Every time Tie Rod hears the words ”clean coal,“ he thinks of Mrs. Oaks in the coal camp.
When she was about to have company, she washed her chickens, holding them by the head to do so. When she got the coal dust off of them and let them go, each relieved not to be going to the dumpling pot just then, they had little black areas on the tops of their heads which looked like a buzz cut or a mohawk.
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The tale is that when Mr. Oaks had brain surgery years later and came to, they were trying to test his brain function and asked him his name, which he told them. Then they asked him who the president was, and he said that he didn't know who it was then but that it used to be John L. Lewis and Roosevelt. They knew he was OK.
Tie Rod doesn't mind hearing the words ”clean coal“ for a few weeks every four years but thinks that you would have to wash coal with a rag like the Oaks' leghorns. And besides, Tie Rod kind of likes the look of a little coal dust, as it reminds him of the good old days of Joy Loaders and Tony Boyle, back when a good union leader would put out a hit on any dissidents and the coal was high enough that at least a few minutes a day you could stand up in the mines. He thinks Barack Obama's complexion looks more like that of a superintendent than a union man riding a lizard.
So Tie Rod is used to hearing about clean coal every four years and the words disappearing with the speaker. Obama says he will stop mountaintop removal, and that is more interesting to Tie Rod than figuring out a way to tear up the rest of the mountains by claiming coal can be clean.
More clearly than how you clean up coal, Tie Rod understands biofuels. His family has been turning corn into flammable liquid since 1792. He can take a sack of corn and make it into something that George Gibson quotes some old Knott Countian as saying will make you feel like a million bucks if you ain't got a $10 bill.
Lately the producers of mountain liquid folk art are using sweetened horse feed, chop with molasses, and so mountain culture in modern times has a slight hint of sorghum. March was an excellent month.
But the prospect of the coal companies pumping carbon dioxide into the ground beneath the hollow where Tie Rod might set up his biofuel plant makes Tie Rod sore afraid. He says that carbon dioxide will mix with methane from old worked-out mines, rupture through the bowels of the Earth, come up and catch his still on fire, and he will be burned to death.
And anybody would be apprehensive that putting corn instead of gas into cars will drive up the price of corn bread to where only the rich can afford it.
Slemp told about the rich people in France taking over the bread of the peasants, and now Tie Rod is very concerned about losing what he considers the birthright of all Kentuckians. He wants Gov. Steve Beshear to call a special session to put Right to Corn Bread into the state constitution.
It's a vicious circle. Use up corn for fuel, and you can't afford to feed it to the mule you will have to use to ride to town because you cannot afford the fuel. Maybe a mule would eat tofu.
Nah, a mule is too smart to eat something with no taste to it.