I feel like a barbarian when I go up north to visit with my family. I do not mean to be cruel to them. But I am not going to lie. This is all going to come out rather cruel. I often spend a week or two with my Aunt and Uncle as well as my Grandma during the year. It is the same old hectic story every time I swear. There is little deviation from the following.
I get into the my aunts house, we will call her Sue and my uncle Henry for now, and everything seems all happy and bubbly for the first couple of hours. Conversations are going and stories are flying around the house between the men , my Uncle and his son and sometimes my brother usually, like it was world war two and the best story defeats Japan. Kaboom and a room full of laughter explodes like a nuke went off. Ironically we live in Minnesota and you would have to know a little history to even get that joke. Either that or be proud that the sucker who nuked whatever foreign island it was ailed from Minnesota. Anyhow that is a digression.
Like the digression the stories die down and we get talking about the next days chores. See up here in the boondocks and sticks where old people live, all their children are expected to do all the damn chores they are incapable of doing. Why? Cause they are to damn old to do them themselves. The worse of it is they try to help you and they end up babbling bout their bladders and aches and pains causing them to hobble in the way of whatever the hell it was they wanted you to do in the first place. I don't know why I do any of whatever it is I do for them. Maybe it is because I secretly love them dearly.
And that is when my uncle Henry says, “So Jake are you going to help us do firewood down at grandmas tomorrow?” Around this joint this translates to you better get your ass down there tomorrow at ungodly hours in the morning otherwise we ain't going to be to damn happy with you the rest of your stay.
My response is always the same, “Yah, I'd love to help out grandma!” Why? She serves me pork full of fat cut by her daughter who is something no one else will admit, a child abusing sociopath. Bam!!! The fat came flying off that pork. Or at least she thought she got it all off. See my grandma's daughter is a butcher at the local market where everyone smiles and acts happy because they have known each other for the last five decades or so.
So the next morning I hear coffee brewing at five o something in the morning and I try to sleep tossing and turning and hinting with sleeping moans that the world, including the fucking crows and ducks of country living should shut the you know the what up. Of course, that is when I get the aggressive knock on the door saying breakfast is ready. My stomach growls. I can't imagine how I am going to drink coffee, see if you don't drink it people get offended, and eat five pancakes loaded with sugar and liquid sugar on top all over eggs and bacon and expect to live through the mile drive to grandmas house by the butchers house without barfing and passing out due to sleep deprivation.
I get out of the car and begin walking into grandmas house. See grandma never gets the memo that we have already eaten and done chores like feeding the chickens and stoking the fire in 30 degree weather in the morning already. Sometimes she has brownies and coffee down at her place as well. So we site down and grub down momentarily to take a break from the other places chores to eat whatever the hell it is grandma had to cook. Don't get me wrong, grandmas chocolate is baked in hell so it is sinful to eat. You just stuff your face with it until breakfast has pushed the evenings supper into your bowels at the moment.
After everyone has taken a ten minute shit, that would be twenty minutes for the men. We head outside. If they're are little farts around they just put their peters off the deck and let it all out when they have to go pee. They may be recruited for stick removal and momentary laughs down at the fire wood pile. To me they just get in my way and start crying when something hurts them. It doesn't take long before the little shits end up back inside out of the way. They can't handle us barbarian grown ups when fire wood is being thrown up over everyone’s head like fireworks. Every once in a while someone gets nailed in the face and the only one to blame is the one who gets nailed in the face. “Get the hell out of the way than and you wouldn't fucking get hit. Jesus Christ” The true culprit would say.
My Uncle would say, “Nothing in the head the whole bodies gotta suffer.” He thought he was funny. I thought he was cruel by this point seen I was usually the one with a bump on my head. I have extreme dysfunction in the area of equilibrium. This easily gets knocked off with a piece of wood to the head.
