Let ‘er Rip!

Hey Ho and Hideehooo!

Liam here!  Liam Goodwell!  Of the Denton County Goodwells!

And this here?  This here is a red letter day!  Thinkin’ a buntin’ be-decked dancin’ horses parade!  Thinkin’ apple pie and cheese, if you be pleased!  Thinkin’ all them things pale in comparison…….

Mama, she’s a’comin’ back home!

So all we Goodwells, Grandpap and Lincoln and Lawrence and Livvie and Luce and me and Loreen and Louis and Lawton, all us, ‘ceptin’ Daddy who’s took the International down to Doc Allen’s place to fetch her back, plus all the Michelwaits, (don’t even get me started with that clan!), and neighbors and townfolk, and Miss Meadow from down to the school, we’re all us gathered, feastin’ yet to begin, a’waitin’, hippity hoppity excited to welcome our Mama home.

She ex-caped dyin’, you know.  Snakebit, she was.  Ugly mean dueced devil of a stinkin’ evil copperhead reared up and nailed her ankle whist she was a’gatherin’ eggs fer our breakfast.

Sheer evil. Five foot long if it was an inch.

Let me tell you, Louis and Lawton, them two seven-year-olds, they foun’ and kilt that sucker, smashed it’s ugly shinin’ mug to a pulp, an’ since then, we been steppin’ lightly, I tell you what!  Hung that carcass on the back fence to learn any other them eager suckers jest what we do to their kind, they come onto Goodwell land.   

Now, we still gather eggs from the henhouse, out to the chicken yard, but we stomp, an’ wear knee high rubber boots Grandpap left by the back porch screen door and swish branches and make our presence known.

An’ we’re scared plumb to death ever’ time we do it!  But a family’s, rightly so, gotta eat.

Today, though, we ain’t givin’ that no nevermind.  We’re celebratin’, for after nigh on a week without our Mama, without the sunshine and the joyful noises she brings, why, she’s a’comin’ home, triumphant over death and the grave!

It was push and tug, I tell you what.  She didn’t even see the light o’day with her own eyes till couple days ago.  But the Lord Jesus decided it jest wudn’t time to bring her home to Heaven jest right then, and fer that we Goodwells, all us, plus the Michelwaits an’ all the neighbors and townfolk, and Miss Meadow from down to the school, we’re makin’ our own joyful noises!

Tables is laden with pies and fried chicken and green beans and watermelon and cottage cheese and them little weiners with bacon wrapped roun’ them and stuck with a toothpick.  We got “Red Rover” a’goin’ out to the barn yard, we got the horses festooned with clover chains (that was the girls’ idee.  Sure wudn’t the horses, from the sags on they faces and the steel in they eyes), we got ol’ ladies rockin’  ruts in the grass clean down to the red Missouri clay out under the big maple, we got streamers hanging from stuck sticks up an’ down the dusty lane down to the road.

Fer Mama, she’s comin’ home today!

Hark?  Hark?  Do I hear an engine, the sputter and whine of the ol’ International?  Am I imaginin’?  Could it be?  I took to lookin’ fer Luce, fer she got eyes like an eagle and ears like a prairie dog.  

But then Lord A’mighty, I don’t need no confirmation nor affirmation nor consolation nor speculation!  See that there?  See that puff o’ dust way off down there?  No?  Wait jest a second, there it is agin’ comin’ over that rise!

“There they be! There they are!” I cain’t get the words out fast enough, my brains shoutin’ louder’n my mouth, “Here they come!  Git ready!  C’mon!”

I’m fair giddy, bouncin’ and runnin’ here’n there, flailin’ and happy drunk with joy and anticipation!  Law, an’ I ain’t the only one!  The “Red Rover” stopped ‘afore sendin’ anybody over, the ol’ ladies ceased they rocking, standin’ slow-like and straightenin’ the wrinkled laps of thur floweredy dresses.  Grandpap, he shanghied some o’ the cousins, had them lead the horses down the lane.  For you know it, lickity split and hippity hip and snappity snap, the whole dusty lane, quarter mile all told, was lined with child’rn an’ mamas an’ cousins an’ neighbors an’ aints an’ uncles an’, why, there’s the judge, an’ the sour an’ dour ol’ library lady, an’ Miss Meadow, from down to the school!  

Law, my Mama is beloved!

Law, my Mama is loved!

