For those of you who of have noticed my conspicuous silence regarding all things Clampitt related, allow me to fill you in on the goings on for the past few months.
In the short time we've lived here, the house across the street has been temporary home to several branches of the convoluted Clampitt family tree, all related either by blood or common law union to the old man who has lived there for over a decade. We call him Common Law Butch. At the time of my first blog posting, Butch was sharing the place with the Alabama Clampitts, whose seventeen year old daughter we met for the first time when she asked Matt for a ride to the gas station to buy cigarettes. Their dog, who promptly brought forth an enormous litter of puppies, was part wolf, they told us with pride. They sorted through their family problems by screaming insults at each other in the front yard. You know, the usual.
Several months ago, the Alabama Clampitts hastily loaded up Common Law Butch and most of their belongings--including the panels from the wood privacy fence, which Matt helped to place in the moving truck--and retreated to Alabama. I'll be honest. We got a little bit excited. We even considered bidding on the house when it went into foreclosure, which was what the Alabama matriarch had told us they planned to do with it. I began to mentally renovate it, paint it, and plant ornamental grasses around it. And then God said, "Not so fast!"
Enter the Corsicana Clampitts, who began showing up in force a few days later, stomping around and cursing and tying the house's remaining furniture to the sagging roofs of old Buicks. Turns out, the house was actually in the name of Common Law Butch's old lady (may she rest in peace), and they were going to get it back.
So we are basically back where we started. And it's been really entertaining. Like the Clampitts before them, this particular group prefers to cook alfresco. At suppertime, they cut a limb off the tree in the front yard, light it, and throw on the meat. Consequently, when we hear the buzzing of a chain saw, we start salivating. We have been classically conditioned by the Clampitts. Now that's disturbing.
Based upon our super-duper observation skills, we can tell you that the universal hallmarks of Clampittdom include the above mentioned front yard tirades, visitors who park their pick-ups on the tiny front lawn, and debilitating cases of emphyzema (sp?). They all have this distinctive cough that reminds me of visits to my Aunt Jo and Uncle Larkin when I was a kid. Uncle Larkin was pushing eighty and possessed neither teeth nor hair. His ears had grown with each passing year. Picture a white Yoda, but instead of a Jedi robe he's wearing a stained wife beater and a truck driver hat with the slogan "Life's Too Short To Dance With Ugly Women." He had "the cough," which always directly preceded "the spit."Uncle Larkin's been gone for years now, but Aunt Jo and her own version of "the cough" are still going strong. A few years ago she decided it was finally time to quit dipping snuff, her habit since she was 12 years old, I think. For this reason, the sound of a Clampitt cough induces these odd feelings in me--part queasiness, part nostalgia. "Whatever you do, don't knock over that Folgers can. That ain't coffee in there." Ah, memories. And now, back to the topic at hand...
If front yard finery is an accurate indicator, Halloween is the highlight of the Clampitt calendar year. They pull out all the stops. Two weeks ago, the whole front of the house was festooned in a dungeon-themed plastic banner. Poles adorned with shrunken heads littered the yard, and they seemed to multiply by the day--that is until Halloween Eve, when we heard a ruckus in the front yard. The present tennants and their son (who was living there with his family at this time last year) had a falling out. Alas, it was he who had purchased the grisly decor. The closing remark must have been something like, "Fine, I'm leavin'. And I'm takin' Halloween with me."
No more cobwebs. No more skeletons. No more severed heads. The Clampitts wiled away the day painting their new decorative rocks (don't ask) the hue of Pepto-Bismol and looking pretty sad. But when evening came, nothing could squelch their particular brand of Halloween spirit. Picture Larry the Cableguy and family leering at trick-or-treaters and doling out candy from his plastic chair on the front porch. For sheer volume and enthusiasm, this group had no peer.
"Oh my gawd! It's Spider Man! C'mon over here kid and let me look atcha."
Insert expletive-filled argument over where to hang a picture in the living room. Pause for long swig of beer.
"Oh, my gawd! It's a princess! Give 'er some candy."
Little Hispanic girl is frozen like a deer in the headlights.
"Dontcha speak English, princess?" Hmm...what to do? Let's try again, slower and louder this time. "DO YOU WANT SOME CANDY?"
Girl's mother finally ushers her away from the porch.
"You watch out for them witches and that grim reaper...Oh my gawd! Look, Wayne, it's a vampire! Don't suck our blood, 'er we won't give ya any candy."
The final Clampitt image of the night was the lady of the house, resplendent in yards and yards of shimmering blue housedress, chasing Matt and the baby down the sidewalk.
"Come back here 'n get a sucker for that baby! Caintcha see he wants a sucker?"
Fact: This woman has a grandson the same age as Miles (around 18-20 months). His mother told us he tipped the scales at 65 pounds at his last check-up. They call him Fat Boy. As in, "Fat Boy! Git outta the street! Come on over here 'n get you somethin' ta eat."
We're not really all that into Halloween for the usual Christian reasons, although Matt did take the girls trick-or-treating (but with a grimace on his face) and I did hand out candy this year. Still, I have to say it was fun watching the Clampitts in their element.
Miles really did enjoy that sucker, too.
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