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A humorous account of a backward hillbilly and of his experiences in the U.S. Army.
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No Time for Sergeants
TO WILLIAM BLACKBURN
“This is definitely a violation of regulations.”
General Mark Clark’s comment
NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS
No Time For Sergeants
The thing was, we had gone fishing that day and Pa had wore himself out with it the way he usually did when he went fishing. I mean he went at it pretty hard and called the fish all sorts of names—he lost one pretty nice one and hopped up in the boat and banged the pole down in the water which was about enough to scare a big-sized alligator away, much less a fish, and he spent most of the afternoon after that cussing and ranting at everything that happened. And all he caught was one catfish which warnt much bigger than the worm he was using, and he got finned by that, so by the time I brought the boat back in, he was setting in the front with the back of his neck red and his jaws moving in and out, the way he gets when he is upset, not speaking to me at all.
So after we walked the four miles back to the house, he didnt care to eat right then, so he set down on the porch and pulled his hat down over his eyes and leaned his head back against the post to doze a bit which I’ve seen him do for as long as four hours on the straight sometimes. So I seen he was settled for a while and I got out my harp and begun playing a few pieces. And in a little bit, he was snoring and his foot was patting up and down in time to the tune I was playing, so I played a fast one and watched it bounce a bit, and then a slow one to calm him down again—anyhow, I was kind of enjoying it as it was quiet by that time; it was about sundown and the dogs was laying around the yard only opening their eyes every once in a while to make sure one of them didnt get fed before the other one, and the chickens was clucking easy and comfortable about the yard, and the fields across the way were kind of pink-colored the way they get sometimes when the sun is going down, so I was kind of enjoying the quiet and all, and taking it real easy that way, when all of a sudden I seen my dog Blue raise up his head and perk his ears and set there a minute, and then stare at me with this real puzzled look on his face.
Well, I wouldnt have thought nothing of it if it had of been any other dog, but Blue warnt the kind of dog that ever looked puzzled about anything much. I mean he was one of the smartest dogs I ever seen in my life and pretty stuck-up about it too—like when he points a bird for you, he makes out it warnt nothing for him to do and acts kind of casual about it and all and watches you with this real disgusted look on his face—I mean I dont guess he had ever come right out and showed he was puzzled about anything much before in his life before then.
So I really couldnt figger it for a minute. I stopped playing and listened and didnt hear nothing at first, and it was a few seconds before I made it out myself. What it was, was this far off moaning sound somewhere, and then it come to me what was bothering Blue because it sounded like a car to me. So I knowed why he was puzzled then because I dont guess he has seen no moren two cars in his whole life and they was more like wagons than they was cars, and I guess you might as well say that one of them was a wagon because this one that my uncle had didnt have no motor in it and he usually just hitched a mule to the front to pull it along, and a lot of folks would probably think it was just a wagon, and especially a dog would. So Blue must have thought it was a motorboat or something and couldnt figger what it was doing coming from that direction as the river was way down behind the house and there warnt nothing in front but a road, and not much of a road at that, only some weeds with ruts on either side, and he had sense enough to know that no boat would be coming down that way; so he was right puzzled about it all right.
Anyhow, the sound kept getting louder and the other dogs started whining and looking around at me, and the chickens begun trotting this way and that like they do when a storm is coming up, and I stood up on the lookout for it. Then it sounded like it was almost roaring, and about that time it heaved into sight around the edge of the woods. And you should have heered the racket set up then. The dogs got to barking and howling and the chickens started squawking, running this way and that, and then the car come busting up in front of the place with dust behind it in long billows, turning and heading right toward the house like it was aimed for it. Blue took off for the woods with most of the hounds running ducktailed behind him, barking and looking back over their shoulders; the chickens went around in circles trying to dodge it, which was probably as good a way as any with the car wobbling the way it was; they darted here and there, only most of them never made any headway at all and got knocked aside and went fluttering off, all but one that went straight up in the air and came down on the hood and set there right calm for a second, thinking she had got out of the way of it, but then turning and seeing the house heading for her, and setting up about twice as much of a ruckus about that.