And my Mama, she’s a comin’ home!  

An’ then, why, a song sprung to my lips, “Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!”

An’ you know it, you do! 

I “Let ‘er Rip!!”  

……..and so’d, praise the Lord, did ever’body else!

Mama, she’s a’comin’ home!
                                                                                             ***********

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Let ‘er Rip!

Glory Glory Hallelujah! 

I say ag’in, Glory Glory Hallelujah Amen!

We got us a rise out o’Mama!  Me’n Luce!  We got us a rise out o’Mama!  I jest know she’s on her way back, I jest know!  She rested a bit this side o’Jordan, weighed the Pearly Gates and them golden streets ag’inst wild heathen child’urn under foot and mangy houn’dogs needin’ feedin’ and durned if she didn’t turn herself a’roun’ and set her sights back to the land o’ the livin’!

I say it one more time, Glory Glory Hallelujah!

The Good Lord in Heaven, he heard our prayers, pitiful and sorrowful as they was, and durned if he didn’t ‘llow his daughter to return to us fer a spell!  

This here’s Liam Goodwell.  Of the Denton County Goodwells!  An’ proud and grateful son and offspring and kindr’d spirit of one Lila Elizabeth Aubry Franklin Michelwait Goodwell, the finest Mama and warmest Christian woman on the face o’ this world!

Glory!

Law, i cain’t get myself over it.  Don’t really want to, the joy wellin’ up in my soul jest washes me plumb clean and tingly ever’ time I see it in my mind!

See, here’s the sto-ry.

Me’n Luce, we, at the same durned minute, got us a tuggin’ and a pullin’ in our hearts, GO SEE MAMA!

Didn’t have to tell us twice, whomsoever was a’doin’ the tellin’.  We lit out lickity split, ninety to nothin’, ol’ Buck the horse workin’ hisself into a froth.  Took us no time to get to Doc Allen’s, other side o’ town from the Goodwell place, half hour tops.  We was flyin’!  God bless Buck.  He’s a tough ol’ piece o’ horseflesh, but he loves Mama his ownself.  

She’ll save him an apple ‘r two when she’s a makin’ pie.  An’ ol’ Buck, he don’t forget.

Luce says, and I’ll vouch, she don’t even recollect slidin’ from the sweaty back o’ that ol’ boy, nor racin’ in the house, no knockin’, no “halluuin'”, no doubt scarin’ the livin’ daylights out Mrs. Allen, Doc Allen’s kindly wife.

Reckon some apologizin’ will be in order soon, but that thought there, it douses a mite of that joy what was worshin’ over me….I’ll ponder that tidbit later.

I will.

Later.

But right now, baskin’ in the rememberin’, that’s healin’ the deepest part o’ my insides and I figure I’ll rest here sometime longer.

Truth be tol’, I don’t recall much neither, till we found ourselves, one side t’other, lookin’ down upon Mama’s sweet face.  Her eyes was closed, same as always.  Her hair was fluffed jest so, same as before.  Peaceful, her hands was folded atop the white cloud of bedclothes comfortin’ her.  The thin lacy curtains, they was blowin’ inwards, little breeze driftin’ and sashayin’ ‘roun’ the room.  I seem to recall Mrs. Allen a’standin’ at the door, but I cain’t be shore.  

Now, we didn’t know what we was expectin’, rightly.  Did we think Mama’d be up dancin’ and swayin’ ’bout the room, smellin’ all the sweet wildflowers we set ‘roun’?  Did we figure she’d be helpin’ Mrs. Allen, Doc Allen’s kindly wife, with the worshin’?  Did we figure she’d leap up and greet us with hugs and kisses like she done ever’ other wakeful day o’ her life?

Well, I think that one there, that may have been it.

Howsomever, here she was, there she lie, no diff’ernce, just that  blankness spread like sweet honey ‘cross her face.

Heck a’fire, if me’n Luce, we didn’t have us another ‘xact same thought pass through our heads.

An’ we both, both us together, me the melody, Luce the harmony (always seemed fittin’ Luce, she sang harmony.  Just a bit askance n’ off kilter was her pre-ferred way, but still headin’ the same di-rection, making the way all the more complete) we struck into “Amazin’ Grace”, all four verses, even the “Praise God” verse at the end.  Well, then we slid into “Jesus is a Rock in a Weary Land” and then we got to goin’, rippin’ out “Jest Over in the Glory Land” then raisin’ our voices to “I’ll Fly Away” and “Caanan’s Happy Land!”

