Amen-er’s drinkin’ whiskey

Delma didn’t die. Every day my little sister got stronger and stronger and more and more like her old self again. Dad stayed about the same, hardly ever getting up outta bed. After the quarantine sign was pulled off our door and our prison sentence was over, Aunt Nolie moved from Ranger to Rotan and rescued us once again.   This time she wasn’t alone. She’d gotten herself a new husband by the name of Red Griffice. Back then I thought he was called “Red” since the name matched the color of his face after a few beers.

Bootlegging was their main business. I’m not sure who learned from who, but our neighbors, the Rushing’s and the Gallagher’s were bootleggers too. Mr. Gallagher owned a gas station off the side of the road, but I remember him only having gas in those pumps one or two times. It was a problem for the out of town customers, who pulled up for petrol and there was none. The bigger problem was when Sheriff P.V. Hail. He’d pull up to the “gas station” and Mr. Gallagher had to say, again, “ Ah hell, PV. Ya know how things are. Can ya believe that I’m still waitin’ on that delivery? I got plenty of RC Cola. Can I get one for ye? It’s on the house as always.”

When PV finally left, Mr. Gallagher would wipe his forehead and recheck his supply of beer and whiskey. Nobody, nobody in Rotan knew where he hid it.

When Aunt Nolie and Red would drive up to Sweetwater to stock up on their booze, it was only P.V. they had to watch out for as they crossed that county line from wet to dry. I even heard that on Sundays, somebody from town went to church and sold “eggs” to the Amen-ers. The “eggs” came either in tall bottles or short ones.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper, by C. Dennis-Willingham

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Cono’s (my father) Aunt Nolie rests in Ranger, Texas

 

Delivery – daily word prompt

Fairy kisses

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“Ready?” Daddy says, looking at me.

And then I remember something. “Brandon? You said Rachael liked Scooter’s get- well letter the best. How come?”

“He drew her a heart. It was Purple with a big smiling face and red pokey hair. Had freckles, too.”

“Kissed by fairies many times,” Scooter says. “More than you, Emma June.”

I hug Scooter. I want to bounce him up and down like he does me. I can’t. Scooter’s been growing, not like a weed, but like a beautiful wildflower.

Then the three of us, a Choppers-legged dog family, say our goodbyes and are about halfway home when Daddy says, “Doodle Snip? Think we can tell you about everything tomorrow? It’s been and long day and we’re—”

“It can wait,” I say. “Besides, it doesn’t matter now.” Then I’m sandwiched between two pieces of Wonder Bread.

Excerpt from The Moonshine Thicket

 

From Arid to a full belly

1940: Fresh Air and Dusted Britches — Last weekend Mr. Green asked Delma and me if we wanted to spend a night with him and his wife. I think maybe he’d heard a few things about what was going on at my house, about how Dad was treating me. Either way, it sure was good to get away for a night.

Mrs. Green made us corn on the cob with fried chicken and I ate every bit of mine. Then we played checkers, and even taught Delma how to play. It was like a vacation from the desert with no water into a place with fresh air and cold iced tea. It was a full belly.

The next morning before we were about to leave, Mrs. Green hugged Delma, turned to me and said, “Now Cono, you keep sittin’ on the shiny side’a that star.”

It sounded like a real nice thing to say, but I’m still trying to figure out what in tarnation she was talking about.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

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Arid

Mornin’ After the Beatin’

 

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Ike on left, grown Cono on right. (my great grandfather and my dad)

After Cono’s dad beats the tar out him the night before, Cono’s grandpa Ike (who witnessed the beating) shows up the next morning with an extra horse and a bit of wisdom. (Cono is ten at this point) No Hill for a Stepper– based on a true story.

 

  We keep riding until we get close to the stock pond. Ike mashes on one side of his nose and snorts out snot from the other.

            “Damn,” Ike says. “Those dandelion feathers Float up my nose ev’ry time this year. He nods his head toward the water. “That pond o’re yonder?” 

            “Yeah.”

            “That there’s yer Great Grandpa Dennis’ favorite spot. Used ta ride up on him sometimes, saw him sittin’ there starin’ at the water like he was waitin’ for it ta talk to him.”

            “Did it?” I ask.

            “Prob’ly. Guess that’s why he kept goin’ back to it.”

            “Maybe I should sit there sometime.”

            “Wouldn’t do no harm. A little piece’n quiet kin go a long way for a man.”

             I liked that he said that; like he can see the man in me.

            “Kin I ask ye somethin,’ Ike?”

            “Uh huh.”

            “That time P.V. Hail beat the tar outta ye on Main Street? Did ye wanna kill ‘em?”

