Saturday, October 31, 2009

I haven't written some tales just for you guys in a while, so this Halloween weekend I'll be giving you two stories--one today and one tomorrow. As these things go, I'll be writing from the seat of my pants--making it up as I go along.

I offer to you two completely true tales (as true as the tail I was born with!) to confound the imagination.
There is a sixth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is the middle ground between light and shadow - between man's grasp and his reach; between science and superstition; between the pit of his fears and the sunlight of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area called The Creepy Appalachia Zone.

Red Arlington's Conversion

Some remember it only because it happened on the coldest winter these parts had seen in many a long year. They remember it because their breath fogged and froze into tiny ice crystals that shattered on the ground as they waited on the banks of Big Creek down by Sawmill Hole where Junior Tarlington’s sawmill wheel churned up the silt. When the wheel was braked, it was a fine place for a river baptism. They remembered because it took six strong men wielding mattocks and seven-pound sledges to break through the foot of ice and the bonfire built on the side of the creek barely saved Pastor Granger’s fingers and toes from falling off. They remembered because it seemed only fitting that the good Lord deemed as mean a man as Red Arlington would have to nearly die submerged in the frigid water to come up a saved man, sputtering “Hallelujah” between chittering, clenched teeth.

But the family remembered for another reason. The story started months before when the killing frosts had only just settled. It’s the story of Red Arlington’s choice, which wasn’t really a choice at all. For who would chose to dance for eternity locked in the Devil’s sulphurous embrace?

By all accounts, Red Arlington popped out of the womb mean as a henless rooster. His momma took the weed and nearly died of it—worse case of milk fever the doctor had ever seen. Some said Red was raised on rattlesnake milk because of it, but the truth was it were the milk of a contrary nanny goat. Same difference some said. At seven years of age, he wrapped a hound’s tail in tarred straw and lit it afire. At fifteen, Lucy Hall disappeared after walking home with him—not that they proved anything but there were always whispers. Then there was the time they found him sitting on Joe Lawes’s corpse while frying up a rasher of bacon. He claimed he didn’t have nothing to do with the man dying and all, but that’s a tale for anther time. At any rate, the mean little infant grew into a mean child, and the mean child into a mean adult. There’s not enough space here to chronicle the sins of Red Arlington, but suffice it to say, he was a bad, bad man.

His folks had hoped his marriage, celebrated at the business end of his father-in-law’s rifle-gun, would calm him down a bit. But after his bride popped out a few babies, Red predictably turned to making corn likker. And he was no master of the distillery arts, just in it for the easy money that come from them Chicago men who cared not a whit Red’s still was hacked together from car radiators or that once in a while a dead possum or some brake fluid added a special zing to his product. No telling how many dead Yankees adorned the endless scroll of Red’s transgressions awaiting him in heaven.

He kept his still down near Granny’s Branch, down-creek from a few homesteads—which is to say the branch water wasn’t a pure as it could be, if you get my drift. The rotgut Red made, didn’t make him a kinder man and oft was the night his wife boarded the door up to keep him out. She’d sit covering the ears of his two babes while Red cursed a streak of filth like to wake the dead from their inconstant dreaming.

It was the night of the third killing frost, and the leaves on the mile-a-minute vines had wilted, turning greeny-grey as a corpse’s toenails. The moon was setting over Sol Messer Mountain, but only a sliver and not near enough to light the footpath Red stumbled across on his trip home from the still. The lower path was near level, cut into the side of a steep ravine—one misstep would carry a man down into the darkness, dark even in the light of day, that misshapen holler. He sang into the frosty morning, that singing voice of his a redeeming feature. But when his toe stubbed against a root, he cursed, “Goddamnit to Hell!”

And that were when it happened. Those mile-a-minute vines came to life and snaked up, wrapping themselves around old Red’s ankles. They twisted and warped, dancing like a thousand whipping copperheads and pulled Red down, down, down. He screamed, grabbing onto the roots, rocks and dirt. He clawed and scratched, blood bubbling from his split fingernails. There wasn’t no one to hear him cry as the vines tortured and dragged him. Dragged him down into the cold, dark holler.

