Friday, April 18, 2003

Southern Gothic II - A Gun for Miss Emily

My Aunt Pat's first husband (and father to the three sons involved in the whole lioness fiasco) died when the youngest son was about 15. She remarried a fellow named Steve, who was a WWII veteran and active in local politics. Steve was also a widower, and he had one son and one daughter. The son is fairly normal. The daughter, however, is not. She is crazy in that uniquely southern way that inspires people like Faulkner to write dark tales of familial intrigue and violence. I say all of this not only by way of explanation, but also to make the point that I share NO DNA with this person. Thank you, God.

Linda was married and had 4 children--three daughters and a son. Before she was married she was athletic and adventurous; a cheerleader who counted skydiving and shooting among her favorite hobbies. After marriage and pregnancy, though, some odd trends began to surface. Linda became obsessed with collecting antiques, and living the "pageant lifestyle"--dressing up the daughters and parading them around in pursuit of crowns, scepters and sashes reading Little Miss Boll Weevil, or whatever. She also let herself go physically, replacing activity with food. Eventually Linda's collecting and controlling got out of hand, and she ended up driving her daughters into early marriages and her son into permanent sullen withdrawal.

Linda lives in a large home in a rural area. However, you cannot walk through the house, because it is crammed with antiques. She has something like 30 full sets of china, as many sets of silver, tons of furniture, etc. She even has a tractor trailer parked behind the house, also crammed with expensive antiques that are rotting, because they aren't being properly stored. She will not sell them. Meanwhile, the house itself is falling down around her, because she "cannot afford" to get things fixed. Her church buys her groceries. This weird combination of hoarding (if she sold her dining room table, it would fetch at least ten grand) and poormouthing finally broke her on-again, off-again marriage, and her husband left. Linda was furious.

Things came to a head one day when her oldest daughter called Linda and asked if she'd come over to help her (the daughter) out. Halfway there, Linda realized that her daughter would never, ever, call her for help. Her father (Linda's ex) must have put her up to it! With a screech of tires, Linda turned the car around and sped home. Sure enough, there was her ex's car, and he (and his new girlfriend!) were just leaving. Apparently, he needed to pick up a few belongings, and knew that Linda would never consent if she were home. He was right.

After a brief confrontation, Linda went inside and returned with her pistol, which she began firing at the tires of the ex's car. The ex and the new girlfriend made it out unscathed, but a little upset. It's not every day that a large crazy woman shoots at you in the driveway, after all. When word got back to Steve, he just shrugged and made the following reply,""Aw hell. She was just mad and trying to shoot his tires out. She's an excellent shot--if she'd wanted him dead, he'd be dead."

And that was that. Everyone in that area knows each other, and they know Linda, so they tend to be a little more blase about this sort of behavior than, say, I would be. Yep, gotta love the SC branch of the family tree. Next time, I'll round out the Southern Gothic series (for the time being--I have many stories, grasshopper) with a visit to the mountain dwelling branch of the family, where you'll get this quote explained:

"There's a carload of Mexicans in the creek. I'm gonna tow 'em out before Otis shoots them."

Yes, I have not one, but two relatives named Otis. Do not start with me.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Southern Gothic

Occasionally I am reminded that my family is not exactly run-of-the-mill. This usually happens when I visit my South Carolina relatives. I truly believe that something in the water down there causes insanity. Not the grand schizophrenic kind of insanity, but the random gun-firing, inappropriate pet-having, reckless endangerment form of insanity that's a little harder to pinpoint until after the fact, when upon reflection you realize that these people are quite possibly insane.

Case in point: We were discussing "grandparent stress," the disorder whereby grandparents cannot enjoy even ONE MOMENT of time with a grandchild without first envisioning every way their darling could be killed or maimed in any situation, and I remarked that my Aunt Pat wasn't as freaked out about stuff with her grandkids as my mom is. Pat replied that it was all a matter of perspective; after all, two of her grandchildren were almost eaten by her son's PET LIONESS once, so run of the mill problems like falling off the sofa just weren't a big deal.

Yep, my cousin had a pet lioness named Kimba. I remember her--I was about 10 at the time (my cousin is 15 yrs my senior), and Kimba lived in Jimmy's (my cousin's) garage when she wasn't escaping and terrorizing people. Jimmy's children were 2 1/2 and 1 then. Here's a fun list of Kimba's shenanigans:

  1. She escaped and scared the hell out of two fishermen, who were just sitting in the river in their rowboat when suddenly a lioness sprang from the long grass at the river's edge and charged them. Again, this is in South Carolina, not Kenya. I suppose we're fortunate that neither of those men died of a heart-attack.

