Note: Some of my long-time blog buddies may recall the peripheral character of Granny Mae Dean, the ancient-but-wise proprietor of Granny Mae’s Bait Shack and Trailer Park, who would pop up from time to time, holler out something sweet and spicy, then wander back to wherever she come from. Well, turns out Granny Mae done got herself elected mayor of Gravy Bucket, Oklahoma, and we join her just as she’s about to deliver her first annual State of the Trailer Park Address to the City Council…
Oh, shoot. I done messed up already. My speakin’ coach keeps harpin’ about not sayin’ y’all all the time, says it makes me sound country and backwoods, but I just can’t help it, said it all my life and all. And it ain’t like ya don’t know what I mean by the word, like everybody’s standin’ around and scratchin’ their ass and wonderin’ who the hell I’m talkin’ about. You know I’m talkin’ about you. Unless you’re simple. And if that be the case, you got other things to worry about other than who I’m talkin’ to.
But I suppose I need to clean it up a little, get all fancy with my speakin’, in case that fool governor ever makes his way to town like he promised, sendin’ a telegram to the Miss Gravy Bucket Festival and sayin’ he couldn’t wait to see us soon’s he could. I reckon he’s more interested in seein’ our tax money than our actual faces, but you gotta play nice and do what you have to do.
Speakin’ of, that’s one of the things I wanted to talk to you fine folks about. People playin’ nice, or not playin’ nice when they should be. I’m talkin’ about them dumb-asses up to Washington and what they’re doin’ with our national money. Is that some jack-up or what? I haven’t seen that kinda mess since the Barfield clan kept marryin’ the wrong cousins until they lost the farm and some of ‘em went to jail. All ‘cause of stupidity and not paying attention.
Now, I know that we got mixed thinkin’ about it right here in Gravy Boat as well. Some a you don’t want no more spendin’ and some of you think we should find more money where we can. And you feel rightly strongly about your thinkin’. And that’s fine. Up to a point. Things get outta hand after that. That’s why I had to send all you budget committee people home last night when some of you started actin’ a fool, sayin’ you ain’t gonna vote for nuthin’ unless it was somethin’ you wrote. Three-year-olds do that, not city council members.
We got to get serious and finish our budget soon. We don’t have a lot of time for anybody to be puttin’ themselves first and cryin’ like a baby if anybody calls ‘em on it and runnin’ to tell crap to the TV people that ain’t true or has nuthin’ to do with anything. If we don’t make some decisions, them folks over to Thomasville are gonna sweep in and take our town ‘cause of the money we owe them. They’re gonna incorporate us. Know what that means?
[General stirring in audience, with some folks over-excited about participating in the discussion and others snorting awake at all the commotion.]
No, Sammy Bob, thank you for yellin’ out an answer, but it ain’t got nuthin’ to do with sex and pigs. Why you always gotta go there? I know your momma raised you better than that. You need to stay off that Internet thing.
Why, yes, Emily Sue, that’s right. It means they will dissolve our local government and assume control of all town properties. You are such a smart little girl. And such a pretty dress. Make that yourself, did ya? You got a steady hand, you do. Your momma will be so proud of you when she gets out of prison.
Now, those of you that are starin’ at Emily like she’s holdin’ a snake at Sunday service, let me spell it out for you in a way that’s closer to your heart. If we don’t pay our bills, we’re going to lose everything, including our own high school, and our own football team, which means no more Friday nights where we go over to Thomasville and kick their city butts down their fancy field.
[The crowd erupts in panic, with two women fainting, three grown-men crying, and heads turning to the skies in prayer, pleading for celestial assistance in stopping such a horrid athletic disruption.]
Now, now, get back in your seats, we ain’t dead yet. (Lila Belle, could you run check on Annie Sue and Susie Anne? They done passed out right on top of that power cord and the last thing we need is for their bloomers to go up in flames.) But at least I got your attention, so we can start making some decisions. And we basically got three choices. Cut spending, raise taxes, or some mess of both.
[The crowd was instantly on their feet again, with part of them running to the right side of the room, part of them running to the left, and the reminder sitting atop a fence that someone had conveniently left in the middle aisle.]
