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

To:  Who may have concern

From:  Punkett Boyle, free man

Lonesome, plumb starved, fed up, lit out.

Dang sure, I did.  Took all i had to yank that chain from the wall.  Cain’t quite get my big ol’ feet out the ring and ‘llowed m’boots was more valuable to me this day, so I give up on that and got me a chain necklaced ‘roun my neck, not once but twice.

Chains don’t hurt none, when you’re free, let me tell you.

Left me in that saggy shack longer’n I care to recall.  Feed sack o’food and jug o’water don’t account fer tendin’.  Daddy may have his dreams, but i ain’t like to be a part of ’em, no sir.

So.  I lit out.  I am done.

Not that ever, well once or twice, did I buy into that Texas oll-drillin’ flimflam.  Crazy mean son-of-a-muledriver, all he wants is somebody to beat on ever’ once in a while.  Well, that someone shore ain’t a’gonna be me.

So.  I lit out.  I am done.

Pulled down half that rottin’ shack he stowed me in, gettin’ loose.  Fallin’ timbers cracked me upside the head a time ‘r two, but that there?  That’s the price o’freedom.  A couple gooseeggs and some stingin’scratches and some pitchy ringin’ in my left ear ain’t causin’ me no hurt whatsoever.  That there?  That’s the price o’ freedom.  Crashin’ and bangin’ to who laid a chunk when it finally come down but in these here woods, who the hay be ‘roun’ to hear?  Right simple it was to slip the chain off the end o’ the rusted metal stave what once held the whole place upright..

And that there?  That was that.

Well now, that was some hours ago, and the sun, it’s sashayed clean to the other side o’ the sky, and I’m feelin’ the cool of the evenin’ teasin’ my brow.  But I’m headin’ west, somewheres west, far and away where friend or foe, not nobody can fin’ the likes o’ Punkett Boyle.  I got me no plan but to head on out.  Figure for the time bein’, that there, that’s sufficient.

And sure, these here chains, they’s startin’ to chafe some, heavy suckers, too.  And the bugs, little skimmers and big honkin’ stingers, they be buzzin’ ’bout my eyes and my scratches.  Couple even bit me, swole spots on my neck size o’ silver dollars. My feet, they be two gi’nt blisters.  My belly, it be one gi’nt em’ty hole.  ‘Cain’t even sweat no more, I’m so dry.

And that there?  That’s the price o’freedom.

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

To:  Who it May Concern

From: Punk Bole (Punkett Boyle, fer them as is not my friends nor kin), aged fourteen

Well, I foun’ m’self w’thout love nor money nor di-rection.  Didn’t even give m’self time to em’ty my cubbie hid be-hind my covers out to the backporch.

Now that there, that’s important.  I never once say’d I was lost, now did I…

‘Foun’ my pockets and my belly was em’ty, likewise.

More’n an’thing, ‘foun’ myse’f fed up and done with my Daddy.

For my Daddy, sad to say, he ‘foun’ me….fer the las’ time.

Thought he’d give up on the skinnin’ he’d give me early on.

Thought he’d be provin’ to Mama he could change his ways.

Thought wrong, I did.  Scabs and cuts and tears and possible broke things not even healed for they was broke and cut and scabbed all over a’gin.

‘Foun’ I’d took all I could.

‘Foun’ I’d took all I would.

‘Foun’ I had me more gum’tion ‘n I thought I did.

‘Foun’ I had me more’n my haid than numbers and countin’ and parsin’ to push away the hurtin’.

‘Foun’ there was no danged, hanged reason to be beat black and blue no more.

‘Foun’ there was no reason to wait fer my Mama to come to her senses and save me, ‘stead of jest washin’ off the blood, till the next time when she do it all over a’gin.

I lit out.  Lef’ ever’thing back at the old shack.  Mama’n him, they kin have it all, ‘ssumin’ they kin theyse’ves find it.

“Foun’ myse’f hoofin’ it ninety t’nothin’ out the other side o’Halesburg.

‘Foun’ my love for skimmin’ cross the countryside, feet flyin’, servin’ me well.

‘Foun’ myse’f, come darkness fallin’, alone an’ losin’ steam, but not courage.

‘Foun’ myse’f not even considerin’ doin’ nothin’ but aimin’ on ahead.

‘Foun’ the colored flavors o’ the horizon, gray and black and darker black then that there, then ‘foun’ myse’f a light,a way off yonder.

‘Foun’ when you follers a light, ‘r an’thing else what beckons and comes closer with the pursuin’, why, you get yo’se’f somewhere.

‘Foun’ my somewhere was the red dust lane up to Liam’s family land.  Goodwell land.  Been here ‘couple times.  Had me pie right at the dinner table.  But have Me’cy, I forget it be so beautiful, it be the Garden o’ Eden, even here in the darkness of night.  Lights on through the winders shown gold and warm and invitin’.

‘Foun’ my insides near wrung insides out, fer the hunger chewin’ its way through.

‘Foun’ that feelin’ trumps all hesitatin’ I might have fer announcin’ myse’f so late come evenin’.

‘Foun’ myse’f marchin’ right up to the front door and ‘fore I could knock, which I woulda, I know, couple white-headed white boys what look like both sides o’the same book, they press they noses to the screen, eyes wide, like they ain’t never seen themse’ves a colored boy on they front porch.

“Liam!”  Them boys, they even shout with one voice.  Then they run off into the house.

‘Foun’ myse’f planted. What come next, I ain’t got no idee.

Then right there, framed by the gray slats o’ the door, here come Liam, he come hustlin’ right up to the door, big ol’ grin near coverin’ his speckly freckly face, then push that screen door open wide, wide.

Have Me’cy, Have Me’cy.

Best of all,

‘Foun’ duly and truly, I ‘foun’ me a frien’.

(Who once more give me a pencil and paper.  Boy has him one tune, he does!)

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