“Dang me!”

Hey.  This here’s Liam, settin’ pen to paper yet a’gin, jest like Miss Meadow, down to the school, requested of me I do.  And so, I reckon I’ll give’er another shot.

One thing par-ticular she’s wont to admonish me over’n over.  “A-luminate the moment!” says she.  Don’t be too danged grand, jest pick you a minute out the hund-erds durin’ the course o’livin’, and di-ssect the thing inside and outwards, too.

Given Miss Meadow, she finds herself par-ticular enamored o’my ways with words, well, I’m likely to wrestle with it a mite.  Jest to prove it can be done.

Well, I picked me a moment.  It ain’t purty, it ain’t worthy of learning a lesson nor is it sweet as pie nor does it have a happy endin’.  Truth be tol’ it now and forever won’t leave the front of my mind, so to be rid of it, I’m puttin’ it down to paper.  Then I’m like to burn it.  And it that there don’t e-rase it from my head, I don’t know what will.

Here’s the deal.  All us Goodwells, while we’re cream o’ the crop when it comes to Denton County, Missouri, US of A, we come down a few pegs since Grandpap had to, years ago,  up and sell parcels o’and from the top of the hill where our fore-bears once lived in peace and tranquility and abundance.  We still got us a hund’erd acres or so, but we’re livin’ plum in the shadder of that same purty hill.  Ofttimes, Grandpap’ll snitch him a glance up thataway, and I’ll catch him and he’ll give me a toothy grin, but I know he’s a hidin’ some pain.

Well, we survive jest fine.  Some give, some take, family circles the wagon come hell ‘r high water, and we share and share alike.  Why, jest this very mornin’, come breakfast-time, I seen Louis and Lawton, the seven-year-ol’ troublesome twins of the Goodwell household,  they was each a’wearin’ a shirt I have recollections of a’wearin’ my ownself.  Back when I was half the size I am now.  Shirts been through Mama’s wringer more’n once, I tell you what, fadin’ to a nice color of runny blue.  Or is it green?

Still, they’s not threadbare and they got most they buttons, so they’ll work for another day.

And therein lies the backcloth of my moment.

Not that it matters one iota, ’cause it don’t, but I figure ‘tween Grandpap and Daddy and big brothers Lincoln and Lawrence, I ain’t never, ever, in the history of Liam Elias Ephraim Goodwell, I ain’t never had me a new shirt nor a new pair o’dungarees nor a new coat nor a new nothin’.

Least of which, I ain’t never had a new pair of boots, one’s what wasn’t pre “shot to smithereens” from the wearers what come before.  It ain’t scuffin’ what bothers me so much, it’s the holes in the toes and the soles and ever’thing in the middle.

I know what you’re a’thinkin’ even ‘fore you say it, “Count yer blessin’s, boy, they’s child’ern in China ain’t got no shoes at all, got feet with soles like leather they ownselves jest to git by.”

And you’d be dead on.  I reckon if I’ve a failin’, it’s the one where I long fer a new pair o’footware to call my own.  Call me selfish, call me self-servin’ and mean, but I got me bumps and lumps on my feet where they surely shouldn’t have to be, squeezin’ into boots and shoes what wudn’t never meant to fit the likes o’where my rubber hits the road.

Now, it prob’ly don’t matter much, and you’re like to not give a hill o’beans, but I’d settle fer jest some shoes, maybe ones with real shoestrings ‘stead of de-twists of rope from the barn.  Truth is, my dream would be boots, shiny to start, only my feet been in ’em, stretched to jest my par-ticular toe stretch.  but that’d be a stretch its ownself, and as soon as that thought crosses my mind, I cross it right out a’gin.

My wants are few, and I’m liable to live my life in hand-me-down ever’thing.  But this day, this day done took the cake.  I’m so without words I jest want to spit.  And I’m like to..

At that same breakfast-time, jest when I was notin’ the shirts the fronts of which Louis an’ Lawton was dribblin’ they eggs and some honey, well, I’d jest then come in from the barn.

“Mama?”  I’d hollered, “Mama?  I cain’t even push my feet into these ol’ boots!  Near had to do my chores barefooted, even got me some splinters.”

Mama looked up from where she was a’fryin’ another pan o’bacon, exter-crisp like I like.

“Listen here, Liam, you jest give them boots one more day.  Linc and Lawrence, they done lit out and I know they ain’t got no more shoes a’waitin’.  And Grandpap’s and Daddy’s, they’s way too big fer you jest yet.  Give ’em one more day, Son.”

