Loaded Fer Bear, Ain’t We All?!

What Mama’d say, was she alongside,  and thank the Good Lord in Hallowed Heaven she ain’t, is when you got something in your headlights not particular to your likin’, why, just look at it like a journey ‘cross a bridge.  A journey cross a bridge.  Ain’t no rights, no lefts, no maybes, no turnin’ ’round, just a journey ‘cross a bridge.

Well, what me’n Marie-France had lying up there in front of us somewhere’s, you can be dang sure it wasn’t to my likin’.  Though, truth be told, my neck was prickly and i was breathin’ with my mouth open, like some dang fool.

But on up there, beyond that line o’ ashes and maples, Marie-France had hid herself a prisoner.  Tol’ me she’d right tied his leg to the biggest ol’ tree she could find.  Tol’ me he nigh on busted a gut a’laughin’ but let her go on and do it.

Feller ain’t never tangled with one o’ Marie-Frances’ double loop, triple switch nooses.  Especially one where, once it’s tight,  she squeezes her face into a prune, then nails that knot,  spittn’ with all the vim and vigor and verve she’s got.

She’s got a lot.

I hid myself my own faint grin.  Could o’ tol’ him he wudn’t goin’ nowhere.

Marie-France, pluggin’ persistant along to my left, why,  she never could leave a thing alone.  Wudn’t no give up in her.  Stomping high through the tall grass, never mind the sticktights a’stickin’ tight to her saggy socks, she had her that “gotta get me to the other side” look.  She never once didn’t see a thing through.  Couldn’t spell “sassafrass?”  Practiced it at the breakfast table, at the lunch table, at the dinner table, and in her prayers.  Can’t tame that wild buck her big brother Macon brung home as rodeo winnin’s?  Rode and fell and rode and fell and rode and fell till her arms and legs and side of her head was plum black and blue and scratched and maimed.  Horse finally felt sorry for her,  or else had enough, I reckon.  He give it up after ’bout a week.  She still rides him to this day to school come springtime.  And he waits, untethered, till she appears to let him take her back home. 

But now, this situation we got here, don’t this beat all?

“I kept him here three days, Luce!  I been bringin’ him supper from the dinner scraps.  You know Malene, she eats like a burned bird, and Paul and Prescott, I traded them marble money to snitch me seconds under the table.”

Then, lookin’ aside, a touch reddened, “Left him a bucket and an old Sears Roebuck so’s he could do his business. too.”

Well, now, I couldn’t hardly hold it in, not one minute more.  My guffaw burst out my gullet like a horn!

“You takin’ care of his personal issues, there, Marie-France?  Well, ain’t you just the best hostess this side the Mississippi!”

I’ll allow I deserved the quick kick in the shins she give me, but banter did lighten the load, just a middlin’ mite.

And now, here we are, just to the edge of the sunny meadow.  We stop up short, lookin’ unseein’ at the deep green shadows what borders our next step.  Me and Marie-France, we’re gatherin’ ourselves before we focus and peer in to see. 

For one more step, we come to the end of the bridge.

Yep, Loaded Fer Bear!



“Well, Hell, Luce,I didn’t mean to!”  Marie-France with her short little Michelwait legs couldn’t no way in keep pace with me, her a’hop, skip, and a’jumpin’ just to stay close.  We was moving quick like, through the long stickly grasses of the meadow other side the bridge.  “It’s not like I set out to catch me my own German Nazi son of a gun!  But now I got him, what in tarnation do I DO with ‘im?

My head was fair buzzin’.  Had me a sudden vision from one o’ them film strips what come to the County Library some time back. Feller named Picasso painted all sorts o’ nonsense, points and people and sick horses, all drippin’ with colors and confusin’ the daylights outta me.  That’s how my mind was lookin’ right now.  Like them paintin’s, maybe I was jest lookin’ at ’em from the wrongways angle, but I couldn’t figure neither out with ease.

