Fire on the Mountain, by Ben Hogg

Posted in Fire on the Mountain on November 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

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.

Please enjoy:

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!!!

Ben Hogg

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Fire on the Mountain, by Ben Hogg

Posted in Fire on the Mountain on June 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

This week marks the triumphant return of Ben Hogg‘s “Fire on the Mountain.” In his third installment, Ben continues his series of recollections of growing up in Georgia and North Carolina, touching on corporal punishment and child abuse. You can find his first two columns here. Please enjoy:

Fire in the Mountain III

First off, I should drop an apology on my man JJ for the delay and my disregard of his friendly email reminders. Regardless, we have gathered here today in an effort to trudge through the minutia that made me the man I am and how it relates to my upbringing in North Georgia and Western North Carolina.

When I left off last, we had covered my childhood hometown as having been without anyone of any color darker than eggshell white and my family’s attempt at rabbit farming. If you didn’t read that article, than you are behind and I recommend you do so, as to have foundation in this portion of the program.

As I try to recall my inglorious past and the bits I think might be of interest to you folks from the Northern territories (Kentucky and up) and beyond, it occurs to me one thing that stands out from my youth that seems to raise eyebrows is the rampant use of corporal punishment in the schools. Sure, we all got hammered by our mothers, grandparents, any and all relatives, and anyone who was allowed to watch after us on a given afternoon, but this was applied during our all-too-formative schooling hours. On the one hand, I just count it as having been part of the timeframe I grew up in, but as I have traveled, I’ve learned how uncommon it was outside of our mountain range at anytime since the 1950s, except in those nun schools they put in the Hollywood movies.

Any teacher would and could whip your ass, at any time they deemed fit. It wasn’t a “beating,” per se — nothing to the face or torso — and there even seemed to be guidelines that made it seem rooted in study and research. 99 percent of the time it was three licks, and always under the watchful gaze of the “witness” of a fellow teacher. Occasionally, if you really got under an educator’s skin, he could go off and give you half a dozen cracks. That was probably frowned on but nothing ever was said.

Whenever you heard a knock on your classroom door and it was an outside teacher, your teacher was being summoned as a witness (if it was a female student at least one of the teachers had to be a woman. See, we weren’t cave people!), and they would simply excuse themselves and go into the hallway, where an unfortunate hell-raiser, cheater, note-passer or derelict was waiting to grab his knees or put his hands against the wall for the punishment due. A minute or so later your teacher would come back into the class and proceed with the lesson as if nothing had happened, because nothing HAD happened as far as we all were concerned.

Frequently, teachers displayed the paddles on the wall as a warning to all those that entered. Some were shaped like miniature boating oars and some like short-handled tennis racquets with holes in them so you could hear them whistle as they swung, some even came with cute sayings on them like, “Board of Education,” or perhaps there would be informative signage above them stating, “Never hit a child in the face, the lord provides a better place.” We all knew which faculty member could bring the thunder (Mr. Queen, the shop teacher, was notoriously heavy-handed) and which people were not as skilled in the fire-ass arts (Ms. Worley was a sweet lady and seemed to find it distasteful, therefore her ass whippings suffered). The principal had his hands full with the most rowdy bastards, because after several class-administered beatings, he would step in and render his own brand of frontier justice.

Every morning there seemed to be a line of kids from the school buses who had been fighting or screwing around and the better part of the bossman’s first period was spent pounding ass. We all have our crosses to bear, I suppose. Another odd piece to the puzzle was the fact that this sort of punishment never ended. Most people assume after elementary — or middle school at the latest — that it sort of tapered off. It did not. I remember my Asst. Principal Bill Gaither warming me up in 12th Grade for one thing or another. You’d see older students capable of beating a teacher’s ass begrudgingly grabbing his knees in preparation for the coming sting.

These sessions didn’t cripple anyone or have any lasting, physical, effects as far as I ever saw. Some kids would cry, some would shrug it off, and some responded properly and got their shit together. Also, since I graduated in 1990, many of you probably figure that the rod was put away shortly thereafter. I would have assumed the same. The climate against that sort of thing has gotten much stronger over the last couple of decades. So when I went back to my 20-year reunion in 2010 I asked a former classmate who had gone into the profession of shaping our youths about the status of the paddle and she did say that the practice was finally laid to rest in 2007. That is a pretty goddamn good run, I figure.

