‘Tween a Crock an’ a Hard Space…

Come ag’in?

 

Well, hey!  Been a long time!

This here’s Liam!  Liam Goodwell, scion ‘n third son  o’  us Denton County Goodwells!

You shore been missed!

Well, mostly….when I had me half a minute to think.  This here started a long hot bacon-sizzlin’ summer, I tell you what.  Been plantin’ an’ mowin’ and haulin’ an’ stuff like that there till I been fallin’ dead to rights on my bed come bedtime with my boots still hangin’ from my feet!  Now, my big brothers, they pummice me with pillers ’till I wake enough to kick ’em off…often in their di-rection.  Last ev’nin’, bam! Nailed ol’ Linc upside the head!  Boom!  Smacked ol’ Lawrence in the left elbow.

Then Lawrence, he catched that boot ‘fore it hit the floor and usin’ his pitchin’ prowess, sent a fast and hard strike to my midsection.  Oooof.  Daddy hollered from the other room, “Hey, you fellers, put yerselves a stop to what’s goin’ on in there ‘r I’m a’comin’ in!”

Game over.  Lawrence smirked, victorious once ag’in.  His timin’, I’ll admit, rests on the edge of perfection.

Oooof.

But that ain’t here nor there.  You been missed and I ‘spect I best claim responsibility, as I ain’t writ fer weeks an’ days.  Seems plumb f’ever, somehow.

‘Ppears we Goodwells, however, we have us a sit-iation.  Over the course o’ the last seven days, or six, we been gittin’ these visits ‘most daily from our neighbor to the northeast, Leston Pike.  Scrawny son of a gun, long and lanky with stooped shoulders an’ long monkey arms what sway back ‘n forth near to his knees.  Ol’ Leston, he’s tanned to leather, with a skinny hooked nose an’ a straw yeller hairs stickin’ out his ears.  Good feller, but keeps to hisself, hence the mystery o’ his visits.  No family to speak of, lest you count his hound dog, Drum.  An’ his sister Wandette what lives over to St. Joe an’ who drives over most ever’ Sunday to cook him a proper dinner an’ who fixes hair fer a livin’.

‘Cept Leston’s.  That ol’ hair in his ears near always looks the same before she come to visit an’ after she takes off back home in her shiny green Buick.  Business must be brisk at her hair fixin’ place.

Well, as I was sayin’, Leston’s been hikin’ over jest past noontime dinner right reg’lar.  Him an’ Daddy, they set out on the front porch, sippin’ Mama’s sweet tea.  Grandpap, he ain’t a part o’ these here conversations, which I find odd and some disconcertin’.  He makes hisself scarce, busyin’ hisself in the barn out out to the garden.

He hums a little bit, too, jest like Mama when she’s a’hoppin’ mad an’ dancin’ with the point o’ no return.  This here gives me pause.

That them two on the porch, they never do really look to-wards one another, but talk out to the yard out front, that they talk in whispers, near, gives me yet another pause.

Never did like whisperin’, be it ‘tween goofy gigglin’ girls or fellers down to town on a corner, sizin’ up passersby.  Whisperin’ tells me one thing.  If what they have to say ain’t fer public consumption, it ain’t worth sayin’.  Hairs stand to attention at the back o’ my neck, if I’ve had me a recent haircut.  Mama calls it a sixth sense, says she’s got it too, and Law, I do believe her!  I could tell you stories.

An’ I believe she and me, we’re kindred spirits that way some, but when it come to soft talk an’ eyes what holler “hush hush” when me or anybody gets too close, well, I don’t speculate so much as jest get mad.

Luce, my next oldest sister, she says I’m jest feelin’ self-important, that I ain’t s’posed to know ever’thing ’bout ever’body.  An’ maybe she’s right.

An’ then, maybe she ain’t.

Either way, whisperin’ an’ a’talkin’ an’ sneakin’ ’round ain’t any part o’ what I claim is right.

(‘Cept when it comes, I reckon, to birthdays and Christmastime…but I digress.)

So this day, the burblin’ in my tummy set me in motion and I found me a quiet nook in the gap ‘twixt the porch an’ the leanto me an’ my big brothers call our room.  Cool soft dirt what puffs jest a bit when I git myself settled.  I give myself some deny-ability (That’s what Luce called it when she found me and tossed me a gunnysack to lay my head) were anybody to find me down in my hide-y hole.  Jest restin’ my eyes a bit ‘fore I head back out fer chores, I’d imply.

