Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Brute Ass, Revisited

My job requires me to reach each and every house on my map area no matter what scary thing is painted on the bumpers of the beat up trucks in the driveways, whether I have to walk, climb, or in this particular case, simply find a different road. I was nervous about having to face the person who paints such things as "Brute Ass" on the front bumper of their giant, rusted out, beat up truck and when I drove up to the shanty-town like property and singled out a small house as the main dwelling, a little log cabin with various hunting items, cans, and dogs all over the porch and yard, and saw three guys standing around another truck drinking beer who looked like very skinny versions of ZZ Top with about ten teeth among them I did not feel any better about it. I stopped and rolled my window down (doors locked) and asked for the address so I could give the owner his envelope and get out of there. The man who approached the car, Brute Ass himself, did not know his address but was very helpful in directing me to his mailbox up the road so that I could figure it out myself. So I went on up the road and studied a stack of mailboxes and chose an address that seemed to fit the description of the dwelling. I drove back and handed him his envelope and headed on my way.
I'm not a good reporter because I hate interviewing people. I don't like asking them questions and I don't like feeling like I'm interrupting their lives, but as I thought about this I also thought about the three men standing around drinking beer and talking and thought they looked like three guys who have been standing around drinking beer and talking for about a decade just waiting for someone new to drive up and ask them to tell them a story, so I turned around.
When I drove up for the third time they looked amused and like they were all prepared to give the out-of-towner directions through the maze of trails they themselves had probably blazed as teenagers. But when I asked them, "just out of curiosity, is there a story behind 'Brute Ass' over there?" they all started laughing, and the owner, I never did get his real name, came up to the car to tell it. He was smiling like the day had finally come when he could tell the story to a person who had never heard it before. As it turns out I wasn't far off in my first assumption, so close in fact that I feel a little bad about possibly seeming condescending in my "outlandish" hypothesis.
He had built the truck from scratch himself. He said that he used to have a little girl and the two of them had named it Brutus ("Like the guy who killed Caesar?" "Yeah, yeah, exactly!") One day she decided she wanted to paint the name on the front bumper so he gave her a can of yellow paint and a paint brush and thus "Brute Ass" was born. He said that that was a long time ago, but he just keeps repainting it on there over her original. When you look at it you can see that while the truck is obviously rusted and worn out, the paint is relatively fresh.
I don't know what happened to that little girl but her memory lives on in "Brute Ass" and in her father sitting there in the yard every year or so painting over her words that frighten and beckon the odd passer-by to ask for the story behind them, which her father seems delighted to tell.

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