My daughter had gone to school in Murphy, NC, during the early 2000s and received a few of these (well earned, I’ll assume) sortings out. Later she had gone on to attend Granby High School in Norfolk, Virginia, where obviously none of this was allowed to occur. One day after, yet another, lunchroom riot I asked her if she thought that the fear of an intense and immediate punitive action would settle some of bullshit down, she agreed fully. Fuck Saturday school, fuck writing sentences a thousand times, and certainly fuck in-school suspension — nothing is more relatable to little peckerhead kids and teens than the swift and tangible punishment of getting their asses warmed up properly by a heavy-handed woodshop teacher.

It may seem archaic and there is certainly no putting the horse back into the barn at this point, but if it were ever on a ballot to bring back corporal punishment at any or all levels of education, I’d encourage my brothers and sisters to step up and vote “yes” at the polls. I’d do it myself, but them bastards done took my right to vote away. Just think, the mountains could yield a few more mes and a few less of y’all. Who wouldn’t want that?

Shit, that was a lot of typing on one topic, but I’ll squeeze in one or two more thoughts before I abandon you for another month:

Mountain people have the asinine habit of waving on the roads as we pass by each other. Perhaps it’s due to all roads being predominantly only two lanes where you’re whipping by your fellow motorist at 60 mph and it’s an acknowledgement that, “Whew, we are both gonna survive this!” or it may just be that saccharine sweet Southern thing that always made me queasy. There has got to be limits! Every car? Every time? Not just your bros or family friends or anything that would be required as a criteria? Nope, just any and every random 91 Cutlass or 84 Prelude who happen to be careening through the curvy countryside roads appear to be required to notice one other. It’s generally just a raising of an index finger towards the sky or the loosening upholstery that’s scraping your John Deere brand trucker cap, but it’s such an engrained practice of nonsense that it took me months after moving towards civilization to break myself of the retarded ritual.

It’s like we’re saying “I’m in a car, too!” and passing that ridiculous good will from one motorist to the next. If any of you that read this are from where I’m from, break the cycle. It has to end somewhere. Undeserved pleasantries are reserved for children and dogs, not any asshole who can read enough English to muddle through a driver’s exam. I would recommend using the middle finger, although that would probably result in getting your ass shot by a meth freak and not being found for a half-hour or more if the road is country enough.

The South and especially Appalachia are associated with incest and/or general child abuse and rape. I don’t know how that became part of the reputation, but judging by the women I have known from there, it seems to have been come by honestly. I was fortunate in that regard, I figure — or perhaps I was undesirable from an early age. Either way, I’ll take my good fortune and run with it.

We had bought our first family home from a neighbor named Mr. Bouchnau (or something like that), who lived down the hill (and back up another hill) for the entire time I resided in Hiawassee, GA. I remember one weekend him and some other churchy types knocked on our door to “witness” (aka: talk about God) to us. We told him we were good and he asked if we went to church and we assured him we did and that we were Episcopalian (which we were) to which he responded, “Is that Christian?” He and his snake-handling freak show went on down the road.

As time passed, he would rent this dilapidated eyesore of a trailer to a series of hard-luck families — as an act of Christian charity, I always assumed. All of them would have kids and he seemed to be way involved in their upbringing. I remember seeing the 13-year-old neighbor girl driving his Jeep regularly into town with only her little brother riding shotgun. While I’m sure it aided in her driver’s education class two years down the line, I shudder to think how she attained the privilege.

Another family had two brothers and their 600-pound mother in the trailer. They were wild dudes. One was a year older and the other was a couple of years older than me. I remember being with them on the muddy riverbank of their house (we shared it with them) and having an extreme, expletive-filled, high-volume tirade toward one another erupt over a carp (a mostly inedible fish) that they had caught. I had never heard 11 and 12 year olds say “fuck” so many times. It was jarring, yet impressive, although I knew we were well within earshot of my folks who were not as permissive as perhaps the lady who was housebound who had probably never eaten a fish in her life, outside of Long John Silver’s: Their mother.

One day that family was gone without notice from the trailer but the younger boy was left behind to live with Mr. Bouchnau and he was sent to a Christian school, presumably to get his shit together. As years passed, information came to light that good ol’ Mr. Bouchnau was fucking my dude on the regular and I gotta assume he was just one in a string of nightmarish victims caught between poverty and parental indifference. It all made a lot more sense now. Mr. B. is dead now. Good riddance. I don’t care how much church you went to, they ain’t washing that smell off of ya with holy water, ya kid-touching pervert. I only hope Hell is hot enough.