So, like ever’thing else in my way, ‘stead of studyin’ the proper way around, I jest pointed my head forwards and headed right on through.

Which blessed me with yet one more headache,  more often than not.

“Oh, quit ‘cher whinin’, Marie-France, ” I tossed back her way, “What’s done is done did.  What we got to do is sort out just what to do now.”  

We was gainin’ on the treeline just ahead, and where cousin Marie-France had herself a lean-to hidey hole for readin’ and makin’ daisy chains and what have you.  ‘Tol me that’s just where she’d stashed her Nazi man.

“He’s next to near a boy his ownself!” she’d claimed more’n once, but who could ever tell.  I’d brung along Grandpap’s buggy rifle just in case.  Had it stuck in my boot and half way up my dress jest to get past Mama.  Gave me more’n a little hitch in my get-along but I still had Marie-France two strides to one.

“What’d’you think we’ll do when we get there, Luce?  You got a plan?”

I squinted back toward the sun,  lowerin’ slow in the afternoon sky.

“You say you been a’takin’ him dinner and such for now on three days and he ain’t run yet?”

She stopped still in her tracks.  Lord, I wanted to keep on movin’ but I needed the answer more.

Hands to hips, “I TOL’ you, Luce, he promised!  He promised to stay put ’til I could figure a way out this perdicament.”

Then, gol dang if she didn’t remind me, “You promised, too, Luce, you did, you know it!  You promised not to turn him in nor me neither!  You solemn sweared before Jesus, Luce, no lies, no crosses, no nothin’!”

Now why’d I go and do such a stupid, bumble-headed thing like that?  But Marie-France, she knowed me too well, and while yes, I’m a durned good liar, best I know, once I swear before Jesus, I’m done for.  I could just feel the air go outta my balloon.  Marie-France, knowin’ she’d won this round, bore her glistenin’ eyes through mine.  

“Look,” her voice low, “Maybe there’s some way we could get some information outta him, like war plans and such.  We could hogtie ‘im then drip drops o’cool water on his head ’til it drove him just this side o’crazy.  He’d answer all our questions right now jest to get us to stop!   Why, think of it, Luce!  We’d be heroes!  They’d likely be even a parade in our honor and we could ride on a float and wave at folks and have them wave back!  We’d like to even get a day ‘er two off from school for interviews and picture-takin’!”

She was settin’ to roll, face flushin’,  eyes lookin’ dizzy off to the distance.  “Jest think, they might’n even name a schoolhouse after us. Or a milkshake!”

Reckon we’d gone one furlong too far.  I shook my head.

“Marie-France.  Lissen to yerself.  What we got here is a feller, true, I’ll ‘low an enemy of our beloved nation feller.  He ain’t been doin’ nothin’ but raisin’ taters in a gravel hole for nigh on a year.  Whatever he got in his head, even if was worth somethin’ once, it’s long ago done and over with.”  Her face , though turned to mine, only lost just a shimmy of hope.

She’d done landed herself a precious commodity and would not in no way be obliged to give it up willingly and without a set to.  Marie-France, while a mite smaller, was one worthy adversary, bein’ full of tricks and thiev’ry her ownself.  

Finders keepers.  We’d use her rules for the time bein’.

We’d just see if her prisoner had stayed stuck in his hidey hole, waitin’ for the master o’ his fate.  And his dinner.  

‘Cause while I brung me a buggy rifle, Marie-France, she swung a bucket o’ leftover fried chicken with some drippin’s gravy for soppin’.

My head was fixin’ to hurt.





Still Loaded fer Bear!

See, this is how it was.  

We wudn’t s’posed to notice the buildin’ and carryin’ on out the road to the quiet ol’ quarry.  

We wudn’t s’posed to care they was trucks haulin’ who knows what to and fro down them lonesome dirt tracks.

We wudn’t s’posed to wake when the train come in silent, no toots, no lights ’round midnight.

