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Keep It Moving



Trigger Sapping

Get Her Done!

Optimist Wager

Not for Sale

Elder Anarchy




by Jerry Murley

Bob and I were driving over to the Franklin's past a dry ditch laden with wild roses. I sat on the tractor fender steadying the rake Bob had borrowed that day for hay baling. The stuffy complexion of June changed as darkness settled around us; the cool evening touched our arms and faces as we moved slowly through it.

To walk into the Franklin domain, into the Franklin kitchen, you'd think the place had just suffered a good shaking by an earthquake: nothing was squared, everything was ajar neither completely open nor closed. Cousin Joe, who usually cooked those rolls and meats famous up and down Stillhouse Hollow Road, was suffering from "bilious" – this condition was not unusual for an 87-year-old man whose doctor didn't even know what the word meant. Paul had to cook; we could hear a furious sizzling and boiling on the stove. Paul was put out at having to cook after working in the fields all day. His two-toned arms and forehead were exposed and the white portions beaconed clear across the room; his large ears, nose and smile, pedestaled on a long neck with a huge Adam's apple lodged in the middle, stood in solid relief against his sweaty gray work shirt and overalls.

When we stepped in, Joe was bent over the large linoleum-covered table in the center of the room with his head on his arms. His dirty bare feet were planted flat on a dingy linoleum floor. No sooner did we get seated than Joe started talking about his biliousness and what he'd been eating all day to combat it. All the while Paul dipped the pot lid into the skillet of ham and the pot of boiling potatoes to check them for readiness before going out back to hunt for another egg – seems some "dern" animal had been snatching their best hens in broad daylight.

Joe leaped at the least provocation to give his thoughts and tell his stories on other topics of conversation. "Oh, the boys were lookin' for polecats several years back," – his voice modulated with a high-pitched emphasis placed on the first syllable of every other noun – "Cap'n started pokin' around in a hole in an ol' sugar tree and found it full of honey. They ran home and got two tubs and a saw and sawed right through the middle of that tree. They brought that honey home full of sawdust and dirt. Once, they were trying to rob a swarm of wild bees in a tree; somehow they knocked the whole thing down to the ground. When Milton run home he could hardly catch his breath; he said last time he saw Cap'n he was running and jumping over the hill, waving his arms like a swimmer without water."

After Paul took out the potatoes and held them in his hands five or ten seconds he set them on the table and sat down to eat. Cousin Joe picked up a pack of Sweeter artificial sweetener and poured its contents into his cold water: "I wish they'd go on and ban this dern stuff so I could go back to sugar and go ahead and die." He asked if we wanted to eat, but Paul quipped, "They got women at home; they don't want to eat with a bunch of knot heads like us."

On the way home the road was barely visible, but that wouldn't have been helped by the tractor headlights, since one of them was out and the other dimmer than the sky. The tractor handled easier though, and we only had a few curves between us and home. I soon discovered a wad of mud had been thrown off the back wheel onto my jeans. When I told Bob he started laughing uncontrollably and said, "Mud? When it hasn't rained in six weeks?" He laughed all the way back down the gravel road between the creek and the front pasture. He howled when he looked back and saw me wiping the seat of my pants with a handful of hay before I got into the pickup we'd left by the mailbox.

*Previously published in PINCH, November 1977, Memphis, TN. (Written by G. D. Murley, Jr.)

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