“Don’t That Beat All!” (musin’s, confusin’s, refusin’s and elocusions of a country boy)

“This Little Light o’Mine”

 

This here’s Liam.  I reckon you all know by now I’m Liam Goodwell.  Of the Denton County Missouri, USA Goodwells.

And I s’pose by now I’m liable to be a’callin’ you all friends.  I reckon, too, you all know plenty ’bout me and mine and I shore hope I ain’t skeert none o’you away.  But seein’ as the good Lord give we Goodwells been a fine and high-mindedly good road in this world, with ad-ventures poppin’ up here and yonder, well, I figured somewhere on down the line, folks might jest find them an amusin’ and inter-estin’ dinner table talk-em’up.

And truth be told, I jest don’t want these here ol’ stories and memories and thoughts and colors and flashes and tweeks and what all to float away like them dandeline puffballs with tick tock time a’passin’.

Shore sounds pre-suptious o’ me, don’t it.

Why, I ain’t nothin’ if I ain’t humble.  B

But I digress.

Now, to anybody deignin’ to pay attention to my rattlin’s on, I don’t claim to have me no special powers, ‘ceptin’ maybe my mean fastball.  Miss Meadow, down to the school, she’ll tell me a’gin and a’gin how my thinkin’ paths and my word sortin’ is a sight to behold, ‘cept o’course, unless she got her special sight, she’d be a listenary, not a visionary.

Still, ’twas her give me these notebooks this summer, encouragin’ me to write what ever dusted itself ‘cross my thoughts.  I hope to heaven she’ll like what I writ here.

If I see fit to let her take a look.

Well, they’s lots of stories left untold, ‘enough to fill the holler out to the back forty, I reckon.  Tales still needin’ tyin’ up in a bow, as well.

Looks clear to my mind, I reckon Miss Meadow, she had herself one o’them ul-terior motives.  ‘Stead o’ a chore, this here tale tellin’, why, I feelin’ right shore down to my dirty toes in my hand-me-down holey boots this here exercise, it jest might itself be a callin’.

So them yarns needin’ spun?  Them endin’s needin’ writ?  Well, let’s jest say I ain’t plannin’ on puttin’ down this pencil any time soon.

And I got me ex-trees, besides.

 

So Miss Meadow, if you’re a readin’ this, if I get up enough gumption to ‘llow you to pee-reuse these pages, I hope I’m a doin’ you proud.

 

“This Little Light o’Mine?  I’m goin’ t’let it shine.  Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”

 

Amen and amen and durned tootin’.

*************

 

 

 

 

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“Don’t That Beat All!” (Musin’s and refusin’s of a country boy)

“Feet o’Clay”

Hey, do, this here’s Liam Goodwell, once a’gin and over ‘n over.

 

So there exists this sayin’, how when some feller r’other gets his comeuppin’s, bein’ a titch too high and mighty and too big fer his britches, well, when he gets hisself brought down to earth, it’s said that feller has him “feet o’clay.”   They’s actually a story I learnt in Sunday School down to the church ’bout King Nebbudneezer buildin’ a statue of hisself, makin’ it strong and sure from gold and silver and bronze and ‘arn, but then durned if he didn’t make them feet from mixin’ in ‘arm shavin’s with some clay.

Now, it don’t take much daylight in the attic to re-con-ize them feet ain’t built to hold up nothin’ fer very long, seein’ a good hard rain or a bad pitched rock’d bring it down, no time.

So when it come to the most hallowed, in his own mind, Reverend Lyle P.T. Wendzel, I seen it clear.  Here’d be a man what built hisself up to be revered and beloved and pitched up on a pedestal by the good saints of ever’ God-lovin’ community he seen fit to deposit hisself into.  And I’m even reckonin’ ain’t much left regardin’ the connivin’, as he’d plumb convinced hisself as well as the saints.  Figurin’ he deserved all them accolades and offerin’s tossed his way.

Well, this here boy, that’d be me Liam Goodwell, thought diff-ernt.  An idear smeared with sparks and rainbows landed right smack in my head on the long sleepy drive back home to Denton County and the Goodwell land outside Halesburg.

Knowin’ what I knowed, I determined it was my God-given duty as a God-lovin’ believer my ownself to show this underhanded feller fer what he really is.  A wrong-doin’ mis-creant with a heart black as tar and words as slick as the muck slimed over the pond on the back forty.

Plumb lookin’ forward to it, too.

Well, feignin’ sleep the two r’ three hours we was crammed jammed in the pickup headin’ home, I managed to avoid that Brother Weasel (forgive me, Lord, it’s jest too durned easy) near the whole way.  ‘Cept fer once.  I slipped me a clandes-stine look from under my lashes and sure ‘nough, his inky eyes was aimed right at me.

Shiverin’, I went back to a’playin’ ‘possum.  Served me well fer the trip’s duration.  May have slept some, too, but I cain’t say fer sure, seein’ as I cain’t remember.

Once we turned up the dirt lane to the top of the little rise where the Goodwells lay they heads, the sun was clean up and blazin’ hot, even fer a summertime mornin’.  The winder’s in the International was down, and like a hound, Lawrence was leanin’ his head out, gulpin’ in the homebred air and swirlin’ dust, besides.

