“Tween a Crock an’ a Hard Space”

Hey.  Liam here.  Liam Goodwell.  Of the Denton County Goodwells?

Ain’t no time to lose, not one solitary, indivdi-uary minute!

For Mama’s biscuits r’bout done, n’ I aim to be first in line!

Let me tell you ’bout my Mama’s biscuits.  Just the thinkin’ of them puffy white, barely browned ‘roun’ the edges fluffs of de-light is enough to send me floatin’.  

She starts the fixin’ right after she puts the coffeepot on the stove.  Reachin’ a’waaaay up to the top shelf, jest a board on railroad spikes, she lowers herself down the ancient brown crock known as the “biscuit bowl.”  Now, I always wondered myself jest why it lives so high up, forcin’ Mama to climb upon the red metal kitchen stool ever’ ding dang mornin’.  

Could it be it’s the closest thing to Heaven, as are them biscuits it produces,  in the Goodwell home?

Could it be it’s a place o’honor, them biscuits r’so durned tasty?

Could it be Mama’s hopeful someday she’ll tire o’reachin’ so high an’ give herself a day ‘way from biscuit-makin’?

Law, an’thin’ but the third!

An’ today, wudn’t that day, I thank the good Lord!  I watched, whilst cleanin’ yesterdee’s dirt from my boots with a ol’ horse brush, over to the corner by the back door.  She got her some flour out the ol’ pickle jar in which she stores it.  An’ measure?  I do not believe I ever seen my Mama measure nothin’ when it comes to cookin’.  The good Lord jest put that gift in her head and my Mama, she does her durnedest share her gift with others.

But mostly, we Goodwells.

Well, then she reaches in the icebox, a Frigidaire what struggles on a daily basis, an’ gets her out the eggs and bakin’ soda an’ home churned butter (none o’that Oleo!), an’ then sets to stirrin’.  She puts her heart into this part, fer the biscuit bowl, it’s a mammoth!  This part don’t take long ‘t’all, but it ain’t ’cause she’s tirin’.   She tol’ me once it’s the overstirrin’ of the dough is what makes biscuits tough.  I nodded, I ‘member, knowin’ly, but Law, I cain’t even ‘magine jest what a tough biscuit would be? Like chewin’ shoe leather, you reckon?  

I’ll jest consider myself bless on that count, says I.

Well then, Mama wipes her forehead with the back o’her hand, then sets out the dough to the big wood board Daddy keeps oiled nice fer her.  

Plop.  It comes out smooth, big ol’ mound o’ white slathery dough, specks o’butter shinin’ as she tears off bits and works it flat with Grandmama’s rollin’ pin.  The one with faded and chippin’ black handles.  She’ll set to flourin’ the board and the mounds ever’ so often, keepin’ the stickiness at bay.  Tol’ me one other time too much flour in the mix will toughen them biscuits, as well.

An’ once again, I am blessed.

Now her comes the fun, least fer me.  She’ll glad over her shoulder, fin’ whatever Goodwell youngin’s close, and get them to use one o’her clean wide mouth Mason jars, butter the edges, then let us cut out them rounds o’dough, whist she wisks them lickity split over to the bakin’ pan, slatherin’ ’em one more time with butter.

Efficiency bein’ what it is when it comes to biscuit makin’, I reckon I get the most biscuits rounds from a worked flat o’dough than any one other o’ my brothers and sisters, ‘cept maybe Luce.  She an’ me, we always be competin’.  Mama’ll slip over, gather up the leavin’s with her dusty hands, make us a little bit small flat and set us loose ag’in.

By the time we’re done, that there first batch is plumb fillin’ the room, durn love it, the whole Goodwell house an’ the neighbor’s house near half mile down the road, with the sweet, buttery aroma of what’s to come!

Kitchen’s full now, all us Goodwells know breakfast is nigh, and Mama, she’s not only been a’bakin’, she’s been fryin’ and scramblin’ and fillin’ and juicin’ and settin’ an’ singin’ and hummin’ the whole bless-ed time!

But now?  Now?  We be gettin’ to it!  Daddy and Grandpap, they be findin’ themselves they places at the table, the signal it’s time fer the rest o’ us to set down.  Mama, she likes makin’ a presentation of all her meals, servin’ with a flourish an’ flash, an’ law, it’s worth it!

We bow our heads in prayer, thankin’ the good Lord for our sustance, and prayin’ whomsoever Daddy’s asked to pray will keep it short!

