Sunday, November 24, 2013


           “Hey, Auntie, what is ya doing on your knees? Ya hurt?” Sue turned and held an arm out. Little Levi walked into her embrace and wrapped around her as far as he could reach.
She kissed the top of his head. “No, sweetheart, I’m praying.”
“Oh.” He grinned. “We eating dinner on the bed today?”
She picked him up, carried him to the rocker, then eased down. “No, sweetie, I talk to God all the time, not just before meals.”
He snuggled tight. “Oh.”
For a good while, she rocked her nephew with his head resting on her shoulder, then as though he’d had enough mothering, he slipped out of her lap. Smiling as only a five-year-old could, he rubbed her tummy. “He don’t like me squishing him.”
“Could you feel the baby kicking?”
She tousled his hair. “Remember you manners, please.”
“Yes, ma’am. He kicked me to make me get up.”
She nodded toward the door. “You can go play for a bit. The beans need to boil a while longer.”
He nodded then touched her belly again. “Hurry up cookin’ my brother, will ya?” He spun whinnying for his imaginary horse then galloped out the door.
That night after she finally got Levi to sleep, she returned to her knees beside her bed. “Oh, Lord, help us. Send someone to buy the sawmill, please. I don’t want to sell any land. And Father, You know the beans are about gone. The turnips are coming on, but the boy needs meat, and we’re running real low on powder and shot. A milk cow would sure be great, too.”
She closed her eyes and pressed her forehead into the quilt. “Ease my heart, Lord, and heal it. Sometimes I miss Andy so bad, but You know. You know everything. Tell him I’m sorry, and that we’re making it.” She raised her head and looked to the ceiling. “I love you, Lord, and thank you for your many blessings. Not my will but Yours Father. Help me know what you want me to do. In Jesus name, amen.”
As most nights, Levi slipped into her bed. Poor little thing; haunted too long by nightmares of that most horrible day. Terrible for a little boy to see his father killed right before his eyes. Not much better for her, and she was twenty years old. Would she ever forget seeing the awful accident that took the lives of her husband and his brother?
That next day started like most, cold cornbread with a slop of molasses. Too soon, it’d be cornbread only. Next, she and the boy worked the ground, except mostly he rode the mule while she guided the plow.
So far, she’d only managed to break barely over two acres. Even though she had enough seed for three, if she didn’t get the plowing done before the rains set in… And with her belly swelling by the day, she wasn’t sure she’d even be able to get any cotton planted come spring.
Levi sat taller on the mule and pointed east. “Auntie, look.”
She stopped the mule, tied off the reins and shaded her eyes, but couldn’t make out the driver or recognize the team. “Run get the rifle.”
He slid off Mabel, and she stepped away from the fresh plowed ground. Before the boy got back, the teamster stood waved his hat then sat back down. Seemed friendly, but that didn’t stop her pulse quickening or her breath coming harder.
“Here, Auntie Sue.”
She took the long gun, cradled it across her chest, then went out to meet the man. Levi ran off galloping and whinnying. “Don’t go far, young man.”
Shortly, her visitor stopped the team. “Morning, ma’am. I heard tell about your man and his brother getting themselves kilt. Right bad shame I’s plenty sorry to hear. You got my condolences.”
“Thank you, sir.” He looked familiar, but she couldn’t figure out why. “Do I know you?”
“Well, yes’em, leastwise I was here back in the spring. Took a load of saw boards off your hands to San Antonio.”
Of course, she nodded. “Yes, that’s right. It’s so good of you to stop by, and I certainly appreciate your kind words.”
He locked the break then climbed down. “Ma’am, Mister Jacob wanted surety, and I give him my pap’s gold watch. I gots the coin now for them saw boards and come after Pap’s timepiece.”
“Yes, I remember that.” She closed her eyes and searched her memory. Where had her bother in law put it? She could see the thing plain as day, but couldn’t put her mind’s finger on exactly where. “But to tell you true, I’m not sure where it is. Let me go look.”
“Well, while you’re findin’ it, don’t suppose you’d mind me workin’ your mule while I’s stretch my legs breaking a bit of this fine black land.” He smiled.

