Friday, November 22, 2013

A Fly On The Wall, November 22, 2013

Blue Collar World
by Jim Murchison

Sometimes it can be valuable to change your environment. From an artistic point of view stripping things down to their most basic elements can be very helpful. Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck understood working class problems. Pearl S Buck, Victor Hugo, Anton Chekhov and many others have looked at how the decisions of the upper class impact the lives of the unprivileged classes. Right now Duck Dynasty celebrates the lives of rednecks and pays homage to rural wisdom. As contrived as the reality in reality TV is, people are fascinated by what seems like a less complicated life where answers to daily challenges are meted out with a healthy dose of anecdotal humour and keen observation.

Last weekend I found myself at a hunting camp for battered husbands. Now none of these husbands were actually battered in any way, and the meeting place was as much a place to tell stories of past conquests and defeats and perhaps share a drink or 20. There were men that passed through that had actually hunted and they would dress their buck and then come inside to tell you about it. 

I don’t hunt myself and haven’t been in many fights and there are a lot of things that I definitely disagree with these fellows on, but what you get from them is a directness and an instant understanding of where they’re coming from. It reminded me of when I spent several years on a concrete crew. The words too much information are seldom mentioned. You generally know everything that is going on and they know everything about each other. 

If you talk too much you’ll be told. It doesn’t mean it will have any effect. A typical conversation could be, “Oh shut the fuck up!” “No I’ll shut the fuck up when I want to shut the fuck up, so you can just fuck off.” “Oh fuck off yourself. Just keep on talking. It doesn’t matter to you that no one’s fucking listening.” “Bullshit fucker, telling me to shut the fuck up when he never shuts the fuck up.”

The names of the people often tell you a lot about them. Not the names they were given by their family, but the names they have given each other. There is no attempt at political correctness in these nicknames. On the concrete crew I worked on everyone had a nickname: Hog (big man who laughed like a pig), Sleep (hat over his eyes, slow and deliberate), Jimmy Beam (named Jim and liked whiskey), Bob the Knob (close friend of Jim’s), Hook (last name Fisher hence fish hook, also looked like a pirate), Scratch (lost his thumb on a band saw, every one had to scratch around in the dirt to find it), Shaky (had Parkinson's), Johnny Big Balls (a Boss). My nickname for a period of time was Hollywood because I had been in some movies. 

Some people were given names just because somebody couldn’t remember their real name, didn’t like it or thought another name suited them better. I asked Chester why people called him Chester when his name was Randy. He took off his hat, scratched his head and said, “I can’t remember or don’t know. It’s just what everyone’s always called me. I guess I look like a Chester.” I had worked with him for six months before I’d ever heard anyone call him Randy.

No matter what you call them, rural working class people let you know exactly what they are thinking, which is very refreshing after working in the government for a while. 

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