(Take the load off, set back real far, near to tippin’. Now don’t that feel good? Deep cleansin’ breath ‘r two and you’re near there. Time ticks slow when you let it.
Let it. Tick slow. Yeah, jest like that.)
See here, jest because we, us Goodwells, resides at the bottom of the hill don’t mean we don’t look up top and remember, leastways Grandpap and Daddy, when we was livin’ high on the hog and high on the hill. Them purty green hillsides, a’rollin’ and a’dippin’, why, they was Goodwell lands back when Grandpap was a mite spritelier and a little less gray-topped than he is today. Wars and depressions and dust storms and plagues like Egypt ate away at the edges till there just wudn’t no more.
But like Grandpap, we Goodwells, we’re stalwarts and look to the hills and know deep down what the Good Lord done taken away, he can giveth back in a blink of an eye. And all us Goodwells, we’re believers. And we labor to prove it, to God and our neighbors and our ownselves. Down to the youngest of us kids, down to our very toes. God’s gifts come free, but we aim to prove we’re worthy.
And, to do the contrary leans toward one o’ them Seven Deadly Sins, the sin of sloth and lazyhood. And Lord knows, we ain’t sinners. Not by choice.
Lord knows, too, there is always work to be done. Secretly, we count our blessin’s notin’ we may reside and toil at the bottom of the mountain, but we give silent thanks we ain’t livin’ like our cousins, the Mickelwaits, who cast their lot in the bottomlands sunk lower than the river ‘cross town. Floods rise to greet them more often than not, and livin’ with that certainty sure can take the joy outta most ever’thing else.
‘Course, we don’t never ever say that out loud.
And this week, sure as shootin’, one of them blamed storms upstream, from which we received nary a drop of moisture from our too blue skies, swelled and roared and shot that durned river out it’s banks AGAIN!
AGAIN, says I!
And AGAIN, here I am, in mud smellin’ of rotted taters and dotted with bloated fish bellies clean up to my knees, a’shovelin’ and a’mixin mud and straw for yet a new levee to protect the Mickelwait’s house and home. They’d do the same fer us. We bein’ kin and all. And frankly, with our Daddy and Grandpap doin’ side jobs fer our houseguest, that and makin’ and distributin’ ‘shine come nightfall, besides farmin’ and plowin’ and buildin’ and silver-smithin’, we do rely on each other for protection and safe harbor.
I reckon it all come’s out even in the worsh, anyhow.
Don’t make me much mind now, though. I’ll be stinkin’ of river mud fer days. ‘Cain’t even jump in the river for a dousin, as the river’s what’s causin’ my ailment. Now, normal when the rains come and we’re out here shorin’ up the leaks in last season’s levee, ‘r last month’s, we cain’t even smell ourselves no more.
This time, though, this foul odor is fairly a fog and I stink to high heaven, near to gaggin’ myself. Stunk so much last night, I could barely breath, much less slumber. Multiply that by my two older brothers sawin’ logs, ignorin’ they own stench, I determined myself to do somethin’. Snuck this very mornin’ in big sister Livie’s room she shares with my other big sister Luce, found me some sweet smellin’ stuff in a silly bottle with a pink bow and sprayed it on my fresh laundered bandana Mama give me at breakfast. Went straight to Livie’s kit, I did, seein’ as she’s 15 and fair to middlin’ when it comes to looks. Hear tell, she’s even some fellers sweet on her. Seein’ as she’s my sister, that just gives me the heebiejeebies. Now Luce, her kit’s filled with fishin’ worms and buckshot so I knowed where NOT to look.
Smelled right purty, did I, little like MaryBeth Satterstrom next town over, and I hid me a smile. Last time she sashayed past me at a mixer down to the schoolhouse, I near to fainted over dead from the waft trailin’ after.
Come mid-mornin’, though, sun up and doin’ it’s best to fry my hair clean from my head, that scent and near the memory was fadin’ fast. Flies was buzzin’ my ears and my eyes. Mud I inbibed yesterday was sweatin’ out through all my pores. I looked thisaway and that, up and down our bank of the ex-caped river. My big brothers Lincoln and Lawrence, my big cousins Macon and Martin and Mitt, couple o’ hired hands, Grandpap and Daddy and Uncle Sedg and some men from couple farms downstream, ain’t a one farin’ any better. We was red and gray mudmen stem to stern, in an’ out and upside and down.
And the day’d just only begun.
Truth be told, when I wasn’t bent double hoistin’ shovels full of filth and stench, I felt real bad for Uncle Sedg. Plantin’ been done. Little clover sprigs, bright green with promise, popped up in neat little rows atop neat little mounds of rich Missouri river soil. Weedin’ and fertilizin’ all been kept pace and the fields purtin’near guaranteed a plumb satisfactory harvest.
Now, with all that healthy river soil worshed downstream and likely on to the delta down by Mexico, and with barely time this summer to get a growin’ season in a’tall, Uncle Sedge, he’d be forced to replant, borry’n money for seed, workin’ the fields, him and the boys, and me, by daylight and nightlight, hopin’ for the smallest of harvest to sell enough to see them through to next spring.
Workin’ from behind was somethin’ Uncle Sedg had done right often, bein’ he’d chose the bottoms ‘stead of the mountain top.
And we, all us Goodwells, we worked right alongside.
‘Cause, after all, we was family.