And he thought for a moment, it was a mercy he passed out.

When Red came to, he smelled the smell of land-fish mushrooms growing all around him and he felt peculiar warm for such a cold night. He tried to move, but couldn’t as it seemed he was embraced by a pair of arms holding him still.

“Ah…” sighed a sibilant voice, dry and crinkly in his ears, but womanly in tone, “Your song and words are precious to me, dear man. I fear I’ve fallen quite in love with you. Won’t you come below and dance with me? Dance a waltz to the devil’s box?”

He felt dry lips caress his ear and smelled the stink of the grave on the breath of this woman spirit. In a flash of insight, he thought to fool her and said, “My lovely, of course I’ll dance a merry fiddle dance with you. I’ll dance the night long, but let me go say goodbye to my family. I’ll return tomorrow night early and we will run away together. On this you have my promise.”

She sighed and he felt her tongue on his cheek—warm and forked. And so she released him. Red woke again on the path, shaking and shuddering, vomiting and feverish—and so stumbled back to his home just as the sun was rising—thinking he’d escaped a terrible fate.

Red stayed away from his still, the next night and the next. Until his wife tired of his laying about the house and scolded him, telling him to get his lazy self a job or cut up some firewood so they’d have money and some warmth for the winter. Red, never one to take an honest job in exchange for easy money, made his way back to the still to set up for another run of moonshine. He slept there at the still until he finally had to make his way back home one night.

This time, Red took the middle footpath home—it was a more difficult path than the lower one, but he was loath to take the same way home he had the night he dreamed (for surely it was a dream?) of the devil woman. As he climbed up and around the switchbacks, he hummed to himself—more to keep himself company and ease his nerves than anything else. At one point, the rotten rock and screed gave way and Red stumbled to his knees hollering, “Jaysus-fucking-Christ on a cracker!”

And that’s when it happened again. It seemed as though the entire mountain fell under his feet and Red was swept down, down, down past the lower path and into the cursed holler. Again, he scrabbled and scraped, grabbing onto any passing tree branch, trying to stop his fall by churning his feet, but to no avail. He tumbled and spun, down, down, down—down into the dark holler.

And this time, he did not think it a mercy when his eyes closed.

When he woke, the she-demon had her arms locked around him, but facing him so he could see her face. She was powersome beautiful in an evil way with mischievous eyes and pointed ears. The smell of mushrooms, he remembered from last time, he knew now was her special perfume. She scritched his back with her razor-sharp nails and pressed her pointy breasts against him and said, “Though you do me wrong and lie to me, I can’t help my love for you, dear man. It was naughty of you to tell me you would return and then not. But your song and your words bewitch and please me. I cannot help myself. Won’t you please come below and dance with me? Dance a waltz to the devil’s box?”

Red gave a nervous smile and thought fast. “Oh, sweet lady, I did not do you wrong, I swear,” he said. “You see, I play a bit of fiddle myself and I was composing a song to your beauty. It took me all this time to get it right and I didn’t think it worthy for your beloved ears until just this night. I was on my way home to fetch my fiddle and return to you. With this song as a gift.”

She drew a little blood with her nails, stinging him like a mankiller wasp. Then she thoughtfully said, “I will allow you to go back and collect your fiddle, since I dearly would like to hear this tune you’ve wrought. But bring yourself back to me this next night or there will be Hell to pay, mark my words.”

And with that, Red found himself back on the middle path, sick as a bluetick and stumbling home.

Red stayed home as long as he could. He did not leave his house and peered fearfully out the windows when night fell. He slept in fits and starts throughout the day, until his wife became irritable with him being underfoot.

“Why don’t you go out and get a real job?” she pleaded with him. And normally Red would backhand her across the mouth, but he watched her and womankind warily now. Still, he wasn’t ready to do such a thing, so he eventually headed back to his still. This time he stayed even longer, but finally it began to snow. It was a terrible snow that fell that winter and this was the first taste of it—and Red knew he had to make his way home if only for shelter.

