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Saturday, January 14, 2017
a celebrity in Arden dies
Listening to:fridge hum, rain fall
Reading:White Trash: 400 yr untold history of class in america
Weather:33, rainy

Zeb died last weekend. He lived with his mom Patsy along the grade in Arden, where a creek came down a steep hill into the Tygart. Til his mom died years ago, anyway. Then it was just him and his hetero lifemate Jimbob. Jimbob, guitar player and singer, jack of various supervisory trades, and the most educated man in Arden, lived on and off in a trailer at the edge of Patsy's property, and had been a kind of adopted adult son to Patsy and brother to Zeb.

I'm pretty sure I never saw Zeb without a can of cheap beer in his hand. Back in the day it was often Falls City. "It's a premium beer, says so right here on the label." I worried about his drunk ass losing a limb or a digit to the bandsaw in his woodshop, but as far as I know he still had all his extremities intact when he died. His woodworking skills were pretty kickass. I have a sweet little kitchen thing you can put stuff in and hang a roll of paper towels from that he made. I don't use paper towels cuz i'm a treehugger but I've kept that thing up in my kitchen for years, probably could use a thorough scrubbing by now.

Zeb would sing and whistle all the time. A down on the crickbank a-cookin sugarcane, takes 14 quarts o'molasses to sweeten ole Liza Jane. What crickbank could that song be about? Isn't sugarcane a tropical plant? Is it really about making moonshine or something?

2016 was the year of celebrity deaths: Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Keith Emerson, Paul Kantner, Maurice White, Antonin Scalia, Harper Lee, Pat Conroy, George Martin, Merle Haggard, Muhammed Ali, the list goes on and on. Zeb was a celebrity in Arden. Everybody knew him. His house was a landmark along the river, "go about a quarter-mile past Zeb and Patsy's. . ." He literally was friendly to every single person he would ever encounter, and would give you his last beer, which was an important goddam beer to him.

According to his obit he was in the army, but also according to his obit he served in the Korean Conflict. Maybe in his dad's nads because he was born in 1953. I never heard Zeb or Patsy say anything about his dad, don't know the story there.

It doesn't matter what kind of job Zeb had in his working life, it didn't define him at all. He was a true hillbilly, of the river variety, who sought little more than to have a few friends to hang around with and at least enough beer for the rest of the day, and a few pieces of nice wood to make into something cool in the shop. He played banjo. Everyone was welcome at Zeb's house anytime, and many would stop there on the way to or from a swim at the party rock, or on the way to Betty's bar.

One time on a very hot summer day I came by Zeb's house and he was cutting up some trees with the chainsaw. He stopped and wiped the sweat off his forehead with a cold can of beer. "Zeb, it's kinda hot for cutting firewood, isn't it?" "Summer's only 3 months long." There's that.

He and Brian and Larry slipped and slid in the mud chasing a pig he was raising to get her moved to another pen. I watched laughing my ass off, it was like a cartoon in real life.

He plowed our garden and about 8 other people's gardens one day. He road the tractor all around, cooler strapped in behind the seat, and got paid in beer and deer meat. It was hot and he was pretty shitfaced by about 6p. I tried to get him to climb in my van and come home with us for supper, we'll give you a ride home, Z. He insisted on riding his 4 wheeler over. You're too drunk buddy. No, it's all backroads between your house and mine, I'll be fine. We couldn't talk him out of it, so we followed him. Unfortunately so did a cop, who came outta frickin nowhere, seriously, when the hell has anyone ever seen a cop near Clemtown road? Zeb sees him, too, and quick takes a crazy path into the woods. That didn't work. They got him. They were kinda manhandling him, he wasn't trying to be uncooperative he was literally just too drunk to comply quickly enough while handcuffed, and they jammed him into the back of the copcar and damn near shut the door on his leg. Bastards. They told us we could go pick him up at station in about 45 minutes after booking. It was scary.

When he came out of the door at the copshop he was whistling and singing, his usual self, had a styrofoam cup of coffee in his hand, and when he saw us he said "free at last, free at last, good gollies Miss Mollies, I's free at last! Got a beer?"








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