***********

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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!
                                                                                             ***********

Let ‘er Rip!

Glory Glory Hallelujah! 

I say ag’in, Glory Glory Hallelujah Amen!

We got us a rise out o’Mama!  Me’n Luce!  We got us a rise out o’Mama!  I jest know she’s on her way back, I jest know!  She rested a bit this side o’Jordan, weighed the Pearly Gates and them golden streets ag’inst wild heathen child’urn under foot and mangy houn’dogs needin’ feedin’ and durned if she didn’t turn herself a’roun’ and set her sights back to the land o’ the livin’!

I say it one more time, Glory Glory Hallelujah!

The Good Lord in Heaven, he heard our prayers, pitiful and sorrowful as they was, and durned if he didn’t ‘llow his daughter to return to us fer a spell!  

This here’s Liam Goodwell.  Of the Denton County Goodwells!  An’ proud and grateful son and offspring and kindr’d spirit of one Lila Elizabeth Aubry Franklin Michelwait Goodwell, the finest Mama and warmest Christian woman on the face o’ this world!

Glory!

Law, i cain’t get myself over it.  Don’t really want to, the joy wellin’ up in my soul jest washes me plumb clean and tingly ever’ time I see it in my mind!

See, here’s the sto-ry.

Me’n Luce, we, at the same durned minute, got us a tuggin’ and a pullin’ in our hearts, GO SEE MAMA!

Didn’t have to tell us twice, whomsoever was a’doin’ the tellin’.  We lit out lickity split, ninety to nothin’, ol’ Buck the horse workin’ hisself into a froth.  Took us no time to get to Doc Allen’s, other side o’ town from the Goodwell place, half hour tops.  We was flyin’!  God bless Buck.  He’s a tough ol’ piece o’ horseflesh, but he loves Mama his ownself.  

She’ll save him an apple ‘r two when she’s a makin’ pie.  An’ ol’ Buck, he don’t forget.

Luce says, and I’ll vouch, she don’t even recollect slidin’ from the sweaty back o’ that ol’ boy, nor racin’ in the house, no knockin’, no “halluuin'”, no doubt scarin’ the livin’ daylights out Mrs. Allen, Doc Allen’s kindly wife.

Reckon some apologizin’ will be in order soon, but that thought there, it douses a mite of that joy what was worshin’ over me….I’ll ponder that tidbit later.

I will.

Later.

But right now, baskin’ in the rememberin’, that’s healin’ the deepest part o’ my insides and I figure I’ll rest here sometime longer.

Truth be tol’, I don’t recall much neither, till we found ourselves, one side t’other, lookin’ down upon Mama’s sweet face.  Her eyes was closed, same as always.  Her hair was fluffed jest so, same as before.  Peaceful, her hands was folded atop the white cloud of bedclothes comfortin’ her.  The thin lacy curtains, they was blowin’ inwards, little breeze driftin’ and sashayin’ ‘roun’ the room.  I seem to recall Mrs. Allen a’standin’ at the door, but I cain’t be shore.  

Now, we didn’t know what we was expectin’, rightly.  Did we think Mama’d be up dancin’ and swayin’ ’bout the room, smellin’ all the sweet wildflowers we set ‘roun’?  Did we figure she’d be helpin’ Mrs. Allen, Doc Allen’s kindly wife, with the worshin’?  Did we figure she’d leap up and greet us with hugs and kisses like she done ever’ other wakeful day o’ her life?

Well, I think that one there, that may have been it.

Howsomever, here she was, there she lie, no diff’ernce, just that  blankness spread like sweet honey ‘cross her face.

Heck a’fire, if me’n Luce, we didn’t have us another ‘xact same thought pass through our heads.

An’ we both, both us together, me the melody, Luce the harmony (always seemed fittin’ Luce, she sang harmony.  Just a bit askance n’ off kilter was her pre-ferred way, but still headin’ the same di-rection, making the way all the more complete) we struck into “Amazin’ Grace”, all four verses, even the “Praise God” verse at the end.  Well, then we slid into “Jesus is a Rock in a Weary Land” and then we got to goin’, rippin’ out “Jest Over in the Glory Land” then raisin’ our voices to “I’ll Fly Away” and “Caanan’s Happy Land!”

Don’t even remember jest when it happened, it was so sly and right-like, but dogged if they wudn’t one more voice a’chimin’ in, quiet and purty and tinklin’ like little bells!

