A Mule for Billy
My one and only foray into anything even resembling Texana. Don’t panic. There is no Chapter 2.
Chapter 1. Growin’ Up ‘n Plantville
When I wuz growin’ up ever day Ma ‘ud yell “Billy, come inta dinner, yuh hear NOW!” and I’d yell back, “Cain’t, Ma! I’m whittlin’! Cain’t yuh see I’m whittlin’!” So I’d go on whittlin’ like as the devil’ud take me, out behind the barn by the stump where Granpa had his stroke ‘n turned all blue durin’ the big drought everbody still talks bout till they’s just bout as blue in the face as he wuz. There warn’t much ter do in Plantville back when I wuz growin’ up and I’d whittle, Lord, did I whittle.
“Billy, if yore pore dad wuz still kickin’ he’d whale the tar outa you now c’mon ta dinner, yuh hear boy?”
Guess I shud mebbee mention my ole man done gone like crazy bad back fore I really knew ‘im and mebbee that’s why I’m such a “prollum case,” whatever that means, I wuz too young ter know ennythin’ then but Lordy do they still go on here in Plantville bout when Larry Crucker done shot up the Dairy Queen and kilt fourteen people and then the cops had ter come and blow ‘im clean away right in the parkin’ lot a Lordy! Shore as ennythin’ I still drive his ole red pickup with the bullet holes innit and people do talk specially the preacher but peoples round here do have long memries makes you wonder and all, specially when they see that truck aroarin’ inta the DQ parkin’ lot at two in the mornin’, straight pipes a’burstin’ with a rumblin’ and a groanin’ you ain’t never like ter hear in yore life.
So I’d whittle all day long like a cow that’s a’bleatin’, out in Plantville, now that’s a fur piece from nowhere, out behind the barn next ter the ole’ elm tree that ‘ud seen better days, diggin’ the dirt with my boots dry as dust cause that’s what it wuz, no rain evermore, Lordy, and thar warn’t never much ter do in Plantville so I’d whittle. Me, Ma swore I wuz a “prollum case” leastmost goin’ on like twenty times a day, just cause my Pa he got blowed away in a parkin’ lot by Plattville’s finest fores I evers got ta know ‘im, leastaways they said so, ‘n I wuz always respectful-like ter Ma but deep down you know I must sorter wanted her ter stop sayin’ all that and so mebbee I dint lissen as much as I should. Lordy I din’t get but a thimbleful of whatever she said but whenever I wuzn’t whittlin,’ why I’d take my daddy’s shotgun down ter the crick and blow frogs ter little bitty pieces, now you know mamas get ter worryin’ bout their boys when they blow frogs into little bitty pieces, anyway Uncle Jerry’n me ‘ud go down ter the crick and blow frogs ter pieces and Ma, well, Ma wuz Ma and din’t like it one bit and I cain’t say I blame ‘er.
But oh could she holler “Billy, stop yer whittlin’ and come ta dinner, boy!” Sho nuff it ‘ud take her nigh on twenty minutes ter get me in from muh whittlin’, and that’s mainly cuz whittlin’ works up an appetite and a boy’s got ter eat, don’t he, specially in Plantville where the horses are rangier than a bird flyin’ straight through the front room window and out the back door, never knowin’ it wuz in a house it flew through, ‘cause we only had one room for all six of us, and the bird din’t have much time ter look round. Course sometimes I wondered if that lone bird didn’t want ter stop cause it knew my Pa Larry blew away fourteen citizens like includin’ the preacher’s wife and all and the bird din’t want ter impose itself like unto the word of God and all. Course Uncle Jerry knew about bein’ blowed away hisself, cause he been blowed up hisself once with dynamite and so he knew what he wuz talkin’ bout.
Fact is, Jerry only got his leg blowed off, down at the lumber mill on Hopeless Highway, but he made it around Plantville real good like with his cane. Then he teached me ter whittle. He din’t have ter do it, but I allus figgered he like don’t got nothin’ better ter do with a blowed up leg than I reckon ter teach me his onlysome nephew like ter whittle. He taught me ter shoot ‘n trap ‘n hunt and I reckon I never knew my Pa, though Ma would say I wuz his spittin’ image, but Uncle Jerry taught me everthin’. We’d whittle back behind the barn and Uncle Jerry’d get all quiet like. Then he’d sing:
c’mon you cows,
hello, all you cows,
better not drowse
So on this particalar day it’s like hotter ‘n chickens and I comes in from whittlin’ and tell Ma downright slow and evenlike: “Ma, Uncle Jerry got a whittlin’ contest up in Fricko termorrow. Says I got the right best whittles darn near ‘un than ennebody, and I otter go show my whittles around if I’m ever gone ter be a man.” So Ma sorta shakes her head downright lonely, but sorter wise in her own way I reckon, and says, “Well, boys gotta whittle, boys gotta become men sooners or laters, just you be right careful, son.” So me and Jerry get inta the big red pickup with mebbee a coupla hundirt bullet holes, that’s how much it took the law ter waste muh Pa, and we drive like two snakes sunnin’ on the McCracker bridge at noon and scurryin’ out from under Mr. Parson’s milk truck afore they get squashed and we head ter the Whittlin’ Festival and this is where Aunt Hilda comes in.
copyright 2010 Michael D. Smith
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