Now, you’d think he was comin’ home a conquerin’ hee-ro!  Mama and Lincoln and Luce and Livvie and Loreen and the twins, Lawton and Lincoln, and a passel o’cousins from over to the river bottoms, they was lined up on the front porch wavin’ and shoutin’ fer joy!

Lawrence beamed.

Wudn’t these here unpleasant doin’s more of a excapade than a ad-venture?  And wudn’t big brother Lawrence the cause of pain and torture and hours of black night drivin’ and hours set in a jail cell, both him and Grandpap?  And didn’t we suffer the vile and blackhearted bile of that scoundrel ol’ Judge Jacobs’mar all due to the illegalities and trangressions of said big brother?

Didn’t make him no nevermind.  This is how it went with Lawrence.  He was a golden boy, inside and out.  All the love passed his way, why, he soaked it up, sure, then sent it right back.  That cain’t be all bad.

And there’s days I wooshed it worked fer me.   But it don’t.  So I move on.

Well, we fair tumbled back out the truck, Lawrence beset with kisses and hugs and Mama’s tears.  I secretly hoped he’d be gettin’ hisself SOME sort o’talkin’ to, seein’ as he did break the law, tryin’ to enlist and not even a growed man.  But the joy of the moment spread all the way to me, as I got a fair share of my own hugs and “attaboys.”  We was home our kin was circlin’ the wagons, like we Goodwells do.  I reckon that ought t’be enough.

Brother Wendzel did one decent thing, at least at the outset.  Stayin’ out of the lovin’ fray, he leaned back against the International, long legs crossed at the ankles, found hisself a toothpick and picked away, bearin’ witness to the whoopin’ and hollerin’ and back slappin’.  The dark part of my soul figured he was dicin’ and splicin’ some sermon ’bout the Prodigal Son, with Lawrence bein’ front and center of that story.  So be it.  We Goodwells was back intac’ and wudn’t much could take nothin’ ‘way from that fac’.

“I saved you boys some breakfast!”  Mama beamed.  Preparin’ a meal was the biggest and best gift she could give, and a whiff of what lay inside on the table testified to that.  Was that bacon AND sausage crossin’ my nose?  I reckoned she didn’t save us nothin’ but rather prepared and cooked and baked fer jest this moment!  We all, Daddy, Grandpap, Lawrence, and me, we all headed up the crickedy wood stairs to the porch, aimin’ our bows to-ward the kitchen.

“You, too, Brother Wendzel,”  Durn it all to Hades (don’t tell Mama).  Whiffs and wafts of breakfast done clouded my brain.  “You come on in, too!  You been such a comfort and help to all us through this time of tribulation.”  Mama touched her apron to her eyes.  “After this day and night jest passed, you’re near t’family.”

Oh, no he ain’t!

“You’ll be welcome in this house till the Lord comes!”

Oh, no he won’t!

“There’ll always be a seat at the Goodwell table for you, Brother Wendzel!”

Oh, no there will NOT!

He detached his slimy self from the truck, smiled real grateful at Mama, who wiped away yet another tear, and ambled to-ward the porch.  Meanness in his eyes changed that smile to an ugly leer when he come to me.

“Why, after you, Liam, after you.  I aim to set right beside ‘ye.  We’ll have us lots to talk about, you and me, I reckon.”

My quest weren’t goin’ t’be smooth.   Clear he knowed I knowed the evil residin’ within him.  Clear, too, the devil in him was devisin’ they own plan to checkmate me.

 

 

I deflated like a balloon.  My get up and go done got up and left.

This here feller’d feet o’clay and his heart was filled with cesspool sludge.

 

Biscuits and sausage gravy, though, they might help some.

 

**********

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Don’t That Beat All!” (musin’s and protusin’s of a country boy)

“Bite the Bullet”

 

This here’s Liam, Liam Goodwell, proud member of the Denton County Goodwells.

And I’m near plumb through with this here doc-u-mention.  I got me too many thoughts and feelin’s a’whirlin and a’swirlin’ ’round my cranium to set them all to paper.  Who the heck’s (don’t tell Mama!) got the time nor the wherewithall?

‘Course, Miss Meadow, down the school, she did put me up to it, and she did say she was a’countin’ on my par-ti-cipation in the exercise.

And Holy Heavenly Days, Lord knows I ain’t keen on disappointin’ Miss Meadow….

So here I am and reckon I ought t’ put the finishin’ touches on our midnight visit to A-dair County to retrieve big brother Lawrence from the bowels of the ju-dicial system lyin’ therein.

He talked his way out, like he’s wont to do.  And Grandpap, well, he talked his way in.  But then, if it don’t beat all, Lawrence, he talked Grandpap’s way out again, halleluhjah and praise be to Jesus!  Ol’ Lawrence, he’s good fer somethin’ after all!

Sun was jest slippin’ up over the shadowed hills yonder past the town square where we was waitin’ on the front steps of the courthouse.  Sleepy town wudn’t even stirrin’, even the judge and the sheriff and the state po-lice done said they goodbyes.  We was only us still left.  But we was all free, and glad of it.

