“Gimme That Ol’ Time Religion!”

(For clarification, my ever-lovin’ Daddy’d, come Sunday afternoons, take us out on family “Sunday Afternoon Drives.”  That’d be code for an excuse for an audience for his tales and yarns from his days passed.  And we loved every minute of every story!  This month, I’m speaking in my Daddy’s voice.  Liam.  Other Liam stories, all true, exist on this site.  My Daddy, he’s still tellin’ his stories.  And me?  I’m still passing them on down the line!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey.

Ho.

Liam Elias Ephraim Goodwell here, third son o’ the Denton County Goodwells.

You hear of us?  Grandpap nigh to owned most all Denton County.

Once upon a time, that is.

 

Well, here I am, ag’in an’ ag’in, a’scratchin’ my heart in earnest, a’wonderin’ why in God’s green earth Miss Meadow, down to the school, why she has me a’documentin’ and retellin’ and regalin’ you all with the Goodwell comin’s and goin’s and livin’s and dyin’s and other sorts o’doin’s.

She says, Miss Meadow down to the school, she says right out loud I got me somethin’ to say, but law, I ain’t sure I found it jest yet.

But fer Miss Meadow, I’ll keep after it.

 

So here’tis.  I, Liam Goodwell (don’t nobody but Mama use my middle names.  Who in high heavens has them two middles anyhow, ‘cept me?), am one o’ a slew o’ Denton County Goodwells.  At our house, they be Grandpap, they be Daddy and Mama, they be big brothers Lincoln and Lawrence, they be fluffy puffy Livvie, they be roughy and toughy Luce.

Next comes me, but I done tol’ you that there.  I play me some mean baseball, I got me a fair to middlin’ singin’ voice, I think me some deep thoughts.

Then ‘hind me come Loreen, and them mischief-makin’ scamps Louis and Lawton, twins.

Then they be cousins and aints and uncles and seconds and thirds and twice and four-times remove-eds.  Ever’body, it ‘ppears, wants to be a Goodwell.

Leastways here in Denton County.

 

An’ tonight, we, all us Goodwells, we’ll find all ourselves, plus the whole Pentecostal believin’ population o’ Denton County and beyond, down to the church.

Fer we got us, yessir, we got us a Revival a’startin’!

That there?  A revival?  That’s God’s particular renderin’ o’ Heavenly entertainment!  Now, there’ll be singin’ and ‘clappin’, but not dancin’ cept it be in the Spirit.  If I wudn’t so worried I’d make a plum fool o’myself, I sometimes wish the Spirit would lay some dancin’ down on me!

But either way, I ain’t aimin’ to miss me one minute, I kid you not!

A revival?  Why, “that’s good enough fer me!”

That There? That There’s a Thing O’Beauty! (The honest to goodness true Sunday Drive stories of my Daddy)

These here be the true and gospel real life happenin’s o’one Liam Goodwell, o’the Denton County Goodwells.  I aim to put to paper much o’what’s travellin’ twixt my ears, bein’ Miss Meadow, my teacher down to the school, she give me pencils and paper and set me on a course.

I shore don’t like disappointin’ Miss Meadow.

But there’s times I jest don’t quite git it.  Miss Meadow, she give me a suggestion while back I write me a letter to somebody means somethin’ r’other to me.   Sounded fine at the time, I reckon.  Howsomever, givin’ it another think, why, I purty much see ever’body I know once or twice or near a hund’rd times ever’ week.

Why in the hee haw would I set down words to paper, lick me a en-velup, an’ waste one o’ Mama’s stamps?  Why’d I do any o’that when all I’d have to do is holler?

I ask you that!

But, I got me school comin’ up in the Fall, an I’m a’comin’ up on eighth grade an’ I shore’d like to see myself graduatin’, Mama does like her diplomas up on the wall, so i give it what i got.

(An’ I ain’t decided if this here gits itself sent.)

Dear Mr. Langston (Grandpap) Goodwell,

(That there’d be the sal-u-tation.  Reckon Grandpap’d like his whole name seein’ the light o’day!)

Well, hello, hey ho,  and how’re you?

(Miss Meadow, she said start with a pleasantry.  I’ll add another.)

I most certainly am hoping your Arthur Itis is not acting up this morning.

(Grandpap, he suffers quiet-like ever now ‘n ag’in.  Don’t like to let on.  Tough ol’ buzzard.)

I been fine, too, in case you was wondering. 

