Memorial Day 1993


It had been less than a year since Me, Ma and the Rugrat Amazon had moved to Frog Pond Holler. We'd found a house out in the country, a single wide trailer with some DIY rooms added to the front. It was cozy enough, with a wood stove for heat and two bedrooms. Ma and little TA shared the big bedroom, with the walk-in closet that housed TA's Billy Ray Cyrus poster, and I slept on the trailer side, in the back, with no heat.

I'm not complaining... but I could see my breath on most mornings.

We were down in a holler we shared with our landlord, some cows and a hen house full of chickens. The area was called Blood River because of the slaughter house that still stood by the creek opposite our house.

Uncle Clarence used to tell me you could still hear them at night. Uncle Clarence is an a-hole.

Our landlady would come get TA so she could join her when it was time gather the cackleberries. My little city-girl child would announce it was time to go "pick eggs," which tickled the landlady to death.

I was glad to move to the country, away from town. I still didn't know many people, but everyone knew who I was. It was hard to get used to.

I was working in Scary Hillbilly Town, about 45 minutes away over in Tennessee. My thoughtful kinfolk waited until I started working there before they told me Scary Hillbilly Town was well known as the home of the hillbilly crime syndicate, where they still had cock fights, ran moonshine and burned bars down for insurance money.

So of course I worked in a friggen bank. I think they were trying to get me killed.

Anywho...

On Memorial Day weekend, 1993, Aunt Moses called Ma to share the excitement she was listening to on the police scanner. The annual celebration in town had gotten out of hand and the one, barely certified town cop, was getting his ass kicked.

This was before I got a scanner of my own.

Ma handed me the phone and hopped in her car to go check it out.

Aunt Moses gave me the details while we listened. Little Barney had arrested someone who had exceeded the amount of alcohol he was capable of consuming without losing his damned fool mind.

He would later become known as "that guy who started all that shit on Memorial Day."

As he was being put in the back of the police car, his mama, all 4'11" of her, who was also quite impressively intoxicated, started telling little Barney what she thought of him, his family and any livestock that he may have owned. Barney told Mama she needed to shut up, or she was going to jail too.

Her daughter didn't appreciate Barney talking to her mother that way and took a swing at his head with a beer bottle, sending his glasses flying in to the street and leaving a nice sized battle wound on his noggin. Barney had called for backup and there were some deputies from the sheriff's office heading across the mountain. In the mean time,  the guy who started it all was trying to kick out the back window of the squad car.

Some of the locals jumped in to assist Barney, which caused the rest of that guy's family to jump in and fight for his drunken honor.

Because around here, "the rest of his family" was probably half of town. We're all kin.

Back at the trailer, I was on the edge of my seat. We only got two t.v. channels down in the cow pasture and this was the most excitement I'd had since we'd moved here. I forbade Aunt Moses to hang up the phone. I wondered where Ma was, she should have been back by then.

The sheriff's deputies from the next town were chit chatting over the radio as they made their way down the mountain. You could tell they didn't have a lot of respect for little Barney and were being kind of assholey about having to come help him.

"We're crossing the bridge now, I'll have an update for you," we heard as Main Street came in to view, then, "SEND MORE BACKUP! IT'S A RIOT."

I rolled with laughter as they called in police from three more departments in Tennessee. State Highway Patrolmen, Wildlife Officers.. I wish I'd had the nerve to drive the five minutes to town to check it out.

Frog Pond Holler's summer population is only about 600, but put up a flier that says "live music" or "street dance" and all the hill folk from the surrounding communities come trickling down off the mountain totin' the youngins, the grand youngins and any other stragglers they pick up along the way. Add fireworks and it's like Dollywood on Fourth of July weekend. You literally can not drive through town. There are people, hippies, hillbillies, bikers and hikers, everywhere you look. It happens on Memorial Day, the fourth and Labor Day, all days when the VFD sets off fireworks down on the spa grounds.  They sell wieners and have games for the kids, all to raise money for their operating expenses throughout the year. When I was an EMT-I, I always got stuck working in the wienie wagon.

It was sweaty work. And.. the wienies got sweaty too. Never eat wienie wagon wieners.

The effects of the great Memorial Day riot in Frog Pond Holler were massive for such a tiny town. The squad car had to have a new back window. Barney had to have new glasses and a few stitches. Town had to hire a new police officer.

Ma made it back home unscathed. She reported that they'd had the road into town blocked. She'd sat up at the elementary school and watched from a safe distance.

That Christmas I got my own police scanner. On a pretty spring day, when everyone's got their windows open, you can hear the tones coming from everyone's house. It's how we know when the road is closed, school is letting out early or a member of the VFD has lost a family member. They still announce the funeral arrangements on the radio. On Christmas Eve, they track Santa Claus and when the power's out, you panic because you have no way of knowing what the hell is going on.

Memorial Day is just around the corner and this year? I'll be right down there in it, with my camera in hand. Hopefully there won't be another riot, but at least something juicy enough to keep them talking down at the Grab n' Go (and go and go) until the next summer holiday rolls around.

Ya'll take care and we'll talk again soon.

Later Taters!

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