I will admit to my stomach doin’ some odd complainin’ at its inattention.

That back home Daddy’d been summoned by yet another member of them what’s swore to perserve and pro-tect us, to haul hisself the three hours over to A-dair County in the middle of the night to save his kith and kin from whatever befell us,  well, let’s jest say that there’s what family does.  At least it’s shore what all us Goodwells does.

But time shore was a’marchin’ on by.

First time was spent  a’churnin’ over Lawrence’s runnin’ off to join the army.  At age sixteen.  We give that a good long span of spittin’ and hollerin’ and stompin’.

When we run out o’gas on that topic, we started in on Judge Jacobs’mar, how wudn’t he somethin’, and how he took the Lord’s name in vain and him claimin’ Christianity in his soul.  And how he threw hisself some kind of fit and throwed Grandpap down in the hoosegow his ownself.

This here spot’s where we opted to chose a new subject.  Still right raw in Grandpap’s view, we knowed better’n to get him all het up all over a’gin.

Well, then we summoned up stories how Grandpap knew so and so and did sech and sech, and he ain’t never seen the like, and so on and so forthwith.

That was all some time ago.  We run out of words.  We run out of gumption.  We was plumb runnin’ on empty.  All we desired, all us Goodwells, was jest to get on back home, however long it look.

These stone steps a’leadin’ into them hallowed governmental chambers, well, they left something to be desired theyselves.  Switched this a’way and that, leaned back on scraped elbows and Lawrence, he even laid clear down, flat o’his back.  Wudn’t nothin’ comf-terble longer’n a minute ‘r two.

So when Grandpap hollered “Hey!”  and pointed a crooked ol’ finger off down the road, we fair jumped out our britches!  Them two lights fer off down the line,  gettin’ brighter, why that was fer sure our Daddy come to save us and take us back to the land of milk and honey and Mama’s biscuits!

And fer sure, it was!  Daddy pulled right up purty as you please to the steps , brakin’ that International pickup him and Grandpap traded fer some time back real hard, leapin’ from the inside ‘fore the ve-hicle near come to a complete stop!

They was huggin’ and back slappin’ to who laid a chunk, ’cause that’s what we Goodwells do when we got us somethin’ to celebrate.  And right this here minute, we had us bushels to celebrate!  Big brother Lawrence been saved from military prison fer enlistin’ as an under-ager, Grandpap been saved from prison his ownself fer mouthin’ off to a cranky and ornery judge, and me, I was celebratin’ this night o’horrors was past and we’d be on the road straight away.

It did take us some time to simmer down.  We is Goodwells, after all.  Well, finally, it ‘ppeared time to turn that pickup’s nose back home.  Lawrence offered to drive us all, feelin’ contrite, as well he should.  But given his recklessness is what got us in this per-dicament, and given he ain’t got no license to drive, well, we took us a quick vote and Grandpap, he was chose to take the wheel.

My heart was full, and I was singin’ quiet praises to our Good Lord on High, so when I swung the side door of the truck open, I near to fell down dead.

Ol’ Brother Wendzel, weasly evangelist been fer weeks bringin’ down glory in Revival down to the church, why there he sit, ugly mug a leerin’ from ear to weasly ear.

“Well, hey, there, Liam,” his low voice slid slippery and slick, “Been a whall since we seen you at church, boy.  Where you been hidin’, Son?”

That this here is the feller who’d be stealin’ from the offerin’ basket, (I eavesdropped down to the Feed and Seed, so I am fer certain), that this here is the feller who’d be per-tendin’ to be holy and wise, that this here feller ‘ppeared to in-sin-uate hisself into the private and personal business of the Goodwells and show up with Daddy on this night of all nights, well, that there was the last straw what broke the back of the camel.

Time’d come.  Time’d come.

I reckon the Good Lord done plopped this vexation in my lap and here I must draw the line and speak my piece to this feller per-tendin’ to be God’s man.  Fixin’ to say my bit, I opened my mouth wide, vicious words of lamblast-ation linin’ up to be spoke, fists clenched and ears burnin’ like far.

Then what? big brother Lawrence, he give me a hard back shove,  “Get on in, Liam, let’s get on down the line!” and I tumbled headlong into the truck, squooshed right up along side this here affrontation to my spiritual bein’.  Four us fellers packed in tight, like baby chicks what come in the mail.

Well, I figured the Lord was a’speakin’ to my heart once again.  I’d bide my time.

 

Time’d come.  It would.  Time’d come.

But it wudn’t now.

And that bullet what we’s s’posed to bite when we’s holdin’ back?  Well, consider that bullet bit.

 

And it shore don’t taste like nothin’ but blue black metal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Don’t That Beat All!” (musin’s and confusin’s of a country boy)

Ode to Miss Meadow

 

 

Liam had him a big ol’ brother,

His hair was yeller as the sun.

And ever’where that brother went,

He couldn’t do no wrong, that son of a gun.

 

This here one time, he was put in jail,

His arms and legs in metal shackles.

When what to the wonderin’ eye did ‘ppear?

Bunch o’Po-lice set him free, a whole packal!

