Frustrated by life in the "Civilized World",a former ranter moves to the woods of West Virginia to find a life of peace and simplicity with his trusty dog Dooley.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
My nephew, Ira, came to visit his “crazy uncle who lives in the woods” last summer. He brought me, as a gift, a small digital TV with a seven inch screen and built in antenna. Ira is only 12 and I was in uncle mode so I refrained from openly cursing the little evil glow box from the “other world” he had so callously brought to my hallowed sanctuary. (Besides, I knew it was his mother (my sister) who had put him up to it. Unlike me, she willing accepts the insanity of the “other world” in exchange for little diversionary treats like TV, Wi-Fi, pocket phones, brownies and indoor plumbing.) So I said in my best uncle voice, Wow! I haven’t seen one of these in years.” We turned it on and discovered it could only pick up two over-the-air channels, an intermittent and digitally pixilated NBC station that was 25 miles away and a perfectly clear so-called family Christian station from Tazwell, Virginia, 200 miles away. Beyond divine intervention I have no explanation for why I got that station. Strangely enough, Tazwell is on the same route 19 that passes near my secret cabin in the woods. Perhaps it’s some sort of flume effect with the transmitter shooting straight up route 19. Perhaps Christian stations are not only exempt from taxes, but from FCC broadcast power limitations as well. As my Mother used to say, “Heaven only knows.” Ira seemed disappointed so I turned it off and gave him a quick tour of the grounds immediately around the cabin. He lives in Boston so I felt obligated to point out some potential hazards in this foreign environment; poison ivy, the 30 foot drop off nearby, ticks, how to check for snakes when you step over a rotting log or between rocks, how to spot a rabid raccoon and goat nibbling to name a few. I also, gave him one of my Swiss army knives to use as he saw fit. In typical uncle fashion I did not offer the classic “don’t cut yourself” warning. I had chores to do so I gave him a whistle to blow if he encountered a problem and turned him loose to explore. I hoped he would find the joys of whittlin’ a stick, making a fort or discovering crawdads in the little spring fed creek behind the cabin. In truth, I hoped he was capable of entertaining himself because I, no idea how to keep a modern twelve year old mind busy for a week. An hour later when I came back to the cabin, the whistle and the knife were on the porch rail and he was sitting in my favorite Swisher Sweet Double Barrel Rum Flavored Outlaw cigar smoking chair with a tiny laptop playing a game. Hallelujah, he came with built in entertainment! I also discovered he didn’t mind where he played the game so after dinner I showed him the makeshift bed I had prepared for him, he sat down next to it and began rapidly clicking away at the keyboard freeing up my favorite Swisher Sweet Double Barrel Rum Outlaw cigar smoking chair on the porch. For some reason (maybe some latent TV watching urge from my life in the “other world?) I thought it might be fun to take the little TV out on the porch with me to see if I could get better reception. I was sure Ira would be pleased to see any improvement in the watch-ability of his gift. Sure enough, NBC was much better in the magical night air and of course Tazwell was as strong as ever. I tried watching a show I had remembered, “Dateline”. It was a troubling true-life mystery surrounding the death of a mother and her children and the suspicion that her husband had done the deed. In the first part they had you believe he was definitely the guy. In the second part (it was a two hour show) they had you doubt his guilt. In the end a surprise witness for the prosecution came forward and swayed you and the jury back to a guilty verdict. Honestly, I felt abused watching the show. The beginning was just compelling enough to make you want to get right to the end but they made you sit through two hours of the same crime scene shots over and over. Before every commercial they would tease you with a promised twist and after every commercial they would do a lengthy recap. If you removed the unnecessary teases, repeated footage, commercials and recaps the whole show would have been about 20 minutes long. I turned over to the Christian channel and watched an episode of “Highway to Heaven” with Michael Landon. This story, fiction, was about a man who prayed that his family would re-unite after years of separation. The angels gave him a heart attack, he dies and his family re-unites at his funeral. No joke. The message I got was, be careful what you pray for. Damn glow box. The next morning I told Ira of the improved reception and he seemed pleased. He suggested that I get digital rabbit ears for even better reception. I stood up and said, “Come on Dooley, let take the shotgun and get some rabbit ears.” Ira didn’t understand the joke and Dooley was deeply disappointed when I sat back down. After breakfast we all took the truck into town drive to pick up some “city boy food” at the grocery/hardware/feed and seed store. As Ira perused the food isles, I wandered over to the hardware side just to say hi to Harry, the owner. By this time, it had become a joke that Harry would turn off the little black and white TV behind the counter when I came in. It was always good for a quick laugh. I mentioned my nephew was down for a visit and that he had brought me a TV. “Sounds like he’s trying to re-civilize you, be careful”, he warned. Another quick laugh. “I just got some new digital antennas in. Everyone around here without satellite dishes use ‘em” Harry said with a big smile on his face. As God is my witness I don’t know why the following words came out of my mouth. “You know, Harry, my nephew would sure enjoy watching the TV this week if we got a little better reception. Do they work with those little tiny TVs?” “Sure, they come with a mini adapter plug” “Cheap?” “Cheap enough” We drove back to the cabin with Dooley sleeping in the back, Ira rapidly clicking his keyboard in the passenger seat and 65.00 worth of honeybuns, Twinkies, canned coke and rabbit ears. In spite of an overwhelming guilt, as the week went on I found myself sitting on the porch in my Swisher Sweet Double Barrel Rum Outlaw cigar chair night after night lustfully searching the newly acquired 4 channels. I was possessed. I knew my skin must be turning blue from the light of that demonic machine. Still I watched. I drove Ira to the airport in Charleston on Saturday afternoon. I told Dooley to watch after things while I was gone. I am rarely away from the cabin for more than an hour and I worry a bit. For once he didn’t seen upset about staying behind. When I returned my new TV and rabbit ears were gone. Dooley was asleep in his favorite corner of the cabin. His paws and nose were covered in clay and dirt. Good dog Dooley, good dog.