Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Getting Holiday Decorations With a Gun

Who the heck would shoot mistletoe out of a tree?
A Georgia resident named Bill Robinson, that’s who. Robinson was featured Tuesday on the “Ridiculist” segment of Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN because he'd used a 12-gauge, double-barrel shotgun to blast mistletoe out of a tree on private property. While Robinson may be applauded for his clever labor- and money-saving strategy, the authorities were not pleased and he was booked. 
Your mind may be reeling at the potential consequences this scenario presents, as mine did. For instance, would someone find it romantic if you went out and shot some mistletoe on their behalf? What if, as you were smootching your significant other under said mistletoe, a bullet dropped into your beehive hairdo? And if other people hear about what you've done, might you incur the wrath of some organization that advocates non violence toward holiday decorations? Would you be splashed with red paint in public as someone screams "Mistletoe is Murder!" in your face?

After considering these and other potential outcomes, my thoughts turned to Nick’s Uncle Burnley.
Burnley never married and lived with his mother in a large house on a sizeable plot of land in rural Georgia. Nick has often told me tales of how Uncle Burnley would sit on his front porch, take out his shotgun, and blast pecans out of the trees. Every Christmas, Burnley would mail Nick's mother (Mrs. P) a shoe box full of pecans. To my knowledge, no one ever broke a tooth biting into a buckshot-filled pecan.
I met Burnley twice. The first time was in the mid 80s, when I attended his mother's funeral with Nick and Mrs. P. After a Southern church service funeral, everyone gathers at the home of the bereaved to eat fried chicken, corn muffins, and such. (Funeral food in the South is good eating, I can assure you.) The home in which Burnley resided was decorated in a style best described as "Benign Neglect" or perhaps "Early Boo Radley." For example, when Nick and I sneaked away to check out the rambling, creaky, once-grand house, we discovered a broken second-floor window--with grass growing on the floor.
Nick's Aunt Doris, Nick, and Uncle Burnley
Many years later, in 2003, we visited Burnley again. We'd heard he was in declining health and decided we'd better see him while we could. I don't believe Nick had had the occasion to talk to his uncle in several years (they did correspond with Christmas cards for a while). And yet, here comes Burnley to greet us at the front door, and the first thing out of his mouth is, "Have you fixed Jimmy Carter yet?" 
A few years later, Burnley moved into a nursing home and gained notoriety by rolling down the hallways on occasion, naked, in his wheelchair. He passed away in 2007.
You probably have a relative like Burnley, if you're lucky and you're from the South. If not, well, bless your heart, happy holidays, and go get some mistletoe.

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  1. My favorite line of this post is, Pre Boo Radley. LOVE it. I feel like I know Burnley now.

    Half our clients are Burnleys and they sure keep me filled with stories.

    Have a blessed day. :-)

  2. When I lived in San Francisco in the 80's and 90's, I would walk down the street observing San Franciscans at work and play (during the winter months, of course, when, because of lack of tourists, the natives could actually use the street cars for transportation), and I would often shake my head and say to myself, "Southerners may be certifiably crazy, but they aren't Stupid!" You probably have to be Southern to get this...

  3. My Aunt (Ain't) Nancy and Burnley must've been soulmates. She was an old maid too. I'll wager they shared many fashion, decorating, and housekeeping qualities. She was also known on occasion to fire a shotgun as well (esp. at Uncle Dick)

    Hope you and Nick have a fabulous Christmas.

    Miss Woman

  4. Y'all don't hafta go too far to find 'em. Up hear in RN California (that's either RealNorthern or RedNeck... you pick) there are any number of folk who could step in and fit the role... really!

  5. What a great story! I wish we had an Uncle Burnley in our family tree, but we're all a bit boring and sedate. Maybe though I can still model the rest of my life to be "eccentric Tia Ale"? I know my family & friends think me an odd duck already just because I'm a blogger, so I'm almost there.

  6. Oh Jim, I can remember my father's "girlfriend" shooting mistletoe out of a tree in Summerfield, NC. I thought nothing of it then, but now it's starting to seem a little strange.

    As far as having strange relatives? I'm just now beginning to realize I was the normal one among all that strangeness....

  7. You know, that reminds me of my Papa in Florida who would drive me to the Pop Shoppe at 6 years old in the back of his Ford Econline while my grandmother and great grandmother would play doctor with me in the back. My papa had a Pabst Blue Ribbon in a Mountain Dew sleeve, driving all of us around drunk. Only in 1981...I'm broke. Maybe I should start drinking the Pabst Blue Ribbon.

  8. All my non-Southern San Jose & San Francisco friends thought my comment above was hilarious, but one of my Georgia friends said she hoped no-one took offense--yikes! me, too. Humble apologies if it did.