 

Fed him they lunches, tossed him a pop,

Chortled at his jokes and his wit,

Me, I jest stood at the side, in awe and wonder,

And ’twas plumb put out enough to spit.

 

For flounderin’ alone in the cold and the dark,

In the dank and the damp of the cellar,

Was Grandpap, who’d raised his voice at the judge,

Punished ‘fer comin’ to Brother’s aid, poor feller.

 

Well, Brother Lawrence wudn’t bad to the core,

And come to hisself after a time,

He smiled and cajoled till he was blue in the face,

And them po-lice, set Grandpap free, claimin’ he’d ain’t not committed no crime.

 

So Miss Meadow, I hope you’re swell,

And satisfied with this pome I writ,

Fer rhymin’ I’ve tried, near cried till I died,

And know pomes’ is a chore, so I quit.

 

 

 

Yer student, Liam Goodwell.

Of the Denton County Goodwells

 

 

 

“Don’t That Beat All!” (musin’s and confusin’s of a country boy)

It’s all over but the shoutin’….

 

My name is Liam, Liam Goodwell, of the Denton County Goodwells.

I been tasked by Miss Meadow, down to the school, to put my all my ponderin’s and most my ad-ventures onto paper ever’ day or ever’ time I make the time.

Ain’t no chore, as such, but it does eat into my “amusin’ and musin’ time…”

(See what I done there?  Miss Meadow, she’ll be right proud.  She says my manner of speakin’ and expressin’ is like none she never seen.  I get all puffed up jest a’thinkin’ ’bout that, and so I been puttin’ pen to paper reg’lar.)

‘Course, it ain’t all purty words and fluffy phrasin’.  I been feelin’ this tug to docu-ment fer them comin’ later jest how things get done here in Denton County, Missouri in the year o’ our Lord, summer 1942.  And I ain’t been doin’ nothin’ but, jest’ ruminatin’ and sharin’ the goin’s on ’round here, straight-arrow’d and true.

 

Right this here very minute, I ain’t got my left-over Big Chief, run off ‘n left it behind home so’s I just pilfered me some paper from the wastebasket inside the courthouse here in Pickle Creek.  More precise, from the trash outside the jail cell where one o’my own sits a’moulderin’ behind paint-peeled ‘arn bars.

Anyhow, backs was clean, so here I am on the ce-ment steps, dark as t’ other side o’ the moon, I reckson, single yeller light above the big ol’ carved doors leadin’ inside. And down to the cellar.  And on past the hardshut doors and shadowed brown walls, down on to the lock-up behind two horse-sized metal doors with more locks up and down I could shake a stick at.

I got me family there, but I couldn’t abide the tightness, so here I sit.

Grandpap says fresh air cures a multitude of ills, and while I AM a’breathin’ clearer, I ain’t quite sure gulpin’ clean air will solve our sit-iation.

Here’s how it come to be.

Like I done tol’ you, big brother Lawrence lit out to enlist in the U-nited States Army at age sixteen, forged him some papers and caught him a ride fer enough away, he figured to get away with it.  Well, he done got spied and caught and returned as a durned fugitive to the A-dair County courthouse here in Pickle Creek.

And durned if he ain’t in a pickle his ownself.

But I digress.

Well, me’n Grandpap, we hightailed it the couple hour drive with Dep’ty Quentin over to the courthouse, on whose steps I’ve planted myself right now.

Took ‘couple hours added on jest to sign papers and answer questions and jest sit and twiddle our thumbs outside the cell whar ol’ Lawrence set crosslegged on the cold rock floor.

Fer my takin’, he shore could o’ looked more contrite, though, bein’ as he’d been drug in here in handcuffs and leg ‘arns.  Least that’s whut one o’ them State Po-lice inside told me and Grandpap.

Now, they may have been singin’ a tune, but it shore did put the seriousness of Lawrence’s wrongdoin’s in a dimmer light.

Well, we wudn’t actually burnin’ daylight, bein’ it was now purt’ nearin’ midnight, but we sure as shootin’ wudn’t makin’ no headway neither, when the door to the end of the cellar flew itself back against the wall and the Sheriff hisself come a’swaggerin’ down the hallway, like to thought it was John Wayne in the flesh, cowboy boots, Stetson and the whole she-bang!

“Fellers! ” he bellered, and we, all o’us, Lawrence as well, we jumped to.  “Fellers, Judge Jacobsmeyer, he’s deigned to leave the warmth and comfort o’ his home and family and come on down this evenin’ and hear your case!”  Glarin’ in at Lawrence, he lowered his voice some, “And you, boy, you got yourself some explainin’ to do, yes, sir.”

I watched Grandpap mouth the judge’s name “Judge Jacobs’mar, Judge Jacobs’mar,” a searchin’ his memories fer some recollection or brain spark.  Grandpap knew near ever’body, ‘fer’s I could surmise.

Unlockin’ the cell with one of a fistfull of jangling keys, he then turned on his cowboy heel and swaggered on back to the door.  ‘Twas clear as mud to me, but I reckon he wanted us to fall in line.

Which we done.  Lawrence, he near to run out that cold cell.  Freedom spoke loud to that boy, he’d had his fill of in-carceration.