Now, while I’d imply,  I’d never lie.  Not out loud.  That there, that’d be a sin, and duplicitous in the eyes of the good Lord Almighty!  No sir-eee!  No sinnin’ fer me!

Jest eavesdroppin’.  Ain’t no commandment ’bout that I heard tell of.

 

 

I settle myself in an’ wait fer Leston and Daddy to saunter out with their iced sweet tea an’ tell that front yard a thing ‘r two.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

“Don’t That Beat All!” (musin’s and protusin’s of a country boy)

“Bite the Bullet”

 

This here’s Liam, Liam Goodwell, proud member of the Denton County Goodwells.

And I’m near plumb through with this here doc-u-mention.  I got me too many thoughts and feelin’s a’whirlin and a’swirlin’ ’round my cranium to set them all to paper.  Who the heck’s (don’t tell Mama!) got the time nor the wherewithall?

‘Course, Miss Meadow, down the school, she did put me up to it, and she did say she was a’countin’ on my par-ti-cipation in the exercise.

And Holy Heavenly Days, Lord knows I ain’t keen on disappointin’ Miss Meadow….

So here I am and reckon I ought t’ put the finishin’ touches on our midnight visit to A-dair County to retrieve big brother Lawrence from the bowels of the ju-dicial system lyin’ therein.

He talked his way out, like he’s wont to do.  And Grandpap, well, he talked his way in.  But then, if it don’t beat all, Lawrence, he talked Grandpap’s way out again, halleluhjah and praise be to Jesus!  Ol’ Lawrence, he’s good fer somethin’ after all!

Sun was jest slippin’ up over the shadowed hills yonder past the town square where we was waitin’ on the front steps of the courthouse.  Sleepy town wudn’t even stirrin’, even the judge and the sheriff and the state po-lice done said they goodbyes.  We was only us still left.  But we was all free, and glad of it.

I will admit to my stomach doin’ some odd complainin’ at its inattention.

That back home Daddy’d been summoned by yet another member of them what’s swore to perserve and pro-tect us, to haul hisself the three hours over to A-dair County in the middle of the night to save his kith and kin from whatever befell us,  well, let’s jest say that there’s what family does.  At least it’s shore what all us Goodwells does.

But time shore was a’marchin’ on by.

First time was spent  a’churnin’ over Lawrence’s runnin’ off to join the army.  At age sixteen.  We give that a good long span of spittin’ and hollerin’ and stompin’.

When we run out o’gas on that topic, we started in on Judge Jacobs’mar, how wudn’t he somethin’, and how he took the Lord’s name in vain and him claimin’ Christianity in his soul.  And how he threw hisself some kind of fit and throwed Grandpap down in the hoosegow his ownself.

This here spot’s where we opted to chose a new subject.  Still right raw in Grandpap’s view, we knowed better’n to get him all het up all over a’gin.

Well, then we summoned up stories how Grandpap knew so and so and did sech and sech, and he ain’t never seen the like, and so on and so forthwith.

That was all some time ago.  We run out of words.  We run out of gumption.  We was plumb runnin’ on empty.  All we desired, all us Goodwells, was jest to get on back home, however long it look.

These stone steps a’leadin’ into them hallowed governmental chambers, well, they left something to be desired theyselves.  Switched this a’way and that, leaned back on scraped elbows and Lawrence, he even laid clear down, flat o’his back.  Wudn’t nothin’ comf-terble longer’n a minute ‘r two.

So when Grandpap hollered “Hey!”  and pointed a crooked ol’ finger off down the road, we fair jumped out our britches!  Them two lights fer off down the line,  gettin’ brighter, why that was fer sure our Daddy come to save us and take us back to the land of milk and honey and Mama’s biscuits!

And fer sure, it was!  Daddy pulled right up purty as you please to the steps , brakin’ that International pickup him and Grandpap traded fer some time back real hard, leapin’ from the inside ‘fore the ve-hicle near come to a complete stop!

They was huggin’ and back slappin’ to who laid a chunk, ’cause that’s what we Goodwells do when we got us somethin’ to celebrate.  And right this here minute, we had us bushels to celebrate!  Big brother Lawrence been saved from military prison fer enlistin’ as an under-ager, Grandpap been saved from prison his ownself fer mouthin’ off to a cranky and ornery judge, and me, I was celebratin’ this night o’horrors was past and we’d be on the road straight away.

It did take us some time to simmer down.  We is Goodwells, after all.  Well, finally, it ‘ppeared time to turn that pickup’s nose back home.  Lawrence offered to drive us all, feelin’ contrite, as well he should.  But given his recklessness is what got us in this per-dicament, and given he ain’t got no license to drive, well, we took us a quick vote and Grandpap, he was chose to take the wheel.