This time, he took the longest way home, the upper path. It was treacherous, icy and slick. Red, not normally a praying man, found himself singing church hymns as he made his way up the steep mountainside. Closer and closer to the top he came and as the path became more dangerous, he prayed. Prayed real hard. And when a boulder came crashing down, he hollered, “Oh, Sweet Jesus, save me!”

But this time, he did not fall and the mountain did not come crashing down on his head. Instead, his demon lover emerged from the mist, rising up from the dark holler like a virago, like the possessed spirit she was. She rose until she dwarfed the mountain, wailing and rending her demon garments.

“Damn, you, Red Arlington! Damn you to Hell! You done broke my heart and I no longer find your songs sweet. You’ll make music no more, swear.”

And just like that, she was gone.

Red Arlington never made music again, and he never allowed it in his house with the exception of shape-note singing. No devil’s boxes were allowed. He was baptized that January in the frozen creek, and proclaimed himself saved—his sins forgiven.

But just you be careful, mind you what you say, if you travel the low road on a fall night when the moonlight slivers through the trees. They say the devil waits out there for you in a handsome form, waiting to take you below. Down, down, down—to dance to the devil’s box.


Happy Halloween!

I think I’ll dedicate this story to Pastor Jimmy—because I think he’d enjoy this churchy little cautionary tale. And it’s based on a story I collected from Friend Scott about one of their mutual relatives.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you the strange tale of Junior Mantooth’s Last Outing. It’s sort of an Appalachian zombie story. Based on truth. I swear. You can read it in the paper.

Monday, October 26, 2009

...By an enormous rockslide!

Yes, it's true. In an attempt to prevent hipsters from leaking into Cocke County from Asheville, an enormous wall of rock slid down the mountain blocking all lanes of I-40 at mile marker 3 in Haywood county. Geologists blame the slide on wedge failure, where two planes of rock are levered apart by rainfall, freezing and thawing and having their respective underwears pulled up around their armpits by more physically fit rocks.

It is estimated it will take three months to completely clear the highway of debris and so will not impact the yearly hipster mating season beginning in May. The last major slide occurred on July 1st, 1997.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Little Dude

So, I didn't make it to the Popcorn thing today. My body has just given out and demanded a day of rest. Good unmedicated sleep with lots of stage IV (or stage N3 if you are going by the 2007 revision)--the type of sleep I've been missing and the most beneficial for my lupus. I'll check with Betsy and see if she got any shots of the hearse with the horses. She always hears the best local gossip.

But it wasn't a total loss. The leaves seem to be at their peak and the dreary day popped the saturation. And look! Little Dude found the sunflower seeds! I was having a lie-down and saw him scampering across the porch rails and was able to snap some quick shots through the window. Their species name, Tamias, means "storer" in Greek. He's really going to town here--look at his widdle cheeks all puffed out! Now that he knows where the sunflower heads are, I'm sure he'll be back for more. Maybe tell all his friends.

That's one of the reasons I love sunflowers so much--they are so beautiful while growing and an easy fall feeder for birds and wildlife.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Suborder: Sciuromorpha
Family: Sciuridae
Tribe: Marmotini
Genus: Tamias

Friday, October 23, 2009

Boy, am I tired! Just got back from the Asheville Animal Fiber Festival. Rode in with Betsy the Goat Yoda, her daughter and grand-baby. Lots of cool stuff. I bought a drop spindle and am going to try to learn to use it. Took some piccies and will report more on that in another post.

Saw something amazing driving in. An albino wild turkey. That's not something you see every day. Turkeys are everywhere this time of year.