This is where Mama give me “the look.”  The one what says I feel yer pain, bein’ the middle boy of all the children, but they ain’t a sliver of ‘nothin’ I cain do to he’p.

What she didn’t know was, the last month r’so, I been wrappin’ ol’ socks and tape round and round jest to keep them in attached to my person.  Don’t know if my feet had them a overnight growth spurt, like other parts of my bein’,  but they wudn’t a way in the world my feet would fit down ‘side them boots this mornin’, and the bindin’, why it plum disinter-grated, poof.

“Let me see ’em,” she tossed over her shoulder, “after you finish yer breakfast.”

Now the other kids, they didn’t give me no nevermind.  We was always borryin’ and makin’ do.  And I crunched myself through a platter of bacon, them had me some eggs and some o’Mama’s biscuits, all fluffy and white slathered with farm butter and honey.  Law, I felt good.  Mama’d take care o’ it.

That’s when Lawton hollered.  ‘R was it Louis?  Don’t matter much.  Result’s the same.

“Looky here what the dog drug in!”

And look I did.  They was what I thought must o’been what was left of the sole of my left boot hangin’ out the side o’ ol’ Buford’s slobbery jowls.  Law.  I was done fer.

“Git that mangy beast out my kitchen!” Mama hollered her ownself, and we done what was necessary, pushed ol’ Buford back out to the back porch.  But he would not give up his treasure.  And t’other, the right one, it was nowhere to be found, and it sure as shootin’ wudn’t where I’d left it.

Mama come to the door a’wipin’ her hands on her apron, surmisin’ exact what’d become o’ my de-lapidated footwear.

“Reckon it’s too late now to find the hole where the dog buried yer other boot, Liam.  You need to hightail it right now to school, ‘r you’ll be late.”

Lookin’ ’round the leanto kitchen, I seen the rest o’the child’ern, they was gatherin’ thur books and such and was headin’ out.

“But Mama, I ain’t got no shoes to wear.  They ain’t a pair to be found in the whole place, I checked ever’where!”

And I had.  Daily.  Fer weeks now.

“Well, Son, we’ll find you somethin’.  You cain’t go to school barefooted, that’s fer certain!”  And that’s when Mama got “that other look” on her purty face, the one sayin’ I’ll do my Goodwell best for you, boy!

I had faith.

Now, I’m a believer.  Ain’t no uncertainty there, none what-so-ever.  The Lord God A’mighty loves me like I was his own and I believe one day I’ll be brung through the Pearly Gates to live in a mansion along one o’them streets o’gold.

But right now, my faith, it was bein’ tested.

I begun my look again, layin’ flat to look under beds and cots and the livin’ room divan.  I heard Mama a’rummagin’ through somethin’ somewhere, and jest as I was a’losin’ the vict’ry, Mama, she cried out it triumph.

“Liam!  Liam!  Look here!  I found you some shoes!  They’ll get you through ’til the fellers get back tonight!  Look here!”

And she come through the door to where I was waitin’ with great expectations aglow on my thirteen-year-ol’ face, a shoe raised high in each hand.

My glow diminished some, right there.

“Mama.”

“Liam!”

“Mama, they’s Livvies ol’ shoes.”

“Liam.”

“Mama, them’s girls’ shoes.”

“Liam.”

“Mama….”

“Liam, look here, we’ll scuff the up some,” at which time she throwed them both to the floor and stomped hard on the sides, “They’ll look jest like men’s brogues.”

My breathin’ was comin’ short now.

“Mama, no….”

“Son, you have to go to school.  What would Miss Meadow say?”

I had no answer.  But I shore didn’t care to show up to school, sportin’ the latest in girls’ shoes, don’t care how scuffed they was.

“Son.”

Mama’s word was final, and ‘spite the sadness in her eyes for she knew exactly what I was in fer, I put them shoes on my big ol’ feet, and stared.  Now, they wudn’t covered in buttons or bows nor buckles or purties, but they was clear not shoes meant fer a boy.

There wudn’t nothin’ to be done.  I hung my head and trudged out the door and down the dusty lane, lookin’ ever’where but down at them shoes.

I knew what was comin’.  And I’d be right.  I was in fer the roughest day of my life.

