“Come Hell ‘r High Water”

Dad gum it!

Dad GUM it, says I!

Durn blast it!

Razzin’ scummin’ durned sons o’ guns!

An’ I’m fixin’ to let loose a lot worse, I tell you what!  I plan on me a hay of a lot worse’n this, I plan a cussin’ up a storm!  

Well, in my head.

Got no cause to upset the apple cart.  Nor Mama.

 

Let me settle myself down here some.  If you ain’t already figur’d this out, this here’s Liam.  Liam Goodwell.  Of the Denton County Goodwells.  Them same Goodwells what ain’t takin’ me along frog giggin’ tonight.

Grandpap, he’s goin’.

Daddy, he’s goin’.

Linc and Lawrence, them good-fer-nothin’  full o’ swagger and biggery elder brothers o’ mine, them two’s goin’.

Uncle Emmet, who ain’t really anybody’s uncle from what I can tell, he’s goin’.

An’ a slew o’ others I don’t even want to know about. 

All them with their gigs fresh sharpened, all them tucked in their carpenter overhalls, the ones with the big ol’ front side to side pockets, readied to be plum filled with bullfrogs come mornin’ light.

All them gatherin’ out front the saggin’ gray barn this very evenin’, bedtime fer ever’body else in the house.  Laughin’ quiet-like and jawin’ and slappin’ shoulders.

Did I mention, perchance, I wudn’t asked, nor consulted, nor given no never no mind whatsoever regardin’ this here particu-lar outin’?  Not even when I been a’party to this here party a million, or a hun’erd times ‘fore this?

Did I mention, perchance, I casual-like asked near one an’ all, “Jest what’re you all doin’ this evenin’?”  Did I mention to a man, TO A MAN, they didn’t even have the wherewithall to look slunky and guilty?  That all them just give me a, “Nuthin’ much.”?

Did I mention, perchance, I’m near to the best gigger in Denton County, an’ maybe further?  That I got me eyes like a hawk, stealth like a cougar, an’ aim like nobody’s business?  That last time I got me more frogs than the next three behind me all put together?  (Never mind the limit….they’s plenty o’bullies to go ’round in these murky creeks.)

Did I mention, perchance, I ain’t used to bein’ ignored?

Did I mention, perchance, I got me a plan, once them fellers, my own kin (well, almost, most of ’em) pile elbow to knee in the bed o’ the ol’ International?  That I’ll be slidin’ up ol’ Pedergrast, best trackin’ horse we got, albeit a bit sleepy ever so often?  That I’ll be stalkin’ them through the woods down to them swamps an’ bullrushes an’ they’ll never be the wiser?

That I’ll be ever so clever, follerin’ them durned happy go lucky sons o’ guns?  I’ll catch ’em redhanded, too, says I, I will!

…..Did I mention, perchance, I ain’t got no plan beyond that there?….Scare ’em?  Shame ’em?  Catch me all them bullies ‘fore they get a one?  I  got me not a single clue.  My insides get all jumblin’ and churnin’ when I get to that part there an’ I can’t think straight fer the gut rumblin’.  

Ain’t no time to reconsider, howsomever.  Look here, I’ll swan if they ain’t readyin’ to go,  all gusto and giddyup, a’ climbin’ up an’ around the ol’ pickup truck, careful to keep them gigs aimed heavenward an’ their eyes aimed anywhere but at me.

Whatever I do, it’ll serve ’em right.  It’ll serve ’em right.  Ol’ Pendergrast is a’saddled an’ a’waitin’.

Best mount up and keep to the woods.  Time’ll tell.  Time’ll tell.

 

*********

 

‘Tween a Crock an’a Hard Space

Hey, ho!  Here we be goin’!