Don’t even remember jest when it happened, it was so sly and right-like, but dogged if they wudn’t one more voice a’chimin’ in, quiet and purty and tinklin’ like little bells!

You got it!  You nailed it!  Why, our Mama, eyes closed, hands folded on them soft white sheets, was a singin’, a’praisin’, and Law, if me n’ Luce, tears slidin’ freely down our faces, we kept ‘er goin’!  We sung choruses and verses and hymns and Sunday Night tunes and Sunday School ditties till we was hoarse, then ,why, we sung some more!  Mama, too, all the while her eyes closed but her voice a’ringin’ and a’singin’.  

Never did know how long it was till we all plumb run out o’gas.  But then we went to gigglin’, and eyes still closed shut, Mama, she give a smile, wiggled a couple fingers, like she was a’sayin’, “Come back soon!”

Not for one second, not one iota of a slice of a moment, did we ever think this was less than a miracle from the Good Lord’s own hand!  

Nosiree bub!  

An’ Mrs. Allen, Doc Allen’s kindly wife, she, as our witness, she shooed us out, but in the nicest o’ways, sayin’ Mama’d had enough excitement fer one day, an’ she’d be callin’ Doc right away to have him see the improvement.  She’d seen the happenin’, too.  ‘Twasn’t nothin’ short of a miracle!

Don’t recall much of the blisterin’ ride home, but Buck, he’d waited sure and steady where we’d left him till me’n Luce exploded from the Allen home, then he did his own explodin’, bustin’ his backside gettin’ us back home.  

Never once occurred to us to ask Mrs. Allen, Doc Allen’s kindly wife, if we could use her telephone (party line, o’course) to alert all the Goodwells left at home.

Thankfully, Mrs. Allen, she done it for us, and when ol’ Buck tossed us off hisself, done with us fer the time bein’, walkin’ hisself back into his stall and his interrupted afternoon repose, why, the rest o’ we Goodwells, all of ’em, Grandpap and Daddy on down, why we had us a dance fest in the dusty back yard.

Mama!  Mama was a’goin’ to make it!  

Glory Glory Hallelujah!

Amen and Amen!

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

Let ‘er Rip!

This here’s Liam. Ag’in.  An’ ag’in.  

And this here is gettin’ powerful tiresome, this tale-tellin’.  Fairly makes me relive all the troubles and tribulations we Goodwells been sufferin’ the last week ‘r so.

Well, really only the one.  

Mama.

Mama bein’ snakebit.

Mama bein’ snakebit by a devil of a ol’ nasty deadly copperhead.

An’ Mama bein’ comatose and unresponsive down to Doc Allen’s place the last three days.

Grandpap, he fair killed his ownself a tryin’ to suck that poison from the ankle spot where that rascal bit her.  Couldn’t breathe and mouth swelled up so bad  he couldn’t barely speak.  An’ Daddy, he blames hisself fer not runnin’ to her aid when he heard her yelp in the chicken yard.  Linc and Lawrence, they did their own part tryin’ to keep her comfortable ‘long the way, an’ we’re all a’doin’ our part , all us Goodwells, tryin’ to keep the farm a hummin’ and the livestock fed.

But it ain’t nothin’ like havin’ Mama here.  Never knew she was the center sunshine an’ we was all the planets a’swirlin’ in circles ‘roun’ her.  

Miss Meadow, down to the school, she taught us that last school year.  Never figured I’d need the knowin’ but somehow it does apply.

Truth is, ever’ minute seems an hour.  Or a day.  Or a week.  Daddy ain’t left her side, till today, that is.  He drove up the lane not half hour ago,  International so covered in dust wudn’t a speck o’the underneath red paint to be seen.  When he got out, hat in hand, his face was the same, no color nowhere to be seen, just dusty and sad.

Slappin’ his hat on his thigh, he run his hand through his black hair, and he caught me a’lookin’, almost acted surprised, but then, not.

“Hey there, Son,”

“Hey, Daddy.”

“Been a long day.”

“Yes, Sir,”  

I shore wanted to run up, give him a big ol’ hug, like when I was five or ten or twelve.  But these thirteen years held me back some, and the moment got away from us, and he ambled, shoulders slumped and feet draggin’, up the back steps up to the porch, and into the lonely empty kitchen.  I stayed put under the shade tree out to the yard.

