“Come Hell ‘r High Water”

(musin’s and confusin’s of my Daddy’s Midwest childhood)

 

Seems we Goodwells, when we got us someplace to go we get ourselves there lickity split.  An’ so it was here an’ now.

Daddy an’ me, we fair sailed from the auction barn, Daddy behind the wheel o’ the International an’ me holdin’ on fer dear life!  I’ll swan we pitched ourselves into ever’ pothole an’ tore ourselves up ever’ unseen projectile upendin’ itself underneath our tires.  Sand an’ soil an’ cowpies, petrified and otherwise, spat clean up to where our windows would have been had they been rolled up.

Which they wudn’t.

The engine underneath the hood came close to singin’, it was so happy to be up an’ at ’em and gettin’ some deserved facilitatin’ and acceleratin’!  Hummin’ and gunnin’, it was hittin’ on all cylinders an’ happy to be doin’ it.

I always did love that pickup truck.

Fore an’ aft an’ ever’where inbetweenwise.

Glancin’ over to Daddy, his face was all angles and determination, eyes like bullets, jaw set like ce-ment.  He wudn’t goin’ to let stand what that black horse and rider did to that veternarian.  He wudn’t goin’ to let stand whatever part Judge Huger had in stealin’ him away from them that was givin’ aid.

I always did love my Daddy when he got intent and resolute.

Outwardwise an’ inwardwise an’ ever’where inbetweenwise.

Folks was hollerin’ and wavin’ their hats our way, wudn’t sure jest why at the time, an’ it didn’t seem right to grin so I didn’t.  Vet feller may not make it after all.  But deep in my heart, I was proud as punch my Daddy had in him some gumption to do somethin’.

Somethin’.

He’d know what to do.  This was my Daddy we was talkin’ about.

Whateverwise that somethin’ was….

But, Law!  We wasn’t headin’ back home to sort out us a plan or to think through the next thing we should be a’doin’!

Law!  We was barrelin’ clean the other di-rection, swingin’ way wide left ‘stead o’ right back to the farm!  Our unswervin’ singleminded International pickup was haulin’ our backsides quick as a lic k, doubletimin’ the tracks o’ Judge Huger’s shiny black Cadillac!  An’ Daddy, he was leanin’ hisself forward, feet workin’ that clutch and that transmission whinin’ and wailin’ fer all it was worth!

Law!  If I didn’t sweep off my own sweat-stained straw hat an’ wave it myself!

Law!  We was goin’ to have us a “Come to Jesus meetin'” with the ol’ Judge!

Law!  The world was ’bout to change!

*********

 

‘Tween a Crock an’ a Hard Space”

Now, look here, let’s jest us make a assumption right up front, for the sake o’ assumin’.

Mama’s Apple Pie is hot!

I mean straight from the oven hot, ooey gooey apple sauces oozin’ an’ bubblin’ from the slits Mama sliced on the top, shades of golden flakin’ crust pinched and shiny with Mama’s sugar butter glaze catchin’ the afternoon light, steam still a dancin’ and twistin’, hoverin’ jest above them toasty tasty mountains o’ de-light.

There ain’t no way under God’s good Heaven we Goodwells aim to wait clear till supper to have us a slice!  We come ninety to nothin’ from all over the farm, the ‘roma bein’ that intoxicatin’!  And here we set.  

Mama knew we’d come.  ‘Course she did.  I’d lay odds she fanned the steam risin’ from them pies with her apron straight out through the screen door to the back porch jest to catch our ‘ttention!

She loves fresh baked Apple Pie jest like the rest o’ us!  An’ like the rest o’ us Goodwells, she don’t aim to wait!

Now, to my left elbow round the big round kitchen table, there sets sweet little sister Loreen, quietest o’ all us.

She’s Apple Pie.  Plain an’ simple an’ so hot it’ll turn yer insides to charcoal.  She dives in right now, no lookin’ left nor right nor heavenward.  That slip o’a girl can eat!

Next roun’d be Lincoln, oldest o’ all us Goodwell young ‘uns. 

He’s Apple Pie swimmin’ in fast meltin’ homemade ice cream he’n Lawrence, next oldest, been churning since noon.  Takin’ turns addin’ salt an’ crankin’ an’  soppin’ water melts eekin’ from the churn they set up out to the barn.

Next to Linc., there’d be Lawrence, for one don’t go without the other’n.