Liam here, Liam Goodwell, amongst a passel o’ Goodwells an’ Mickelwaits, sweatin’ shoulder to shoulder and thigh to thigh in the bed o’ Grandpap’s big ol’ International pickup!  We’re a’bouncin’ and bumpin’ over ruts and potholes deep enough to sink a fat sow, (Grandpap don’t aim t’miss a’one!) an’ we’re a’beamin’ and a’screechin’ fer joy, pure and true!

‘Cause we Goodwells, and near all the Mickelwaits), we’re off on a vay-cay-tion!

Ain’t never been on one o’them before this!  Oh, sure, we go off on the odd fishin’ trek over to the Mississippi, or closer to the Big Platte, an’ we’ll camp under the stars fer the night, build us a far, smoke us some marshmallers and brewtime coffee in a tin can.

But this here time, this here, this is a fer real, durned tootin’ actuality of a git-away gone!

All the way to St. Louie!  Saint Louie!  Clear to the other side o’ our blessed state of Missouruh!  Why, if we play ar’ cards right, we may get us across the Ol’ Miss and his Illinois!  Law!  Law!  We’re movin’ on down the line, all us Goodwells ,and near all the Mickelwaits, on the road right this very minute caravannin’ three ve-hicles off to a new adventure!  We aim to drive till we git there, ’cause when we do?   When we do?!!!!

We’re, all us Goodwells, and near all the Mickelwaits, we’re checkin’ ourselves into a MOTEL!

A Blessed Hallelujah Praise Jesus MOTEL!  With indoor plumbin’ an’ wood on the inside walls an’ a swimmin’ pool with painted blue tiles under the water!

Lord!  Lord!  Fergive my blasphemation, but Jesus, Lord God, you shore are blessin’ us Goodwells, and near all the Mickelwaits!

My e-magination, it’s fairly takin’ over my brain with light and joy and visions o’ swimmin’ in a hole jest meant fer that there!  Ain’t no horse been slobberin’ in it, ain’t no fish been feedin’ in it, nor floatin’ dead on the top.  Ain’t no skeeters buzzin’ along the hazy slip o’ air skimmin’ jest above.  Ain’t no mud on the bottom, ain’t no green slime on the top.

Ain’t gotta watch fer no copperheads, neither.

We all got us swimmin’ at-tar from the Montgomery Ward down to Kansas City, brung to us special seein’ as the catalogue order would take too long.

We are some lucky ducks, ain’t we?

An’ more’n that?  As if we could handle the un-abated de-light of any more’n that?!

We ain’t payin’ fer one bit, not one iota!  Not a’ one!  Even the swimmin’ at’tar, it was a gift.

Grandpap, he been makin’ hisself scare of late, since Daddy an’ Leston Pike been conspirin’ on the down low, come stompin’ int’ the kitchen week before week before last, fair shoutin’.

“I’m a’doin’ it!  I’m a’doin’ it!  We takin’ this family away fer a spell!  We’re takin’ us on a sojourny jest fer the fun o’ the doin’ it!”

Why, he went on an’ on’ an’ we all, well, we was all jest froze in our tracks.  Well, we was froze until we lept out our skins in un-di-luted rapture!  

Hallelujah an’ Hark the Herald an’ Hosannas to the High!  We be takin’ ourselves, all us Goodwells, an’ near all the Mickelwaits, on a va-ca-tion!  Law!

 

‘T’wudn’t till some time later we was to chance upon the fact this here was orchestrated by, and paid in full by, the Judge.

 

But Katy bar the door, we wudn’t figurin’ on no conspiracy, no how!  We was a’singin’ and a’wavin’ at passersby and bein’ as gleeful as a pig in a mud puddle!

Any menace a’brewin’ in the real world didn’t mean much to us Goodwells, and near all the Mickelwaits this day!

We was goin’ swimmin’ in a pool meant jest fer that there!

**********

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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 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.

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

“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’!

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

Let ‘er Rip!

Ain’t got the gumption nor the energy nor the willpower nor the “what fer ” to pray fer God’s strength to give you much this day.  I reckon it may to date have been the most harrer’in’ day I ever lived.

