‘Tother day in the afternoon I went down the holler to ask Uncle Hant about this here Eye-rack. One of them blonde gals on TV that looks like they’ve been hit on the head or maybe drank Drano and didn’t have her mind working right, if she had one, was talking about it. I didn’t much understand. Hant, he knows everything. Hell, there’s people in Wheeling even that don’t know as much as he does.
Hant lives out in the woods and makes moonshine to sell to the yups from Washington. He says Yankees are dumber than retarded possums and it’s the only way to make a living without working. He doesn’t much like working.
I walked down the rail bed from Crumpler, that’s a little place that used to be a coal camp before the mines died and the trains stopped coming. It was all peaceful and the bugs shrieking like they do so they can get laid and the sun pouring down like lit-up maple syrup and all the plants was so green you’d think they had batteries in them.
Sometimes I figure bugs got more sense than people do. All they care about is gal bugs and food. I’ll still take my girlfriend Jiffy Lube. Sometimes she gets upset and maybe smacks somebody with a tire iron, but bugs got six legs and I don’t think I could get used to that.
I turned up the cut in the bank where Hant has his still and found him pouring Clorox into the moonshine. Hant’s more’n six feet tall and kinda stiff, since he ain’t been young since God was a pup. When he sits he sort of folds up like one of them yaller rulers that you measure things with, if you’re a carpenter. He’s got a face like a lantern and this hat that looks like a cow pie that the cow stepped on.
“Say, Hant,” I said, by way of starting a conversation, “Tell me about this Eye-rack thing that they’re always talking about on television. They say we got a war going.”
His eyes lit up and he almost dropped the Clorox jug. He said, “The South done rizz again? I knew it would,” and he grabbed the deer rifle that he mostly keeps leaning against the cooker. Sometimes he has to shoot revenue agents. He never did like it when West Virginia joined the Feddle Gummint in the war agin cotton. He always figured West Virginia guessed wrong when the Yankees started meddling with everybody. Considering the results, I reckon he had something.
Most usually he has a jug of Beam handy. He sure ain’t gonna drink that snake pizen he makes for the yups. He keeps putting stuff into his shine — brake fluid, LSD, cocaine, stove polish — to give it a kick for the yups. Mostly it kills them before they get back to Washington. Ain’t hardly a telephone pole between Bluefield and the Yankee Capital that don’t have a dent in it.
I said, “Naw, the South ain’t rizz, least I don’t guess so. This sort of pole-axed looking tow-headed gal said we had to drop bombs on these people in Eye-rack.”
He took a hit from the Beam jug and passed it to me. His eyes got squinty and he said, “Eye-rack? Where the hell’s that?”
I didn’t know. That Beam sure was good. I sat down against a stump and said hello to Birdshot, that’s Hant’s old dog. Birdshot’s only got three feet because he stuck a paw under a lawnmower once to see what was making all that noise. Sometimes it don’t pay to wonder about things too much.
I said, “This ol’ gal said Eye-rack blew up some buildings in New York.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“That’s what I thought you’d tell me. Gimme ‘nother hit off that jug.”
He passed it to me, but kept an eye on it. He knows what matters to him. Then he looked into the woods the way he does when he doesn’t know the answer to something.
“Too dam’ many yups coming to buy shine now. Clorox seems to give it a pretty good zing, but I’m thinking about bug spray for the next batch. How’s Jiffy Lube doing?”
“Pretty good, I guess. Still talks about getting married, but I figure I can hide in the next county. I still want to know about this war, Hant.”
Hant don’t actually exist. He’s a Literary Device. He’s got more sense than most people, though.
“Exactly what is a Eye-rack?” he said.
“Best I can tell, it’s someone that wears a fender-cover on his head, and his wife wears a black bag.”
Hant chewed on that for a moment. I could tell it moved him. “All right. I see it now. It’s putting them out of their misery…It’s the Christian thing to do I reckon…Figure they’d like a little shine before they go?”
“This gal said they don’t drink shine.”
“Buncha dam’ comminists.”
Birdshot put his head on my leg and watched a squirrel that was hunting acorns in the woods. He didn’t really care. He knew he was supposed to chase squirrels, but he didn’t really want one. He just watched from a sense of duty. I guessed it was like patriotism, that they kept talking about on TV. You didn’t really want to kill whoever it was, leastways till you found some reasons maybe, or at least who they were, but you owed it to your country to do it anyway.
Hant pulled a Buck knife out of his pocket and started cutting on a stick. It’s what he does if he’s trying to figure out something that’s too much for him.
Finally he said, “Well, if they don’t drink shine, what do they do?”
“Mostly they blow up furriners, gal says.”
“Then why don’t the furriners go away? I would.”
“That’s what I’m asking you. You’re supposed to know everything, ain’t you?”
He pondered. “Yeah. But maybe that part slipped my mind a little. Sometimes it gets hard, knowing everything. I expect a little Beam would help.” He took a three-gurgle hit and looked powerful satisfied.
“These Eye-racks planning on coming over here?” he said.
“Not that I know about. I mean, people with fender-covers on their head is hard to miss.”
“Then I say leave’m there. Yankees is always meddling where they don’t belong…Hoo, I’d sure like to see you tell Jiff she gotta wear a black bag.” He gave this let’s-you-and-him-fight chuckle he has when he wants to see someone else get in trouble.
“Not just now, Hant,” I told him, thinking about that tire iron Jiffy Lube has. “Gimme that jug.”
Reed is author of Nekkid
in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well.