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March 16, 2004

Sixteen Tons

My pappy died o' the Yellow Lung, long about '86, after Redenbacher and his goons took over the industry in the seventies. Tweren't no insurance--nobody believed there was any such thing as the Yellow Lung back then

They didn't tell Pappy that, not to his face at least. Nor Mam. She'd a tore a hank a hair off anyone who dared quicker'n you could say spit. Mam was Irish, you know--red hair, green eyes and temper like a cat with a liniment enema. She never let us eat popcorn, after--not that we wanted to, much. Made do with Jordan Almonds and Raisinets when we had the money, which weren't often.

Pappy? Well, Pappy just coughed at any he suspected of being a Doubtin' Thomas. His breath smelled like the Sunday morning floor at the Bijou after a sellout Saturday night, it did. You ever smelled buttered popcorn after it's been tromped on for a couple hours, then left to simmer in grease, dirt and spilled Co-cola? It ain't pleasant, friend, and Pappy aimed for your shoes. Ain't nothing like a bright yellow loogie on his shoe to put a man off his argument.

What's worse, from his point of view, is that the smell gets into the shoe leather. That damn rancid butter smell just wafts on up and bites him in the nose whenever the weather turns warmish. I know--Pappy done it onecet to me in church when I was acting the devil, and every Sunday for the rest of the summer I smelt like an extra large tub of the Bijou's finest. Family made me sit on the other end of the pew just to get the smell away.

That bastard Orville bought off all the docs in town just as soon as he took over the #9 Flavor Factory where Pappy worked--they all said he had malarial emphysema. Didn't find out till later there weren't no such thing. They never even tried to explain the damn smell.

Crooked owners, bought-off doctors and an insurance company that would rather buy the family a coffin rather than a lawyer--you've heard it all before, and you know what it means.

A pauper's grave for Pappy, and me having to leave school to support the family. Weren't no jobs around for love nor money except for one place.

You guessed it--Redenbacher's Creamy Flavor Manufacturing Emporium. He'd renamed it after them Nader people kicked up a fuss a year or so before Pappy died. Didn't change nothing but the sign, though. We buried Pappy on a Sunday, and I started work as a floor chipper that Monday.

Been a yellowman nigh on 20 years now. Folks over in Riverville call us the "Greased Chinese" behind our backs when we go to the Wal-Mart there for clothes and such. Don't make no damn difference to me, I heard it all before, and pushed in more'n one man's teeth for his trouble, but now that Judi and I got three young-uns I can't afford spend my time off work sitting in jail.

Thought of Orville today when I heard that feller won his judgment. I hope he's sitting down in hell, devil microwaving his ass for all eternity. I imagine Pappy's up in heaven, leaning over every now and them to send some personalized topping down the old bastard's way--singing the butterman's lament as he watches it fall down towards Hell.

I was born one mornin' when sunshine was scant
Picked up a paddle and I walked to the plant
I churned Sixteen Tons of number 9 cream
And the straw-boss said, "Son, you're a dream"

You churn Sixteen Tons, whadaya get?
Another older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

It gets me through the day. Man shouldn't ask for much more than that, I figger.

Posted by Bigwig at March 16, 2004 02:36 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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Comments

Fukkin Guardian. Jeebus. If it's stupid, they're on it like white on rice.

Posted by: Blackavar at March 16, 2004 05:38 PM

You remember that artificial-butter popcorn we tried to foist off on you guys last time you were here? It stunk up the house so badly that a week after we ate it, I could still smell it when I came in the house. I put the un-popped packages in a metal tin, but the smell still filled the room. Finally got Baby Sister to take it off our hands. Now it competes with the cat litter box. Do you suppose we could sue for atmospheric pollution?

Posted by: Yomama at March 17, 2004 11:14 AM

HEY!!!! You didn't think I'd read that did you, ma? AND I happen to like the smell of strong butter.

Posted by: yer sister at March 17, 2004 02:37 PM
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