Hiram Burgess has always been a Merle Haggard fan, but even he admits that The Hag’s “If We Make It Through December” has hit a little too close for home this year.
It all started the day after Thanksgiving when, at the insistence of his wife Adeline, he finally stopped waiting for better weather to hang up the Christmas lights on the front of their house for the grandkids.
“I had a better chance of the Second Coming happening before we got a dry day,” he lamented. So he wrestled the box of lights out of the attic the next afternoon and trudged out to the front porch with his staple gun and ladder.
Now anyone who knows Hiram knows he takes great pride in how the lights look on the front of his house. And he hates having to do anything twice. So as his usual habit, he plugged everything in to make sure the lights worked, how they’d look, and then set to stringing them up.
In a year with less rain, that would be ill-advised but probably turn out okay. However being in a hurry to get the job done, Hiram neglected to remember that electricity and water do not mix and still left the lights plugged in. While he was up on the ladder trying to secure his power source to one of the posts, he somehow managed to put a staple right into the power cord.
Addie happened to be near the front window at the time and saw the flash followed by Hiram falling from the ladder. All wasn’t calm as the rescue squad showed up, but it was probably pretty bright for a second or two until Hiram got knocked clear of the ladder. He’s fine now, except for the occasional twitch.
So no lights on the Burgess house this year. A disappointment to the grandkids for sure, but a windfall for the neighbors competing in this years’ neighborhood lights contest.
Things got back to normal for Hiram, and the rain finally tapered off allowing the flooded creeks to return to normal. Last week he was at Willie’s Bait, Tackle and Trapping Supply selling some furs and trying to figure out what to do with a couple dozen coon penises Willie no longer wanted. He overheard Willie saying beaver pelts were bringing good money this year. Needing a little extra money for Christmas as well as a new staple gun, Hiram decided to try his hand at beaver trapping.
So Saturday, in the blowing cold and snow, he loaded up his pack basket and set off down towards the creek. “Don’t fall in,” Addie joked as he left.
His hip waders offered little in the way of warmth, so Hiram decided to just put out a couple sets in some side streams he’d seen sign in and call it a day. The mud along the creek bank looked frozen firm enough, however when he started down Hiram found that it was still quite slippery. He started to slip, and pitched forward a little bit to try and regain his balance. That would have worked, had it not been for the weight of his pack basket, which decided to pitch forward a little more, the weight of it carrying Hiram forward headfirst into the stream.
As he fell, a cluster of beaver chewed saplings sticking out of the bank like punji sticks rose up to meet him.
Hiram managed to get his arm out to miss all but one of them, which tore into his right wrist and forearm leaving a gash about 4-5 inches long. The rest of him landed facedown in the water, his pack basket over his head and his supplies strewn everywhere.
Gasping from the shock of his cold bath and bleeding profusely, Hiram scrambled to grab as much of his gear as he could find and crawled back up the creek bank for home. As he dashed across the field, the wind picked up even more, causing his clothes to freeze and slowed his gait to a frozen shuffle.
“Like a cross between Frankenstein’s monster and Frosty the goddamned Snowman,” he later said, adding if he hadn’t been so close to home he’d probably have died of hypothermia.
Dropping his gear on the porch, Hiram burst in the door frozen and bleeding there on the linoleum. With some help from Adeline, he managed to shuck his frozen clothes off and eventually got his body temperature back to normal. The cut on his wrist and forearm is healing but left a pretty good scar.
That scar drew some strange looks from the ladies down at Mary’s Mercantile and Tax Preparation. Seeing their stares, he put on his saddest look and told them his seasonal depression was worse this year than ever.
“Thought I’d give those old gossips something to squawk about,” Hiram told me with a laugh. “It wasn’t so funny when the constable came to have me committed, but we got a laugh out of it once I told him the story.”
His wife has recently begun speaking to him again, though the quiet was nice while it lasted he says.