A cold eastern wind blew through my frosted pasture, its icy fingers raked at my soul and sent shivers down my spine. I live in a wind tunnel, oft times the wind howls like some demonic entity set upon a world that none can see.
As you can plainly see, I am a writer by trade. I have lived my whole life in the woods. Howling winds, frost bitten landscapes, black water sloughs and muddy rivers make up the bulk of my life, and my stories.
My existence is one of silence and solace. It may not seem like much, but it’s all I have left in the world. The clack of the keys on my old HP laptop is the only sound that reverberates through my small cabin.
Daily, I sit in my cabin and punch words onto a piece of digital paper in order to unburden my soul. “Get a woman,” people have told me. “You need a big ole gal,” they said, “that way you’ll have warmth in the winter and shade in the summer.” My Uncle T told me that at the start of my twenties.
Like an idiot, I heeded his advice. I knew better to listen to my uncle. He was a notorious outlaw, a moonshiner, and as he had told it, a high-class redneck.
He also had loved one woman his whole life. If the rumors held true, she had settled him down and made a good man of him. If what I witnessed throughout my young life was good behavior from him, then I am at a loss to describe what he must have been like before her influence.
As you can see through the fond recollection of my Uncle T, his antics are legendary and timeless. From one kin to the next, we all share stories of his deeds.
My uncle is dead and gone. He lived a long life, up to age 98, and he remained a rascal to his dying day. His memory lives on through our stories, never to be forgotten, and there is no denying the imprint he left on our hearts.
I come from a long line of storytellers, not liars, good people who live to make you laugh, and can exaggerate the most minute detail of ordinary life into some grand adventure. My grandfather and dad spring to mind when it comes to storytelling.
My grandfather, my Uncle T’s brother, could spin a tale better than anyone I knew. He’d get you going one way, and then spin it around until you got dizzy trying to keep up with him. I heard tell that folk called him a runt, but only once or twice. For all his easygoing, laid-back ways, my Pawpaw had no issue with fighting anyone.
He wasn’t tall, and people tended to underestimate him because of the size difference. What they didn’t know but came to understand, was that what he lacked in size, he made up for in meanness.
I was just a tyke, but he would sit me on a washtub and tell me stories. We watched baseball and The Three Stooges. When he got irritated, he would whistle. Some days, he sounded like a boiling tea kettle.
People all over the world knew him as Barefoot. Like Uncle T, he left a hole in our hearts that could never be filled.
The wind has continued to howl like some otherworldly banshee unleashed on Christmas Eve. I have two flags on my porch, one being the American flag, the other is a First Cavalry Division flag. Both my father and I served with distinction in said division. My father served in the Air Cav, 2nd Squadron, Seventh Cavalry. I served in 1st Squadron, Seventh Cavalry. My dad fought in Vietnam, I fought in Iraq.
We did our duty, and that’s all we will say about it. Our deeds, like the antics of kith and kin, are timeless. I suppose one day some talking head will discuss it. Then we will either be judged heroic or shameful. Either way, I could care less. We went when others chose to sit it out in the relative safety of home.
You could always tell when my dad would spin a story. It usually began with a quick flash of a grin or a sly mischievous smile. His eyes twinkled with mischief. He had a quip for every situation. For example, if you injured yourself, he would roll his eyes and mutter, “I’ve had worse things in my eye.” Or if someone made an outlandish claim he would say, “that dude is on some decon.” Which was his way of saying the person was smoking the ‘wacky tobaccy’.
As I commented earlier, my family history is filled with people who told stories, most of which involved them in various antics that many would consider illegal nowadays. Maybe.
I apologize for stopping, not that you the reader even knew I had stopped until just now when I made this sentence. Still, I am sorry. It’s Christmas Eve in North Mississippi. The wind has whipped and howled the whole day. The sun has set, and the wind has refused to let up for even a smidgen.
My mom and I live hours from the remnants of our family. Days like today are hard to bear. As Christians, we claim that the reason for the season is the birth of Jesus Christ. Me and mom split the cost of a ham, and she went all out from there. She put out a vegetable tray, a cheese tray, field peas, chicken tenders, and other goodies.
Then, we opened the stockings. The holidays are strange for us though. All that remains of our immediate family is my mother, my brother and myself. We’re blessed to have so many other kin that checks on us, sends us cards, and stays in contact via social media.
As is usual here in the southern states, I ate way too much, way to quickly. I left mom’s house feeling like a bloated whale. When you live alone, and I can only speak from my experience, and you come home to an empty house, it seems a bit abnormal.
Mom and I conversed about various things, today for instance, we reminisced about the past. Ever so often, mom recounts my dad picking me up in Colorado and bringing me home to visit.
Somewhere around Oklahoma, I got struck by a hunger pang. “Dad, if you’ll pull over, I’ll buy us lunch.” My dad shook his head and put his hand up like he always did when he wanted us to hush. “I ain’t got time to stop. Look under the seat, there are some Beanie-Weenies. Eat them.”
What my father failed to tell me is that the meal he provided me had been in his truck since the last hunting season. After I ate three cans, my stomach informed me that we needed to stop.
“Dad, pull over and let me out. I’ve gotta go.” He shook his head and put his hand up again. “I ain’t got time…” My stomach did flip flops like clothes in a dryer at a laundromat, and my temper got the better of me I’m sad to admit. “You can stop, or you can wear it, make your choice.”
He stopped, and I managed to make it into the stall. However, many years passed before I stopped in Dumas, Texas for any reason. My father and mother got a kick out of the story, and for many years it remained a source of embarrassment for yours truly.
But that is how timeless memories are made. At least that is how they’re made in my family. We haven’t always had money to buy gifts and such, but we’ve had each other and that is the most important thing about Christmas.
I suppose I could end this piece of writing without telling a Christmas tale, but that is akin to coming home to an empty house. It’s abnormal.
As a lad I had epilepsy. Somewhere in the neighborhood of Thanksgiving or the first couple of weeks of December in 1980-something, I had an extensive stay in the hospital.
“Son, what do you want for Christmas?”
“A blue 24-inch Huffy bicycle, mom.”
The doctor had told my mum and dad that I would never recover from epilepsy. “He can’t do what other kids can do. A bicycle is out of the question.” My mum and dad prayed that God would heal me, and they continued to ask about the bicycle, unbeknownst to me. My parents sat me down and explained what the doctor had said. Every night I crossed my fingers and asked God to bring me that bicycle.
After my extended stay at the hospital and after many tests, my dad and brother picked me up.
“Where do you want to go eat, Possum?”
“The Biscuit Kitchen, daddy.”
My dad drove through and ordered us breakfast. In our home we didn’t miss church. Christmas Eve fell on that Sunday, I remember that part clearly, and we went to church. Sunday evening, we all went back for service. When we came home, I was the first one through the door. In the middle of the living room sat my brand new blue 24-inch Huffy bicycle. My mouth fell open, and I shouted, “Santa Claus is real!”
I’m nearly half a century old, and if I’m asked if I believe in Santa the answer is no. However, I do have one word for memories such as this….