Well, now…that was…something…
After the events of the last weekend, I am absolutely exhausted. I think I must have aged pert near a decade during that four and half hours of back and forth football known as the 2016 Alabama and Ole Miss game.
I laughed, I cried. At times, I was full of life, at others I prayed for the sweet release of death. It was the single most soul-wrenching win I can remember since the Rocky Block game in 2009. Though the outcome was a positive one for Bama, I went into the fray a 41-year-old man and exited eligible to draw retirement, such was the time-machine wear-and-tear of that football contest.
Thank the Good Lord it is behind us, mere footprints in the sand. And as the saying goes, when we saw only one set of footprints in the sand, it was not that Football Loki had abandoned us…nay, he was carrying our portly, pork-rind-and-beer-engorged asses. Or something like that…
But that is the past (thankfully) and we will never have to face that Buffalo-born scourge of Crimson Tide football known as Chad Kelly again. It is my hope that Ole Miss can now return to pre-Kelly levels of swag, and we can dispense with the unpleasantness of allowing them more than their allotted one victory per decade.
Moving on…we have only one course of action this week, and that is to move forward. For there is another opponent this week, and though not one of the quality of the most recently faced foe, the Kent State Whatnots are indeed the next foe.
Taking into consideration the opponent this week, I choose not to throw down my finest vintage of Hoodoo tale on this ledger for Football Loki today. But, that said, as is our ancient and well-founded ritual in these parts, a Hoodoo I shall bring forth before you surly lot of onlookers in honor of our pigskin patron himself.
This story harkens back just ‘round about 18 months ago, a spectacle of embarrassing scale that started out innocently enough. For sometimes, when one strives to do a kind turn for another, he is smited across his peepee with the wooden ruler slap of reverse karma. But please, allow me to elaborate.
As I have casually made reference to in the past, I am an avid disc golfer. (No, that is not my Hoodoo. It is a growing sport enjoyed by professionals and dirty hippies alike. Don’t judge.) A good buddy of mine from my THC-enhanced past, let’s just call him Shiggs, had gotten me involved in the sport after I wrote an article for a local magazine on Mobile’s prevalence in the southeastern disc golf scene. Mobile has eleventy-billion pro-level courses, and several of the top-20 players in the world call the M-O-B home. Needless to say, it’s a big deal in my hometown.
Now Shiggs is a top-flite player on the local scene. He’s an interesting cat, to be sure, an individual originally from Red Bay who I met when I worked at the local cemetery during my college years. He was 15 at the time and was one of the youngsters charged to our gardening crew. He was about as worthless as udders on a bull most of the time…watching him work was like watching octogenarians copulate. Ugly, slow, and in the end, nothing worthwhile would be accomplished.
Despite his sub-par work ethic, we found common ground in that sweet leaf that is commonly enjoyed among the landscaping crews of southern Alabama: the Yesca, the Mary Jane, the Dank, the Chronic. Because of this, we came to be friends, bound by our common love for the green (and our common need to build a network of hook-ups for said herbal procurement.)
A feller of ambiguously ethnic heritage (he was from Red Bay, but I’ve intermittently thought him Mexican, Arab, Indian, Aramaic, and when he had long hair, he looked like Jesus’ illegitimate cousin, Beezuss Christ…the similarity was deepened by the fact that Shiggs was a framer by trade) during the long tenure of our friendship. Dude is dark-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed…you’d swear he was from one exotic creed or another just by lookin’ at him. But once he opened his mouth, there was no mistaking his true nationality: he was a flag-wavin’ patriot of the land of Stonerville.
"Ummm, dude, can you pass me that jiblet?" That was a code word we used for joints. That sounds innocent enough, but then imagine those words being uttered in a gravelly, buzzsaw growl, some amalgam of Tom Waits and Dusty Hill. I think he must have started smoking Pall Mall non-filters at like seven or something. Dude was (and is) a trip, would get loaded and wander off into subject matters of depths that, for him, required an intellectual life preserver. He had dropped out of school as soon as possible, and was not one for self-enrichment of a scholastic nature. However, despite his conversational limitations, he’d wade off into these topics, fearless, nonetheless.
