A day late… Oops! Better late than never…
Being the only white man on an all black crew at a wood yard was an experience in itself. I was also the youngest by a decade and a half, and I was also the son of the man who was in charge of a major part of the paper mill where the wood from the wood yard was headed. I just saw this as another job, a way to make enough money to support my pot and drinking habits, and really not all that bad of a job. It was incredibly noisy, dangerous, and dirty, but I was stoned so I didn’t care.
The other worker soon realized that even though I had a family connection to the paper mill it hadn’t helped me very much at all. This wasn’t some sort of nepotism but rather some odd form of punishment. For my father to hold the position that he held, and for me to wind up
working at the bottom of a crew in one of the worst job associated with the business told them a lot more than I had figured out at the time. While other sons of other paper mill men were off to college or getting experience in some job that mattered, I was shoveling sawdust and dodging broken pieces of trees at the wood yard. In the rain and the cold and the dust and the dirt, I was too stoned to care, and usually drunk enough not to notice.
There were two brothers, who worked there, and they were the first to explain to me that white people in general, and white people who had connections, could only bring them trouble. They too were at the bottom of the paper mill business ladder, something happened to me, or with me, they would share the blame. They fact that I was stoned and drunk most of the time meant that if I ever got hurt or busted, they might in some way have blame cast upon them, simply by the fact they were there and they were black. I had never thought about it that way and it was a weird thing to think about.
It was about that time in my life a friend of mine had a cousin move in with her. I went over to meet the cousin and wow! She was drop dead beautiful. The woman had a mane of jet black hair and incredible green eyes. She was from Possum Holler Virginia, which was near Saltville, and I was in love with her from the first time I saw her. But how to impress this woman from Possum Holler Virginia? I was despondent. I didn’t have a clue as to how to win her heart. But my first thought was to get her drunk, very drunk, and to see what happened next.
It was very nearly Thanksgiving and this put the wood yard crew in a festive mood. I stole a bottle of whiskey from my father’s stash and took it to work with me. One of the other guys, who happened to be one of the brothers, decided to have a drink or two with me, and while we worked we slowly got bombed out of our minds and then we smoked a joint. We were feeling very good about the upcoming holidays, and to make things better, he let it slip he knew someone who might be able to get me some moonshine. Now moonshine was something not easily obtained and you had to trust the people who you got it from. The man told me, after a few more drinks, he and his brother made it, and it was more or less a family business.
Of course, his brother was appalled that the family secret was out, but it’s better to do business with someone than not to, so they sold me a quart of moonshine, and the next evening, the night before Thanksgiving Day, I went to see the woman from Possum Holler Virginia with some moonshine!
At that point in my life I was incredibly and painfully and terribly shy but there is something about alcohol that burns with a clean blue flame. The woman from Possum Holler knew a thing or two about Shine and she declared this quart top notch, and we both took a straight shot. It felt like liquid fire going all the way down to my toes. It took my breath away
nearly as much as she did. We toasted ourselves with another shot and suddenly, I wasn’t so shy, and she looked a millions times more beautiful. We mixed some Mountain Dew with the Shine and after a drink we were holding hands and ignoring the rest of the party. The second drink went down and we went for a walk and kissed under a tree. After everyone else left, we cuddled up on the sofa and she allowed that in fact, it was a fold away bed.
The next morning I was still mostly drunk, slightly stoned, very hungover, and had to drive three hours to my mother’s house for Thanksgiving lunch. Now, this was just after my mother had remarried, and her new husband’s family was quite a rural and conservative bunch. I was skinny, had long hair, and smoked a couple of joints to ease the pain in my head before I got there. I looked a wreck. I did take a shower before I left, but my hair had frizzed out on me, I had dark circles under my eyes, and there was a hickey the size of a silver dollar on my neck. My first encounter with my mother’s in-laws was…memorable.
The woman from Possum Holler and I went on to be quite a couple. She got mad at me one night, broke up with me, moved back to Virginia and we drifted apart. We got back together, long distance, five years later, after her marriage failed, but we never quite made that same connection. But that was one Thanksgiving I was always remember most fondly.
Mike writes regularly at his site: The Hickory Head Hermit
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