My heart was full, and I was singin’ quiet praises to our Good Lord on High, so when I swung the side door of the truck open, I near to fell down dead.

Ol’ Brother Wendzel, weasly evangelist been fer weeks bringin’ down glory in Revival down to the church, why there he sit, ugly mug a leerin’ from ear to weasly ear.

“Well, hey, there, Liam,” his low voice slid slippery and slick, “Been a whall since we seen you at church, boy.  Where you been hidin’, Son?”

That this here is the feller who’d be stealin’ from the offerin’ basket, (I eavesdropped down to the Feed and Seed, so I am fer certain), that this here is the feller who’d be per-tendin’ to be holy and wise, that this here feller ‘ppeared to in-sin-uate hisself into the private and personal business of the Goodwells and show up with Daddy on this night of all nights, well, that there was the last straw what broke the back of the camel.

Time’d come.  Time’d come.

I reckon the Good Lord done plopped this vexation in my lap and here I must draw the line and speak my piece to this feller per-tendin’ to be God’s man.  Fixin’ to say my bit, I opened my mouth wide, vicious words of lamblast-ation linin’ up to be spoke, fists clenched and ears burnin’ like far.

Then what? big brother Lawrence, he give me a hard back shove,  “Get on in, Liam, let’s get on down the line!” and I tumbled headlong into the truck, squooshed right up along side this here affrontation to my spiritual bein’.  Four us fellers packed in tight, like baby chicks what come in the mail.

Well, I figured the Lord was a’speakin’ to my heart once again.  I’d bide my time.

 

Time’d come.  It would.  Time’d come.

But it wudn’t now.

And that bullet what we’s s’posed to bite when we’s holdin’ back?  Well, consider that bullet bit.

 

And it shore don’t taste like nothin’ but blue black metal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Don’t That Beat All!” (musin’s and confusin’s of a country boy)

It’s all over but the shoutin’….

 

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

I been tasked by Miss Meadow, down to the school, to put my all my ponderin’s and most my ad-ventures onto paper ever’ day or ever’ time I make the time.

Ain’t no chore, as such, but it does eat into my “amusin’ and musin’ time…”

(See what I done there?  Miss Meadow, she’ll be right proud.  She says my manner of speakin’ and expressin’ is like none she never seen.  I get all puffed up jest a’thinkin’ ’bout that, and so I been puttin’ pen to paper reg’lar.)

‘Course, it ain’t all purty words and fluffy phrasin’.  I been feelin’ this tug to docu-ment fer them comin’ later jest how things get done here in Denton County, Missouri in the year o’ our Lord, summer 1942.  And I ain’t been doin’ nothin’ but, jest’ ruminatin’ and sharin’ the goin’s on ’round here, straight-arrow’d and true.

 

Right this here very minute, I ain’t got my left-over Big Chief, run off ‘n left it behind home so’s I just pilfered me some paper from the wastebasket inside the courthouse here in Pickle Creek.  More precise, from the trash outside the jail cell where one o’my own sits a’moulderin’ behind paint-peeled ‘arn bars.

Anyhow, backs was clean, so here I am on the ce-ment steps, dark as t’ other side o’ the moon, I reckson, single yeller light above the big ol’ carved doors leadin’ inside. And down to the cellar.  And on past the hardshut doors and shadowed brown walls, down on to the lock-up behind two horse-sized metal doors with more locks up and down I could shake a stick at.

I got me family there, but I couldn’t abide the tightness, so here I sit.

Grandpap says fresh air cures a multitude of ills, and while I AM a’breathin’ clearer, I ain’t quite sure gulpin’ clean air will solve our sit-iation.

Here’s how it come to be.

Like I done tol’ you, big brother Lawrence lit out to enlist in the U-nited States Army at age sixteen, forged him some papers and caught him a ride fer enough away, he figured to get away with it.  Well, he done got spied and caught and returned as a durned fugitive to the A-dair County courthouse here in Pickle Creek.

And durned if he ain’t in a pickle his ownself.

But I digress.

Well, me’n Grandpap, we hightailed it the couple hour drive with Dep’ty Quentin over to the courthouse, on whose steps I’ve planted myself right now.

Took ‘couple hours added on jest to sign papers and answer questions and jest sit and twiddle our thumbs outside the cell whar ol’ Lawrence set crosslegged on the cold rock floor.

Fer my takin’, he shore could o’ looked more contrite, though, bein’ as he’d been drug in here in handcuffs and leg ‘arns.  Least that’s whut one o’ them State Po-lice inside told me and Grandpap.

