Too much spur

Dad says that Mr. Posey “is richer’n four feet up a bull’s butt.” But he doesn’t act anything like Uncle Will McCleskey. He’d never pull me off a horse with a walking stick, even if he had one.

Most of the time, we even get to have supper with them and since Mr. Posey talks almost as slow as Hoover, supper conversations take a long time. At least Dad isn’t doing us any harm while we’re here. Mr. Posey doesn’t go off half-cocked like Dad does. He doesn’t hit his wife or Hoover, so I guess Dad doesn’t want to be the only one who clobbers two outta three of his family members.

Hoover asked me to ride out with him on a couple of their horses. I was supposed to be chopping wood, but the idea of riding sounded like chocolate cake. We had a good time riding around their property. It made me think of riding with Ike, the sound of hooves, the click of his left cheek. I sure do miss him.

We were trotting along just fine until my horse swallowed his head and threw me off into a prickly pear cactus. I landed on my right hand and it smarted something awful.

“Cono,” said Hoover, “ I…think….you… gave…him…just…a little….too much…spur.” And right then, my laughter took over my pain.

Since then, I’ve been trying to hide my bad hand from Dad so he won’t catch on that I’d played hooky from my wood chopping. For the last couple of days I’ve even been chopping wood with my left hand until my right one starts to feel better. It’s safer that way.

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

Prickle- daily word prompt

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

The Devil’s Horns

1931: Busted Toothbrushes and Beaten Backsides

I stack up these Devil’s Horns, so I can see how high they’ll go up before they all fall back down again. Here at Ma and Pa’s farm just outside of Ranger where we’re living now, Devil’s Horns are everywhere. They started out as pink wild flowers, but always end up looking like a dry piece of horned wood. I like to match them up to see if any of them are exactly the same. I try to find the small ones, the middle-sized ones, and then the biggest, the King of all Devil’s Claws. So far, they all seem about the same, so I just keep stacking them up. Sometimes, if you ain’t paying any attention, one will snag you around your ankle and make you think you’ve been bitten by a ratt’ler. I like to collect Devil’s Horns, but I can’t bring them in the house ‘cause Dad says, “Their ain’t no room in the house for more weeds.”

“Cono? Cono? Where the hell are ya?” Like Ma says, speak of the Devil.

“Over here,” I say, getting up and dusting off my britches.

“I got ya somethin’ today.”

Dad never brings me nothing. Ever. Not even a stick of chewing gum. But now he’s standing in front of me, dressed as always in his khakis and clean short-sleeved button down shirt. His big hand reaches into the sack from Adams Grocers and pulls out a brand new toothbrush. I’ve seen Mother and Dad use one before, so I guess that I must be big enough now to use one too, since I’m a big brother and all. I want to show Dad how grown up I am.

I look at that shiny white Toothbrush like it’s a precious jewel, like I should be saving it for a Sunday.

“Well now, go ahead on. Give it a shot.” I stick it in my mouth and chomp on it like it’s one of Ma’s old biscuits. I hear a crack. The handle comes out, but the brush part stays in.

Dad can catch a housefly in one hand without blinking, so it shouldn’t have surprised me none that his open palm slams fast across my face.

As I put my hand to my face he says, “Oh fer cryin’ out loud, Cono! I’ll swannin’, ye bit it in two! Can’t ye do…”

I don’t hear the rest of what he’s saying, since he’s walking away from me shaking his head back and forth. Half of my face stinging like it’s been resting on a yeller-jacket’s nest. The other half just feels sorry. How can you build up something so high, just to watch it fall down so hard? With the brush part still inside my mouth and its handle still in my hand, I think maybe I’m not so big after all. I guess I’ve found the baby Devil’s Claw after all. It’s me. I’m the baby.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper, my father’s story.

 

Toothbrush– daily word prompt

Tellin’ it like it was

I’ve never been to jail nor do I plan to ever go. Growing up sometimes, I felt like I was in jail just from living under the same roof as Dad. I can’t imagine being all boxed in like that. I’d think the roof was coming down to cover me up.

When I found out about what Sheriff P.V. Hail had done, it made me outright mad. Not because of my Dad, but because of Ike. It wasn’t until Dad’s jail time that I found out about something else that happened to Ike long before.

P.V. had caught Ike staggering around Rotan like a drunk man, which he was. Ike wasn’t hurting anybody. He was just bleeding his lizard on Main Street. Instead of arresting Ike and putting him in the jailhouse to sleep it off, he beat the shit out of him first. I hated hearing that. I hated hearing that anyone could treat my grandfather with such little respect. I think it’s because P.V. suffered from small man’s disease. He was so short, he could have made a good butt doctor.

Dad had been drinking coffee in Rotan’s cafe, trying to sober up a bit before he came home. After the waitress brought him his sugar she said, “I’ll be right back with a spoon.”

“Don’t need no spoon,” Dad said. Then he reached into the back of his britches, brought out his pistol and started stirring his coffee with it.

Needless to say, that waitress called the sheriff. When Dad walked outta that café, P.V. was pointing his own gun straight up at Dad’s forehead.

Dad was smart enough not to put up a fight. Instead he put up his hands and told him where the gun was. P.V. took the gun then took his time, patting him down. Then P.V. got real low like he was checking Dad’s ankles, but he was really getting down out of the line of fire. That’s when Dad noticed one of P.V.’s deputy’s standing behind a truck about a hundred feet away and cross hairing a rifle straight at him. If Dad wanted to, he could have plucked up his gun and killed them both before they’d had time to blink. Instead, Dad just nodded at the deputy and smiled as if to say, “If ya planned on ambushin’ me, ya should’a Hidden yourself a little better.”

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper, my father’s story

 

Daily Word Prompt: Hidden

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

Shootin’ Sunshine

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Cono Dennis, my father

Here I go again, on the way back to Sweetwater. Not to get a donkey but to shoot Sunshine, My Only Sunshine.

Driving down the highway, Aunt Nolie doesn’t talk much, at least not with her mouth. She clutches that steering wheel like she’s about to squeeze all the Texas sand and Grit out of it and that’s a whole conversation in itself.

We finally get to Sweetwater and park in front of the Lucky Star Bar.

“Cono, ye wait right here.”

“OK,” I say, since I’ve already met the woman, who’s about to be shot anyway.

I sit in the car, again. I watch the people come and go, again, except this time, the ones that had been going were coming and the ones that had been coming were now going. I wait for the sound of a gunshot, the sound I’ve become familiar with when I hunt with my dad. I wait alright ‘cause there’s nothing else for me to do.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

 

daily word prompt: Grit