DECATUR, Ala. — It's Day 23 of the db Southern Tour.
My Toyota minivan/7 passenger closet smells like the Middle Ages.
My "Lasts-A-Lifetime" $9.99 luggage is duct taped together.
I've been through Drive-Thru's 73 times. I've yet to be given a straw.
A guy in a motel parking lot in Russellville, Ark., gave me a fish. When he left, I left it by the pool.
A lady behind the counter in a small town post office asked me when I was mailing something, "You new here?" Down the street the laundromat told me, "We filled," when I brought in clothes to be cleaned.
I think on both occasions my Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirt, backward baseball cap, long stringy-arse hair, and mirrored gargoyles took them by surprise. I understand, but I'm not changing.
Of the South, to me that area beyond the last toll down there at the bottom of Jersey, what I find the most fascinating, is the language. That being the spoken word that I can understand when it be spoken.
Take this morning for example. You ever heard this: scattered, covered, smothered.
Now I'm most certainly familiar with those words, it's just I've never heard them connected like that before.
Especially when it comes to ORDERING FOOD. Why in fact would you order something smothered, or more importantly, why would you eat that.
And I actually prefer to have all my eats in one place, easier than running all around a bite here, a bite there, so why would you be scattering it, unless of course you're eating bird seed.
Covered I get, I've been in tablecloth restaurants where they hide the stuff until it gets to your table, then they stick their thumb in the hole of the stainless thing and pull it of with a flourish of Wa-La to reveal your $22 cheeseburger.
But there wasn't a tablecloth within 4 blocks of this place.
So I'm in this breakfast anytime restaurant with James Overstreet, the most excellent photog for ESPNoutdoors, and he's saying this scattered, covered and smothered with a low Arkansas velvet voice tinged with the pinch between his cheek and front teeth, and the lady taking the order actually knows what he is talking about.
This is what I order: Coffee, Bacon, Eggs. Pretty much the universal symbol for life on the road. Put those pictures in a triangle, slap it on your bag, and everyone knows you're a road warrior.
So this is what I say exactly to the waitress, give or take the fact I never remember anything I say before I actually GET the Coffee. Bacon. Eggs.
db: "Excuse me Ma'am, I hate to bother you, but do you know just what the hell he just said. Thank ya."
She did, this is the translation, believe it or not, it was all about the hash browns: "Scattered is cooked on the grill, covered is with cheese on top, smothered is with onions."
Hash Browns as poetry. That's why I love the language of the South.
Kevin & The Caveman
Some people need ONE NAME to be famous, you know who they are, I won't name them because they have way more attorney's than I do. One name, it's all they need to be recognized.
But when it comes to fishing, one guy only needs THREE LETTERS for everyone to know his name: KVD. Kevin VanDam.
I'm thinking if he keeps winning this stuff pretty soon all he's going need is just the "K."
So imagine this, you're the new mechanic guy here, KVD is your hero and he asks you to FISH WITH HIM, of course you go, but, when you're out there on the water, mechanic guy stuff starts happening to THE KVD boat, and it's not piddly little stuff, it's full blown major stuff.
David "Happy" White, Nitro/Tracker Fixer Guy
"We were fishing and the boat wasn't working right. It was missing on plane (I have no idea what this means but it has nothing to do with airplanes or airlines losing your luggage/boat) then it starting killing the motor."
"We determined that it was in the wiring (if you have a car and your mechanic tells you that it's the universal symbol for being hosed). There's a million different wires and one little minor glitch is enough to make that boat not run right."
Trust me, when you talk to a guy who only needs three letters to be his-ownself, that's not what you tell him. This is what you tell KVD: I can fix it.
Which is what "Happy" said, except, him being new and all, he had actually never quite done that before, replace a complete wiring harness. Some things better left not said.
So David "Happy" White, a guy who needs 15 letters to be known, not counting the quote marks around, "Happy," was about to fix something for 3-letter KVD that he had NEVER fixed before.
"I was nervous, real nervous. I thought about every tool I would need to take apart and put it back together. Got them all lined out like a surgeon, got the new wiring harness, laid it out and STUDIED it, figured out where everything would go so I had it firmly in my head. It's a MAJOR job, and it's for KVD of all people."
Everyone in the service yard knew about it, knew how nervous "Happy" was, so rather than just leave him to it, they all stayed to help, "Normally by 7 O'clock, if all the pro's are off the water and gone, we go eat supper, but not yesterday, they all stayed with me just in case I needed any of their help."
Within two-and-a-half hours, the job was done. A wiring harness completely replaced, "We put it in the water and it purred like a kitten. I tested every electrical thing and it all worked perfectly. KVD is fishing today and he hasn't called me so I'm sure everything is alright."
And it was. From KVD: "The thing that really is refreshing about Dave, is that, he's excited to be out here, he's a good fisherman ... he knows my boat where I put everything, and being a good fisherman he knows why I do what I do. I'm REAL glad to have him here, it's made a big difference this year already. It's so nice that you can go out there and practice up to the last minute and pull in and say, 'Hey Dave, I need this done or that done,' and know that he will get it done because his whole attitude is doing whatever it takes to keep us out on the water."
Dave, er "Happy," "I just can't believe it, it's a dream come true for me to fish with KVD and to work on his boat, for years I used to watch him from the crowd never dreaming I would actually KNOW him. I tell you db if I ran into KVD in the supermarket he would say "hey" to me AND KNOW MY NAME. To come from where I come from to now, I can't just hardly believe it."
That's because, "Happy" came from a CAVE. An underground CAVE!
For the past 28 years "Happy" worked for the Schreiber Cheese Company. "For the first 12 years I ran the machine that made those individually wrapped cheese slices."
At this point I'm pretty much speechless, me and my tape recorder just sat there listening.
"db, it was a pretty complicated device … the cheese would come in one end, mix all up with the wrapping, and come out the other end as individually wrapped slices."
He stops talking, we're sitting in his truck, it's about 95 degrees out with what ever the most humidity can be without flooding. There's silence, "Happy" being the interviewee quite naturally is expecting me, the guy asking the questions, to SAY SOMETHING.
Here's my follow-up question: "So what did you do the other 16 years."
"I worked in the cave."
I have NO follow-up to that, luckily he just started talking. "They store the cheese in this huge underground cave that went on for miles. I bid for and got a job driving a fork lift truck that would go and get the cheese and load it on a truck. db, we would load a MILLION pounds of cheese a day."
Then "Happy" turns from looking at me and looks out the front window of his truck, and is mainly talking to himself, but my tape recorder was still running, and he knew we were on the record and all, and to himself this is what he said: "I used to set my alarm clock to get up for work everyday, now I wake up way before the alarm ever goes off, just so dang happy to be here."
Don Barone is a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association. Other stories of his can be found on Amazon.com. For questions, comments or story ideas you can reach him at: db@DonBaroneOutdoors.com