These here are the true tales of the kith and kin of generations upon generations of Denton County Goodwells, of whom I am the third son of this here generation of the same. Liam Elias Ephriam Goodwell, freshly turned thirteen years of age, I am longin’ like the dickens (Pardon my French. And don’t tell Mama!) this here war in Europe, and even the one over to Japan, don’t finish up till I’m able to do my part.
That don’t sound quite right, does it….still, this here worldwide con-flag-ration is a durned sight easier to parse ‘tween the good fellers and the bad, a mite easier than the durned War Between States we be fightin’ and arguin’ since time memorial at ever durned Sunday social! Got us cousins and kin on both sides o’that battle, and it don’t show much sign of abatin’, I tell you what!
Now, when Miss Meadow, down to the school, when she coralled me int’ documentin’ my thoughts and daily happenin’s (she always says I have me a way with the tellin’ of a story), I’ll ‘llow she never thought once it’d grow to such monu-mountainous heights. Filled me three Big Chiefs jest since school let out last Spring, and we ain’t even due back fer weeks yet!
Reckon she’ll be pleased.
I do hope she’ll be pleased.
Well, this day, I got me a dilemma. It goes like this:
They be skills, and they be plain ol’ gifts. Now, I fall on the side o’skills, bein’ with hard work and de-terminations they can be wrought and discharged in a satisfyin’ manner. It’s them gifts what have be addled.
Look here. Take Mama. Plays the pi-anner ever Sunday morning for service and Wednesday night’s, too. She makes them chipped ivory keys fairly dance on them Gospel songs, and makes them fairly weep durin’ the Hymns. An’ all that without never havin’ no lessons, no teachers, no music, ‘cept what spins ’round in that curly auburn head o’ hers.
Did I never mention my Mama, she was once known as the purtiest girl in Denton County, fairly all o’ Northern Missour-uh? She’d still qualify, I reckon. My mama is a looker, and I don’t even think she knows it. Makes her all the purtier, to my mind. And Daddy, he’s right proud.
Well, now take my littler sister Loreen. She’s ten years old, head and nose and fingertips always in some book’r other. Well, that girl made her the mistake some time back of askin’ Mama, once upon a time, if she her ownself could learn her to play the pi-anner? Now Mama, she knew ain’t no way she herself could do such a thing, cain’t teach no gift. But now somebody with skills, that there could be done, sure. So she got her ladies group together, who then got they heads together and found Miss Loveral Bean of Halesburg, she had herself a niece what went to a music teacher one summer over to St. Joe.
She’ll do, exclaimed Mama, and durned if the Sunday School pi-anner what lived in the cellar of the Pentecostal Holiness Tabernacle didn’t find its way to our back porch, and durned if that niece of Miss Loveral Bean’s, ol’ whats’er’name, durned if she didn’t show up ever Saturday morning and teach Loreen a thing or two. Still to this day does. That Loreen plunks away, staccatoin’ and legatoin’ fer her regulatory thirty minutes each and ever’ day, well it goes to prove some got the gift, some got the skill, and some ain’t got no hope a’tall.
We don’t mention, bein’ closest in temperament and kindred spirit to my Mama, I got some of that music in my own head. Loreen might cry.
And look here. Take my biggest brother Lincoln, who reigns oldest and who claims wisest. Linc, he’s built wiry and strong, ‘lot like Daddy. An’ like our Daddy, he got him some special gift with the horseflesh we trade fer and raise. Linc, he can tame the wildest, wiliest, wiggliest, wildcat of a beast known to man. He don’t take no guff, not one iota. He’ll look them eyeball to eyeball, darin’ that creature to do him harm, then durned if he don’t go off and leap, no saddle, no saddle blanket, no nothin’, up to the back o’that walleyed rascal and ride him till that beast, he fair wants hisself to be rid!
Linc, he got hisself a topdrawer full o’silver buckles from his forays into the county rodeo. And Daddy, he’s right proud. Here his oldest is follerin’ in his very own footsteps. Daddy, he was a champeen hisself in his day. Linc, he wants to quit his last year o’ high school and hit the circuit, don’t see no future in learnin’, but as burstin’ with pride as he his, Daddy put his foot down there. Linc’ll have to bide his time till he graduates from high school clear next spring. Linc, he ain’t hep on that, I tell you what, but he does know bettern’ to cross our Daddy.
I’ll ‘llow I got my own way with horses. Mine leans more to-ward understandin’ than conquerin’. That there’s where me and Linc part ways.
And look here, and here’s where-to-for my dilemma, it lies. ‘Thout soundin’ braggi-do-si-do, I got me my own fair number o’gifts. I see things clear, I speak my mind and most listens, I got me a fastball don’t nobody can hit, ‘cept sister Luce. Folks cain look my way and don’t throw up. I can sing fair and clear, and even with this new changin’ goin’ on in my vocal chorus, I got me even more notes on the low end I can hit more’n not. Folks say I’m smart as a whip, and true, schoolin’ does come easy.
But there’s this girl, Juanita Suzette somethin’ r’other, her own daddy, he was some judge or sheriff or something up to May County up near the Ioway border, she’n her family jest moved onto the ol’ Stonemiller place. A purty thing in her own right, she done took a likin’ to me. And well, me to her, it ‘ppears. Sunday mornin’ last, jest after the final altar call and the singin’ of the Doxology, I foun’ her waitin’ at the bottom of the cement gravel and limestone stairs ,built and rebuilt by them same generations of Denton County Goodwells, presentin’ herself all sunlit and curly-headed and smellin’ of sweet honey.
“Liam,” she sang my voice so’s I sounded like an angel in God’s own heaven. I secretly plead with the Lord she’d deign t’say it ag’in.
“Liam,” Lord answers prayers, He does! I’m smit.
“My Daddy, he got me a bran’ new sketchin’ book, two as a matter of fact. I was wonderin’ if later’n the week, you’d min’ takin’ me to some place real pleasant so’s I can draw him a picture? I don’t know me many places what are purty ‘nough to draw.” Then she batted them eyes, what color are they? Cain’t be rainbow, can they?
Gol’ dang, you bet I will! (Pardon my thinkin’ in French. An’ don’t tell Mama!)
..cough…”Why shore, I’d be happy to, Juanita Suzette, why shore!”
And therein lies my troubles. I ain’t got no gift, I ain’t got no skills, not a sniff o’neither one. Can’t paint, nor draw worth a lick, nor a plug nickel neither. I’ll embarrass myself, for sure, and Lord, Lord, we cain’t have that! Not if I’m escortin’ Miss Juanita Suzette Somethin’ r’other!
“Liam?” I snapped to, right now. “Liam? Oils or pastels? Which do you prefer? My daddy, he got me both.”
Don’t right know the dif’urnce, thought I, gettin’ lost once more in that sugarpie voice.
“Don’t right care,” said I, with a cool cat flip o’my hand, then I quick-like filed me away a thought. Fin’ me a teacher, forthwith! I got to be gettin’ me some drawin’ skill right now, r’ at least before “later in the week!”
For I’m a goin’ sketchin’ with Juanita Suzette Somethin’ r’other!