By the time we get outside the whole family from the greater area I am referring to in northern Minnesota is out at the fire wood cutting splitting and yelling at each other and laughing when someone does something dangerous and life threatening. When I get out there I am still ready to fall over dead from sugar intake and lack of sleep. Though the coffee was made with about seven scoops of grounds making my lids peeled open. Uncle Henry would always say, “That stuffill put hair onyer chest!”
And it will also give me kidney stones and heart attacks at the rate we drink it around here when I am fifty like you Henry. Though I was never brave enough to say such a thing at the brutal age of I believe if my memory wasn't destroyed by this repetitive incident, fifteen.
My heart was a pumping and my ears were beginning to ache like hell from the RoomRoom!!! Runigganigga!!! sound that would start to cut that wood something fierce like an alligator on crack.
This was the only time we could break and breath. It was to dangerous for us to be picking up wood with two thoughtless men fanning their feathers of masculinity with chainsaws at the firewood before them. See chainsaws were always a mans things. I wouldn't be surprised if grandma's daughter would use one though. There were times we all thought she might be a man. We were never sure. We thought better than to talk about. See we were Christians, that meant we didn't gossip and we raised children well.
Now about half way through the pile cuttings is when grandma would be sitting down in the chair spouting orders. For lack of better terms I would say bitching them. But remember we are Christian. We respect our elders. “No, No, No, you put that piece up over there... And if you would just listen to me.... No he ain't got no love in his heart that is why he is such a.... It's a lie the devil the devil the devil... And just spin that piece of wood around that way and it will....” Oh lordy can that women spout orders. She is just pointing, spitting, a pounding orders all from her chair.
The crazy part was. People listened. It must be an old age thing. Cause if you didn't listen to her she would put on an act getting out of her chair hobble over and do whatever it was that she spouting orders about to you, herself. Maybe if she could speak coherently and the only response from her wasn't “HUGh? WhatchA SaY? SpeaK Upp! I can't Hear Yah” I think one time her dentures fell out and got a bunch of sawdust in them. It was a blessing from God that she went inside the house for a couple minutes.
Now after about four hours of chainsaws going and nose snot freezing in the wind something mechanical was about to go wrong. And that was the only thing that could go wrong. We were all out at the woodpile outside the house by the wood-stove in our winter clothes in the middle of winter. Everyone is tired and cranky but no one will admit that sleep is actually good for the body. They all believed torture and acting barbaric was the way to become a man. Once you could split wood with one hit and operate a chainsaw with your eyes closed, I would say your brains, you were accepted into the family as a man. This thing never occurred with me.
So the ending of the tradition always happened like this. Something would break down. My cousin would start yanking the chain saw saying, “Mother fucker, what the shit en effing wrong with this thing now, I tell you something always goes wrong with this new equipment. Did you mess with this thing Dad?”
Uncle Henry would say something technical like, “Well if you wouldn't scrime the thingamybob so hard the transistor on the socket spool wouldn't smell like that skunk roasting with the marshmallow bushes and the damn thing would work right.”
The battle of the most intellectual smell descriptions and memory of the poorest treatment of that poor piece of machinery, the chainsaw, would go back and fourth for about twenty minutes; which was the same exact time it took these men to shit.
I figured that the problem was simply the machinery would tire out before us the humans would and therefore they would just get mad at the machinery and fight about who caused it to go wrong. They never accepted the fact that our human intelligence was more barbaric than an alligator on crack aka the metal chainsaw was. So finally the yelling would die down and we could go inside to eat lunch.
That is when we all got to look forward to lunch. See grandma had washed her teeth out with some sort of concoction she swore got rid of all sawdust residue. Something to do with alcohol, vinegar, and vegetable oil, and possibly some dawn dish soap. She would put together that pork I described earlier, the one that got chopped up by grandmas daughter and the fat was missed on it. At this point I looked forward to three things. Dessert, showering and defecating, and going back to a bed to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I did it all over again.
To read more by Jacob Woods check out his current project Good as Gay at http://goodasgay.blogspot.com