You got it!  You nailed it!  Why, our Mama, eyes closed, hands folded on them soft white sheets, was a singin’, a’praisin’, and Law, if me n’ Luce, tears slidin’ freely down our faces, we kept ‘er goin’!  We sung choruses and verses and hymns and Sunday Night tunes and Sunday School ditties till we was hoarse, then ,why, we sung some more!  Mama, too, all the while her eyes closed but her voice a’ringin’ and a’singin’.  

Never did know how long it was till we all plumb run out o’gas.  But then we went to gigglin’, and eyes still closed shut, Mama, she give a smile, wiggled a couple fingers, like she was a’sayin’, “Come back soon!”

Not for one second, not one iota of a slice of a moment, did we ever think this was less than a miracle from the Good Lord’s own hand!  

Nosiree bub!  

An’ Mrs. Allen, Doc Allen’s kindly wife, she, as our witness, she shooed us out, but in the nicest o’ways, sayin’ Mama’d had enough excitement fer one day, an’ she’d be callin’ Doc right away to have him see the improvement.  She’d seen the happenin’, too.  ‘Twasn’t nothin’ short of a miracle!

Don’t recall much of the blisterin’ ride home, but Buck, he’d waited sure and steady where we’d left him till me’n Luce exploded from the Allen home, then he did his own explodin’, bustin’ his backside gettin’ us back home.  

Never once occurred to us to ask Mrs. Allen, Doc Allen’s kindly wife, if we could use her telephone (party line, o’course) to alert all the Goodwells left at home.

Thankfully, Mrs. Allen, she done it for us, and when ol’ Buck tossed us off hisself, done with us fer the time bein’, walkin’ hisself back into his stall and his interrupted afternoon repose, why, the rest o’ we Goodwells, all of ’em, Grandpap and Daddy on down, why we had us a dance fest in the dusty back yard.

Mama!  Mama was a’goin’ to make it!  

Glory Glory Hallelujah!

Amen and Amen!

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

Let ‘er Rip!

This here’s Liam. Ag’in.  An’ ag’in.  

And this here is gettin’ powerful tiresome, this tale-tellin’.  Fairly makes me relive all the troubles and tribulations we Goodwells been sufferin’ the last week ‘r so.

Well, really only the one.  

Mama.

Mama bein’ snakebit.

Mama bein’ snakebit by a devil of a ol’ nasty deadly copperhead.

An’ Mama bein’ comatose and unresponsive down to Doc Allen’s place the last three days.

Grandpap, he fair killed his ownself a tryin’ to suck that poison from the ankle spot where that rascal bit her.  Couldn’t breathe and mouth swelled up so bad  he couldn’t barely speak.  An’ Daddy, he blames hisself fer not runnin’ to her aid when he heard her yelp in the chicken yard.  Linc and Lawrence, they did their own part tryin’ to keep her comfortable ‘long the way, an’ we’re all a’doin’ our part , all us Goodwells, tryin’ to keep the farm a hummin’ and the livestock fed.

But it ain’t nothin’ like havin’ Mama here.  Never knew she was the center sunshine an’ we was all the planets a’swirlin’ in circles ‘roun’ her.  

Miss Meadow, down to the school, she taught us that last school year.  Never figured I’d need the knowin’ but somehow it does apply.

Truth is, ever’ minute seems an hour.  Or a day.  Or a week.  Daddy ain’t left her side, till today, that is.  He drove up the lane not half hour ago,  International so covered in dust wudn’t a speck o’the underneath red paint to be seen.  When he got out, hat in hand, his face was the same, no color nowhere to be seen, just dusty and sad.

Slappin’ his hat on his thigh, he run his hand through his black hair, and he caught me a’lookin’, almost acted surprised, but then, not.

“Hey there, Son,”

“Hey, Daddy.”

“Been a long day.”

“Yes, Sir,”  

I shore wanted to run up, give him a big ol’ hug, like when I was five or ten or twelve.  But these thirteen years held me back some, and the moment got away from us, and he ambled, shoulders slumped and feet draggin’, up the back steps up to the porch, and into the lonely empty kitchen.  I stayed put under the shade tree out to the yard.

