“Tween a Crock an’ a Hard Space”

Hey.  Liam here.  Liam Goodwell.  Of the Denton County Goodwells?

Ain’t no time to lose, not one solitary, indivdi-uary minute!

For Mama’s biscuits r’bout done, n’ I aim to be first in line!

Let me tell you ’bout my Mama’s biscuits.  Just the thinkin’ of them puffy white, barely browned ‘roun’ the edges fluffs of de-light is enough to send me floatin’.  

She starts the fixin’ right after she puts the coffeepot on the stove.  Reachin’ a’waaaay up to the top shelf, jest a board on railroad spikes, she lowers herself down the ancient brown crock known as the “biscuit bowl.”  Now, I always wondered myself jest why it lives so high up, forcin’ Mama to climb upon the red metal kitchen stool ever’ ding dang mornin’.  

Could it be it’s the closest thing to Heaven, as are them biscuits it produces,  in the Goodwell home?

Could it be it’s a place o’honor, them biscuits r’so durned tasty?

Could it be Mama’s hopeful someday she’ll tire o’reachin’ so high an’ give herself a day ‘way from biscuit-makin’?

Law, an’thin’ but the third!

An’ today, wudn’t that day, I thank the good Lord!  I watched, whilst cleanin’ yesterdee’s dirt from my boots with a ol’ horse brush, over to the corner by the back door.  She got her some flour out the ol’ pickle jar in which she stores it.  An’ measure?  I do not believe I ever seen my Mama measure nothin’ when it comes to cookin’.  The good Lord jest put that gift in her head and my Mama, she does her durnedest share her gift with others.

But mostly, we Goodwells.

Well, then she reaches in the icebox, a Frigidaire what struggles on a daily basis, an’ gets her out the eggs and bakin’ soda an’ home churned butter (none o’that Oleo!), an’ then sets to stirrin’.  She puts her heart into this part, fer the biscuit bowl, it’s a mammoth!  This part don’t take long ‘t’all, but it ain’t ’cause she’s tirin’.   She tol’ me once it’s the overstirrin’ of the dough is what makes biscuits tough.  I nodded, I ‘member, knowin’ly, but Law, I cain’t even ‘magine jest what a tough biscuit would be? Like chewin’ shoe leather, you reckon?  

I’ll jest consider myself bless on that count, says I.

Well then, Mama wipes her forehead with the back o’her hand, then sets out the dough to the big wood board Daddy keeps oiled nice fer her.  

Plop.  It comes out smooth, big ol’ mound o’ white slathery dough, specks o’butter shinin’ as she tears off bits and works it flat with Grandmama’s rollin’ pin.  The one with faded and chippin’ black handles.  She’ll set to flourin’ the board and the mounds ever’ so often, keepin’ the stickiness at bay.  Tol’ me one other time too much flour in the mix will toughen them biscuits, as well.

An’ once again, I am blessed.

Now her comes the fun, least fer me.  She’ll glad over her shoulder, fin’ whatever Goodwell youngin’s close, and get them to use one o’her clean wide mouth Mason jars, butter the edges, then let us cut out them rounds o’dough, whist she wisks them lickity split over to the bakin’ pan, slatherin’ ’em one more time with butter.

Efficiency bein’ what it is when it comes to biscuit makin’, I reckon I get the most biscuits rounds from a worked flat o’dough than any one other o’ my brothers and sisters, ‘cept maybe Luce.  She an’ me, we always be competin’.  Mama’ll slip over, gather up the leavin’s with her dusty hands, make us a little bit small flat and set us loose ag’in.

By the time we’re done, that there first batch is plumb fillin’ the room, durn love it, the whole Goodwell house an’ the neighbor’s house near half mile down the road, with the sweet, buttery aroma of what’s to come!

Kitchen’s full now, all us Goodwells know breakfast is nigh, and Mama, she’s not only been a’bakin’, she’s been fryin’ and scramblin’ and fillin’ and juicin’ and settin’ an’ singin’ and hummin’ the whole bless-ed time!

But now?  Now?  We be gettin’ to it!  Daddy and Grandpap, they be findin’ themselves they places at the table, the signal it’s time fer the rest o’ us to set down.  Mama, she likes makin’ a presentation of all her meals, servin’ with a flourish an’ flash, an’ law, it’s worth it!

