RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Tuesday, September 1

SONG OF THE DAY: Family Pain

One of the most formative nights of my life happened in the summer of 1989, after drinking with some fellow delinquents on the outskirts of Keysville, I got bored with the other folks, and rather than wait to catch a ride with my boy, decided to hitchhike. I stood by the train tracks for a few minutes, and a beat-up Cadillac Eldorado pulled up beside me, probably was lime green at one point but time had faded it to an off-mint color. Jimmy Valiant was driving, and Swamp Dogg was in the passenger seat. The windows were down, and he reached behind him to open the back door, and said, “Get in, boy.”
The ten miles from Keysville, onto 15 south, towards where I lived, went fast. They didn’t talk to me really, outside of an occasional question when Swamp Dogg would spin around and ask me something very specific. Mostly they just jabbered at each other about the radio, which was blasting. On the pull-off by Abilene Road, which ran along the train tracks, they pulled over. I wasn’t sure why, and to be honest, back then I was a little nervous. I had wondered if I should make a run for it, because even they seemed a little too wild, even by my teenage dirtgod standards. Nobody had even asked me where I lived, or was going. Swamp Dogg just said to get in the car and I did and they took off. But Jimmy Valiant got out at the pull off and went off to the edge of the woods to piss, car still running, radio blasting, not a care in the world.
Swamp Dogg spun around at that point and asked most of what he asked. “What was you doing up there, boy?” I didn’t know. “You know some folks got murdered last week by a hitchhiker closer to Drake’s Branch. You lucky the police didn’t see you before we did.” I didn’t know. “You know how to play a Hammond organ, boy?” I didn’t know. “What do you know, boy?” I didn’t know.
Jimmy Valiant was back in the driver’s seat in a swoop, and we were off again, 85 on that straight stretch where my dad blew the transmission out of a Camaro he wasted money on for drag racing that lasted two street races. In a flash we were near my road, which didn’t have names back then, just numbers. Nobody got names until 911 mapped out the countryside. We got closer and I said, “Hey,” so I could let them know to drop me off at the end of the road, but they couldn’t hear me over the music and them babbling at each other about Hammond organs and royal flushes and the Sunday morning meal at the jail in Henderson, North Carolina. “Hey!” I said louder, nervous as fuck, when they got close to my road I leaned forward, grabbing the bench seat’s back, saying “Y’all can drop me off at the end of this road.” Jimmy Valiant barely touched the brakes as he fishtailed onto 634. Swamp Dogg laughed, and looked over his shoulder. “This ain’t where you live, boy.”
500 feet later, Valiant slammed the brakes, leaving two basketball goals’ length of black mark on the asphalt, slapped in in R, and slid into the driveway of the trailer my dad lived at back then, and I stayed at half the time. Usually I stayed at whichever parent’s house had the least oversight, which was tough because neither one of them paid all that much attention. Valiant hit the brakes again, sliding on the gravel, and before we even were to a complete stop, Swamp Dogg reach back over the seat and popped open my door again. Jimmy Valiant looked back and said, “Tell Tuna we said ‘hey’”.
I stammered an uh okay, got out, and soon as my feet were on the gravel, they were gone. Literally gone, no engine roar, no sign of them, just me standing in the driveway by my dad’s trailer. I walked up and the door was chained shut, which meant he was fucking this woman he was seeing at the time. The music was playing loud as fuck too, same shit that was in the Cadillac Eldorado. I contemplated banging on the door but I didn’t wanna interrupt his vibe, so I walked the mile down the road in the darkness, half drunk and the other half doomed, to my mom’s house. When I got to where I could but through the woods between two trailers, closer to my mom’s house on the backside, but far enough from both of the trailers nobody would shoot at me by accident, I did. Moving slow at first once I got in the scrub woods, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness that was my environment, and then I found my way. Somehow, I found my fuckin’ way.