“Come Hell ‘r High Water”

Dad gum it!

Dad GUM it, says I!

Durn blast it!

Razzin’ scummin’ durned sons o’ guns!

An’ I’m fixin’ to let loose a lot worse, I tell you what!  I plan on me a hay of a lot worse’n this, I plan a cussin’ up a storm!  

Well, in my head.

Got no cause to upset the apple cart.  Nor Mama.

 

Let me settle myself down here some.  If you ain’t already figur’d this out, this here’s Liam.  Liam Goodwell.  Of the Denton County Goodwells.  Them same Goodwells what ain’t takin’ me along frog giggin’ tonight.

Grandpap, he’s goin’.

Daddy, he’s goin’.

Linc and Lawrence, them good-fer-nothin’  full o’ swagger and biggery elder brothers o’ mine, them two’s goin’.

Uncle Emmet, who ain’t really anybody’s uncle from what I can tell, he’s goin’.

An’ a slew o’ others I don’t even want to know about. 

All them with their gigs fresh sharpened, all them tucked in their carpenter overhalls, the ones with the big ol’ front side to side pockets, readied to be plum filled with bullfrogs come mornin’ light.

All them gatherin’ out front the saggin’ gray barn this very evenin’, bedtime fer ever’body else in the house.  Laughin’ quiet-like and jawin’ and slappin’ shoulders.

Did I mention, perchance, I wudn’t asked, nor consulted, nor given no never no mind whatsoever regardin’ this here particu-lar outin’?  Not even when I been a’party to this here party a million, or a hun’erd times ‘fore this?

Did I mention, perchance, I casual-like asked near one an’ all, “Jest what’re you all doin’ this evenin’?”  Did I mention to a man, TO A MAN, they didn’t even have the wherewithall to look slunky and guilty?  That all them just give me a, “Nuthin’ much.”?

Did I mention, perchance, I’m near to the best gigger in Denton County, an’ maybe further?  That I got me eyes like a hawk, stealth like a cougar, an’ aim like nobody’s business?  That last time I got me more frogs than the next three behind me all put together?  (Never mind the limit….they’s plenty o’bullies to go ’round in these murky creeks.)

Did I mention, perchance, I ain’t used to bein’ ignored?

Did I mention, perchance, I got me a plan, once them fellers, my own kin (well, almost, most of ’em) pile elbow to knee in the bed o’ the ol’ International?  That I’ll be slidin’ up ol’ Pedergrast, best trackin’ horse we got, albeit a bit sleepy ever so often?  That I’ll be stalkin’ them through the woods down to them swamps an’ bullrushes an’ they’ll never be the wiser?

That I’ll be ever so clever, follerin’ them durned happy go lucky sons o’ guns?  I’ll catch ’em redhanded, too, says I, I will!

…..Did I mention, perchance, I ain’t got no plan beyond that there?….Scare ’em?  Shame ’em?  Catch me all them bullies ‘fore they get a one?  I  got me not a single clue.  My insides get all jumblin’ and churnin’ when I get to that part there an’ I can’t think straight fer the gut rumblin’.  

Ain’t no time to reconsider, howsomever.  Look here, I’ll swan if they ain’t readyin’ to go,  all gusto and giddyup, a’ climbin’ up an’ around the ol’ pickup truck, careful to keep them gigs aimed heavenward an’ their eyes aimed anywhere but at me.

Whatever I do, it’ll serve ’em right.  It’ll serve ’em right.  Ol’ Pendergrast is a’saddled an’ a’waitin’.

Best mount up and keep to the woods.  Time’ll tell.  Time’ll tell.

 

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“Come Hell ‘r High Water”

Hey, ho.  Liam here.  Liam Goodwell.  Third son o’ the first son o’ Langston Goodwell, long o’ Denton County, northern Missouri, these United States of America!

Now, here’s the deal. Linc and Lawrence, they bein’ the oldest o’ our youngin’ pack, they  get their fair share o’ adventures an’ such.  Me bein’ third, why, I have to fight fer near ever’thing and here I go ag’in.

‘Ppears Grandpap, Daddy, Lincoln and Lawrence, they been chattin’ and a’plannin’, an’ they got them a plan to go frog giggin’ this weekend upcomin’.

They ain’t been a’hidin’ it, no sir.  Been talkin’ plum as loud an’ as often as they see fit.  What they ain’t been seemin’ eager to do is bring along yours truly. Say ag’in?  You heard me right, they ain’t said once, “Hey, Liam, get yer tack together, we’re goin’ giggin’ this here weekend upcomin’!”  Nor ain’t one, an’ them bein’ my own flesh an’ blood an’ kin, siddled up, popped me on the shoulder, “C’mon Liam, we’re  lookin’ to gig us from bull frogs come Friday night into mornin’.  You comin’?”