This here’s Liam, Liam Goodwell, but I figure you know all that by now.  An’ if you don’t, law, you should.

(Lord, fergive me my sideways an’ pesky attitude.  You know my heart….)

But Golly Dang, this here’s been a day, clean since mornin’, and now, when I kin hardly keep my eyelids from slammin’ down shut!

This here day begun like ever’ other mornin’.  ‘Cept this one found Mama fainted dead away whist serving a second platter o’ them scrambled eggs she knows I clammer fer.

She’d been bit.  

‘N by the looks o’ what Louis and Lawton smooshed to smithereens durin’ the wildcat spinnin’ we was all doin’ gettin’ Mama in the bed o’ the ol’ International, it was a deadly copperhead what got her.  Law, they poison is fast-actin’ and potent.  Mama never once stirred, not one time.

Didn’t nobody say much, we all jest hit Goodwell high gear.  Found myself behin’ the wheel, and well, I groun’ roun’  them truck gears till they found “Hightail it” and we all skidded, Mama and Daddy and Lincoln and Lawrence and Loreen in the bed, me and Grandpap and Livvie in the front.  We was off to Doc Allen’s place, ’bout fifteen mile r’ so t’other side of Halesburg.  

That Luce stayed back to watch over the twins, I foun’ a little disturbin’.  I do like havin’ Luce along in times o’trouble.

Dust clean flew, fer I do know my way ‘roun’ a truck.  Been drivin’ since the age of five, sittin’ on a stack o’ Montgomery Ward catty-logues.  Stood up to work the pedals, gas and clutch and brake.  An’ now I s’pose I can get after it like the best o’them racin’ car drivers, and this mornin’, by all ‘ccounts, I did jest that.  We swayed and swung and near hit, but not, trees and gnarled branch fence posts.   But we got on down the line in a hurry.   Grandpap’s only ad-mo-nitions was “Hang on, ever’body.”  

Had to mean he had full faith in the Good Lord….an’ me.

We still had us a r’spectable piece to go but was closin’ in when I hear a “Whoop!” come from the bed behind.  

“Whoop!”  There it is ag’in.

“Whoop!”  Law!  

Grandpap twisted his spiky head ‘roun and through the back glass, he seen Daddy and Lincoln and the rest a’wavin’ and a gesturin’ to who laid a chunk.

“Stop this ve-hicle!”  Grandpap bellered.  And I done jest that.  

Never seen him fly like he did, but with Grandpap in the lead, we bailed out the almost still movin’ truck, steam comin’ from the radiator in front, and run back to where Daddy and Loreen, they was cryin’, and Lincoln and Lawrence, they was bendin’ over Mama.

Oh, Mama.

She did not look the same as when we hoisted her gentle-like into the truck.  She did not.   Looked to be her face was all red and mottled and specked, and them skinny muscles in her neck was strained and pained.  She was a pantin’ and a’sweatin’ but law!  Then they was her leg!  Mama’s leg, layin’ propped up on Grandmama’s quilts, was tree-trunk sized, swole up three, no, four times its normal size.  Lincoln or Lawrence or somebody back there had the clarity o’mind to remove her shoe, or law, it woulda plumb exploded from the looks o’things.

Oh, Mama.

Daddy was near crazed with fear, cradlin’ her head and moanin’ and sayin’ sweet un-intelligible words.  I knew nothin’ but to stare.

But not Grandpap, heck and Hell, no!

God gives us all gifts, but I’ll swan if Grandpap didn’t jest then get him the skills o’ one o’them high jumpers from them O-lympic Games the worl’ used to know.  

Still roarin’, he leapt clean up over the closed tailgate, “Outta my way!  Git!”  

An’ ever’body got, sqooshed way up next to the cab, ‘cept Daddy, he sure as shootin’ wudn’t goin’ t’leave Mama.  He stayed put, but settled hisself down in that instant.  There was work to do.  

