"Mary! Mary! Tell dis boy I ain't got time to fool wid him!"
He glowered at me over his cup of coffee, took a drag from his cigarette, then spoke again.
"Why you always wanting to hear them stories I tell anyway boy? Shit, you know em better than me now, old as I is."
I waited, knowing if I spoke it would only delay the telling, I'd become adept in drawing out a story from Mister Buddy.
"Ah Hell, you ain't gonna leave till I tell it to ya again are you Boy?"
A long pull from his smoke, then in his gravelly voice he began to tell again of his youth, eagerly I listened, trying to commit each word and phrase to memory.
I'd known Buddy Burton since I could remember, he was an old man before I was born, but now thirty-five years later, he was ancient. He had deeply tanned, wrinkled leathery skin, sparse white hair, and was as contrary as a mule, and damn near as stubborn. He was in polite terms a rascal, and from accounts given by my father and others in the community, much more than that. A living legend in our community, with a history of fighting, drinking, poaching, and anything else that fell in between, Mister Buddy was by all accounts a rounder. But, by the time I came to know him, he'd calmed down considerable and I knew only the gruff old man who would tell fascinating stories and allow me to hunt on the best damn dove field in south Georgia.
He had become a surrogate grandfather to me, and eventually my sons as well, and we loved him with a fury.
Born sometime in the late twenties, he was raised dirt poor on a depression era farm, served in the Army during the world war, and come home to bury a wife. He remarried and raised a family by scrapping out a living on that same farm, supplementing his income and larder by poaching deer, running a bit of shine now and then, and anything else that fell to his hand. Perhaps raising a little hell or taking a drink was an outlet for the stress of desperation.
His one passion was turkey hunting, to which he devoted any spare time he could.
He had most likely slaughtered over half of the local population of turkeys, as attested by the hundreds of beards he kept as trophies. His skill and obsession with turkey hunting was legendary even beyond the legends told of his rascality.
Land ownership and property lines had no meaning or bearing on him when he was hunting turkeys, which caused him no small problems with the local game wardens.
He hunted bobcats and coons only because they threatened the proliferation of his beloved turkeys. And that is where our story begins. So set back and let Mr.
Buddy tell you his story.
"Ah Hell boy, lemme see, back round 46 or 47, Hell I doan know, we had so damn many bobcats round here that they was a-killin the turkeys off faster'n anything. I got me an idear to trap em, and sell ta hides. Figgered it'ud get rid of em and give me a little hard money at ta same time."
"Nem days, bobcat hide a fetch nearly two dollar, an a coon hide, probably get sementy five cents."
"So, when I had time, I built traps down in ta woods, mostly bobcat traps, ya see. Bait em up and catch me a cat or two each week. Hell, I kept least three, fo hides stretched on ta barn wall all ta time."
"Problem was, round that time, people uz a running so much shine in the woods, ya had to be real careful! You wuz to tumble on a still while they uz a working it, ya might get shot. Lessen they knowed you well, then you'd a like get A shot."
He paused and laughed at his own joke, took a pull of his coffee and stared off into the field beside us for a moment. Then resumed his story.
"Could use a shot right now. Mary won't have it in ta house though, sides, ain't hardly nobody running shine anymore. Not like back then, they was six stills between here an ta paved road. That nigra up ta road there, Early?, he made some good shine, bad to get drunk though, drank up most of his own stuff.
Them Thompsons' made fair likker too, but they wuz strictly bizness, ole man Thompson catch his boys or help drinkin his likker, they uz hell to pay."
"I never run no likker, could have made a piss pot full of money, but Mary laid down ta law, said iffen I run likker, I'd a do it without her an ta youngins. So I left it alone, well... cept fer a drinkin it!"
We paused for more coffee, and he pulled out a pack of cigarettes.
I took one and lit his and mine.
"Damn I'm old Boy! Use ta set, talking and smoking with yore grandpa, smoking Prince Albert, now here I is smoking with you and we smoking ready rolls. Son wuz a fine man boy, see you turn out like him."
"Like I uz a telling you, I uz building traps down in em woods there, round ta creek uz ta best place. Nem bobcats come down ta drink, then bed up in nem thickets of briars. Best place ta put a trap, but best place fer a still as well."
"I had mah corn laid by an ta garden uz hoed, I slipped off down to ta woods and started on another trap. Bout an hour or so, I run outta nails so I started back to ta house, stopped on ta way where I hid my sippin bottle from Mary, an had a nip."
"I come walkin in ta yard, theys these two slick looking fellers in suits nosing round ta place, looking in mah sheds, like they wuz huntin John Dillenger or sumpin."
His voice took on a tone of contempt as he described their attire.
"They uz dressed up all slick looking, one uz a wearing a fedora hat and spats, ta other'n had one nem sharkskin suits like Hank Williams wore. Jest slick looking, hair all greased down, smellin like Franch whores ta both of em."
"Come slidin over to me, easin they coats back so I could a see they was toting pistols, smiling big, one had a big ole gold tooth, jest slick bastards they wuz."
"Said, Howdy Mister, how you?"
"I axed em, said, ta hell you want? I'm busy. But I knowed what they wanted, they uz huntin stills, jest looking at em you could tell they uz Revenuers, G-men, called they selves."
"We uz wantin to talk wid ye fer a minute, said ole Sharkskin Britches, axe you a few questions bout where you been."
"Where I been? What damn bid-nez of yore's is that? I axed, You ta law?"
"Ole Fedora Hat looked up kinda sharp, said, Why you axe that? Got somepin ta hide?"
"I ain't got a damn thang ta hide I said, Jest busy."
"They whipped out they badges then, said you best answer ta question and let up on at smartass talk you doin!"
"Ole Sharkskin eased his coat back good so's I could see his pistol, said, I wanna know what you uz doin in ta woods back there."
"I eyeballed his badge a minnit, then said, Makin bobcat traps iffen you got ta know."
"Ya heard me, Makin bobcat traps, ta catch bobcats!"
"Well, that set em back a bit, they looked at one ta nother for a minnit, then said, We wanna see em."
"See what I axed, a Bobcat?"
"Hell naw we don't wanna see no damn bobcat, ta traps."
"Ta Hell you wanner see a bobcat trap fer? I axed, jest a simple ole trap. Hell, you seen one you done seen em all."
"Ole Fedora Hat grinned one nem greasy smiles of his and said, We from ta city, ain't never seen one."
"Fer some reason that tickled the piss outten old Sharkskin Britches, he laughed an said, Why Hell naw, I ain't never seed one."
We paused in the story for more coffee, he chuckled as he lit another smoke.
"Hot Damn boy, I had me some fun with nem city boys!"
"I made up my mind right then that I uz gonna give em a show they wouldn't fergit fer a while. You know how bad at swamp behind ta house is, more briars than dogs got fleas."
I nodded, I knew, I had hunted deer there and it was a rough a place as you could find, full of thorns, Devils walking sticks, and plain old briars as Satan's front yard. You could ruin a set of clothes just walking by it.
"Well, I told em, Let me git my gun and we'll go to one."
"We got guns, don't worry bout that, you don't need one, said old Fedora Hat, jest take us to one."
"Iffen that's what you want, less go I said, lemme git some nails fust."