My insomnia has been kicking my butt in a major way and swore I was going to use Saturday as a sleep day--even if I had to drug myself into insensibility. But it's a busy and predictably bizarre time in Cocke County and it looks like I'm going to hit the road to cover even more Popcorn Sutton craziness. His widow had him dug up and is having another memorial service. She's having him buried at a secret location--because she was afraid his grave up on Mount Sterling would be vandalized. Hank Williams Jr. is attending the memorial in Dandridge. I'll probably try to make the procession through Parrotsville. History Channel will be there--they can't seem to get enough of Cocke County.

Anyway--off to bed with me.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ugg Lust

Okay. So there are these boots I'm seriously lusting for (hint, hint, nudge, nudge). Most of you know comfort is a serious concern for me--and for most of you guys too. You obviously don't come to this blog expecting to see me all dolled up on the farm. I'm definitely not the Eva Gabor type--no, I'm Eddie Albert to the max. Heels are a serious hard limit for me. When my feet hurt, I can't think, can't write, can't sling my chainsaw around or shoot at stuff.

Ugg boots are my latest object of desire. They originate in Australia and like most Aussie footwear are supremely comfortable (my friends, Tree and Lorna, gave me a pair of Blunnies and they have been one of my favorite pairs of shoes). Ugg boots are also supposedly the warmest boots in the world. Yet also the coolest. Anyway, they are made of Merino sheepskin with wooly fleece on the inside.

And then there's that intoxicating new sheepskin boot smell. I remember going into a Merino sheepskin store in the U.K. and just wanting to bury my face in everything. And no, I don't think that's weird.

I don't usually plug products on the SMB, but I really, really love these boots. I can totally see me kicking back in front of the wood stove with my toes all cushy and toasty. The folks at Whooga have offered me a coupon to pass on to you guys. If you get your uggs from them and put in the key code "smokeymoun" you'll get a 20 dollar credit to spend at their store. It will more than cover the shipping from the U.K.

Mutton gives ugg boots his seal of approval because they are made from Merino sheep and he is a Shetland. He hates those close-cropped bastards with their fine yet impossibly dense fleeces. Personally, I think he's a little jealous.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


A friend emails from the city, telling me to watch the Orionids this morning. Of course, I will do this, I replied--boasting You know, I can see The Milky Way here. Though I'm really more of a Perseids kind of gal, the sort to laze on my back on a steaming August night, a curious goat thoughtfully nibbling my hair--hoping that wasn't a night-flying mankiller wasp just landing on my thigh.

At 3:00 a.m., lately my usual bedtime, with dogs grudgingly settled on their side of the bed (but eying my pillow like a leftover snack), I turned out the lights and stepped onto the balcony with a lawn chair. I settled, opening my night eyes. Directly above were the Pleiades, always the most easily recognizable star grouping for me. When I was a child, my mother would take me into the night, resting my head in the crook of her elbow and point out the constellations, giving the stars names. In those days, you could see The Milky Way, even in Bluffton.

"That is the Pleiades, also called The Seven Sisters," she said.

I felt impressed and self-important, because my grandmother had six sisters and I thought the stars were named for my grandmother and great-aunts. What a thing that was, to have one's family written on the fabric of the night. It would be several years before I figured out my great-aunts weren't moonlighting as Artemis' retinue and we were not so grand after all.

As a tween with a bursting heart, I'd go out and lay on my back on the lawn, staring up at the stars until the world fell away and the hurting stopped. I felt sometimes I was floating in the sky, only coming down to shine a red flashlight on my star chart. When I wrote "Saturniides", that was the feeling I was describing. In workshop many people said they didn't know what "falling into the stars" meant. I don't know. Often I take my life experiences and how I see the world for granted. I imagine everyone must have come across the feeling of being consumed by the night. But there are places where the stars don't shine like that and where lovesick girls don't turn to the stars for solace.

I looked toward Betelgeuse and a white knife sliced the sky. It's not too showy, but enough for me to reach out, catch it and put it in my pocket.


