It’s been a bit since we last heard from Ben Hogg, but the Beaten Back to Pure/Birds of Prey frontman has sent over another installment in his ongoing Fire on the Mountain series, and like all of them so far, it’s excellent. This time around, it’s bugs, bus drivers and his first inductions into the glories of heavy metal.
Fire on the Mountain
Welcome back y’all. As I perused my previous articles to refresh myself on what I’d gone over with you, kind readers, previously, I realize I have left out some of the minutia that made up life during my coming up years. The day to day, if you will.
The threat of impending insect stings was ever-present. I have sampled a bit of poison of every kind of flying insect I can think of in that region. Here’s a quick list in order from least painful to most intense: Honey bees are quaint, unless they get ya in a swarm, but we can suffice to say that that math applies to all these bastards, you just have to extrapolate the intensity. Next would be the yellow jacket. The bitch about these devils is they don’t even produce honey and they nest in a variety of ways. They can make hives against your house to get at you while you fiddle with your keys at the door, or in the ground so you can really piss them off by running your mower over their universe to the point they all bring their thunder.
From there, you really step up a couple of notches to the wasp type families. I’m grouping the dirt dauber into that mix because they appear to be the same insect but the dauber is all black instead of the classic red/black combo we are all most familiar with. The dirt daubers are most noted for the way they make homes in little clay tubes against any flat surface and the wasps have those evil looking grey cluster nests. Their biggest upside is that you usually have to fuck with them to get them on your ass. They tend to stay to themselves producing nothing except more wasps.
The next jump up is to the hornet clan — the yellow hornets that live in the hell houses, sometimes stolen from yellow jackets, that are the size of your pillow. They are ornery as they are big, which is the size of a fat pinky finger. They travel in packs and when you try to eliminate them, you better bring your ‘A’-game. If they get after you and get on you, there is a hospital visit coming. When stung by them you can feel their serum like a syringe depositing into you. Wildly unpleasant.
But they finish a mere second to the worst of all the flying offenders. The Japanese Hornets. I don’t know if that’s their official name, but I’ll assume it is. They are red and bigger than their yellow kin and almost all I have seen have taken over and killed off a hive of the yellow variety. Now you get stuck with these red devils who have a knack for getting indoors. Again, they ain’t to be trifled with. Bring the spray and the smoke to eliminate them from your barn or shed. Or just burn the structure down. I fucking hate them things. When you grow up outdoors, fishing or biking your summers away, you are gonna encounter them and I’ve luckily never been allergic to any of them, just pissed off and glad to know most of them die after they sting.
So… there is that. I recognize this is quite a bit to say about this topic, but it’s one that permeates my Appalachian experience and has me acutely aware of all these pests even to this day. Moving on…
I had a school bus driver named Frank Sosebee for many years and he was an interesting dude. Frank wasn’t big on kids and hated when people were fucking around. He must have made enough dough to stay in the game because it certainly didn’t seem to be his love of our education that kept him coming back year after year. He was hair trigger as hell to turn the bus around and have the principle whip our asses. The man didn’t play. I found out years later that Frank had been in WWII and was involved in the invasion of Normandy. He had gotten off the small boat and been shot immediately. The man was something of a war hero, yet never spoke a word about it.
On the other hand, he would talk about deer hunting. Normally his gaze was about 20 percent on the windy back country roads and 80 percent on any perceived shenanigans in the interior of the bus. A lot of “shushing” occurred. That bus was like a mausoleum. However if some of the dudes wanted to talk deer hunting he’d be all involved. He had a specific set of interests, I suppose. Regardless of his iron fist, some of my most memorable fights occurred on his mode of transportation. As it is today, it was then, not everybody likes the way I talk to them. I’m sure Frank is dead by now. Rest easy, you grumpy old prick.
I played baseball and football every year through ninth grade, and I know it may surprise a great many of you, but I was a decent ballplayer. I was an all-star catcher in baseball several times over and a decent enough offensive lineman to be ejected from a couple of games for playing a little outside the rules. I hated practice and lived for game day. Ask any of my former/present bandmates and they can attest to this trait lasting long into adulthood. Living in the sticks required much travel for road games and a colossal pain in the ass for my parents. Another less than commendable trait I developed at this time was being very into my own game. If the team lost but I had played well I remember being able to rest easy. I don’t know what that says about me. Towns County Indian for life! I’ll still smoke most of ya with my outside shot. Take me up on it but bring your wallet.
County days are filled with boredom, especially as an only child, but I’ve always had a knack for beating it back, whether I punted a football for hours at a time or went fishing by myself, I can melt hours away like no one you’ve ever met. It has served me well as a life skill. It also led to my discovery of metal music and complete immersion into it at a young age.
I’m sure many of you have asked yourself during these articles, “Where the hell is the music?” and that’s a fair question. So here it goes.
When I was eight, the year was 1980 and my stepdad turned me onto two Alice Cooper records, Love it to Death and School’s Out. I loved them both, still do to this day, played air guitar on a baseball bat and knew every riff that both of those records held within. After a couple of years though I had lost my way and was listening to Men Without Hats and Prince‘s “1999.” Neither of them had floored me the way Alice had but I was only 11 and still searching.
In Sixth grade the Scorps broke big in America with the “Rock You Like a Hurricane” single and their Love at First Sting album. “Hurricane” wasn’t getting airplay, at least not where I could hear it, but there was a commercial for the album on the radio that contained that opening riff and I knew I had to have it.
But how? I had no money. No record store. My mom surely wasn’t down with an album which had a naked chick and a metal dude screwing on the cover. I was at a loss. We had a gift exchange in our classroom, where you drew names and bought for that person. The girl who got my name asked me what I wanted. We certainly weren’t tight, as my lady-getting rap hadn’t been developed at that point either. I don’t know how they attained the cassette but they had and it all fell into place after that.
Next were Quiet Riot and Mötley Crüe. Then I found magazines that had those bands in them and then I was exposed to Priest and Maiden. My next stoke of fortune occurred when my rolling stone father landed work in San Francisco and I’d visit during the summers and around the Christmas break. So I went looking for bands like Raven and Armoured Saint albums I had heard about and ended up stumbling into the Bay Area thrash explosion.
I saw an issue of Metal Mania magazine in a record store rack and it had Freddy Krueger and Scott Ian on the cover. Up till that point I had only seen Anthrax in small ads in glossy mags, now here they were on the cover of a news print rag. I soon after sent Attitude Adjustment and Mordred money for their 1985 demos and the dam had broken.
In the meantime my folks had scooped up a big-ass satellite dish, one of those 10-foot-wide fuckers that we planted in our garden and I’d have to go and hand crank that beast toward the Canadian sky and soon after I had found the “Pepsi Power Hour” on Canada’s Much Music Network. Canadian MTV, pretty much. I saw videos from Celtic Frost, Voivod and Venom and my interest in the whole thing was piqued.
Some people get the fever from their older siblings or a cool pot smoking neighbor but since I had neither, I found my own way. I remember the mailman, inexplicably, delivering a package that contained Destruction‘s Eternal Devastation to my school. Small town bullshit right there. It wouldn’t fit in my locker, so I had to tote it around the rest of the day, fielding questions. Nobody got it and the Bible thumpers (everyone?) were taken aback.
Well, there is more to that but I will pick up again in the next go around, I have to get ready to go to work.
Until next time, don’t be dicks and up the irons!!!