Follerin’ the sheriff, we wended our way up and out that dank underground, up two, no, three flights o’stairs, made slick and shiny from the steps generations of the judged and condemned.   I wanted to reach down and run my hands ‘long the deep brown lines of the wood, feel the fear and resignation of the damned (fergive me Lord!).  But, we was hauling and a’movin’, so I put it off till another time, ‘r not ‘tall.

Never seen me a courtroom before.  Been down to the courthouse in our very own county seat of Halesburg, been up and down the hallways, been with Daddy and Grandpap when they payed they tax or got them a license fer somethin’ r’other.  But never once in the courtroom itself.  Lord Lord, it was grand!  Near as could be to a church with long wooden pews, fresh waxed, swirly flowered carpets down the middle aisle and ‘cross the front.  ‘Stead of altars, though, they be a fence front a grand pulpit, reckon to keep them criminals away from the judge.  ‘Stead of a cross up front, they was a round metal plate with a lady holdin’ a book and some scales, size of a wagon wheel.

But the most disconcertin’ thing of all was behind that outsized pulpit sit the meanest lookin’ son of a bulldog I never laid my eyeballs upon.  Massess o’mussed white hair, longer’n Mama’s, and shore not as purty, on top the biggest roundest noggin’ I never seen!  Bushy white brows helter skelter over black devil eyes and half his upper lip lifted in a snarl.  Clothed in black robes, he glared down to all o’us, breathin’ through his mouth like gusts of heavy winds.

Judge Jacobs’mar!

And was that a actual snarl I heard?  I reckon it might o’ been!

Sheriff herded us three, Grandpap, me, and Lawrence to the front pew and hand on ‘Pap’s shoulder, pushed him down to set.

So we all set.

Right then and there, I got me a shiver.

Sheriff, satisfied hisself we’d follered his silent orders, sidled then up past the fence to where the judge sat, leanin’ up to whisper and confer and point and nod our di-rection.  Lawrence, he was sweatin’ all over his handsome face, even licked a drip from his upper lip ever’ so often.  Me, I sat on my hands but they still shook somethin’ awful under my legs.  Only Grandpap set cool and icy.  And from him, I garnered some strength.  Grandpap’d set them straight.

Took plumb ferever, but the sheriff nodded to Lawrence who lept to his feet and stood dead center of a massive rose on the carpet, his good looks and easy manner gone to the wind like a dande’line’s fluff.

“Young man, state yer name.”  Judge Jacobs’mar’s voice matched his looks, brusk and loud and unhappy and mean.

Lawrence chose to cough instead.  We all froze.  Then he come to his wits.

“Lawrence, sir, Lawrence Goodwell, from Den….”

“Boy!  I never once asked you from where you hailed, did I?  I did not!  You answer my questions forthwith and posthaste and don’t add yourself any postscript!”

Lawrence nodded solemn.  ‘Course I could tell he had no clue what a postscript might be, but he durned tootin’ wouldn’t be addin’ hisself one, that’s for shore!

“Boy!  You look at me!”  And Lawrence’s yeller head snapped right up, stiff and straight.

“Boy!  You know you brung me through the dead o’night to this hallowed hall of justice, awakenin’ me and my household from a sound sleep?  You done that because you broke the law, boy, and in this court, we throw the book at those who break the law of this land and the State of Missouri.”

That’s when them black eyes got even blacker, ink-like.  His long white locks dusted his eyes when he stood, leanin’ heavy on his pulpit, bent to the waist so to put the fear o’ God Almighty into my big brother.

He was successful, I’d say.

“Boy.  This day will be known going’ forward as, sir, your judgement day.”

Second person to faint dead away this day was Lawrence.  Not half as graceful as Mama, he jest plunked heavy to the carpet, his hand to his chest.

At that, Grandpap, he’d had enough!  I felt that surge when a boxer’s ’bout to win his bout!  They was gonna be far’works and Grandpap, he’d be takin’ the reins.

(See what I done there?  Mixed me some megafers!  Miss Meadow, down to the school, she’d like that!)

My Grandpap, he sprung from his pew, own blue, blue eyes a-blazin’ and arms a flailin’,  finger crooked at the judge who his ownself was ‘glowerin’ and spittin’ puffballs at Lawrence fer havin’ the gall to fall unconscious at his proclamation.

“Sir, you are out of line!”  Grandpap shouted, then kneeled alongside where my big brother was fightin’ to come to.

Seein’ myself as the Tonto to Grandpap’s Lone Ranger, I dashed to where Lawrence was a’tryin’ now to sit hisself up, quiverin’ and uneasy, so’s Grandpap could make hay of this ol’ evil geezer.

Give it to ’em, ‘Pap, I hollered in my head!

“Sir,” he roared, not scared or cowed, not one bit.  Lord, I was proud.  Lawrence, he was still dazed.  “Sir, my grandson here made hisself a mistake, jest all het up ’bout servin’ his country, why back home, he’d be labeled a hero to some!”

“You show some respect, Sir!  This boy broke the law, plain and simple!  He misrepresented hisself, lied to government officials, forged official documents and got me out of bed in the middle of the night because of his criminal actions!  I’ll have you know I plan to throw the book of the law at this boy and teach him a lesson he’s likely to never forget!”  The judge roared right back, also not scared or cowed, not one bit, neither.