I need to make a correction on my Snowbird post. My brother tells me I have it backwards. The FAA facility on Snowbird is for flight navigation with instruments. It uses VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Range) which is outdated but still commonly used by most planes. Newer planes use GPS. They'll probably close the Snowbird facility in a few years when all planes make the leap to GPS.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Very late on Tuesday--actually Wednesday morning around 12:30 a.m.--headlights come up my driveway. Never a good sign. So I put on some pants (What?! You don't lounge around in your underwear after hours in the middle of nowhere?! Get over yourself!) and grab a gun. I slam on the porch lights so the intruder can see I'm in full possession of both pants and gun, which I firmly believe are important things to have in one's possession during any late night backwoods encounter. Yay! Pants! Yay! Gun!

Dogs are going nuts--but it's sort of a joyous nuts, especially on Max's part.

A long, deep drawl floats out of the intruder's truck window, "Hey, you got a couch in there for me?"

It's Friend Scott! Completely unexpected visit. I was sort of expecting him to come Wednesday day, but his schedule is sort of crazy and I don't always expect him when he says he's driving up. So this was really great. There's not a single thing about Scott that makes me uncomfortable--from his six-foot-nine frame to his languid Carolina drawl, everything Scott reminds me of home. I really miss having him live just up the road. I realize Scott is sort of my muse, in a way. I never lack for stories when Scott is around.

We sit up talking until four-ish or so. Scott tortured Max with a laser pointer--any tool that can distract ADD-Dog is welcome. We talk about many things, but there's this story he tells about him climbing out of The Red Claptrap of Death and this little man telling him, "You a twelve foot man in a two foot car!"

We get up at the crack of the afternoon--Scott swears he tried to wake me up but couldn't--and we take off driving around in his new truck. He hasn't had a chance to play with the 4WD so we grab a few corn dogs and waters at the Citgo and head up to Waterville, taking the road that goes by the AT Outpost--the back-back-back way into Grassy Fork. We natter the whole way, rummage through an abandoned house, see and chase veritable herds of turkeys. There's a long conversation about how come turkeys are so hard to hunt but if we tried real hard we could run one over with the truck. How come?

We end up driving all the way to the top of Snowbird to the FAA facility. My brother, the airline pilot, has told me about this--what it is for. It's a way for pilots to navigate without instruments. They have places like this all over the country. He's only seen it from the air. It's an unimpressive little building with a round roof and a big cone on top. The locals have many fanciful theories for what it's for. A "secret military installation," they'll say. Homeland security. And sometimes there is military activity related to this little place.

It's a long, bumpy ride to the top, and like a Roman road, it goes straight up. We've been living in the cloud cover for the past few days--it's like living in the rain rather than having it fall. On Snowbird, the fog is thick and the wind is high. You can see ribbons of cloud streaming by--so solid you could grab them, maybe stick your tongue out to taste them. It's sort of a shame since on a clear day, I suspect we could see to Clingman's Dome or the skyline of K-town from up there. It's 4623 feet above sea level. Scott checks his cell phone, then spreads out his arms like a giant bird and drinks the wind.

On the way down, we have to stop the truck to let the brakes cool.

Anyway, we visited a few of his friends and then he was off, back to Greenville. Usually my posts have some structure to them. Usually I nail my endings on my blog posts. Not gonna do that here. I just really miss my big friend. He's a great big irresponsible man-child, he redecorates my fucking house if he's here for more than a few hours, he places things on shelves out of my reach, he often lies (and badly), he gossips like an old woman, he's always in some sort of trouble, he's gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide--and completely irreplaceable. I miss him.

Monday, October 12, 2009

For those of you who were wondering when I was going to write another fishing story--or another Lowcountry story--I offer "Shiners" up on issue #28 of Right Hand Pointing.

Right Hand Pointing is "an online literary journal of very brief pieces for smart people with short attention spans." While you are there, check out Len Joy's .pdf form piece, "Harlow Comes Home." Those things make my eyes hurt, but this one is worth the eyestrain. Check them all out--there's some wonderful work in this issue.