            “P.V.? Nah. He was jes’t doin’ his job’s all.”

            “But it wadn’t right. He shouldn’t ‘a done that.”

            “Nah, wadn’t right. But some folks feel a little too big fer their own britches.”

            Ike pauses and says, “Besides, it shor’ wouldn’t ‘a been right fer me to kill him. That’s a whole nuther thing. He’s jes’t a piss ant’s all. Kinda like this here horse I’m ridin’.” He reaches down and gives P.A. a couple of pats on his neck.

            “Did ye feel sorry fer yerself?”

            “Fer what?”

            “That you’d been done wrong.”

            “Why a’course not. That’s called pity. Hell, pityin’ yerself don’t do no good. Nobody ever got anywhere by pityin’ themselves.”

            “That a fact?”

            “Which part?”

            “The part that ye really didn’t wanna kill him.”

            “Cono, if I tell ye a rooster wears a pistol…”

            “Jes’t look under its wing,” we finish together.

            “That’s right,” he says.

            “Yer a straight shooter, ain’t ye Ike?”

            “Only way to be.”

           I stare up in the cool and clear Texas sky and picture that rooster standing up on our fence post, his wing back like he’s ready to draw. “Cock-a-doodle doo, you sons ‘a bitches. Now get up!” Then I laugh.

            “What so funny?” says Ike.

            I tell him about the picture I’d put in my head and he says, “He’s prob’ly one’a P.V.s deputies.” And when he lets out his “hee hee hee” laugh, I laugh even harder.

            “Ike,” I say. “I believe what ye say, that a rooster’s under yer wing, when ye tell me he does.” Not only that, I’m thinking that rooster’s got a six-shooter under there ready to unload.

            “Let me tell ye a little somethin’ and I want ya ta listen up.” He pauses, clicking the left side of his cheek like he’s finding the right words and I wait. I can wait all day if need be just to hear what Ike has to say. “When it comes right down to it, yer your own best friend. Most the time, ye can’t trust anybody but yer own self.”

            I think I’ve done figured that out on my own. But I say what I mean. “I trust you though.”

            “Uh huh, but trustin’ yer own self’s even better.”

 

 

For the Love of Tio Chango

John Flores is a Senior at Rotan High School. He is on the Varsity Center for the football team, and the current Valedictorian of his class. “My dream is to go to Rice University and Baylor college of medicine so I can become a psychiatrist and help people. Neither of my parents work as they are both disabled. My mother has Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and is bedridden, while my father has severe back problems that require surgery.”  Congratulations to John for being a first place winner in the “No Hill for a Stepper” essay contest!  Here is his essay:

“It’ll get ya’ one of these days…”

Alcoholism is a very prevalent problem within society. It can also be down right devastating to the family affected by it.  Both my parents have been able to beat their addictions, but my uncle had the hardest time of all. “Tio Chango” is Spanish for “Uncle Monkey” , and that was my uncle Julian’s nickname. It was appropriate, because he liked to climb stuff when we was drunk, which was everyday. I grew up with my uncle being known as the town drunk, and seeing him beg for money to go buy another beer made me sick to my stomach.

Unfortunately, the years of alcohol abuse rendered his body helpless to diseases and infections. It took my sisters and I a whole year to convince him to stop drinking, for his sake. When he saw our determination, and the pain he put us all through, my uncle Julian was finally able to rid himself of his demons once and for all. He told me, on his death bed, that his only regret was not doing it sooner and not being able to spend more time with me.

After his death, I heard whispers around town, satisfied that the “menace to society” was finally gone. Sure he may have been a drunk and hurt quite a few people, but I was still proud of him. From the time he became ill and the time he died, my Uncle had been sober for almost two years. It was hard letting him go, he was like a second father to me, but solace came when I considered that he at least wasn’t in pain anymore.

Some people aren’t as strong-willed as my Uncle was. That’s not to say, however, that it is impossible for them to put down the bottle. Alcoholics Anonymous is the most effective form of therapy and is the number one leading treatment for alcoholics. It provides privacy, a safe environment, encouragement, and offers several tips on how to stay clean. Rehab is another way to help alcoholics free themselves of temptation. Rehab is usually a an in-patient retreat to a hospital ward, where they can monitor your progress more thoroughly. Finally, for those that couldn’t afford anything else, there is hope. As simple as it sounds, showing the alcoholic that he/she is hurting someone they love and that their family is willing to help could be enough to scare the alcoholic. Support throughout the entire ordeal is a must. This is the method that helped kick my uncles bad habit.

Without perseverance, the options listed won’t work . However, with the love and support of family and friends, there truly won’t be “No Hill for a Stepper”. Alcoholics just need to feel their support take each step with them.