Cousin Lige hadn't been out of Haysi in 15 years, nor out of sight of Big A mountain in more than 40.
You could wait another 40 and hitch up wild horses and you still couldn't drag Lige back into the outside world again. Lige gets the hives when he's greatly agitated and Doc Randall says the current case is the worst Lige has ever had.
Blame Cousin Rhett, whose idea it was to haul Lige to the airport to fly out to California for Cousin Henry's funeral. Lige and Henry were best friends growing up together over on Skillet Branch. Which is the only reason Lige would even consider getting into an airplane, since his favorite form of transportation is Grandpa''s old haywagon with his grand-niece, Bethandra, driving the team and Lige consoling himself in the back from a Ball jar of "recipe."
But I digress.
"He's your best friend, Lige!" Rhett said over and over again on the way to the airport. Lige grumbled a lot at first, but finally clammed up and settled for silent sulking. When they entered the terminal the first sign of hives showed up on his left forearm. ""What the dam' hell is all these folks lined up fer?" he demanded. "They givin' away free chickens up there?"
"They're lined up for the security check, Lige," Rhett said soothingly. "Gonna make sure your airplane is safe from tare-ists." Since Lige has no photo ID per se, Rhett had arranged for Sheriff Prosper to use his brand-new pre-owned Xerox machine to create a letter bearing Lige's image and Pros's signed statement that the Lige pictured on it was the same Lige who wanted to fly to California for his cousin's funeral and please let him pass even if he don't have a driver's license for the good and simple reason that he don't drive. After only a brief hassle with the first security officer they encountered, Lige and Rhett were allowed to continue to the next step in the security procedure.
"Put yer satchel on that there movin' belt," Rhett said. "What fer?" Lige asked. "So's they can take a pitcher of it and make sure there's no tare-ist weapons in there." "Why don't they jist ast me?" Lige said. "I know dam' well what's in there and what ain't." "It's gummint rules," Rhett said. "My Great Grampaw fit with Warshington at Valley Forge!" Lige sputtered. "If the dam' gummint can't trust the word of a Sunderman, what the hell KIN they trust?"
A female security agent scuttled up to Lige with a little tray. "Please empty your pockets and place the contents on this tray along with your shoes," she said mechanically.
The hives busted out all over Lige's arms, face and neck. ""I'm going to a goldam' funeral," he barked, "and I ain't gonna dishonor Cousin Henry by goin' there barefoot. Besides, these costed $16 from the Sears catalogue and I ain't trustin' 'em to no damned stranger!"
The woman blew a whistle. Four male security agents, each of whom looked like a first-round draft choice for the Steelers' defensive line, appeared from nowhere. Soon they were joined by three soldiers armed with machine guns, hand guns, night scopes, day scopes, radar, hand grenades, walkie-talkies, riot masks and batons.
Turns out one of the soldiers was from Abington. "Let me handle this," he said, and helped Lige to his feet. "This-here stuff," he told Lige, in a conspiratorial tone of voice, "is sort of like the new rules about no guns in the tavern over to Clinchville." The soldier winked. "Gotta humor them if you wanna sip the 'shine. Now, let's see what's in them pockets."
Reluctantly, Lige emptied his pockets: 42 cents in coin, jacknife, sharpening stone, the key to the rusty gate at the family cemetery on Buck Mountain. . . .
"Oops," the soldier said, taking the knife. "They don't allow knives on airplanes no more, old-timer," he said. "Jes' like no guns in the tavern."
"What the Sam Hell am I gonna do on that airplane if I can't whittle?" Lige asked the soldier, but his voice lacked conviction. He knew they were outnumbered. "Take a long nap," the soldier advised.
"Good idee," Lige said. "Kin I git on the dam' airplane now?"
One of the security guys answered: "You still have to pass through the metal detector, have your security photograph taken. . ."
"Y'all just seen my pitcher on Sheriff Prosper's letter!" he bellowed. Meaning to be helpful, the Virginia soldier explained, "This here is a special picture, Old Timer. It shows you without clothes so they can be sure you ain't smuggling tare-ist weapons on board."
"BUCK FUCKIN' NEKKID!!" Lige screeched. "What kinda preeverts are you!" Now his hives had hives.
"Calm down," the soldier said. One of the security hulks spoke up. "If you don't want an x-ray picture, we can do a hand search." He grabbed Lige's crotch with his NFL-sized hand.
You could have heard Lige's scream all the way back in Haysi. "Get this goddam queer offen me," he bellowed, over and over again.
They set his bond at $10,000. Rhett finally met it by letting them hold the title to his brand-new Buick.
Doc Randall doubts he'll ever completely cure Lige's hives. Problem is, just about the time they start to clear up, somebody asks Lige about his airport experience.
"You know, Medicare don't cover this," Doc keeps reminding Lige. "Don't pester me about it," Lige comes back. "Pester them damned preeverts at the airport what started it."