Cruel Month

Hold up, I’m slogging through the last five minutes of Sports Show.  (For those without basic cable, Sports Show is a new Comedy Central series hosted by veteran comedian Norm Macdonald.)

Okay, it’s over.  I like Norm.  As a standup, I think he’s well above average, and I thought fifty percent of the debut episode of Sports Show was mildly funny.  Unfortunately, for most of the show Norm is stuck behind a desk, desperately trying to keep up with the teleprompter.  Norm, if I’m paying more attention to you reading the teleprompter than I am to the jokes, there is a problem.  Sincere best wishes, yours truly.

Due to technical difficulties, my satellite-based Internet was out of commission for about 10 days.  The ordeal was perfectly timed to coincide with the joyous arrival of spring, which, here on the mountain, means the annual fisticuffs with nature have commenced.

As a fifth-generation hillbilly (or whatever it’s up to now – I’m pretty sure my ancestors were English hillbillies before they were herded onto the poor-people’s boat to America), I have a grim view of nature.

The Christian names of some of my male forebears tell you all you need to know: Chester, Mervin, Garvin, Marvin, Rube, Johnny Bull.

That’s just off the top of my head.  I know I’m leaving some good ones out.

I challenge scientists to discover a purer strand of hillbilly DNA.  I’ll donate a swab.  They will find some Native American code in there, too, about one great-grandmother’s worth.

Maybe she was one of my great-great-grandmothers.  I don’t know.  It’s written down somewhere and it would take six hours to dig up.  But the Native Americans who stuck it out here were all hillbillies, too.  They didn’t have a choice, unless they wanted to make the poor-people’s march to Oklahoma.  They hid in the hills.  They became hillbillies.

I think hillbilly is a great word.  I don’t mind it a bit, even when I hear people using it in a disparaging way.  It’s a fun word in just about any context.

Spring.  I’m not even going to complain about the mowing, cutting and pruning.  Everything is growing like science fiction, okay?

I’m on my second brand of allergy medicine this week.  The first brand was apparently manufactured for ballerinas and kittens.  It’s not raining.  The pollen just feels like rain.

Here’s a snapshot: Me, sweating and sneezing, sawing away at a limb that will kill me if it falls the wrong way.

Another one: Me, sweating and sneezing, wondering how deep the cut on my arm/face/leg actually goes and if this is a reasonable amount of blood or something about which I should be, like, concerned.

(News flash.  All allergy medicines suck.  They do not work, and there is not enough coffee in the world to offset their druggy side effects.  Some companies will tell you their product does not cause drowsiness.  This is a lie.  All allergy medicines make you feel like you are constructed of someone else’s body parts, and that someone wants to take a nap, now.)

Spring is the rebirth of nature, or something.  I’m pretty sure nature goes on all the time whether we notice it or not.  But spring is when nature demands to be noticed.

If you aren’t paying attention to nature, you might step on a rattlesnake or shake up a hornet’s nest.  Rattlesnakes and hornets are very much a part of nature here on the farm.  So are fire ants, wasps, yellow jackets, termites, ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes and a host of middling varmints that dig up plants and crops, chew through wiring and wood, and otherwise behave as if they own the place.

Every other plant has thorns.  Some secrete spectacularly toxic oils and resins.

It’s exactly the sort of environment you want to be stumbling around in with a sharp tool, loaded on antihistamines.

So that’s how I spent the Great Internet Blackout of 2011.  I didn’t even finish The Sun Also Rises.  (I’m on page 153.  Mike Campbell has just challenged Robert Cohn to a fight, but Jake breaks it up.  Everybody is drunk.  If I had to teach a class on The Sun Also Rises, here’s how I’d kick it off: “Good morning.  The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway is a great novel about people who wander around Europe getting drunk.  There is also some fishing and bullfighting.”)

Spring in the foothills of the Appalachians is gorgeous – when it’s not attacking you.

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John Hicks is a former resident of New York City, Washington, D.C., and several other major metropolitan areas in the United States of America.  He has no illusions about city life, either.

John Hicks lives outside the city limits, where eagles dare.

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