That There? That’s a Thing o’Beauty!

Hey Ho.  This here’s Liam ag’ain.  Liam Goodwell?  Of the Denton County Goodwells?

Yep, that’s the one.

Well, me and Luce and Lawrence, we be loadin’ up the ol’ International, headin’ down to Kansas City with Misty, the young heifer big sister Livvie made the mis-take o’namin’ when she was fresh born.  Now we, all us Goodwells, we be bred of the land.  We know our way ‘roun’ birthin’ and hand-feedin’ and milkin’ and even slaughterin’.

But silly fluffy Livvie, all bows and sashay, she went and named this spreckled little calf on the day she was born.  Named her Misty, and dogged if she didn’t love on that thing, makin’ it purty little flower collars and feedin’ her special treats from her hand.

Now other’n huntin’ dogs and house cats (never mind them barn cats, they’s wild an’ plenty satisfied clearin’ out the outbuildin’s of rats and such) and horses, you don’t, you jest DON’T make pets of any beast what might be headin’ south to market, be it for sale or for slaughter or for breedin’.

And here we are, Misty tethered, standin’ tall and pampered in the truck bed, big soft eyes lookin’ about fer Livvie.

Who right now is off huddled atop her pick flowered quilt, sobbin’ to who laid a chunk.

I tol’ her.  I TOL’ her!  Lucky fer her, and fer Misty (see, she got me called this bovine by name, too!), she’s jest off fer sale and breedin’.  She got herself a future!  She got herself a boyfriend or two or a dozen a’waitin’ to call!  She’s like t’, on account o’ her rare speckled coat, bare herself babies of the same ilk fer showin’ at the County Fair.  Heck, even the State Fair, if luck holds!

“So shush yer wailin'”, said I!

Livvie, she didn’t take no ‘ccount o’ me.

So me and Luce and Lawrence, we be here sqooze tween the right dented door and Grandpap, who drives this ol’ International pickup like revenuers was a’chacin’.  (Which, history tells, they once did.)

It’s a long haul down to Kansas City, and I got me $5.00 in my pocket to spend any way I see fit.  There’s a big Ben Franklin store filled to the tin ceiling with treasures o’ ever ilk.  Ink pens, colored shoestrings, geegaws for the girls (not that I have me anybody special, but I figure Miss Meadow down to the school might jest like a little somethin’ fer all her trouble), books thick as my arm, little guitars and music books, why, more’n I can even imagine!  But we got us some time, so havin’ left sobbin’ Livvie behind, we got us near two hours ‘fore we even hit the city.

I ain’t one to bide my time idly.  I sing in my head a bit, then when it come out my mouth, I sing with along with Grandpap and Luce and big brother Lawrence (who cain hit all them high notes, low ones, too), and Grandpap who harmonizes from his days in a barbershop quartet.  When we run outta songs and things get quiet and the ditches filled with cattails and Black-eyed Susans all start to shuffle together, I press hard on the round button of the glove compartment, a’lookin’ fer in-spi-ration.

Now that durned button been stuck long’s I can recollect, and I ain’t feelin’ sure, but dogged, if it don’t pop open on the tenth poke!  Even Grandpap get hisself distracted at the bewilderment of the compartment unhinged, nearly steerin’ nose first into a cottonwood side o’the road.  Forgotten contents intact, though dusty, I took first dibs divin’ in, bein’ as I was the one what got that sucker open.  Luce and Lawrence breathed down my neck as I pulled out one jewel after another.

“Lookee here,”  I opened my palm, showin’ off the black pouch o’marbles, likely Linc’s from days past.

“Oooooooo!” said Luce.

“Oooooooo!” said Lawrence

Grandpap, he jest nodded.

I ducked down my head and peered in ag’in.

“Oh, an’ lookee here!”  I pulled a pair o’ work gloves, two lefts, and one missin’ a thumb, but still useful in a pinch.

“Ooooooo!” said Luce.

“Ooooooo!” said Lawrence

Grandpap, he nodded, then smirked. “They’s a story there, I tell you what!”

We, us three, waited fer a second ‘r two, but Grandpap, he just smiled a secret, keepin’ his eyes on the road and his mouth firm shut.

Hmmmmm….they seemed to be a pile o’papers, receipts and bill o’sale an’ such.

“Put them back!” snapped Grandpap, and I figured they must be important bein’ they was kep’ safe in a locked glove compartment all these years!

“How ’bout this, Grandpap?”, an’ I hauled out a giveaway map from a Standard Oil station marked Polo, Missouri, another hour south.

“Well, that’s ’bout as useful as a shoehorn for a goat,” mumbled Grandpap, seein’ as he purtin’near drove r’ paved all the roads and lanes from here to Jeff City, the gran’ capitol o’ our gran’ state.  

I ain’t never been, though.

Folded perfect, I unfolded careful, re-memorizing the steps in my head I done a hund’rd or fifty times.  These durned maps are a trial, and we Goodwells, we don’t tolerate nothin’ folded haphazard.  Family trait.

Turnin’ it over, it had a map of five states!  Look here!  There’s us right there!  An’ hey, they’s Topeka, capitol o’ them durned Kansans over the border.  An’ look how that red road, it cuts clean ‘cross the middle clean to Colorado!  Grandpap, he had kin lived and died over to Colorado!  An’ hey!  They’s red road from St. Joe straight up to Des Moines, where Miss Meadow down to the school, she went to Teachers’ College!  

Red roads, some blue, some faint gray, some with greasy fingerprints, towns I rec-onized and loads I did not.

I got me an itch.  That moment just there, that was when the itchin’ commenced.  Gettin’ all possessive, I set myself up straight, and folded careful back up that map, ever so smooth, nonchalant-like.

“Hey!”  That’d be Lawrence.  “Let me take another look!  Maybe they’s train tracks on that ol’ map!” (Lawrence done his utmost to run off an’ join the U.S.Army, under aged he may have been.  Jumped hisself on a train, so he has a par-ticular kinship with that mode o’transportation.)

I kep’ folding, tuckin’ it into the shirt pocket with the bottom still intact.

Well, Lawrence, he got hisself distracted by some hotrod what was tailgatin’ us, tryin’ to pass on the narrow lane.  But Luce?  Bein’ we was nearest in age, an’ nearest in temperment (‘cept fer her bein’ mean as a snake), she jest narrowed her eyes an’ give me a hard stare.

‘Twas then I figured I’d like to be scratchin’ that itch with someone alongside.

Cain’t keep nothin’ from Luce, ain’t never been able.

Dang it. (Fergive my French.”

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

Map

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