So it was pretty much of a surprise to me too because for a minute there it looked like the car warnt going to stop at all. I mean it come heading right for us and didnt begin to stop until it was about thirty feet from the porch; and then it jolted with dust blowing up past it, and stopped, and jumped forward again and finally come to a halt, and then the door slammed and this little, fat, round-faced fellow come walking through the cloud of dust talking just as hard as he could. I mean that’s just the way he done too. All you could hear was the door slam and see him coming through the dust with his mouth going. You couldnt hear what he was saying, though—all you could hear was sounds and see his mouth moving because there was so much racket all around, and it really was surprising. I mean it looked like he was raving somehow—he was either doing that or preaching and it didnt seem natural to me that a fellow would come riding up in a car that way and jump out and start preaching even though I did know one fellow who used to jump at you from behind the bushes and start preaching—but it didnt seem that way somehow; and with all the racket going on, you couldnt tell what he was doing.
Anyhow, Pa usually warnt in so good a humor when he woke up easy and casual—I mean it usually took him a half hour or so to manage it and he warnt in much of a humor then; and waking up with dogs barking and chickens howling and a man stomping up and talking that way was pretty much of a shock to him any way you look at it. I seen his eyes blinking and his jaws moving before he was halfway up; then he stood there a second, shaking his head trying to get his bearings, and looking down at the fellow like he hadnt ever seen anything like him in his life before. And all this time the man kept on talking—I caught the words “. . . want to see Will Stockdale; now is that you or aint it because I’ve been riding for . . .” but that was all I could make out—but he kept on with it, and then he raised one finger up and started wiggling it at me, saying something else, but about that time Pa lit into him with about the only thing he could think of at the time, I guess, being half-asleep the way he was; he yelled out, “Dont you pint your finger in my boy’s face!”
So that kind of stopped the fellow for a second; he turned and looked at Pa and Pa’s face turned a little redder, and then he bellowed it out again, “Dont you pint your finger in my boy’s face!” which should have quieted him down for a while, only it didnt, because the next thing I knowed, there he was telling Pa he just ought to keep out of the whole thing, that he was there to see me and not him, and that it warnt Pa’s business.
“Not my business?” Pa said. “Just what in the hell do you mean by that, sir?”
“Look,” the fellow said. “I came out here to see this boy and I . . .”
“Just what do you mean, not my business,” Pa said to him; and for a minute he was leaned so far over him, it looked like he might just fall right on top of him.
But then the fellow come back with something else, and Pa kept coming back at him. The fellow was trying to tell what he wanted to see me about and I got right curious, only he never got to finish because all Pa could talk about was him going around pointing his finger in my face, and it warnt much of an argument with both of them talking about different things that way and all.
But finally Pa out-yelled him and got him onto his argument, but then the fellow said that it was his finger and my face and it was his business where he pointed it, and Pa come back with, “Not on my property, it aint,” and then the fellow got off the point again and said if he had property like ourn, he sho wouldnt go around bragging about it, and then Pa come back by saying, “I dont care about that but one thing I aint going to stand for as long as I am a man is having somebody going around pinting their fingers in people’s faces on my property,” which was a pretty long thing to say in one bellow and left him so wore out he was kind of gasping before he finished.
But then the other fellow managed to get in a few more words, and he said, “Look, I dont care nothing about all that and I didnt come out here to talk to you nohow. I’m from the draft board and I’m out here to see this boy and that’s our business and . . .”
“By God, on my property . . .” Pa said.
“That aint got nothing to do with it,” the man said. “If this boy knows what’s good for him, he’ll get in that car right now and head back to town with me and we wont have any more trouble about it. You folks out here think just because you live ten thousand miles from town, you dont have to do things like anybody else, but I’m here to tell you different. I’ve been over roads that aint even been discovered yet and down trails that nothing but a horse and wagon has been down, and this is the third time I’ve tried to find this place, and I mean it’s the last time too!”