This might jest go another round.

“Judge, I’ll not have you abusin’ a boy who had a lapse but who now surely knows the error of his ways!”

“I do not give a donkey’s backside what you think, you understand me?”

(I didn’t laugh then, no-sir-ee-bob!  I was born at night but it wudn’t last night!  But it is funny, ain’t it?)

Then black eyes was shootin’ black daggers down to Grandpap, who was shootin’ blue one o’his own.

“Take this boy back down to the cell!”  Sheriff unfolded hisself from where he’d leaned in a corner, watchin’ these proceedin’s.

‘Pap bellered, “You will do no such thing!” and he jumped ‘tween the lawman and us boys down to the carpet.

They was lots more hollerin’ and lots more finger shakin’ and I even heard the Lord’s name bein’ takin’ in vain, not by Grandpap!

Well, what ensued wudn’t purty, but it ended up with me ‘n Lawrence hunkered under a table off to the side, and Grandpap and the judge havin’ it out behind the fence, and the sheriff a’trying to break it up.

I heard my granddaddy holler, “Do you know who I am?  I’m Langston Goodwell of the Denton County Goodwells!”

And I heard the judge holler back, “I don’t care who you are or from whence you came!  This is the way we do things in A-dair County!  You will not disrespect this court or the laws of this land!  Get your mangy paws off me!  I am an officer of the court!”

Well, I reckon you can figure how this all ended up, once the dustup settled.

Lawrence begged forgiveness and was give it, after a’promisin’ never to sneak off and misrepresent hisself to the U-nited States government again, and jest to wait his turn to do his patriotic duty till he was of age.

He promised.

He was set free.

Grandpap never once begged fer forgiveness, doubted he’s begged for nothin’ all his days, nor did he make any promises when told never to show hisself  in A-dair County the rest o’his days.

Which is Lawrence is lazin’ over on a bench nursin’ a Soda Boy give him by one o’ them State Po-lice he charmed, and why I’m a-sittin’ scratchin’ words to paper on the steps o’ the courthouse in Pickle Creek and it’s comin’ up daylight.

We’re a’waitin’ fer Daddy to make the long black drive to retrieve us.  I kid you not and I do not lie and I’d swar on a sack o’Bibles, if that warn’t a sin that is this all true and acc’rate.

‘Fer it’s Grandpap a’locked up sound in the cellar cell down below.

 

 

 

They say “It’s all over but the shoutin”…..

…………but I say ain’t less truer words spoke.

 

*********

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Don’t That Beat All?” (musin’s and confusin’s of a country boy)

When Johnny Comes Marchin’ Home Again…

 

Hey, do.

This here’s Liam Goodwell.  Born to the Denton County Goodwells.

 

Feelin’ like I been rode hard and put away wet.  It’s been a day and a half, I tell you what.  I’m plumb tuckered and ain’t no end in sight o’ the trouble we, all us Goodwells, done been gifted.

See here’s the deal. When big brother Lawrence figured he’d up and enlist in the army, the U-nited STATES Army, that’d be, why he never considered once the consequences of his be-havior.

That he was underaged, first of all.  Dimwitted brother of mine, did he never think nobody’d discover his de-ception?

Second up, that boy done used his own name, forged Grandpap’s and Daddy’s signature on a letter o’waiver, and never once thought nobody’d find that suspicious?

Third of all, and we come to learn all this after he’d shipped off on the train out A-dair county, he decked some swellheaded smart Alec of a Yankee officer what give him some guff ’bout his dollbaby face and mis-matched socks.

Them things and a dozen ‘r so more put me and Grandpap smack in the back o’Dep’ty Fuller Quentin’s po-lice vehicle.

No, we wudn’t arrested nor nothin’ as newsworthy as that’d be.  Dep’ty was jest the fastest ride over to the courthouse in Pickle Creek, an hour or two or three away.  We’d be gettin’ there long past nightfall, to where Lawrence’d sit behind bars, a’waitin’ fer our arrival and his home-takin’.  How I come to be part o’ his retrival committee went like this.  Mama in her sorry state needed Daddy, couldn’t find hide nor hair o’big brother Lincoln,  Livvie was just plain useless, and Luce, well, like ever’body else we was just all scared o’ Luce.  Then there was the youngin’s, and dogged if they wudn’t off to playin’ and rough housin’ once we got us certainty Lawrence was safe and sound and not a’headin’ off to Germany or Japan, or Italy,  jest yet.

Yessiree, he’d been found out not so long after he lit out.  Didn’t take no Einstein egghead to work that one out, neither.

But now.  But now I was a’workin’ on a mystery of sorts.