Well, so much fer a-luminatin’ a moment.  Wudn’t purty, wudn’t no lesson to be learned.  Ugly as a sinful black heart.

And I don’t feel a heck o’ a lot better, pardon my French.

A-luminatin’ serves to do jest that.  I ain’t sure I’ll be a’doin’ this again.

Sorry, Miss Meadow.

Cuttin’ It Fine….a digression

“Great Day in the Mornin’!”

Hey.  This here’s Liam.  Liam Goodwell.  Of the Denton County, Missouri Goodwells?  Like to certain you all may’ve heard tell o’us.  We got us kin nigh to ever’where!

 

And, law, we do have us a history these parts!  But truth be tol’, my story this day takes a whit and spit of a di-version.

Fer this day?  This here day?

Mama’s made her a Chocolate Cake!

Now lest I mislead the lot o’you, Mama’s known far an’ wide fer her Chocolate Cakes.  She done won county fair ribbons like to paper her bedroom wall.  That she’s papered her little closet hung with them dresses done with flour sacks and purty little flah-ers, well, at least she don’t hide them under a bushel, NO!

She’s whipped up Chocolate Cake with Sugar Roses.  She’s erected Chocolate Cakes with skinny little layers and slathers of deep rich chocolate icing what grew so tall it leaned a tad, like that I-talian buildin’ over to where our boys is fightin’ fer Democracy and against the Devil’s heathenry.  She’s built her Chocolate Cakes sprinkled all over with bitty coco-nut slivers like tiny rai’road ties.

I’ll admit I ain’t particular partial to coco-nut.  One of them few thing’s I’m like to turn my nose up to, can smell it a mile away, cain’t he’p myself.  Grandpap, but Daddy mostly, they’ll take umbrage and then take it right personal when one o’us kid’s shy away from not jest Mama’s cookin’, but anybody’s anytime.  Includin’ some of them unknown dishes brung to the monthly potluck down to the church.  (Some looks like pig slop, but if I was to utter them words, my skin’d be tanned, sure!)

“Eat what’s set before ye,” Daddy’ll say.  And ever now and then, he’ll only need level them black-pool eyes to-wards the o-ffender.  Don’t take us long to straighten up, I tell you what!

But this day, THIS day, Mama’s made her a Chocolate Cake with no bells nor whistles nor sugar flah’ers nor coco-nuts nor swooshes of purty designs.  Jest a plain, ol’, delicious, heaven-sent, mouth-waterin’ three layers of luscious deep cocoa delight.  Then, slathered in between and a’top and all-round comes next to ‘n inch of sweet billowin’ clouds of  succulent, melt-in-yer-mouth icin’, to who laid a chunk!

So good?  So ever-lovin’ good it makes you want t’reach right out and slap yer mama!

(That there?  Now, don’t get yer dander up nor nothin’.  That’s jest a sayin’ these parts, meanin’ whatever ’tis is so wholly and holy a-MAZ-in’, y’jest cain’t he’p but set up and take notice!  Ain’t nobody in they right mind would ever do such a thing as a’slappin’ none o’they kin, specially not they mama, an’ ‘specially not one who bakes Chocolate Cake like MY Mama!)

Well, here’s how it happened.  Grandpap and Daddy, they headed off early to market, ‘fore sunrise.  Had a few head finished ration, made sale weight, and off they went to the sale down to Kansas City.  Cattle prices was a premium down there, but the trip’s like to take all day and late into the blackened darkness of night.

So they ain’t near.

Linc,  the oldest of we Goodwell children, he lit out after breakfast (an’ he ain’t likely to never miss hisself a meal!) down to the county fairgrounds.  Hear tell, Judge McClintock, who ain’t a real judge but did study law over to Columbia and has his own office down to the Denton County Courthouse, well, he got him some wild ponies what may be showin’ up at the next rodeo.  Brother Lincoln, he’d be there the whole day through, gaugin’ his ride and a’countin’ his prizes at the next doin’s.

So he ain’t near.

Big brother Lawrence, the biggest of we Goodwell children, him and his buddies, ‘long with Livvie who jest likes to sashay ’round Lawrence’s buddies, they had them a picnic planned down to the river.  Lawrence, handsome and devil-may-care, he’s always bein’ invited to some shindig ‘r other.  And Luce, she follered ‘long behind, seein’ she’s jest nosy.

So they ain’t near.