Afternoons can go on f’rever.  When it’s hot an’ dusty dry, the stillness makes it even worse.  Dogs even mopin’ and sad. Chores needin’ doin’ was done, those not needin’ doin’ wudn’t.  Couldn’t none o’us get our thoughts aimed towards nothin’ but Mama.  Ol’ Doc Allen, he come up to the house once or twice, fillin’ us in on her condition.  He let us even go down to see her, all  us kids at the same time.  Somethin’ ’bout surroundin’ her bed, her all purty an’ still, hair combed jest so by Doc Allen’s wife Mrs. Allen, white sheets and white covers and white flowers on the bedside table, she seemed near peaceful.  

Doc said, all the swellin’ was near gone, an’ the poison mostly dispersed, as well.  Her heart seemed sound , said he, and the mottlin’ ‘roun’ the wound was near invisible.  I heard him talkin’ low in Grandpap’s ear how he wudn’t quite certain why she hadn’t woke up, though, it was a dilemma.  When he shook his head, I quick looked t’other way, fearful what would come next.

Well, here I set, nothin’ but nothin’ to be done, else I’d be doin’ it.  I could feel that jumblin’ rumblin’ feelin’ a growin’ in my belly, though.  Somethin’ was comin’.

Luce plopped her rangy self down beside me underneath the tree where I set.

That wudn’t it, but it’d do.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

Nice to have the comp’ny.

“Daddy’s home.”

“Yep.”

“Reckon he’s hungry?”

“Loreen and Livie’s got it.”

“Scares me a little.”

“Me, too.”

An’ so we set, me ‘n Luce.  Sun didn’t move.  Wind didn’t blow.  Didn’t no trucks nor horses nor wagons nor bicycles nor mangy beasts pass by down to the road.

So we jest set.

An’ set.

Just then, Luce stirred.

At the same time, me too.

“Reckon we oughtta….?”

“Oughtta go?  Right now!”

An’ that there, that was that!  We tore out like a screamin’ pair o’ wild Whirlin’ Dervishes!  We whipped up our own breeze hightailin’ it to the barn, startled ol’ Buck from his afternoon respose in his stall.  I grabbed me a harness and sweet-talked him into lettin’ me slide his bit into his stubborn mouth, and Luce, she tossed a ol’ blanket cross his wide back.

We burst out that barn like a house a’fire!  

Somethin’ tol’ us both our Mama, she needed us!  Felt near like she was a callin’ to us!  Right now!  

An’ even with me an’ Luce upon his back, ol’ Buck, I’ll coulda swore (if I was to swear, don’t tell Mama!) he was next to flyin’!

We’re a comin’, Mama!  We’re a’comin’!

************** 

Let ‘er Rip

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

Hey.

Well, here’s the thing.  The thing about my Mama is there ain’t one slice, not one durned iota, not a shred nor a hair nor a nugget o’ woulda, coulda, shoulda in her.  Nosiree.  I tell you, she’s a woman who gives ever’ moment her complete and whole an’ good-hearted attention, then moves on to the next moment, givin’ it the same.   My Mama, she ain’t reckless or feckless nor wild, thing is, she just don’t toe no line.  

She’ll tell stories how some o’ them ladies down to the church, they give her some trouble early on, as her spirit ‘ppeared to them to be a right bit free, not to they likin’ a’tall.  How she won them ol’ biddies over I’ll never know, but long’s I kin r’member, they jest give her her head and let her be.  Once upon a time, I reckoned bein’ a Goodwell, an’ ‘fore that a Mickelwait, give her a pass.  Although the Mickelwaits, the bad times hit them harder than it did us Goodwells.  They all still tryin’ to make a livin’ down in the river bottoms, floods and bugs and critters accost them reg’lar, but they be hardworkin’ and honest.  And most say them Mickelwaits raise the purtiest chil’ren in ten counties, all fluffy and yeller-headed and freckle-free and strong features what cain’t be tamed.  Big white smiles and friendly to a fault don’t hurt none.

Truth be told, however, I jest think my Mama is jest the best human bein’ ‘live and folks jest ain’t bound to argue.  Don’t nobody spend much time argu’in’ with my Mama, anyhow.  She’s liable to twist them ‘roun’ her little finger, get them to do her biddin’ ‘thout them even a’knowin’, them feed them a slice o’her apple pie to keep ’em sweet!

My Mama, she’s somethin’.

And she ain’t woke up in two days.  

Jest them teeny sips o’water Daddy give her through a straw from down to the drugstore  (Doc Allen brung straws when he brung us the salve and the medicines.).