"Mmmmm, dude, you ever hear about where the Constitution really came from? Dude it was taken from the Bible, only not the Bible we read today, but the one the aliens originally delivered to the Indians before the white man came to America from Russia."
"Yeah dude, way back, I mean like waaaaay back long time ago, before, like 1960, there were these Russians called Vikings or some shit that came across the Indian Ocean on this submarine thing these aliens had showed them how to build, it was after they showed them how to build the pyramids. Anyway, the aliens gave them this real Bible and told them to take it to America, said some shit like ‘Live long and prosper.’ It’s true, dude, I ain’t bullshittin’…read your Bible, it’s in there."
During these historical narratives, I rarely corrected the facts (if there were any facts to be corrected), but rather just listened in and enjoyed the ride. Hell, I was high too, what did I care? It was entertaining.
Back to the story. As Shiggs had been a disc golfer for some time, he had been telling me about all of its upside, and finally, after seeing it in action, I decided to give it a shot. In brief, I was hooked. I loved it. I couldn’t afford to play "ball" golf (as we disc golfers call it), but disc golf was free and the equipment could be had for a pittance. Before long, I was throwing every weekend, taking advantage of all of the area courses. My boy Patches loved it as well, so it was something he and I could do together that didn’t cost money.
I went through a stint of unemployment after the publication for which I worked went under, and while looking for another professional gig, I worked a lot of landscaping jobs, served as caretaker for a piece of land, and did whatever I could to keep folks fed, clothed, and sheltered. As soon as I got done with work each day, I’d meet Shiggs at the park to throw a round. During one of thee sessions, Shiggs imparted upon me a secret of the local disc golf underground that he used to keep himself in money.
"Dude, if you find discs, you can keep ‘em, so long as they ain’t got no name on ‘em." Disc golfers have a habit of putting their names and numbers on prized discs so that if lost in some rough or water hazard or another, they can have some hope of getting them back. There is a code of honor that guides this practice, as anyone who finds an errant disc is bound by disc golf ethics to phone the owner and offer him or her the disc back.
There is some difference of opinion on this point, however. Now Shiggs, being of questionable ethics and morals, didn’t see anything wrong with his practice of routinely keeping the things he found on the course. He did, after all, return discs when he knew the owners. But he was also an "entrepreneur" who saw money to be made in the endeavor. When he’d find a disc that didn’t belong to someone he knew, he’d call them and return it for a $5 "finder’s fee." Most people agreed, and he got the dough he needed to buy his smoke and Xanax, one day at a time sweet Jesus.
I never felt right about doing that if there was a name on the disc. If I saw someone toss one in, and could help them recover it, I would just to increase the flow of good karma heading in my direction. If I found one with no name or identifying marks?...well then, friends, that is what we call a "ground score." I’d keep it, and later probably sell it online, without a second thought.
Some would call this scandalous, going so far as to label it theft. I guess I can see how such an argument could be made. But I also understood the converse, and took advantage of it when the circumstances warranted it. I mean, no name, no claim? What was I supposed to do, hold the disc for posterity hoping that miraculously the owner would one day find his or her way to me for reclamation? Hell nah.
But alas, whether this practice was ethically questionable or not, it is not this facet that marks the pivot point upon which this Hoodoo turns. No, there is a different kind of embarrassment couched in this long prologue, and with no further adieu, I’ll begin that tale for you.
Flash-forward several years. I once again found myself out of work, with three mouths to feed other than my own. I had a few gigs that didn’t pay much that helped sustain us, but I had to scrap and scrape for every cent to make sure the necessities were covered.