Little sister Loreen, she’s rode the Goodwell hand-me-down bicycle down to the library in town, a’helpin’ mean ol’ librarian Miss Crow sort child’erns books and such.  She’s took a shine to Loreen.  Reckon it’s since Loreen, she’ll wrap up some flah’ers in a wet rag and tell Miss Crow how she admires her collection.

So she ain’t near.

As fer Lawton and Louis, why, at aged seven, they jest don’t add up to a hillock o’beans.  They’ll liable not to show up fer hours, pokin’ a stick in some hole down to the crick hour upon hour.

So they ain’t near, least I can tell.

So whilst I was a’doin’ my chores out to the barn, I all of a sudden smelt me the aroma o’ that Chocolate Cake a’burblin’ and a’bakin’ , waftin’ out the winders and driftin’ all the way to where I was pitchin’ hay.  Well, and I kid you not, I hightailed it to the back porch right now!

Out o’ courtesy, I worshed my hands quick as a lick out to the pump, even stuck my head under the icy flow fer good measure, then took them back steps in a solitary leap and burst full on through the screen door.

And there she sat, purty as a picture, fresh from the oven and hardly cooled at all, three foot-wide rounds of purely heaven on earth.  Mama stood off to the corner, a’stirrin’ a big ol’ bowl o’ that prize-winnin’ chocolate icin’, she’s known fer, little smile on her face.

I kin’ hardly breathe.  The aroma’s doin’ somersaults in my head, and my mouth and my stomach, they’s screamin’ fer a piece!

Mama, she’s always said we was kinder-ed spirits, and she knows from the beginnin’ o’ my beginnin’ my preference is warm cake ‘fore the frostin’ commences.

That don’t always set well with the rest o’ the Goodwells when a piece goes missin’ ‘fore the frostin’ been slicked on, so it don’t happen too often.

But this day, THIS day!  I’m all there is!

Could it be Mama’s done this here jest fer me?

Now.  It ain’t my birthday.  (That comes jest follerin’ Christmas.  Ain’t never no big doin’s that day, seein’ it’s Jesus’ birthday time, too and he counts a heck o’lot more’n me, pardon my French.).

An’ I ain’t been particular good.  Nor bad neither.

But when Mama widens her smile, bobs her head to-ward the fork a’restin’ solo on a paper napkin on the table, I reckon it’s jest because….

And that there?  That’d be good enough f’me!

And reckon the rest o’ the Goodwells will be enjoyin’ themselves a two-layer cake ‘stead o’three!

 

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“Cuttin’ It Fine!”

Pobre Tomat here….

Time for explanations and reflections…..

My family, my rowdy, robust, Midwestern clan, harkening back to pre-Revolutionary colonial land grants, we have legions of legends and stories going nearly back to the beginning of time.  All told word-of-mouth, mirroring  generations long passed, all enriched upon each telling, we claim ownership of them all.  Not all of major impact, certainly not, but all of major consequence because they were real, they happened, and they shouldn’t be lost under the heaps of new adventures, equally of note.

Shared at overloaded dinner tables, whilst oohing and ahhhing Fourth of July fireworks, during long Sunday afternoon drives headed nowhere, where the imagination expands to near bursting, the need to put these long lazy tales somewhere for posterity weighs heavy upon me.

Told through the voice of my own Daddy, and those of his sisters and brothers….

Told through the voices of Grandpaps and Grandmamas and Aints and Uncles and endless beloved (and not so) cousins and neighbors and adopted kin from sea to shining sea….

And some even told through my own voice, adventures and moments seen through my own, now Californian “west of center” eyes….

Infinite stories.  Infinite voices.  Infinite heartfelt, heartrending ownership of every word spoken, and now written.

My gratitude to you for so graciously confirming the existence of these moments in time by simply allowing the words and tales to slip across your mind is equally as heartfelt.

My deepest thanks.

 

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“Cuttin’ It Fine”

Hallelujah, By and By…

 

This here’s Grandpap’s story, like we heard from time on top o’time.  And lawsy, it don’t never get old!

 

Well, come the Pro-hibition, also come them folks what fell to both sides o’that fence.  Them what believed strong in bein’ Pro-hibited, and them what believed strong in bein’ fully hibited.

We Goodwells, Grandpap leadin’ that march, fell firm on the hibitation side.  Could o’been the successful commercial endeavor and the benefits therein and thereof.  Could o’been the fame what fell even heavier upon the Goodwell family and to which most our kin ‘cross Denton County and further yonder was right grateful.  Could o’been the joy of servin’ the community in a way ’twas uplifitin’ and intoxicatin’ both at the same time.

