Thanks to this charming blog entry I’m reminded of some ancient personal history:
Once upon another lifetime that just happens to have occurred between my birth in 1961 and the present day, I lived in Northwest Florida. I was in the US Air Force then, but not what you’d call strongly committed to it. Those people, the ones who run that show, are bat shit crazy and armed to the teeth — never a good combination, and nothing an independent, self respecting, life loving adult should ever be involved with. There in FLA (Fucking Lower Alabama) I rented a mobile home in the woods outside of town.
Let us not now contemplate the wisdom of living in a mobile home in a region known for both hurricanes and tornadoes. We’ll get to that bit later.
My landlord, Mr. Ross, was a caricature of stereotypes, to put it succinctly. He didn’t believe in organized religion, I think mainly because no one preached anything so insane as the stuff he had going on in his head. He got his religion, the parts of it that weren’t folk mythology or remnants of memories once contained by now dead brain cells, from television preachers. It was quite the mix, and he was always eager to properly educate this heathen in the ways of the world and the god who created it. Because, y’know, ya gotta stand for something or you’ll… you’ll… uh, won’t get fooled again. Something like that. With heartfelt apologies to Pete Townshend.
The dude had an irrational hatred for mushrooms, which meant he always had objects of his hatred close at hand through the oppressive Gulf Coast summers. He never got around to explaining why mushrooms pissed him off, and I didn’t ask. My goal in all of our conversations was to get them over with as quickly as possible, and without saying something that might cause him to evict me for being one who reminded him too much of one of his demons. He was known for that, and we had more than one heated conversation when he got a little further out of line than I was willing to tolerate. I found it difficult to talk to him because in addition to being unintelligent, uneducated, and superstitious as all get out, he had a thick accent whose origin I couldn’t figure. It was like a hybrid of Southernese and Appalachian hillbilly. Half the time I had no idea what he was saying, and just nodded my head.
One day while I was sleeping ahead of another swing or midnight shift of the stupid, brutal rotating shifts we worked on the missile warning station, there came a knock at the front door, which I ignored. I wasn’t expecting anyone or anything, and I really needed my sleep. The knocking persisted, and the ignoring of the knocking did, too. Then came a knock at the back door. Ignored. Then knocking on my bedroom window, which elevated annoyance to anger on my part. I really needed the sleep I never got enough of. There was a popular poster then, found in most places Air Force:
SLEEP TIGHT TONIGHT:
YOUR AIR FORCE IS AWAKE!
Indeed. Not wide awake, not by any stretch of the imagination, but slightly more awake than asleep.
At the window, Mr. Ross was agitated and demanding that I get my ass out into the front yard. There was no possibility that anything out there would be of interest to me, but going out to see what the old bastard was on about was the fastest route back to sleep so I pulled some clothes on and went outside.
Fairy rings. The son of a bitch was carrying on about fairy rings. He pointed toward one:
Look it at.
No, the lot of ’em. At’s a fairy ring!
You know what em is, em fairy rings?
Uh, mushrooms in a circle?
Em’s signs of demons an evil spirits!
No they’re not.
Well then what are they, Mister Smarty Pants?
You don’t like fairy rings?
I hate fairy rings. Ay’s evil!
Well then quit kicking the damned mushrooms.
What are you talkin’ ’bout, quit kickin’ the mushrooms?
Mushrooms are fungi. They reproduce via spores. Break a mushroom into bits, and every bit is capable of growing into another mushroom.
What’s at gotta do with anythin’?
Quick kicking them to bits, and those bits won’t land in the circular pattern where you’ve kicked them, and you won’t get fairy rings.
Oh… Well I guess at makes sense. How come you know all this kind o’ stuff?
I read a lot.
Mr. Ross was always on the lookout for evil spirits, and he found signs of them everywhere.
Not long after I moved in as the first one ever to live in that brand new mobile home, it developed a leaky roof. At the front end of the structure the metal of the roof wasn’t quite wide enough to be folded over the edge, and right at the front there was bare wood frame showing. Mr. Ross explained it to me one day:
Ya know why yer trailer’s leakin’?
Yeah, the metal of the roof isn’t properly folded over the edge along this corner here.
No not at. The real reason it’s leakin’.
Oh, that. Yeah. There were no craftsmen involved in building the thing. The manufacturers just hire any old body off of the street who’ll work like a rented mule for low wages, and they crank these things out just as fast as they can. It’s cheaper to put a few guys who are more like real craftsmen into pickup trucks and send them around fixing the mistakes than it is to hire a whole crew of them to build the things without mistakes.
Oh, no, that ain’t it at all.
No, not at all. It’s evil spirits. Now I ain’t sayin’ you got evil spirits livin’ in yer trailer. It ain’t nuthin’ like at at all. It’s em evil spirits what gets into people. People are basically good an want to do good work, but they gets evil spirits in ’em. It’s em evil spirits what causes things like drinkin’ an fornicatin’ and shoddy workmanship. It ain’t that them people don’t want to do good, it’s just at they got evil spirits in em. If ay’d just accept Jesus Christ into their lives em evil spirits would leave an ay’d do good work.
Oh. Thanks for explaining that to me. I had no idea.
One might wonder why a fine and enlightened, life loving, self respecting young man would choose to live in a mobile home on the Gulf Coast where they serve as bait for hurricanes and tornadoes. It was what I could afford is the only reason. My choices were limited to (a) in town, not gonna happen, (b) some moldy old bug and rat infested thing that used to be a house, also not gonna happen, or (c) a new mobile home, and always with an ear out for the sounds of approaching tornadoes.
Only one tornado ever got close enough to cause concern, but lucky for me it wasn’t a direct hit. It took out some nearby neighbors, doing lots of property damage, but resulted in no serious injuries or loss of life. That’s when I thought it might be good to take a look under the trailer to find out if it was properly anchored. It wasn’t anchored at all, was just suspended on concrete pilings resting on the ground. I took it up with Mr. Ross the next time we talked. He explained it at me thusly:
Y’see em trailers over air, on my neighbor’s place? Ay’s all anchored down like at. Them trailers are all new since at last hurricane blowed through here, an the ones at us there, ever last one of ’em, was all anchored down an all of ’em blowed over. None o’ mine was anchored down and not a one of ’em blowed over.
So you don’t suppose that the big difference was that this area caught only the northern edge of the storm, so saw only very strong winds out of the east, so your neighbor’s trailers which are oriented north and south caught the force of the wind on their broad eastern sides, while yours oriented east and west took the force only on their much smaller eastern ends?
Oh no at ain’t it ‘tall. I’m tellin’ ya, anchorin’ ’em down makes ’em blow over easier!
I love Colorado.