Let ‘er Rip!

Hey Ho and Hideehooo!

Liam here!  Liam Goodwell!  Of the Denton County Goodwells!

And this here?  This here is a red letter day!  Thinkin’ a buntin’ be-decked dancin’ horses parade!  Thinkin’ apple pie and cheese, if you be pleased!  Thinkin’ all them things pale in comparison…….

Mama, she’s a’comin’ back home!

So all we Goodwells, Grandpap and Lincoln and Lawrence and Livvie and Luce and me and Loreen and Louis and Lawton, all us, ‘ceptin’ Daddy who’s took the International down to Doc Allen’s place to fetch her back, plus all the Michelwaits, (don’t even get me started with that clan!), and neighbors and townfolk, and Miss Meadow from down to the school, we’re all us gathered, feastin’ yet to begin, a’waitin’, hippity hoppity excited to welcome our Mama home.

She ex-caped dyin’, you know.  Snakebit, she was.  Ugly mean dueced devil of a stinkin’ evil copperhead reared up and nailed her ankle whist she was a’gatherin’ eggs fer our breakfast.

Sheer evil. Five foot long if it was an inch.

Let me tell you, Louis and Lawton, them two seven-year-olds, they foun’ and kilt that sucker, smashed it’s ugly shinin’ mug to a pulp, an’ since then, we been steppin’ lightly, I tell you what!  Hung that carcass on the back fence to learn any other them eager suckers jest what we do to their kind, they come onto Goodwell land.   

Now, we still gather eggs from the henhouse, out to the chicken yard, but we stomp, an’ wear knee high rubber boots Grandpap left by the back porch screen door and swish branches and make our presence known.

An’ we’re scared plumb to death ever’ time we do it!  But a family’s, rightly so, gotta eat.

Today, though, we ain’t givin’ that no nevermind.  We’re celebratin’, for after nigh on a week without our Mama, without the sunshine and the joyful noises she brings, why, she’s a’comin’ home, triumphant over death and the grave!

It was push and tug, I tell you what.  She didn’t even see the light o’day with her own eyes till couple days ago.  But the Lord Jesus decided it jest wudn’t time to bring her home to Heaven jest right then, and fer that we Goodwells, all us, plus the Michelwaits an’ all the neighbors and townfolk, and Miss Meadow from down to the school, we’re makin’ our own joyful noises!

Tables is laden with pies and fried chicken and green beans and watermelon and cottage cheese and them little weiners with bacon wrapped roun’ them and stuck with a toothpick.  We got “Red Rover” a’goin’ out to the barn yard, we got the horses festooned with clover chains (that was the girls’ idee.  Sure wudn’t the horses, from the sags on they faces and the steel in they eyes), we got ol’ ladies rockin’  ruts in the grass clean down to the red Missouri clay out under the big maple, we got streamers hanging from stuck sticks up an’ down the dusty lane down to the road.

Fer Mama, she’s comin’ home today!

Hark?  Hark?  Do I hear an engine, the sputter and whine of the ol’ International?  Am I imaginin’?  Could it be?  I took to lookin’ fer Luce, fer she got eyes like an eagle and ears like a prairie dog.  

But then Lord A’mighty, I don’t need no confirmation nor affirmation nor consolation nor speculation!  See that there?  See that puff o’ dust way off down there?  No?  Wait jest a second, there it is agin’ comin’ over that rise!

“There they be! There they are!” I cain’t get the words out fast enough, my brains shoutin’ louder’n my mouth, “Here they come!  Git ready!  C’mon!”

I’m fair giddy, bouncin’ and runnin’ here’n there, flailin’ and happy drunk with joy and anticipation!  Law, an’ I ain’t the only one!  The “Red Rover” stopped ‘afore sendin’ anybody over, the ol’ ladies ceased they rocking, standin’ slow-like and straightenin’ the wrinkled laps of thur floweredy dresses.  Grandpap, he shanghied some o’ the cousins, had them lead the horses down the lane.  For you know it, lickity split and hippity hip and snappity snap, the whole dusty lane, quarter mile all told, was lined with child’rn an’ mamas an’ cousins an’ neighbors an’ aints an’ uncles an’, why, there’s the judge, an’ the sour an’ dour ol’ library lady, an’ Miss Meadow, from down to the school!  

Law, my Mama is beloved!

Law, my Mama is loved!

And my Mama, she’s a comin’ home!  

An’ then, why, a song sprung to my lips, “Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!”

An’ you know it, you do! 

I “Let ‘er Rip!!”  

……..and so’d, praise the Lord, did ever’body else!

Mama, she’s a’comin’ home!

Yep, Loaded Fer Bear!



“Well, Hell, Luce,I didn’t mean to!”  Marie-France with her short little Michelwait legs couldn’t no way in keep pace with me, her a’hop, skip, and a’jumpin’ just to stay close.  We was moving quick like, through the long stickly grasses of the meadow other side the bridge.  “It’s not like I set out to catch me my own German Nazi son of a gun!  But now I got him, what in tarnation do I DO with ‘im?