Could o’ jest been Grandpap, he didn’t like nobody tellin’ him jest what he could nor could not do.  Nor did he reckon as a red-bloodied American he’d never be forced to give up any freedom whatsoever.

And let’s call his pade a pade, Grandpap then and now is as durned stubborn as a Missouri mule.

And proud of it.

Well, the Goodwells (did I mention this is, law, twenty years prior to this here tellin’?  That’s plumb a decade ‘r more!), they continued in their happy ways, makin’ kith and kin healthy, if not wealthy and wise.  Grandpap, and Daddy and his brothers too, they guarded that recipe with thur lives.  They ain’t, none of them, never revealed the secrets of the ingredients nor the secrets of the brewin’ to this day.  Big Brother Linc, bein’ he’s the oldest of all my brothers and sisters, he’ll be the next to be  let in on it, if we was producin’….., but me, I’m further on down the line.  I reckon I’ll wait my turn.

Got no choice in the matter, says I.

If we was producin’…..

But I digress.

Grandpap, ‘cordin’ to him and Daddy and the uncles still hereabouts, he’d do all the orderin’ of the corn seed, he’d oversee the haulin’ of the goods up down the hill trail past that ol’ holler out to the back forty.  Him and one or two or t’other of his boys would spend ‘couple afternoons ever’ week “out to the shed.”  That there?  That’d be code fer “we’s all out to the still a’doin’ the brewin’.  Steer clear.”

Grandmama, her job was to worsh all them Mason jars what needed fillin’ and re’fillin’.  Doubt she much minded.  She did enjoy her Kansas City outtin’s so.

Daddy’ll usually inject a word at this point in Grandpap’s story, ‘splainin’ how Grandpap’d hardly never let them fellers work the ‘shine alone.  Wudn’t a issue o’trust, mind you, he’d say, noddin’ and smilin’ Grandpap’s way, ’twas a matter of quality control.

And Grandpap, he was self- commisioned controller of said quality, takin’ it right serious.  Jest a spoonful here ‘n there, Daddy’d say.  And here Grandpap’d do the noddin’.

Clear heads on the manufacturin’ side was paramount.  “Cain’t be caught a’drinkin’ the profits!” was Grandpap’s contribution to this aside.

Well, time come they began to hear tell o’raids and revenuers and spies and sneaks spreadin’ like greasy fingers from the North and East, even fer as Chicago!  Over to Jeff City, big outfit operatin’ within’ spittin’ distance from the Capitol Buildin’ of the Grand State of Missouri, well, once they heard the law was a’comin’, ‘stead o’hightailin’ it out the county in them grand stretch cars I seen out to the big road, why, they jest sent the whole pro-duction and inventory up in blazes.  Left them revenuers a’holdin’ they hats and a’scratchin’ they heads.  Couldn’t find hide nor hair of contraband nowhere.  Burned to smithereens, it all was.  Grandpap heard tell it was a far lit with God’s own hand.  Now, I cain’t imagine God didn’t get Him some help by layin’ this mission on somebody’s heart.  Didn’t matter one iota, anyhow.  Wudn’t a thing them lawmen could do but move on.

Missouri is, after all, known belovedly  as “The Show Me State,” and the way I see it, ‘lessin’ they could find them some stills to smash or barrels to ax, they was up a crick with not one paddle.

‘Course, them revenuers, they was a breed.  Law and order was what they eat fer dinner.  They wudn’t like to give up, nosireeBOB!

And ‘course, neither would Grandpap.

The story always jumps ’round this here part.  Tales o’other manufacturers and they brushes with the law.  The sadness in Grandpap’s voice when he spoke, even now, of thur losses and losses of livelihoods, like to broke the listener’s heart.

We, all us newer Goodwells, we’d shake our heads sorrowfully and look to the floor.  ‘Twas expected, y’see.

Then!  Have Mercy and Hallelujah!

With a roar like a freight train heavy loaded runnin’ hot, Grandpap, he’d let out a warhoop!

“Not this man!  Not this day!”

And we, all us newer Goodwells, we’d tumble from our chairs or prostrate ourselves on the floor in laughter and joy!   ‘Twas also expected, y’see.

