Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
As I, a Union artillery first sergeant, was presenting the Virginia colors in the company of an honor guard of Confederate soldiers, a bagpiper began to play at Al Comer’s graveside services.
I told you about Al a couple of weeks ago. He was an old friend and Maryland’s last surviving child of a Civil War veteran — James J. Comer, a Confederate private soldier in the Army of Northern Virginia.
The piper played “Amazing Grace,” “The Bonnie Blue Flag” and some other airs, then concluded with “Dixie.”
That’s when the breeze suddenly picked up, and our flags unfurled and began to billow gloriously.
“It figures,” whispered the Confederate officer who was standing next to me. “As soon as he plays ‘Dixie,” the wind begins to blow.”
“Damn right,” I said.
It may be that people who were watching from the graveside were wondering why a squad of uniformed men, standing at Present Arms with muskets and colors, had begun to smile on such a solemn occasion.
I hope that at least some of them understood.
As I’ve told you before, the older I get, the less I believe in coincidence.
My current favorite TV programs are what you would call “reality” shows.
I don’t mean “Survivor” or “Real Housewives of Hoboken” or whatever, but those about the guys who hunt alligators, brew moonshine and make duck calls, and the Swamp Man who dredges sunken logs out of the swamp; he finds them by feeling around in the muck with his bare feet.
Especially, I like Ernie, the Turtleman (who calls out “Yee! Yee! Yee! Live action!” after each successful mission), and his buddies, Neal, Jake and Squirrel, who catch wild animals that have gotten into people’s homes or are eating their pets, then turn them loose in the woods.
He hates having to deal with skunks — which is understandable — but does it anyway. Afterward, he takes a washtub bath in tomato juice, potatoes (which he says soak up the smell) and apple cider vinegar.
Three pretty ladies bought the Turtleman at a bachelor auction. For their date, he took them to a pond and taught them how to catch snapping turtles. They loved it.
The producers put subtitles on the screen, but I don’t read them. I grew up and still associate with people whose particular form of spoken English is similar to that of the stars in these shows (and mine, at times).
Rednecks are some of my favorite people. They usually are more civil, respectful and polite than a lot of supposedly more civilized people, they are God-fearing and patriotic, and they are clever and colorful and are able to adapt to unforeseen situations. I like rednecks.
The Duck Commander guys wear camouflage clothing, have long hair and beards, are married to beautiful, stylish women and hate living in a neighborhood full of yuppies — as would I — where they can’t burn leaves, raise chickens or skin a deer in their front yards. They have constructed a redneck water park.
Uncle Si uses words like “scientistic,” tells people they will get a “brain sneeze” if they eat cold food too fast and claims he saw a bear riding a motorcycle in Vietnam. If I had to chose only one of these TV rednecks to hang out with, it would be Uncle Si.
The boys were drafted by their mother to be waiters in a restaurant she was granted permission to run for one day.
A customer told one of them he was a pescatarian. Now, the Duck guy couldn’t have known what that was any more than I did. I had to look it up. It’s somebody who eats no flesh other than fish (what my Mountaineer friends and I would call ‘feesh”).
Had I been in his place, I’d have been tempted to say, “No (fooling)? I got friends that’s Pescatarians. I’m a Lutheran, my ownself.”
Each show ends with the clan at the dinner table. Their father, Phil, tells them to bow their heads while he thanks the Lord for another day and for the family and their bounty. Goldsworthys do the same thing.
Time was, I would have fit right in with those guys with my long hair and beard. My girl cousins used to call me “Grizzly Adams.”
After spending 10 days in the country deer hunting, I returned home on Thanksgiving eve to discover that my mother was hosting her woman’s club in the living room.
I had known these women all of my life.
However, I probably looked to them like a Northern Alliance tribesman from Afghanistan — unshaven, unshorn, dirty, wearing bloodstained britches and disreputable boots and carrying a rifle.
In other words, I looked precisely like a West Virginia deer hunter.
The room was silent until my mother, with a totally straight face, said, “Ladies, this is my son. It is not Charles Manson.”
With that, there were smiles all around and a chorus of “Hi, Jimmy!”
I replied, “Good evening, ladies,” and fled to my room. My father, I might add, was nowhere around. He knew they were coming.
One thing that usually happened a few days after deer season ended was that my mother — the high school English teacher — would tell me, “Jimmy, you know how to speak English. It is time for you to start doing so again.”
I still have a redneck side. Rather than buy a new one, I fix the old one with duct tape. And a needle-nose pair of Vise Grips will serve as the knob on my back porch door until I replace the one that keeps pulling off in my hand.
Another of my favorites is the “Gator Boys,” who respond to alligator emergencies and capture the animal, later to release it in the wild, where it will be safe from human interference and pose no danger to children and small animals.
A commercial promoting “Gator Boys” features a most attractive young redhead whose head is poking out of the water, face-to-face with an alligator.
She and the alligator are kissing ... her lips to what would be the alligator’s lips, if alligators had lips.
That looks like something I could do. I’ve seen it done, and I’m willing to try. Give me a chance, and I’ll show you how I would do it.
Just get that damn alligator out of there, first.
Yee! Yee! Yee! Live action!
That’s what I’m talkin’ about.