And he kept on like that for a pretty good while and kept Pa from busting in again, but then he said, “I’ve wrote you four letters and havent had an answer to none of them and you neednt say you cant read neither because you could have got somebody to read them to you, so that aint no excuse!” which was about the most foolish thing he could have said, it seemed like to me, because Pa warnt going to take that from nobody.
And he didnt neither. He drawed himself up real quick with his eyes all lit up and looked down on the fellow and just bellowed out at him, “By God, sir, do you mean to stand here and say to my face that my son cant read!”
“Now look,” the fellow said.
“Do you mean to come busting up here and not say Howdy or nothing and say my son cant read and expect him to go hopping in that car like you said? Do you think my son who has gone to school and has read more times than you could shake a stick at couldnt answer a puny little ole letter if he wanted to? By God, man, let me tell you . . .”
“All right,” the fellow said. “Then there aint any excuse at all for him not answering them letters . . .”
“Letter?” Pa said. “By God, sir, I dont think I can stand to listen to any more of this . . .”
“Well, that’s all right with me. Now . . .”
“Nosir!” Pa said. “What you think dont mean nothing to me, but I’m going to make you eat them words just the same. Will, you go in the house and get that book and let’s see about this thing here and now and not have no more foolishness about it.”
And he stood there with his arms folded and his mouth clamped together, so there warnt nothing much I could do but go get it; and when I got back, he hadnt budged, so I set down on the steps and opened it up. Then Pa said, “Go ahead, Will,” without even looking at me, and so I read him a couple of pages out of it. It was about this little boy named Tony who wanted a pony and how he went to work for a man so he could buy it, but he never made enough money, so the man finally just give it to him because he worked so hard. But I never got to the end of it because Pa raised up his hand all of a sudden, and I stopped, and he lowered his hand and said, “All right, that’s enough of that one. Now go in and get the Bible and let’s hear a few of them words in there.”
“Now look, I dont care anything about that,” the fellow said. “I . . .”
“Go on, Will,” Pa said. “I want to get this here thing straightened out once and for all, by God.”
So I went in and got the Bible and when I come back out, Pa still had his arms folded, so I set back down on the steps and give him a dose of that one too. I read him a few lines about that fellow that warnt a nigger but was called Abraham, and I done pretty good with it, I think, only I didnt get to finish it neither because the fellow busted in again, saying, “I’ve had enough of all this. I’m asking you for the last time now. Are you going to get in that car and go back into Callville with me or are we going to have to come out here and get you?”
And that set Pa off again so that he done some pretty fierce cussing right up in the man’s face and asked him what he meant by that and all; and when the fellow said, “I mean just what I say. They’ll come out here and take him if he dont come with me and they can do it too!” it looked like Pa was going to tear into him all of a sudden. He rared back with his chest poking out and his face turning red and lifted his fist up and bellowed out, “Off my property!” so loud that the fellow’s face turned right white. He started going backward, looking at Pa with his eyes wide, while Pa kept making these noises in his throat; and then he turned and headed for the car and slammed the door and started driving out just about as fast as he had been coming in before.
Pa was right wild by that time, too; he run around until he found himself a rock and he heaved it at the car just as it was turning off onto the road, but he missed it and hit my dog Blue instead, as Blue was just coming out of the woods about that time, so that Blue looked right at him and gave this yelp and headed back for the woods again; and by the time Pa could find another rock, the car was gone and there warnt nothing left but dust floating across the ditch.
Anyhow, after things settled down a bit, Pa was right wore out from it all. He set down on the steps to rest, looking weak and trembly all over; he kept shaking and turning white in the face and when I tried to talk with him, he didnt have nothing to say. He would just rub his hands over his face and shake his head and lean back against the post again.
