I wonder if anyone ends up doin’ what he figured he would. I mean, when you were a kid, don’t you remember sayin’, “I want to be a fireman when I grow up,” or “I want to be a cowboy.”
I remember all sorts of things I wanted to be, but most didn’t pay any money. Like bein’ Tarzan, or an Indian (I was disappointed when I found out you had to be born one), or one of my favorites, a hillbilly. Now, that’s a job any boy could enjoy.
When I was growin’ up, I got most of my ideas from TV or the movies. I could watch a cowboy show, and I wanted to be a cowboy. Well, when “The Beverly Hillbillies’’ first came on TV, I was hooked.
I had seen my callin’. What a life. Shootin’ your food, traipsin’ around the woods all day long, and heck, even if I did discover oil, they could keep it.
“I’m goin’ to be a hillbilly when I grow up,” I announced to my family at supper one night.
“It doesn’t pay too good,” said my dad. Mom just looked at me. My sister Teri seemed enthused about it though.
“I thought you already were one,” she said.
“Why thank you,” I said. Mom looked at her and raised one eyebrow.
“Don’t encourage him,” she said.
“But it’s true, Mom,” Teri said. “Just look at him. He’s always dirty, he stinks, and he can’t talk without saying ‘ain’t’ or ‘wuz’. He’s a natural.”
I looked at Mom and smiled.
“Rusty,” Mom said. “Let’s suppose you do become a hillbilly. What if you decide you need a wife? What kind of girl do you think would want to be married to someone who lives in a rundown cabin full of dogs and varmints?”
“Well,” I thought. “Somebody like Ellie Mae,” I guess. She’d suit me just fine.” Dad coughed and spit his tea out.
“Well,” he said as he cleaned up his mess, “I might just become a hillbilly myself.”
Mom stared a hole through his head.
The next day I laid out my plans to my cousin Coy.
“A hillbilly, huh?” he said. “You know, that’s a pretty good idea. Mind if I join you?”
“Heck no,” I replied. “I was hopin’ you would. Now, let’s figure out what all we need. As far as I can tell, all we need is a beat up ol’ hat and a gun.”
“Will our BB guns do?” Coy asked.
“They’ll have to,” I said. “Mom nixed my idea on a muzzle loader.”
“A hat and a gun,” said Coy. “You know, maybe we already are hillbillies.”
“Naw, not yet,” I informed him. “Next, we need a still.”
“A still. You know, for makin’ moonshine.”
“You mean whiskey?” asked Coy.
“I guess so,” I said. “I’m not for sure, but I think they’re the same thing.”
“Where are we goin’ to get a still?” Coy asked.
“We’ll have to make one.”
“We’ll borrow some stuff from Uncle Ray’s shop,” I said. Coy’s dad, my uncle, had an air conditioning and sheet metal shop behind their house, and it had everything we’d need to make a still. “We’ll make it look just like Snuffy Smith’s still,” I said.
“Well then,” said Coy, “let’s go.”
We went through Uncle Ray’s shop and picked up everything we thought might be useful to us. The men who worked for Uncle Ray paid us no mind. They were used to havin’ us in there diggin’ through stuff.
We found a roll of copper tubin’, and a bunch of metal ductwork that we figured could be made into a big pot. We then dragged it all down to Coy’s fallout shelter.
Uncle Ray had built the fallout shelter back when we thought the Russians were goin’ to bomb us. He built it into the side of a dirt bank back behind their house.
He decided that they’d never use it, so he didn’t put a door on it. It looked like a cave. It was Coy’s and my hideout.
We worked for hours tryin’ to bend that metal and shape it, but we were unsuccessful. “I didn’t know hillbillyin’ was such hard work,” said Coy.
“Me neither,” I said.
“Why can’t we be hillbillies without a still?” asked Coy.
“I’m with you,” I said. “Let’s we’uns go see if we can rustle up a possum or somthin’, so’s Mom can fix us some vittles.”
“Huh?” said Coy.
“That’s hillbilly talk,” I said. “Come on, let’s go.”
While we were down in the woods playin’, Uncle Ray, for some reason, decided to go into the old fallout shelter. When we got back he was waitin’ for us in his back yard.
“What have you fella’s been up to?” he asked.
“Just tryin’ to rustle up some vittles,” I said.
“Huh?” he said.
“Nothin’,” I replied.
“Guess what I found in the fallout shelter?” he asked. Coy and I looked at each other and swallowed hard.
“Look’s like someone’s been trying to make a still,” he said.
Although I knew I was facin’ some sort of punishment, I was still proud that what we had done at least resembled what we were tryin’ to build. “I wonder what the preacher would say if he saw this,” Uncle Ray added.
Preacher? Heck, I was more worried about what Mom would say.
Coy and I just stood there with guilt written all over us.
“Well,” Uncle Ray said. “I’m going to let you off the hook this time. Y’all clean up that mess and we won’t speak of this again.”
“Yes sir!” we said, and we cleaned it up. Good ol’ Uncle Ray.
Unfortunately, he didn’t keep his promise. After Coy and I were grown, and to this day, one of Uncle Ray’s favorite stories to tell is when he found the still that Coy and I made. Heck, he even told the preacher.