“Why, no. not at all, and you’ll surely let me heat up some dinner after I find the watch. The least I can do is feed you after you coming all this way.”
He tipped his hat then wrapped the harness straps over his shoulder. “I’d be much obliged, ma’am.”        
She hurried inside and between searching and cooking, praised the Lord with every step. The teamster had brought coin. How much was it?
Shortly she had a pan of cornbread a nice mess of turnip greens with yesterday’s beans hot, but she hadn’t located the man’s watch. She’d looked everywhere, could it have been lost during the accident?
For sure, watch or not, dinner needed eating. Once around the treeline guarding her home, the man turned the far corner, and she waved him in. He’d turned two right smart rows and a good start on a third. How could he have plowed that much in such a short time?
She watched him tie off the mule, then hollered up her nephew. “Levi, come eat.”
Grace offered, she ladled her visitor’s and Levi’s bowls full of beans then stood. “Sir, I’ve not been able to find your watch. I hope you won’t mind staying a little longer. I intend to keep looking through your meal.”
“Hey.” Levi dug into his pocket. “This here what’chur lookin’ for, Auntie?” He held the chained watch out in his little dirty hand. “I got it.”
“Levi!” Horrified, she took the timepiece then passed it to the teamster. “I’m so sorry, sir. I don’t know what to say. I had no idea –”

The man’s hearty laugh cut her off. “Naw, no problem at all.” He looked to the boy. “Thank you, son, for taking good care of it for me.”
Levi beamed. The man promptly handed over four gold coins, at least a year’s worth of hard money. She enjoyed his company at dinner, catching up on the news. Hadn’t realized how she’d missed having an adult to converse with and promised herself a visit to the Dawsons soon. How long since she’d seen Elaine?
Time came for him to get himself gone, and she thanked him profusely on his way out the door. Like he’d saved the best for last, he told her of a man over DeKalb way name of Phillips looking to buy himself a steam powered saw mill.
Sue waved goodbye as grateful to the Lord as she’d been since Andy’s passin’. Once the man got his rig turned around and on his way, she turned to Levi. “We are blessed, nephew, God has provided for us just like He promised.”
“Yes, ma’am! Can we buy us a cow now?”
“I think that’s a grand idea.”
“Good, ‘cause my brother needs plenty of milk.”
She smiled, nowhere near ready to explain about nursing mothers. “What’s if the baby is a girl?”
He crossed his arms over his chest and frowned. “Then she can’t be my brother.”

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Man's Best Friend

The sun burned bright; kind of scorcher makes a feller want to bury up in a muddy hog waller. But Blue Dog stayed on the gray’s flank, even though he didn’t care much for horses or this place up ahead, he’d go with this man anywhere.
            Once there, he turned three tight circles, then lay on the cool boards in the roof’s shade for a little snooze while his man tended to his business on the inside. Sure smelled good in there, but him and his kind were not allowed. A familiar stench pulled his near eye open. He rose, backed to the door, and threw Henry a little soft growl.
            His man joined him.
            “Hey, mister, that’s my dog ya got there.”
            Blue’s neck hairs bristled.
            “That so?”
            “Yes, sir. That’s him alright. Best varmint dog I ever had, paid good money for the mutt, too, and I aim to take him home.”
            “Well, then, guess you best come on and get him if you can.”
            Blue pressed into Henry’s leg and bared his teeth at the man. He wasn’t going anywhere. He growled a stay away warning.
            “Easy boy, don’t you ’member me?”
            Henry laughed. “Seems like he does. Sounds to me he’s decided he’s not your dog after all.”
            The old guy stepped closer. The hackles along Blue’s back bone stood up with the neck hairs, his legs tightened ready to spring, but his man gave him the stay sign. He sat on his haunches and hushed, but his guard hairs remained on the alert.
            “I’m telling you that is my dog.” The man lifted his hat, rubbed his sweat back into his hair, then placed it back down. “I’m getting’ my rope, and Rocky’s coming with me.”
            “No. Sir, Blue Dog’s a friend of mine. And not you or anyone else is taking him anywhere he don’t want to go.”
            For the longest, his old master stared at his Henry. The scoundrel spat a brown steam out to the side, wiped his mouth with his sleeve, then curled his upper lip. “You’ll be sorry.”

            Blue kept his nose open and his ears perked until that no count was long gone—out of sight, out of hearin’, and out of smellin’. He’d chosen his man, and far as he’s concerned nothing would ever separate them. He loved Henry and to him only would Blue belong so long as he lived. 
Nothing like a loyal, smart friend-dog!
In VOW UNBROKEN, his name is Blue Dog; at the McAdoos' home, he's Franklin Doganor Roosevelt, a.k.a. Roo!