Afternoons can go on f’rever.  When it’s hot an’ dusty dry, the stillness makes it even worse.  Dogs even mopin’ and sad. Chores needin’ doin’ was done, those not needin’ doin’ wudn’t.  Couldn’t none o’us get our thoughts aimed towards nothin’ but Mama.  Ol’ Doc Allen, he come up to the house once or twice, fillin’ us in on her condition.  He let us even go down to see her, all  us kids at the same time.  Somethin’ ’bout surroundin’ her bed, her all purty an’ still, hair combed jest so by Doc Allen’s wife Mrs. Allen, white sheets and white covers and white flowers on the bedside table, she seemed near peaceful.  

Doc said, all the swellin’ was near gone, an’ the poison mostly dispersed, as well.  Her heart seemed sound , said he, and the mottlin’ ‘roun’ the wound was near invisible.  I heard him talkin’ low in Grandpap’s ear how he wudn’t quite certain why she hadn’t woke up, though, it was a dilemma.  When he shook his head, I quick looked t’other way, fearful what would come next.

Well, here I set, nothin’ but nothin’ to be done, else I’d be doin’ it.  I could feel that jumblin’ rumblin’ feelin’ a growin’ in my belly, though.  Somethin’ was comin’.

Luce plopped her rangy self down beside me underneath the tree where I set.

That wudn’t it, but it’d do.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

Nice to have the comp’ny.

“Daddy’s home.”

“Yep.”

“Reckon he’s hungry?”

“Loreen and Livie’s got it.”

“Scares me a little.”

“Me, too.”

An’ so we set, me ‘n Luce.  Sun didn’t move.  Wind didn’t blow.  Didn’t no trucks nor horses nor wagons nor bicycles nor mangy beasts pass by down to the road.

So we jest set.

An’ set.

Just then, Luce stirred.

At the same time, me too.

“Reckon we oughtta….?”

“Oughtta go?  Right now!”

An’ that there, that was that!  We tore out like a screamin’ pair o’ wild Whirlin’ Dervishes!  We whipped up our own breeze hightailin’ it to the barn, startled ol’ Buck from his afternoon respose in his stall.  I grabbed me a harness and sweet-talked him into lettin’ me slide his bit into his stubborn mouth, and Luce, she tossed a ol’ blanket cross his wide back.

We burst out that barn like a house a’fire!  

Somethin’ tol’ us both our Mama, she needed us!  Felt near like she was a callin’ to us!  Right now!  

An’ even with me an’ Luce upon his back, ol’ Buck, I’ll coulda swore (if I was to swear, don’t tell Mama!) he was next to flyin’!

We’re a comin’, Mama!  We’re a’comin’!

************** 

Let ‘er Rip

This here’s Liam.  Liam Goodwell.  Denton County Goodwells.

Hey.

Well, here’s the thing.  The thing about my Mama is there ain’t one slice, not one durned iota, not a shred nor a hair nor a nugget o’ woulda, coulda, shoulda in her.  Nosiree.  I tell you, she’s a woman who gives ever’ moment her complete and whole an’ good-hearted attention, then moves on to the next moment, givin’ it the same.   My Mama, she ain’t reckless or feckless nor wild, thing is, she just don’t toe no line.  

She’ll tell stories how some o’ them ladies down to the church, they give her some trouble early on, as her spirit ‘ppeared to them to be a right bit free, not to they likin’ a’tall.  How she won them ol’ biddies over I’ll never know, but long’s I kin r’member, they jest give her her head and let her be.  Once upon a time, I reckoned bein’ a Goodwell, an’ ‘fore that a Mickelwait, give her a pass.  Although the Mickelwaits, the bad times hit them harder than it did us Goodwells.  They all still tryin’ to make a livin’ down in the river bottoms, floods and bugs and critters accost them reg’lar, but they be hardworkin’ and honest.  And most say them Mickelwaits raise the purtiest chil’ren in ten counties, all fluffy and yeller-headed and freckle-free and strong features what cain’t be tamed.  Big white smiles and friendly to a fault don’t hurt none.

