Onion Made: A Feux in Email Form

I probably told you about working for this "real" old-fashioned blue-collar masonry crew in Asheboro.  It was how I got to a decent level in the trade where I knew enough about what I was doing to still be doing it deep into geezerhood.  I loved the job, tho it was hard as hell.  It got snarly when they found out I'd gone to college--the gap there is part of the reason the Rs are in.  Bush, the rich prick, talks redneck and that seems to be convincing on the gut level where most of these folks live constantly.  The characters and lives on this crew were something tho--worth really writing up actually, one o those things I should do when it starts to snow and rain around here.  A guy named Shorty who drove a truck with big long horns on the hood, drank a 12 pack of  Blue Ribbon every day, was about 70, eventually got fired for building a whole wall crooked, and said, one day, that the only thing he wanted to hear from Nelson Mandela was the "uhhhh" when the bullet hit him.  All these guys were of course Jesse Helms all the way.  The boss hollered at secretaries when we would go out to lunch in the company truck (the boss was a young strapping handsome redneck who'd been the pupil of the younger brother of Shorty, whose name was Bill).

I was "assigned" to Bill when they realized I wasn't good enough to just jump into the line--I'd been doing stone work, not serious brick and block work that had to be perfect.  I worked with Bill (and talked) for 6 weeks or so, as his assistant.  Great great education.  Bill had taught shop till he was beat up by some kids, his students.  Said he broke his level over one of their heads.  Said he wished he'd grabbed his hammer.  He sort of sold the bidness to the boss, Randall, so he could build up his social security.  He was 58 then--1986-- and pondered the strange fact that he once was in a good union, had benefits, health, etc.... now it was all gone.  But by gawd he wasn't voting for no nigger-loving democrat.  I worked with these bozos for about 8 months.  The jobs were huge.  Finally they got to a smaller job and laid off several of the new hands, including me.  I went back to UNC and got my teacher's certificate, but student teaching was far worse than masonry and that's another story.

So here I am.  Older than Bill Underwood, about ready to sign up for social security myself. Randall got drunk after work a couple of weeks before I quit, climbed a tree at work, fell out and nearly broke his neck.  There was another guy who had shot two people, was on parole.  He told me one day "I'd never rob someone who was friends."  He also was proud of the fact that he'd never bought a wheelbarrow in his life.  Another guy named "Snake" had been in prison, was married with a little kid, every day his wife would come by and they'd fight at lunch break. Another guy, the best younger mason, offered to let me "do" his wife if he could watch.  He seemed serious.  Another guy, the old man who mixed the mud, was 76 and had been in prison for murder.  "All my family won't talk to me any more," he said.  He would climb the scaffold every day with a cast on one arm, the arm holding a bucket of water.  After work he'd mow lawns for a little more dough.  We'd see him sometimes driving out of Randleman on the way home.  Then they hired an Indian from Troy who came to work (probably an hour and half each way), driving an old huge Chevrolet station wagon banger.  He'd always be vaguely drunk, and would ride up and down in the forklift full of mud, shoveling it into our pans.  Everyone always called him "Tonto."  The fork lift operator seemed straighter than most of them, but then I noticed he and Randall would get stoned every morning before things started up, at 6:30.  The stories went on and on.  I carpooled with some of the younger guys till Stevie, the driver, started throwing wine cooler empties over the top of the truck at signs as we sped down the highway at 60.  This was at 3:30 in the afternoon.  He was a good shot too, but I figured eventually some trooper would be coming up behind so I started driving myself to and from.  They saw me as seriously uppity after that, but I was on the homestrech by then and the layoff was coming.

These were the guys building the buildings of this great land of ours.  They are the soldiers too, the guys you were with at LeJeune I'd guess, at least before war.  The best of them were the old guys, in their 60s.  I always thought Randall was pretty amazing, to hire parolees--he told me that they had to show up or he'd turn them in.  But politically, every damn one of them should be a Yaller Dawg democrat.  Instead, the "race card" divides them all.  Randall told me once, "A nigger can't even push a wheelbarrow." He said this as, next to our construction site, an all-black crew was building a similar factory building to ours.  And--final oddity in the world of NAFTA and all--we were building a damn textile mill. Huh???  I wonder if it's still running, the last factory standing in the Piedmont.  Re Bush and all, it looks like Iraq might not cooperate with the SOB and just drift out of the news.  Did you hear that Limbaugh had the unsurprising gall to say that what the hell, a thousand dead, that's just a couple of weeks on the US highways.  I think ole Rushbo should experience the moment of truth that Brando commemorates in One Eyed Jacks, when he fools Lon (Slim Pickins) into unlocking his cell with an empty derringer, gets him on his knees, and says, with Lon's own very loaded revolver at his head, "Lookee here Lon; wasn't loaded."   Well, I'm going to go lay up some rocks for a nice couple who are going to soon be unconsititutional if the Christian Fascists have their way.    Onward.

PS. Oh, and there's a nice note re this week's VP debate--turns out unsurprisingly that Cheney voted against a Sense of the Congress Resolution calling on Nelson Mandela's release from jail in South Africa.  Can't you just see him saying that "uhhhhhhhhh" line from Shorty?  This is the resonance.  It's still here, it never seems to die.  I drove into my nice masonry suppliers' place of bidness last week with my shiny "ReDefeat Bush in '04" bumper sticker.  The owner there is about ten years younger than me and went to the same high school as John Edwards.  He was as hardcore Bush as you could find, gave me all the "arguments."  "They are going to take away our guns," "Bush stands for the moral path," "Clinton lied to us" (that's a real good one!!), etc. etc.  I said well John Edwards is from NC so that should be good for the state.  "He always wanted to talk in high school, got out of there as fast as he could, nobody in Robbins is for him except the ones who want to be in front of a camera."  The conversation was sad and depressing and I was sorry we had it.  The guy's a nice feller who skeet shoots for a hobby and a month ago he went down to San Antonio for a big skeet shoot contest and he and the missus went to the Alamo, and when he got back he showed me all his pictures of the trip.  Now we have this sad and profound disagreement.  We live in two different worlds, and very unparallel they are.  In his world the black choppers are coming any day for his skeet gun, and I didn't have the heart to tell him that if they want that firearm they'll just put a couple of missiles into his bedroom window like they did with Uday and Xnay over in Iraq.  As far as Iraq goes, he said "the military loses a thousand every year and no one cares, what's the difference."  "They went in for oil," he said.  I guess he figures we need the oil, we take the oil.  That's imperialism.  That's how this great land of ours was "built," just google the Right Reverand Chivington or the Sand Creek Massacre on the ole web.   Tonto's probably dead by now from a poisoned liver, but this guy would be glad to have him sweeping up the yard for $5 an hour, and Tonto would be glad to take the job.

 --Bill

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December 7, 2004