Story goes, Grandpap was jest a whittlin’ some little do-hickey on the front veranda of the big ol’ white house to the top of the purty hill.  Jest a’shootin’ the breeze with his boys, dog Buford lyin’ like he was dead, always at his feet.

Near my whole life, we’ve had us a Buford o’some mix or t’other.  Always a good huntin’ dog who’d love Grandpap better’n life.

We do find us some smart hounddogs.

Well, this day in question, was a lazy, hazy afternoon.  Soft breeze waftin’ the long green grasses of the vast front yard.  Birds was too lazy to even sing, ‘cept ever now and a’gin.  Sun was that thick yeller color, shootin’ sleepy shadows longways out from all them oaks.  Bugs was a’buzzin’, Grandmama was a hummin’ from somewhere deep in the big ol’ house, a late afternoon God-given fer contemplation and gratitude fer his gifts.

Like most summertime afternoons to this here very day.

Well in a snap, that ol’ revery was plumb broke!  Spinnin’ dust and ol’ Model T engine a whinin’ and a strainin’, come speedin’ up the lane from the bottoms down below.  Heard him ‘fore seein’ him, Grandpap and the boys, and even Buford rose to attention with wonderment!  Didn’t nobody never hurry nowhere this time o’day!

Even now, Grandpap reckons his first thinkin’ must be Judgement Day, fer certain, ‘cept he don’t recall hearin’ any trumpets soundin’.

E-ventually, that ol’ car rumbled and bounced its to the top of the purty hill, all dirt and swirls and hollers and bodies leapin’ from the front and back and ever’ whichever!  Grandpap said didn’t nothin’ settle, not even fer a minute, but in all the hullabaloo, he recon-ized Dep’ty Junior Macinaw, known ferever as “Bubba.”

Bubba jest jumped ’round hollerin’ to high heaven, a’wavin’ his beefy hands and flailin’ a’bout like he’d got him the rabies,  but them few words what Grandpap could decipher was them ones he’d dreaded for some time,

“Revenuers is comin’!  Revenuers is comin’!  Hide the ‘shine!  Hide the ‘shine!”

The way Grandpap relays the story, why, jest about this moment, I’m so durned het up I kin hardly suck in a breath, much less push it out!

Well, there’s more to this story, it only picks up from there!

It’s a whopper!

“Hallelujah, by and by!”

 

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“Cuttin’ It Fine!”

I’ll Fly Away...

 

So here’s the story, shot straight and true from Grandpap his ownself.

This here is the year o’ our Lord Nineteen and Twenny-Two.  Grandpap ain’t a young man, still, he’s nigh on twenny or so years to the younger side then he is rat now.  But to hear him tell, he was a whale o’ a whippersnapper and law, I’m like to believe him!

If you knowed my Grandpap, you’d know!  He’s a go-getter!

Now Daddy, Daddy, him and Mama’s jest been married a short time, ain’t even had them Lincoln yet.  They was still a’goin’ to Saturday night dances down to the pool hall and holdin’ hands down the lanes of the purty hill on which the Goodwell land then sat.

‘Course, Mama’n Daddy still hold hands and can still cut them a rug somethin’ fierce.

We just don’t live up on that purty hill no more.  Goodwell prop’ty these days is a deep, skinny patch o’ low lands down to the bottom o’ that same hill.  I’ll catch Grandpap lookin’ up top, wistful and eyes yearnin’ fer them days, but he don’t never complain none, not Grandpap.  Neither does nobody else.  Times was hard and parcels needed sellin’ to keep the family a’floatin’.  Grandpap did what he could and us Goodwells, we don’t look backwards, says I.  Our family’s stuck together, one fer all and all fer t’other fer as long as our history’s been writ ‘r recollected.

We Goodwells is a proud folk, I tell you what, times bein’ thick ‘r thin.

And them same times, thick ‘r thin,  Grandpap, he’s always been revered and beloved by one and all.  Folks of influence, they ask him fer advice and counsel.  Judges and dep’ties and mailmen, they all look to Grandpap fer di-rection and guidin’. Little ol’ ladies down to the church, and the neighbors down the road, they’ve always considered Grandpap a guidin’ light and a source of knowledge and common sense.

Dogs’ll heel, cats’ll purr, and wild ponies’ll settle come Grandpap’s call.

Wudn’t no diff’rnt back in them days, neither, ‘cept Grandpap had land and money, and a real good recipe for real good ‘shine.