Now, they may have been singin’ a tune, but it shore did put the seriousness of Lawrence’s wrongdoin’s in a dimmer light.

Well, we wudn’t actually burnin’ daylight, bein’ it was now purt’ nearin’ midnight, but we sure as shootin’ wudn’t makin’ no headway neither, when the door to the end of the cellar flew itself back against the wall and the Sheriff hisself come a’swaggerin’ down the hallway, like to thought it was John Wayne in the flesh, cowboy boots, Stetson and the whole she-bang!

“Fellers! ” he bellered, and we, all o’us, Lawrence as well, we jumped to.  “Fellers, Judge Jacobsmeyer, he’s deigned to leave the warmth and comfort o’ his home and family and come on down this evenin’ and hear your case!”  Glarin’ in at Lawrence, he lowered his voice some, “And you, boy, you got yourself some explainin’ to do, yes, sir.”

I watched Grandpap mouth the judge’s name “Judge Jacobs’mar, Judge Jacobs’mar,” a searchin’ his memories fer some recollection or brain spark.  Grandpap knew near ever’body, ‘fer’s I could surmise.

Unlockin’ the cell with one of a fistfull of jangling keys, he then turned on his cowboy heel and swaggered on back to the door.  ‘Twas clear as mud to me, but I reckon he wanted us to fall in line.

Which we done.  Lawrence, he near to run out that cold cell.  Freedom spoke loud to that boy, he’d had his fill of in-carceration.

Follerin’ the sheriff, we wended our way up and out that dank underground, up two, no, three flights o’stairs, made slick and shiny from the steps generations of the judged and condemned.   I wanted to reach down and run my hands ‘long the deep brown lines of the wood, feel the fear and resignation of the damned (fergive me Lord!).  But, we was hauling and a’movin’, so I put it off till another time, ‘r not ‘tall.

Never seen me a courtroom before.  Been down to the courthouse in our very own county seat of Halesburg, been up and down the hallways, been with Daddy and Grandpap when they payed they tax or got them a license fer somethin’ r’other.  But never once in the courtroom itself.  Lord Lord, it was grand!  Near as could be to a church with long wooden pews, fresh waxed, swirly flowered carpets down the middle aisle and ‘cross the front.  ‘Stead of altars, though, they be a fence front a grand pulpit, reckon to keep them criminals away from the judge.  ‘Stead of a cross up front, they was a round metal plate with a lady holdin’ a book and some scales, size of a wagon wheel.

But the most disconcertin’ thing of all was behind that outsized pulpit sit the meanest lookin’ son of a bulldog I never laid my eyeballs upon.  Massess o’mussed white hair, longer’n Mama’s, and shore not as purty, on top the biggest roundest noggin’ I never seen!  Bushy white brows helter skelter over black devil eyes and half his upper lip lifted in a snarl.  Clothed in black robes, he glared down to all o’us, breathin’ through his mouth like gusts of heavy winds.

Judge Jacobs’mar!

And was that a actual snarl I heard?  I reckon it might o’ been!

Sheriff herded us three, Grandpap, me, and Lawrence to the front pew and hand on ‘Pap’s shoulder, pushed him down to set.

So we all set.

Right then and there, I got me a shiver.

Sheriff, satisfied hisself we’d follered his silent orders, sidled then up past the fence to where the judge sat, leanin’ up to whisper and confer and point and nod our di-rection.  Lawrence, he was sweatin’ all over his handsome face, even licked a drip from his upper lip ever’ so often.  Me, I sat on my hands but they still shook somethin’ awful under my legs.  Only Grandpap set cool and icy.  And from him, I garnered some strength.  Grandpap’d set them straight.

Took plumb ferever, but the sheriff nodded to Lawrence who lept to his feet and stood dead center of a massive rose on the carpet, his good looks and easy manner gone to the wind like a dande’line’s fluff.

“Young man, state yer name.”  Judge Jacobs’mar’s voice matched his looks, brusk and loud and unhappy and mean.

Lawrence chose to cough instead.  We all froze.  Then he come to his wits.

“Lawrence, sir, Lawrence Goodwell, from Den….”

“Boy!  I never once asked you from where you hailed, did I?  I did not!  You answer my questions forthwith and posthaste and don’t add yourself any postscript!”

Lawrence nodded solemn.  ‘Course I could tell he had no clue what a postscript might be, but he durned tootin’ wouldn’t be addin’ hisself one, that’s for shore!

“Boy!  You look at me!”  And Lawrence’s yeller head snapped right up, stiff and straight.

