“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!” (true as can be musin’s from a country boy)

Get up and go!


Hey.  This here’s Liam.  Liam Goodwell.

Of the Denton County Goodwells.

Been here before.  Aimin’ to be here tomorr’.


Been relatin’ the account of Grandpap and his grand ambition fer savin’ these here U-nited States of America from the Germans and the Japanese, and the I-talians, and the evils what they be packin’,  evils of tyranny and villianry eminatin’ from the East… and I reckon the further East.

(Miss Meadow, down to the school, she give geography and the like her all, we even seen maps.  But I never did know how to parse the East from the Rest.  Must be a imaginary line some-eres….)

Well, Grandpap gave me the honor o’accompanyin’ him to the train station to meet the Zephyr, carryin’ none other than the ostentatious and magnanimation visited on the person of General Du’Wight D. Eisenhower, passin’ through, and even plantin’ hisself here in Denton County for the overnight.

And Luce, he asked her, too.

Grandpap, he had a plan, writ it, practiced sayin’ it, put on his Sunday suit and red string tie.  He was doin’ this for his country and Denton County and us Goodwells.  May as well be Tom Mix, far as I was concerned.  Grandpap would be as famous as a movie star and a cowboy and maybe even a postman all rolled into one!

Well, we got to town, and by hook and by crook, through the crowds of flag-wavin’ folks waitin’ anxious for the first bonafied celebrity any o’us ever seen, we made it.  Grandpap landed us square at the depot off t’the other side of town,  a stone’s throw beyond the square with the courthouse.

We’d goosebumps.

And a sodie-pop.

Well, we’d been there, sittin’ on that ol’ hard  bench, lookin’ up and down the tracks now for near two hours.  It was just us and Mr. Buttercup, the station master on the platform.  Him and Grandpap kept on checkin’ they pocketwatches.  Like clockwork.   Ol’ Eisenhower was late.  The crowd back out to the road bided thur time singin’ patriotic songs and the like, and the band from over to Kansas City (Kansas City!) been playin’ and marchin’ in circles to keep they lips loose.  But as darkness stole itself over the town o’ Halesburg, the music and the songs got thinner and thinner.

And still we sit.  Wooden bench give my bottom bones pains worse’n bein’ saddle-bound all day.  Me and Luce, we took walks, we practiced standin’ on one foot then t’other, we peeled paint from the depot, we counted the stars new in the purple blue sky.  We even had us a spittin’ contest.  Till Grandpap put a stop to that.

Guess is, he didn’t want Ol’ Eisenhower a steppin’ in our spit.  I can abide by that, sure.

And still we sit.

And the sounds from back out the other side the depot faded clear to nothin’.  Folks went home, likely back in the mornin’ to see the General off.

No ideee ’bout the band from Kansas City.

And still we sit.  Luce nodded off but my elbow to her ribs brung her right back around.

But wait?  What was that in the distance?  Did I purtend to hear it or was that a whistle a shreikin’ off ‘tween the hills?

Now, we was tired, true, and our wooshin’ shore don’t make it so, but Lord Have Mercy, it WAS a train!  There was a train a comin’!  Whistlin’ and a tootin’ to who laid a chunk!

Ol Du’Wight D. Eisenhower was near here and Grandpap would have his say!

Gosh Durn it all to PIECES! (Don’t tell Mama.)

All us, even Mr. Buttercup, we was hoppin’ up and down, peerin’ deep into the dark down the shiny tracks till they disappeared in the nighttime mist.  A rumblin’ under our feet, though, secured our certainty and sure enough, a faint light, then a whistle blast so sharp it closed my eardrums (had to wiggle my fingers in my ears to get my hearin’ back), and the shiny, sleek silver Zephyr, glistenin’ in the upcomin’ moon slid pretty as you please right on up to where me and Grandpap, and Luce, stood to attention.

What a sight!  What a sight!

But hey, what was this?  Only three cars attached themself to the back that glossy bullet of an engine.  Ol’ Du’Wight D. had him some pull!  Hang it all if he didn’t commandeer hisself the whole train just for him and his entourage.

