Friday, December 31, 2010

Deep Freeze - By Lee Y. Greene, Jr.

An installment story about life in North Alabama.

I have lately become obliged to document stories about life in the many communities that dot the rural areas of our home state. They are all true, except that names and some places have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike. If you are not from the South, there will be many references and phrases from our dialect that may escape your understanding, so consult a fellow Southerner if you must.

Some of my work requires me to travel to remote places across North Alabama. One of the projects we were working on involved an earthwork job to build a foundation for a new store and parking area in a rural County. I have to make frequent site inspections to make sure the soils are being dug from the correct property, that they are being compacted properly to prevent settlement, and sloped properly to prevent sediment from running off the property and damaging a nearby stream.

The owner has a capable job foreman, Jack, who manages the site work and keeps all the big yellow construction equipment running. During one of my inspections, Jack told me this story.

The construction site is near a half-baked body shop/garage/junkyard. The proprietor is a friendly guy who had two sons. One worked for Jack on the construction site, the other, Tiny, didn’t really do much. In the South if you are named “Tiny”, there is a very high probability that you are not. Tiny liked to hunt and fish, and somehow was eking out a living within those parameters. Tiny was not married, as most women look for breadwinners with a job or a skill set. Unfortunately, Tiny had no interest in pursuing either.

One morning, Jack arrived at the job site, where a terrible stench wafted over the entire project. Knowing some people, who know some people, who can make one “sleep with the fishes”, Jack’s first thought was that someone had buried a body on the site. After asking around at the neighboring garage, he learned the real truth.

A few weeks prior, Tiny was cleaning up around his single-wide and happened to be weed-eating around his most precious appliance, his large, self standing deep freezer. Nothing is unusual about this choice of appliance, as most Southern gentlemen do have one. Some have to work harder than others to get one, but almost every man south of Tennessee has one for the various fish and game that they hunt and gather. The deep freezer is an ingrained tradition that has its roots in ancient granaries where food was stored for the winter.

During his annual weed-eating, Tiny did not notice the he had inadvertently cut the orange extension cord that ran from a working electrical outlet in his bedroom, out the partially closed aluminum window, then to the appliance outside. The grass and weeds were probably tall enough that he did not see the resulting spark that would have happened when the electricity was shorted in the extension cord.

The next few weeks of brutal summer heat, the contents of the now non-operating deep freeze were emitting a sign that there was a problem. This was oblivious to Tiny, as several more weeks clocked on.
Eventually, the smell of the decaying game emanated through the white sheet metal and insulation of the deep freezer to a level that even Tiny could detect. The dogs began to avoid that side of the house when they ran outside. Finally, a few weeks more had passed, and Tiny decided that he had enough of the smell and needed to do something with this problem. He decided to move the deep freezer to another location away from his single-wide abode. He looked around and thought of the construction site next to his father’s garage to bury his problem. Transporting the deep freeze to the site was going to be an issue, so he thought hard about how to accomplish this. Eventually, after a lot of drinking, he came up with a brilliant plan.

Tiny lived about a mile and a half away from the garage and project, and the roads were all paved, except for the dirt road to his single-wide dwelling. Being that he was not the sharpest tool in the shed, Tiny’s plan involved tying a log chain around the appliance and dragging it behind his truck to the construction project. The deep freezer does not have wheels, so he used duct tape to secure the top from opening and spilling the contents. That evening, with the top secured with the ubiquitous silver tape, off he went. Down the driveway to the paved road, dragging a deep freeze with a logging chain. He didn’t want to get caught speeding with his truck, since he was also a candidate for a fresh DUI, so he drove slowly along the route. As expected, the deep freeze in tow on the blacktop pavement created sparks behind it like they were in a Fourth of July parade. A few local residents, sitting on their porches and seeing this menagerie weaving wildly side-to-side out of control down the roadway in front of their houses, immediately called the Sheriff to put a stop to it.

A few minutes later a deputy arrived, saw the spectacle, and pulled Tiny over. The officer smelled the deep freeze and questioned Tiny about what exactly he was doing. Tiny explained “The Plan” and pointed to the construction site a few hundred yards away where he was going to deposit his appliance. The officer, also being mindful of the “sleeping with the fishes” people, made Tiny open his freezer. The now disgusted deputy, satisfied no homicide was involved, wanted no part of the stinky deep freeze. He let Tiny continue to the final resting spot on the construction site and waited for him to fire up the large track hoe, dig a hole, and bury the deep freezer. After Tiny finished, the officer figured Tiny had regained enough of his faculties to execute his plan to remove the rancid deep freeze for the common good of the County, so he let him slide on the DUI. He did not let him drive, and made him wait for his brother to come and take him back home. I have not checked with Sears, but I am fairly sure that they do not condone, in any way, this method for transporting their products.