Story goes, come to find out, ‘fore breakfast, day b’fore last,  early whist she was a’gatherin’ eggs for our mornin’ meal, (I cain’t even stop to think how my Mama knows I love my scrambled eggs come mornin’…) she was out to the brooder house, roustin’ them hens from they roosts.  Somethin’ she, or me or the girls or the boys or purtin’ near all us Goodwells done a dozen r’ a hundr’d times. The mist was jest a’liftin, still wettin’ the straw and straggles on the groun’, and the sun wudn’t even a orange sliver yet.  The gray of the morning near matched the gray of the wooded slats of the henhouse, but my Mama, I know, was a ray o’light.  Them rosy pink cheeks and them poppin’ brown eyes, she’s one heap o’color.  She cain’t he’p it.

Daddy was out to the barn beginnin’ his own early chores when thought he heard her give a little yelp, startled him some, said he.

“That you, Darlin’?” he recollects he hollered out, and he recollected he waited quiet-like till she hollered back, “Oh, it’s alright, Hon, jest pricked my ankle on a stick. I’ll live!”

Law.

Didn’t neither one think one more thing ’bout it.  Mama come in, ol’ splintered basket full with ‘enough eggs to feed a thrashin’ crew.  Or the Goodwells.  She bustled ’bout and hustled here and there, cuttin” stripe-ed bacon thick like we like it, whippin’ up the biscuits and cuttin’ them with an’ ol’ jelly glass, then slicin’ tomaters ’cause Grandpap loves him his tomaters, layin’ out the butter and jam, and whiskin’ them eggs.  Then with the girls she sat the table and hollered fer them twins t’get out her way and wiped her brow with the back o’her floury dusty hand, then worried them on the hem o’ Daddy’s threadbare shirt she was sportin’.

Mama don’t wear no apron, by the by.  She wears one o’ Daddy’s ol’ work shirts, y’see.  Says it keeps her housedresses nicer come company stop by.  An’ I s’pose it does, but I see the little smile she gives Daddy when we ask, and the little smile he’s purty sure he’s secretly givin’ her back.

An’ all them purty aprons what she sews and embroiders fer the girls’ hope chests, why, ain’t a’one for her.

Well, there we was, all gathered at the kitchen table, talkin’ ninety to nothin’, summertime jabber ’bout this and that and nothin’ parti’cular.  Givin’ no nevermind to Mama a’favorin’ that leg jest a little durin’ her fetch and deliver sashay back an’ forth from the black wood stove.

All the while never considerin’ once that stick what pricked her wudn’t no stick a’tall, ’twas a five foot copperhead lyin’ in wait, a’waitin’ his own turn to grab some o’them eggs, but Mama, she got in the way.  An’ the poison, it was doin’ its devilry, none o’us the wiser.

Law.  

Mama jest has to wake up.  My get up and go done got up and went and I barely got nothin’ left to say when I pray.  I know surely I keep a’sayin’ and prayin’ the same thing over and over again, jest like we learnt in Sunday School them heathens do.   Lord knows my thoughts, Bible tells me so, and I reckon I got to hang my hat on that there.

Lord, Lord, bring my Mama back.  I’ll gather the eggs ever’ day the rest o’ my life.

Amen.

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

Let ‘er Rip!

I reckon a feller shouldn’t never grow up ‘thout a mama.  Ain’t right, somehow, nor good.

Selfish, I am.  Got me sisters an’ brothers needin’ the comfort and guidance of a mama, an’ I ain’t aimin’ on denyin’ them, no, I am not.

Havin’ a mama in the house is like plumb havin’ a angel around….one who scrambles the eggs, who mends the holes in the knees o’ our britches, who wets the worshrag to hold against our feverin’ brows.  She’s the one who plucks the feathers from the fresh-slain chickens, and shucks, she’s the one who’ll wring they necks.  She’s the one who shoos the hounds from the cats’ food but will pick the ticks from under they fur an’ give ’em a hug and a ruffle jest for sittin’ still.  She’s the one who’ll worsh out our mouths with soap for takin’ the Lord’s name in vain, and won’t abide a lie, and who’ll make us cookies fer no reason a’tall.  She’s the one who always says she loves us last thing ‘fore bed and first thing come mornin’.  She’s the one who peeks in to check all is well, when we’re a’playin’ possum under the nighttime covers.

