Learning Christmas Charity the Hard Way

You may have a place like this near where you live. Let’s hope not, but chances are, statistically speaking, you probably do.

Ours, here in Northeast Iowa is called Muckersville.

It’s not all that far down the road from where we live. My husband, back before he was such, took me there one afternoon. Looking back, I’m unclear what his motives were, but I’d like to think he just wanted me to see the underside all sides of the state.

Muckersville is entered by turning off a nondescript black top onto what might be termed a dirt road. Except it is nothing but tire tracks with plenty of stubborn grass growing down the center. In the near distance, you can see trees, but they are not the trees that line your friendly neighborhood on Pine Street, USA. No, they are evil trees.

They are some sort of oak, but they are the type you would find in Mordor. The limbs, when finding themselves growing close to another limb, withdraw in violent twisting and turning, so that when denuded by oncoming winter, the tree looks grotesque and genetically misfit.

Such trees, if one can call them that, survive from their own sheer evil will. No inhabitant of Muckersville would water them, and they grow on whatever water they leech from the ground and from animal and humans who relief themselves while walking about.

There are no homes in Muckersville as such. There are various constructs used as such. A shack would be the most generous of descriptions, with cobbled trailers of all sorts and filched lumber comprising the rest.  Here and there a partial aluminum siding is apparent, but only partial.There are plenty of out-buildings but frankly it is hard to define those where humans live  from ones used to store a lone pig or a broken down dryer.

The roads (using that term exceedingly liberally) wind this way and that, and come to abrupt endings, since there has never been any planning intended or executed. Nothing is more unsettling than to end up at a dead-end, in someone’s “front yard”. There is no obvious place to turn around, and one always fears trampling upon something of value, though that idea is perhaps an oxymoron.

The yards, have no beginning or end, and are littered with what one would expect. Parts of things—cars, trailers, wagons, partially built whatnots, broken toys, are but a partial list. What will not be found is anything that resembles a flower, wild or cultured.  The one thing found in abundance are the remains of alcoholic consumption. All manner of cans and bottles litter the landscape, in groups or in singles under virtually every weedy bush and alongside each shanty.

There are no people about, at least as you can see. I think they seldom come out before sun down. No one peers from a window, no baby cries, and no dog howls. It is as if even the wind is afraid to make a sound.  But if one was to venture around in the blackness of night, all manner of hooting and crashing can be heard, as people lurch from abode to abode, seeking relief from their thirst. 

There is no community dump, but each fashions he or her own area of “dumpage”. Here and there, someone has thought to use an actual garbage can, but mostly it’s just a heap on the ground. It is burned every so often, at least those parts that will burn.

People move to Muckersville to get lost. Lost to ex-wives, ex-boyfriends, sheriffs, and military police. No one pays taxes, no one votes, no one fills out a census. No one sells magazines, and even the Jehovah’s Witnesses prefer to avoid proselytizing here.

Most everyone who lives there is devoted to the work of not working. No one draws a paycheck as such, and no one punches a time clock. There is a profession that is top here. That is the profession of rousting a buck out of anything that happens along. Remove a downed tree, hustle a dead car for iron, spot some old copper tubing? Hustling a buck is the way of life here.

And Muckervillians don’t mix with other folks. . . .Much. At least I never thought they did.

Until. Until today.

We were in Cedar Rapids, where we had to stop at the local Wal-Mart to finish our Holiday preparations. Now we don’t shop much there any more, since we object to their policies. But some things, only they seem to have.  So fate placed me there.

I told the Contrarian that I was going to see if they had any bone-in hams. I didn’t want to take a chance that the local HY-VEE might not have them.  He headed for other the manly end of the store.

They, the hams that is,  were located in a large open cooler in mid-aisle.  I looked down, and soon spotted what looked to be one. A rather large woman, dressed in camouflage, with a YOOPER hat on, and steel-toed boots, was just throwing one into her cart with a rather loud BANG! I noted that she had two of these half-hams in her cart now, and thought, “my, she must be having a crowd for Christmas.”

I had just fingered the little mesh loop that one uses to pick up the ham. It was the last one in the cooler.  I felt a strange tug. I looked up, and saw, the above described woman, now will a snarlish grin upon her face; a grin which allowed me to see that the poor thing was missing about half of her bridgework. I felt a more insistent tug.

“I’m sorry, but I have this one, “I smiled.

“No you don’t missy. It’s mine.” She grinned rather toothlessly.

“But you have two already, and there are no more left.” I responded with what anyone would conclude was a reasonable statement.

“Don’t matter how many I have. I claimed three of ‘em, and this is the (she stopped to count), THIRD one!”

“Well, I’m sorry, but I claimed it first.”

A noted that two or three people had stopped and were looking on.

I looked at my adversary, and noted with some mild alarm that her eyes had taken on a certain steely coldness and her lips drew tight.

“Iff’in you want to play that way, missy,” she hissed.

From her pants pocket, she produced a whistle. To her lips it went and a piercing screech came forth, which caused all within few dozen feet to cover their ears.

I just stood there in dumb incredulity, not having a clue what was going to happen next.

Suddenly, I heard a crashing of carts careening from opposite sides’ aisles and two bigger than shit youngish men with hair everywhere and dressed like the woman, explode on the scene.

“What’s wrong Ma?” one crowed.

Lord, I thought, teeth are a scarce commodity in this family.

The other, wiped some spittle from his chin hairs and flexed and unflexed his hands.

I was now in serious fear. A quick look about made it clear I could look for no help to the patrons about, most of who were moving back out of the way.

“This here Uptowner don’t want us to have our ham this Christmas,” Ma declared.

“But you have two,” I whimpered.

“Yep, we have one for Pa and me, and one for Billy there with the forehead tat, and you don’t want Willard to have none, as I see it.”

The one known as Willard eyed me menacingly. Now Willard could have probably gone a full month without eating with no ill effects, but  as he face began to redden, and his forehead tattoo began to throb visibly, I knew I was beat.

I dropped the ham.

Ma retrieved it, cackled, and slammed her cart against mine as she wheeled away with her DNA-mutant spawn following along.

 I learned two things today. Muckersville folk do venture out during the day. . .

And , I learned that pork chops can make a fine Christmas meal.

WISHING YOU AND YOURS THE BEST OF HOLIDAYS!!

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16 thoughts on “Learning Christmas Charity the Hard Way

  1. I didn’t think people like this existed in real life. I wonder what would have happened if you had faced them down!

  2. I have lived in Muckersville Iowa since 1997. I know every inch of the place. I know my neighbors. I can think of no family that matches the description of the toothless hillbillies you wrote of.The pictures of the people and the cabins are not from here. Muckersville is a clean, well kept cabin community filled with good people. Any run down cabins that you claim to have seen were destroyed by the flooding of June 2008.

  3. hey John, chill. Ever heard the words literary license? No of course you haven’t…..Does that guy who throws all his beer cans in a motor home still live there? He was saving up his stash for a vacation somewhere as I recall, but it was years ago. And dude, Muckersville is not clean by anybody’s standard but that of a the porcine animal.

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