My folks even had the unenviable task of asking me, since I had spent time kicking it with homedude, if anything had ever happened to me. It had not. I think I had too much stability for that filthy deviant’s liking.

Anyway, there are three little anecdotes from the glorious South and my coming up experiences therein. Until next time, you don’t need ice milk and cookies enough to go to Mr. Bauchnau‘s house.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Ben Hogg

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Fire on the Mountain, by Ben Hogg

Posted in Fire on the Mountain on April 17th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

In his second column for The Obelisk, Beaten Back to Pure/Birds of Prey frontman and master storyteller Ben Hogg recounts the middle years of his youth spent in Towns County, Georgia, and his awakening to the racism that was endemic to the area at the time. Please enjoy:

Fire on the Mountain II

When I left y’all last, I was up to age five and my mother’s unfortunate dog-biting/nose-losing incident. So, in the interest of time and space (gotta save something for the book! Hello… anybody????) I’m going to blow by some of the minutia. I’ll gloss over some bizarre shit I remember from early childhood — like in first grade there was a boy named Scott who vomited up a large worm onto the classroom floor just as he had crossed the threshold and entered the room. I recall it spasming on the tile. I suppose that isn’t a specifically Southern thing, but I expect it is far more common in areas, like ours, where kids regularly would play outdoors shoeless and share the yard with farm animals and their feces. Probably just a rural thing, primarily. I remember in my second grade year, I would be daydreaming out of the classroom window over an old Civil War graveyard that sat adjacent to the building and not understanding what I was seeing completely, but recognizing the aged tombstones as having been dreary and significant.

I’m going to fast forward to my next major stop of my coming up: Hiawassee, Georgia. By now my mother had hooked up and married a good dude named Bill. In retrospect, they were both completely young (late 20s/early 30s), but they had their shit together in a big way. I’m significantly older than they were as I type this and I can’t even begin to fathom ever buying a house that isn’t a boat, tilling a garden or slaughtering rabbits for meat. Luckily for me they could handle the thought processes involved in putting that together. 

Just an aside, my folks were at the forefront of the healthy-eating craze and were trying to get back to basics and natural food as much as possible. There was a brief wave in early ‘80s of people eating rabbits due to their lower fat content and ability to reproduce like… well, rabbits. In the 90s, a similar thing happened with ostriches, but that experiment ended similarly, I believe. You can find both of their meats but it certainly isn’t prevalent. For six months, we caged a few of these Easter Bunny-looking meat machines and would kill and eat them in whatever recipes usually called for beef or chicken. I didn’t have the stomach for much Peter Cottontail murder, so it mainly fell onto my stepdad to do the deeds required to extract our bloody brown harvest from their white puffball fur. The meat wasn’t even that good if memory serves correctly. It was cheap, however, so we stayed the course until the day eventually came where Bill wasn’t into it any longer either. So an ad was taken out in the paper to sell what had become a concentration camp’s worth of these varmints. We were gone one afternoon and upon our arrival home we quickly realized someone had stopped by and made themselves at home in our barn, taking all the gear and rabbits we owned and replacing it with a $20 bill on the table where their cage had sat. I think we were all just glad that the Great Hare Experiment of 1982 was finally over.

My people had just scooped up a house on the cheap with crazy pink, blue and green brick that looked like a Roman shower come to life. It was big and drafty, and for about half the year there was even a lake down the hill — the cooler months saw the water recede from out of sight for some sort of damming and electricity creation. The thing I think most of you readers may find crazy about this place was the fact that Towns County (Hiawassee was contained within), GA, was, at least during my entire tenure there from 1980-‘87, a 100 percent white county. Now granted, by rock and roll standards, I’m a fucking dinosaur at 40, but in real life, that was only 25 years ago. I have since returned and seen a Mexican restaurant with actual Mexicans working inside, so I have to assume the stranglehold has been loosened. That shit would not have gone over back then. 