Truth be told, however, I jest think my Mama is jest the best human bein’ ‘live and folks jest ain’t bound to argue.  Don’t nobody spend much time argu’in’ with my Mama, anyhow.  She’s liable to twist them ‘roun’ her little finger, get them to do her biddin’ ‘thout them even a’knowin’, them feed them a slice o’her apple pie to keep ’em sweet!

My Mama, she’s somethin’.

And she ain’t woke up in two days.  

Jest them teeny sips o’water Daddy give her through a straw from down to the drugstore  (Doc Allen brung straws when he brung us the salve and the medicines.).

Story goes, come to find out, ‘fore breakfast, day b’fore last,  early whist she was a’gatherin’ eggs for our mornin’ meal, (I cain’t even stop to think how my Mama knows I love my scrambled eggs come mornin’…) she was out to the brooder house, roustin’ them hens from they roosts.  Somethin’ she, or me or the girls or the boys or purtin’ near all us Goodwells done a dozen r’ a hundr’d times. The mist was jest a’liftin, still wettin’ the straw and straggles on the groun’, and the sun wudn’t even a orange sliver yet.  The gray of the morning near matched the gray of the wooded slats of the henhouse, but my Mama, I know, was a ray o’light.  Them rosy pink cheeks and them poppin’ brown eyes, she’s one heap o’color.  She cain’t he’p it.

Daddy was out to the barn beginnin’ his own early chores when thought he heard her give a little yelp, startled him some, said he.

“That you, Darlin’?” he recollects he hollered out, and he recollected he waited quiet-like till she hollered back, “Oh, it’s alright, Hon, jest pricked my ankle on a stick. I’ll live!”

Law.

Didn’t neither one think one more thing ’bout it.  Mama come in, ol’ splintered basket full with ‘enough eggs to feed a thrashin’ crew.  Or the Goodwells.  She bustled ’bout and hustled here and there, cuttin” stripe-ed bacon thick like we like it, whippin’ up the biscuits and cuttin’ them with an’ ol’ jelly glass, then slicin’ tomaters ’cause Grandpap loves him his tomaters, layin’ out the butter and jam, and whiskin’ them eggs.  Then with the girls she sat the table and hollered fer them twins t’get out her way and wiped her brow with the back o’her floury dusty hand, then worried them on the hem o’ Daddy’s threadbare shirt she was sportin’.

Mama don’t wear no apron, by the by.  She wears one o’ Daddy’s ol’ work shirts, y’see.  Says it keeps her housedresses nicer come company stop by.  An’ I s’pose it does, but I see the little smile she gives Daddy when we ask, and the little smile he’s purty sure he’s secretly givin’ her back.

An’ all them purty aprons what she sews and embroiders fer the girls’ hope chests, why, ain’t a’one for her.

Well, there we was, all gathered at the kitchen table, talkin’ ninety to nothin’, summertime jabber ’bout this and that and nothin’ parti’cular.  Givin’ no nevermind to Mama a’favorin’ that leg jest a little durin’ her fetch and deliver sashay back an’ forth from the black wood stove.

All the while never considerin’ once that stick what pricked her wudn’t no stick a’tall, ’twas a five foot copperhead lyin’ in wait, a’waitin’ his own turn to grab some o’them eggs, but Mama, she got in the way.  An’ the poison, it was doin’ its devilry, none o’us the wiser.

Law.  

Mama jest has to wake up.  My get up and go done got up and went and I barely got nothin’ left to say when I pray.  I know surely I keep a’sayin’ and prayin’ the same thing over and over again, jest like we learnt in Sunday School them heathens do.   Lord knows my thoughts, Bible tells me so, and I reckon I got to hang my hat on that there.

Lord, Lord, bring my Mama back.  I’ll gather the eggs ever’ day the rest o’ my life.

Amen.

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

Let ‘er Rip!

I reckon a feller shouldn’t never grow up ‘thout a mama.  Ain’t right, somehow, nor good.

Selfish, I am.  Got me sisters an’ brothers needin’ the comfort and guidance of a mama, an’ I ain’t aimin’ on denyin’ them, no, I am not.