But after a little bit, he begun to feel better and talk some, even though he didnt sound much like the same man as before. He shook his head and looked at the ground and spoke real soft and sad, and said how it warnt right for folks to act that way. He said it was sinful to get mad with folks too, and he felt right bad about it. He said, “Will, why dont you read a little more out of that Bible again?” and I said, “Yessir, why dont you just rest a while,” and reached over and got it and read to him for a spell. He set there listening, nodding his head up and down, and I read a part with a lot of big words in it, and I done pretty good with it, I think. I throwed in a lot of Thees and Thous and Verilys and things like that, and when I hit some of the big names, I just called them Sam or Joe or whatever come into my head, but he didnt know the difference; he nodded his head up and down, looking like he felt better already. I read, “And he saideth verily thee unto thou,” and he cleared his throat and said, “That’s the truth, too, Will. That’s the truth.”
So I read a little more and after a while he begun talking more about how folks ought to be good to one another and not bear false witness and not worship no false idols and stuff like that, and seemed to perk up a good bit thinking about it. He got to going about as good as most preachers until he got hungry and begun smacking his lips and wiping his mouth as he talked, so finally I said, “Why dont you just rest a while and I’ll go in and get some supper ready?” Because by that time I had decided that the draft didnt sound like such a bad idea to me and I had just as soon go like the fellow said, and I wanted him kind of rested and comfortable and kind of holy feeling, the way he got when his stomach was full, so I could tell him in a kind of casual way and not get him upset no more.
So I went in and fixed up just what he liked best—grits and side meat and toast and coffee—and had it steaming on the table when I called him in. He pulled up his chair on one side and I pulled mine up on the other, and he went at it real steady because nothing makes him more hungry than getting mad; and I kept quiet most of the meal waiting for a chance to bring it up to him. He set there eating with his jaw stopping every once in a while, kind of looking off into space like he was thinking, and then starting up again when he got whatever it was that bothered him straight in his head. He cleaned up one plate and started on another and I set there sipping my coffee, and then he got up and started pacing up and down the room, his chin kind of hung down on his chest, thinking all along. He put his hands behind him and walked from one end of the room to the other, nodding his head like he was talking to himself.
So I put off talking to him and cleaned off the table and stacked the dishes, waiting for him to get settled, but when I got through with that, he was still walking, only now he was going faster; and instead of having his hands behind his back, he was clenching up his fist and slapping it in the palm of his other hand and all like that, and seemed real lively and happy about everything. He paced up and down like he warnt tired at all, and sometimes it looked like he was even chuckling to himself, and when I seen that, I knowed there warnt much hope in being casual about it no more. Because if he had decided it warnt right to get mad with folks, he would get this kind of sickly, holy look on his face and his voice would get right weak, and he would talk about forgiving and so on; and you could see plain as anything he warnt feeling that way about it now. He looked too lively and happy for that; his eyes was lit up and he was just prancing around, so I knowed then that he had figured it out somehow to suit hisself and so finally I just set down in a chair and rolled a cigarette and waited for it to come.
It warnt long coming neither. Because just about time I got it lit, he turned around and looked at me and pointed his finger and said, “Will, you read the Bible, dont you? You go to church?”
“Yessir,” I said.
“You think Jesus was a good man, dont you?”
“Couldnt nobody do any better than to live a life like Jesus, could he?”
“I dont guess so,” I said.
“So the thing is to do just what Jesus would have done, aint it?”
“Yessir,” I said. “That’s a good idea. Now I was thinking . . .”
“Well, do you know what He would have done?”
“Nosir, but . . .”
“Well, I do,” Pa said. “I know what He would have done all right. If a man come riding up on His property and scared His chickens half to death and didnt say Howdy or nothing, and then went around saying folks couldnt read, I know what He would have done all right. He would have sent that man straight to hell, by God!”
And he stood there staring at me with his eyes lit up and his finger in the air, as full of spark as I had seen him in a mighty long time.
So after that, there warnt much that I could do about it. He got it in his head how he wanted to fix up the place so nobody could come busting up like that any more, and we worked half the night on it. I never seen Pa so full of plans and things in my life neither. The first thing he wanted to do was pull out all the rolls of barbed wire we had in the barn and drag them out front and leave them in rolls on this log fence we had out there. “We’ll just stack it up along here,” he said. “That way a man will have a right hard time getting through it. What do you think about that, Will?”
“It sounds like a mighty good idea,” I said.
