My father used to say that this was his inheritance, this concrete THING, that I want to say is shaped like a curvilinear triangle. I might or might not be right on that.
Perhaps it’s more of a paraboloid, as one of my high school friends explained.
There was a whole run of these that lined the driveway of my great-grandparents’ house in Russellville.
My great grandfather would not have had anyone parking his or her car in the yard.
Not customers of the pick-your-own strawberry farm he maintained in later life.
He was a man of many barriers. Is it any wonder he opened one of the first concrete block companies in Eastern Tennessee?
If this were a work of fiction, I’d skip mentioning that obvious bit of symbolism.
My great-grandfather was a harsh sort of man. By all accounts, he was enormously gifted and smart and knew how to turn know-how’s into money-making ventures.
He was not always kind.
He initially turned his skills toward bootlegging. He excelled. It was a family affair. He and my great grandmother would be set up along side of the road. You’d come up and pay your money, and he’d reach up her skirt and pull out a jar of premium distilled corn whiskey.
He took pains to make a good product.
It was in high demand. As though this were one big Appalachian cliche, the sheriff and the deputies loved the product.
Distribution was of concern, so he went into the ice business. It was a legitimate means to transport the liquid illegality into people’s homes.
My grandfather’s first job was delivering ice to folks. To his dying day he called the fridge the ice box. He could be counted on never to tell what he saw in other people’s ice boxes.
As I said, my great grandfather was harsh. He was also very competitive and was known to contend with the competition in extreme ways. My grandfather watched all this as a child. He took it all in and he learned to take on a steely silent stance. In a sense, my grandfather never escaped being the ice man.
As electric ice boxes became more available, it was determined that the inside of a cinder block was the perfect space to place and convey a jar of whiskey all over the region.
The concrete block company in Russellville was the business my great grandfather built as a front for illegal booze.
Business grew. Trucks were going all over. But we will set aside that narrative for another time.
The concrete object.
I remember my grandmother once calling it a “boob.” It was said in a disparaging tone. I don’t believe she ever loved her in-laws. But she was nice to their faces.
The story goes that as my great grandfather was getting the concrete business off the ground, someone had the bright idea to take the headlamp off a rusting Ford Model T sitting in the back yard and make a mold of it.
This concrete thing is the result of that.
When my great grandmother died, the left-over contents of their lives were auctioned to high bidders.
I saw my father place the losing bid on at least 7 of these.
He won the 8th bid.
And he claimed his inheritance.
And as for me, it’s mine now.
I think I’ll paint it purple.