Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Family Thing

I went up to Heber Springs to my cousin's house for Thanksgiving. It was the usual excellent event with plenty to eat, a bunch of kids running around and a golden retriever named Max. Norman Rockwell couldn't make this scene any more wholesome.

After the repast, people do different things. Some folks take a nap, some folks help clean up, some folks watch the football game and some folks fuck around with firearms. My brothers Dave and John, along with Uncle Howard and my cousin's husband Steve went out in front of the house where the cars were parked over to Dave's car. He had some stuff he wanted to show Steve.

The trunk of Dave's Buick was stuffed to the gills with handguns, a rifle, boxes of ammunition and bottles of whiskey. I don't think that my brother has taken to bootlegging or running guns and I don't think he has joined the militia. But he had a small arsenal back there for some reason that was by no means clear. But I am not one to ask questions of heavily armed men.

He gave Steve a .22 rifle that I believe was mine originally. Brother Bob believes that the scope on the spiteful little gun was his originally. I don't really remember and I don't much care. Steve seemed to be pleased with his new toy despite its provenance and, besides, I don't ask questions of heavily armed men.

Back in the house, one of the uncles said he saw driving in that Cousin Willard had a "For Sale" sign out in front of the pasture beside the old home place. This generated much discussion around the table as the consensus among the local folks was that Willard doesn't exactly own that land that he was offering to the public. His brother owned that land or so they thought. They turned to me to ask " Can he do that?"

"Well," I said. Being a lawyer, I always preface any opinion on the law, no matter how insignificant with "Wellllll." It helps create an illusion of gravitas.

" I could give you a quitclaim deed to the State Capitol," I said. "I would be just deeding you my interest which is zero. But this is why title insurance is part of God's plan."

I didn't say that if Willard told me the sun was coming up that I would have to call the National Weather Service to verify it. I didn't have to seeing who was the topic of conversation.

Mother always felt sorry for Willard, who bounced around doing various odd jobs throughout his career, from selling insurance to being the cook at the Cleburne County Jail. There was no word as to whether he was working off a sentence or what effect his culinary skills had on the local crime rate.

Anyway, Mother once told me back when I was in college that the reason Willard couldn't work was because he had narcolepsy which requires him to sleep during the day. This condition was the product of some rural mishap that occurred to him when he was a boy. Either the mule kicked him in the head or the barn fell on him or some shit.

"Gee Mom," I said. "And to think that I always thought he slept a lot because he drank beer for breakfast."

Oh, Willard is harmless enough. Except for the time he damn near killed his crazy wife from California.

Willard was married at one time to this very interesting woman from California named Anna. I don't know how Willard met her, much less talked her into moving to Quitman, but she lived there with her teenaged son. I never saw either one of them when they weren't wearing black. They were Goth back around 1985 before Goth had hit Arkansas.

Anyway, my brother John traveled rural Arkansas a lot for his job in those days and he decided to make a pit stop over at Willard's one day while blowing through town. When he got out he saw Willard standing on the porch with a shotgun. The picture window behind him was completely blown out.

Willard told John that it accidentally went off while he was cleaning it. Coincidentally, he just happened to be cleaning his shotgun on the other side of the window beneath which Anna was lying on the couch inside watching the stories as she did every afternoon.

Willard swore up and down it was an accident, that he really, really didn't know there was a round of buckshot in there despite the fact that he had handled guns all his life and knew better than to clean a gun he hadn't emptied first.

Oddly enough, Anna and her son left the next day. Willard never heard from her again until she served him with the divorce papers. Willard didn't say much about it except that he was impressed that he got a Summons from all the way from California.

Swapping such heartwarming family tales, as always, is a highlight of Thanksgiving. I'll save the one about one of the uncles evicting the tenant in the old home place one fine Christmas Eve with a .357 for next month.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you have an "interesting" family.

Anonymous said...

Shoot -- you sure are a bang up good writer...hands down, or uh, hands up I guess.

Sula said...

shoot-- you sure are a banging good story teller-- hands down! Or uh, hands up I guess.

Anonymous said...

The image of men standing around a car on a crisp fall day is comforting and yet strange. Seeing that cirlce of heads bowed in conversation and shoulders turned against the chill brings me the warmth of a hundred familiy memories. But it is a club to which I can never belong. I can put on a warm coat and join the circle, but the conversation will change or stop all together. So instead I watch from the living room or the kitchen and love fills me so that I can barely breath.