Lawrence, big an’ handsome, he comes next ‘roun’ the circle.  

Mama’s give him a bigger slice that most, he’s a growin’ boy still, says she.  He takes it as his due, big ol’ slice looks to be still shiny with heat.  He eats his pie with a spoon, takin’ a giant bite, then divin’ into the tub o’ vaniller ice cream what sets in the middle for community eatin’, never even botherin’ to serve hisself, dippin’ his used utensil in, bite by bite, even standin’ to get him some leverage.  Mama stands aside, proud.  

Grandpap, he sets jest next, an’ he don’t abide bad manners no how, so pops Lawrence upside the head, grabbin’ the boy’s spoon an’ dippin’ a heap into Lawrence’s bowl.  Lawrence looks woeful but don’t say nothin’.  That’s be disprespectful.  He knows, an’how, Mama’ll let him lick the paddle later.  

Grandpap, he knows, too.  No matter.  He made his point.  He takes his Apple Pie a little cool, waitin’ fer the rest o’ us to gobble up our share.  Then, slow-like, he finds the slice o’ Velveeta cheese Mama set on one o’ her purty plates, the ones she saves fer when the ladies come over fer chats and such.  With the patience o’ Job an’ the determination o’ David, he wrassles that thick yeller slice to the top o’ his cooled pie, then comtemplates  what he hath wrought, jest fer a heartbeat.  Then with that same slow deliveration, he takes him his first bite, sliced with his fork jest so.

Ain’t nothin’, ain’t NOTHIN’ like watchin’ Grandpap rapturous, eyes slit to near naught, chewin’ like he been give elixir from God’s sweet angels.

Law.

Now Daddy, he’s at Grandpap’s elbow.  

He takes his pie how-some-ever Mama gives it to him.  He never fails to grab her hand an’ tell her how ‘ppreciative he his, how he don’t know how he got so lucky.  An’ Mama, lightin’ up like she ain’t never been treated so good, she agrees he IS lucky, an’ smacks his shoulder then giggles like the light o’ my life down to the school, Emily Sage Hawthorne.

Mama, she fair floats ‘roun’ the table, never once settin’, dippin’ more vaniller, slicin’ more pie, wipin’ the mouths of the twins who set next, who fuss and squirm an’ would durn druther wipe they mouths (an’ they noses) on their sleeves.  She herself always waits till we’re most done, then I catch her catchin’ me catchin’ her divin’ into the bits at the bottoms of the near empty pie plates.  We always share a smile, me and Mama.  We understand each other.

Them twins, Louis and Lawton, they eat jest slivers o’ Mama’s Apple Pie which only serve as the base of mountains of vaniller, more int’rusted in grabbin’ spoons backhanded and stirrin’ and beatin’ they ice cream into a Apple Pie spotted soup.

An’ they git more on themselves than in.  Ain’t seven too old fer that tomfoolery?

Comin’ roun’ the table, there’d be Luce, near a twin to me, but a tad older.  An odd duck, she eats her Apple Pie real slow.  She peels the shiny crusty top off the sliced gooey cinnamoned apples underneath, settin’ it to the side.  Then one by one, she spears them apple slices, lookin’ at em’ close, them poppin’ them whole into her mouth.  She finishes up with the sauce-laden crust, tiltin’ her head way back, slidin’ pieces in.  Ain’t certain I ever seen her chew.

Who knows why Luce does what she does?  Ain’t none o’ us wish to attract her wrath, so we let it slide.

Prissy Livvie, the oldest o’ the Goodwell girls, she eats itty bitty bits, hardly barely openin’ her mouth, then wipin’ the corners like they’d be an’thin’ there.  Ain’t no ice cream for her.  Says it makes her fat.  But I tell you what, she still don’t miss Mama’s Apple Pie!  And she does clean her plate!

Then there’s me.  Liam Goodwell, third son o’ the Goodwells o’ Denton County.  

An’ I’ll take Mama’s Apple Pie hot or cold or buried under vaniller, an’how, an’ any time.

‘Cept don’t give me no Velvetta.  Don’t look natural, somehow.

 

*********

 

 

 

 

 

‘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!

**********

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Tween a Crock and a Hard Space”

Hey ho.  Liam here, still sticky’n still wedged low ‘neath the gray porch.