Nor the sand colored canvas covered transports a’waitin’, then drivin’ off “follow the leader” style, headlamps shaded.

And leavin’ tracks.

We wudn’t even s’posed to pay note of our very own neighbors jumping off ol’ school buses, what used to holler “Hey!” but now just tipped their hats and moved on quick to their own transport home.


But see, this is how it is.

Me and Liam and Marie-France, we seen them trucks and heard the poundin’ echosed soft ‘cross the valley and hightailed it stealth-like right on out to the ol’ quarry.  We know ever’ back track and deer trail this side o’ the county line.  This was child’s play.  We was on the hunt.

And sure enough, we found ourselves something!  Somethin’ secret and one worth keepin’.  Deep down in the bottom of the ol’ quarry, abandoned since the war begun, somethin’ near to a small city was bein’ erected.  Scurryin’ like aints with they paints a’fire, there was men, soldiers, our fellers, sweatin’ to who laid a chunk, swingin’ hammers, diggin’ holes, and a’pullin’  up walls like it was a mass barn raisin’ like them Quakers over to Jamesport.  From what we could see, they’d planted themselves twelve or so long barracks, couple of houses, and some square buildin’s lookin’ to house machinery and hard tellin’ what else.  All surrounded with a high fence, topped with jagged-edged barbed war.  

I’d lost me a battle ‘r two tanglin’ with that stuff.   Won me a couple, too.  Callin’ it even suited me just fine.

O’course, once on the scent, me and Liam and Marie-France, we was like a dog gone to ground.  Without the bayin’ and whoopin’.   We’d done caught the bug!   We figured us a plan and follered some o’ them trucks down the dirt tracks.   Never did know a thing, them fellers.  We snooped and snuck, even sneakin’ and peekin’ under them canvas covers.  Why, they was not only takin’ in buildin’ materials and fencin’ but supplies and weaponry! We was purely giddy with the joy of our find!

Me and Liam and Marie-France, we felt right important.  And we swore, bein’ good American citizens like we was, we’d never ever, upon threat of death or starvation, tell nobody, not ever, this side of eternity.  But we snuck out reg-lar, come late night, jest to watch the train slide in the depot, then to count the tall, skinny fellers led to the trucks in ankle chains and the like.  Didn’t nobody ever make a noise nor give a di-rection, not us o’course, but not nobody else neither.  I’ll admit I got jest a little itchy, ‘spectin’ some self-important feller with a big ol’ solemn voice to begin explainin’ the situation, like in them newsreels down to the Old Pladium The-ater in town. (Liam lays the sign maker mispelled the name.  Knowin’ Liam, I’d lay wages he’s right.)

And o’course, now we was fully engaged on just what the hay was goin’ on, why, we’d chat up them neighbors what worked out to the camp, fer what we reckoned was doggone saucy wages, jest to watch ’em squirm.

“How was yer day?” we’d ask right sweet, “Life treatin’ you good?  How’s the family?  That a new ve-hicle I seen you drivin’?”

“Smart Alec kids” they’d say later, grumblin’.

“Durned right!” we’d say later, grinnin’.

Well, that went on fer quite a spell.  We spied and we tracked and we watched and we speculated.  Till we plumb wore out the fun of it all.  What it was was this.  We’d captured our fair share of the enemy, plucked ’em off the battlefield ‘stead of pickin’ ’em off the battlefield.  We call ourselves a God-fearin’ nation, after all.  Then we brung they sorry selves to the durned dead-center of our world.

And put them suckers to work.

And here they been for ’bout nearly one full year, a’plantin’ and  a’growin’ and harvestin’ potatoes.  Back-breakin’ work.  Soul-breakin’ work.  There couldn’t possibly be no love lost betwixt them what did the work and they what watched.  

Still, we didn’t never hear no si-reens go off.  And to tell the Lord’s truth,  watchin’ them fellers toilin’,  bent over in the hot sun pickin’and pluckin’ tore at my insides ever’ so often.  