“Boy!  You know you brung me through the dead o’night to this hallowed hall of justice, awakenin’ me and my household from a sound sleep?  You done that because you broke the law, boy, and in this court, we throw the book at those who break the law of this land and the State of Missouri.”

That’s when them black eyes got even blacker, ink-like.  His long white locks dusted his eyes when he stood, leanin’ heavy on his pulpit, bent to the waist so to put the fear o’ God Almighty into my big brother.

He was successful, I’d say.

“Boy.  This day will be known going’ forward as, sir, your judgement day.”

Second person to faint dead away this day was Lawrence.  Not half as graceful as Mama, he jest plunked heavy to the carpet, his hand to his chest.

At that, Grandpap, he’d had enough!  I felt that surge when a boxer’s ’bout to win his bout!  They was gonna be far’works and Grandpap, he’d be takin’ the reins.

(See what I done there?  Mixed me some megafers!  Miss Meadow, down to the school, she’d like that!)

My Grandpap, he sprung from his pew, own blue, blue eyes a-blazin’ and arms a flailin’,  finger crooked at the judge who his ownself was ‘glowerin’ and spittin’ puffballs at Lawrence fer havin’ the gall to fall unconscious at his proclamation.

“Sir, you are out of line!”  Grandpap shouted, then kneeled alongside where my big brother was fightin’ to come to.

Seein’ myself as the Tonto to Grandpap’s Lone Ranger, I dashed to where Lawrence was a’tryin’ now to sit hisself up, quiverin’ and uneasy, so’s Grandpap could make hay of this ol’ evil geezer.

Give it to ’em, ‘Pap, I hollered in my head!

“Sir,” he roared, not scared or cowed, not one bit.  Lord, I was proud.  Lawrence, he was still dazed.  “Sir, my grandson here made hisself a mistake, jest all het up ’bout servin’ his country, why back home, he’d be labeled a hero to some!”

“You show some respect, Sir!  This boy broke the law, plain and simple!  He misrepresented hisself, lied to government officials, forged official documents and got me out of bed in the middle of the night because of his criminal actions!  I’ll have you know I plan to throw the book of the law at this boy and teach him a lesson he’s likely to never forget!”  The judge roared right back, also not scared or cowed, not one bit, neither.

This might jest go another round.

“Judge, I’ll not have you abusin’ a boy who had a lapse but who now surely knows the error of his ways!”

“I do not give a donkey’s backside what you think, you understand me?”

(I didn’t laugh then, no-sir-ee-bob!  I was born at night but it wudn’t last night!  But it is funny, ain’t it?)

Then black eyes was shootin’ black daggers down to Grandpap, who was shootin’ blue one o’his own.

“Take this boy back down to the cell!”  Sheriff unfolded hisself from where he’d leaned in a corner, watchin’ these proceedin’s.

‘Pap bellered, “You will do no such thing!” and he jumped ‘tween the lawman and us boys down to the carpet.

They was lots more hollerin’ and lots more finger shakin’ and I even heard the Lord’s name bein’ takin’ in vain, not by Grandpap!

Well, what ensued wudn’t purty, but it ended up with me ‘n Lawrence hunkered under a table off to the side, and Grandpap and the judge havin’ it out behind the fence, and the sheriff a’trying to break it up.

I heard my granddaddy holler, “Do you know who I am?  I’m Langston Goodwell of the Denton County Goodwells!”

And I heard the judge holler back, “I don’t care who you are or from whence you came!  This is the way we do things in A-dair County!  You will not disrespect this court or the laws of this land!  Get your mangy paws off me!  I am an officer of the court!”

Well, I reckon you can figure how this all ended up, once the dustup settled.

Lawrence begged forgiveness and was give it, after a’promisin’ never to sneak off and misrepresent hisself to the U-nited States government again, and jest to wait his turn to do his patriotic duty till he was of age.

He promised.

He was set free.

Grandpap never once begged fer forgiveness, doubted he’s begged for nothin’ all his days, nor did he make any promises when told never to show hisself  in A-dair County the rest o’his days.

Which is Lawrence is lazin’ over on a bench nursin’ a Soda Boy give him by one o’ them State Po-lice he charmed, and why I’m a-sittin’ scratchin’ words to paper on the steps o’ the courthouse in Pickle Creek and it’s comin’ up daylight.

We’re a’waitin’ fer Daddy to make the long black drive to retrieve us.  I kid you not and I do not lie and I’d swar on a sack o’Bibles, if that warn’t a sin that is this all true and acc’rate.