“Sho,” Pa said. “Come on, let’s get the rest of it,” and he took off for the back again, moving faster and more spry than I had seen him in many a year.
Anyhow, we worked on the fence about two hours, I guess, and both of us worked pretty hard too. I dont think I would have cared too much for it, only there was a big moon out and Pa begun singing to himself, making a kind of party out of it, and the dogs were running around real excited, and after a bit, it begun to be kind of fun. Pa went in and got a bottle and we both had a drink, and then he got to singing all the church songs he knowed with these bundles of wire over his shoulder. He sung that one about “Just a little walk with theeee!” and I come in on the chorus of it and we made a right good duet out of it. Pa had about as bad a voice as I ever heered, though, and didnt know but two notes with one of them high and the other one low, but he hopped back and forth between the two pretty good and didnt sound anywhere near as bad as usual, so it really warnt too bad. We finished laying out the bundles along the fence, and then Pa got the idea of stringing what he had left from tree to tree out in the woods, just about the level of the grass, so that a man coming along might trip over it. So we done that on both sides of the house, working about another hour at it, I guess, and I thought Pa had really outdone himself in thinking of things to do, but then he got the idea of tying the dogs out there to the trees so they could set up a howl if they heered somebody coming, and that took a little while to do because the dogs didnt quite recognize Pa with him singing and taking on the way he was and wouldnt come anywhere near him. He had to chase the only one he caught by running around the house about three times behind him, and only managed it then by diving headlong after him, which almost scared the poor dog to death. But we finally managed to get them all but Blue and we never could get him because he never did come back out of the woods no more. We seen him every once in a while, setting behind a bush with his head poked around the side, watching everything, but he never would come out no more, so finally we just had to give him up for good.
Anyhow, I thought that would be enough for Pa, but he was sweating and happy and still hadnt tired none, and he said, “Will, this is one time we can get some good out of them chickens,” and then told me another idea he had about catching them all too and stringing them up by one foot to the bushes out in the woods and using them as kind of watchdogs too.
“Well, that sounds like a mighty good idea,” I said. “But it’ll take a pretty long time catching and tying up them chickens and we been at this about three hours now and . . .”
“That dont matter,” Pa said. “We got all night, aint we? Come on, let’s have one more drink and get down to it now.”
So we started on that, chasing the chickens around the yard with them squawking and flapping their wings in your face and making noises like you were wringing their necks. And I really was kind of surprised that Pa got through that one because he never really cared for chickens nohow, and one of the big ones got right on his shoulder and beat his wings over his face and pecked at him until he fell in one of the bundles of wire one time, so that it took me nearly a half hour to get him out of it. But it didnt stop him neither; he went right on until we had them all out, and they worked even better than I thought they would. We had them tied by one foot so they wouldnt get tangled up, and when we finished and went over to the well for a drink of water, I throwed a rock down in the woods and you never heered such barking and howling and yelping in your life. There aint any more ungodly yell that I know of nohow than a chicken yelping when it’s scared—it’s louder than a dog any time, especially way in the night like that—and you have to give Pa credit for it all right; he had really outdone himself.
Anyhow, we stood around and cooled off and put a dipper of water over our heads, and I was right wore out with it all. But I guess by then I was about as wrapped up in the thing as Pa was because I got the idea myself about how we should go down and tear down the bridge along the road so no cars could come up it, and I was just ready to mention it when I remembered I warnt really too much for it nohow. So I didnt say nothing about it, but kind of got to worrying that Pa would think of it. But after a little while, he said, “Well, I guess that is about as good as we can get it,” and I said right quick, “Yessir, I reckon that pretty well does it.”
Then Pa said, “I want you to know that I appreciate you helping me out and everything; hit would have been a lot of work for one man to do.” And then he stood there a minute looking around the place, waiting for me to say something.
So I caught on and said, “Well, sir, I was mighty glad to do it,” and then I said, “I appreciate you helping me out.”
But he shook his head and said, “No, Will, you was doing it just to be nice. I know hit dont make no difference to you, but I want you to know I appreciate it.”