  2. She almost ate my other cousin, Alan (the oldest of Pat's 3 boys) when she escaped (notice a theme, here) and hid behind the paddock at my aunt's house. Alan saw her out of the corner of his eye and ran like hell. He got into the house and closed the sliding glass door. Kimba hurled herself at the door so hard that she bent the metal frame, and Alan calmed her down by throwing raw hamburger and chicken from the fridge out to her.

  3. The final straw came when Kimba devoured my OTHER cousin Lee's (the youngest of the three) little dog.

It was then pointed out to Jimmy that his idea to keep a pet lioness on a chain in the backyard with two toddlers around probably wasn't such a good idea, as those two toddlers just the week before had gotten out of the house and wandered onto the dock and almost drowned. If they could do that, how could anyone guarantee that they wouldn't wander too close to the pretty kitty on a chain? So Jimmy gave Kimba to a zoo. And his children are both grown and relatively unscathed. At least, they aren't displaying overt symptoms of SC insanity yet.

I have firsthand memories of this animal, yet it all seems like a fuzzy dream. I blame it on the SC water. It has to be a mild hallucinogen.

Next time on Southern Gothic, this quote explained: "Aw hell. She was just mad and trying to shoot his tires out. She's an excellent shot--if she'd wanted him dead, he'd be dead."

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

True Colors

I considered not blogging about the Burk-Augusta non-protest fiasco last weekend, mainly because it seems the only thing keeping all this stupidity going is the media hoopla, and I didn't want to add to it. But then I realized how stupidly pretentious that was--I mean, come on people, this ain't USA Today, and besides, this stuff has passed annoying and gone straight to knee-slappingly funny. Well, if by funny you mean wasting everyone's time and being really annoying but not much else. Guess I have an odd definition of funny. But I digress...

Look, if you really think that Burk's whole Masters protest is about anything except self-aggrandizement and publicity, then let her speak for herself and put an end to that silly notion (from USA Today via Instapundit):

So will Burk march on Georgia again? "I don't think so," she said Sunday.
Her term as the NCWO's chair expires at the end of 2004, and she's already thinking about her future plans.
"But if Hootie thinks he's going to outlast me," she said, "he's going to have to wait a while yet."

Yeah, all that talk about injustice and inequality? Piffle. Here's what she's after--power and publicity, and she's willing to not only beat that dead horse, but tapdance on it naked if that's what it takes to obtain her objective. Hootie can't win! That's not fair! Who cares that it's a PRIVATE CLUB, who cares that most women aren't even interested in the issue, and that those who are probably couldn't afford a membership--the important thing here is that Martha Burk will not be bested by some upstart southern MAN! Burk will keep on until she pushes herself into irrelevance, because she's a publicity hound and an idiot. And I will laugh and laugh and laugh. Because the only antidote to idiocy like this is ridicule.

By the way, where do I go to join this group--they're right up my alley:

A local group called People Against Ridiculous Protests carried out the day's most tasteful protest. Founder Deke Wiggins appeared at his designated protest site in the morning, planted a sign, then departed. The sign read: "Look at all these ridiculous people."

I see big things ahead for PARP. Maybe I'll start a local chapter. That's a protest group I could really get behind.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Go Here. Speak Up. It's Important.

Via everywhere, this lovely notion by the folks at the University of California that if students start speaking out against their classrooms being politicized, well, just change the rules on them so that they can't. Clever, no?

Oh, look everyone! It's Irony again! I think I should just have the guestroom on permanent standby for you, old pal. What? You tried to talk to the UC folks and point out that they were some of the biggest agitators against oppression by the over thirty crowd in their pot-scented heyday? And that maybe your presence as they try to rewrite speech codes to squash student dissent was appropriate? Good for you, I. Glad to see you've been keeping up with that assertiveness training. What happened? Oh, is your foot okay? I understand that doors can really hurt you when they're slammed on your foot. Bummer. Keep fighting the good fight, I. Here's a beer.

And for the rest of you--head on over to and work up a righteous head of indignation. It's for a good cause. And being indignant on a regular basis leads to long life, good health and improved virility. No really, I'm serious.