‘Fer it’s Grandpap a’locked up sound in the cellar cell down below.

 

 

 

They say “It’s all over but the shoutin”…..

…………but I say ain’t less truer words spoke.

 

*********

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

When Johnny Comes Marchin’ Home Again…

 

Hey, do.

This here’s Liam Goodwell.  Born to the Denton County Goodwells.

 

Feelin’ like I been rode hard and put away wet.  It’s been a day and a half, I tell you what.  I’m plumb tuckered and ain’t no end in sight o’ the trouble we, all us Goodwells, done been gifted.

See here’s the deal. When big brother Lawrence figured he’d up and enlist in the army, the U-nited STATES Army, that’d be, why he never considered once the consequences of his be-havior.

That he was underaged, first of all.  Dimwitted brother of mine, did he never think nobody’d discover his de-ception?

Second up, that boy done used his own name, forged Grandpap’s and Daddy’s signature on a letter o’waiver, and never once thought nobody’d find that suspicious?

Third of all, and we come to learn all this after he’d shipped off on the train out A-dair county, he decked some swellheaded smart Alec of a Yankee officer what give him some guff ’bout his dollbaby face and mis-matched socks.

Them things and a dozen ‘r so more put me and Grandpap smack in the back o’Dep’ty Fuller Quentin’s po-lice vehicle.

No, we wudn’t arrested nor nothin’ as newsworthy as that’d be.  Dep’ty was jest the fastest ride over to the courthouse in Pickle Creek, an hour or two or three away.  We’d be gettin’ there long past nightfall, to where Lawrence’d sit behind bars, a’waitin’ fer our arrival and his home-takin’.  How I come to be part o’ his retrival committee went like this.  Mama in her sorry state needed Daddy, couldn’t find hide nor hair o’big brother Lincoln,  Livvie was just plain useless, and Luce, well, like ever’body else we was just all scared o’ Luce.  Then there was the youngin’s, and dogged if they wudn’t off to playin’ and rough housin’ once we got us certainty Lawrence was safe and sound and not a’headin’ off to Germany or Japan, or Italy,  jest yet.

Yessiree, he’d been found out not so long after he lit out.  Didn’t take no Einstein egghead to work that one out, neither.

But now.  But now I was a’workin’ on a mystery of sorts.

How the hay (pardon my French) did dimwitted, muscle-headed, muddle-brained Lawrence git as fer as he did?  Took some connivin’ and plannin’, and we all know, plannin’ nor thinkin’ of near any kind what-some-ever ain’t in big brother Lawrence’s wheelhouse.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love my brother.  He’s a Goodwell, after all.  He’s far too handsome and slick fer his own good, all the girls giggle silly when he’s ’round.  If it don’t beat all, he’ll flex them big ol’ arm muscles if they hum a tune, sendin’ them off to Giddytown,  and then’ll shine that big ol’ white smile like they’s all the cat’s jammers.  And it ain’t jest the girls, he can sway and charm a room full of grandmas down to the church social ‘r have the fellers hangin’ outside the Feed and Seed a laughin’ till they weep.  Lawrence, he’s got hisself a way.  Folks say one day, he could be president.  A head full of white blond hair, cut short shootin’ sparks in the sunshine  makes him almost as good lookin’ as one o’them movie stars on the poster boards down to the the-ater over to the county seat.

I wouldn’t woosh that on my worst enemy, says I.

But I’ll swan, he ain’t nothin’ but jest Lawrence, sixteen, big and mean, and the one from whom I’m most likely to get me my hand-me-downs.  And I’ll defend him, after tacklin’ him best I can and gettin’ in a couple o’licks fer the trouble he brung to this family and Mama, to the bitter endin’.

But let’s us harken back to what’s ‘twixt his ears.  Picture yerself a foggy night, windy wisps a swirlin’ and a’whirlin’ and vacant far-away rustles and mumbles  whisp’rin’ to and hither and over yonder.

That’s be on a good day.

So, ain’t no way under Good God’s Heaven Lawrence thunk all this up his ownself and executed even to the miserable un-successful end he done did.

Big brother Lawrence had him some help.  Laws’ if I ain’t goin’ to determinate jest who and how.

“Hey, there, you, boy?”

Um, what was that?

Grandpap brung me back to today with a sharp “Pay the man some attention” elbow poke to my skinny ribs.

“Yes, sir, Dep’ty, yes, sir?”

Follerin’ a deep sigh, denotin’ clear he’d hollered at me fer some time, “I axed you if you knew what sort of trouble yer brother’d been in iffin’ he’d made it all the way to Fort Leonard Wood.  Iffin’ he’d actually snuck hisself into the U-nited States Armed Forces.”