"Shiners" is set on a dock at night--perhaps somewhere in Beaufort County, S.C., perhaps even on the May River--and is about the thrill of vulnerability, stolen almost kisses, bluefish and bad boys. It's about that thing that joins moths, shiners and teenage girls--all flirting with a beautiful destruction.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rusty Barnes' Fried Chicken and Coffee has one of my Appalachian stories up right now you may want to check out.

"Errid* and Delilah" came out of the history of a building over on the Old Asheville Highway. The stretch of highway outside of Newport has a history of truckstop prostitution. It's close enough to the NC/TN state line to have attracted the attention of the Feds. This is the old style truckstop prostitution--not the current "lot lizard" type. They shut down two houses of ill-repute in 2005 as part of Operation Rose Thorn. I'd driven by both of the buildings many times and had just thought them to be bars--the sort of bar I grew up calling a "juke joint."

A bit of time passed and one of the cathouses got a new coat of paint and reopened as a church. If I'm not mistaken, Pastor Jimmy's brother serves as preacher.

"Errid and Delilah" is a "what if" scenario prompted by this history. I owe a great debt to the culture of my adopted home for much of my writing. It's part of what I love about it--this long tradition of lawlessness. Quite often there is a letter to the editor in the Newport "Pie Hole" decrying news about the corruption and crime here. But it's part of the culture--it's what makes us different and special. It's what attracted the attention of The L.A. Times and Esquire Magazine. Surely there is a way to celebrate this history while continuing to move forward?

*Errid is most commonly a woman's name of Australian origin. When I first heard it, it struck me very much as some of the old variations of Appalachian names of Scots/Irish origin. When I found it meant "chariot warrior"--it seemed a natural choice for my lovelorn truck driver, regardless of gender.
Charles-Edwards, T. M.(2000). Early Christian Ireland. Cambridge University Press. p. 70

Friday, October 09, 2009

This week certainly has turned into the Magical Mystery Insomnia Tour for me—haven’t been to sleep until 4:00 a.m. all week. I even set my alarm to 9:00 a.m. this morning so I wouldn’t sleep until 2 in the afternoon. Yet here I am. 3:15 a.m.

The moon was particularly splendid this evening. Nibbled off on the upper right corner and framed by fluffy blue clouds. A regular My Little Pony of a sky. It needed unicorns or something. Something. I was on the way home from a Pagan Goat Wobble Potluck over in the Rocky Flats community where The Goat Yoda lives. Anyway, I was busting for a pee and pulled into Cabbage County Road on the way home to relieve myself and there was something about that moon that called to me. Not a soul around on a deserted, remote mountain road and the light breaking over the trees.

Anyway, it was a good crowd of people and I had a fine time. It’s always good to see Betsy and her lovely family. She has a new grand baby who is the happiest little cuss I’ve ever spied. We talked a bunch—I’ve missed that with her. And I learned something new from her husband, Chris, who is a big Josh Whedon/Firefly fan. It's now official. Twilight fans have usurped the Furries in the rock bottom (and continuing to dig...) placement in the hierarchy of fandoms.

And I thought Furries was just like a sex thing. Evidently not. You know--I used to make furries. Scary, huh?

Here’s one of the drummers from the gathering—cool tats, yes?

This is Betsy’s Nairobian Twirling Goat. Very rare. Don’t see one of these little buggers every day. They are so-called because in their native country, they chase their tails when a storm approaches. It’s some sort of genetic anomaly—like the Fainting Goats (youtube link of fainting goat fainting--never gets old), but instead of the myotonia, they have an inner ear abnormality that is sensitive to changes in barometric pressure. Really. I swear.

That was so much fun to write I think it may be time for another installment of Rumor Control.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Last night, I'm coming back up the mountain around 8:30 or so--on my way home from the gym, still half wet and stinking of chlorine from the pool--when this little creature ambles out into the road in front of me. I slow down since my brain registers something like Skunk! Skunk! Don't hit it or you'll be hosing the undercarriage of the jeep off for the next six months!

