July 09, 2004

A Brush with Redneck Royalty

As we celebrated our Independence Day last weekend, I recalled the question asked of me by a fellow high school student in 1990 or so: "So, do they celebrate July 4th in England?"

I only smiled, patted her on the head and sat down at another desk, one on the other side of the room. In my time at school I've encountered many such "Mental Black Holes" as she. The phenomenon is a lack of brainpower so incredible that it actually brings down the intelligence of others in the surrounding area. A person so dense that it devours nearby intellect. Not even common sense can escape its pull.

I think it was the comic "Bloom County" that pioneered the idea of Mental Black Holes to the scientific community, and I've found a great deal of evidence to support the hypothesis over the years. Living in the South, it's not hard to find these subjects, just listen for their distinctive mating call: "Hey y'all, watch THIS!!"

The best subject of the "Hey Y'all, Watch This" species that I've found was in a remote part of South Georgia. It was a birthday party for a friend-of-a-friend, but I didn't know the guy from Adam. (I'll refer to him as "Mike" to protect his identity, and because I can't remember it.)

"Mike's a really great guy," they said, "REAL funny. You'll like him." He seemed very popular, judging from the thirty or so people that had gathered in his house. While waiting to surprise him, guests were re-telling some stories of him, only to stop short of the punchline and declare "Forget it, you've got to hear Mike tell it."

When the guest of honor entered the door, we all shouted "Surprise!" Mike had a laid-back drawl that was in no hurry, since you'd stick around to hear the end of it anyway. After blowing out the candles, we all headed into the living room to nibble our cake and hear a story, as if we were kids again.

As soon as Mike opened his mouth, I know I was in the presence of a redneck legend. I don't care who you are, you'll pay attention to any story that begins with "Now you know on the back of those spray cans, it has that warning to keep it away from open flames?"

"Anyway, me and the guys was sittin' around the fire one night," he began, "and we had a bunch of these spray cans in the pickup bed. We'd had a few beers, and we was getting bored. I read that warning on the can and get to thinkin'. A few minutes later, here's what we do: We all get right up next to the fire, facing out, and we each put a spray can in the fire right behind us."

I can't tell the story like he did, but the point was this: The last person to run away from the exploding spray cans, wins.

The next story was of another contest, where one man would stand on the hood of the truck while the others drove it into one of those rolled bales of hay. The guy who flies the farthest, wins.

We all were mesmerized by his storytelling. Our jaws were frozen in the slack position in one long expression of "You've got to be kidding me!" After a while, he started taking requests from the crowd, and told us about how his buddies freaked him out one night by "painting" him with their rifle's laser sight when he was home alone.

This went on for almost two hours. My wife and I had never heard the stories before, but everyone else there loved hearing them over and over, like roadies for a rock band.

As we drove home that night, I realized the importance of Mike. The fact that he continues to live, after so many flirtations with death, may single-handedly disprove the Darwinian theory of "survival of the fittest."

Wherever you are today, Mike, I salute you. Everyone knew a crazy kid in school who would do anything, but you are their king.

No comments:

Post a Comment