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Taking care of its own
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008:

RingRing...RingRing...(sound of phone being picked up)

“Effingham County Department of Indigent Services, this is Ethel speakin’, how may I help you?”

“Uh ... hey Ethel. This here is Judi Mae Higgins? Of Forked Springs Road?”

“Yes ma’am Miss Higgins, how may I help you?”

“Whale, I heard y’all was buryin’ folks what ain’t got enough money to bury they own?”

“Yes ma’am. The county is providing burial service for indigents in this county. Have you been declared an indigent?”

“No ma’am...I’m actually half German, half Irish. I thought the indigents was just them Cherokees and Semolinas.”

“You mean Seminoles?”

“What’s that?”

“Seminoles? Indians.”

“Oh. Whale, I don’t rightly know any Indians. My neighbor Patel said he’s Indian, though. You reckon he is?”

“If he’s named Patel, he might be Indian, Miss Higgins. Did you have a question for me? Somethin’ I could help you with?”

“Oh ... uh, yes ma’am. Somebody down the Family Dollar told me I might be havin’ to call y’all cause my husband is fixin’ to go down for a dirt nap, and I ain’t got the money for a funeral home. Is this somethin’ the county can help me with?”

“That depends. If the county has declared y’all to be indigent, then it’s very likely we could help y’all out. How long you reckon before your husband passes?”

“Oh whale, he’s ’bout to take one last puff offa that cigarette and his oxygen tank is run out. I reckon he’s got about 60 seconds before he can’t breathe after he lets that smoke outta his lungs.”

“Yes, ma’am. If your husband does happen to pass, though, you will have to call 9-1-1 so they can come git ‘im.”

“They gonna take him outta here on a fire truck? Cause if they are, I want my lil grandson to see that.”

“No ma’am. They’ll likely take him out in an ambulance. Then they’ll take him to the county morgue and the morgue will call us to take care of the burial.”

“He gonna need a suit? Cause all he’s gots is them green overhauls his cousin brung him back from a trip to Fayetteville North Carolina a few years ago...”

“Well, Miss Higgins, normally when the county provides an indigent burial service, the body is cremated.”

“Creamated? Whus sat? Sounds like sumpin’ you would do to a jugga milk.”

“That’s when the body is actually ... well ... the body is put into an oven and then it’s just ashes.”

“Y’all gonna burn him? Why cain’t I just do that out in my back yard? I keep a purty good fire goin’ in one of my old oil cans. That’s how I keep my trash from collectin’ under the trailer...”

“The county doesn’t permit that, ma’am. It would be better if we took care of that for you. Y’all got any problems with cremation? I mean, with your church and all?”

“Not that I know of. I could ask the preacher, but I don’t think so. Y’all do the church service?”

“No ma’am, that would be up to you. If you wanted to have a church service you might discuss that with your preacher.”

“He gonna charge me for it?”

“Sometimes they do, ma’am.”

“Don’t they bury people in them ol’ piney boxes no more? Like what they used to do with the hobos and all?”

“That’s an option, ma’am. If you wanted your husband to have a casket, we could provide that. But usually it’s cremation. It’s faster and cheaper.”

“A tisket a tasket, the man ain’t gettin’ no casket. I’ll settle for whatever y’all wanna do with ’im. I gotta sign anything?”

“Yes ma’am. You’ll have to sign the release forms.”

“Whale, awright. Y’all better start stokin’ up that fire. I’ll just haul him down to ya in the wheelbarrow.”

“Yes, ma’am. That’ll be fine.”

Just so y’all know, I’m movin’ Drunk Unk over to Effingham County. I got a mighty big wheelbarrow to haul him in, too!