Them ornery cusses I call my brothers, that’d be Lincoln and Lawrence, they just been goin’ ’bout their business, preenin’ and yawin’ and chore’in’ and what all, all the while knowin’ I’m itchin’ and wrigglin’ to go ‘long!

It ain’t like I ain’t never been.  Been giggin’ near my whole last half o’ my thirteen years.

It ain’t like I ain’t skilled.  I got me reflexes them frogs don’t see comin’.

I ain’t like I ain’t never gone on my own and brung back a mess o’ bullies all my ownself.

An’ it ain’t like I’m a’gonna ask them, all undignified and desperate like some key-holed nambypamby mollycoddled milsop (You think I was leanin’ in on “Mama’s boy?”  You met my mama?  That don’t fly in OUR house!  We do her biddin’ ’cause she’s as tough as a leather strop an’ a keg o’ penny nails….and can sure bake us up some apple pies brings tears to our eyes!)!

So, uncharacteristic o’ any o’ us Goodwells, I’m a’waitin’.  Jest a’waitin’.  Waitin’ fer them fellers to ask me along.  Waitin’ to come up with me a plan.

So far on both them counts?  I’m a’comin’ up empty….

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“Come Hell ‘r High Water”

(musin’s and confusin’s of my Daddy’s childhood)

 

“C’mon, Pardner,” (that’d be me, all us Goodwell boys, we be “Pardner” to our Daddy one time ‘r ‘nother).

“C’mon, Pardner,  I reckon yer Mama’ll wonder what become of us.”

He said all this without takin’ his gaze off the horizon, and without movin’ any muscle whatsoever, ‘ceptin’ his face fer talkin’.

“Shore, Daddy,”  I answered, ready.  But ready fer what?  Was I s’posed to get the truck?  Was I s’posed to fall in behind him when he did decide to get a’movin’?

So, I just stood my ground, like my Daddy.

“Shore, Daddy.”

And, sure as shootin’,  he right quick let him out a long deep breath, shook his head down in front o’ his chest like they was somethin’ in his head needin’ cleared, then stretched up tall, chin up front and eyes blazin’ hot.

He strode with purpose out the corral, long smooth strides, almost like sailin’, ‘fore he hollered back, “C’mon, Pardner, we got us some work to do.”

Why, I tell you what I got on my horse then and fell in line double time behind my Daddy.  They wudn’t no fear now, I forget they was any a’tall!  My Daddy, he’d have things in hand in no time, an’ this time, THIS time, I was the pardner what was going to be at his right hand!

 

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“Come Hell r’ High Water”

“Don’t turn ’round, boy, mind yer own business,” the low voice went on, barely above a whisper.

How I could hear him so clear still befuddles me.  The auction corral was echoin’ to the sky with shouts ‘n hollers, and the silence of the stompled veternarian splayed bend and bleedin’ upon the dusty ground.

This ain’t no place fer heroes.  That’s what he said, be it to me or Daddy.  Heaviness weighed down my insides, it tasted somethin’ awful,  and I feared if I was to slip a look Daddy’s way, I’d see somethin’ I wudn’t wantin’ to see.

So I set.  And I did not turn left nor right nor ’round.  Daddy managed to touch my fingers, what was grippin’ tight upon the top fence rail where we was set, froze.  I swallered hard, hopin’ he’d see my Adam’s Apple a bobbin’ in response.  He an’ me, we was in this together.

The mayhem and confusion and wailin’ and flailin’ was rampin’ up.  Men and boys and cattle was runnin’, tangled in their indecision.  Still don’t know how long we was still, could’ve been seconds, felt like hours.  But Daddy, I could feel him decide before he leapt off the rail and hauled it to where the vet, he lay still.

Still.

I hauled my ownself, on his tail, lookin’ over his shoulder as he knelt beside the damaged man, that notebook clutched tight even still in his hand.  Folks made a wide circle behind us, givin’ room and settlin’ the panic.  Only a bit.  Some flash, some sound would send this little world into chaos again in a New York minute, but for now, there was breathin’ room.

Ain’t no place fer heroes, the low voice said.

But then, said I, there’s Daddy.

There’s Daddy

 

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That there? That’s a Thing o’Beauty!

Hey, ho.  This here’s Liam.  Liam Goodwell.  Of the Denton County Goodwells.

