First a shout out to my people in Brazil. Now I have people from all over the world who read this blog, Qatar and Cambodia included, but for some unknown reason I have more readership in Brazil than all of the other countries of the world combined.
Buy my book. It’s like 99 cents for God’s sake…
A couple of thoughts, you people in Brazil, at least as has been reported in our mostly fake news, are virtually out of drinkable water yet hundreds, yes hundreds are a lot to me, of you take time to read my nonsense. My thought is that, as bad as it is to be on the threshold of death, you read my vitriol to remind yourselves that it could be worse. You could live in America with people like me. You would rather dehydrate yourselves to death than live here. I get that.
The other possibility is that there are Americans who have moved to Brazil for whatever reason and frequent my blog to remind themselves that they have made the right decision to leave. Regardless, thanks for taking the time.
The Top 5 Hillbilly Illnesses
For twenty years I helped run our family manufacturing business. My grandfather started it in 1952 when he moved to Cleveland from West Virginia. I am frequently thankful that he had the gumption and the fortitude to uproot his family and move up north to make something of himself. No offense to those of you from West Virginny but I wouldn’t have made a very good mountain man. I don’t like dirt and I like my food to come in a box with a label on it and not from the woods or a river. I don’t think I could shoot a “varmint” and I hate the taste of fish. I am a decent shot though, I think it’s just in my blood. I don’t want to “take vittles.” Hell, I don’t even know where the word vittles comes from, I just know that I don’t want any.
I love the movie “Deliverance” but I am afraid that, in real life, I am the fat, sissy character, Bobby and not the rugged woodsman, Louis. Bobby was the character played by Ned Beatty and also the one anally raped by the mountain cracker. I, however, draw the line at the hillbilly anal rape thing in my comparison of myself to Bobby.
I like paying too much for a cup of coffee, I don’t hunt or fish and if something needs fixing around the house, my best skill is writing a check. Not to imply that everybody, just because they are from the hills is an expert in home repair, I was just trying to make the point that I am not handy and am quite soft when it comes to what the mountains would describe as a real man.
In spite of the racist stereotype people from hills have, my grandfather was an equal opportunity employer. As long as you came from the hills, he didn’t care what color you were, gay or straight, man or woman. You could be an African-American, cross-dressing lesbian and as long as you’re from “downhome” he’d give you a shot. “You say you’re a machinist from Brooklyn? Sorry, never been there I don’t trust people who come from the city.”
People from the hills are passionately and fiercely loyal. You had to be a serious fuck-up to get fired and neither do you quit. I’ve fired my share of people in my time as the kingpin of our hillbilly manufacturing conglomerate and rarely ran into objections and excuses as most people knew when they had taken the whole “downhome” loyalty thing too far. The excuses upon firing almost made the whole firing process worth the heartache of it all as some of them were comedic genius. “Thursday night’s my night to get drunk,” was always one of my favorites and also the most frequently used. As if that makes the whole thing about not showing up for work for eight straight days just a part of business.
My absolute favorites though were the hillbilly street names for the myriad of common maladies people came down with that caused them to miss work. This, therefor, is the Top 5 Names of Hillbilly Illnesses. It wasn’t until the advent of the Internet that I could actually do a little research into the hidden meaning of these terms.
Cold in your eye
Now every cold that I’ve ever had was a respiratory kind of thing. Runny nose, sneezing, fever, cough, the whole shmear but unbeknownst to me, you can also, apparently, get this in your eye.
Upon further investigation, an eye cold, is also called conjunctivitis and / or pink eye but taken up a few degrees. It seems that eye colds are caused by the same virus’ that cause mumps, measles and herpes. Herpes? In your eye? Holy shit! Had I known that the person sitting in front of me, pleading for their job, had a rampant case of highly infectious and contagious case of eye herpes I would have gladly dismissed them and told them to take as much time as they needed. Gross!
Apparently, eye colds are untreatable with anti-viral medication and you are told to put compresses on the infected area for treatment. Any time they tell you to put a wet towel on some kind of injury or malady, it pretty much means that means they have nothing else. “Yeah, that shit looks like it hurts. Best if you just put a cold compress on it till it clears up.”
“So I have the herpes in my eye and you think the best plan of action is to slap a wet towel on it? Oh really? Thanks! People get this on their genitals and it lasts a fucking lifetime but you’re saying that a wet towel will solve my problem. Wonderful.”