We bow our heads in prayer, thankin’ the good Lord for our sustance, and prayin’ whomsoever Daddy’s asked to pray will keep it short!

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“Tween a Crock an’ a Hard Space”

Oh, I ain’t the first one up, not by a long shot!  More ‘r less’n a short shot, you ask me.

This here’s Liam.  Liam Goodwell?  Of the Denton County Goodwells?

Well, right like an unwritten game me an’ Mama an’ Grandpap plays, we all races to be first body in the kitchen.  Mama’s first?  She’ll be quiet like, puttin’ coffee in the pot atop the stove.  Grandpap’s first?  He’ll be a’worshin’ his hands and dryin’ ever’ finger over the sink.  Me?  ‘F I’m up first, I’m sittin’ over to the door, tyin’ up my boots.  Don’t nobody do nothin’ but grin ‘thout makin’ eye contact.  

An’ it shore is good to win, I tell you what!

Now, it ain’t never long till the rest o’ the Goodwells finds they way to the kitchen come mornin’.  We, all us Goodwells,  be a hardworkin’ bunch.  But don’t nobody else have the sense we got to enjoy these little victories ever’ mornin’, both fer ourselves and whosoever else gets first that day.  An’ it ain’t so much the risin’ at daybreakin’, it’s the little fire what gets lit in our bellys, jest sharin’ a minute, us three.

An’ it ain’t sappy, neither, whatever Luce might say.

Well, my mornin’ went thus.

I slid myself out from under my black n’orange blanket, slept in my dungarees to be quick, then added the toppin’s, creepin’ up to the door of our leanto.

Now the full on definin’ of a leanto is just that there, it’s triangle shaped construction, why, leaned right up against the wall of a buildin’, in this case, our little white-worshed house on top the little knoll at the base o’ Shiloh Mountain.  We Goodwells, we kep’ expandin’ and expandin’, and well, we big boys, we convinced Daddy n’ Mama we needed us our own boy room.  

An’ law!  If they didn’t say “Get after it, then!” 

An’ law!  If we didn’t do jest that, grabbin’ timber from here’n there and the brooder house and the barn attic, and law if we didn’t ‘ttach it to the west side of our little house, jest by a plum forgot side door what’d been nailed shut ‘fore we even moved in,  out the west side o’the kitchen.

Took us most of two summertime weeks, seein’ as we had our reg’lar chores to see to.  But done it was, and we been livin’ like kings ever’ since, nigh on a couple or three years now.

That our leanto enters the house through that forgotten side door right smack dab into the kitchen, jest the other side the black coal stove, why, that ain’t all bad.

Not that we sneak in, day nor night nor afternoon time, sneakin’ out food.  Wouldn’t even ‘ccur to us, and didn’t till some renegade cousin come up from Kansas City, thought it’d be fun after watchin’ Mama and the girls bakin’ pies fer the church potluck the next day.

We, us big Goodwell boys, well, we convinced him in our own parti-cu-lar way that’d be next to stealin’.

Let’s jest say, he was truly and contritely convinced.

An’ moved on down the line next day, skippin’ even the potluck down to the church.

We Goodwell boys, we can be convincin’.

An’ that pie, it was worth waitin’ fer!

But I digress.

Our leanto has its benefits, the “No girls ‘llowed” rule bein’ the best.  But I’ll admit, its got itself a few flaws, too.  Like we built it on the west side o’ the house.  Dang!  If it ain’t hotter’n heck (pardon my French) in the summer come afternoon, and with the little winder on the west, it near to blinds us when we go in late in the day.  An’, we failed, us big Goodwell boys, to remember in the buildin’ durin’ the warmth of the summer sun that come winter, why, we might jest need us some insulatin’ an’ some chinkin’ to keep us from freezin’ plumb to death, meetin’ St. Peter at them pearly gates all froze like Goodwell icicles! 

We spen’ half our winter evenin’s tackin’ up ol’ quilts (not Grandmama’s. That’d be blasphemy, God rest her everlovin’ soul!) an’ horse blankets, what ones the horses can spare, all over the walls n’clean up to the slanty ceilin’.  

Ain’t never once Daddy nor Grandpap nor the other Goodwells do nothin’ more’n cheer us on.  Figure they figure we’d figure it out.  

Figure they’d be right.