The Ku Klux Klan operated openly in the downtown region and on many weekends would have unopposed rallies in the square and pass out literature for all those just driving through. They would wear their hood but leave their faces uncovered so you could easily recognize your friends and classmates’ parents as being members and as a young dude, I didn’t know what was all the way up, but I knew something was amiss. Probably easy to be an open Klansman in a town with no minorities, but I think their agenda leaned more towards the “keep ‘em out” end of the spectrum. I’m curious how the group is surviving these days. My money would be on “thriving” with the newfound acceptance of, at the very least, brown people within city limits (still haven’t seen any black folks). I’d like to talk to the first people to decide to bust down the doors of this particular color barrier. What would be their motivation? I can’t imagine they had numerous job offers and certainly no family to attract them, as it had us. That’s just something I’d be curious to know. I’m going to assume the town elders had died off and slightly more open-minded people had come to power. I’ll use the term “open-minded” very loosely, as I’m not talking about Renaissance time here. I’m betting it was more of a gradual erosion of flagrant bigotry replacing the in-your-face variety of my childhood. Inevitable, I suppose. I can recall vividly my eighth grade teacher using the term “nigger” in her class on two separate occasions — one as a comment on social activist/”troublemaker” Hosea Williams and his recent (by 1986 standards) drunken hit and run arrest, and the other when she made reference to her family’s trip to Hotlanta (the ATL, the dirty dirty, etc.), and her son spotting a black dude and calling him a “nigger-man.”

It seemed that open racism was almost an expected and accepted way of life. It was the norm. My family had none of that going on behind our closed doors, but we didn’t dare buck the status quo when it came from others, either. The overtones of racial purity came from all directions, and normally from the vantage point of “safety for the children” or a “we got a good thing going here.” Churches and their members (i.e., everyone) were pretty open about it, although some much more modestly than others. I remember there was talk of that same man, Hosea Williams, heading a march through our county as he had done previously in another lily-white town farther south and the heated debate that arose at the mere notion of that happening. In one of my seventh grade classrooms, we even openly debated the topic of black people potentially coming to our town. 30 kids in the room, 28 were against it and Melinda Long and myself were on the other side (always the contrarian). Hell, none of us had really ever met black people at that point and were going with our gut. Our teacher was the main rabble-rouser for the majority group, spearheading the list of cons versus our tepid pros. Twice during our football team’s pep rallies, the band from the opposing school came to play their music at our gym, and god forbid black kids were in those bands. Right about then a timely bomb threat would be called in, forcing everyone into the parking lot and usually home for the remainder of the school day. So it wasn’t altogether bad. A half-day is a half-day.

Needless to say, with a team of all white boys, we needed all the pep we could get because the Towns County Indians were to high school football what childhood cancers are to children. No more than one win over the course of five or six years. Legendarily bad. I heard they had their first winning season in decades three or four years ago. Times they are a-changing.

The one man of color who could come to town on a nearly annual basis without any fallout was country music’s Charlie Pride. I suppose he was considered “one of the good ones.” Many bigger country music acts would come and still come to play the Georgia Mountain Fair, a big-ass to-do that used to swell our little town’s population from about 2,000 locals to about 50,000 tourists for a week in the heat of summer. A tremendous boon to that area economically and — while I don’t recall seeing any black people aside from maybe a carnival worker or two — I’m sure even their money wouldn’t have been shunned. Green is a color even the most cantankerous old fool understood for that one week a year. 

Well, that wraps up my second installment of my ongoing series, if you dig it, make sure to tell my man Dy-no-mite (JJ). Thanks for letting me get some thoughts down on paper. Until next time, don’t go up there unless you know somebody, them woods be creepy crawling. 

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Ben Hogg

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Fire on the Mountain, by Ben Hogg

Posted in Fire on the Mountain on March 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

In the first of hopefully many “Fire on the Mountain” columns to come, Beaten Back to Pure/Birds of Prey frontman and spoken word artist Ben Hogg chronicles living in Georgia as a child and a few of the various calamities that helped shape him as a person. Please enjoy.

FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN

Ben Hogg here. At my man JJ‘s request, I’m gonna effort to give you a glimpse into whatever it is that y’all might not have seen or been a part of down here in the dirty dirty as I was coming up. I’ve been living outside of the Smokey Mountains for about 20 years now, so I figure I can reflect with a bit of outsider perspective and perhaps share with you what I can now pretty clearly see in the rearview as having been fucked up at the time. Everything from the Klan, bomb threats, incest, cockfighting, Charley Pride, eating rabbits and all the rest that may have shaped me into the happy-go-lucky dude I am today.