An’ here I set, ready to share with y’all yet another anti-dote from my day.  (An’ why Miss Meadow down to the school figures this here exercise vaultin’, I do not know.  But I will admit a mite flutter in my insides when I get me a minute to jot a note here and there.  I ain’t likely to admit it, however.)  But law!  I could near become another Mark Twain!  Miss Meadow down to the school, she harkens from Hannibal, after all, so maybe she got some idea in her head!  Time’ll tell….I think I’d ruther be a judge a’sportin’ them black robes.   Or a the-ater owner, makin’ butter topped popcorn all day an’ all night.

Well, I got me to thinkin’, whilst doin’ my mornin’ chores, I live me a bless-ed life, with family an’ kin an’ neighbors an’ livestock an’ a full belly.  An’ I been sharin’ all them things with you fer some time.

Don’t think, howsomever, I never ever did mention my Daddy’s youngest brother Lloyd.

Now one day soon, I’ll wrestle down a inventory o’ all my kin, Daddy’s and Mama’s and Grandpap’s, but this day, Lloyd come to mind.

Now, Lloyd’s sure my uncle, but given his circumstances, it don’t seem conventional somehow to lay that responsibility upon his shoulders.

See, it’s like this.  Lloyd is near a full twenty years younger’n Daddy.  Daddy toppin’ forty-five makes Lloyd twenty-five and a full-growed man.

‘Cept Lloyd ain’t.  Bein’ born late to Grandmama who was then in her forties her ownself, Lloyd come into this world jest a little step slower than the rest of all them crazy driven Goodwell sons.  Now, he was loved to ever’ inch o’ his bein’, and Grandmama tasked Grandpap to always give Lloyd a good home and a hug goodnight.  Hear Grandpap tell it, ’twas one o’ her last pro-nouncements upon her deathbed.

An’ Grandpap, heck all us Goodwells, we done a upstandin’ job.  Lloyd, he spends most his days, once Grandpap and Daddy gets him up an’ goin’, a’sittin’ on a ol’ couch in the corner o’ our livin’ room.  Hollers if he’s made to set an’wheres else.  Full on part o’ this family, he sets there and rocks gentle-like mornin’ to night, come comp’ny or clergy or Miss Meadow from down to the school.  He ain’t loud nor threatenin’ an’ behaves hisself mostly, ‘cept when then folks come to collect fer taxes.  He’ll let out a snort then, I tell you what!  Then come bedtime, Grandpap and Daddy gets him up and settled into his bed in a tiny room off the main, an’ Grandpap never once fails to give him a hug upon tuckin’ him in.

Now, Lloyd, is a load.  Settin’ an’ rockin’ hisself all day long don’t do nothin’ to leanin’ him out, and Lloyd, he does love his dinner.  An’ his supper.  An’ his breakfast.  Eats nice an neat on a little table jest fer him, tucked to the side when he’s done.  Always sandwiches and fried ‘tater, an’ tomaters,  and Mama, she puts sweet tea in a big ol’ milk bottle, since Lloyd don’t take to no glass.  Lloyd don’t talk, least not much I ever heared.  An’ ‘specially not when he’s a downin’ his share at mealtime.

But him an’ me,  once he’s wiped his mouth careful with his napkin like Grandmama done taught him early days, why, him an’ me, we’ll have us a moment.  Since I was knee high to a tall Indian, (Shelly Sue Swan down to the school, grade behind me, she claims Cherokee grands and I’ll ‘llow she is long an’ lean), I’ll sit myself crosslegged on the floor ‘front o’ Lloyd and him and me have us a ol’fashioned staredown.

Sometimes I’d win, but mostly it was Lloyd.  An’ he’d laugh and laugh when he seen me blink.  Now, ‘course I got better as time come forward, and after my thirteen years, I come to almost always win.

But I don’t.

‘Fore my best treasure, better’n a heap o’gold or paper money, is hearin’ Lloyd’s belly laugh.

That’d be my Uncle Lloyd.

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TREASURE

REGRET

HOME

LOVE

UNCERTAINTY

SECRET

That there? That’s a Thing o’Beauty!

Hey, Ever’body!

Let me introduce myself once ag’in.

This here’s Liam Goodwell.  Third son o’the es-teemed and re-deemed Goodwell clan o’ Denton County, northern lands o’ the state of Missouri!  (An’ if you pro-nounce my state with an’thin’ other’n a “uh” at the end, why, I’m doggoned you ain’t no native, and shore ain’t no kin!)

I been tasked by Miss Meadow, down to the school, to keep writ track o’all my comin’s and goin’s and ponderin’s.  So you give me a new idea, and here I am, puttin’ pencil to paper yet one more time.