Now Mama, though, she’ll slip us a hot water bottle fer our feet, thinkin’ she’s bein’ sly.  ‘Course she ain’t, an’ Daddy and Grandpap, they know, and Mama, she knows they know.

But it don’t keep none of us from keepin’ us impressions.

Law, I’m so hungry I could eat a horse and chase the man on his back!

“Mama,” fer she was first this day, “Mama!  Them biscuits ready?!”

I do love myself mornin’s…..an’ a good, fresh “rose from the oven” biscuit.

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“Tween a Crock an’ a Hard Space”

Hey.  Liam here.  Liam Goodwell.  Third son of the youngin’s in the Denton County Goodwell tribe.

(Miss Meadow, down to the school, she’ll like that! “Clever turn of a phrase, Liam, she’ll say.  An’ I’ll like that!)

Well, I give myself a assignment, as such.  Aimin’ to de-scribe and trans-cribe jest where we Goodwells live.

There be eight us chid’rn, plus Daddy and Mama and Grandpap.  We, all o’us, live in a sideways shotgun clapboard dwellin’ up the top o’a mi-nute rise down to the bottom of Shiloh Mountain.  Which, truth be tol’, ain’t really a mountain ‘t’all, but a right nice big green hill with a purty white gravel road windin’ its way to the top, a’peakin’ from the evergreens and oaks plasterin’ its shanks.  Cain’t see it plain from here, but up to the top lies a grand ol’ Victorian mansion, hund’rd or fifty rooms al’ tol’.  Goodwells built it and Goodwells dwelt in it up to right ‘fore I was born.  Hard times, they call fer hard decisions, so we Goodwells, we sold.  They’s bright white painted barns an’outbuildin’s an’ gazebos and a big ol’ bell front and center come clean from a plundered church down in Georgia.  

Grandpap says we should continue prayin’ for the souls o’them Blue Coats what burnt and ravaged the Lord’s House.  Hear tell Grandpap’s grandpap, who saved the bell for God and Country, said we should o’shot ’em.

An’ he was a Blue Coat his ownself.

Tough ol’ buzzard, Grandpap’s Grandpap.

An’ ain’t no cause cryin’ over milk what was spilt, and one day they’ll be Goodwells a’livin’ back up there.  An’ I reckon it may be up to me.

Right now, though, right this here very split second, I only jest awoke, sunshine ain’t yet made a sliver on the horizon, from what I can see out the winder.  Figure I got me a minute ‘er five so’s I grabbed my tablet and set to writin’.

Now, darkness ain’t pure, more like a gray haze in the leanto I share with big snorin’ brothers Lincoln and Lawrence. They be those heavy lumps breathin’ hard over in them two cots ag’inst the big wall, an’ me, well, I got the short wall, but I got it all to myself.   We, bein’ the big boys, we got us our own room, built on the west side the house with our own hands, not a couple years ago, usin’ left over lumber from the new brooder house out back.  Ain’t never got to paintin’ it, insides or outs, and say what you will, gray walls suits us fine, ‘cept fer the splinters.  We even got our  own little winder, screen an’ all, teensy tiny though it may be.  We added us hard scrabble wood shelves near to the ceilin’ top, once upon a time stacked neatly with all our worldly goods.  Still hold all them worldly goods, but the neatness didn’t take hold.

Squintin’ though I am, I kin jest make out the boots them boys set at the bottom o’their cots.  Big black workboots, scuffed an’ run over, those’d be Lawrence’s.  He’s goin’ t’be a big man, bein’ he’s a big man boy right now.  At sixteen years, he’s jest over six feet, han’some as all get out, slick yeller hair, neat even in sleep.  An’ that boy, he’s  strong as a team o’oxen.  His blanket, fer I cain’t see hide nor hair o’him as the early mornin’ coolness clean devours our little dwellin’, is clear afternoon sky blue.   I know this fer a fact, as I seen it ever’ mornin’ fer a lifetime, , but sky blue presumes itself to be murky pond gray ‘fore dawn.

Them other boots, them shiny cowboy suckers with the silver tips and the varnished wood heels, them be the belongin’s o’biggest brother Lincoln.  Bought ’em with his rodeo winnin’s, he shines them rascals near ever’ day, an’ when he don’t, he’ll hogtie me and make me do it.  