For Gawd’s sake, people, is that the only way you know how to act? Get your asses back in your seats and let’s talk bout this like grown-ups. And quit lookin’ around for TV cameras and practicin’ the speeches somebody else wrote up for ya. I am not in the mood for any of that. I’ve had the sheriff stop all TV people at the town limit, even those Fox News people who will lie about anything just to get their ratings up, and that Rachel Maddow woman. She makes me nervous because she’s too smart and I might say somethin’ ate up with the dumbass.
We are going to sit here, and you’re going to listen to me talk for a spell, and then you can talk, if you want, and we’re all going to make up our own minds about things, and then we’ll decide what to do. Nobody’s filler-busting and nobody’s refusing and nobody’s attaching things to bills that don’t belong in ‘em. We are going to work things out. You might have all the time in the world. But I don’t.
See, I been around forever. A very long time. There ain’t nothin’ I ain’t heard of, and I’ve probably done whatever it is at least once. Twice if it felt good or I got a prize. I’ve seen it all, and it comes down to this: how people treat one another determines everything. You gotta have respect for a person, whether you like them or their beliefs or their hairdo or not. Every person comes with a different story. Your story ain’t the only one in the book.
Let’s start with them there taxes. Don’t nobody like ‘em or want to pay ‘em. That’s natural, wantin’ to keep your own money. But let me ask you this. How the hell do you think things get paid for? That city swimmin’ pool? You think it just walked up in the middle of the night, dug a hole, and then shoved its butt in the ground? ‘Course not. We had to buy it. Same with roads and schools and jails and water mains and police and firehouses and the town drunk tank. Everything costs money. Everything.
Including welfare, and this is where we lose a lot of folks with the budget. They don’t wanna give handouts. They get mad about people sittin’ around and doin’ nuthin’ and gettin’ a government check. Well, I’d have a problem if that’s all it was, free money for lazybones. But it ain’t, and if you don’t realize that, you’re missin’ a few cards from your deck, just shootin’ straight.
I dare any of you to look me in the eye and say there ain’t nobody in your family that hasn’t hit a rough spot. We all have our troubles with money, now and again, unless you come from a long string of family money and never had to work a day in your life. And if you ain’t never worked, at a real job, you shouldn’t be makin’ decisions about people who do. That mess about jury of your peers and all. Welfare is a good thing. The bad part comes when people are decidin’ what to give out and what not.
Which brings us round to the spendin’. We need to do that the right way, too, don’t need to throw money at anybody that sticks his hand out no matter how sorry you might feel. A budget is about being smart, bein’ cost-effective, as Emily Sue and her cute little dress might say. It’s not about preachin’ and takin’ choices away from people just because you don’t like their choices or who they vote for or who might be on the other end of their prayer telephone.
So, let’s get to work, everybody come sit down so we can figure things out. Just to get us in the mood, I’ve done wrote up some rules for us to follow so we don’t get all mad and have to shun each other at the barn dance come Saturday. Here we go:
1. If you don’t understand how to compromise, you done took the wrong job.
2. You don’t get to change your clothes once you win the election. You wear the same get-up until the end of the job, because that’s the outfit people voted for. If it doesn’t fit right, you shouldn’t have put it on.
3. Just because somethin’ ain’t special to you, it don’t make it any less important. Every thing you touch affects someone.
4. Don’t try bringin’ the Jesus message into everything. He’s got his own people working on that.
5. This ain’t Simon Says. Make up your own mind.
6. Doin’ somethin’ because you’re a sore loser just makes you more of a loser.
7. Bein’ on the TV don’t make a lie into the truth. And they say it adds ten pounds. Which makes it a bigger lie.
8. People ain’t as stupid as you’d like them to be. Mostly.
[Granny Mae folded her paper and set it aside.]
Okay, y’all, are you ready to get down to business and quit playin’ games with people’s lives? Well, good. Lila Belle, could you run get those cold drinks they got over to the Piggly-Wiggly? Thanks, hon. And grab some of them Moon Pies they always got. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna need a couple before this night is over…
Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 08/09/11 and “Bonnywood Manor” on 03/29/16, which should make this piece dated and yet the song remains the same. No changes made for that very reason.
The opening shot is a snap I took several years ago at the Clover Grill in New Orleans, a tiny diner across the street from one of our favorite bars. It was roughly 3am. And that’s all I’m going to tell you about what happened that night…