My head was fair buzzin’.  Had me a sudden vision from one o’ them film strips what come to the County Library some time back. Feller named Picasso painted all sorts o’ nonsense, points and people and sick horses, all drippin’ with colors and confusin’ the daylights outta me.  That’s how my mind was lookin’ right now.  Like them paintin’s, maybe I was jest lookin’ at ’em from the wrongways angle, but I couldn’t figure neither out with ease.

So, like ever’thing else in my way, ‘stead of studyin’ the proper way around, I jest pointed my head forwards and headed right on through.

Which blessed me with yet one more headache,  more often than not.

“Oh, quit ‘cher whinin’, Marie-France, ” I tossed back her way, “What’s done is done did.  What we got to do is sort out just what to do now.”  

We was gainin’ on the treeline just ahead, and where cousin Marie-France had herself a lean-to hidey hole for readin’ and makin’ daisy chains and what have you.  ‘Tol me that’s just where she’d stashed her Nazi man.

“He’s next to near a boy his ownself!” she’d claimed more’n once, but who could ever tell.  I’d brung along Grandpap’s buggy rifle just in case.  Had it stuck in my boot and half way up my dress jest to get past Mama.  Gave me more’n a little hitch in my get-along but I still had Marie-France two strides to one.

“What’d’you think we’ll do when we get there, Luce?  You got a plan?”

I squinted back toward the sun,  lowerin’ slow in the afternoon sky.

“You say you been a’takin’ him dinner and such for now on three days and he ain’t run yet?”

She stopped still in her tracks.  Lord, I wanted to keep on movin’ but I needed the answer more.

Hands to hips, “I TOL’ you, Luce, he promised!  He promised to stay put ’til I could figure a way out this perdicament.”

Then, gol dang if she didn’t remind me, “You promised, too, Luce, you did, you know it!  You promised not to turn him in nor me neither!  You solemn sweared before Jesus, Luce, no lies, no crosses, no nothin’!”

Now why’d I go and do such a stupid, bumble-headed thing like that?  But Marie-France, she knowed me too well, and while yes, I’m a durned good liar, best I know, once I swear before Jesus, I’m done for.  I could just feel the air go outta my balloon.  Marie-France, knowin’ she’d won this round, bore her glistenin’ eyes through mine.  

“Look,” her voice low, “Maybe there’s some way we could get some information outta him, like war plans and such.  We could hogtie ‘im then drip drops o’cool water on his head ’til it drove him just this side o’crazy.  He’d answer all our questions right now jest to get us to stop!   Why, think of it, Luce!  We’d be heroes!  They’d likely be even a parade in our honor and we could ride on a float and wave at folks and have them wave back!  We’d like to even get a day ‘er two off from school for interviews and picture-takin’!”

She was settin’ to roll, face flushin’,  eyes lookin’ dizzy off to the distance.  “Jest think, they might’n even name a schoolhouse after us. Or a milkshake!”

Reckon we’d gone one furlong too far.  I shook my head.

“Marie-France.  Lissen to yerself.  What we got here is a feller, true, I’ll ‘low an enemy of our beloved nation feller.  He ain’t been doin’ nothin’ but raisin’ taters in a gravel hole for nigh on a year.  Whatever he got in his head, even if was worth somethin’ once, it’s long ago done and over with.”  Her face , though turned to mine, only lost just a shimmy of hope.

She’d done landed herself a precious commodity and would not in no way be obliged to give it up willingly and without a set to.  Marie-France, while a mite smaller, was one worthy adversary, bein’ full of tricks and thiev’ry her ownself.  

Finders keepers.  We’d use her rules for the time bein’.

We’d just see if her prisoner had stayed stuck in his hidey hole, waitin’ for the master o’ his fate.  And his dinner.  

‘Cause while I brung me a buggy rifle, Marie-France, she swung a bucket o’ leftover fried chicken with some drippin’s gravy for soppin’.

My head was fixin’ to hurt.





Wary Boy

I knew things wudn’t right.  I knew it.  I knew it from the get go.  Got that wiggly squiggly feelin’ between my shoulders and couldn’t swaller right.

And still I let it go.  And things?  They look to be gettin’outta hand now.

But no woulda coulda shouldas.  Won’t do us much good now, I reckon.  What we got is a situation.  A right full and fat whopper of a situation.   And cousin Marie-France hogtied me and purt’near  dragged me kickin’ and screamin’ into the sticky quagmire swirlin’ in the dead center of it.

See, me’n Marie France, we’re blood cousins, and more’n that, we’re next to twins in the way we see the world and think things through.  She’s a dreamer where I’m a doer, but betwixt us two, and sometimes with mean ol’ sister Luce, we’d get the henhouse built.

We also fought like the dickens, too, our way of stayin’ even.

This time,  though, that girl had me be-fuddled something awful.  What had she gone and done?  And why the hay did I allow myself to be sucked in?

I’m still shakin’ my head.