Havin’ a mama in the house is like plumb havin’ a angel around….one who scrambles the eggs, who mends the holes in the knees o’ our britches, who wets the worshrag to hold against our feverin’ brows.  She’s the one who plucks the feathers from the fresh-slain chickens, and shucks, she’s the one who’ll wring they necks.  She’s the one who shoos the hounds from the cats’ food but will pick the ticks from under they fur an’ give ’em a hug and a ruffle jest for sittin’ still.  She’s the one who’ll worsh out our mouths with soap for takin’ the Lord’s name in vain, and won’t abide a lie, and who’ll make us cookies fer no reason a’tall.  She’s the one who always says she loves us last thing ‘fore bed and first thing come mornin’.  She’s the one who peeks in to check all is well, when we’re a’playin’ possum under the nighttime covers.

But me and MY Mama, we was always kindred spirits besides all that, always two of them podded peas.  She’d have these visions, premonitions or what have you, and they’d cross the front o’ my thinking at pre-cisely the same darned time.  Cain’t explain, nor could she.  We, both o’us, understood of livin’ what others ‘ppeared to not.

My Mama, she could slide me the side-eye an’ I could read her thinkin’ in a snap. An’ toe the line if that was the message….as it often could be.  We, both of us, could sing an’ spin an’ dance an’ holler, jest ’cause it was daylight.  Or nightlight.  Or Tuesday.  We shared thinkin’ on books an’ the war over to Europe an’ dreams of trav’lin’ once this war was done.

She’s the one taught me cryin’ was fine, done in private, but when the clouds cleared, ’twas time to move on.  She’s the one taught me God loves us even when we scratch him the wrong way.  She taught me to be sorry when I should be, and not when I’m not.

She taught me to forgive real things, not jest say ” oh, that’s alright…”  ‘Cause most time it ain’t.

So, Father God in Heaven, fergive me my lapsin’ o’faith.  My Mama, she ain’t woke since she been bit.  I put her in your lovin’ hands, but I be shrivellin’ wrinkled in fear.  My Mama, she be yours, but I reckon I’d shore ‘ppreciate if you’d see yer way to lettin’ her be ours a mite more, if you see fit and willin’.

Amen and amen.

Yer servant and son, Liam.  Liam Goodwell.  Of the Denton County Goodwells.

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

Let ‘er Rip!

Ain’t got the gumption nor the energy nor the willpower nor the “what fer ” to pray fer God’s strength to give you much this day.  I reckon it may to date have been the most harrer’in’ day I ever lived.

This here’s Liam, Liam Goodwell, but I figure you know all that by now.  An’ if you don’t, law, you should.

(Lord, fergive me my sideways an’ pesky attitude.  You know my heart….)

But Golly Dang, this here’s been a day, clean since mornin’, and now, when I kin hardly keep my eyelids from slammin’ down shut!

This here day begun like ever’ other mornin’.  ‘Cept this one found Mama fainted dead away whist serving a second platter o’ them scrambled eggs she knows I clammer fer.

She’d been bit.  

‘N by the looks o’ what Louis and Lawton smooshed to smithereens durin’ the wildcat spinnin’ we was all doin’ gettin’ Mama in the bed o’ the ol’ International, it was a deadly copperhead what got her.  Law, they poison is fast-actin’ and potent.  Mama never once stirred, not one time.

Didn’t nobody say much, we all jest hit Goodwell high gear.  Found myself behin’ the wheel, and well, I groun’ roun’  them truck gears till they found “Hightail it” and we all skidded, Mama and Daddy and Lincoln and Lawrence and Loreen in the bed, me and Grandpap and Livvie in the front.  We was off to Doc Allen’s place, ’bout fifteen mile r’ so t’other side of Halesburg.  

That Luce stayed back to watch over the twins, I foun’ a little disturbin’.  I do like havin’ Luce along in times o’trouble.

Dust clean flew, fer I do know my way ‘roun’ a truck.  Been drivin’ since the age of five, sittin’ on a stack o’ Montgomery Ward catty-logues.  Stood up to work the pedals, gas and clutch and brake.  An’ now I s’pose I can get after it like the best o’them racin’ car drivers, and this mornin’, by all ‘ccounts, I did jest that.  We swayed and swung and near hit, but not, trees and gnarled branch fence posts.   But we got on down the line in a hurry.   Grandpap’s only ad-mo-nitions was “Hang on, ever’body.”  

Had to mean he had full faith in the Good Lord….an’ me.

We still had us a r’spectable piece to go but was closin’ in when I hear a “Whoop!” come from the bed behind.  

“Whoop!”  There it is ag’in.

“Whoop!”  Law!  