I manage to avoid hitting it--despite the fact it waddles into the middle of the road, sits on its haunches, smokes a cigarette then turns back the way it came--back in front of the jeep. Since I had a good bit of time to observe it while it was enjoying the cigarette, I noticed it didn't look like the skunks I thought I knew. That's because it was a Eastern Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius). He was much smaller than the familiar Striped Skunk and had spots. Most definitely recognizable as a skunk--just not what I was expecting. Anyway, he was absolutely adorable--just not something I wanted to tangle with.

Appalachian terminology note:

Have I told you guys about "weed"? It's the term some of the older women use for mild mastitis. I did find a reference to it as a colloquialism in a 1916 medical journal but it's still in use here--at least by the "old folks".

Thursday, October 01, 2009

'Twas brillig and my slithy toves have been gyring and gimboling all over my effing wabe. Which is to say, it's been a warm fall day with sunshine and good air quality. I was a bit worried first thing this morning since the Smoky's signature fog enveloped the house and my rocks were coming today. But the sun burned off the low cloud ceiling and the day bloomed.

The foggy morning provided some foreshadowing. It would have been more obvious with a foreboding soundtrack. I get the call the rocks are on the way and I hop in the jeep to make my way down the mountain to meet the truck. I meet the truck down at the Pigeon River Smokehouse and lead the 25 ton truck gleefully up the mountain. A girl has never been more ready for her rocks.

We get to the house and I pay the man--we'll call him "Daryl" (not his real name)--and tell him where to start dumping the rocks. The concern all along was how far one 20 ton load would spread. It's a pretty long road. I tell him about the clayey bits right in the middle. He tells me a couple of times that he ran the truck off the mountain when his brakes went out last week. But there wasn't any harm done. Yeah, yeah--let's get to spreading some rock--I swear I'm like a second grader with one of those tapes of big trucks, just so thrilled to have this manly bit of machinery on my property. I'm such a sucker for big tractors and earth haulers. Daryl's not nearly as decorative as the road scraper guy--but hey! He's got rocks and lots of 'em. He asks me if I have any transmission or steering fluid--but I don't since I get all that stuff done in town. Still, I'm not hearing the scary music that surely must be playing.

Have you seen one of these things in action up close? It's awesome! The container part of it rears up like a freaking tyranasaurus rex all hydraulics hissing and snapping. The rocks come out of it as he drives this monster down my road--they fall like hot, noisy pudding completely covering the road. And he keeps going. Daryl rocks my entire road--that we were thinking would take two loads--in one smooth stretch of giant rock truck driving genius. I'm so impressed, I'm thinking, Daryl--you totally rock, buddy!

He disappears around the curve and I get in the jeep to catch him so I may praise his masterful application of gravel. When I get to the foot of the road, the truck is there. With a tree-sized limb jambed between the now stuck truck bed. Evidently, Daryl forgot to take note of the great whopping buckeye when he drove in and took off a sizable portion of said tree.

"Oops. That's gonna need a chainsaw," I say.

"You got one?"

"Yeah, but it won't start. Haven't taken it into Dean's yet this season."

We stare at the tree a while.

"It hit the cab."

"Yeah, but you did a fabulous job rocking the road," I say. I hate this for him. The rear glass is out of the cab and it's got a big ding.

He gets in the jeep and I drive back to the house. I call his office for him, and I can see he's relieved I'm doing the calling. And his dispatcher is a bit peeved, I can tell. I give them directions and tell them to bring a chain saw.

"Can't he just push it out of the way?"

"Well, no," I say, "the limb is as big as my thigh and I got pretty big thighs. It's a tree shaped limb."

I hear her telling someone in the office what has happened. Peeved. Really peeved.

"But he did a wonderful job with the road. A better job of dumping out rocks, I have never seen. Really."

So, I'm looking at the pretty white rocks stretching down my road and thinking about Daryl. Hoping he doesn't take too much flack for the unfortunate dump truck vs. tree accident. Guess somebody's going to need to reset the "We have gone ___ days without an accident!" sign.