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Get Off of My Tractor


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Preface
Mr. Film and Television Rights has been on vacation. Visiting the down-home goodness of his birth land. So it seems, in this, the third-installment of "Film and Television Rights" the obvious choice of subject matter is an overview of how this early and too brief summer vacation was occupied, which may be better suited for hotelsoap.com.

Either the vacation as subject, or an excruciating complaint directed at the airline industry--cruelly reminding them how everyone (and I mean everyone) hated their little dog and pony show with the white-hot intensity of a fresh Krispy Kreme well before 9-11, after which they thought somehow we'd forget their industry was a longtime nightmarish and unendurable mess, spiraling toward complete insolvency, and that now we just feel sorry for them and are embarrassed to voice any complaint, plus we're afraid they might have us strip off our clothes--a power in which those customer-service agents at Delta thoroughly delight. I see the glee in their too-close-together eyes concerning their ability to make us remove our shoes at will, and worse, drink our own breast milk. I hate them, and I imagine they hate themselves (wouldn't you?).

No, silly airlines are not unusual enough a subject for mention here. Who hasn't taken the train to the airport monorail to save a few dollars on cab fare only to find the monorail disabled and abandoned like some post-apocalyptic Charlton Heston flick, and after a few hours thrown together with hundreds of maniacally screaming hedge fund managers and Nu-skin sales reps, crammed on a bus to the airport terminal with those still screaming people, then after the prolonged mandatory x-ray by an ex-con, you're forced to beg someone with a walkie talkie to call the gate, run the half-mile with your bags, only to be told (in a kind of blaming way) "I assumed that was you who just ran on board, so the flight's closed and no there are no other flights to anywhere in California for 30 hours, but there's one to Atlanta in three, and don't raise your voice sir because I can make you remove your shoes"?

Meat
The topic I settled on is family stories. This vacation was a family reunion of sorts, so I heard lots of stories, some for the first time, plus variations of the same story. My Great-Grandfather often the center of the action, and his stories invariably involve gunplay. I was amazed at how they differed, and how much of the info was kept hidden throughout my life. For our purposes, I'll refer to my Great-Grandfather as Phyllis.

My Mother
My Mother often recalled how when she was a child, bouncing on her grandfather Phyllis' knee at the dinner table, Phyllis shot the dinner plates off the table with his pistol. The meal was late. Once.

She also mentioned how he lost his farm. She said Phyllis shot at an officer who drove on the property to deliver a warrant. The State sent Phyllis to a work farm for a short time, then exiled him.

The Aunts
When I sat down to a pleasant outdoor lunch of crabcakes and iced tea with my Aunts and recounted my Mother's story, they laughed and said "No--he (Phyllis) didn't shoot at people and miss, he shot three people, but he didn't kill anyone! He didn't get sent to a work farm. And he also had a pet raccoon that played the banjo." (These victims weren't all shot at once, but span many years of alcohol-related violence I assume.)

Get Off My Tractor
The last shooting was the one that got him in trouble. According to my Aunt, Phyllis had been drinking with a neighbor all afternoon. The neighbor, drunk, got on Phyllis' new tractor and started doing figure eights in the yard. After asking several times for the guy to get off the tractor--Phyllis went in his house. When the neighbor eventually got off the tractor and came into the doorway, Phyllis shot his arm off with a shotgun.

Poor Raccoon
The raccoon's story doesn't end well either I'm afraid, the poor raccoon got into the root cellar canned goods when he should have kept to plinking that banjo.

The Uncle
"Actually his (Phyllis') brother-in-law died after he shot him in the leg--of blood poisoning sometime later. With the medical profession being what it was at the time . . . I know he was sent to the work farm, I visited him there." (The implication here is that the medical profession was to blame.)

The Grandmother
"He (Phyllis) was mean to animals . . . Those people he shot called him a dirty word."

Coda
I'm not certain who was shot, how many, what was the actual punishment, or how Phyllis' farm was lost, but I gather some variation of all those things happened. I was amazed that in all the holiday gatherings growing up I never heard a whisper of those stories, not even the banjo playing--raccoon or man. The differences between each person's account makes Mr. Film and Television Rights wonder what, if anything, out there is completely non-fiction.


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6/9/2003
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