Sunday, March 24, 2013

Just a Mornin' in Beloved

The Big Ben alarm clock ticked away without missin' a beat.  Wound tight the evening before it dutifully counted cadence as the new morning crept quiet like into the holler.  Animals around the farm had not yet started to move and prepare for the day.  In the hills above the old log cabin there was little sound as even the sparrows an' robins still slept on.

Though it was unseasonably cold, the coal grate did not glow with dyin' embers of yesterday's fire.  Those embers had fussed an' glowed long into the early mornin' hours before givin' up an' lettin' the cold in.  Soon enough sparks an' flames would dance from place to place and send wild reflections to whirl an' jig on the walls of the small front room.

In the bedroom an old man lay alone and listened to the clock tick the day away... tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.  He didn't move just yet.  It would soon enough be time to stand, stretch his time worn ol' bones and begin his chores.  Just now he lay still in the dark and listened to the Big Ben alarm clock.

At the foot of the bed his old dog Sooner lifted his head and yawned, waiting for his master to make the first move.  He knew the routine, knew to wait, knew soon enough two sets of worn out bones would begin to move.

Without any sign of a change, the room filled with movement as man and dog sensed the time were right.  Up to stretch, turn a light on, pull on worn out overalls, shirt next and straps over the shoulder.  The old man, Billy, sat down careful like on a ladder back chair beside the bed.  Leanin' to the side he pulled open a drawer an' grabbed a pair of socks.  He had learned years ago as he served his country that "clean socks were a blessin' an' a necessity" for a soldier.  It was a lesson he never forgot, a lesson told by the neat rows of socks, pairs doubled into themselves an' lined up neat in that drawer.

Boots on an' tied tight, he turned an' reached into the same drawer to get a faded ol' red hanky.  Faded an' worn, but pressed an' folded as neat as a dry cleaned shirt.  Billy pushed the hanky into his back pocket, checked his other pockets to make sure everything was secure.  Pocket knife, change purse, pocket watch in the front watch pocket.  The watch he pulled out an' checked the time agin the Big Ben.  As always, the time was right.  Twistin' the stem to wind the pocket watch for another day was his last chore before he left the bedroom, turnin' off the light an walkin' to the coal grate.

He picked up the coal bucket that sat by the grate an' talked absently to the dog, "Sooner, I told y'all they weren't enough coal in that grate, but we was too sorry to walk out to the coal pile an' get more coal last night.  I put you in charge o' that an' y'all jist din't do a thing I asked ye to do."

Sooner hung his ol' head obediently, lookin' sorrowful, like it were his fault.  Ol' Billy sat the bucket by the door, turned an' walked back to the kitchen. "Better put some coffee on to boil a bit before I get goin'.  Ye'll make me fergit that too.".  Before he left the kitchen,scoops of coffee he had carefully ground in his Mama's ancient coffee mill were poured into the coffee pot.

"Well, ol' Sooner, better git some fresh water if this here coffee is gonna taste any good a'tall." 

With those words to his dog, Billy opened the back door an' walked in the dark to the well.  It was a drilled well with a long, round an' narrow bucket hangin' from a rope above the rock that covered to hole.  With practiced motions he lowered the bucket down the hole till he heard the first "glug".  Careful like he lowered a bit more and more till a big ol' "Glup Glug" sounded an' he pulled hard.  He held the long bucket over the enamel house bucket an' pulled on the ring that released the cool well water in a gush.

Inside the kitchen Billy poured water into the coffee pot an' turned on the electric stove.  He didn't wait but turned an' headed for the door, picked up the coal bucket an' called, "Hup, Sooner, come on dog".  Sooner stood, stretched an' followed his master out an' to the side of the house. 

Sooner nosed around, checkin' to make sure his domain was safe an' no invaders had snuck in durin' the night.  Confident in his ownership of all around the house yard, the ol' dog proceeded to water an' mark the edges of his kingdom.

Billy filled the coal bucket with clinkers an' a few bigger pieces that would burn long an' hot.  He headed toward the door an' with practiced ease the ol' dog joined him.  Once inside, the fire was relit quickly.  It would take a while to heat the room, so Billy went back to the kitchen, threw some food into Sooner's bowl, poured the ol' dog fresh water an' walked over to check the coffee pot.

No city folks would have been much interested in that pot of black, boilin' coffee, but Billy smiled to himself as he smelled the rich smell an' reached into the small cupboard hangin' on the wall to get one of several mismatched china cups.  His wife, (Aunt Dell folks had called her.  They mostly called him Uncle Billy too) had bought him china cups here an' there at barn sales or charity sales.  He didn't like coffee in mugs an' she didn't like him breakin' her good china cups.  There was just somethin' about a hot cup of black coffee in a china cup.

Cup in hand, he went into the front room, pulled a ladder back chair close to the new fire in the coal grate an' sat down.  He held the warm cup between his rough ol' hands.  "'Mere, Sooner", he called.  The ol' dog rose from the kitchen an' walked over to the chair.  He dropped beside the chair as if his bones had just melted.  Billy reached down to absently rub the collar of loose fur around the dog's neck an' watched the coals glow an' dance.

"Ol' dog, we have some chores to do.  Them chickens have eggs to gather, I'll need to throw hay down to the mules an' we need to go down to Hap Collin's place to see about buyin' some pullets from him... it the weather ever is goin' to break."

"Yep", he said, "they is things to do, things to do.  But I think we can sit an' watch this coal grate get goin' good before we start up agin.  We have all mornin', Sooner.  Let's me an' you just sit here an' drink our coffee."

An' they did just that.

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