This here’s Liam again. I been here before.
And I’ll stand tall right now to the truth of all I’m layin’ before you. I come from a long line of truth tellers.
Sun comes up awful early come summertime. And it don’t seem right, somehow. Oh, it’s purty enough. Streaking colors of purple and pink and orange out to the east, over the rollin’ hills off toward the quarry. There’s even times, Lord, I’ll purt’near stand to attention, not breathin’ a breath till that ol’ sun pulls itself up and over the horizon.
But summertime promises to arrive with long empty hours for jest a’toolin’ and a’tootin’, and, well, ever’ so often, it just wrinkles my gizzard. Breakin’ off from school don’t mean we get any breakin’ off from heavy liftin’, least not on Goodwell land. They’s livestock to tend, they’s fields to plow and plant and harvest, they’s machinery needin’ repairin’, they’s even naps to be took and books to be read and then some. Days start early and end late. Now, we don’t suffer, and mostly, we don’t complain. I just like me some time to think and ponder.
This day, though, took itself a diff’rnt turn, and I’ll be durned if I don’t remember this, for posterity and them comin’ along behind.
Like I done said, this day, like most ever’ other, begun at the crack o’ dawn. But this time, I kid you not, Grandpap let out a warwhoop like the sky was a’fallin’ or Jesus’d appeared in the heavens, come for the believers.
Me and Linc and Lawrence, we sat ourselves straight up in our cots, eyeballs round and wide, not knowin’ true which side was up. Lawrence, he was the first to gather hisself.
“Lord! What the hay was that?!” (Mama’s skin him, she knew he was a’cussin. And so early.)
I throwed my skinny white legs off to the side, feet slappin’ the wooden floor with a pop.
“Got no idear, ” I puffed as I wriggled my skinny self into dungarees and Linc’s old boots, “Let’s us go find out!” I spun myself, snitchin’ some ol’ shirt from the pile and run from our little lean-to shed we called a bedroom. That I tangled myself in the curtain we used for a door and pulled it half down tryin’ to extricate myself got no attention, nohow.
‘Cause Grandpap? He was still a’howlin’!
We don’t live in no mansion, now, mostly a cabin with little side shelters added as new children come along, but Grandpap, being the patriarch and all, he had himself a room, a real room with a straight ceiling and a workin’ door with a lock and key. It took me just a hop and a skip and a jump to land at his door, Linc and Lawrence close on my tail.
We busted in, all arms and legs and shouts and worry. Door wudn’t locked. Misplaced that key ‘fore I was born. But it is the principle of the thing, after all.
(And don’t nobody I ever known throwed away a key. It’ll turn up one day.)
Like I said, we burst ourselves through the door, ready and eager to save the day, and Grandpap, from whatever was a’ailin’ him! We secretly prayed it wudn’t the Lord Jesus come for his own, for if so, we’d clearly not made the cut. Maybe it was Injuns! Or one o’ them giant squeezin’ snakes from darkest Africa!
Me and Linc and Lawrence, though, we stopped dead in our tracks.
Grandpap, mouth open for yet another whoop and holler, waved yester-dee’s newspaper over his head, his countenance readin’ joy and happiness, rather’n fear and consternation. Normal, he’ll stow it away once we pick it up from the store down to the town, but yester-dee, durned if it was found to be missin’ once we landed back home. We was all queried, but no, none of us admitted to knowin’. The twins looked guilty, but then, they always do.
And they nearly always are.
And. I’ll admit I was a whit disappointed. Playin’ the he-ro would have to wait for another time, I reckon.
“Lookeeee here, boys!” Grandpap leapt from his ol’ oak rocker in the corner, fully dressed, even with his good hat ready to toss ‘top his reddened round head, one covered in white bristles fer as long as I have rememberances. He’d been up fer hours, looked to me, cleaned up and full tilt, town bound.
He did hisself a little jig, dancin’ and stompin’ is a tight little circle. Me and Linc and Lawrence, we just watched, gewgawed.
He sucked in a soggy little chuckle and grinned our way.
“Look here, boys, look here!” Grandpap waved the now crumpled and near unreadable paper in our dumbed faces. Stabbin’ his crooked finger at somethin’ written there, he did.
“Look here! You seen this?! WooHoo and Boy Howdy! We goin’ to have us a cee-lebrity in our midst! Come next week! Boys, you hear me?!”
