Friday Firesmith – Cheeseburgers and Crow

If you read last week’s Friday Firesmith you met a guy who thought a Brown Water Snake was a Cottonmouth. Google and I couldn’t talk him into believing anything else, and to make matters worse, for him and his story, one of his cousins died of snakebite which was disputed by someone on his crew.

Tuesday, he comes up to me to tell me a massive, huge, Cottonmouth is hiding in a bush, and waiting to ambush someone, from the bush, get it?  He asks me if I’m packing. At work. Anyway, the alleged adder turns out to be a stick, and the crew, who he was trying to talk into allowing him to toss a Molotov at it, dies laughing at him. For the rest of the day, this young man is mocked mercilessly by the crew, and myself. I show him a photo of a bunch of sticks in a pile and tell him it’s baby Cottonmouths.

The nickname “Stickman” pops up and it’s as funny as hell.

At three in the afternoon a storm pops up and I’m on the wrong side of the bridge. It’s twenty miles further away from the main road, so I’m in for a longer drive as we quit for the day. And then there’s a tree down. I have no equipment with me; no chainsaw, no pull strap, no winch, and nothing at all. Still, my roots are redneck so I hit the ditch and go around the tree. But the work truck is a four-cylinder with road tires on it. I can’t get back on the hardtop. I call the foreman, and even though he’s thirty miles away by now, he turns around and comes back to rescue me.

The crew divides up between two trucks, with the foreman, another guy, and Stickman coming to rescue me.

There are two things here: The first is if a man calls for help in this sort of thing, he has to have tried everything in his power to get unstuck. I try rocking it out, putting sticks under the tires, and cursing it in the name of the Mud Gods. The second thing is not to make things so bad it’s an ordeal for those coming to help. I stop before getting stuck to the doors.

The foreman and the other guys show up with thick canvas straps and a Ford F-350 with all-terrain tires and a trailer hitch designed to pull heavy machines.

Before I can say a word, Stickman hits the ground with a strap, crawls under my truck, and has the strap secured. He comes out with half an acre of mud all over him. They pull me out with little effort and Stickman gets the strap unhitched, again, without a word. I offer him twenty bucks and he refuses it, flat out.

I bought them all lunch today, and I feel bad about the things I’ve written about Stickman. He’s young, excitable, and doesn’t know anything about snakes. Despite his faults, the kid has a heart of gold. His poison of choice is cheeseburgers, and because he’s at the low end of the pay scale, a free meal means something. I’ll eat my crow. I’ve earned it.

One of the primary causes of injustice is the inability of humans to simply help one another without expectation of reward. Another would be ingratitude; people don’t appreciate what they have and they don’t show gratitude when they’ve been helped.

Stickman and I make a good team, I think, and he asks if I’m going to finish my fries, so I push them over onto his plate, and he starts telling me why he’s wearing an ankle monitor.

Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit. Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.


12 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Cheeseburgers and Crow”

  1. I am so happy to read this. I was about to call you and your workers Mean Girls and there aren’t many things worse. Enjoy that crow pie.

    • To be honest, Stickman brings a lot of it on himself. He’s like a puppy that tries to be a much larger dog than he ever will be, but still. He’s a good person.

    • Chris, I firmly believe if you can just be grateful nearly all your problems will look a lot smaller.

      And if you help people, their problems will be smaller, too.

  2. You and your cohorts were teasing stickman about and because of his snake paranoia.
    I don’t think what you wrote was nasty, expressing more disbelief than disdain, although your personal opinion of him may have been darker because of your love of those slimy venomous evil agents of the Devil.
    The cheeseburgers were a payback for helping you out of a jam, I don’t see any crow in them… fries either.
    Ankle monitors are great for stopping the death dripping fangs of the killer cottonmouths.

    • Bruce, it’s interesting that he sees money as something that somehow isn’t worthy of his actions. It’s not something he’ll take in exchange for the good feeling he gets for helping. Sharing a meal with someone, however, is a medium he’s willing to entertain. This is payment in kind, something very real and needed, and it’s not payment, but gratitude, which he can accept. That’s a very worthy code of ethics.

  3. I have been in that kind of culture–you tease each other but will come to aid each other when needed.

    During the summers of college, I worked for my county highway department. For the most part, I think the full-time employees did not care much for us college kids–but did appreciate the extra help and some did start caring. One story sticks out: after putting in a 10-hour day (in the summer, they worked 4 10-hour days and had three-day weekends), I back out of my parking spot and notice I have a flat tire. I got out to look and before I could do anything, about 3 or 4 guys came over and changed the tire for me. Great guys–and they even knew where all the tools were for an ’80 Chevy LUV truck.

    Maybe not call Stickman “stickman” but keep educating him on snakes; he may never appreciate them but he can at least not panic on them–like he did not panic slipping under your truck to secure the strap. And keep the teasing light-hearted.

    • Tim,
      Very nice story of your own, and not the first. I think he understands I’m pretty much harmless, and the fact he was in a hurry to help shows that, I hope. There’s more to come from this young man’s life. He’s barely twenty but he’s got a lot more on his plate than just fries.

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