How the hay (pardon my French) did dimwitted, muscle-headed, muddle-brained Lawrence git as fer as he did?  Took some connivin’ and plannin’, and we all know, plannin’ nor thinkin’ of near any kind what-some-ever ain’t in big brother Lawrence’s wheelhouse.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love my brother.  He’s a Goodwell, after all.  He’s far too handsome and slick fer his own good, all the girls giggle silly when he’s ’round.  If it don’t beat all, he’ll flex them big ol’ arm muscles if they hum a tune, sendin’ them off to Giddytown,  and then’ll shine that big ol’ white smile like they’s all the cat’s jammers.  And it ain’t jest the girls, he can sway and charm a room full of grandmas down to the church social ‘r have the fellers hangin’ outside the Feed and Seed a laughin’ till they weep.  Lawrence, he’s got hisself a way.  Folks say one day, he could be president.  A head full of white blond hair, cut short shootin’ sparks in the sunshine  makes him almost as good lookin’ as one o’them movie stars on the poster boards down to the the-ater over to the county seat.

I wouldn’t woosh that on my worst enemy, says I.

But I’ll swan, he ain’t nothin’ but jest Lawrence, sixteen, big and mean, and the one from whom I’m most likely to get me my hand-me-downs.  And I’ll defend him, after tacklin’ him best I can and gettin’ in a couple o’licks fer the trouble he brung to this family and Mama, to the bitter endin’.

But let’s us harken back to what’s ‘twixt his ears.  Picture yerself a foggy night, windy wisps a swirlin’ and a’whirlin’ and vacant far-away rustles and mumbles  whisp’rin’ to and hither and over yonder.

That’s be on a good day.

So, ain’t no way under Good God’s Heaven Lawrence thunk all this up his ownself and executed even to the miserable un-successful end he done did.

Big brother Lawrence had him some help.  Laws’ if I ain’t goin’ to determinate jest who and how.

“Hey, there, you, boy?”

Um, what was that?

Grandpap brung me back to today with a sharp “Pay the man some attention” elbow poke to my skinny ribs.

“Yes, sir, Dep’ty, yes, sir?”

Follerin’ a deep sigh, denotin’ clear he’d hollered at me fer some time, “I axed you if you knew what sort of trouble yer brother’d been in iffin’ he’d made it all the way to Fort Leonard Wood.  Iffin’ he’d actually snuck hisself into the U-nited States Armed Forces.”

I hid a sigh my ownself.  Time fer a lesson.

If I could count the times I got the “what for” resultin’ from the wrongdoin’s of misbehavin’ kin, well, I’d be usin’ my fingers and toes and them of all my brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and all they neighbors and kin.

Bein’ a Goodwell, however, meant we jest sat up tall and took what we was give.  Like I was a’doin’ now.

‘Sides, Grandpap was a’givin’ me the eye.

“Boy, yer brother’d be hauled up ‘fore a mess o’generals and majors and judges and given him a court martial, like to spend rest o’his youth and some o’his a-dult years in some military prison some’war.  You understand me?”

Yes, sir, I nodded, them spoke up after another rib-ticklin’, “Yes, Sir, Dep’ty!”

Havin’ my attention, and Grandpaps, he revved up for the long haul, “Yessirree, since that Hawai’yer de-bacle, boys yer brother’s age and younger, ” here he turned his long face to look me full on, “boys patriotic and wide-eyed, they been sneakin’ in to the recruitin’ offices, changin’ dates on they birth papers, lookin’ to enlist and ride off to save the world and shoot theyselves an enemy and eat cold dinner from a can.”

Turnin’ back to the road, and for this I was grateful as he had this ol’ beast floored, he give a self-satisfied smirk and chuckle.

“We been a’watchin’.  Don’t you worry none ’bout that there.  Them little peepsqueaks ain’t no idear what they be up against.  We lawmen, we’re postin’ ourselves near ever’war, like them spies, a’watchin’ and a’waitin’.”

Cain’t have upright patriotic young fellers wantin’ to do they duty, no, sir….

“Cain’t have young fellers itchin’ fer adventure,” Dep’ty Quentin was havin’ hisself a time, “… a’playin’ at a’fightin’ a war what seasoned fellers with ex-purience and brave hearts been steppin’ up to do.”

I’ll admit I was startin’ to woosh ol’ Lawrence would o’got hisself away clean and clear.  I’d stack his skills, though not his brains,  next to quite a few I seen wavin’ to they tear-stained sweethearts down to the depot.

Now, how-some-ever, I was not only bound n’ determined to figure how Lawrence pulled this off as good and got as fer as he did, I found myself ready to give him aid the next time he lit out.

 

 

Hurrah.

Hurrah.

********

I swear to the Good Lord this is all true as I live and breathe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Don’t That Beat All!” (musin’s and confusin’s of a country boy)

“When Johnny Come’s Marchin’ Home Again…”

 

Hey.  This here’s Liam.

Liam Goodwell.

One o’them sorely saddened and besides theyselves with fearful discombobulations Denton County Goodwells.

 

 

Big brother Lawrence, he done took plumb off to join the U-nited States Army, underaged and over-eager, he snuck hisself out durin’ mid-mornin’ chores some time r’t’other, none o’us Goodwells is quite sure.  Caught hisself a ride to the recruitin’ office some two counties east where folks don’t know much ’bout nothin’, least of all we Goodwells.

Left a note, he did, a’stickin’ out from under his dinner plate, all sorts of platitudes and heartfelt “I Love Yous” and “My country needs mes” and “Won’t this be a kick in the pants, heys?”.  All “Weehaws” and “Go get’em’s,” big brother done did the unthinkable.

