Jerry Reed Dead at 71

A sad day.

R.I.P., Snow­man. Around the time of Smokey –linked as if you don't know it–seen below in the video accom­pa­nied by Jer­ry Reed's "East Bound and Down," like every­one else in the coun­try, the Barnes fam­i­ly was into truck­er lin­go and Citizen's Band radio. While Mom and Dad hung out with Uncle Walt (not my uncle) and Mac, his wife, play­ing cards or shoot­ing the shit, I would sit with their son Sid and draw pic­tures of the var­i­ous trac­tor trail­ers we knew using wash­ers and nuts to get per­fect­ly round tires, and rulers for straight edges. Over those sum­mers we must have filled reams of paper, every Fri­day night. My knowl­edge came from what my uncles drove, and I didn't always know what parts referred to what exact­ly, but I would watch Sid and mock up what he drew (he was a cou­ple years old­er than me) and I was cool for assim­i­la­tion. And I knew all the words to "Con­voy" where he didn't, and that helped me fit in, too. I could prob­a­bly still draw a cabover Pete if you forced my hand.
We would sit there and draw for hours–they didn't have a TV that worked–while the adults talked and drank beer and smoked, sassed around and told lies, and they would get so intense­ly into it that cer­tain things like chil­dren would get ignored, and Sid and I would look at each oth­er quick and slip out­side to shoot BB guns at light­ning bugs in the cool slip of the crick that ran through the gul­ly behind their dou­ble-wide. When we got tired and sweaty we would quit and go back inside. Uncle Walt had a habit of pick­ing up odd things and doing odd­er things, in his trav­els as truck dri­ver and handy­man, like bring­ing home old wash­ers that sat gath­er­ing rust out­side his house, bags of con­crete, stray tile or shin­gles, even a set of what I lat­er learned were lob­ster pots, though we were 300 miles from ocean, or the time he brought a mon­key home for a ragged cou­ple days, or the time he and no one else–not even my Ma–commented on the per­fect loaf of turd the dog laid one night in the liv­ing room which every­one in the house stead­fast­ly ignored… or the one time we went to a local gas-up.
Uncle Walt and Dad and a bunch of oth­er men talked and swore and drank home-made liquor and wine and what­ev­er beer was on sale, while in the near dis­tance beard­ed old men with fresh­ly paint­ed engines and old Allis-Chalmers and Far­mall trac­tors, all chuff­ing engines and adjust­ing belts while peo­ple watched. Chil­dren were every­where and had carte blanche as far as behav­ior went, and 'it' went a long way toward explain­ing some things about girls, in my case, watch­ing my teenaged broth­er and his friends slip off into the woods with red-head girls of their recent acquain­tance to come back flushed and hitch­ing at their draw­ers. But the inci­dent I'm talk­ing about involved a heat­ed dis­cus­sion about the size of some women's cer­tain endow­ments and how they enhanced or did not enhance spe­cif­ic acts of love. I'm paraphrasing.
Uncle Walt, in the midst of this dis­cus­sion, shook his big old gray head at the things said, sighed, pulled at his beer, and when the dis­cus­sion reached a pitch, stuck his hand inside one of the two or three shirts he always wore and pulled out a very rec­og­niz­able, but some­what smudged, fake breast. 'Now boys, if she's got more tit­ty than this, it's all a waste." 
Every­one broke up laugh­ing and I won­der to this day why in hell Uncle Walt car­ried it that day. I mean, how could you know that sub­ject would come up? I might admit to a fetish or two myself, but I don't car­ry the accou­trements with me to gas-ups, either, so I'm safe. Walt's still around–became part of the fam­i­ly through his nephew's mar­riage to my sis­ter, in fact– though I don't think he's a read­er of this blog (yet) and he and my dad, for rea­sons unknown to me, don't get along now, but what­ev­er. It's a thing I should find out for my own well-being and curios­i­ty, this fake breast stuff.
That's the real­ly inter­est­ing part of the sto­ry, but there's more to tell about how at night every­one up and down the moun­tain would sit around a CB radio and talk when a land­line or vis­it would have been much eas­i­er and more pri­vate. I guess it harkened back for them to the days of get­ting easy gos­sip via pub­lic phone lines. I remem­ber all our han­dles: I was Red Light­ning, my sis­ter was Pooh Bear, my broth­er Coun­try Boy, dad Dragline, mom Drag­onla­dy, the list could go on. A local kid got real­ly into it and stole the Rub­ber Duck han­dle from the song Con­voy and would sign off late at night with his call let­ters, "KHK9901, KHK9901, the Rub­ber Duck base." All around you'd hear the tell­tale dou­ble-click (chk-chk) of peo­ple depress­ing the hand­set twice in quick suc­ces­sion to tell the Rub­ber Duck that indeed, they had heard and acknowl­edged his sign-off. Then it would get qui­et, and through my open bed­room win­dow I'd hear the crick run­ning, some crick­ets, the rat­tle of dog-chains, the occa­sion­al screech owl or car. I don't like to traf­fic in nos­tal­gia normally–it's almost always an irre­al emo­tion­al trap–but my kids here in Revere MA don't get that. Maybe they'll hear the fade of dri­ve­by radios and the melod­ic Ara­bic being spo­ken by the men next door as they gath­er on the deck and drink their cof­fee in the same way, but my fear is that they won't. I hope they're pay­ing the kind of fre­net­ic atten­tion to life I was appar­ent­ly pay­ing to it in the '70s.
Though come to think of it, I might regret that. 😉
Have some Jer­ry Reed, and be good.
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3 Responses to Jerry Reed Dead at 71

  1. Mary Akers says:

    Well, hey, Red Light­ning. I love this post. Always, Skin­ny Dip.

  2. Rosie says:

    There is so much I love about this post, I don't know where to begin.You've got to find out what the deal was with that fake tit­tie. Do not let that man go to his grave car­ry­ing that secret.

  3. Rusty Barnes says:

    God I want­ed that Trans Am.

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