Did nobody never ponder themselves paintin’ the underneath side o’ these ol’ weathered boards?  Truth is, I been under here plunty, thousands or hund’erds o’ times, chasin’ cats, pullin’ out rapscallion twin brothers, buryin’ treasure.  But hidin’ down here for nigh on least a hour or a half, why, what’s a feller to do but contemplate him the conundrums what lay before, or above him.

An’ paintin’ these here boards would o’been a sight more pleasin’ to the eye o’all us who shimmy down this way.

I may mention this to Grandpap, once I find myself ready to confess to what end I was lyin’ down here in the dirt.

Leston and Daddy, they be up above, nursin’ they iced sweet tea an’ rockin’ to who laid a chunk in a couple o’Mama’s rockin’ chairs.  They shore ain’t sayin’ much, least not ’bout much but the weather an’ the price o’beef over to St. Joe.  But Leston, he been a reg’lar on the porch the last few days and I’m aimin’ to find out jest why.

I’m almost, I say almost, find my eyes a closin’ ‘gainst the heat an’ the bugs.  No, I ain’t a’nappin’.  No time fer nappin’, and anyhow, I don’t b’lieve it it, not whatsoever.  Think o’all I’d be a’missin’ was I to ‘llow myself unconsciousness to overtake me durin’ daylight hours.  Too much goin’ on in this ol’ world fer me to give any up.

I will ‘llow I might jest rest my eyes once r’ twice ever’ now an’ ag’in.

An’ I know I ain’t foolin’ nobody, least of all my ownself, but there it is.  A feller’s got to draw him a line, even if it’s with his own person.

No nappin’.  Not fer ol’ Liam.

But I digress.

Once I snuck and stuck myself down here in my hidey hole I was committed.  I was silent as a church mouse an’ so dry I was spittin’ cotton but I’d made me my bed and I’d see this mystery through.

Gol’ DANG, though, I wooshed them fellers’d hurry themselves up.  Time’s a’tickin’.

Time’s a tickin ‘.

Tick.

Tick.

“You aimin’ to sell, then, Duke?”

Great Horned Spoon, whaaat?!

Tickin’ done stopped when the talkin’ done started.  Not sure I’m a’breathin’!  I pressed my top ear to the bottom o’the slat crack.

“Well, sir,” begun my Daddy, rockin’ straight atop me dead stopped.  My guess he’s balanced up front on them rocker rails, a posture reg’lar fer him when he’s contemplatin’ somethin’ of portent.  

My head, though, it’s plum banging through my eardrums, Sell what?!  Sell what?!  I’m ’bout to pop!

“Well, sir,” Daddy drawled slow-like,”The Judge, he made hisself quite an offer, looks like he done similar to next to ever’ owner in Denton County, least this side o’ the river.”

Say it ain’t so.

He went on, never once sending them rails back to center,”We Goodwells, we been livin’ on this land fer generations on end.”

Oh, no.

This is where Leston slid in.  “Now, Duke, you ain’t been on this here property longer’n forty years.  Yer Daddy lost the hilltop land back before the last war.”

Ah oh.

I could feel the contempt in Daddy’s black brown eyes,  knew they was narrowin’ an’ borin’ holes in ol’ Leston’s own faded-y ones.

Heavy foggy silence held sway fer longer’n I cared for.  My insides was turnin’ cartwheels, my straw hair was clumped wet with sweat and under-the-porch filth, I durned near come to a’hollerin’ or kickin’ or even cussin’, if it wudn’t a sin.

Daddy spoke.  Quiet.  Hard as a Bois d’Arc heartwood.  Lethal.  Deadly as a nine-foot copperhead snake.  Dangerous.  Menacin’ as a Missouruh cougar crouched up a tree.

“Well, Leston, I reckon you an’ me, we et’ up the afternoon.  Let’s you an’ me give it a rest fer this day.”

And thusly, Leston, he was dismissed.  Daddy, resumed his rockin’ jest once or twice. 

Then.  

“Liam.  You’n me, let’s us take a walk, Son.”

Law.  

Ain’t but two choices, scramble out or face the consequences o’ Daddy draggin’ me out.

‘Spose I’ll chose the first, though both’r bound for unpleasantness.

 

 

 *************

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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 honest to goodness true Sunday Drive stories of my Daddy)

These here be the true and gospel real life happenin’s o’one Liam Goodwell, o’the Denton County Goodwells.  I aim to put to paper much o’what’s travellin’ twixt my ears, bein’ Miss Meadow, my teacher down to the school, she give me pencils and paper and set me on a course.