But me and MY Mama, we was always kindred spirits besides all that, always two of them podded peas.  She’d have these visions, premonitions or what have you, and they’d cross the front o’ my thinking at pre-cisely the same darned time.  Cain’t explain, nor could she.  We, both o’us, understood of livin’ what others ‘ppeared to not.

My Mama, she could slide me the side-eye an’ I could read her thinkin’ in a snap. An’ toe the line if that was the message….as it often could be.  We, both of us, could sing an’ spin an’ dance an’ holler, jest ’cause it was daylight.  Or nightlight.  Or Tuesday.  We shared thinkin’ on books an’ the war over to Europe an’ dreams of trav’lin’ once this war was done.

She’s the one taught me cryin’ was fine, done in private, but when the clouds cleared, ’twas time to move on.  She’s the one taught me God loves us even when we scratch him the wrong way.  She taught me to be sorry when I should be, and not when I’m not.

She taught me to forgive real things, not jest say ” oh, that’s alright…”  ‘Cause most time it ain’t.

So, Father God in Heaven, fergive me my lapsin’ o’faith.  My Mama, she ain’t woke since she been bit.  I put her in your lovin’ hands, but I be shrivellin’ wrinkled in fear.  My Mama, she be yours, but I reckon I’d shore ‘ppreciate if you’d see yer way to lettin’ her be ours a mite more, if you see fit and willin’.

Amen and amen.

Yer servant and son, Liam.  Liam Goodwell.  Of the Denton County Goodwells.

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Let ‘er Rip!

These here are the true tales of the kith and kin of generations upon generations of Denton County Goodwells, of whom I am the third son of this here generation of the same.  Liam Elias Ephriam Goodwell, freshly turned thirteen years of age, I am longin’ like the dickens (Pardon my French.  And don’t tell Mama!) this here war in Europe, and even the one over to Japan, don’t finish up till I’m able to do my part.

That don’t sound quite right, does it….still, this here worldwide con-flag-ration is a durned sight easier to parse ‘tween the good fellers and the bad, a mite easier than the durned War Between States we be fightin’ and arguin’ since time memorial at ever durned Sunday social!  Got us cousins and kin on both sides o’that battle, and it don’t show much sign of abatin’, I tell you what!

Now, when Miss Meadow, down to the school, when she coralled me int’ documentin’ my thoughts and daily happenin’s (she always says I have me a way with the tellin’ of a story), I’ll ‘llow she never thought once it’d grow to such monu-mountainous heights.  Filled me three Big Chiefs jest since school let out last Spring, and we ain’t even due back fer weeks yet!

Reckon she’ll be pleased.

I do hope she’ll be pleased.

Well, this day, I got me a dilemma.  It goes like this:

They be skills, and they be plain ol’ gifts.  Now, I fall on the side o’skills, bein’ with hard work and de-terminations they can be wrought and discharged in a satisfyin’ manner.   It’s them gifts what have be addled.

Look here.  Take Mama.  Plays the pi-anner ever Sunday morning for service and Wednesday night’s, too.  She makes them chipped ivory keys fairly dance on them Gospel songs, and makes them fairly weep durin’ the Hymns.  An’ all that without never havin’ no lessons, no teachers, no music, ‘cept what spins ’round in that curly auburn head o’ hers.

Did I never mention my Mama, she was once known as the purtiest girl in Denton County, fairly all o’ Northern Missour-uh?  She’d still qualify, I reckon.  My mama is a looker, and I don’t even think she knows it.  Makes her all the purtier, to my mind.  And Daddy, he’s right proud.

Well, now take my littler sister Loreen.  She’s ten years old, head and nose and fingertips always in some book’r other.  Well, that girl made her the mistake some time back of askin’ Mama, once upon a time, if she her ownself could learn her to play the pi-anner?  Now Mama, she knew ain’t no way she herself could do such a thing, cain’t teach no gift.  But now somebody with skills, that there could be done, sure.  So she got her ladies group together, who then got they heads together and found Miss Loveral Bean of Halesburg, she had herself a niece what went to a music teacher one summer over to St. Joe.

She’ll do, exclaimed Mama, and durned if the Sunday School pi-anner what lived in the cellar of the Pentecostal Holiness Tabernacle didn’t find its way to our back porch, and durned if that niece of Miss Loveral Bean’s, ol’ whats’er’name, durned if she didn’t show up ever Saturday morning and teach Loreen a thing or two.  Still to this day does.  That Loreen plunks away, staccatoin’ and legatoin’ fer her regulatory thirty minutes each and ever’ day, well it goes to prove some got the gift, some got the skill, and some ain’t got no hope a’tall.

