By george key
I’m Still, Jist Wait’n
( reflection of an aged Flatlander)
Sit’n here in my new place where some say, I’m better off in. Maybe I am, then again, no one visits like they said they would. Who coulda seen that one coming? Now with the Covid crawl'n all over, at least those that said they would visit, have a good excuse to not. What’s that I hear? Someone’s coming. I wonder who on God’s Earth it could be?
A tall lanky minister-looking man appears at the doorway, popping his head in as if he was searching for someone.
“Do I know you?”, I inquire.
“Not yet sir. I’m new in town. The Diocese has sent me to help out while Father Francis, may God bless him, recovers from the virus. I am Father Michael. Would you be fine with a bit of a visit?”
“Oh, yes, that would be nice. My dear wife was one of you.”
“One of me”?
“From County Cork, she was a Murphy. A fine beautiful woman, you know”.
“ Oh, yes the strong Irish women”.
“I thought, perhaps you be referring to my being Catholic. Many Murphy’s are you know”.
“We used to be until that one old Long Robe came on my land and commenced to telling me that something of mine was his. Well, now I tolerated him sprinkling Holy water on my fancy red rooster, but then that darn old rooster was a bit upset. But that don’t make no never mind anyhows. See, now that Long Robe with his tax collect'n, as it was, with his ledger under one arm, pointed at my hog, in my hog pen that I built with my pa, eat'n my grain, that I reaped myself, from my land. So, he says to me, “that hog belongs to the church”, and pointing to the sky above he announced, “And may God bless us all with this bounty””, Well now, anybody and their neighbor knowed that I’d give my shirt off my back and bushel of sweet corn to anyone come ask'n. If'n that Long Robe was to be kindly ask'n, I’d no doubt give him two hogs, four chickens, and a fresh jar of cream. But, now then, by jeepers no one best step foot on my place and tell me something of mine is his. Why when I was soldier'n in Manila the second time in, he would have been shown, the wet side of a well dug deep, by the persuasive point of a bayonet. So, being me, I spun right around. I looked him square in the eyes and said, “We are Methodist”. Hellbound for glory, truth be told, I picked Methodist out of thirty-six churches that were in town here, jist to irritate him. Ya see the United Methodist chapel’s front Sunday go to meet'n doors were straight across from old Father Long Robes rectory. Just maybe he be learned to ask instead of be tell’n”.
“Well from me and mine to you and yours, Father Michael, no disrespect intended but you do know what ruffled my feathers. Don’t you know, now?
“Well sir you stood with your heart, and that conviction is to be admired. The world and its ways have most certainly changed. Has it not? So, I imagine sir, you just might have a story or two to tell. What say you?”
“So . . . well now, Hell I remember when I was an old man, much younger than me now.
I’d be sitting there on the front porch in my favorite rocking chair, jist relaxin, when up and out of nowhere this one old crooked tailed cat, what kept the field mice out of the Johnnycake pan, would spaz out. Say now that old critter, I jist never could understand, why he would take off all affright like greased lightning. I do recall Ma telling me why that old crooked tailed cat took a fright to my chair every time I commenced to rock'n, but ya know well, that all don’t make no never mind anyhow.
Yea, I miss how things was. There was so much peace on my place I felt it be my duty to slice the silence for just a spell. My dobro let the neighbors know I survived the fieldwork that day. Its song drifted with the cool summer’s breeze. Each evening, I be hold’n my dobro twist’n them thar pegs, tight’n them thar strings, So that they might sing jist right purdy like.
Jist to make her smile, I’d wipe her down gently with my oldest kerchief. Ya know they tend to get softer with the years. Now, not that she was ever dirty or nut’n, jist purely out of love.
I’d be rock’n with ease as the day would slide on by, jist look’n out at the world and then. . . back again. Watch’n the corn grow, while strumm’n and a pick’n my dobro until all the birds quit singing, jist to listen.
I be count’n the vehicles, as they rolled on by go’n somewhere, to or from town one at a time, sometimes even two. Cept’n when one of the boys down yonder was to be court'n one of the girls up the way most them thar vehicles had more butts than seats in um. Dust would rise above the trees, where the Redtail hawks nested, by the crick bed, along the hollow, near the bridge my father built to get us home, giv’n me a heads up that another one is com’n long before I could hear the rumble of their tires upon the windswept washboard gravel.
Neighbors used to keep track of the cum’ns and go’ns on, like they should . In a good way though. I would only count them as they crossed the imaginary finish line marked so plainly by my mailbox.
My official, United States Postal Service mailbox, on my land mounted precariously so, on an unpainted fence post, where my name was painted plain for all to see. It sits on the road. Right there, where my driveway meets up to where my strung-up fence finds the corner of the field. Me and my boys strung that fence one year before they moved off and left us there. Things were rough at times, but like is said, nothing worth much comes easy. Still, one tall pitcher of lemonade and a few or better sips from my old crock jug got me through most any day that I recall, good or bad.
Each day, good or bad, the blue sky would bow to the star-filled darkness. Jist as regular as the cows coming home, I’d go to counting occasional headlights, until there would be none. Most of the critters, joined me in settling down, making way for the dance of a thousand fireflies.
I would light my kerosene lamp, warm’n my hands on the glass chimney that housed the flame, find’n peace in the song of the un- oiled wooden rock’n chair. Then one night the squeak stopped, as so did I, clutch’n that dobro tightly to my chest, for the last time.
My kids and them thar doctors come out and took me to town. They say it be for the best. They sold my place, my land, and most my everythangs. I could only bring what fit in Ma’s old steamer trunk to this so-called place of rest. To me, it's more like a smelly old rug that they swept me under.
Father Michael check it out. My dobro hangs over there, on that wall. That’s it, see it? right there. She’s still as a church mouse, a little rusty, and sorta- kinda like me. . . jist collect’n, dust. Out of all that everything, I managed to hold on to a small plot of my land, where Ma was put to rest. God will’n and the crick don’t rise, I’m surely spect’n that when my day comes, I’ll be taken my place, under the big tree, long side Ma.
( Note to editor: there is a photo layout that goes with this Flatlander's vernacular piece, however; I find nowhere to submit them)--please inform