And somehow, that didn’t sit right, neither.

Our visits slowed to the speed of Aunt Madge’s molasses.  Which, if you know Aunt Madge’s molasses,  don’t come out the jar a’tall.  

And me and Liam and Marie-France, we just went back to livin’.

Till Marie-France went and captured herself a prisoner, that is.



Loaded fer Bear!

Don’t matter much who I am, but who I AM!

So let’s get down to partic’lars….

My name, first and last and middle, though not in that order, is Lucille Mary Magdalene Goodwell.  And if you were to call me anything but Luce you would feel my wrath.   I am loaded for bear near all the time, ‘less I got my nose in a book, and don’t give a rat’s be-hind who cares or who don’t.  Don’t make me popular, but it shore gives me respect and a place at the table.

I live with my family of too many children and too many horses and too many chickens, and just enough love and care if them things light yer fire.  I land somewheres in the middle, at fourteen years and some months.  We got kin cross the county and beyond and I can near whoop ’em all, least the all but the a-dults, and them I reckon I could take, too.  I got uncles in the war in Germany and and some in Japan and would give my eye teeth and my hound dog to be there alongside one day.   Our dirt farm lies durned near dead center of God’s U-nited States and if I cain’t fight to protect her, seein’ as I was born a girl,  I reckon I’ll be satisfied for the time bein’ at jest bein’ right proud.

I got the short end o’ the stick when it come to looks. My hair frizzes out its braids, my nose is splattered with freckles, my eyes changes colors on a whim.  But I can purt-near run faster, climb higher, and strike faster than plumb anyone else in these parts, and frankly, I scare the daylights outta most ever youngster this side o’ Kansas City.  I’m smarter and slyer than anyone else in these parts, lest you consider little brother Liam and cousin Marie-France.  Liam, though, he’s one of them thoughtful types, always lookin’ at situation from this side and that.  And Marie-France, she knows she’s clever and ain’t shy in lettin’ folks know.  And there-in lays they downfall.  I perfer stealth.  And a strong right cross.

For what it’s worth, I am also an accomplished liar, and can switch from truth to untruth then back again ‘thout blinkin’ an eye. Doubt you nor anybody else can discern the diff-rnce.

So when Marie-France told me her secret, that she’d run across then’d tucked away a excaped German from over to the POW camp other side o’ the county,  me’n her, we knew the days ahead would be a shy piece diff’rnt from them lying behind.

Come Hell ‘r High Water

(Slow down, now, nothin’s so pressing as the need to calm your insides.)

“Miz Meadow?  Miz Meadow, ma’am?”  Figured next I’d be a’shoutin’ if she didn’t come back to the land of the livin’ right quick.

We was only halfway through the math-a-matics problem on the blackboard up front when sure if she didn’t jest start glazin’ over sideways, eyeballs trained on somethin ‘r other out the window.  Nothin’ out there I could see but the soggy gray winter day.  Now if they was dancin’ flowers ‘r a whipporwill was a’whippin’ or willin’, it’d be a differ’nt story.   Lately, though, her thinkin’ was takin’ over her doin’.

I’ll admit it worries me some.

Now Miss Meadow, she’s been our solo teacher down to the schoolhouse for comin’ up three, no, four years all told.  She come in fresh from Teacher’s College up Des Moines way, wide-eyed scared like a beaded on deer.  She growed up other side of the state, says she, near the Mississippi. Always said she’d accepted this here post as she’d always wanted to see the world. ‘N then she’d giggle like some little pigtailed girl.  Rest of us give a snort, too, seein’ we’d a hard time believin’ Denton Country, Missouri qualified.

Give us all a good laugh ever’ time.

