It has been over a year since I have talked to Skeeter Skates, owner of Skeeter's Tree Stump Removal and Plow Repair in Greater Metropolitan Pooler.
As long-time readers of this column know, Skeeter is the king of tree stump removal and has no peer when it comes to his deft touch with the Stump Eater Model SG-22 with bi-directional cutting disc and spring-loaded pivot. The man is truly the Rembrandt of the stump grinding.
But it is as a keen observer of the vicissitudes of human nature that makes Skeeter Skates such an invaluable resource to me and my column. He cuts through the complicated issues of the day like they were a loblolly pine.
I knew this wouldn't be a long conversation. Skeeter doesn't have much patience with the media.
"Hoss, it's just like you to interrupt me while I am right in the middle of replacing the bearings on a Bradco Model VP-10 with a one-inch clevis vibrating blade. (Junior loves to get into details.) It is called ‘work,' which is something you newspaper boys don't know much about. Not a one of you has ever had grease under your fingernails." You are not a working man to Skeeter Skates unless you have had grease under your fingernails.
I told him I was putting together a column on current events and wanted to get his opinion on several issues. For example, what did he think about the recent agreement between the president and Congress not to shut down the federal government?
"Well," said Skeeter, "We'd be better off if the government closed down permanently. All that crowd in Washington does is spend money they don't have for programs we don't need."
How about the General Assembly's efforts to institute tax reform?
"I think they ought to reform themselves first," Skeeter said. "That ol' boy from Blue Ridge" - I think he is talking about David Ralston, the House Speaker, but you never interrupt Skeeter Skates when he is on a roll -"ought to be ashamed of himself for that trip overseas last Thanksgiving, taking his family and others and letting a lobbyist pay for it. He called it a ‘working trip.' That's a politician for you. The last ‘working trip' I had was to Mansfield up in Newton County to pick up a Husqvarner 38.2 CC 2-cycle 18" gas chain saw" - Skeeter and his details again - "to be overhauled and I didn't have no damn lobbyist to pay my way."
Skeeter said he was tempted to scrape together enough money to get the speaker down to Pooler and let him grind some oak stumps on Red Farverson's place and see if he might want to redefine "working trip." I told Skeeter I thought that was a good idea.
Was he concerned about the upheavals in the Middle East? "Not as long as I can get some oil for my chain saws," he said. "Besides, I think those people over there are more interested in running around wearing masks and shooting machine guns in the air for the TV folks than whether they are ruled by a dictator or one of them religious nuts. They don't know which end of a plowshare is up." Skeeter amazes me at how he can tie world issues back to the tree stump removal and plow repair profession.
I wanted to ask him about global warming and same-sex marriages but I could tell Skeeter was getting impatient to get back to work. I pretty much know how he feels about both subjects and am reasonably sure I couldn't quote his answers in a family newspaper anyway.
Anything else you want to tell my readers before you go, I asked Skeeter. "Yeah," he growled. "Tell them the country is going to hell in a wheelbarrow. Nobody wants to work anymore and they want everything handed to them. Ain't no foreign enemy going to do us in. We're going to rot away inside out."
Before I could pursue the point, Skeeter said, "Hoss, I done give you more time than you deserve. This plowing machine won't fix itself and you sure can't help." With that, he hung up.
You can have your smarty-pants philosophers like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. I will stick with Skeeter Skates. Not only does the man make a lot more sense than they do, but I'd like to see Thoreau or Emerson grind out a scaly-bar hickory stump.
Reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139.