Why would anyone dig their own grave if the mob is about to kill you?
We all know the trope; after welching on a bet/hitting on a mobster's wife/not laughing at the Godfather's joke, you get a bag over your head, a car ride into the middle of nowhere, handed a shovel and told to dig your own grave.
Stay calm, trusted reader(s), I am not writing this from any personal experience with the mob. The only organized crime syndicate I owe money to is my student loan corporation, and their preferred method of burial is via collection notices.
Ok, so you're out in the middle of nowhere, the mobsters have what I can only assume are a trio of tommy guns trained on your back, and they tell you to dig your own grave.
Or ... what, exactly?
You're going to shoot me? You were going to do that anyway, what with all the machine guns and death threats. You know what, mobsters? You can dig your own hole in the ground and kill me or not kill me because, it turns out, digging a grave by hand is hard work.
I learned this lesson first hand a week ago, when I was in the middle of nowhere, digging a grave.
Talented musician, Iowa expatriate, and friend of the column Julianne Mason had returned to her ancestral homeland to film a music video before setting out on a summer tour. And the shooting location was about as "ancestral" as a "homeland" gets for an American; it was filmed at her grandmother's farm.
Now, I had told Julianne that I would be happy to help with the filming in any way possible. Naturally I?had assumed this would involve sitting on one of those folding director's chairs, wearing headphones, and yelling at the extras not to eat in costume.
So as I headed to the farm at the crack of 1 p.m. (I thought musicians were night people?) with a bevy of sandwiches and water in tow I was ready to assist in whatever way possible, keeping my fingers crossed that maybe they'd need a guy in a green screen suit to yell at a tennis ball.
Within minutes of my arrival I received warm greetings, a round of introductions, and instructions that I and two strangers were to head into the woods and dig a shallow grave.
So, you know, in keeping with expectations.
And this is how I came to know Luke Armstrong and Haukur "Hek" Emil Kaaber. If that name doesn't make any sense to you it's perfectly understandable; I'm told it's pronounced "ahrm-strawng."
We were told that the grave was for Tom Hoy, Julianne's guitar player and apparent victim in this horror-themed music video. Wanting for a workman's tune to whistle we headed down the path, shovels and spades in hand.
It was somewhere in hour two of grave digging, after the roots and the rocks but before you really hit the clay, that Hek proposed the idea that if the mob was going to make you dig your own grave you should just let them shoot you.
This was not the first time I had pondered this thought, as I often wonder what will happen not if but rather when I?am assassinated by the mafia.
I just always thought it would go down that way. I assume that I'm going to be mistaken for a high level hitman gone rogue, or they're taking me out on orders from Putin who's mad for not being in the column lately.
Putin: Stop invading countries and we can hang out again. Until then you can bow hunt polar bears by yourself.
With the grave dug to what we considered an acceptable depth we made our way back to the house for much deserved water and sitting, peacefully, without digging anything.
I wish I could tell you what was happening at the rest of the video shoot, but I have no idea. Since most shows, movies and music videos are filmed out of sequence you just see bits and pieces without any cohesive grasp of the final product.
This meant that we would see Julianne walk by, then walk by again a while later in different clothes, then walk by later still in wild makeup, and occasionally see Tom walk up to the house with the look in his eye of a man recently murdered, wordlessly smoke half a cigarette, stamp it out, take a drink of water and head back to the shoot.
So myself, Luke and Hek were left to our own devices until our services were again needed. Naturally we started talking, which means that we inevitably started talking about Hitler.
Turns out Godwin's law is applicable in the real world, too.
But this was less a critique of fascist politics or of 20th century military history; rather this was about men's facial hair.
To my bearded readers: After an extended period of beard-dom, and during your first full shave in months/years, do you or do you not shave your mustache down to what is commonly known as the Hitler Mustache?
Of course you do, or at least you have.
Hitler is the only person in history so evil that he destroyed a style of facial hair. Just think about it: There is a way you can cut the hair under your nose that will very likely get you beaten up by strangers. And the strangers will be considered heroes.
Michael Jordan grew a Hitler mustache once. Even Mr. "Space Jam" couldn't pull that style out of its death roll.
I'm not saying that it's a good style of stache; it looks like your nose is casting a very distinct shadow. But every beardo I?know has done it once, just for a moment in front of the mirror, because they want to know what they look like in the ludicrously/understandably monikered "forbidden mustache."
The day ended, as you would imagine, eating at the Meskwaki Bingo & Casino in the middle of the night, talking about Burt Reynolds movies.
Do I know how the video turned out? No; but the director and his cinematographer looked happy and Julianne and Tom were excited with the end product, so that all bodes well.
So, if you're off to shoot a music video soon, just remember the three unassailable truths I learned on set:
1: Stretch before you dig
2: Just let the mob shoot you
3: Don't grow a Hitlerstache.
Words to live by.
Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.