And Grandpap, he was goin’ t’do it.

I kid you not, in a flash, he pulled his ol’ knife, the one slung in a leather pouch off his ol’ worn out belt, eight inches of shiny razored lethalness.  Us kids, we was never ‘llowed to touch even the pouch.  Grandpap kept that rascal sharp, be it with whetstone or leather strop.  Used with precision, be in whittlin’ or cuttin’ saddlery fixin’s or guttin’ a fish, this was GRANDPAP’S knife, give him by his own GRANDPAP, and it had a fair mystical bein’ all its own.

Quick as a lick, and lickity split, he knew what needin’ doin’.  He nestled hisself down by Mama’s purpled and marled leg, touchin’ it gentle here and there with his left hand.  Only took a moment till he settled on a spot just back the outside her left ankle, then straightenin’ his glasses (when he pulled them from his pocket, I do not recall), he touched the spot with the point of his blade.  Drawing no blood, but markin’ the spot, Daddy and Lawrence and Lincoln, they all leaned in close to verify.  Not Loreen, she was out to the road, back to the doin’s.  Livvie, she done the sisterly thing and stood, arm ‘roun’ Loreen’s skinny shoulders, but her head was twisted our way, eagle eyes  a’trained on Mama.

Steeled and poised, Grandpap fixed his clear blue sky eyes on Daddy, who read the message loud and clearly.  Grabbin’ Mama by the shoulders, he buried his head in her shoulder and held on.

Then Grandpap took my Mama’s life in his hands, and Lord, Lord, he sliced jest like that a chunk o’ my Mama’s flesh, size o’ two silver dollars an’ thicker’n a doubled-up worshrag clean from her leg!  He then slice an “X” at the spot (don’t never plan to use THAT phrase ag’in, I tell you what!) and worried and pushed and then sucked the poison and blood right from that spot, then spit and then spit ag’in!  

How long this went on, I do not know, nor care to.  Suckin’ and spittin’ and suckin’ and spittin’, till Grandpap was plumb spent.  Lincoln helped him down from the truckbed, give him some water from an ol’ jug under the front seat, and held his back whist Grandpap bent double in the ditch, heavin’.

Daddy, he only looked up once.  Lawrence, he took to wrappin’ Mama’s leg light-like, in rips from Grandmama’s quilts.  He could be right gentle, when he’d a mind to.  

We all do love our Mama.

I’d played no role in this side o’ the road drama, but I did my fair share of prayin’.  And dang it and hang it all, if by a miracle, Mama, she begun to stir, ever so little.

“Honey, it shore does hurt,” I seem to hear to say ‘fore she went back out ag’in.  An’ if her leg didn’t look jest a little less purpled and swole.  Jest a little, but ‘at there, ‘at’s all it took.  We all scrambled back to the truck, a little lighter on our feet, a little more hopeful Mama, she was on the side o’ the angels, jest not clear over Jordan!

Grandpap heaved jest one more time, then pulled hisself back into the truck, eyes a little glazed but a’wipin’ his knife what done the deed.

An’ like a maniac, I groun’ that baby back int’gear an’ raced like a house a’far down to Doc Allen’s place.

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

To: Who it May Concern

From: Punk Bole

Been nea’ a week I been livin’ with the Goodwells out to the edge o’ Halesburg.  They been treatin’ me well, hardly asked hardly any questions, but I’ll admit, after a good meal and some quiet time, I offered up my own explanations to why I was so bruised and cut up that very first night.

Didn’t tell them the full extent.  Tol’ them the truth, jest not the whole of it.  They all, even the chil’ren, they all jest nodded and harumphed and the girls, they even wiped them a tear ‘r two.

Now, I don’t merit no pity, let me be clea’.  I stood up fer m’se’f, didn’t always take Daddy’s vi’lence lyin’ down.  Makin’ it worse on m’se’f was a decision o’ my own makin’.  Somehow, though, it give me some equanimity.