I shore don’t like disappointin’ Miss Meadow.

But there’s times I jest don’t quite git it.  Miss Meadow, she give me a suggestion while back I write me a letter to somebody means somethin’ r’other to me.   Sounded fine at the time, I reckon.  Howsomever, givin’ it another think, why, I purty much see ever’body I know once or twice or near a hund’rd times ever’ week.

Why in the hee haw would I set down words to paper, lick me a en-velup, an’ waste one o’ Mama’s stamps?  Why’d I do any o’that when all I’d have to do is holler?

I ask you that!

But, I got me school comin’ up in the Fall, an I’m a’comin’ up on eighth grade an’ I shore’d like to see myself graduatin’, Mama does like her diplomas up on the wall, so i give it what i got.

(An’ I ain’t decided if this here gits itself sent.)

Dear Mr. Langston (Grandpap) Goodwell,

(That there’d be the sal-u-tation.  Reckon Grandpap’d like his whole name seein’ the light o’day!)

Well, hello, hey ho,  and how’re you?

(Miss Meadow, she said start with a pleasantry.  I’ll add another.)

I most certainly am hoping your Arthur Itis is not acting up this morning.

(Grandpap, he suffers quiet-like ever now ‘n ag’in.  Don’t like to let on.  Tough ol’ buzzard.)

I been fine, too, in case you was wondering. 

(Miss Meadow, she said e-stablish a kinship with the reader.  He’s my Grandpap already, but still…)

I was considering a long drive down to Sedalia late next month, State Fair time.  And seeing I haven’t got a horse or a hog or a silver saddle for competition or consideration, I was hoping you might possibly see your way to allowing me to accompanize you if you was to be driving that direction.

(Now, this here’s simple folly! O’ COURSE I got me entries in the Missouruh State Fair!  What youngin’ don’t?!   I got me two horses plus a silly goat I’m helpin’ Loreen to raise.  She ain’t a pint o’ help, but I give her my word.  An’ Jesus won’t let me step ‘way from that, I tell you what!   But Miss Meadow, she tol’ me my letter should near ever’ time include a re-quest o’ some sort.  I don’t reckon I need nothin’, leastwise none I kin recollect this here minute.  So Dear Jesus, I come up with this.  It ain’t a full on lie if it’s writ, is it?  Lord Jesus, he’p me if I be sinnin’.  I’m a doin’ it fer Miss Meadow!)

But if you can’t, why, how about you and me we head down to Whipple Crick and catch us some Blue Gills?  You and Me, we could roast our catches over a fine fire, fillet them out in one of Mama’s iron skillets, and cook them suckers crisp!

(This here?  It’d be story-tellin’, too, I tell you what.  Ain’t no way this side o’ the Pearly Gates Mama’d ‘llow her seasoned slick iron skillets outside her kitchen!   Law, I’m diggin’ myself deep.  Ol’ Devil’s like to reach right up through the Missouruh clay, take hol’ my ankle an’ drag me down to the Lake o’ Far!  Best I wrap this up right now, ‘fore I feel them claws a’grabbin’ at my feet!)

Well, I am plumb happy to have writ you this letter, Mr. Langston (Grandpap) Goodwell, and I am very thankful and gracious you be my very own Grandpap.  I am happy to share you with all the other grandchildren, and I am very extremely aware you loves us all more today than you did yesterday and I will always love you and admire your teaching and hope someday you plan to bestow upon me  your silver making tools so’s I can continue the work which you have been trying to teach me and that I still am not very well schooled at.

(Miss Meadow, she said ever’body deserves kind words, so I thunk these here up.  Hope they’ll do.)

Very sincerely, your third grandson by your son, my Daddy,

Liam Elias Ephraim Goodwell

(Miss Meadow, she always tells all us chil’ren, not just us Goodwells, but all us kids in her one-room school down the way, she always preaches to check and recheck our work.

Well, upon checkin’ and re-checkin’, and re’checkin’ a couple more times, I’d like to lay down dead an’ die ‘fore I show this piece o’ fairytale to an’one I know, even Miss Meadow.

Plan to fin’ me a ol’ tin can, squish it hard down inside and bury it deep in the chicken yard!  Jesus understands!)

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

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.

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