(Miss Meadow, she said e-stablish a kinship with the reader.  He’s my Grandpap already, but still…)

I was considering a long drive down to Sedalia late next month, State Fair time.  And seeing I haven’t got a horse or a hog or a silver saddle for competition or consideration, I was hoping you might possibly see your way to allowing me to accompanize you if you was to be driving that direction.

(Now, this here’s simple folly! O’ COURSE I got me entries in the Missouruh State Fair!  What youngin’ don’t?!   I got me two horses plus a silly goat I’m helpin’ Loreen to raise.  She ain’t a pint o’ help, but I give her my word.  An’ Jesus won’t let me step ‘way from that, I tell you what!   But Miss Meadow, she tol’ me my letter should near ever’ time include a re-quest o’ some sort.  I don’t reckon I need nothin’, leastwise none I kin recollect this here minute.  So Dear Jesus, I come up with this.  It ain’t a full on lie if it’s writ, is it?  Lord Jesus, he’p me if I be sinnin’.  I’m a doin’ it fer Miss Meadow!)

But if you can’t, why, how about you and me we head down to Whipple Crick and catch us some Blue Gills?  You and Me, we could roast our catches over a fine fire, fillet them out in one of Mama’s iron skillets, and cook them suckers crisp!

(This here?  It’d be story-tellin’, too, I tell you what.  Ain’t no way this side o’ the Pearly Gates Mama’d ‘llow her seasoned slick iron skillets outside her kitchen!   Law, I’m diggin’ myself deep.  Ol’ Devil’s like to reach right up through the Missouruh clay, take hol’ my ankle an’ drag me down to the Lake o’ Far!  Best I wrap this up right now, ‘fore I feel them claws a’grabbin’ at my feet!)

Well, I am plumb happy to have writ you this letter, Mr. Langston (Grandpap) Goodwell, and I am very thankful and gracious you be my very own Grandpap.  I am happy to share you with all the other grandchildren, and I am very extremely aware you loves us all more today than you did yesterday and I will always love you and admire your teaching and hope someday you plan to bestow upon me  your silver making tools so’s I can continue the work which you have been trying to teach me and that I still am not very well schooled at.

(Miss Meadow, she said ever’body deserves kind words, so I thunk these here up.  Hope they’ll do.)

Very sincerely, your third grandson by your son, my Daddy,

Liam Elias Ephraim Goodwell

(Miss Meadow, she always tells all us chil’ren, not just us Goodwells, but all us kids in her one-room school down the way, she always preaches to check and recheck our work.

Well, upon checkin’ and re-checkin’, and re’checkin’ a couple more times, I’d like to lay down dead an’ die ‘fore I show this piece o’ fairytale to an’one I know, even Miss Meadow.

Plan to fin’ me a ol’ tin can, squish it hard down inside and bury it deep in the chicken yard!  Jesus understands!)

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

That There? That There’s a Thing o’Beauty!

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

—- Mark Twain

Or gettin’ back to even, dad gum it!

Hey ho, Liam back ag’in!

Bet you was a’wonderin’ jest where this boy got to!

Let me tell you, it ain’t been a easy road.

Fact is, this here, sitiation we fin’ ourselves in,  it’s been one long row to hoe.

An’, we got us rows clean to the horizon and back.  And to the horizon and back.  And to the horizon and back.  You know how rows go.

See here, we had us a cat-astrophe.  An’ as cat-astrophes go, we done fair to middlin’.  We, all us Goodwells, we be alive and well and unscathed, mostly.  ‘Cept fer Louis and Lawton, the twins.  They got them some burns to they hands tryin’ to retrieve Grandpap’s treasure chest out from under his bed.

An’ me.  I got me some singed hair (boy does THAT stink to high heaven!) and crispy fried ears draggin’ them rangy boys kickin’ and wallerin’ out from under.

Now, if you ain’t figured it yet, I’ll give you a hint.  If you’re a’figurin’ we had us a far, well, that we did.  An’ I won’t.

Ol’ flue piped ‘tween Grandpap’s room and the kitchen, it clogged itself right good and burned half our house, singed black with scales like a big ol’ black stinky fish.

Few days ago, Mama, she was a’stokin’ the stove, pokin’ in bits o’ litter paper.

“Honey?” aimed at Daddy, “You smell somethin’?”

Then Daddy, “I smell that newspaper.  Ink smells particular greasy.  I’ll open a window.”