I hid a sigh my ownself.  Time fer a lesson.

If I could count the times I got the “what for” resultin’ from the wrongdoin’s of misbehavin’ kin, well, I’d be usin’ my fingers and toes and them of all my brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and all they neighbors and kin.

Bein’ a Goodwell, however, meant we jest sat up tall and took what we was give.  Like I was a’doin’ now.

‘Sides, Grandpap was a’givin’ me the eye.

“Boy, yer brother’d be hauled up ‘fore a mess o’generals and majors and judges and given him a court martial, like to spend rest o’his youth and some o’his a-dult years in some military prison some’war.  You understand me?”

Yes, sir, I nodded, them spoke up after another rib-ticklin’, “Yes, Sir, Dep’ty!”

Havin’ my attention, and Grandpaps, he revved up for the long haul, “Yessirree, since that Hawai’yer de-bacle, boys yer brother’s age and younger, ” here he turned his long face to look me full on, “boys patriotic and wide-eyed, they been sneakin’ in to the recruitin’ offices, changin’ dates on they birth papers, lookin’ to enlist and ride off to save the world and shoot theyselves an enemy and eat cold dinner from a can.”

Turnin’ back to the road, and for this I was grateful as he had this ol’ beast floored, he give a self-satisfied smirk and chuckle.

“We been a’watchin’.  Don’t you worry none ’bout that there.  Them little peepsqueaks ain’t no idear what they be up against.  We lawmen, we’re postin’ ourselves near ever’war, like them spies, a’watchin’ and a’waitin’.”

Cain’t have upright patriotic young fellers wantin’ to do they duty, no, sir….

“Cain’t have young fellers itchin’ fer adventure,” Dep’ty Quentin was havin’ hisself a time, “… a’playin’ at a’fightin’ a war what seasoned fellers with ex-purience and brave hearts been steppin’ up to do.”

I’ll admit I was startin’ to woosh ol’ Lawrence would o’got hisself away clean and clear.  I’d stack his skills, though not his brains,  next to quite a few I seen wavin’ to they tear-stained sweethearts down to the depot.

Now, how-some-ever, I was not only bound n’ determined to figure how Lawrence pulled this off as good and got as fer as he did, I found myself ready to give him aid the next time he lit out.

 

 

Hurrah.

Hurrah.

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I swear to the Good Lord this is all true as I live and breathe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Don’t That Beat All!” (musin’s and confusin’s of a country boy)

“When Johnny Comes a’Marching…”

 

This here’s Liam Goodwell of the Denton County Goodwells.

Hey.

 

They comes a time when the sins of the fathers and the sins of the sons and the sins of the clergymen down to the Holy Pentecostal Church of the Saints don’t mean more’n a fleabite on a big hound.  This here’s one.

Day started like they all do.  Beauticious orange and pink stipe-ed sunrise.  Me and Lincoln (seventeen and the oldest) and Lawrence (sixteen and the toughest, ‘cept sister Luce), we’s out to the barn a doin’ the milkin’ and the tendin’ of the horses. Right now we got five in stable, three in the pasture, and one foal ready for birthin’ near any day now.  Us and the girls and even Grandpap’re keepin’ an eye on sweet Sally, this bein’ her first baby and all, and her not bein’ very big.  Grandpap’s been a stewin’, says to ‘spect compl’cations.  The twins, Lawton and Lewis, they even volunteered to sleep out there in a bed of straw th’s evenin’.  Them bein’ seven, I ain’t got much conf’dence in their wakenin’ abilities, but shore was pleased to hear them volunteerin’ ‘stead o’hidin’ or prankin’, like they be wont to do.

Well, chores done lickity split, me and Linc and Lawrence, us big boys, we headed off to the pump by the smokehouse.  Youngest of the three at thirteen, I worked the handle whilst Linc and Lawrence got after sluicing the dirt and straw from forearms and foreheads, even dousin’ their heads clear under once or twice.  Out here to the country, bathin’ comes on Saturday but we take our visible cleanliness serious.  Mama’s skin us if’n we didn’t.

My turn come and went, and we hustled ourselves to the breakfast table. MmmmMMMM, breakfast at the Goodwell table is the best meal o’ the day.  I reckon don’t nothin’ come near Mama’s fluffy biscuits and fried ham and huckleberry jam jarred jest last fall.  And two bowls of steamin’ scrambled egges, have mercy!