As long as we’re on the subject of herpes I figured this would be a good place to introduce you to The Gleet. This was not a common excuse for missing work but I heard it at least a dozen times in my twenty years of service. The Gleet is a hillbilly name for gonorrhea and involves a nasty smelling discharge weeping from ones urethra. Kind of gross, right?
I have always believed that there is no better excuse for missing work than to just say that you have diarrhea. No one wants to hear you talk about it and they certainly don’t want anyone around who has it. Diarrhea is something that we all get once in a while and can certainly be understood as something that would keep one home from work. I cannot commiserate with The Gleet and even if I had it and had to miss work because of it, I would not admit it.
Also commonly known as epilepsy. We had a guy, Moses, who had epilepsy. Everybody from West Virginia has a given name and a name they go by. Moses’ real name was Carroll but his dad was friends with the mailman, Moses, so yada, yada, yada, Carroll became Moses. It seems that when he was a teenager his drunk pappy put him on the back of his motorcycle, drove through an intersection and both were subsequently hit by a city bus. Of course, the drunk, was unscathed but Moses was dragged under the bus till it could come to a stop, and in the process tore off half of his flesh and did enough damage to his brain to give him epilepsy. The fact that this guy lived through let alone continued to work fifty hours a week, is a testament to the, “Dare to keep me down? Fuck you” mentality of the people of West Virginia.
Once in a while Moses would disappear for a week and we knew that he had a case of the falling sickness but that he would be back as soon as he was able. Worst part was that Moses lived alone and when a spell of the falling sickness would hit, he would lay there all by himself till he could get his legs.
The Grip (Grippe)
This was the most common of all of the absenteeism excuses I received. I mean people were falling victim to The Grip like the Black Plague in medieval Europe. There are two different Grip disorders meaning two very different things but because I couldn’t understand a lot of what they were saying and because I didn’t know what either of them were, I would just ask if they felt good enough to work and move them on their way.
First, The Grip, is a hills infirmity that keeps on from grabbing things. The Grip would cover your arthritis, strokes, any kind of paralysis or nerve damage. Hard to believe that somebody would miss a Friday of work because they were paralyzed but stranger things have happened.
More than likely they were afflicted with the more common Grippe, still pronounced just like the previously mentioned Grip. This version of the Grippe is simply the common flu. I know, not as cool but all of the names in this Top 5 list, the one I can see myself incorporating into my occasional flu life.
Jerry, a man twice my age, was continually afflicted with the grippe and would get angry if I ever asked what exactly this grippe thing was. “Look, I had the grippe, alright?!?! People with the grippe are very sensitive.
This would be, you would think, the easiest of the group to figure out. Puking fever should be exactly what it says it is. “I was throwing up and had a fever.” Bingo! Easy. “You feel good enough to go back to work?” “Would I be here if I wasn’t?”
You would be wrong if you assumed that any infirmity of the mountain people would be that simple. Puking fever also goes by the pseudonym Milk Sickness or The Sloes. Milk sickness is also called tremetol vomiting or the trembles and is a kind of poisoning that brings with it trembling, vomiting and severe intestinal pain. All pretty standard features of the average stomach flu except that The Trembles comes from ingesting milk or meat from a cow that fed on the white snakeroot plant. Cows, during a drought, will go into the woods in search of water where they find the snakeroot plant. Snakeroot? Some I am to believe that you went home for the weekend to the hills and drank some milk from a poisonous cow?
Do you know the astronomical odds of ever encountering even one person afflicted with Milk Sickness? You need a cow, a drought, snakeroot, white snakeroot at that, and you need to drink the cow’s milk like right off the udder. Like you basically had to be suckling the cow to come down with this. Yet I have seen dozens of people live through this terrible disease.
The Sloes are basically milk sickness mixed with a dose of small pox. I didn’t get a lot of claims of the sloes. “So you were off on Friday because you had milk sickness induced small pox but you’re okay today?”
Bonus – Straining your milk
A common caution verbalized by women to other women working in our plant was not to lift too much or you’d likely run the risk of “straining your milk.” I can’t imagine this warning applying to anybody but women who are nursing a child but after all of the sloes, grips and gleets who the hell knows.
What exactly happens when one “strains their milk?” Does it come out with blood like if you got kicked really hard in the nuts or does it just dry up? Can anything be done to de-strain your milk?