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!


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.


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!

Ain’t got the gumption nor the energy nor the willpower nor the “what fer ” to pray fer God’s strength to give you much this day.  I reckon it may to date have been the most harrer’in’ day I ever lived.

This here’s Liam, Liam Goodwell, but I figure you know all that by now.  An’ if you don’t, law, you should.

(Lord, fergive me my sideways an’ pesky attitude.  You know my heart….)

But Golly Dang, this here’s been a day, clean since mornin’, and now, when I kin hardly keep my eyelids from slammin’ down shut!

This here day begun like ever’ other mornin’.  ‘Cept this one found Mama fainted dead away whist serving a second platter o’ them scrambled eggs she knows I clammer fer.

She’d been bit.  

‘N by the looks o’ what Louis and Lawton smooshed to smithereens durin’ the wildcat spinnin’ we was all doin’ gettin’ Mama in the bed o’ the ol’ International, it was a deadly copperhead what got her.  Law, they poison is fast-actin’ and potent.  Mama never once stirred, not one time.

Didn’t nobody say much, we all jest hit Goodwell high gear.  Found myself behin’ the wheel, and well, I groun’ roun’  them truck gears till they found “Hightail it” and we all skidded, Mama and Daddy and Lincoln and Lawrence and Loreen in the bed, me and Grandpap and Livvie in the front.  We was off to Doc Allen’s place, ’bout fifteen mile r’ so t’other side of Halesburg.  

That Luce stayed back to watch over the twins, I foun’ a little disturbin’.  I do like havin’ Luce along in times o’trouble.

Dust clean flew, fer I do know my way ‘roun’ a truck.  Been drivin’ since the age of five, sittin’ on a stack o’ Montgomery Ward catty-logues.  Stood up to work the pedals, gas and clutch and brake.  An’ now I s’pose I can get after it like the best o’them racin’ car drivers, and this mornin’, by all ‘ccounts, I did jest that.  We swayed and swung and near hit, but not, trees and gnarled branch fence posts.   But we got on down the line in a hurry.   Grandpap’s only ad-mo-nitions was “Hang on, ever’body.”  

Had to mean he had full faith in the Good Lord….an’ me.

We still had us a r’spectable piece to go but was closin’ in when I hear a “Whoop!” come from the bed behind.  

“Whoop!”  There it is ag’in.

“Whoop!”  Law!  

Grandpap twisted his spiky head ‘roun and through the back glass, he seen Daddy and Lincoln and the rest a’wavin’ and a gesturin’ to who laid a chunk.

“Stop this ve-hicle!”  Grandpap bellered.  And I done jest that.  

Never seen him fly like he did, but with Grandpap in the lead, we bailed out the almost still movin’ truck, steam comin’ from the radiator in front, and run back to where Daddy and Loreen, they was cryin’, and Lincoln and Lawrence, they was bendin’ over Mama.

Oh, Mama.

She did not look the same as when we hoisted her gentle-like into the truck.  She did not.   Looked to be her face was all red and mottled and specked, and them skinny muscles in her neck was strained and pained.  She was a pantin’ and a’sweatin’ but law!  Then they was her leg!  Mama’s leg, layin’ propped up on Grandmama’s quilts, was tree-trunk sized, swole up three, no, four times its normal size.  Lincoln or Lawrence or somebody back there had the clarity o’mind to remove her shoe, or law, it woulda plumb exploded from the looks o’things.

Oh, Mama.

Daddy was near crazed with fear, cradlin’ her head and moanin’ and sayin’ sweet un-intelligible words.  I knew nothin’ but to stare.

But not Grandpap, heck and Hell, no!

God gives us all gifts, but I’ll swan if Grandpap didn’t jest then get him the skills o’ one o’them high jumpers from them O-lympic Games the worl’ used to know.  

Still roarin’, he leapt clean up over the closed tailgate, “Outta my way!  Git!”  

An’ ever’body got, sqooshed way up next to the cab, ‘cept Daddy, he sure as shootin’ wudn’t goin’ t’leave Mama.  He stayed put, but settled hisself down in that instant.  There was work to do.  

And Grandpap, he was goin’ t’do it.

I kid you not, in a flash, he pulled his ol’ knife, the one slung in a leather pouch off his ol’ worn out belt, eight inches of shiny razored lethalness.  Us kids, we was never ‘llowed to touch even the pouch.  Grandpap kept that rascal sharp, be it with whetstone or leather strop.  Used with precision, be in whittlin’ or cuttin’ saddlery fixin’s or guttin’ a fish, this was GRANDPAP’S knife, give him by his own GRANDPAP, and it had a fair mystical bein’ all its own.

Quick as a lick, and lickity split, he knew what needin’ doin’.  He nestled hisself down by Mama’s purpled and marled leg, touchin’ it gentle here and there with his left hand.  Only took a moment till he settled on a spot just back the outside her left ankle, then straightenin’ his glasses (when he pulled them from his pocket, I do not recall), he touched the spot with the point of his blade.  Drawing no blood, but markin’ the spot, Daddy and Lawrence and Lincoln, they all leaned in close to verify.  Not Loreen, she was out to the road, back to the doin’s.  Livvie, she done the sisterly thing and stood, arm ‘roun’ Loreen’s skinny shoulders, but her head was twisted our way, eagle eyes  a’trained on Mama.

Steeled and poised, Grandpap fixed his clear blue sky eyes on Daddy, who read the message loud and clearly.  Grabbin’ Mama by the shoulders, he buried his head in her shoulder and held on.

Then Grandpap took my Mama’s life in his hands, and Lord, Lord, he sliced jest like that a chunk o’ my Mama’s flesh, size o’ two silver dollars an’ thicker’n a doubled-up worshrag clean from her leg!  He then slice an “X” at the spot (don’t never plan to use THAT phrase ag’in, I tell you what!) and worried and pushed and then sucked the poison and blood right from that spot, then spit and then spit ag’in!  

How long this went on, I do not know, nor care to.  Suckin’ and spittin’ and suckin’ and spittin’, till Grandpap was plumb spent.  Lincoln helped him down from the truckbed, give him some water from an ol’ jug under the front seat, and held his back whist Grandpap bent double in the ditch, heavin’.

Daddy, he only looked up once.  Lawrence, he took to wrappin’ Mama’s leg light-like, in rips from Grandmama’s quilts.  He could be right gentle, when he’d a mind to.  

We all do love our Mama.

I’d played no role in this side o’ the road drama, but I did my fair share of prayin’.  And dang it and hang it all, if by a miracle, Mama, she begun to stir, ever so little.

“Honey, it shore does hurt,” I seem to hear to say ‘fore she went back out ag’in.  An’ if her leg didn’t look jest a little less purpled and swole.  Jest a little, but ‘at there, ‘at’s all it took.  We all scrambled back to the truck, a little lighter on our feet, a little more hopeful Mama, she was on the side o’ the angels, jest not clear over Jordan!

Grandpap heaved jest one more time, then pulled hisself back into the truck, eyes a little glazed but a’wipin’ his knife what done the deed.

An’ like a maniac, I groun’ that baby back int’gear an’ raced like a house a’far down to Doc Allen’s place.