And he used my tablet paper fer to tell us of his exploit.  Sad, but a fact, that bit there?  That irks me somethin’ awful.

Big, overgrown, muscle-bound Lawrence, not a slim lick o’sense in that hard head o’his, he done gone off and’ll prob’ly end up a gen’ral r’ a sergeant r’ other.

Well, I tell you what, I’ll not be a’salutin’ that son of a gun when he comes back, no sir-ee Bob.

‘Course, that there’s when my heart cracks just a little more.  Healthy (and near as hefty) as a horse, and dumber’n ditchwater, I jest cain’t see my way to feelin’ any high level o’ his success.  Nor his return, whole and safe and as brash and heavy handed as ever.

Find myself needin’ to wipe my sleeve over my eyes.

Oh, he’ll look right smart in them fine uniforms.  And he’ll be skilled at whatever task they give him.  Dogged if he ain’t tops at near any physical feat set before him.  But if he ain’t got a writ set o’instructions in his pocket or an guidin’ angel a’whisp’rin’ di-rectives on his shoulder, that boy’s got nothing ‘tween his ears to speak of.

Here’s the deal.  We, all us Goodwells, we’d jest come in for dinner, the sun blazin’ hot straight up in the sky, when Mama got her that worry line ‘twixt her eyebrows.

“Where’d Lawrence get off to, you reckon?”

Truth is, when it comes to dinner, or breakfast or supper or weennie roasts or potlucks or food inhalation of inny sort, big brother Lawrence is near always front of the line.

But not this day.

That there’s when time stopped.

Us Goodwells, too.

That there’s when a white blaze of light from the winder over the sink there, seemed like it shone a path di-rectly to ol’ Lawrence’s plate, and the brown paper with the red dotted lines a folded like a airplane stickin’ out from under.

Took a hund’erd seconds or a few, hard tellin’ as I search through the fog of that moment,  but Daddy was the first to move ’round the table to retrieve it, unfoldin’ it with caution.  He spread it out with on the table with his forearm ‘fore readin’ it silently, then readin’ it aloud.

And Mama, she melted silent and graceful to the “jest this mornin’ scraped and cleaned” lie-noleum.  Daddy knelt ‘side her a’pattin’ her hand fer wont of any’thin’ else to do.

The rest of us Goodwells, we was jest struck plumb dumb.

Once Mama fluttered her eyes and returned back to the livin’, why, someone done stuck a far-cracker down our britches and we, all us Goodwells, we begun a’spinnin’.

Me, I grabbed the telephone, traded fer and installed nigh on one month previous.  Party line, I’m full ‘ware,  and ever’body’d know our business, but I hollered to Miss Kelly, the switchboard operatin’ lady sittin’ down to the Post Office “Hey!  My brother’s gone addle-headed and run off an’ enlisted hisself, somebody go git him, hurry!”

Grandpap, he herded the wide-eyed youngsters into the front room, gettin’ them out from underfoot.

Big brother Lincoln took to mutterin’ and stompin’, and Livvie, she jest stood and shook and wept into her hands.

Luce, she snitched the ratty worshrag from the sink and wiped Mama’s brow.

Mama come clear to right now, I kid you not.

And now we all sit, stiff as stones and jest as conversa-tive.  Wudn’t nothin’ to do but wait.  Early along, Daddy’d thought we could some o’us jump to the International pickup truck, some in front and some in back in the bed, n’hightail it over to A-dair County and retrieve us back our boy.  Hoggtie him, if it come to it.  It’d only been what, a couple o’hours or two?

Lincoln, rodeo-ridin’ champ-een of the Goodwell family, that’d be his task.

But Miss Kelly called us right as we was gettin’ in gear.  Dep’ty Fuller Quentin, over to A-dair County, why, he’d heard from Bessie over to the mill in May County, next one ‘fore A-dair, and she heard it from her sister’n-law Ada Aileen Bogg down to Halesburg and who was jest listenin’ in fer her health, why, he knew all about ol’ Lawrence Goodwell and his personal abscondification.

“Train done left the station, honey,” Miss Kelly shouted through the tel-ee-phone.  Grandpap’d answered.  Ain’t never heard no woman nor no man, nor nobody else fer that matter, tag him with “honey.”

But I digress.

“That boy o’yearn, he hit the jackpot, ‘r else he’s been a’plannin’ this fer some time.  Dep’ty Quentin, he hauled hisself right on over to the recruitin’ office.  Took him no time ‘tall, turned on his si-reen!  Your boy, he’d done got his papers quick as a lick, they give him a physical once over, then pushed him on the coach fer Fort Leonard Wood.  That boy’s in the Army now.”

“And,” she kept up the hollerin’.  All us Goodwells could hear her clear.  “Dep’ty Quentin, he’s officially requested you all please to stay put.  He’s headin’ yer di-rection fer a full accountin’.”

Grandpap put the earpiece careful and precise back in its holster.

Law-abidin’ citizens, we Goodwells.

‘Cept fer the ‘shine.

Reckon we’d wait.

 

Hurrah.

Hurrah.

*********