“Tween a Crock an’ a Hard Space”

Hey Ho!

There’s here’s Liam, like reg’lar.

Liam Goodwell?  Of the Denton County Goodwells?

I reckon even if you ain’t heard tell o’me, nor the Goodwells (though that there is hard for my imagination), you shorely heard o’Denton County.

Denton County?  Denton County, Missouri?  Up near St. Joe? Bledsoe River run near north to south right down to the Big Mo?

No?

I have been plumb selfish, then, sure.  I been spinnin’ tales ’bout me, all true.  ‘Bout we Goodwells, all, too, true.  ‘Bout Miss Meadow down to the school, fer sure true, seein’ she’s the one encouragin’ me to contineeue this exercise.  She maintains with certainty I have words floatin’ ‘roun’ in my head what need to be writ, stories what need to be tol’.   She give me a stack o’ Big Chief tablets (baby paper, but they was give me and what’s give is give) and pen, no e-racin’ ‘llowed nor possible,  and had me set to it.  Been doin’ it, seems like, forever, but I reckon it’s only been since the summer begun an’ school was done, day after Decoration Day, as Grandpap likes to say.

Me, too.

So, I got it in my head, selfish though I have truly been, I think I’d take t’tellin’ you all who’s readin’ jest about where we live and who we are, we Goodwells.

An’ I think I’ll start right here t’home.

Generations heaped on generations o’Goodwells been livin’ on or near Denton County, Missouri since nigh on the beginnin’ o’ time.  Come from England, our forebears did, got them land from the King his ownself, back in New Jersey.  First Goodwell, hear tell, was the King’s own surgeon and was gifted thusly.

Well, we Goodwells wudn’t meant fer livin’ so tight, we get t’itchin’, so we lit out for the broad and wide, some droppin’ off in Virginey, some landin’ in Kentucky and Tennessey, but them with wherewithal to keep on a’goin’, well, they landed in the rollin’ green hills and on the red rich fertile soil of Northern Missouri.

Didn’t consider the skeeters.

But I digress.

Now, we Goodwells, we been up.  And sure, we been down.  But we ain’t never been called out, no matter how many strikes we get ag’inst us.

An’, well, right now, we jest might be considered on the low end o’up, as our fortunes done diminished some since we Goodwells laid claim to a slew o’Denton County, livin’ fine up to the top o’ Shiloh Mountain yonder.

That we live, all us, at the bottom of the Shiloh now, well, it don’t mean we be down, just means we be down here!  An’ we got us a right purty view.

An’ personal, ‘tween you an’ me’ an’ the fencepost?  I reckon I’ll be a’livin’ high on the hill come some day, I kid you not!

I kid you not!

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“Oh the Places You’ll Go!”

I am, I am a journeyman.

I’ve happily lain my head many places.   And hope to rest myself at many more.

I even claim the homes of those gone before.  Stories passed on down and on down become real, like my own memories.  That’s alright by me.  Those places remain alive and well as long as we don’t forget.

What’s the point, if not the journey?

And then the landing.

And then the telling.

 

 

Daddy’s home was whatever ramshackle homestead HIS own daddy could negotiate for.  Rent was a struggle, as Daddy’s daddy had many skills but never a real job.  Rent payment was nearly always at risk, and always in arrears.  More than once, Daddy and his daddy and mama and all the kids and cousins and hangers-on (and there were always hangers-on) would pack up and move on in the middle of the night.  It was a troubled life.  Daddy learned early wherever he found himself come night,  that was home.  Mama’d hang the same curtains, put out the same faded stiff black and white photos, make the same biscuits from the same cast iron skillet.  So whether it was tumbledown shack, an abandoned hen-house, or the back of someone’s barn, it was home.

Daddy vowed he’d never live that way again.

 

Mama’s family, they were big business, at least in their neck of the woods.  Why, they owned nearly one hundred fifty acres of the finest, blackest, most fertile farmland east of Kansas City, Missouri side.  They raised livestock, even named a few, although Mama says she learned early on not to become too friendly, seeing as saying goodbye when they were hauled off to market was a tearful affair.  Every year,  a box of live baby chicks arrived via the U.S. Postal service.  They had dogs, hunting dogs and lap dogs, and cats lived in the barn.  Mama climbed trees and had Kool Aid stands to tempt the odd farmer passing along the dirt road out front.  They got a new tractor every two or three years, but always longed for one with automatic transmission or a cab to keep out the rain.  Settling for a sunfaded umbrella wasn’t, however, half bad.  They had a big white barn with cartoon characters on horses painted on the rough-hewn insides by where the cows, always named Bessie, were milked.  They had a smoke house and four chicken coops and a machine shed and circular grain bins of all heights.  She played in the hot and dusty barn loft. She skated on frozen crystal ponds in winter, and swam in the same come the summer thaw.  She and her sister walked the half mile to a one-room schoolhouse for their first eight years of schooling, and visiting the empty sagging building years later, she salvaged the blackboard where she had carved her name into the black slate.

Mama was a rapscallion.

 

Memories of my first home begin with a fire.  A flu fire.  It was dark, must have been nighttime. I remember the smell and some orange flames poking out from the black pipe snaking up the wall from the round black stove.  Mama reminds me I was two years old when the place caught, so the visions burned across my mind (pardon the pun….came way too easy!) must be  powerful ones.  Our little community was out in the country, some distance from town.  I recall being pulled quick from the bath by my mama, then wrapped tight like a sausage in a white towel with two big brown stripes.  I remember the jogging, jostling run over my mama’s shoulder to the neighbors’, then being dried off on a chenille bedspread sprinkled with green and yellow fabric flowers by old Mrs Price.  I remember peering through her side window when the firemen came and pumped the back of an old fire engine, then sprayed the blackening rooftop.  I remember my daddy had a hose, too, and mama was running in and out of the back door, boxes and clothes, and funny, a cowboy hat sideways on her head.

Last I remember was Mama tucking me back in my own bed with the high wooded slatted sides.  I still had the white towel with the big brown stripes around me.

Where that old towel got to, I don’t know, but I’d give my eye teeth to find it.

(Here’s where I’d gleefully add some comment about keeping “the home fires burning,” if only I’d the courage…)

 

And the voyage continues!  Some like being planted, some revel in the trek.

 

Either way, what’s the point, if not the journey?

And then the landing.

And then the telling.

 

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