Now she might o’ looked near young enough to be one o’ us kids, but she shore took hold of the reins and settled us all down proper. Miss Meadow, she come up to speed right quick, winnin’ us over right now, earnin’ respect from all us kids, takin’ no guff from the bigger boys what was always trouble, and teachin’ us somethin’ along the way, to boot.  That she was a looker, always with some shiny lipstick and brighter than normal cheekbones give folks down to the church some pause, but she didn’t never once come across as better’n anybody, nor smarter, nor worth more neither.  And she wudn’t no floozy. No, sir.  She never once danced with nobody’s husband at the county mixers, nor none of the cowboys what come to town for the rodeo.   Some o’ us students would razz her ever so often to sing a ditty here n’ there, as she’d never hesitated to sing and play the piana down to the school.  But no, Miss Meadow seemed satisfied enough to choose the vinyls for Councilman McComb’s record player, studyin’ them careful before makin’ a selection. She was also real good at fillin’ empty cups with punch.

Truth is, once the new wore off, Miss Meadow settled into being just a real fine teacher, a reg’lar ripsnorter when she was educatin’ and instructin’. She fairly lives fer doin’ plays and quotin’ Shakespeare, wavin’ her arms and durned near cryin’ real tears when it’s called for.  Normal days, she’s a firecracker, a’Skippin’ to the Loo with the youngsters, guidin’ us bigger ones around and through sonnets and gee-ometry, fendin’ off the wisecracks of Butch and them what sit along the back wall, and plumb ignorin’ the odd belch or tippy tap of a pencil.

And then, come the end o’ teachin’ duties or school board meetin’s or spellin’ tournaments,  she becomes an ever’day simple citizen ever’ other hour o’ ever’ other day.  She says please and thank you polite-like to ever’one.  I’m a witness.  She even tries a chat with crotchety ol’ Mr. Conaughay who don’t do nothin’ but sniff and nod, but Miss Meadow, she don’t quit.  She carries a purty little basket down to the store where she buys odds and ends and supplies for the hotplate she keeps in her attic room, the one she rents from ol’ Miss Oglethorpe, the county librarian and part time she-devil.

I’ll deny to the death I ever said that. My library card is durned near one o’ my most heavenly treasures.

Facts is facts, though, and we, all o’us,  run scared of Miss Oglethorpe, let me tell you.  Pointy nose, bristles for hair, icy blue eyes could bore a hole clean through your head.  But not Miss Meadow. She never showed no fear whatsoever. Or at least she never let on. Not one iota. Truth be told, she warmed that ol’ biddy right up, makin’ her cookies and surprising the ol’ battle-ax by arrangin’ all them stacks of books in her parlor alphabetically by author and subject.

That’s nearin’ sainthood.

‘Course, the ol’ thing ain’t never let on to anybody else she has a heart.  Me, I just leave her be, mindin’ my own beeswax.

So these last couple weeks, ugly ones even for Northern Missouri and Denton County winters, when Miss Meadow’s sunny disposition faded and she began exhibitin’ unnormal behavior, most figured it was the “gray haze.”  ‘Round here come dead o’ winter, sky’s gray, dirt roads is gray, what snow we got’s gray, houses and barns and outhouses is all gray.  It ain’t no surprise our thinkin’ turns gray ever’ once in a while.  Why, even Miss Meadow’s.

Trouble is now, Miss Meadow, she’s even lookin’ gray her ownself,  right peak-ed, little green around the gills.  She don’t hum, nor let her eyes light up like they used to do.  She allows a sad little smile now and again, aimed ‘specially to the younger ones in the desks up front,  though even her shiny lipstick don’t make the smile any more genu-ine nor pleasin’.

What troubles me most is the way she’s been a’starin’ off out the window, like somehow she hears the whisper of a hope, a trace of anticipation crosses her brow.  But then, it dies away just as quick-like, her brow troubled and eyes fogged, like when a dream what gets interrupted just before the happy endin’.

An unhealthy state of affairs, if you was to ask me.

