Bony Collier and the Great Stock Market Caper
The town where I grew up was like most small towns in Appalachia. Big Stone had all of the essentials. We had one grocery store, a drug store, a post office/federal courthouse, there were two or three restaurants, a barbershop, a clothing store, a couple of TV repair shops, the offices of Westmoreland Coal Company, and of course one of the town’s fixtures was the town drunk Bony Collier.
People always referred to Bony as the drunk because, well, he was always drunk. He would do most anything for a bottle of cheap wine or booze. Often people hired him to do various odd jobs and would pay him with a bottle. The thinking seemed to be, hell he’s going to spend it on a bottle of Old Crow anyway—why bother with the cash. Bony had a hard-fast rule however, payment up front. He was a good worker early in the day, but by the afternoon he was sloshed to the point that he couldn’t do much.
The town council once paid him up front to line the football field for the season opening game. God as my witness I didn’t know a gridiron had three 50-yardlines.
My dad once hired Bony and a bunch of miscreants to paint a barn located in a remote location in the middle of nowhere. This band of Rhodes Scholars showed up at our house in a baby-shit green pickup truck one Saturday morning. The truck was about a 64 Chevy with step sides. The bed was rusted out and was filled with empty beer cans. Somewhere amid all of the pop tops, tin cans, and cigarette butts there was the rusty resemblance of what once might have been a spare tire. Obviously road hazards had been few since there was some grass growing in the rim.
Bony, was the spokesman of this troop of Van Gogh’s, who claimed they’d painted every barn from Canada to Mexico. He immediately demanded payment. Dad had a bottle of Ole Granddad and a case of PBR. Those were loaded carefully into the cab while 20-gallons of bright red barn paint were thrown into the back among an arsenal of rollers, brushes, and cans of paint thinner. The band of merry painters emerged from the hollow at 7:30 that night in a red piece of shit truck that had a fender missing. It bore a remarkable resemblance to the one they arrived in that morning — only a different color and slightly wrecked. Once they hit the road in front of our house, the truck resembled Richard Petty on the final lap at Daytona, although I doubt the King would have driven half that lap in the ditch.
Dad drove over the hills to find that the barn was painted from the ground to as high as an average man could reach. The backside of the barn was obviously an after-lunch project since it included several misspelled cuss words. Inside the barn was an empty bottle, painted red, and red tire marks leading out into the pasture. The crazy bastards had put 10-gallons of barn paint on the entire truck—including the tires.
Dad learned his lesson with Bony and although he never made much of it, he also never hired him for any other jobs. That wasn’t the case with our neighbor. The free truck painting didn’t faze Claude Chandler. Claude was an older fellow. He was very gullible, a World War II vet and one of those “a handshake is a bond” kind of guys. We liked him and hated to see what was coming. Claude needed to have some cattle taken to the stock market later that fall and had no truck to haul them. He needed somebody to help him. Bony signed the contract saying he’d hauled cattle from Canada to Mexico. The price, the rental of a truck and one bottle.
You must realize in the early 70’s MADD was unknown and drunken driving was considered the height of comedic gold, rather than the crime and sin it is today. Therefore, nobody threatened a lawsuit when Claude paid Bony in advance. Claude also assumed Bony would show up with a racked livestock truck. What he showed up with was a U-Haul box truck. Already half-lit, Bony herded the cattle into the box bed and with some concern about suffocation, placed a tube gate over the back and left the door open. Off they went.
The stock market is 35-miles away in Kingsport and Claude hadn’t been there in years. He usually took his cattle to a local market, but saw in the paper they could get a better price at the bigger market. Not that he was greedy, but Claude should have cut his losses. The harrowing trip to Kingsport along four-laned U.S. 23 was a disaster. Bony was weaving all over the road, causing the cattle to stir. After about 20-miles of driving all over the road, the cattle went from a stir to a rage and were clamoring to abandon ship. It was somewhere along there that Bony swerved out of the road, hit the ditch and blew out a tire. How they ever kept that truck from tipping over is a mystery that still dumbfounds every physicist in Lee County.
As the rubber flew off the tire like a cheap sweater unraveling in a sawmill, cattle were jumping from the truck quickly. By the time Bony stopped the rolling rodeo there were at least 7 cattle carcasses visible on for the last two miles, preceded by the vaunted gate that was in place to give them air. Several more of the cattle had run for the hills and as far as I know many were never found.
The incident cost Claude a lot of money in lost livestock and an expensive explanation to the folks at U-Haul. They were curious as to why their truck, that is normally used to move people’s most precious possessions, was now covered in hay, cowshit, and dents. Fair question. As for Bony, he staggered off to the next job.###
Visit The West Virginia Surf Report at thewvsr.com.