Puddyhead and I share remembrances now and again of Shinny. He was a wiry negro who lived in Montgomery when I was in high school. He lived on Burnside Island near Puddyhead.
Shinny would walk the two miles to the Senator's liquor store every day for his pint of Kessler blended. As he approached the store all the other black folk, nursing their own Kessler pints, would scatter like coachroaches, for they feared him.
Shinny looked like a mocha Lee Van Cleef. Stringy, gaunt, muscular, with Chinese eyes. He was the local gravedigger, and no black folk were buried in Montgomery without Shinny digging the grave.
What I did not know until recently was that Shinny worked for Lord Calvert on Burnside Island. Lord Calvert was a mutual friend's father. Puddyhead pulled crab traps for him when he was 14, 15 years old. The Lord had a very nice spread on deep salt water, but spent all his days curled up in the fetal position in his bed, clutching a bottle of Lord Calvert booze.
Lord Calvert's place was large enough to sport a hobby garden of sorts, of about a half acre. At the corner of the property he had built a crude lean-to shed, where Shinny lived. Shinny's job was to maintain the garden, which meant that he would literally harness himself in leather strops, and pull a plow through the garden to till the soil. Like one would do with a mule, only Shinny was the mule. Half an acre. Why he was so wiry. While Lord Calvert slept upstairs on Irish linen, clutching his bottle as the infant clasps the bot-bot, Shinny would plow his acreage. When the laboring was done he would walk to the Senator's liquor store with his greasy four dollars in wages, and buy his Kessler.
I recall Shinny having a girlfriend out of town. Pembroke, or Claxton. He would visit her from time to time when the acreage did not need tending. Oncet, someone in the community died while Shinny was afield visiting his girlfriend, and the folk were beside themselves. The Montgomery people did not believe in embalming. It polluted the corpus. They buried the next day. But no one could find Shinny, nor would anyone dare dig the grave themselves.
Shinny eventually showed up on day three or four, in his ubiquitous overhauls, and dug that grave. The social compact was preserved.
Shinny is most certainly dead by now. I must find his final resting place. That would be a wonderful place to pull out a pint of Kessler, and toast an original. That man was a hoss.
Did I mention Clarence Thomas grew up here? I guarantee he knew Shinny.
Southern Gothic. Where would we be without it?