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

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

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

My kidnapped baby sister

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Cono, age four

My insides feel shaky. I know all this nose blowing is my fault. I run to my room and get Tiger Stick and run back outside to sit in the dirt. Tiger and me dig around and around in that dry soil, hoping we’ll dig deep enough to find Delma. Then I fill the hole with the water from my own eyes.

I go back in and see Aunt Nolie loading up her coffee with more sugar. She clinks her spoon round and round the coffee cup just like I did with Tiger in the front yard. Her eyes stare inside the cup like they’re waiting for an answer to jump out and into the saucer.

“Let’s call up Cleave Barnes,” says Aunt Nolie. “If anybody can help, it’ll be Cleave.”

“Why Cleave?” asks Mother, lighting another cigarette.

“Cleave’s earned his money robbin’ banks.” She turns to me and says, “Cono, he doesn’t do it all the time and never around Ranger.” She back to talking to me again.

Then back to Mother she says, “Remember, he’s the one who taught Wayne how to use a gun.”

Aunt Nolie turns to me again and says, “He hardly ever took it with him on a robbery ‘cause he never wanted to hurt nobody. He jes’t needed the money s’all.” She keeps on.

“But he learned how to be real smart in his scoutin’ and escapin’ from the law. So, if someone’s gonna Commit a crime, all Cleave has te do is think like a criminal.”

Mother goes straight to the phone and calls Cleave. A few more cups of coffee later there’s a knock on the door, a sound more like a present than the banging of knuckles on a wooden door.

Mother opens the door fast, like she’s trying to shoo out a family of rats before they run back into the walls. Cleave walks in and gives her a little pat on the back. He didn’t look at all like the wild animal with scary eyes and holding on to scars fitting for a robber’s badge. He’s shorter than my Dad’s five foot eleven inches. His arms are skinny of muscle too. I can’t see how he’s gonna help at all. Dad could whup him faster than a heart beats at the first sign of trouble.

Cleave gives a hat’s off greeting and sits at the table taking the cup of coffee that Aunt Nolie gives him. He offers Mother another cigarette before lighting his own.

After listening to the kidnapping story, he makes one short click on the left side of his cheek like Ike does when he’s pondering something. I like that. I like that a lot. He might be good at finding my baby sister after all.

Finally, he says, “Don’t you worry none, Elnora. If he’s anywhere nearby, we’ll find him, and we’ll get yer baby back.”

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper

Daily word prompt: Commit

Robbers in my kitchen

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Cono and his sister, Delma

Dad clenched his fist and his jaw at the same time. “Show me a woman with long nails and I’ll show ya a lazy woman.” Mother ignores his comment but finishes up, putting the lid back on.

“Damn that shit stinks,” he says, staring at the polish Bottle. “Ya’ll go on to bed now,” he tells Delma and me.

“But it ain’t…”

“I said git to bed!”

“It’s early Wayne…”

“I’m havin’ company, Elnora. You need to go on too. I’m havin’ a business meetin’.”

Delma and I go to our room and she has no trouble falling asleep. For me it’s just too early and my body and head want more things to do.

After a little while, I hear men’s voices come in through our door. I hear Dad tell them to sit down at the table. I hear the sound of coffee brewing on the stove.

“I don’t want any part of it, Earl,” says Dad.

“But Marshal Dry will be in on it and he’ll make sure we get in and out of there without a hitch, ain’t that right J.D.?”

Then I knew who was sitting at my dinner table, the very table I’d sat under just the night before. It was Mr. J.D. Eckles himself, the outlaw from Ranger and Joe and Earl Adams, the outlaws from Rotan. I peek out of the little hole in my door and get to see pieces of their faces.

J.D. says, “Williams Drug Store is across from the bank. When we’re done with that, I can back up my truck and load up the narcotics.”

Now I know what they’re planning to do. They’re planning to rob our town’s bank, the bank where H. works. I picture H. just doing his job, cleaning and sweeping, when men come in with guns ready to shoot. I don’t like it. Not one iota.

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

Daily word prompt: Bottle