My mom and I formed a tight little duo after she divorced my pops, and we had bounced from Birmingham to St. Petersburg to South Georgia and finally to the northernmost, snake-infested part of Georgia in a tiny town called Blairsville. She had put together $4,000 and gotten us a septic tank, a half-acre of land, and a dilapidated trailer to set onto it. She worked like hell to make our aluminum hovel inhabitable. We had found it in a field being overgrown with kudzu and mildew and damned if it didn’t leak like a sieve, but a little pioneer spirit and a couple of belongings made this my first permanent home. I remember some of the country ass dudes she was dating at the time and them becoming some of my earliest childhood recollections. There was a motorcycle mechanic, a chainsaw repairman and a dude who lived in a goddamn teepee. She was rebound dating with the anchor of my dumb little ass hanging around her neck. God knows how she stumbled upon a good man like my stepdad, Bill, but that’s getting a little bit ahead of myself.

It was 1976-77 and we had found Blairsville (usually pronounced “Blars-vull”) because of family who had moved there a few years back. My mother and the matriarch of the Greene household had been girlhood friends and cousins. By default, I ended up spending a ton of time over at their house that was only about three miles from where we had settled. One of the kids was my age and he had three older brothers who saw it as their job to “toughen us up.” In retrospect I fully appreciate their efforts although that appreciation was probably lost on me at the time. At one point my mother had the horrific idea to make me take ballet lessons to improve my dexterity, but the Greene family (Uncle Tom, Aunt (actually my cousin) Mary, Brian, Chris, David and Sean) all let her know, in unison, that it was a terrible idea.

In its place I played baseball and football and that sorted out any footwork issues I may have had. On their property Uncle Tom owned and operated Big Red’s Dog Kennel — named so because Tom was a large, ginger man — where he and the older boys trained bomb dogs, dope dogs, corpse dogs and all that sort of shit. It was loud and it smelled bad, so I never spent a lot of time inside the place but I do recall one of the dogs coming from the pen and becoming a family pet for some reason. It had either been abandoned or deemed untrainable, I figure. Keep in mind I was only five years old, so my details are a little sketchy. I remember this newly-made inside dog as having been a greyhound, but my mother has corrected me several times over the years that it wasn’t. I don’t remember what the hell breed she said it was. At some point my mom had attempted to pet the dog only to lose her nose for her trouble.

Apparently the fucking thing had leapt up and bit her on the face and that was all she wrote for her birth nose. I strolled into the house moments later to the calamitous scene around the bathroom where my mom was pouring blood from her face into the sink. I tripped out, obviously, but she kept her shit together in an effort to cool my frantic ass down. I guess it worked, because I’m not currently crying. The next sound I heard is seared into my memory as Tom, a generally severe dude, transformed himself into that dog’s judge, jury and executioner. He had dragged the dog outside and let off a couple of loud, ringing shots from his snub-nosed shotgun bringing the house pet’s face-biting days to an abrupt end. Fuck that dog. Mom had to get a lot of plastic surgery.

It was the late ‘70s and the highpoint of my life was Saturday morning cartoons. I only got two channels: two and 11. Most people hearken back on the era of the three networks, but due to the tall ass mountains around us channel five was obscured from my view. It was a point of great consternation for me because I couldn’t watch The Incredible Hulk or Dukes of Hazzard unless we went to my cousins’ house on Friday nights. It all evened out when I was spending the night with my cousins one weekend and that big red wooden house burned down to the ground around us.

We escaped with only a few minor burns between us. It was hugely traumatic for the family and now we were all shit out of luck trying to see CBS’ dope-ass Friday night lineup. At the expense of a litter of kittens’ lives, unfortunately. The following day I remember sifting through the smoldering rubble (only the chimney had survived) and finding my 6″ rubber King Kong doll on the ground only having suffered a melted foot. It’s funny how fire works. I had also had both Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew hand puppets with me that night. The faces of the dolls had been caricatures of the impeached pair and would probably be worth some decent coin on the market these days, but they weren’t as lucky as Kong. I lost a little bit of stuff, but my cousins lost it all. It was a very somber ride back to my mother and I’s trailer on Track Rock Road that night with everyone being given whatever couch space or floor space we had available. It was pretty fucking heavy.

Alright, I’ve hit my word limit [please note: there's no word limit -- ed.] and I will be back in a few days/weeks/whatever (I’m on Double J‘s schedule). Hope y’all are into it and will stick around. Them mountains be creepin’. Hit me up on Facebook if you want. Just tell me you seen me on The Obelisk and I’ll let you in. Also keep an eye out for my podcast, The Unhappy Hour with Ben Hogg as soon as I can figure out how to do that. Till next time brothers and sisters, love each other.

Ben Hogg

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