The Emigrant’s Legacy

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Strong hands once built a structure

in 1889

Ancestors who worked endlessly

in an old, unsettled time.

 

And now, tis I who benefits

a creation made of stone

this house, a loving bounty

and a place I call “my own”.

 

Author’s note: The “homestead” was built by my great-great grandparents after they immigrated from Germany in the 1840’s. This house is shared with the appreciating many.

 

A loving parable

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Painting by  C. Dennis-Willingham

In the past when Papa was healthy,  I learned of this parable in the Bible. I was so Enamored by that kind of love that I would ask if he or Mama would like for me to wash their feet. Only a few times did Mama succumb to my request. Even at night, her feet were  too busy moving, rarely still enough for me to wash.

Papa, on the other hand, would sit in his favorite chair in the parlor and lay down the newspaper he had been reading. He would smile and laugh as I placed the soaped cloth between his toes. Our conversations would move from one subject to the next as quickly as a hummingbird searches for nectar. The ritual seemed to both invigorate and relaxed him. 

            Yet, when Papa had lain in his bed with a pneumonia-fed bad heart, it was not the same. Nothing was the same.

            Nor will it be again.

Excerpt from Naked, She Lies, by C. Dennis-Willingham

daily word prompt: Enamored

Ike’s Spicy Tongue

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(pictures of my great-grandfather, Ike “Isaac Newton” Dennis)

Ike mounts his beans on top of his cornbread, takes a bite, then chomps off the end of his jalapeno. Sweat is just pouring off his forehead and tears have started to roll down his cheeks.

         “Damn, that’s good,” he says, “A good go for short dough.”

         We all laugh, even Ike, about how something that hurts so bad can also be so good at the same time.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper by C.Dennis-Willingham (my father’s story)

 

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daily word prompt: Spicy

I made a threat

I was six and didn’t want to be left out of anything that looked like “fun.” One day, my sister, Pat, five and a half years older than me, had friends over. I kept trying to get into her room to be part of the group. I was being a Pest.

My sister finally yelled out, “Daddy, come and get Carolyn or I’m gonna spank her.”

I looked at Dad and said, “Close the door, Daddy. Let’s see how this comes out.”

I wore bold and stubborn like badges on my sleeve.

AND, I had a purple and pink cow.

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My sister and I in the 1960’s

Pest – daily word prompt

Can’t beat it with an ugly stick

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Cono and his sister, Delma 

At least we are together, Delma and me. It’s just another place that I plan to watch over her. I want to keep her close by, so nobody can snatch her away again. As long as I can do that, it doesn’t make no difference where we are.

The car keeps humming slowly down the highway. I try to sleep but I can’t. Instead, I think about Mr. Ed Rotan and decide right then and there that “Cono, Texas” has a real good ring to it. Cono, Texas won’t just have snow gypsum under the ground and a railroad on top of it. It’ll have oil underground and derricks on the top, pumping night and day. I call them jacks “grasshoppers” because that’s just what they look like when they’re pumping up and down. They’re grasshoppers trying to hop away, but they’re stuck and have to settle for hopping up and down in the same place.

My town will have at least two good cafés that serve T-bone steaks and tea iced in clean tin jars, free to me since it’s my town. I don’t know much about T-bone steaks since one’s never been in my mouth, but I do know about cold iced Tea. A while back, Pa and I went from farmhouse to farmhouse following the thrasher and it was the first time I ever got a swaller of iced tea out of a fruit jar. A couple of them farm ladies knew how to make it real good. But the best was when one of them lady’s had cleaned up an oil can good and shiny. She poured the tea in the can with a bunch of ice and sugar and when I tasted it, it was the coldest and best drink I ever had. Ice is few and far between, sometimes as scarce as food. So when Pa took a sip he said, “Aye God, ye can’t beat that with an ugly stick.”

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

Daily word prompt: Tea

Ashes to Ashes

It was Mother who told me about Gene dying. Dad had found out when he was in town but gave Mother the job of breaking the news to me.

“Cono,” she said, “I got some bad news fer ye.”

I thought that maybe we’d have to move away again, away from Ike. Or that Delma was sick again.

“Yer little friend Gene has died, gone to heaven.”

I remember staring at her for the longest time. I remember going to Uncle Joe’s funeral and hearing about Wort Reynolds going to heaven without a head. But this was different. This was MY friend. This was Gene Davis who was only a year older than me.

“He went to Roby to the hospital ‘cause he had a pain in his side.”

I saw Gene and me playing checkers, riding on his mare, making up stories.

“It was a bad appendix, burst before the doctors could git to it.”

I thought Dad was right about one thing. Doctors were good for nothing’s. Couldn’t fix Dad, couldn’t fix Gene.

“Mother?”

“Yeah?”

“When Uncle Joe died, why’d they say ‘ashes to ashes’?”

“I ain’t real sure, Cono. I think it has te do with the fact that we were born nothin’ and go right on back te bein’ nothin’.”

“So now Gene’s jes’t nothin?” I asked, getting upset that the world was going to pretend he never existed.

“Nah, he’s somethin’ alright. He’s jes’t back to being part of the Texas Soil ’sall.”

“That ain’t so bad, is it?”

“Nothin’ wrong with that.”

“But I don’t get te see him again?”

“Afraid not, Cono. I’m sorry,” she said.

And I still am.

I go into my room and pull out my box of specials. There’s the old lace from a boxing glove, the time when Gene put together that fight for me; my first fight with real gloves.

At school and in front of everybody Mr. Green says, “Cono found out that he’s lost a good friend. His name was Gene Davis and he lived in Rotan. Cono, I just want to tell you how sorry we are.”

I nod my head and look down at my desk.

I don’t quite understand it, doesn’t make no sense whatsoever that Gene is dead. I want to see him again. I want to laugh with him. I want him to pull me behind his mare in the red wagon. I want to beat him at checkers.

Mr. Green has told me I can do anything I want. He says I can. He says he knows I can. So I decide to write Gene a letter, send it up to God Jesus to give to him.

 

daily prompt: Soil

Ain’t no room for belly achin’

 

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Cono’s Ma and Pa

The windows are open and the summer breeze floats across my bed like a puff of air that puckers and ends up whistling out a happy tune. Anything bad that might have happened during the day has been blown on through. I hear the sound of the train chugging by ever so often. The kaPluck, kaplunk of the oil wells pump like they’re helping to push the blood through my veins. That’s when I start to get sleepy.

And when I hear that nicker that Polo makes?  I know I’m almost out like Lottie’s eye.    Tomorrow, I’ll ride him like a wild Indian.

The morning shows up and knocks on my window like a redbird pecking at his own reflection and I know that Pa has already put in a half of days of work. Pa’s a real good man and a real good farmer. Gallasses help to hold up his pants, since he got ruptured on a bucking horse early on. Pa said, “That horse swallered his head n’all. I must’a had the reins too tight.” Pa keeps going like nothing ever happened. He doesn’t believe in “bellyaching.” He says, “Thar ain’t no room fer it.” The sound of no bellyaching is music to my ears. That’s one thing I’m glad there ain’t no room for.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

 

Pluck- daily word prompt