Grandpap twisted his spiky head ‘roun and through the back glass, he seen Daddy and Lincoln and the rest a’wavin’ and a gesturin’ to who laid a chunk.

“Stop this ve-hicle!”  Grandpap bellered.  And I done jest that.  

Never seen him fly like he did, but with Grandpap in the lead, we bailed out the almost still movin’ truck, steam comin’ from the radiator in front, and run back to where Daddy and Loreen, they was cryin’, and Lincoln and Lawrence, they was bendin’ over Mama.

Oh, Mama.

She did not look the same as when we hoisted her gentle-like into the truck.  She did not.   Looked to be her face was all red and mottled and specked, and them skinny muscles in her neck was strained and pained.  She was a pantin’ and a’sweatin’ but law!  Then they was her leg!  Mama’s leg, layin’ propped up on Grandmama’s quilts, was tree-trunk sized, swole up three, no, four times its normal size.  Lincoln or Lawrence or somebody back there had the clarity o’mind to remove her shoe, or law, it woulda plumb exploded from the looks o’things.

Oh, Mama.

Daddy was near crazed with fear, cradlin’ her head and moanin’ and sayin’ sweet un-intelligible words.  I knew nothin’ but to stare.

But not Grandpap, heck and Hell, no!

God gives us all gifts, but I’ll swan if Grandpap didn’t jest then get him the skills o’ one o’them high jumpers from them O-lympic Games the worl’ used to know.  

Still roarin’, he leapt clean up over the closed tailgate, “Outta my way!  Git!”  

An’ ever’body got, sqooshed way up next to the cab, ‘cept Daddy, he sure as shootin’ wudn’t goin’ t’leave Mama.  He stayed put, but settled hisself down in that instant.  There was work to do.  

And Grandpap, he was goin’ t’do it.

I kid you not, in a flash, he pulled his ol’ knife, the one slung in a leather pouch off his ol’ worn out belt, eight inches of shiny razored lethalness.  Us kids, we was never ‘llowed to touch even the pouch.  Grandpap kept that rascal sharp, be it with whetstone or leather strop.  Used with precision, be in whittlin’ or cuttin’ saddlery fixin’s or guttin’ a fish, this was GRANDPAP’S knife, give him by his own GRANDPAP, and it had a fair mystical bein’ all its own.

Quick as a lick, and lickity split, he knew what needin’ doin’.  He nestled hisself down by Mama’s purpled and marled leg, touchin’ it gentle here and there with his left hand.  Only took a moment till he settled on a spot just back the outside her left ankle, then straightenin’ his glasses (when he pulled them from his pocket, I do not recall), he touched the spot with the point of his blade.  Drawing no blood, but markin’ the spot, Daddy and Lawrence and Lincoln, they all leaned in close to verify.  Not Loreen, she was out to the road, back to the doin’s.  Livvie, she done the sisterly thing and stood, arm ‘roun’ Loreen’s skinny shoulders, but her head was twisted our way, eagle eyes  a’trained on Mama.

Steeled and poised, Grandpap fixed his clear blue sky eyes on Daddy, who read the message loud and clearly.  Grabbin’ Mama by the shoulders, he buried his head in her shoulder and held on.

Then Grandpap took my Mama’s life in his hands, and Lord, Lord, he sliced jest like that a chunk o’ my Mama’s flesh, size o’ two silver dollars an’ thicker’n a doubled-up worshrag clean from her leg!  He then slice an “X” at the spot (don’t never plan to use THAT phrase ag’in, I tell you what!) and worried and pushed and then sucked the poison and blood right from that spot, then spit and then spit ag’in!  

How long this went on, I do not know, nor care to.  Suckin’ and spittin’ and suckin’ and spittin’, till Grandpap was plumb spent.  Lincoln helped him down from the truckbed, give him some water from an ol’ jug under the front seat, and held his back whist Grandpap bent double in the ditch, heavin’.

Daddy, he only looked up once.  Lawrence, he took to wrappin’ Mama’s leg light-like, in rips from Grandmama’s quilts.  He could be right gentle, when he’d a mind to.  

We all do love our Mama.

I’d played no role in this side o’ the road drama, but I did my fair share of prayin’.  And dang it and hang it all, if by a miracle, Mama, she begun to stir, ever so little.