Learnt that word from Liam jest this day.  Mean’s “fair ‘n squa’e” and bein’ it rolls ‘roun’ the tongue right nice,  I aim to use it of’en.

I’d come to these Goodwells late of an evenin’, but ‘stead of parkin’ me out to the barn, cushed up in the soft hay, hearin’ the snorts and snores of them horses inside and them cattle out, (which that there wouldn’t be the worse thing ever happened to me), that Mama o’ thern, she push by me whist I was eatin’ my fill o’ biscuits and cold fried chicken at the table, loaded to her nose with blankets and down.  Her and her man, Liam’s daddy, they piled me down a pallet in the boys’ leanto, off to the edge of the front room.

I stick to the edge, near a em’ty corner, don’t want to be stepped upon nor in the way.  But shore ‘cain’t say I ever been treated more like a king, or at least a prince o’ some sort.

Well, that there may be some exaggeratin’, seein’ as I ain’t certain how kings and princes, they be treated.  But maybe they jest be treatin’ me with  “equanimity.” ( I’d write me in there a smile, if I knowed how.)

Well, I been beddin’ down there comin’ up on a week how, an’ still, they ain’t condemn me, not once.

‘Pears I be jes’ part o’ the passel.

Now Liam, he been pressin’ and pushin’, get me down to the schoolhouse.  Say Miss Meadow, that real nice teacher, she’d do me a worl’ o’ good.  But I ain’t ready for that, not by half.  Run off last time by them pasty fat white fellers, I’m pleased to hunker down right here fer the time bein’.

‘Course then, Liam, he lug hissel’f home as many books he can tote, an’ copies problems from the front board, makin’ me do near a whole day o’ schoolin’ come afternoon.  The readin’ and writin’ and stories from long ago, they hang me up proper.  But give me them numbers problems, and I scare m’se’f with the speed to which I can complete them.

Liam, he jest whistle and grin.  And try to find me harder challenges.

I jest push him on the shoulder and tell him to go an’ try.  Jest go an’ try!

Now, I make m’se’f useful roun’ here.  I been he’pin’ with the chores, find I got me a way with them horses and the dogs, they all love me all to pieces, folleri’ me ever’where.   Livvie, the purty one, she call me Mr. Pied Piper, whomever that feller is.  The ol’ houn’ name Buford, he try to sneak in and sleep ‘side me on my pallet, but Liam’s mama, she shoo him out.

She don’t shoo me out, though.  I am grateful, but the words do come hard.

I ain’t been off the land once, not once, since I come.  An’ I feel certain to my bones ain’t none o’ them Goodwells plannin’ on tellin’ no body.  They been treatin’ me not like a guest, but one o’them, which wouldn’t be to the likin’ o’ some ‘roun’ here. Jes’ yeste’day, even the stony one called Luce, she even push me out har out the way, she see me snitchin’ a warm cookie from the oven.  They what she do?  She go an’ she snitch it her ownse’f.  Wouldn’t do that to no comp’ny, but to a almos’ member of the fam’ly, shore.

Got to say, that moment warm my heart, ’bout to weepin’.  I ain’t clouded up in some time.  I like that girl.  She got beans.

I will not be takin’ ad-vantage of they hospitality much longer, howeve’.  I fear my own Daddy, he been sniffin’ ‘roun’ from what I overhear Liam’s daddy and Grandpap heart-to-heartin’, an’ I fear he come to fin’ me, puttin’ the Goodwells in some kin’ o’fix. Cain’t put them in no pre-dicament, no how.  They been faithful frien’s to me,  an’ me bein’ undeservin’. Been doin’ nothin’ but considerin’ me like a real person and not a pushin’ nor a’askin’, jest lettin’ me eat and heal and settle.

But they comes a time, and I feel it breathin’ hard on my back.  Time I was gettin’ on.

Got to get to makin’ me some plans.

For like to not be any frien’s he’pin’ me where I’m goin’.

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