Great Grandpa Bean and the Road to Nowhere

March 9, 2011

By Papa

Bean, Bean,
Great Grandpa Bean,
Commonly known as KING

King, as in absolute monarch. Trust me, there was no parliament in the Bean kingdom during King’s reign. You addressed King as “sir,” “yes sir,” “no sir,”and under your breath, “absafrigginglutely, sir.”

King never, never lied.

The infuriating thing about the never lying was the finality of things. If you asked for a new toy—an uncommon luxury in those days—and the answer was no, that was it no matter how hard you begged for a “maybe” or “we’ll see.”

In 1962, when I was 18 years old, King decided to build a road—a road to Nowhere.

“Nowhere” in this story is Lower Peach Tree, Alabama. Packers Bend, Alabama, which you cannot find on a Google map, is southeast of Peach Tree and is Totally Nowhere in this story. Finally, the Absolutely and Totally Nowhere in this story is somewhere on the 1,500 acres of timberland King owned in those parts.

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Note: to King, I was always “boy.” Depending on voice inflection and volume, the word “boy” could draw a response somewhere between a smile and a run for my life.

In typical King style, the proclamation came booming up the stairs at 6:00 in the morning at about 200 disables.

“BOY, time to get your ass in gear.  We have a road to build!”

King’s constant use of the term “we” when referring to work—when we both knew he meant “you”—was irritating.

“Yes, sir.”



“Good, boy.”

It was about an hour and fifteen minute drive from our home in Jackson to No-Frigging-Where, which  included a stop in Grove Hill for ham and biscuits, and I got to sleep most of the way.  Boy never got to drive.

The early days of the project were what I like to call the Kaboom Phase [read: Blowing Tree Stumps Out of the Ground with Dynamite Phase].  Lucky Looney, a local grave digger, showed me how to use dynamite.  The man never stopped giggling.

Lucky Looney would say, “If this shit blows on me, I go to St. Pete with a smile on my face.”

The Kaboom Phase was a simple process.  You unfolded the paper wrapping on the dynamite stick, poked a hole in the dynamite with a pencil, dropped in a blasting cap, inserted a length of fuse and finally crimped the paper wrapping back in place. 

A one-and-a-half inch hole made at an angle under the stump with a pointed steel rod held the dynamite.  The lit fuse ignited the blasting cap and the cap ignited the dynamite.  Kaboom.  You’ve seen enough Roadrunner to know it’s time to run after lighting the fuse. Depending on the size of the stump you used one, two or three sticks of dynamite.  The blast from one ignited the others. The smoke from the explosion gave you a world-class headache that we doctored with Goody’s Powders and Coke.

By day two of Kaboom, Lucky Looney was back at his grave digging job in Thomasville, and I was on my own.   I missed the giggling, and after a time, the whole thing got boring as hell. Then I got a great idea—why not blow three stumps at once?!

So I made holes under three stumps that were close together, put extra sticks of dynamite in each hole to insure max kaboom, laid out a stick of loaded dynamite at the top of each hole.  Hole one had a long fuse; hole two, a medium fuse; and three, a short fuse.  Why not?  If one or two blew before I could run away, it was St. Petersville anyway.

I lit one with my trusty Zippo and ran to two by which time I was starting to lose my nerve, but the Zippo Gods were on my side, and fuse two was sizzling.  On to three where I got the little short fuse going quickly, and then I turned to run. And I ran right into the Jeep.


Time stopped.

Holy shit, not only was it a Jeep, but it was King’s brand new Jeep Wagoneer.  That Jeep cost about $5,000.00—what a school teacher made in a year.  Even the wench on that Jeep was more important than boy.

When time started again, a jolt of adrenaline hit me in the ass, and I jumped over that Jeep and was on the other side when the three kabooms went off all at once.

The good news was all the stumps were blown away from the Jeep.  The bad news—it was like you took a huge frontend loader and dumped mud all over one side of the jeep.  Mud—four inches thick—all over it.  An hour later when King got back, I had the Jeep pulled over next to a nearby stream and had just finished the fastest carwash known to man.

Late that night, I heard King say to Mom, “I was proud of the boy today.  He washed the Jeep without being told.”

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Irene March 9, 2011 at 9:04 am


We had a Jeep Wagoneer in the 60’s. I always hated the smell inside. You know, cars have a certain smell to them, probably the upholstery. I used to gag every time I got in.

Did the road ever get complete?

I hope you post some more stories!

Jenn March 9, 2011 at 9:17 am

Papa, was the road ever completed?

Talk about smells–Grandpa Bean smoked cigars. A lot of cigars. And then he tried to camouflage the smell with this God-awful citrus air freshner. Our house would smell like that for days after he left.

Grandpa loved ice cream, cheese and all things fattening. He drank copious amounts of Crown Royal. We were always well stocked with purple velvet drawstring bags for our marbles and sundries.

portia March 9, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Oh my goodness, the smell memory is overwhelming!! The orange air freshener that he brought to your house when we were in high school, when he came in his RV that filled up the whole driveway!! And the cool purple bags, wow!

Pamela March 10, 2011 at 11:32 am

As an employment lawyer, I feel it’s my duty to inform you that King violated just about every child labor and OSHA law known to man. Sadly, your statute of limitations has expired (as has King). But not the laughs. Very funny story.

Will you be passing these skills along to Jax and Moose, though?

rtcrita March 10, 2011 at 11:41 am

Wow! You’re lucky St. Peter was not ready for a permanent visit from you. I could just picture the look of shock on your face when you realized how close the jeep was to the site. Thank goodness for that adrenaline boost, huh?

Great story, and great punch line at the end! It had me laughing, for sure!

Jenn March 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Pamela: Papa has gotten soft. Jax and Moose have him wrapped.

Rita: Papa has 9 lives!

Papa March 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Pamela, I think OSHA got it’s legs in the 70s, so we got under the wire on that one. You are right, 18-year-olds don’t have enough brain development to be alone with dynamite–too bad governments don’t feel the same about fighting wars.

Irene, if King had a destination in mind for that road, it was Top Secret, and Boy was kept in the dark. As it was the road meandered along for about a quarter mile and stopped. Period.

Jenny and Portia, that cigar citrus smell would drive you out into a rain storm to sleep.

On the final clean up, after King died, I kept finding bottles of Crown Royal stuffed here and there in that motorhome. I finally realized that putting them in one place would turn the joint over.


Betsy at Zen Mama March 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm

What a fabulous story! I could see it all! You Beans are great writers!

Judy skipper October 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Papa, I can relate to your story in that time. What a great memory now. I’m sure it was tough at the time. Loved the story.

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