“Honey, it shore does hurt,” I seem to hear to say ‘fore she went back out ag’in.  An’ if her leg didn’t look jest a little less purpled and swole.  Jest a little, but ‘at there, ‘at’s all it took.  We all scrambled back to the truck, a little lighter on our feet, a little more hopeful Mama, she was on the side o’ the angels, jest not clear over Jordan!

Grandpap heaved jest one more time, then pulled hisself back into the truck, eyes a little glazed but a’wipin’ his knife what done the deed.

An’ like a maniac, I groun’ that baby back int’gear an’ raced like a house a’far down to Doc Allen’s place.

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Let ‘er Rip!

These here, these be the tried and true and tried ag’in real life misadventures of the reared and bred Goodwell clan of Denton, County.  An’ me?  I be the third son of the first son, Liam Goodwell.  I am brave and strong, and Miss Meadow, down to the school, she bade me keep writ track of our doin’s fer the summer.  

I’ll do my best, as I do like me Miss Meadow, and respec’ her somethin’ fearful.  She’s one fine teacher, shiny and sparkly-like.  

We been, us Goodwells, down to church most the day.  Sunday School, then the morning service, then a satisfyin’ potluck all afternoon, follered by some mixed up softball game out past the cemetery, then Vespers and the Evangelical Service, I’ll admit I’m plumb tuckered jest from the joy of it all.  

Summertime Sundays means arisin’ a mite later’n usual, which begins the day right, then doin’ our chores forthwith, then gatherin’ at the big ol’ red-checked covered kitchen table, all eight o’ us kids, plus Daddy and Grandpap, and Mama, who most always is a cartin’ food to and from the big ol’ black stove over to the corner.  But we don’t take us a bit til’ Mama’s set and Grandpap, he asks us to bow our heads in prayer.  

And Lord, can he pray, although his nighttime prayers be shorter. He’s a tad hungrier then.  

Friday last, little brother Lawton ….’r was it Louis?…..,don’t make no nevermind, as they’s twins and near exchangeable….one or t’other reckoned he’d foller in Grandpap’s footsteps, askin’ to have his turn at prayer.  Well, he went to a’prayin’.  And a’prayin’.  And a’prayin’.  That boy, he prayed for all us kids in sequence, Lincoln on down.  Then, he prayed for Mama ‘n Daddy ‘n Grandpap, and all the aints and uncles and neighbors and hound dogs and cats and milk cows and horses, broke and not broke.  He prayed for the sun and the moon and the planet Mars and fer the rain and the snow come winter, and fer good ice upon the pond back behind the school house.  He went so far as to pray for Grandpap’s ol’ John Deere.

Now, bein’ we’s Christians, we can’t never, no never, interrupt nor be disrespectin’ of anybody’s petitions before the Lord, but Lawsy!  What’s a good Christian to do?

Once it was over and done, seemed near a lifetime, we all, in chorus, hollered, “Amen!”   Which to for, we wait, like always,  for Mama to pass the first bowl o’vituals then we wait for all our plates to be filled, an’ then we tuck in.  But lookin’ right and lookin’ left, me and we Goodwell children, we was all fightin’ tears and guffaws, near chokin’ till apple pie dessert.

Never did find out how it happened, but much to our dismay, very next dinnertime last night, Mama give Grandpap the eye, to which he rolled his own eyes but roared,  “How ’bout you pray, Lawton?” (or was it Louis…?).  

No.  Lord, no.  An’ tonight was catfish.  Don’t nobody in his right mind eat cold catfish…..ain’t easy to whine in yer head, by I shore did. 

But dutiful Christians, we bowed our heads in unison like we do, each and ever’ one o’ us doubting the sanity of Grandpap and near to cursin’ the upcomin’ torrential downpour of Lawton’s , or Louis’, prayer.   

He sucked hisself in a deep breath….

Here we go.

“Father God?” he queried, 

“Father God?”  he asked once more.

“Father God?”

We waited…..

“AMEN!”

What in the hay?!  The world right then stopped, jest like that, the ol’ recommisioned schoolhouse clock I give to Mama last Mother’s Day, the one havin’ only a minute hand, it stopped in it’s travels.  I’m certain of it.

What in the Good Lord’s Heaven jest happened there?!

Lawton, or was it Louis, jest scooped up his fork and knife and head down, began his slicin’ and dicin’ of the most delicious to date catfish we Goodwells, we ever had set before us!

Father God?  Amen!

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