Ain’t nobody else down to the school really noticed, from what I can tell, ‘cept for me and big sister Luce and cousin Marie-France.  Three of us ’bout as close as close can be, age-wise and otherwise.  Back when we was kids, we even swore to be forever blood kin, then swore we’d never tell Mama nor Aunt Ellis we swore.  We been givin’ each other the skinny eyeball off’n on ever’ time we catch Miss Meadow fade.

Fact is, sister Luce laid claim to bein’ the first to mention the situation out loud.

“Liam?  Liam!”  Come lunchtime few days past, Luce hissed down at me from her hide-y hole up in the ol’ empty bell tower, the one toppin’ the schoolhouse vestibule. (Bell’s long gone, though. Hit the metal scrap pile for the war effort ‘couple years back.)

Scared the bejeebers outta me, like always, but I wouldn’t dare let on.  Gives her too much joy.  I peered up through the dust, saw her wispy braids a hanging down ‘fore I saw her dusty mug.

“Liam?  What’s got into Miss Meadow?  Her brain’s done ate up!  Maybe it’s brain maggots!”

That ‘ppeared to give her joy, as well.  Now, whether it was true or not, I don’t take kindly to nobody sayin’ nothin’ bad ’bout Miss Meadow, even if there is a shadow o’truth to it.

“Don’t say that, Luce.  That just ain’t nice.”

“Don’t you go tellin’ me what I cain’t and cain’t not say!”  And with that, she grabbed both sides of the wooden edging around the hole in the ceiling, swinging her whole self through her arms, and landed just like that, right in front of me, puttin’ her nose near to touchin’  mine.

“I think we got us a puzzle, hey, Liam?  What d’you say?  Ain’t you even curious ’bout what’s goin’ on there?”

She squinted hard, scrunchin’ and wrinklin’ her grumbly face, ” Don’t you tell me you ain’t seen it.  Starin’ off into the neverland, payin’ no attention to them wiseacres mouthin’ off back of the room, forgettin’ to erase the board before them pop quizes she favors so.  You and me both can fair smell it when somethin’s up.  Mary-France, too, I’ll reckon.”

I had to admit, deep down in the lowest, sludgiest parts o’ my gizzard, she was speakin’ true.  Miss Meadow, she’d got herself rattled by something.

And in that same deep down sludge of my inside, I reckoned we owed it to her somehow, to help her see it through.

That, and Luce and me and Mary-France, we loves us a good obscurity, and the solution what followed.

I took the bait.

Just like Luce knew I would do.


Come Hell ‘R High Water

(Take the load off, set back real far, near to tippin’.  Now don’t that feel good?  Deep cleansin’ breath ‘r two and you’re near there.  Time ticks slow when you let it.

Let it.  Tick slow.  Yeah, jest like that.)



See here, jest because we, us Goodwells, resides at the bottom of the hill don’t mean we don’t look up top and remember, leastways Grandpap and Daddy, when we was livin’ high on the hog and high on the hill.  Them purty green hillsides, a’rollin’ and a’dippin’, why, they was Goodwell lands back when Grandpap was a mite spritelier and a little less gray-topped than he is today.  Wars and depressions and dust storms and plagues like Egypt ate away at the edges till there just wudn’t no more.

But like Grandpap, we Goodwells, we’re stalwarts and look to the hills and know deep down what the Good Lord done taken away, he can giveth back in a blink of an eye.  And all us Goodwells, we’re believers.  And we labor to prove it, to God and our neighbors and our ownselves.  Down to the youngest of us kids, down to our very toes.  God’s gifts come free, but we aim to prove we’re worthy.

And, to do the contrary leans toward one o’ them Seven Deadly Sins, the sin of sloth and lazyhood.    And Lord knows, we ain’t sinners.  Not by choice.

Lord knows, too, there is always work to be done.  Secretly, we count our blessin’s notin’ we may reside and toil at the bottom of the mountain, but we give silent thanks we ain’t livin’ like our cousins, the Mickelwaits, who cast their lot in the bottomlands sunk lower than the river ‘cross town.  Floods rise to greet them more often than not, and livin’ with that certainty sure can take the joy outta most ever’thing else.