Hence, I returned to my previous business partner, Shiggs, and we went to work in excavating discs. I was the brains of the operation, as I would drive us to the spot (Shiggs of course had no wheels) and use my polarized glasses to help spot the gleaming neon circles of polyurethane hiding in the tea-colored waters of our local creek and ponds. Like fishin’ glasses, my shades let me cut the glare and see things others couldn’t see beneath the tannin-stained water’s surface. The provided me a decided advantage in this particular type of salvage operation.
That was my role. Shiggs had a role as well. His was to get into the snapping turtlish, alligator-filled, moccasin-roiled, bacteria-laden waters of our local parks. There was simply no way…no way…I would get into any of that water on a regular basis. I had done it once while chasing a prized disc I chunked in the water straight off the tee. The water was clear enough…I could see the bottom only about 14 inches deep. I pulled off my shoes and socks, figuring at worst, I’d get the disc, rinse my feet off at a nearby spigot, put my shoes and socks back on and be on my way.
Such was naïve, however. If you’ve ever been on the bayou, you know that at least three things are always present: sun, mosquitos and mud. When I stepped into that shallow water (that I expected to rise no higher than my calves at most), I sank clean up to the groin. Beneath that tranquil shallowness of water was several feet of stank-ass, methane-tinged black swamp-rot mud.
That was my only experience with it, and it was the only one I needed to know I wouldn’t be disc-diving in those god-forsaken waters again. To my credit (your narrator is, after all, a wily sumbitch), I invented a retrieving device that allowed me to recover discs within a reasonable distance of the shore without sullying myself. I got a 15-foot telescoping bream buster, and tied off a big hook to the tip. It allowed me to reach out and hook discs by the rim, dragging them back to dry land without much trouble.
Between my device, and Shiggs’ swimming ability and willingness to risk life and limb, we had a decent recovery operation. We’d get the discs, divvy them up, and sling ‘em up on ebay or Facebook seller groups. We’d return the ones that were marked, but the others were fair game.
Now one day, we were plying our trade on the banks of a large body of water in Mobile’s Langan Park. We had found quite a few unmarked pieces and were able to recover them easily without having to send Shiggs into the drink. All the same, as we were searching for our quarry, the crusty park police officer trolleyed up in his squad car, flashed his lights at us and rolled down the window.
"Now you boys know you can’t get in that water, right? You can do whatever you want from the shore, but if I see you in that water, we goan have a problem, comprende?"
This wasn’t our first convo with this cop who seemed to have the memory capacity of an Apple 2E. He said this SAME SHIT to us every time he saw us, each time employing that law enforcement glare and gravitas to make sure we knew he really meant business. Whatevs, chief.
"Yeah, we know mister police officer, we ain’t getting’ in that there water," said Shiggs in his gritty drawl. "We just fishin’, ‘at’s all."
The cop gave us a nod and bumped his loud speaker alert "woop-WOOP" before idling off around the bend to harass the next fellers for doing something that could be construed as an unspoken crime against humanity.
While I was fishing out plastic, I noticed my partner had started up a conversation with a couple of college aged girls who were hanging out. Shiggs does alright with the ladies I guess, especially for a guy with absolutely nothing of note going on in his life that didn’t involve disc golf, weed and playing guitar (bless his heart). He’s kinda like Wooderson, Matthew McConaghays character from Dazed and Confused, doesn’t understand that as a former framer without a job in his late 20s, he’s not necessarily what 18-22 young college women seem to be seeking in a man. That said, he liked to run a little game, especially at the younger ladies who frequented the parks surrounding the local disc golf courses.
At any rate, I heard him over there chattin’ these girls up.
"Soooo, lay-deees, what’s cracka-lackin’?" he said in that gurgle-rasp voice of his.
"Oh, nothin’ much, just getting’s some sun."
"Well, me and mah boy over here just killin’ a little time, talmbout havin’ a lil’ par-tay tonight. You girls smoke?" He gave them the wink-wink and the pinched thumb-and-forefinger gesture that universally represents the smoking of a "left-handed cigarette."
"Well, kinda. Maybe. Why?"