We don’t mention, bein’ closest in temperament and kindred spirit to my Mama, I got some of that music in my own head.  Loreen might cry.

And look here.  Take my biggest brother Lincoln, who reigns oldest and who claims wisest.  Linc, he’s built wiry and strong, ‘lot like Daddy.  An’ like our Daddy, he got him some special gift with the horseflesh we trade fer and raise.  Linc, he can tame the wildest, wiliest, wiggliest, wildcat of a beast known to man.  He don’t take no guff, not one iota.  He’ll look them eyeball to eyeball, darin’ that creature to do him harm, then durned if he don’t go off and leap, no saddle, no saddle blanket, no nothin’, up to the back o’that walleyed rascal and ride him till that beast, he fair wants hisself to be rid!

Linc, he got hisself a topdrawer full o’silver buckles from his forays into the county rodeo.  And Daddy, he’s right proud.  Here his oldest is follerin’ in his very own footsteps.  Daddy, he was a champeen hisself in his day.  Linc, he wants to quit his last year o’ high school and hit the circuit, don’t see no future in learnin’, but as burstin’ with pride as he his, Daddy put his foot down there.  Linc’ll have to bide his time till he graduates from high school clear next spring.  Linc, he ain’t hep on that, I tell you what, but he does know bettern’ to cross our Daddy.

I’ll ‘llow I got my own way with horses.  Mine leans more to-ward understandin’ than conquerin’.  That there’s where me and Linc part ways.

And look here, and here’s where-to-for my dilemma, it lies.  ‘Thout soundin’ braggi-do-si-do, I got me my own fair number o’gifts.  I see things clear, I speak my mind and most listens, I got me a fastball don’t nobody can hit, ‘cept sister Luce.  Folks cain look my way and don’t throw up.  I can sing fair and clear, and even with this new changin’ goin’ on in my vocal chorus, I got me even more notes on the low end I can hit more’n not.  Folks say I’m smart as a whip, and true, schoolin’ does come easy.

But there’s this girl, Juanita Suzette somethin’ r’other, her own daddy, he was some judge or sheriff or something up to May County up near the Ioway border, she’n her family jest moved onto the ol’ Stonemiller place.  A purty thing in her own right, she done took a likin’ to me.  And well, me to her, it ‘ppears.  Sunday mornin’ last, jest after the final altar call and the singin’ of the Doxology, I foun’ her waitin’ at the bottom of the cement gravel and limestone stairs ,built and rebuilt by them same generations of Denton County Goodwells,  presentin’ herself  all sunlit and curly-headed and smellin’ of sweet honey.

Law.

“Liam,” she sang my voice so’s I sounded like an angel in God’s own heaven.  I secretly plead with the Lord she’d deign t’say it ag’in.

“Liam,” Lord answers prayers, He does!  I’m smit.

“My Daddy, he got me a bran’ new sketchin’ book, two as a matter of fact.  I was wonderin’ if later’n the week, you’d min’ takin’ me to some place real pleasant so’s I can draw him a picture?  I don’t know me many places what are purty ‘nough to draw.”  Then she batted them eyes, what color are they?  Cain’t be rainbow, can they?

Gol’ dang, you bet I will! (Pardon my thinkin’ in French.  An’ don’t tell Mama!)

..cough…”Why shore, I’d be happy to, Juanita Suzette, why shore!”

 

And therein lies my troubles.  I ain’t got no gift, I ain’t got no skills, not a sniff o’neither one.  Can’t paint, nor draw worth a lick, nor a plug nickel neither.  I’ll embarrass myself, for sure, and Lord, Lord, we cain’t have that!  Not if I’m escortin’ Miss Juanita Suzette Somethin’ r’other!

 

“Liam?”  I snapped to, right now.  “Liam?  Oils or pastels?  Which do you prefer?  My daddy, he got me both.”

Don’t right know the dif’urnce, thought I, gettin’ lost once more in that sugarpie voice.

“Don’t right care,” said I, with a cool cat flip o’my hand,  then I quick-like filed me away a thought.  Fin’ me a teacher, forthwith!  I got to be gettin’ me some drawin’ skill right now, r’ at least before “later in the week!”

 

For I’m a goin’ sketchin’ with Juanita Suzette Somethin’ r’other!

 

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