I jest passed on the oatmeal, how-some-ever.  Mushy gray plaster don’t do nothin’ fer me, and once I hit my teenage year, didn’t nobody anymore press me to take none.

I am forever grateful.

Daddy normal takes the morning prayer, and he’s right quick at  pronouncin’ his thanks and amens.

For this we ALL are grateful.

And we dive in….polite-like, so as to remember the manners Mama done tried to instill in ourselves.  “Take a little and pass to the left,” and “Don’t pick up yer fork till ever’body been served,” and Daddy’s favorite, “No eatin’ till Mama takes the first bite.”  On this one, we sit with forks loaded and biscuits jammed, poised to the front our faces, watchin’ close fer that first dainty bite.

Mama don’t tease us much.  She’s hungry her ownself after gettin’ up before daybreak to get this meal on the table.

Nothin’ out of order.  Nothin’ to give nobody pause.  Day begun like ever’ other summer day, or spring or winter, fer that matter. ‘R come fall, neither.

After breakfast, we all was given our marchin’ orders fer that day.  Summertime’s less about plowin’ and plantin’ and more about weedin’ and bringin’ in the first harvests and plumpin’ up the cattle and hogs fer market and pickin’ berries fer Mama, and tendin’ to rebuildin’ fences and mowin’ the alfalfa, then balin’ and haulin’ it in and stackin’ it proper.

We got a heap to do and like ever’ other day, we all get after it.  It’s what we Goodwells do.  It’s what plumb ever’body has to do.

We prob’ly ain’t special, but we like to think we are.

Well, come dinnertime (which is the noon meal here on the farm.  Biggest spread  o’th’day lay end to end on the table, usually fried chickens, smashed taters, assorted greens and carrots and Mama’s homemade cottage cheese all blacked on top with pepper.  My second fav’rite meal!), we all troop in from the pasture and the barn and the henhouse and the garden and from fields further afield and gather ’round the table once again.

And right now, come middle of the afternoon, there it all still sets.  Not a one o’ us hungry, not none of us kids, and more certainly not Mama nor Daddy nor Grandpap.

Ain’t been a much when it come to conversation since we come in, not much when it come to nothin’ ‘cept Mama and Livvie a’sniffin’ here and there.

‘Cause here we all set, too, but us, we’re all in the front room.  Daddy’s still a’holdin’ the piece of Big Chief paper in his big ol’ weathered and calloused paw.

I feel complicit somehow, since Lawrence, he writ his note, slid under his plate at the dinner table,  on a sheet tore from one o’my Big Chief tablets, give to me by Miss Meadow, down to the school.

Daddy, he’s jest a’givin’ his full attention down to the floorboards.  Grandpap, he’s a creakin’ back and forth in his rockin’ chair, ninety to nothin’, criiiiick crock, criiiiiick crock.  I give up countin’.

Linc, the oldest, he’s took to polishin’ one o’his belt buckles won at the county rodeo over to Halesburg, keepin’ hisself busy.  Livvie, she’s a wipin’ her eyes with the hem o’her skirt, and Luce, she’s pokin’ holes in a old stack of newspapers with a sharpened pencil.

I chose to set apart from her.

Then comes me.  And I reckon I’m jest full and heavy with the weight of emptiness and scaredification.  Big hole inside, just black and fuzzy.

The littler kids, they ain’t quite old enough to be behavin’ in any other way but like children.  Loreen, aged ten, and twins Lawton and Lewis, well, all they can come up with is a’squirming and fighin’ and bein’ shushed by Daddy and Grandpap.

‘Course, then they’s Mama.  Ain’t nobody purtier in they melancholy and heartache than Mama.  Eyes rimmed in red and nose pinked from cryin’, her eyes keep flittin’ off to the winder or the front door, hopin’ but a’knowin’ he won’t be a’comin’ back through fer some time.

 

See, brother Lawrence, the toughest son of a gun (forgive my French) in the family, built like a bull elephant and stronger than a horse, and often took for eighteen or twenty, he done took off.

He done gone over to A-dair County, gettin’ hisself a ride with a itinerate picker a’passin’ through to his next job.

Brother Lawrence done lied about his age and enlisted hisself in the Army, aimin’ and claimin’ to fight hisself the Germans and them Japanese, and even them I-talians.

Brother Lawrence done gone off to war.

 

Ain’t we supposed to be a’cheerin’ and a whoopin’ at him a doin’ his patriotic duty?  Well, maybe we will, one day.  But right now, we’re just a’hopin’ and a’prayin’ ol’ Brother Lawrence comes marchin’ home again…

Hurrah.  Hurrah.

 

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