"Alrightalrightalright, I was gonna invite you lay-dees over to the crib to spark one up and get lit with me and my buddy over here."
I couldn’t believe he was using me as part of his plot. I mean, they were fine and all, but com’on, I was a wedded man (whatever that is worth) and didn’t publicly share my personal business or practices with people I did not know.
"Dude, come here." I chided him when he got close enough to me that I could whisper. Sternly, that is. "I am married, mffkr. You don’t need to be settin’ me up with no college girls. I’m 35 years old."
"Dude, just chilllll…I’m just tryin’ to get ‘em to come smoke, see what I can get in to. You can just chill for a minute then head on, I get it."
I dismissed him to his harlotry, and continued on about my business. I had just watched a guy toss his disc in the water and offered to help him get it out, you know, just to keep karma on my side.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the blue and white car easing up behind us again. Same as before. Window down. This po-po was persistent.
"HEY! You know you can’t get in that water, dontcha? Off-limits! I see you out there in that water, goana have to write you a ticket."
I didn’t even responded verbally, just shot him a peace sign and nodded my head. He eased on down-eased on down the road.
Now this guy’s disc…it was out…way out. I wasn’t sure I could reach it with my 15 foot pole. I leaned and stretched, trying to get that disc. It was literally just outside of my reach, less than a yard away. The guy had told me that if I could pull it out of the water for him, he’d give me $10, as it was his favorite driver. With kids to feed that night and a sum total of about 85 cents in silver coin in my pocket, $10 was a nice instant bonus that I wasn’t willing to leave behind.
So I started improvising. How could I get a couple of extra feet of reach? I looked around and found a semi-straight pine bough. I figured I could zip-tie it off to my tool (that sounds painful…not that tool, though) to give me a little more stretch, but it simply didn’t work the way I wanted it to. I found a couple of concrete chunks and tossed them in the edge of the water to make steps that I could use to reach out a little more. Got me closer, but still not quite enough.
I called Shiggs over, breaking off his interlopement with the honies, who he had giggling and eating from his hand (figuratively…the literal act would have been dirty, he’d been in the mud all day), surprisingly enough. He walked over to where I surveyed the situation.
"I think it’s too far out, dude. Let’s just say ‘f^ckit’ and go burn with these girlies," Shiggs said.
"Look dude, I need this money for dinner tonight. You mind takin’ a swim and grabbing it? Can’t reach it with the pole."
"Well dude, I’d love to help you out but it’s like this. I don’t want to get off in that mud and scare off these lil’ birds over here, hopin’ to get me a little boom-boom off of ‘em later on. Plus, last time I got in this water, I got the drips."
"The what?" I was puzzled, wasn’t familiar with that terminology.
"You know dude, the drips. Like the pecker drips, musta been some bacteria or somethin’ in that water. It was bad, nasty. Had to go get on me some kinda penicillin to get it out of me. I don’t need no drips again."
Repulsive. For heaven’s sake, nobody wanted anyone catching the loathesome "drips."
I continued searching until I found a gnarled pine root that had been pulled from the ground during some recent Bobcat project or another. It had enough girth that I figured I could stand on it, and it looked long enough to give me about five more feet of reach if I threw it off the bank like a pier and walked out onto it. My $10 was at hand, kids would be fed…the human mind conquers all!
I sallied forth with the plan, grabbed my tool (again, not that tool) and walked out onto the root. It seemed stable enough, I felt comfortable with the plan for the most part. As I got to the end, I started to stretch, and was just short once again. I had a few feet left to scoot on the root, but was worried that getting too close to the end would destabilize it. However, at this point, I had no other choice, and slid a little further down the line, holding the pole perpendicular to my body at waist height like a tightrope walker.
I could see I had plenty of length now, and it was just a matter of snagging the disc with the hook and pulling it on in. Easy enough, right?
