If you have come late for my childhood memory hoedown, then you can read Parts 1 & 2 here. Everyone else, grab your partner dos-i-do. Spin her around, to and fro . . . or at least into this final part.
Y’all come on back to read my youngling’s tale? Oh, y’all wanted some more’n that muskrat. Well, sit on down and pull up a plate. I got me some chicken-fried muskrat steaks a-cooking in bacon grease inside that cast iron skillet there. Make y’all self comfortable. I’ll finish my tale. Y’all can listen if y’all want, or just flip-on through the newspaper ‘til the steaks are ready.
So where’n was I? Oh, there I was . . . fully clothed while a-swimming in dirty creek water doing my doggie-paddle with my eyes closed. Sure’n I was almost nearing that high creek wall, thinking I had more’n ‘nuff air in my lil’ ol’ lungs to make it, when I felt something gone brushing up against my face. Y’all probably be thinking, “Why’s, Michelle! That ain’t nothing but some lil’ froggy toad sharing the watery fun with y’all.”
Yah, it could’ve been . . . if y’all was living in one of those Am-a-zon places where’n y’all can find all types of ex-o-tic critters in strange shapes and toads could-a been long and slithering, like what this here critter felt like. But this here story of mine didn’t happen in no tro-pi-cal woods. This here happened in the valley in ‘slvania. And this here critter weren’t no stretchy long toad.
In my mind, this felt like a snake.
Why’s my mouth gone popped all open in surprise as I scrambled back. Hard to do when y’all underwater with eyes closed. But when y’all swam with a snake, y’all pretty much could go all out to sprout gills and dig up through those creek walls to get away if y’all could. The air all trapped in my mouth blew out and the dirty water took its place. Yet I was close ‘nuff to the water’s surface and the creek wall where’n I burst up coughing and clawing my way out.
Everyone saw how all frantic fuss I be making trying to get to flat dry ground. I fell back-flat on the grass, staring up into those tree leaves seeing the sun moving on ‘cross the blue sky. When finally my sputtering stopped, I looked at all them staring. “I felt something slither across my nose.”
I’d never seen so many people go scrambling back from that creek. Billy and Mike climbed all up. Don’t know why since they be on the other side of the dam. They a-gathered ‘round, getting themselves into a fuss ‘bout my words.
“There’s no way it could’ve been a snake.”
“But I’ve heard of water snakes.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t just a leaf?”
“She said it was long and slithering. Could it have been a twig?”
“I’m not jumping back in!”
Well, I sure’n was the person who said that last statement. And it all sort-of convinced them that there was something a-lurking underneath that creek water. I’ll admit to y’all now, what I felt underneath there could-a been a twig, maybe stirred up from the muddy bottom by our KER-SPLOOSHING. But I still come ‘round thinking that I’ve never met myself any twig floating sideways ‘cross the bridge of my nose drifting that fast. It slithered, no doubt about it.
No one felt like going back down into the creek today. The sun was moving fast through the sky anyway. While my sibs go a-heading on home, dry though Mike’s hands covered with mud that he planned on using the garden hose to squirt on off, I had myself a big ol’ problem. My clothes dripped all wet through, even down to my de-lic-ate things I’m not all going to mention here. I was a sure’n to get a good ol’ scolding from my Mama and my butt whooped on by my Pa’s belt.
I went with Cher on back to her house, standing in the tub while talking a shower. Still had my clothes on. Naw, I ain’t being daffy. My clothes were wet and MUDDY. Had to get the mud off. After that, Cher used her Mama’s hair dryer along my clothes. They ain’t own no regular dryer. When all toasty warm, I took to my heels a-heading on back home. Walked from her house and straight down that corn path humming to myself.
Yah, y’all heard me right. I trotted through those corn fields without nary a fraidy-shake thinking those leaves going to do me some evil. Heck, I just went all creek swimming with snakes. Ain’t nothing left to be all scaredy-cat that could be a-lurking in this corn field.
I passed by that corn, that bunker with its slingy-shot machine, and that ratty couch ready for those burping men. Ducked my body through the hedgerow and stood in my backyard, peeking eyes ‘round at them hills surrounding this place.
This here, it was true valley life.
And now, if y’all can put the newspaper away, y’all chicken-fried muskrat steak be ready.
Note: Dear Angie over at Gumbo Writer has very special news to the bloggy community. Since I'm all for supporting people in this community, I wanted to share.
You are cordially invited to attend an "open house" beginning Wednesday, October 14, in honor of the newly renovated Rose &Thorn Journal: http://www.roseandthornjournal.com/
Drop by, sign up for the newsletter, check out the new digs (and blog!), follow us on Twitter and Facebook, leave us your comments/thoughts, and wish us well!
Rose &Thorn is a quarterly literary journal featuring the voices of emerging and established authors, poets and artists.
Now...go enjoy the open bar and appetizer spread!
Angie Ledbetter &Kathryn Magendie
Rose & Thorn Journal