled over Mosh Henry, wo be smarter than you ever goin‘ to be. The, you et at my ma‘s place, which just proves it. Now, Joe Bob, I hopes you learnt something from this morning. You ain‘t Wyatt Earp. You ain‘t no FBI guy. You be a deputy sheriff in a small, out of the way county thet nobody cares about. We don‘ have no real problems here unlessen you makes one. You ain‘t gonna make none. Don‘t make me regret givin‘ you this here job. Hell, boy, just take it easy and everything gonna be just fine. Now, do you hear me, Joe Bob?”
Yea, Joe Bob heard him all right. Still, he was going to get Mosh Henry if it was the last thing he ever did. Well, maybe he shouldn‘t ought to be thinking that.
Carl looked around the yard and thought that he‘d try to get one of his vehicles running. After selling the 87 Ford pick-up he had some room to work on one of them. Maybelle was getting tired of walking into Derry Station. Maybelle was getting tired of walking everywhere. Carl didn‘t like to drive her around and didn‘t like to let her drive one of his vehicles. Maybe he‘d get one of the smaller cars running for her...later. With Carl, a lot of things were later. Carl accepted his lot in life. He was poor; he was always poor; he was always going to be poor. He also didn‘t do anything to change that. His attitude was, “Ah, well, whet ya gonna do?” Carl wasn‘t going to do anymore then absolutely necessary.
As he left his son, Carl Jr., ran over to him to say goodbye and not to “work to hard.” Carl‘s wife Josie had a good laugh at that.
Carl and Maybelle didn‘t have a lot. The trailer was almost paid for and the rent on the lot was very reasonable. They could chop all the wood they needed. They grew some vegetables out back; Maybelle did that. Carl didn‘t like to work the soil that much. He was a miner at Shaft#23. It didn‘t work regular too much and that suited Carl. It gave him time to do other things. One of the other things was hanging around Snookies‘. Snookie owned the local garage. It was a gas stationgarage. It wasn‘t one of the new convenience stores. Snookie sold gas. Repairs, car parts, and cigarettes. Maybe a little shine out the back. Snookie didn‘t do a lot of repair work in that the poor folks did their own or did without. Some of the cars and trucks in the county were run on hope and luck when they ran at all.
Here in Wabash County you had three kinds of folks. You had a few well off, like Squire Davis; you had some of the middle class, like the Sheriff; mostly you had the poor, like everyone else. There wasn‘t any industry here. You had farmers, miners, and that‘s about it. Most money was earned under the table; barter was also used. Most folks just did without.
A lot of folks here didn‘t graduate from high school. The ones that did were considered to be “ejucated”. Unless you went on to college, and very few did, it didn‘t matter. “Ejucated” or not there was no work except the mine and that was a sometime thing. You did have your farmers but they were all as poor as the land. The lnd here was pretty much played out. The yuppies or whatever you want to call them had no interest in living here so the land wasn‘t worth all that much. When yuppies don‘t want a piece of land it was worthless.
“Hey, Carl”, Snookie hollered out from underneath Squire Davis‘ car. The Squire was a good customer. He paid upfront and never bitched about the price. He also was one of the few people who wasn‘t going to work on his own car. While Snookie called most people by their Christian name, he called Squire Davis Squire Davis or Mr. Davis. Snookie wasn‘t the only one who could work on the Squire‘s car.
“Hey, Snookie. What‘s new?” Carl looked over at the soda machine and thought, as he always did, Snookie ought to put beer in there. Who would drink soda if there was beer instead?
“Whet‘s new? Shoot, thar ain‘t been nuthin‘ new here in years. Ole Charlie Smith lookin‘ for some block layers, you be interested. Pays minimum and figures on three to four days.” Snookie knew Carl had no interest I working for Smith or anyone else.
“Hmm, may be thet I‘ll ask him. I‘d like to work on one of the cars fer Maybelle but I could use the cash. The mine done been down a long time. Shoot, I don‘t mind layin‘ block. I don‘t care for Charlie Smith much at all. Thet ole boy want too much fer what he pay”, Carl replied.
“Well, could be as thet‘s why he got money and we don‘t”, Snookie answered. Actually, Charlie Smith didn‘t have much money either. He just had a little more than these two did.
“Maybe. I reckon I‘d rather be poor then cheap and be payin‘ nothin‘ fer hard work” Carl would love to be like Charlie Smith; he‘d love being Charlie Smith.
“Well, you already be poor. I don‘t personal see where bein‘ poor be so great. I ain‘t never had much money, so‘s I can‘t say for certain, but I think I‘d rather have money than not.” That was Snookie‘s philosophy.
“I reckon, too”
Clarence Williams came in. He lit his pipe as he listened to Carl and Snookie talking. Clrence worked the mine too, when it worked. When it didn‘t, he did what was there. He wasn‘t shy about work and he took what he could get. He got the job with Charlie Smith, laying block. Charlie was cheap as all get out but money was money. There wasn‘t anyone else paying much for labor. He figured he took what was there or left or starved. Clarence wasn‘t going anywhere and he wasn‘t going hungry. He‘d work for the Charlie Smith‘s around here.
Clarence knew Carl did a lot of bitching. He also knew Carl was just plain lazy. Carl liked the mine being a sometime thing. Carl was always lazy. He was just what people thought that folks around here were. Heck, even a dummy like Joe Bob at least tried to better himself. Not Carl, though. Unless this was the best Carl could do. Well, maybe that is it. Well, nothing to do about that. Carl at least married a good woman and had good kids. Guess a man can say that says a lot. Maybelle could have done better; Maybelle should have done better. Carl really must have ricked her. Heck, maybe Maybelle‘s not too bright. No, she must be. The kids had to got what little intelligence they had from somewhere and Carl isn‘t where. Carl was dumb as dirt.
“Course, money don‘t be buyin‘ happiness as they say. Just having a bunch of cash don‘ gonna make ya‘ll all happy,” Carl added.
“No, no it dont. Thet be true, Carl. But, I got to tell you somethin. I‘d still like to try to be happy and have some cash money ta spend. I reckon I could be happier eatin‘ pork than rabbit or bar; I reckon I could be happier drinkin‘ Jack Daniels rather than shine. Wouldn‘t make me none too sad to have a new truck neither. I reckon I‘d like to try that money thing.”
“Yea, I reckon”.
Clarence interrupted at this point to tell Carl ,”I got the block layin‘ job so there be no need for ya‘ll to go botherin‘ Charlie Smith.”
“Weel, I reckon you be willin‘ to work a lot cheaper‘n me”, Carl said.
“ I reckom I be willin‘ to work period.”