No one hates his job so heartily as a farmer. – H. L. Mencken
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART SIXTY: KINGDOM COME
“So,” said Count Victor Justin to his barroom cronies, “my very own Mammy wasn’t very affectionate or even very patient with me. For that, I blame her own mother. That old ‘ooman was as formidable a battle-axe as you were ever likely to encounter. Steel-gray hair frozen in a perpetual bun. Alternately sullen and loudly profane. Always swatting the air around her and groaning about the god-damned flies. A real hillbilly. Smoked a corncob pipe until she was 91. Never learned to read or write. Her people crossed the mountains in a covered wagon. Fought red Injuns. Never sick so much as a day in her life. Kept a little bag of asafetida around her neck. Claimed it kept her well. Superstitious old hag. I just couldn’t get over her iron hair caught up in a tight bun. You could see the furrows in her forehead were on account of she never laughed or even smiled. Thin as a rail. Kept me from getting fat. She never fed me. She practically starved me the whole time I was with her. Said a hungry boy is too weak to get up to any mischief. But she fed the old hound dogs on the place quite well. She used to pick herbs in the woods. Wouldn’t be surprised if she was some kind of witchy woman. You think I’m kidding around with you, but I’m not. This time. I like to discuss all manners of things. Not Gramma. She didn’t. She only had two topics of conversation–the Lordie, and how life was a hard proposition for us pore sinners. And how it is a sin against Jesus to dress a boy up like a girl. Among other depravities–like card-playin’, and dancin’, and using any sort of face paint or wearing any sort of fancy dress other than one made from an old feed sack.
“Every summer Mammy would send me to her Mother’s farm. I dreaded it. Like I said before, I never was cut out for hard work of any kind, unless it involved fleecing a rube or a sucker for a large cash reward. And to think that when I was a sprout, I would see grown men jingle the change in their pockets–and I would think they must be rich. Now I know better. Only pikers carry loose change. I always arrange my money in a Chicago bankroll–a couple of hundreds on the outside for flash, and a whole bunch of ones to dispense largesse to porters and the like.
“Down on the farm with Granma Miller. Milking the cows, I used to dread. Squeezing those big bags and squiting the milk into a tin bucket at five in the morning. It would sometimes take me up to half an hour to complete the chore. I was so bad at it I was excused from that duty. That’s when I learned that if you act stupid, you can get away with all manners of things. That’s my religion. There is no good ner bad; there’s only what you get away with, or don’t. That’s a fact that women can’t seem to get through their pretty little heads. ‘You can’t do that!’ ‘Well, I did do it, and I got away with it too. And I’ll do it again, whenever I please!’ Why are women so bossy? Especially my Grandmama. I’m standing there up to my knees in muck, slopping the hogs, and she’s telling me I’m not doing it right. Tell me–how hard can it be? You mix the corn meal with the skimmed milk and you throw in some table scraps and bring it down to the hog pen. Simple, no? Even a low-level idiot could master that operation. Even a slow-witted toddler could do it. Even a U.S. Congressman–but I repeat myself. But it seems that I was always doing something wrong. Digging holes for fence posts. Hot and dusty work. But even that simple task was one I could not perform to the old woman’s exacting specifications. So I figured that the more I was picked on, the stupider I would act. Something would come of it. This acting job must be what led me to my current career as a grifter.
“The noble farmer–bah! That idiotic dirt farm was enough to make me swear off of fresh air for all the rest of my natural born days! Reduced to eating locusts in the starving times and wiping your ass with corn cobs! Who needs it? Not me! I’ll tell the world!
“Farmers are some of the dumbest yellofs you’ll ever meet. Your average Rube is a slack-jawed imbecile too stupid to tie his own shoelaces. If they had any gumption, they’d be sailors in the British Navy, or soldiers in the French Foreign Legion, or prisoners on Devil’s Island. They’d be general storekeepers in a plague-infested desert souk, or hardscrabble gold miners on a played-out claim. Anything but the horror of working on the farm! All those tales of the sex-starved farmer’s daughter? They happen to be true, though what they don’t tell you is that she’s ugly as sin. Many a travelling salesman has gotten hitched at the business end of a shotgun due to an ill-considered liaison with one of these gruesome doxies. The progeny resulting from such a mating is predictable. A wandersome moron with all the intelligence of a ceiling fan. Did I ever tell you that they don’t have dental care in many parts of the country? No, they just call the horse-doctor and he brings a heavy-duty set of pliers. Did I ever tell you that the barefoot farmer’s boy is likely infested with hookworms, which make him even slower and stupider than he already is? Did I tell you that the average farmer’s child only attends school for about three months of the year, and that’s only if he’s lucky enough to have parents who even bother to send him at all? Did I tell you that when the crops are bad due to droughts and tornadoes, some of these shitkickers are forced to live on turnip greens and squirrel’s brains?
“They universally despise city slickers, and see them as a race of godforsaken bottle-suckers, barn-burners and well-poisoners. It kind of makes you wonder then, why the clodhoppers go to the county fair once a year to be uniformly fleeced by a rabble of low-down carnies. I think it’s so they can see a side of real living…which staring behind a plough at a scrawny mule’s ass utterly fails to evoke.”
Thumbs & Curly
Lil Liza Jane
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