Mama, she stood fast, nose up, sniffin’ the air this a’way an’ that, arms spread wide, like to stop the air from movin’.

“No, this ain’t paper, nor ink, nor that wet wood you boys brung in last evenin'”  This here was aimed to Louis and Lawton, who aimed their own attention heads down to their breakfastin’.

“No,”  Mama turned about slow, “somethin’ jest don’t smell right.  Livvie?  You’n Linc go on outside, see what you c’n see.”  An’ when Livvie, all purty curls and fluff, when she wrinkle up her nose and pickle up her mouth, Mama, she waved her on, “Go on!  Go see what you c’n see, the both o’you!”

Don’t nobody question Mama twice, an’ near never even once, so they shoved away from the breakfast table and their yeller scrambled eggs and crispy crunchy bacon and fresh white biscuits, slight underdone, slathered in butter and Mama’s huckleberry jam, and hauled themselves out the backdoor, careful not to slam the screen, and further incur Mama’s wrath.

That’s when me’n Luce, we both perked up, same time, which ain’t unusual.

“Mama!” we both hollered at once, “Somethin’s burnin’!”

With that, all us Goodwells, we near to upended the table, grabbin’ pots ‘n buckets n’ pitchers n’ such, runnin’ to the sink an’ out to the pump over the well out to the smoke house.  Livvie an’ Lincoln, them come runnin’ in at the same time, hollerin’ they was flames shootin’ out the chimneypiece, catchin’ them ol’ rotted wood shingles a’far one at a time.

Law!

Smoke filled the kitchen right quick, Mama stood fannin’ her apron and swooshin’ all us kids out the back door.  That’s when Lawton and Louis, they broke loose from the muddle and mayhem and ‘scaped to Grandpap’s room, be-hind the kitchen.

“We’ll save it, Grandpap!” they hollered.  “We’ll save yer treasure!”  An’ if I wudn’t so worried ’bout their state of livlihood, I’d’ve been bustin’ my buttons.  Them two been a high time a minute an’ a skirmish a second since they was born into this world seven, near eight years ago.  Nice to see them takin’ some thought o’ somebody else.

I filed that away in my head till this here cat-astrophe, it was done and over with.

Well, didn’t nobody have to tell me twice, nor even once in this case, I give Mama a look, she give me one back, an’ me and Luce, we hauled after them wildcats.

“Here!  Lawton!  Louis!  Get yerselves outside right now!” Me and Luce, we each grabbed a couple o’dungareed legs, bent ’em this a’way an’ that.  Truth be tol’, we may’ve glomed onto a leg from each one, but the way they was a’kickin’ and squallin’, we, me an’ Luce, we didn’t much care.

The smoke was next to intolerable, breathin’ hard and puffin’ whist rasslin’ these youngin’s was wearin’ us plumb out.  They hollered like they heads was on far, but Grandpap’s treasure chest, a flat metal box stenciled with numbers salvaged from WWI surplus, it was blazin’ hot an’ ’twas their hands burnin’, not their heads.  Still, enterprisin’ fellers they is, an’ ag’in I’ll give ’em credit another day, they pulled them legs out our grasps and shimmied themselves ’round underneath the bed, disappearin’. Law, if then, jest when I’d headed under that bed after them, danged if Grandpap’s treasure chest didn’t come a’slidin’ out, with them two, Louis and Lawton, a kickin’ to who laid a chunk, and law, if they didn’t kick that sucker out with their boots.

I grabbed me one twin, Luce the other, an’ we hightailed it out the house to the backyard.  Yeller an’ orange blazes was climbin’ and lickin’ the wall ‘tween the bedroom an’ the kitchen, an’ I smelled the stink of my hair cracklin’ and fryin’.

I did, however, given the gumption o’ them two, I did without thought or a hesitation, run right back in from whence I came, doin’ my own version o’ kickin’ out Grandpap’s scorched treasures, out through the smoky kitchen, ‘cross the back porch and out to the dirt patch beyond.

Now, I wudn’t no hero.  But Grandpap’s treasures, some he’s been known to share, others not, they are his firm foundation an’ I wudn’t sure jest how he’d go on ‘thout ’em.

An’ truth is, I did it as much fer them boys as I did fer Grandpap.  Jest finishin’ what them boys started, them rapscallions.

Just ain’t sure I’m ready to give them credit for that, jest yet!

Put that out my mind, too, grabbed me a bucket an’ got me to doin’ my part to save the Goodwell abode.

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

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

“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!

***********

“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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