(And truth be tol’, we still got that recipe and we still be producin’, but we keep that to ourselves, mostly, and I’m a’hopin’ you’ll honor us and do the same.)

Well, in them days, inbibin’ of inny sort was against the law. Pro-hibition, they called it.

Now bein’ law abidin’, Bible-believin’ Christian folk, Goodwells never once per-ported to scoff at the law of the land.

Never once, how-some-ever, did he b’lieve fer one minute this here abobination applied to him or his. This here law, well, Grandpap just couldn’t abide

And didn’t.

And hear tell, his production, it bounded by jumps and leaps and the Goodwells was makin’ money hand over fist, and stuffin’ ever’ mattress and ever’ piller in the big ol’ two story white house what sit plumb center o’ the purty hilltop.  Daddy’n his brothers all had them the best lookin’ boots and ridin’ kit.  Grandmama (she was livin’ then, but she fell dead in the pasture some years later, but before I come along.  Lincoln and Lawrence, they say she smelled of lilac and wore sparkly pins in her blue gray hair.  Sometimes I’ll see her in my sleepin’ dreams and  I reckon she’ll be a’waitin’ at them pearly gates fer me one day…), she had her store bought dresses and went down to Kansas City near ever’ month ‘r so jest to shop fer purties!  Law!

Well, the Goodwell side business, it was common knowledge, and ’twas common knowledge Grandpap and his secret sauce done put purt’near ever’ other manufacturer in Denton County out of business.  Cream o’ the crop, some said.  Folks’d come from two, three counties beyond jest fer some jars of Grandpap’s brew.  Didn’t nobody but family know the hill trail back to the still.  Grandpap refers to it still as “The Plant.”  But ever’body knowed the little turnout at the bottom o’ the lane and the bottom of the purty hill where he’d have his boys drive down a load o’ rattlin’ Mason jars a jigglin’ inside with lightnin’ strong ‘nough to peel the skin rat off yer tongue!

Now, Grandpap and his kin, they only used it fer medicinal purposes.  Grandpap assures us ever’ time he tells this here story.

And commences to remind us we Goodwells now would do the same thing, if we was still in production…..

And Grandpap, while he believed strong jest what folks did with his ‘shine once they purchased it was they own business, he did have faith they was wise with they usage.  He’d often say he was only providin’ what the Good Lord give him the skill to provide, and that till his dyin’ day, he was obligated to serve the Lord by usin’ the gifts he was given.

And again, ever’ tellin’, he steps into the right now to remind us we got us the same responsibility till our own dyin’ days.

If we was producin’.

He gets hisself all red-cheeked and a’grinnin’ at the rememberin’,  recallin’ how it done him good,  always pleased him like punch, when folks’d come back fer Mason Jar refills.  Called his customers his “people.”

Grandpap, he’s a “people person.”

And them judges and them dep’ties and postmen and church ladies and neighbors, and even some o’ them dogs and cats and ponies, well, they all inbibed one time t’other.  And they always come back, says he.

But then.

(And here’s where we, all us Goodwells, we get all het up and set up straight with anticipation!)

Then come the rev-nuers.

Boy howdy!  I like to die ever’ time he gets to this part!

 

 

“When I die, Hallelujah!”

 

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“Cuttin’ It Fine”

“I’ll Fly Away….”

 

Grandpap, that spiky white-haired feller’s always plumb full o’ tales and recollections.  Part of this family’s entertainment come evenin’ is to get him a’goin’.  Don’t take much, just a prod here and over there, then I tell you what, he’s off to the races and all us kids, all we Goodwells, well, we all look to one another with that special deep eye smile what speaks of knownin’ and not a’guessin’.

That his recallin’ gits grander with ever’ tellin’, why, that just adds to the jolly-fication.  We don’t mind one iota.

And this here grandson o’his, why, I take it all fer gospel, you bet.  My Grandpap, he’s lived hisself a long and robust life.  Over and over again.  Them memories o’ his sing out deep strong!

Here’s one o’ my favorites.

And I’ll swear (don’t tell Mama) I will hereby lay down pen to paper an honest recountin’, faithful and true, jest the way Grandpap recounted it to all we Goodwells.  On more’n one occasion.

That I cain’t account fer Grandpap’s po-tential stretches of them truths, well, that jest don’t count fer much. Way I figure is he’s jest a rememberin’ a little more each tellin’.

Fine by me.

So here’s the deal.

