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Funny Messy Life

80 EpisodesProduced by Michael BlackstonWebsite

Stories about life, relationships, and culture delivered in a way that will help brighten your day or at least make you ask, "What is he smokin'?" But don't worry. It's all in good fun and it's family friendly. I'm Michael Blackston and these are tales from my blog - in audio form - all based on rea… read more

10:38

The Ugly Dutchling - 065

   I’ve been toying with some ideas about new kinds of stories to tell you. Originally, I thought I could get listeners to send in tales about their own funny, messy, lives because, let’s face it, I’m getting older, but I haven’t lived forever. I’m gonna eventually hit a wall and there won’t be much left to tell about my life. I’m starting to see that wall in the distance and I’m not ready to stop running my mouth. Pair that with the fact that nobody seems to want me to tell their stories and I have to start figuring out where my content is gonna come from in the long run. Then it hit me … every town in the world, from the biggest to the smallest, has interesting stories. I don’t want to dive into folklore too much - the podcast LORE by Aaron Menke does that just fine already. I don’t want to give an interesting history in the lives of famous people - the podcast The Way I Heard It by Mike Rowe accomplishes that extremely well, thank you very much, and Mike’s got one of those amazing, deep voices that’s so buttery, Paula Deen would toss it in one of her recipes if she could. I recommend both of those podcasts highly, by the way, and I never miss an episode. But I realize that I could tell interesting stories whenever I come across them that seem to be at the heart of a place, and I came to that realization when I found myself reading a pamphlet from my own hometown, Elberton Georgia. It’s a story rich with history, brotherhood, southern pride, and some drunken shenanigans peppered in.

 

This is the story of Dutchy. I’m Michael Blackston and while it might not be my own tale, it is a good one to tell about my own hometown’s Funny, Messy, Life.



   If you know anyone who works in the granite monument business, ask them if they’ve heard about a small town in Northeast Georgia who claims to be The Granite Capital of the World. They’ll say you’re talking about Elberton, Ga, named after Samuel Elbert, whose grave you can find in one of the famous old cemeteries in Savannah. We believe ourselves to be the number one supplier of granite in the world and if you argue about it, well … them’s fightin’ words.

   Sometimes people will ask how our little town got involved in the monument industry in the first place, and the story might surprise you. It starts, oddly enough, with an ugly, squat statue that everybody hated from the moment they laid eyes on it.

   It was 1908. His name is Dutchy.

   That wasn’t his name, originally. He didn’t have a name, originally. He got his name the way a lot of us have - meanness and the need people feel to put words to an emotion. Some kids get tagged with nicknames like, Stinky, Booger, Slim, or Back Seat Bertha … Dutchy got his name because of the way he looked. Those details are on their way.

   The American Civil War had ended 30 years earlier and the Daughters of the Confederacy wanted to erect a monument to the Confederate dead. I’m not really sure what Elberton did before then, but I’m pretty sure a lot of folks plowed the land, farmed the land, and made babies on the land. The monument industry wasn’t even a blip on the radar, which hadn’t been invented yet, so maybe I should change that to The monument industry wasn’t even a footnote in the Farmer’s Almanac.

   Anyway, when the Daughters of the Confederacy moved on getting the monument made, the first granite finishing plant in Elberton was created for that purpose alone. Later, that finishing plant would stay in business and become the first in a succession of granite sheds that dot Elberton’s landscape like God was holding a bunch of sheds in His hands because He wanted to carry them all into the house without having to make two trips, but there were too many, and He dropped a few in North east Georgia.

   A sculptor was commissioned to carve a statue out of the gray granite that runs forever under our feet. If you’ve ever heard of Stone Mountain just outside of Atlanta, it might interest you that what that huge piece of rock amounts to is an obnoxiously large boulder poking through the earth. It’s a piece of granite. The vein that it rises from runs all the way under our town a couple of hours away. We happen to sit right on top of probably the richest section of it. Apparently, the sculptor they hired, being Italian and unable to google American Civil War, didn’t know much about how a confederate soldier was supposed to look and did what my teenage son would call a ratchet job. I understand “ratchet” means bad nowadays, and not necessarily a tool I can never find the right bit for.

