Great-great Uncle Elmer Walsh was Welsh and Great-Great Grandpa Grant Jackson was French. They were creators, hillbilly riggers. They cross sawed trees down, skidded them to a steam driven saw mill and made lumber. They treated the lumber, dried it and built the first wood water drill rig in the area. They gathered junk metal and in their blacksmith shop forged the drill bit.
My spouse inherited those genes. At five he used a gun stock to kill ground hogs, at ten he was climbing trees to stretch wire for speakers so he could hear his music in the woods. At thirteen there was no room under his bed, it was stuffed with TV parts and radios. In Viet Nam, at the guard shack, they had a rat they fed uneatable c-ration meat too. When it began bringing its girlfriend he rigged up screen-wire to batteries, baited it and shocked the rats.
A mama-San gave birth in his jeep and he used his bootlaces to tie the cord. In collage, too poor for a stapler, he used my sewing machine to hold his reports together. When Agent Orange first hit, he spent a year fixing TVs. In the fall when we needed money from our walnuts, he shot them off the branches.
By the time he left me flying solo I had 1/3rd of our income and a house of mystery. I had to pitch a lot of electronics because I was clueless as to which remote to use and which buttons to push.
One of the last things he rigged was the electric for the living room. When it began failing again my eldest paid to have it fixed this summer. They charged her around three hundred dollars. It lasted a week, they tightened the wire nuts. It lasted another week. It took ten days but they came back and fixed it. Then they told me they needed to run a wire down a wall, under the mobile home and over to the jump box they had built. It would cost me around twelve hundred dollars. I don’t even make 1200 a month!
I have to wonder where the fine art of compassion went. My dad and other craftsmen in the church often went to homes of widows and spent all day fixing things right, they accepted dinner as payment. I feel like I was set-up. They figured in for a penny-in for a pound.
My getting the proper job done is as likely as the prize van turning the corner with flowers and a check. A check big enough to fix the electric or build an A frame cabin. Plus enough money for a car with four usable doors and no draggy ignition.
As my husband used to say, in mimic of the Vietnamese, “Never happen GI, never, never happen.”
It’ll stay hillbilly rigged but at least functional. Functional, is the keyword, not proper or by the book. Something out of nothing to just get by, the Hillbilly way..
-Sandy Jordan is an area writer and a founding editor of The Crowder Quill. She writes a weekly column, Bits and Pieces.