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.

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