Now, you set my mind t’thinkin’.  What in all my thirteen years have I been missin’ to the point o’makin’ a list so as to achieve them things?

My Mama, and my Daddy and Grandpap besides, they all taught me and all us Goodwells to count our blessin’s rather’n harp on the things what come short.  A feller’s got to have somethin’ on the horizon, way I see it, so let me lick this here lead and get after it….

Liam’s Inventory of Things He Wishes Would Come to Pass (or: Things I been longin’ fer, pinin’ fer, plyin’ fer, dreamin’ on, cravin’, and let’s lay in on the line, downright covetin’!)

………by Liam Goodwell.

  1.  I long to all o’Heaven to be saved from sin an’ when my time comes, be rescued from that ol’ boilin’ Lake o’ Fire and blessed by God and let into them Pearly Gates with open arms and have me a mansion right down the line from all the Goodwells what come before.  I got me some questions. (The Good Lord’ll understand why all the rest o’ my “wish fers” ain’t necessarily Biblical.  I did, after all, put Him first.  I’m purty sure He’ll understand.  He knows my heart.)
  2. I yearn beyond all believin’ Grandpap’d let me use his special “give to him by HIS Grandpap” silver workin’ tools.  He’n Daddy, they make mean saddles, all decorated and shiny and slid on equines fer parades near all over Missouri and down even to Texas. (I’ll confess he give me some lesser grade tools, so I ain’t bein’ ungrateful, Grandpap, if you was to read this here.)
  3. I fair dream o’bein’ able to move my family, all us Goodwells and the Michelwaits and ever’body what’s kin and I claim, back to the top o’ Shiloh Mountain, right up there where I kin still see the tip tops o’ the big white family home Grandpap’s Grandpap built in the olden days.  (I determined long ago we Goodwells, we be made fer the mountaintop, not dealt to dwell at the bottom. An’ Fergive me, Lord, if you sense some resentin’ in my spirit.  I’m jest longin’ fer restoration.  An’ to live on land what was once family.)
  4. I crave Mama’s chocolate cake an’ apple pie.  With cheese.  The pie, I mean.  An’ in any order you please.
  5. I wish like heck (fergive me my French) big brother Lincoln would concentrate less on the rodeo and more on helpin’ out with the plantin’ and the tillin’ and the harvestin’ and the feedin’ and the buildin’ and all them things I been doin’ fer him since he won him that first big ol’ belt buckle!
  6. An’ I’ll ask fergiveness right up front on this here.  I hope, I do know this is wrong, but the war over to Europe, an’ even the one over to Japan, don’t end ‘fore I get my chance to fight ‘longside General Patton an’ save the world, and Denton County, fer democracy!  God Bless America!
  7. I wish my brain’d slow down to a crawl ever so often.  It runs and gyrates and opinionates to who laid a chunk. Mama says she and me, we ain’t like ever’body else,  we figure things ‘fore other folks.  Then true, we gets a little itchy whilst they do they own figurin’.  Guess what I really wish was I didn’t have to wait so long fer other’s to ketch up.
  8. I wish my Uncle Kenny, Daddy’s younger brother, would come back safe from over to Italy.  Soon and unscathed and w’thout damages.  An’ tell us stories an’ tales like he used to do.  His letters stopped some time back an’ we’re chompin’ at the bit, leastways me and big brothers Lincoln and Lawrence (he’s the one what tried to run off and join the U.S.Army ‘fore he was of age) are.  Mama jest commences a’hummin’ when I bring it to conversation.
  9. An’ there’s that fine feisty Tennessee Walker the Judge, he said’d be mine, were I to do some favors fer him an’ his crew in an’ ‘roun’ the county, visitin’ folks, pickin’ up packages and such.  I don’t reckon that’d be covetousness, jest payment fer a job well done.  Feels a little prickly, an’ I ain’t mentioned it none.  But it IS a Tennessee Walker, purtiest steed in five counties, fer that there’s all I seen.  I’ll give that there some thinkin’.
  10. An’ ‘thout a doubt, I hope and pray more’n near ever’thin’,  more’n hope its ownself Miss Meadow down to the school approves what I writ.  Fer to date, she been plumb the only member of hu-manity I let read any o’these missives.  She ain’t judged, not yet an’how.  An’ I do want to please Miss Meadow.  She’s a lady an’ she taught me plenty, and she believes I’m worth the time.  Now, bein’ a Goodwell, I know that already, and so’s most o’ the county and near ever’body beyond.  But It does feel special bein’ called out fer musin’s and gifts only me an’ my Mama know we got.