The men and us boys, extended family all, been in the fields all day long, dusty and dirty and sticky, clover and grass stickin’ to all our exposed parts.  Stick-tights ringed my saggin’ socks.  Gnats and flies pestered my eyes and buzzed in my ears.  We’d all trudged, tired from haulin’ and weedin’ and plowin’ and balin’, up to the well pump back of Marie-France’s family’s woodshed. Took turns under the solid flow, rubbin’ our arms and our necks with the cool water.  The dryin’ water meant itchin’, but it sure beat the dirt.  Even dunked our heads under, shakin’ after like dogs at how good it felt.

The women, and littler kids, spent most of the day preparin’ a feast for us, outside, back of the porch, on tables built of split wood and saw horses.  Pretty much our ever’ summer night dinner table, be it at our place or theirs.

They’d be piles and platters of golden fried chickens, baskets of crunchy-on-the-outside squishy soft on the inside biscuits sized of baseballs, home-churned butter (no oleo for us) and honey along side, sliced ripe red tomatoes, mashed potatoes with light-colored creamy chicken gravy flecked with black pepper, Mama’s homemade sour cottage cheese, sautéed green beans and new potatoes, yellow foot long corn on the cob with big ol’ kernels yellow and plump, pickles and slaw and canned beets and small bits of this and that weighin’ down the center.  Never once did we begin a meal, however, than Grandpap beller out one o’his hallowed prayers.  Folks next county over was surely blessed, as I reckon his voice’d be echoin’ their way, too.  We was reverent, we’d be popped upside the head if we wudn’t, though our stomachs was competin’ with the heavenly petitionin’.

Come to think of it, Grandpap’s volume may’ve been doggoned purposeful!

Still, we stayed still and penitent until the last “Amen and Amen, ” then began the passin’.  Again, we didn’t none of us pick up a fork, nor snitch a golden crumb of the chicken crust, till we was all served, plates full to groanin’.  Grandpap’d look about, satisfied even the last littlest cousin had his meal arranged just so and his napkin tucked in tight to the front of his shirt, then he’d lift a forkful to his mouth.

Signal to dig in!  And dig in we did!  That was all she wrote!  We’d eat, we’d laugh, we’d talk, kids and adults and aunts and uncles and all o’us.  We was kin, after all, we’d our rules and we’d our ways, but we was all part of the same family, tucked and tied together tight.

So when Marie-France sidled up to the table just before repast this particular evenin’, slow and deliberate instead of wet from fallin’ in the crick or bloodied from fallin’ from some tree after chasin’ squirrels, I took notice.  Somethin’ was up.

I watched.

She smoothed her fuzzy braids, uncharacteristic,  then rubbed her forehead hard before catchin’ her mama and pullin’ her to the side.

I continued to watch.  ‘Couldn’t hear a word.  But somethin’ was stewin’.

Marie-France talked earnest-like.  Lengthy and wordy, eyeball to eyeball.  Why, she even put her hand on her mama’s shoulder, like some city councilman or horse trader.  And her mama listened, same earnest look, then nodded, slow.   Marie-France, she bounded off like a deer, her mama wipin’ her hands on her dress, watchin’ with wonderin’ eyes as her daughter skittered away down the long hill to the woods.

Odd, them doin’s, but then, so was Marie-France from time to time.   I figured one o’her giggly schoolgirl girlfriends done asked her to break bread with them and theirs. I’d not give it one more thought, so I thought then.  Smug and shruggin’,  I silently and gratefully claimed her servin’s as mine!   After long sticky day in the fields, my insides squishin’ together from emptiness, I had me bigger fish to fry!   I made my way to dinner!

So there we was,  all gettin’ ourselves seated and situated up and down and ’round the outdoor table, Grandpap givin’ his “get ready” throat clearin’, when who marched straight up to the table, tall and determined,  but Marie-France.

Draggin’ a little su-prise in tow.

Now if you knew Marie-France, she was always into somethin’.  Her mind clinked and clanked to who laid a chunk, spewin’ out unusual and crazy and off the wall ideas and schemes, often involvin’ strays needin’ a helpin’ hand.  Like totin’ a box of mewin’ babies and announcin’ plans for a shelter for wayward kittens done abandoned by their mamas. Or there was the time come to the table cradlin’ a little robin with a broken wing,going at length ’bout baby bird sanctuaries.

So I’d  like to think we was used to her shenanigans.

‘Pparently, we wudn’t.

This evenin’ the word come to mind for all us at the table, our mouths hangin’ open like we was stupid, was “dumbfounded.”

Some words just fill the bill, and this was sure does, don’t it?

This time her su-prise wudn’t her typical stray mangy mongrel needin’ savin’,  nor some bow-backed near-dead horse needin’ a place to live out the rest of its days.  No baby birds nor mewin’ baby kittens.

No, this time  the stray she was pullin’ along behind her was of a diff’rent sort.  This stray was a big ol’ blond man/boy.  One stiff and hollow-eyed, scratched and ripped, hank o’ yeller hair hangin’ low on his high forehead.

He looked fearful.  Marie-France looked fearless.

I like to fell outta my seat.

Think it was the look of his prison uniform what got me.

And the fact she turned full face to me, sayin’, “This here’s my cousin Liam.  You’ll be stayin’ with him.”

And with that, things was for sure outta hand.