Just the moment the train slid to a stop, Sheriff Dodge and his de-pu-ties come from all sides o’ the depot, fer to keep the peace.  Wudn’t no peace to keep, seein’ it was jest Grandpap and me and Mr. Buttercup, and Luce.  They was as het up as us, though.  Grandpap tipped his hat and positioned hisself right afront the exitin’ door.  They all anchored themselves in a right nice line along the buildin’.  I know I was impressed.

Lots of commotion ensued inside the train cars.  We could see men hustlin’ and bustlin’ and hoistin’ and totin’ and wavin’ arms and mouths.  My heart was beatin’ ninety to nothin’!

At long last, and not soon enough to my mind, the door slid open and like fizz from a bottle, men in khakis and uniforms of all ilk, brown and blue, and even a sailor or two, exploded from the skinny door.  They didn’t give Grandpap no never mind, and Grandpap didn’t give them none neither.  He was here for one man, and one man only.  He’d wait.

So’d we, me and Luce.

Maybe fifty or might be a hun-erd fellers pushed thur way from the train, all through the same door, but just like that, I seen him!  I seen him!  I poked Grandpap but he’d seen him, likewise!  Out the corner of my eye, I seen him touch his special speech in his pocket, then pull it on out, as a per-caution ‘case he got tongue-tied.

Now, Grandpap didn’t never get tongue-tied.  He prayed like he was personal friends with the Lord Almighty ever Sunday down to the church.  But I had to admire his preparation.

Like molasses from Mama’s jug, Du’Wight D.Eisenhower moved inside the train from winder to winder till he reached the door.  Intent with whatever he was sayin’ to the man on his left, and the one to his rear, he didn’t once even look as he stepped down, never mindin’ the gap from the metal train stairs and the wooden platform.  He just moved smooth and sure, never breakin’ his stride.  Had to admire his confidence.  Worked, too, feet touched the platform sure and in stride.

And Grandpap?  He matched Ol’ Du’Wight D. step for step down the platform.  Me and Luce, we jogged ourselves right along behind, like obedient hound dogs.

Didn’t Eisenhower give him no nevermind, neither, though.

And Grandpap bein’ Grandpap, he wudn’t fazed, not one iota. But the platform was nearin’ its end and he’d best speak up or forever hold his peace.  Me and Luce, we heard Grandpap clear his throat, loud and with authority.

And what do you think, but General Du’Wight D., he stopped in his tracks and looked at Grandpap full on, face to face.

Didn’t nobody breathe.  It would have been disrespectful.

Grandpap cleared his throat one more time and fer good measure, he pulled up the paper on which his speech was writ, prepared and practiced.

Why, he barely got his mouth open, not even a sound ex-caped, when the General grabbed that paper from his hand quick as a lick, pullin’ a pen from his inside pocket and writ his name, easy as you please, then marched briskly on and into the waitin’ cadre what was with Sheriff Dodge.

Grandpap froze,  planted firm in the spot, petition clutched in his hand.  Me and Luce was dumbfounded.  Ol’ Eisenhower give Grandpap his autograph?  All that plannin’, all that anticipatin’, all that waitin’?  And spittin’?

Don’t know just how long we stood there.  But stood we did.  Platform emptied.  Excitement moved on.

Finally, finally, Grandpap breathed in deep and come back to hisself.

Lookin’ off to the distance at nothin’ in par-ti-cular,  and in a voice thinned and reedy, “Best head on back, children, it’s gettin’ late and yer Mama’n Daddy’ll be a’wonderin’ where we got to.”

With that, we moved solemn to where we left the International earlier, proud and excited and ready to conquer the world.  Without a word, didn’t have none, we piled in and drove on home.

And that “Get up and Go” I talked about?  Well, sir, it done got up and left.



But hang it all, if next day, we didn’t find Grandpap out to the shed a’fashion’n him a frame fer his speech paper, tackin’ a string on either side, and stretchin’ it on a nail over his door.

We didn’t speak of it fer some time, but when we did, we was still proud.