We shook our heads solemnly. What else was we to do?
And by this time, the whole house, all the kids and Mama and Daddy, too, we was up and at ’em, all crowdin’ as far into Grandpap’s sanctuary as we saw fit. If Grandpap got even more het up, we was going to explode back out the skinny little doorway like Cherrywine Pop out a shook bottle.
We felt it best to let him have his say.
He had him a soapbox now, though, and bless his heart, if he didn’t want us all hangin’ on ever’ word. Though Livie’s stomach lurchin’ and growlin’ sidetracked him a tick.
Noddin’ at Mama, then Daddy, he settled himself down some, and usin’ his Sunday dinner prayin’ voice, he commenced to share.
“LilaElizabeth. Son. Don’t know where this here newspaper was a’hidin’,” and here he digressed long enough to send all-knowin’ sword eyes over us kids, but mostly Louis and Lawton, “But you all know I arise early to say my prayers.”
Yep. We knew.
“And you all know I then get myself acquainted with what’s a’happenin’ in the world and in the war with them high-waisted Germans and them lily-livered Japanese, and them I-talians.”
Yep, We knew that, too. We got us a paper down to the store in town ever’ week. Took Grandpap a full seven days till the next one come out to digest it.
“And you know how it catches in my craw won’t them wonderkinds in Worsh-in’ton D.C. ‘llow me my skills and desire to do my patriotic duty!”
Yep. Grandpap had planted hisself at the recruitin’ office down to the county seat near ever’ day since the bombin’ over to Hawai’ya.
“Well!” Pullin’ his eyes away from Louis and Lawton, who was more interested in they dirty toes than Grandpap, “Well! Durned tootin’ if we ain’t goin’ to have ourselves some comp’ny! In Denton County! Stayin’ right here in Halesburg, come next Tues-dee!”
We didn’t hardly know any cee-lebrities, though they was a couple movie stars we took a shine to.
Grandpap stood himself up tall, erect and near to attention, arms stiff at his side. That’s when I noticed he’d slid up his shotgun what was give him by his own grandpap years before my own.
I got me some rumblin’s. When Grandpap gets himself an idear, he’s a wagon on a hill with no horse. They ain’t no stoppin’ him till the grain’s been spilt.
“Ol’ Brigadier General hissself, Ol’ Du’Wight D. Eisenhower from over to Abilene, him and his staff’ll be gracin’ our town come next week, traveling by the Chicago Ozark and Little Rock Slingshot Zephyr, spending the night ‘fore travelin’ on to Califor-nee.”
True? True? Why, I been to Kansas on a huntin’ trip, but never all the way to Abilene!
And I ain’t never laid eyes on so famous an American as Du’Wight D. Eisenhower!
And right here? Right in Denton County, Missouri?
How’d we not know? Did ever’ body know but we Goodwells? Why, we was just in town yester-dee. This here was new news if ever I heard it! Would there be a parade? And buntin’? And homemade ice cream? And the marchin’ band from over to the high school or from maybe even St. Joseph?!
I cast my own evil eyes toward Louis and Lawton, who’d recovered, stickin’ out they tongues my di-rection.
That’s when Grandpap laid it on us.
Still puffed and proud-like, he boomed, “And I aims to get myself an audience with the General hisself and demand my services be accepted in the fightin’ and the conquerin” and the vanishin’ of all peoples aimin’ to bring down the glorious country of these U-nited States of America. And Denton County.”
And with that, he struck the butt of his shotgun to the floor and clicked his heels.
Heck (hope Mama’ cain’t read my mind…). I’d just figured all he wanted was to be in the parade.
When I saw the steel in them blue eyes, and when I saw the iron of that whiskered jaw, why I knew just then Grandpap wouldn’t stop at nothin’ to get himself in front of ol’ General Eisenhower. I was already a’picturin’ Grandpap in handcuffs and shackles, being marched off for attackin’ a officer. Or bein’ beat over the head for wavin’ that durned shotgun ’round.
Didn’t know what, but at that moment, sunshine turned from pink haze to yeller blazes, I knew I’d best get in gear and do somethin’. Somethin’. For this was a sit-u-ation needin’ overhaulin’.
What I DID know, though, was that dog?
No, sir, that dog won’t hunt.