   The citizens didn’t like it one dang bit and they named him “Dutchy” because they said he was squat, ugly, and wore the uniform of the heathen north. They claimed he looked more like a Dutchman than a God-fearing’ Confederate soldier. In those days, it wouldn’t do to dress your statue like a soldier that wasn’t God-fearin’, and worse to make him look like he ain’t from around heeyah!

   That’s why it didn’t take long before the local children were calling him names and pointing at him as they pushed their wheels with sticks through the town square. It’s said that people would throw rotten vegetables at him and that old men would give him Whut Fer with their eyes as they passed.

   Poor Dutchy. He didn’t ask to look the way he did. The world was still as politically incorrect as it could possibly be. There was definitely no one who had yet “woken” so they could tell us all how we have a right to our own opinions as long as our opinions jive with theirs. He was the victim of the ultimate bullying situation. The whole town was against him. And it was about to get worse.

   One night, when some of the young men had been drinking heavily, once of them started up some meanness about Dutchy.

   I feel like what I should do here is develop a scene for you. It’s what could have possibly been the conversation that led up to the disaster that happened to Dutchy later that night. I’ll take my best stab at what that might have sounded like.

   (Scene: A dingy side bar right off the town square. The tables are made of wood. The chairs are wooden. The spoons and forks … wood. The teeth of the waitress … also wood. A group of men sit at two tables next to each other. They all smell of dirt, granite dust, watered down beer, and barn animals. Man 1 stands up.)

   MAN 1.   Yankees! I hate me a Yankee!

   CROWD.   YEAH!

   MAN 1.   We’d have won the war if’n that yella belly, Lilly-livered so and so had’na signed that paper at Appomattox!

   CROWD.   YEAH!!

   MAN 2.   I shore wish they’s sump’n we could do about it.

   CROWD.   YEAH!!!

   MAN 1.   Whut if’n I told ya thar IS sump’n we can do about it.

   CROWD.   Yeah?

   MAN 1.   Yeah. Thar’s one of ‘em standin’ on a pedestal right over yonder. He’s an ugly cuss, boys! Looks like a dang Dutchman what don’t fear the Lord and I thank it’s high time he got whut’s comin’ to him. 

   CROWD.   YEAH!!!!

   MAN 1.   Whaddya say, boys? Wanna pull him down and bury him?

   CROWD.   YEAH!!!!!

   MAN 1.   Wanna drink some more beer before we do?!

   CROWD.   YEAH!!!!!!!!! (BUURRRPPP!)

   In the dark of night, a group of severely drunk townsmen got some rope and lassoed the statue around the neck. A few of them hollered, Yee-HAWWWW! A few more threw up in the bushes. Before pulling the statue down, they dug a pit at the base of the pedestal where Dutchy stood and when it was ready, they all grabbed a part of the ropes. There was laughter and merriment by the ones who pulled, and triumphant shouts of victory.

   The south will rise again! Long live the Confederacy! Thar IS a God, ya heathen Dutchman!

   The ones over at the bushes had now passed out, so they wouldn’t remember a thing come morning.

   Dutchy came toppling down into the grave that had been dug for him, his legs breaking apart from his torso as he hit the ground. The drunk men replaced the dirt into the grave and went their ways, becoming a unique part of Elberton history.

   I remember my mom driving me and my sister to the square one afternoon in April of 1982. The memory is foggy and broken, a memories become over a span of forty years, but the right pieces are there.

   “What are they doing, mama?”

   There was big equipment at the base of the memorial that had replaced Dutchy after he was brought down. A crowd had gathered, but to the best of my knowledge, nobody was drunk.

   “They’re digging up an old statue. It was there before the one you see now.”

   We watched for a while and then moved on, recoding this piece of history into our “Where were you on the day …” memory banks. 

   The town officials hired the proper people to dig him up and give him a bath. The once pristine gray granite was caked with a century’s worth of red Georgia clay. And now he resides in his own room at the Granite Museum about a mile away from where he was buried. He gets the respect he deserves now, and if you’d like to get a look at him yourself, there’s plenty about him if you search online for “Dutchy Elberton”. You can even find a photo of the square when he was unveiled in 1908. But if you’re close by, take a side trip into Elberton and visit the museum. We’re awful proud of Dutchy now. He’s sort of an unsung hero around here. I’m sure he’d be happy to make your acquaintance and have a little company. He might not look like much, but you can’t keep a good man down forever.

   Live on, Dutchy. 

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