Saturday, June 14, 2003

Rainy Morning

Uncle Billy woke about 5:30 as he always did. He hadn't used the old wind up "Big Ben" alarm clock for years. Aunt Del used to use it when there was a holiday to cook for or if it was calfin' time. She would set it every couple of hours to get up and check on the mama cow. These days Uncle Billy had his internal alarm set from scores of years of farm work. Funny how even though a feller didn't need to get up his body woke up at the same ol' time, day after day.

As he lay there in the same ol' brass bed he had slept in since him and Aunt Del had taken up housekeepin', he heard the rain fallin' onto the tin roof. The sound made a constant drummin' that would lull him right back to sleep if he weren't careful.

"It must be a rainin' hard for them birds not to be stirrin'" he thought. There was a big holly bush outside his open window and usually the birds nestin' in it would sing "good mornin'" to him 'bout this time each day.

Every now an' agin thunder crashed up over the hills surroundin' the holler where his ramblin' cabin sat. It weren't no big ol' storm. Just one that pleasantly rumbled and flashed just to keep things lively. The rain was constant, though.

When he reached across the bed for a pillow to prop himself up, Old Dog's tail started thumpin' in time to the rain. Old Dog looked up without movin' his sorry head. That dog knew the easiest way to do anything. No wasted motion for him.

"Old Dog, I reckon we'uns might just lay her for a while yet. I don't figure y'all will want to get yer sorry ol' backside wet doin' yer business in the rain."

Old Dog thumped his tail harder as if to agree. Other than that tail there weren't a muscle movin.

Uncle Billy pulled the quilts up closer to his neck and put his specs back on the side table. He reckoned he'd close his eyes for just a bit longer.

At 6:45 his eyes opened and he sat up quickly. "Well, we have done slept all day. Why'd ya let me lay here this long? I'm gonna have to get shet of ya if'n I can't depend on ya to wake me." He rubbed Old Dog's head hard as he chuckled.

Now, years ago Aunt Del would bring Uncle Billy a washpan full of hot water, a washrag and a towel. He'd wash up right there in the bedroom so he wouldn't have to parade through the cabin half dressed. That offended Aunt Del's manners, ya see. These days they was a bathroom an' Uncle Billy was by himself an' didn't much worry 'bout offendin' Old Dog's manners so he strolled into the bathroom in his drawers.

He remembered coffee and wandered into the kitchen to start a pot... then back to wash up. He carefully lathered his face with his shavebrush and shaved with the same straight razor he had used for years. Wasn't a day went by that he didn't shave. It were just the proper thing to do.

A couple of eggs fried in bacon grease, store bought biscuits in the oven and a little ham meat fried just before the eggs an' Uncle Billy was set. He added some jelly an' butter to his biscuits. He still had mason jars full of jellies and preserves Aunt Del put up several years ago. He would have sweetnin' till the day he died, he reckoned.

Everything was carried out to the porch an' Uncle Billy settled in to eat an' watch the rain. Now an' again a truck or ol' car would wander by and Uncle Billy would throw up a hand. He would holler a greetin' if he knew the folks.

Hap Collins stopped in the road and leaned over to roll the window down, "How in the world are ye, Uncle Billy?"

Uncle Billy got up and walked to the end of the porch with his ever present coffee cup. "Fine as frog hair, Hap. You?"

"Gettin' by, gettin' by."

"Ever'one OK over to your place?"

"Yessir, Uncle Billy. They is doin' fine. Mama is mighty poorly, though. We are a goin' over to London to see her come Saturday, I reckon."

"Tell her howdy for me. Tell her I might come a courtin'."

Hap laughed, "Now that would perk her up, I gar-untee. I don't know if I'd be a wantin' ye as a Daddy, though. I've seen ye at the supper table. Mama might starve."

"Yessir, she might just. Why don't ya come on up for a while? I got coffee made."

The invite was sincere and was always offered to friend, family or stranger by Uncle Billy.

"Cain't right now, Uncle Billy. I got to get the youngin's an' go over to town for a while. How 'bout I stop with the ol' woman later tonight?

"I'll be here. Y'all drive safe, now"

"I will you an' Old Dog stay out the rain."

Uncle Billy looked over his shoulder...Old Dog was up on the hill, doin' his business. "I ain't goin' out for sure and I'd bet that is the only time Old Dog gets hisself wet."

"Bye, Uncle Billy"

"Bye, Hap."

Uncle Billy settled back in. Old Dog came up onto the porch, walked to the end and shook hisself and walked over to fall in a heap at Uncle Billy's feet. Uncle Billy reached into the chink between the logs to his right and pulled out a couple of cedar sticks. His Case knife was already open. He looked the blade over and was satisfied it was sharp enough.

Blade hit wood and a long curl of wood ran from the blade to the end. He looked up for just a second, "Old Dog, let's us jus' sit here and rest our bones today."

Old Dog's tail thumped his agreement.

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