“Don’t Set Under the Apple Tree With Nobody Else but Me”

Ain’t seen hide or hair nor a whiff of a sniff of Liam all afternoon.  Blindsided by the horses loosin’ themselves from the pasture, he skedaddled right now, leaving these folded up sheets of Big Chiefs tucked under his plate when he jumped to it from the noonday meal.  Mama didn’t bat an eye when I slid them into my dungaree pocket whist I helped her clear.  She knows all about my tendency to “collect” odds and ends.  She also knows about the certainty I return them all once I’ve investigated and perused them.

So she didn’t give me no nevermind.

Now, all us kids know Miss Meadow, our young and glamorous and just a little too shiny teacher from the Raymore School, a white-washed, one-room, crowded little building snuggled in an elbow of  Mill Creek.  We all know she has high hopes for him, like bein’ a judge or a business man or a general, challenging him to write down his thoughts every single day.   We all know she’s partial to Liam, smart as whip, he is, clever, too, and quiet-like, and everybody’s friend.  We’re all, all us kids, partial to Liam.  Not a lick o’nonsense or cruelty or avarice or low-minded skunkiness in him whatsoever.  He speaks clear and true and is honest as the day is long.  Me and him and our cousin Marie-France Mickelwait, we always call ourselves the Three Musketeers and share and share alike, thusly.

All us kids, we go to the Raymore School.  Even Daddy, he went there.  I think Grandpap helped build it away back in the olden days.  Mama, she grew up on the other side of town.  They had their own school, but it burnt down some time back.

So all us Goodwells, we’re well acquainted with Raymore School, visitin’ on a daily basis.   Well, excepting Livvie and Lincoln and Lawrence.  They take the truck half an hour to Os-burn to the high school there.  They come home of an afternoon all decorated in orange and black and hollerin’ “Tigers!” most days.

I surely cannot wait until my turn comes.  I’ve been labeled, and rightly so, I suppose, as the mean-spirited desperado of the Goodwell family.  Smiles don’t come easily for me, nor do kind words.  Nor do friends or birthday parties or all-round happy days.  My jumping off place, my changing of the tide, comes in a year or so,  when I aim to pile in the ol’ truck with the big kids, singin’ and smilin’ and wearin’ pretty dresses and plantin’ Victory gardens with the spirit squad and shoutin’ “Go Tigers” to one and all.

My name’s Luce.  Luce Goodwell.  Lucille Madeline Mickelwait Goodwell.  I’m older by one year of dear brother Liam, on whose tablet paper I am documenting this.  I will swear him to secrecy, and vow to break his pitchin’ arm if he spills one word.

I have faith in Liam, and trust him to the ends of eternity.  But secrets, we all got ’em.  (We, us three, we got a big German one hid out the other side of the bridge and then some.)  And these secrets, well,  I’m trusting Liam, and you, with mine.

 

Best I haul on out and help with them horses.  Daylight’s a’wastin’.

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

 

 

“Don’t That Beat All?” (musin’s from a country boy)

Daddy tol’ me, and his daddy tol’ him, and so on and so forth on back clear to the beginnin’s of history and I reckon even before that,

“Son,” he said real serious, “Son, if you ain’t a’movin’ forward, even if you’re jest a’standin’ plumb still, durned if all you’re a’doin’ is movin’ backward.”

I take him at his word.

My Daddy don’t lie.

Didn’t neither his pap, nor his pap before him.

Truth be told, I come from a long line of truth tellers, and that’s why I’m here.

My name is Liam, Liam Goodwell, of the Denton County, Missouri Goodwells.

And I been here before.

I am comin’ up on fourteen years of age come next December.

I got me seven brothers and sisters, and with me, they’s eight all told.

Lincoln at seventeen is oldest and rides the rodeo.

Lawrence, sixteen, he cain’t wait to join the army and fight them Germans.

Livie and Luce come next, both girls.  They be as diff’urnt like dead o’ dark night is to orange and pink stripe-ed dawn.

Fifteen-year-old Livie is all ribbons and pink flowers and googly eyes.

Luce, fourteen and my Irish twin, runs faster, climbs higher, and punches harder than any feller down to the schoolhouse.

‘Cept me, o’course.

Then comes me.  Folks say I’m the thinker.  And I throw a mean fastball.

Follerin’ me comes Loreen.  She’s ten, all legs and freckles.

Last come the twins, Louis and Lawton.  At seven, they still talk they own secret language ever’ now and then, comin’ up a’ laughin’ and lookin’ sly-like.  They will be trouble, I gar-un-tee.

And Mama and Daddy, they loves us all.

We live, with Grandpap, at the bottom of a big ol’ hill, one what used to be Goodwell land.  We come down a little in the world, says Grandpap, but we got us our health, says he.  We all chuckle, jest like he ex-pects, ever’ time he orates.  Better’n the alternative, says I.

So, seein’ as I been blessed with a stack o’ Big Chief tablets, left from the youngsters down to the schoolhouse and brung to me personal by our teacher, Miss Meadow, well, I figure now’s the time to get after it.  Long since near my first rememberences, I get these notions. I tol’ Miss Meadow as much, and how I glean some slice o’ wisdom from each and ever’ one.

And sometime, all them thoughts and learnin’s swirlin’ around my brain, well, things get crowded up there in my head.  Miss Meadow, she says I have me a way with words and please, would I write all them things down. Clear the spin.

Legible-like,too, says she.  No chicken scratches.

(Miss Meadow, she may like they way I sling a phrase, but she does have somethin’ to say ’bout my handwriting.)

And she DID bring me these tablets, and Daddy’s admonition rings right loud.

So here’s the deal.

“I, LIam Wendell Goodwell, of the Denton County Goodwells, I am commitin’ right this moment (I’d swear, but Mama’s come after me with a switch), I am commitin’ right this very minute to take partic’lar note of the world and the ways spinnin’ ’round me, then acceptin’ and recognizin’ my obligation to take them observations and put pen to paper and leave them for them comin’ after me.”

And Miss Meadow.

So help me God.”

(And I don’t plan to cross Miss Meadow, neither, believe you me!)