Something about the reach caused me to shift my balance, and when I shifted my balance, the whole root sank into the mud, twisting in the process. I stutter-stepped, wobbled, tried to maintain….but it was for naught. I fell face first into the muck, belly-flopped into the tar-black stank mud, splashed with it from head to toe.
I sprung up, but it was too late. I was covered in it. It was as if some celestial hand had rolled me with a gigantic paint roller…only in place of paint was this terrible fish-and-turtle-shit mud. And it smelled like methane gas and week-old crawfish shells, bringing back memories of shoveling out the cattle corral at my great Uncle Ellard’s farm in Vance. It was disgusting.
At that moment, as I stood there, crotch-deep in the lake slathered in black smear, the park police officer drove up…again. Perfect. He turned on his blue lights and flipped the woop-WOOP switch on his PA. Then, over the loudspeaker (as if people weren’t already pointin’ and laughin’), he lit into me.
"HEY! Now, you know you’re really not supposed to be in that water, right? I’m goan have to write you a ticket," he said as he hauled his overgrown ass out of the low-slung seat of the cruiser. He whipped his ticket book out of his back pocket and set to writing.
Well…this was a revolting development. Talk about insult to injury.
I nodded, resigned to my fate. Already muddy and being issued a $185 citation anyway, I waded out, grabbed the disc and tossed it at the guy on the shore. At least I could get my $10. I slogged up through the murk like the danged ole Swamp Thing, couldn’t even see out of my glasses because of the nastiness that engulfed me. The suction created by that mud was the mucky equivalent of the Almighty Sarlacc, as it pulled at my soaked-through shoes, eventually pulling one off and swallowing it into its infinitely deep gullet.
"Dude, DUDE!" I could hear Shiggs just a’laughin’, the bastard. He’d better hoped he’d made friends with those girls, because they were likely to be his ride home.
I approached the guy who owned the disc, as he was bent at the waist, picking up the plastic I had tossed at his feet, wiping the dark mud off on the grass gingerly, the disc pinched between thumb and forefinger like some dainty or another. I didn’t have any sympathy, as I was covered in the pond detritus.
I waited for my payment for the dirty deed. The guy flipped through his wallet, whispered something to his girlfriend, and she shook her head in the negative.
"Uh, my bad dude, but I only have four dollars…will that do?"
"Will that do?" I thought to myself. "If I kick his ass, will THAT do?"
But there was a police officer there, of course. No asses would be kicked this day. I growled and snatched the four singles from him…it’s really the only option I had at that point. In a younger era of my life, I’d have thrown his ass in the muck for shorting me. Despite my mah-toor-ity, maybe I still should have. But I didn’t. Instead, I walked away, found a clear-ish backwater that seemed free of moccasins to wash the mud off of me. After all, I wasn’t permanently soiling my car seats, and I had to get some of the now-drying pond-spackle off of me. Couldn’t strip buck-nekkid after all (at least not without incurring additional charges.)
I walked back to the car, Shiggs tralin’ behind me.
"Ay, wait up, mane!" I slowed my pace to allow him to catch up. "Them girls are comin’ by the house, lez-go!"
I just stared at him. Was he serious? He was. He was serious. He was liftin’ his eye brows like a fool, bobbin’ his head as if to encourage me to join him in his enthusiasm.
However, I stunk, I had grit in my damn underbritches, and couldn’t wash of stank mud adequately with stank water. I was wet and pissed. And married, to make matters worse. His little plans held no intrigue for me.
I was probably rough on him, cut a’loose with a tidal wave of slurs and cusswords directed at his questionable breeding, northwest Alabama nativity, substance-abuse and shoddy work ethic. If one was charged a usage tax for curse words, for that day alone I would have owed enough in levies to single-handedly fund the construction of high-speed rail from here to Houston.
There concluded my career as a salvager of lost disc golf equipment. Fond farewell. The only silver lining was that this brush with bayou swamp slop didn’t render a case of the "drips" for me on this occasion. Thanks God for small blessings, no?
Roll Tide, no injuries.