That there, that’s it.  Cain’t think o’nothin’ more I ain’t already got.

So, now I reckon I’ll spin t’other di-rection and get t’fixin’ to count my blessin’s once ag’in.  An’ tendin’ to the horses.  It’s a heap more gratifyin’!

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“Dang Me! Ought t’Take a Rope n’Hang Me!”

I’m called Punk Bole.

Been couple days now, since Daddy he brung me some eats and that jug o’ water.  My hands is free, I reckon I should be countin’ my blessin’s,  but he chain my ankle to the metal slats windin’ roun’ inside this place.  Some ol’ mine buildin’, from what I can figure.  If I was to pull real hard, shoot, the whole place’d come down in a heap o’rotted timbers, but these here rusted struts, they’d stan’ the test.  

Dang.  

Can’t be shore, but I’m planted out some’eres out to the quarry, but tossed here in middle o’the darkest night got my head twisted, and once I ‘llowed that was the case, my sense o’ di-rection went plum out the window.  Got me the sun, so got my easts an’ wests sorted.  But ‘cain’t hear nothin’ human, no trains chuggin’ nor horns a’blastin’.  I do hear some mysterious rustlin’ in them bushes yonder.  I get me the sweats thinkin’ what might be out there.  This here chain’s long enough I kin get out the door, do my business, but that’s ’bout all.  Brush and near dead ol’ trees hang theyselves heavy over this ol’ shack, doubt if even some keen-eyed hunter’d take notice.  

I’ll admit I am ‘fraid o’snakes.   These woods is full of ’em, copperheads, rattlers, filled will venom and vitrol.  

I stay inside.  And I ain’t slep’ much.

I am gettin’ hungry, howeve’.  Somethin’ awful, tell the truth.  Why I believe Daddy when he say he back soon, I don’t know, but I did.  Ain’t feelin’ no panic and pain’s most left where he manhandled me.  So here I sit, my insides eatin’ theyselves, water jug near empty. Waitin’ and hopin’ and imagin’in’ his promises to be ‘fore he drove off, jest what Texas, way aways away, what Texas will be like.

Sound little excitin’, and I picture me and him thick as thieves, gettin’ us cowboy hats and hittin’ it rich in them oll fields down the’eh.  Hear the sky reach clear down to the horizon, that they ain’t no lan’ a colored man cain’t buy and cultivate, ain’t no stoppin’ a man any color who want to work ha’d and wake hisself up early to do it a’gin.

I got me dreams, true.  An’ given I got all this time chained up out the middle o’nowhere, well, my dreamin’ gettin’ full o’ color and drama.  I meetin’ people in my head, give them names and houn’dogs and fav’rite movie stars.  In my mind, I spendin’ all that cash we get from workin’ that black gol’ shootin’ up to the top o’ the sky, and then some.  Bought me a right nice bay mare.  She get purtier ever’ time I think o’ her.

I ignore the man give birth to these here dreams, he be my long lost Daddy who I neve’ laid eyes on til month o’ two prior, when he introduce hisself to me with one beatin’ after another’n.  I put behind me the fac’ my Daddy, he lie to my Mama ’bout treatin’ me right.  I forget he kidnap me from the only place I got myself frien’s what brung me into they own fam’ly’s bosom.

I pay no heed he chain me up, leave me out alone, all them wood creatures eyein’ me as they own dinner.  

An’ then i comes back to my senses, and my hungry sense tops ’em all, don’t it?

So I sets my sights on what’d satisfy my empty belly best.  

Gold fried chicken, crusted up with saltine crackers?  My, that makes my mouth water.

Smashed ‘taters, swimmin’ in butter ‘n beef juices?  Law!

Bake beans latticed atop w’crisp cooked ham?  Take me home now, Lord Jesus!

Big fat fluffy white biscuits, sausage slice in the middle, steammin’ hot fresh from the oven?  Beat the drum, I goin’ crazy!

But the one thing, the very one and only one thing I loves the best on this whole of God’s earth, the onliest hunk o’ deliciousness what will set my head plum on far?

Dare I say it?  Dare I think it?  Fear I’ll fall to weepin’, but Lord, if you be up there an’ you be watchin’ over me much as you count the sparro’s flittin’ here and ’bout, well then, Lord?

Let that filthy son of a buck of a Daddy o’ mine, let him bring me ICE CREAM!  

I reckon I forgive him chainin’ me up like some two-bit dog, he come back bearin’ me ice cream! 

An’ even more so, I reckon I forgive nigh AN-thin’, he come bearin’ ice cream flavored pink star-berry...!

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