Archive for April, 2013

Kin

This is kind of a sidetrack from Bojon Town.  Well, just a bit, anyway.  As I’ve mentioned before, out of my 4 grandparents, 3 of them are decidedly Bojon.  The 4th is definitely not, and that’s an awesome thing to me.

I talked about my Grandpa Barnett a bit, but this is more about him and how he fits into Bojon Town.  It’s also about how he affected me and shaped me in ways that I never realized until after he died.  Now, not all of this may be completely accurate, but after a lot of digging, here’s what I think I know.  Charles Marques Barnett (I think I’ve also seen his middle name spelled Marcus someplace, but again, this is just what I think I know) was born in 1914.  I’m not sure where he was born, but I know that before his family moved to Pueblo, they lived in Traskwood, Arkansas.  I always assumed he was born there, but I’m not sure.  His dad was Lonzie Zan Barnett (seen Zane in a few places as well), and his mother was Nettie Jane Hargraves.  I looked up Traskwood, Arkansas, and I can see why they moved.  There were 500 people living there in 2000.  When the Barnett family left in the 1930’s, it must have made a dent in the population, since there were 8 kids in the family.  I’m not sure how they picked Pueblo, but in 1934, Charles married my grandmother, Stephanie Anzick.  So, he’s the 1/4 of me that’s not Bojon.

Growing up in Bojon Town shaped me, but there’s something that I couldn’t put my finger on until I was in my 20’s.  There was a piece of me that was so un-Bojon that it took me a long time to come to grips with it after I recognized it.  I’m a redneck.  I can’t help it.  A huge part of me wishes that Lonzie and Nettie would have stayed in the Ozarks.  I’m sitting here watching a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert on TV.  Not the originals, but the current guys.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.  And Johnny VanZant wraps a Confederate Flag around the mic stand and starts singing “Sweet Home Alabama” and I’m on my feet.  The dogs are under the couch.  They don’t like my singing.  The hell with them.  Southern Man doesn’t need them around either!

I’ll get back to my latent redneck tendencies later, but back to Grandpa Charlie.  I’m getting to be the age that he was when I remember him the best, and damned if I’m not getting a lot like him.  He loved sports.  He really loved sports if he had a bet of a game.  I talked earlier about him being a bookie, and that wasn’t an accident.  The man liked action!  I remember one summer, a few years before he died, when I was home from college.  My dad got me a job working at the steel mill.  It was a good job, but it was dangerous and unpleasant.  Huge money for a college kid, and I would work any overtime I could get, because school would be right around the corner.  I worked about 7 or 8 days in a row, and I finally had a day off.  I was living at mom and dad’s for the summer, and I’m sleeping in so nice, when my dad wakes me up.  It’s work and they want to know if I can come in and pick up a shift.  I always did when they called, but this time, I told my dad to tell them no.  He got pissed off and asked me why I wouldn’t go, and I told him it was the last day for the season at the dog track, and I was planning on being there.  I thought he got pissed earlier, but now he was really pissed!  He lectured me for about an hour on responsibility and bad habits and poor choices and stuff like that.  Grandpa Barnett was in the kitchen drinking coffee like he was every morning, just listening in.  Well, I go back to sleep, get up later, and ride my motorcycle to the dog track, where I proceeded to have the day of my life.  I went out with maybe 50 bucks and came back with over $700.  Now this was 1975, and $700 was like 2 and a half week’s wages.  So, I come walking in the door, and my dad and grandpa are still sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee.  My dad looks at me in disgust, and he says ‘well, was it worth it?’  I reached into my pocket and pulled out the $700.  It was rolled up in 10s and 20s, and the roll could choke a horse.  I toss it on the table and money just scatters everywhere.  I look at my dad and say ‘why, yes it was!’.  I looked at my grandpa, and he had a look in his eyes that made me break out in the world’s biggest smile.  He was proud of me.  Not only for winning, but for having the stones to do what I did.  He was a gambler.

He and my grandma would bitch at each other non-stop.  That’s why I mentioned earlier about me being like him more and more.  Me and Velma get along like Steffie and Charlie did when I was a kid.  It’s like watching one of those goofy flashbacks on the 70’s show where me and my wife are playing my grandma and grandpa.  I guess it only figures.  We grew up watching them.  So we act like them, and even look like them.  I laughed so hard a few months back, when someone posted a picture of me on Facebook, holding one of my grandkids.  One of my nieces commented that it was ‘weird how much Uncle Mike looks Grandpa’.  All I could think is ‘good thing for Grandpa.  If I looked like the mailman, he’d have some serious questions for my mom!’

I worked for Grandpa Barnett when I was in high school.  We worked in a warehouse where they stored empty beer cans before they shipped them to the brewery.  We loaded the cases of empty cans into semi trailers and train cars.  I made a whopping $2.00 an hour, and maybe worked 20 hours a week.  It doesn’t seem like much now, but back then it was good money for a 15 year old kid.  He taught me a lot.  He was a wizard with numbers.  And he was a good boss.  We worked in the hot, the cold, and everything in between, and he did everything he could to make it easier on us.  Not just me, but the other guys I worked with too.  He was a good guy.  I miss him.  A lot.

Well, back to my latent Redneck-ism.  As I said, there was something different about me compared to my full blooded Bojon friends.  I didn’t like the music that they liked.  I used to spend hours in Record Stores.  For the younger people reading this, records were round, black pieces of plastic that you used to put on a record player in order to listen to music.  Kind of an obsolete piece of technology, but at the time, 8 tracks and cassettes weren’t invented yet.  Did I mention that I’m old?  Well, I would dig though the bins and I found myself buying records by the Allman Brothers, Johnnie Winter, Marshall Tucker, and Grinderswitch.  It just struck some chord within me.  I had no idea what the hell they were singing about half the time, but when I heard it, I just wanted to jump up and dance.  Anyone that’s seen me dance knows that this can be frightening to bystanders.  My friends thought I was retarded.  They just didn’t get it.  They couldn’t get it.   They didn’t have that redneck blood in them.

There are other signs of redneck influence in my family.  My dad would rather fish for bass than trout.  My sisters go to NASCAR races.  Well, most of them.  One of my sisters didn’t get the redneck gene.  She joined the Peace Corps, and vacations in France.  We still love her.

There’s a guy that visits the casino where I work a few times a year from Tennessee.  He’s a big tall guy with an industrial strength mullet,  so he kind of stands out.  I asked about him, and it turns out that his name is Big Mike Fowler, and he was a bass player for Black Oak Arkansas!  I can’t even talk to the dude without stuttering.  This guy was on stage with Jim Dandy Mangrum and Ruby Starr!!!!!  He’s like a God, with a capital G to me.   One of these days I’m going to get the nerve to actually ask for his autograph.

I could go on and on about my redneck tendencies, but I think you get the point.  If you’re a full-blooded Bojon, I hope you can forgive me for not wanting to play a Tamburitza.  And to paraphrase one of the greatest rednecks ever, Mr. Charlie Daniels, “Be proud to be Rebel, cause the South’s gonna do it again!”

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