‘Course, we don’t never ever say that out loud.

We’re family.

And this week, sure as shootin’, one of them blamed storms upstream, from which we received nary a drop of moisture from our too blue skies, swelled and roared and shot that durned river out it’s banks AGAIN!

AGAIN, says I!

And AGAIN, here I am, in mud smellin’ of rotted taters and dotted with bloated fish bellies clean up to my knees, a’shovelin’ and a’mixin mud and straw for yet a new levee to protect the Mickelwait’s house and home.  They’d do the same fer us.  We bein’ kin and all.  And frankly, with our Daddy and Grandpap doin’ side jobs fer our houseguest, that and makin’ and distributin’ ‘shine come nightfall, besides farmin’ and plowin’ and buildin’ and silver-smithin’,  we do rely on each other for protection and safe harbor.

I reckon it all come’s out even in the worsh, anyhow.

Don’t make me much mind now, though.  I’ll be stinkin’ of river mud fer days.  ‘Cain’t even jump in the river for a dousin, as the river’s what’s causin’ my ailment.  Now, normal when the rains come and we’re out here shorin’ up the leaks in last season’s levee, ‘r last month’s, we cain’t even smell ourselves no more.

This time, though, this foul odor is fairly a fog and I stink to high heaven, near to gaggin’ myself.  Stunk so much last night, I could barely breath, much less slumber.  Multiply that by my two older brothers sawin’ logs, ignorin’ they own stench, I determined myself to do somethin’.  Snuck this very mornin’ in big sister Livie’s room she shares with my other big sister Luce, found me some sweet smellin’ stuff in a silly bottle with a pink bow and sprayed it on my fresh laundered bandana Mama give me at breakfast.  Went straight to Livie’s kit, I did,  seein’ as she’s 15 and fair to middlin’ when it comes to looks.  Hear tell, she’s even some fellers sweet on her.  Seein’ as she’s my sister,  that just gives me the heebiejeebies.  Now Luce, her kit’s filled with fishin’ worms and buckshot so I knowed where NOT to look.

Smelled right purty, did I, little like MaryBeth Satterstrom next town over, and I hid me a smile.  Last time she sashayed past me at a mixer down to the schoolhouse, I near to fainted over dead from the waft trailin’ after.

Come mid-mornin’, though,  sun up and doin’ it’s best to fry my hair clean from my head, that scent and near the memory was fadin’ fast.  Flies was buzzin’ my ears and my eyes.  Mud I inbibed yesterday was sweatin’ out through all my pores.  I looked thisaway and that, up and down our bank of the ex-caped river.  My big brothers Lincoln and Lawrence, my big cousins Macon and Martin and Mitt, couple o’ hired hands, Grandpap and Daddy and Uncle Sedg and some men from couple farms downstream, ain’t a one farin’ any better.  We was red and gray mudmen stem to stern, in an’ out and upside and down.

And the day’d just only begun.

Truth be told, when I wasn’t bent double hoistin’ shovels full of filth and stench, I felt real bad for Uncle Sedg.  Plantin’ been done.  Little clover sprigs, bright green with promise, popped up in neat little rows atop neat little mounds of rich Missouri river soil.  Weedin’ and fertilizin’ all been kept pace and the fields purtin’near guaranteed a plumb satisfactory harvest.

Now, with all that healthy river soil worshed downstream and likely on to the delta down by Mexico, and with barely time this summer to get a growin’ season in a’tall, Uncle Sedge,  he’d be forced to replant,  borry’n money for seed, workin’ the fields, him and the boys, and me, by daylight and nightlight,  hopin’ for the smallest of harvest to sell enough to see them through to next spring.

Workin’ from behind was somethin’ Uncle Sedg had done right often, bein’ he’d chose the bottoms ‘stead of the mountain top.

And we, all us Goodwells,  we worked right alongside.

‘Cause, after all, we was family.