Our family, we Goodwells, we long been stalward residents of Denton County, Missouri, up north o’ Kansas City and east some of St. Joe.  Grandpap was born here, and his grandpap, and even his grandpap before.  We lived high on the hill and high on the hog, we lived in the river bottoms with no livestock ‘tall to speak of.  But all the while, we been kit and kin and tied tight like families is s’posed, and our history is wove through the history of this here durned county and state theyselves.

Ain’t a slew o’ recollections ’bout Grandpap’s grandpap’s grandpap.  Only he come over from Scotland with him a German wife, settlin’ here long ‘fore near anyone else but Osages and Wyandottes.  Claimed them a little bit o’land and built them a little bitty cabin down to the bottom of a right purty green hill.  Remains o’which we Goodwells, we play in and out of right regular.

Brother Lawrence, he burned some o’ the logs fer a weenie roast when he was knee high to a tall Indian.  Let’s jest say he ain’t never makin’ THEM sort o’plans a’gin.

Well, Grandpap’s Grandpap, he fought in the War ‘Tween the States, Confederate blue through and through.  Fought firm ‘gainst his own kin who took they the Union side.  He was known fer the ac-cumulation of all the Goodwell land stretchin’ near county line to county line and clear to the top o’ that purty hill and beyond.  He was known too,  fer these massive potlucks, set up out ‘neath a grove o’ oaks  up on that there hill, beaconin’  Goodwells far and wide ever’ Sunday afternoon come summer, Union or Reb.

Then, they was Grandpap’s daddy.  Hear tell, he was some sort of trouble, renegade and cowboy, a’livin’ the Wild West clean with shootouts and dancin’ gals out to Kansas and Colorado.  Made it back eventual, less the bottom half o’a leg, married the daughter o’ the judge, ‘n then raised hisself a slew o’boys, Grandpap bein’ the apple o’his eye.

‘Course next they came Langston Goodwell, my Grandpap.  Famous far and wide, and near all ‘cross this beloved state clean to the Mississip’, well, he’s always been known as a hard worker, a straight shooter, a smooth talker, and faithful friend to all mankind, and ladies and children and animals, too.

He also per-fected his own daddy’s recipe for a real good ‘shine.

And this is where our story commences.

 

“Oh, Glory!”

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“Cuttin’ it Fine!”

Hi, Everybody!

(Does anyone else get a “Simpsons’ moment” when they say that in their heads?)

 

Thanks for stopping by.  I’m using the Blogging 101 and 201 exercises to stretch my work a little.  It’s a great way to organize thoughts and play with words and styles.

I’ve been working on speaking through my Dad, relating old family stories (and variations of the same) for a year or so.  Thanks for any comments you may have.  One day, I may publish in a more cohesive and formal manner.  For now, though, I’m actually eager to just get them all out there.

Three goals

1.  Gather the family tales.

2.  Goad my daddy into telling me more!

3.  Guarantee they’re written in his voice!

There are heaps and piles, so I just keep pushin’ in that shovel, and tossin’ it over my shoulder.  Who KNOWS what’ll come flyin’ out!

 

 

 

Whoppers and Yarns and Story-tellin’

 

We’re havin’ us some time, aren’t we?

Some o’you I met, some o’you I ain’t.  And if I ain’t, why, howdy-do!

A red-bloodied USA American boy, it’s 1942, I live in Denton County Missouri, one’ o’whole slew o’family I got one end the county to the other’n.  I’m thirteen, got me seven rascal brothers and even rascallier sisters.  I got a brother Lincoln, he rides rodeo.  I got a brother Lawrence handsomer than the Devil hisself and muscles bulgin’ and tensin’ top o’his head to his dirty feet,  and a big ol’ smile drawin’ girls like flies.

He seems to like that.

I got me a sister Livvie who giggles and prisses and dances like a demon when ain’t nobody lookin’.

Luce, she’s another sister.  Tougher than a junkyard dog.  Don’t be crossin’ her at night nor any other time neither. You’ll thank me.

Loreen, she’s ten.  She keeps to herself most times.  She’s a deadeye with a weapon, let me tell you.

Louis and Lawton, they’s the twins, aged seven.  Havin’ them two ’round’s like swattin’ flies, they don’t do nothin’ but pester and buzz in yer ears.   And they’re plumb sneaky, them two.

And me, I’m stuck between Luce  and Loreen.

My name’s Liam and I got me some tales to tell.

 

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