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Dear Diary (June 10-12)
Saturday, June 10, 2023
After piddling around in the yard for a few hours this morning, I drove over to Trinity Church for a family reunion. It was the “Ware” side of course. The only side of the family that can successfully get together without a shooting or a stabbing. But even without the threat of physical violence, I knew it would be lively and someone would likely end up dog cussing a cousin before it was over. I was right. Nancy’s son, Josh, was miffed because he traveled 5 hours and made it on time, while his sister, April, was late despite living a stone’s throw from the church. I don’t know who started the argument, but before Uncle Roy and given thanks for the fried chicken those two were already tossing expletives across the buffet table like hand grenades. Everyone else did the polite thing and just started making conversation about the fresh tomatoes in hopes of drowning out the blasphemies erupting down by the turnip greens.
But we all had a good time despite ourselves. I got to catch up with cousin Hugh Lee, the Keeper of the Family Story. Every year I learn a little bit more about this crazy clan of ours. This year was no different. When I noticed an old man sitting near the back door deep in conversation with a plastic fern, I asked Hugh Lee who he was and if he was ok. “That’s your great uncle Ott. I reckon he’s fine, but he’s always been a bit peculiar.”
“Has he always been in the habit of conversing with potted plants?” I asked.
Hugh Lee shook his head, “Nah. He started that when they took his cats away from him.”
“Cats?” I said.
“Yeah. For the last 20 years or so Uncle Ott lived down on Moffet’s Bluff in an old yellow school bus with about 37 feral cats.”
“Why in the world did he do that?”
“He liked school buses, I reckon.”
That’s when I decided it would probably be pointless to press for further details.
The food was good as usual. We took some pictures and took bets on who wouldn’t be in the shot next year. Then we said our goodbyes and went home. I love my people.
Sunday, June 11, 2023
The dog woke me up around 4 A.M. barking at a biscuit he had hidden under the bed but then found himself too short-legged to reach. So I fetched it and put it in his food bowl in the living room. At 4:45 I was awakened again. This time the biscuit was behind the commode. Not wanting to lose any more sleep over three-day-old biscuits, I put Peanut outside. But by 5:03, the dog had posted himself right outside my bedroom window and commenced barking again. Presumably because there were no baked goods to be found outdoors.
“Just as well get up,” I said to myself. So I made some coffee and sat down in the recliner to say morning prayer before showering and heading to church. I fell back asleep somewhere around the Glory Be, then woke with a start, ran through the shower, and barely made it to church before the sermon commenced.
After service, I hurried over to Grandmother’s for dinner. This is always a highlight of the week. I will miss these times sooner rather than later. Then, just as I was about to walk out the door to head back home, Grandmother stopped me and said, “I’ve got a ziploc bag full of biscuits for Peanut. I know how he likes them.” Thanks, Grandmother. Who needs sleep anyway.
Monday, June 12, 2023
After finishing up a bit of writing, I decided I’d get the mowing done before it rained. Since I only have a push mower and have to wrestle it across nearly two acres, I let this count as “Leg Day.” I still had a good bit of daylight left after giving the yard a haircut so I loaded up the dog and went for a drive. We rode around GP Lake with the windows rolled down; Peanut with his tongue hanging halfway over the side mirror, and me singing along to songs I grew up on. Everything from the Possum to the Platters. But no “Bro Country,” which is all hat and no cattle.
Just then, despite the good weather, I found that a cloud had gathered over my soul. It occurred to me, between potholes in the patchwork asphalt, that pretty much every singer I really liked was dead. Too few even remember them now, much less the important dates like the day that Clayton Delaney died. So I rode around longer than I had planned, singing the songs of the dead. Hoping to keep them alive for a little while longer.
I drove until well after dark. Until the cab of my truck was half filled with lightning bugs sparking across the dashboard. Until the bone face of the moon staring down on those country roads made them shine like an oil slick bubbling up between the Arkansas pines. But I was in no hurry. Nighttime is my favorite time of day. Everything grows quiet, and I can hear myself think. The chickens go to roost, then God tucks the world in and sets about preparing a new morning and freshly made mercies.
The world was asleep but I wasn’t quite ready to join it, so I grabbed my well-worn copy of Lonesome Dove. In addition to being one of my favorites, the novel is also as thick as an Augusta brick. So I knew that before long I would feel its weight pressing down on my eyelids. The last thing I remember is Gus and Call setting out towards Montana with a herd of cattle and saddlebags full of dreams.