Not that I mind much.  Smell of saddle soap and oil’s downright pleasant, tickles my nose fine.   But I don’t tell Linc that.  He’d have me doin’ it more’n I care to.  Besides, I got him thinkin’ he owes me a favor r’three, an’ I like havin’ that in my back pocket.

Grayness is liftin’ some, and I kin see a mite better.  Lincoln’s lyin’ flat his back, not quite as han’some as Lawrence, nor as big, but if dash an’ sashayin’ counts fer an’thin’,  he’s the bigger feller, sure.   Arms flopped clean to the floor either side his narrow cot, he got his Indian stripped cover folded careful jest at his waist.  He don’t make his bed, Linc don’t, as he pulls his cover up to his chin tight, then slides ever so careful out the side an’ to the floor. Then with a swipe and a howdydo, he wipes away any stray wrinkle and hey ho!  He’d be done!

Mornin’s nearin’ an’ the rooster’s fixin’ to strut his stuffin’, so I reckon chores be a’waitin’.  Me, I swing my long skinny legs out from under my own cover, orange and black striped, burn spot at the end when one time I took it out for sittin’ durin’ a weeny roast.  Yep, one o’ them weenies went flyin’, singein’ my sittin’ and sleepin’ blanket, an’ my yeller red straw hair.

It’s jest a sleepin’ blanket, now.

The planks on the floor under my feet is icy, even here in summer, but they’ll warm up right quick when the sun shows up.  I tippy toe over to my pile o’work clothes, grab me a shirt and pick my Feed and Seed hat from the nail by the door and tippy toe on out.  

An’ britches?  Why, ever preparred, I slep’ in ’em.  Ever ready, ever pre-pared!

Liam Goodwell is up and at ’em.  Got me a day ahead.

Durned tootin’!

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“Tween a Crock an’ a Hard Space”

Hey Ho!

There’s here’s Liam, like reg’lar.

Liam Goodwell?  Of the Denton County Goodwells?

I reckon even if you ain’t heard tell o’me, nor the Goodwells (though that there is hard for my imagination), you shorely heard o’Denton County.

Denton County?  Denton County, Missouri?  Up near St. Joe? Bledsoe River run near north to south right down to the Big Mo?

No?

I have been plumb selfish, then, sure.  I been spinnin’ tales ’bout me, all true.  ‘Bout we Goodwells, all, too, true.  ‘Bout Miss Meadow down to the school, fer sure true, seein’ she’s the one encouragin’ me to contineeue this exercise.  She maintains with certainty I have words floatin’ ‘roun’ in my head what need to be writ, stories what need to be tol’.   She give me a stack o’ Big Chief tablets (baby paper, but they was give me and what’s give is give) and pen, no e-racin’ ‘llowed nor possible,  and had me set to it.  Been doin’ it, seems like, forever, but I reckon it’s only been since the summer begun an’ school was done, day after Decoration Day, as Grandpap likes to say.

Me, too.

So, I got it in my head, selfish though I have truly been, I think I’d take t’tellin’ you all who’s readin’ jest about where we live and who we are, we Goodwells.

An’ I think I’ll start right here t’home.

Generations heaped on generations o’Goodwells been livin’ on or near Denton County, Missouri since nigh on the beginnin’ o’ time.  Come from England, our forebears did, got them land from the King his ownself, back in New Jersey.  First Goodwell, hear tell, was the King’s own surgeon and was gifted thusly.

Well, we Goodwells wudn’t meant fer livin’ so tight, we get t’itchin’, so we lit out for the broad and wide, some droppin’ off in Virginey, some landin’ in Kentucky and Tennessey, but them with wherewithal to keep on a’goin’, well, they landed in the rollin’ green hills and on the red rich fertile soil of Northern Missouri.

Didn’t consider the skeeters.

But I digress.

Now, we Goodwells, we been up.  And sure, we been down.  But we ain’t never been called out, no matter how many strikes we get ag’inst us.

An’, well, right now, we jest might be considered on the low end o’up, as our fortunes done diminished some since we Goodwells laid claim to a slew o’Denton County, livin’ fine up to the top o’ Shiloh Mountain yonder.

That we live, all us, at the bottom of the Shiloh now, well, it don’t mean we be down, just means we be down here!  An’ we got us a right purty view.

An’ personal, ‘tween you an’ me’ an’ the fencepost?  I reckon I’ll be a’livin’ high on the hill come some day, I kid you not!

I kid you not!

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