So then I said that warnt so at all. I said, “Nosir, you got it all wrong. I feel just like you do. If they come riding up here, I’ll blow their heads off. You just see if I dont.”
But then he shook his head sideways at me and smiled kind of sad, and said, “No, Will, the only reason you’ll blow their heads off is because you’re so good-natured. But I do want you to know I appreciate it.”
So I didnt say no more about it. He had his head-set on it that way, and I guess when you come right down to it, it was the truth too. So I let it drop and tried to change the subject. I said, “I wonder what happened to them letters the man was talking about.”
“I dont know,” Pa said. “I guess they must have just come in down to the Corners and they forgot to give them to us. I dont think I would tell them that, though. They would just think you couldnt read and didnt want to say so. Some people think that way, you know.”
So I said I would be sho not to mention it and we stood around a while longer, and I throwed another rock down in the woods to try the chickens and the dogs again, and they set up a pretty good racket again, and once they quieted down, we went on in to bed. I was dog-tired too and slept hard all night long and didnt wake up until after the sun had come up the next morning when I heered Pa fooling around with the stuff in the kitchen.
The thing was, I guess, I had kind of halfway expected Pa to forget all about it once the fun of it was over, but he hadnt at all. He already had breakfast fixed when I got up, and while I was eating, he got out this twelve-gauge double-barrel shotgun he had, and then he got out a rifle and this other gun that’s been around the house as long as I can remember, and he took them out on the porch and started loading them up. I went ahead and washed the dishes and when I come out he was just loading the long one. It had one of them large hammers on it and the barrel was bent, and you had to load it by stuffing powder down the barrel, but Pa liked it, and I’ve seen him hit things with that old bent-barreled gun that you could never think of hitting with no other gun.
Anyhow, he finally finished with it, stuffing nails and everything else down inside it, and then loaded the others, and after that we set there and waited, and I got right tired of it too after a while. I mean I didnt mind going to the draft much nohow and it seemed like we was going to a good bit of trouble about nothing to me. I didnt say nothing about it, of course—Pa was so touchy about things like that—but it really did seem that way to me, and I had to do a good bit of things to keep from telling him what I thought about it. I played the harp a while and raked up around the front while he set there next to the post with the gun across his lap; then I went out and watered the chickens and the dogs that was tied up, and then we both set around for a couple of hours, and I really did get right tired of it all before it was over.
I mean waiting around like that not knowing whether you’re going to have to blow somebody’s head off or not can be right wearing after a while. And they didnt show up until nearly noontime nohow, and by that time, it really did seem like it was all more trouble than it was worth to me.
But the waiting warnt nothing to all that happened after they got there. What happened was, we were both standing there when these three cars come driving up—we had heered them whanging over the bridge down the way—but they didnt see us at first because they were leaning their heads out the window looking at the rolls of wire we had rolled up in the front. They were setting there with the motors still running, pointing at it and talking about it.
And it was about that time that I seen Pa’s gun coming up. It’s the longest gun you’ve ever seen in your life, and it come up and up and finally hung out there in the air with him sighting down it and looking like it was pointed about forty feet in front of the first car so that I almost expected them to start laughing at it the way I’ve seen some folks do when he aims at something with it, because by looking at the barrel you cant tell which way the shot is going. But Pa knowed all right, and I did, and I’ll bet if he had of pulled that trigger then, he would have hit the man driving the first car within about half an inch of where he had decided he would hit him.
Anyhow, what happened was that it just caused another big ruckus. One of them looked up and seen Pa and give a holler to the others, and they come piling out of the cars all of a sudden, doors flying open and heads ducking down, scurrying all over the place. And they kept yelling at each other and all like that, peeping over the sides of the cars and things; and this one fellow, I thought he never would quiet down. What happened to him was, he was right fat and when he tried to get out, he got stuck in the door on the side toward the house, and hung there, jerking and snatching around and hollering his head off. And I guess he never would have stopped, only he looked up finally to see Pa sighting at him; then he stared a second and quit yelling and just hung there, like he was dead sure enough and there warnt a thing he could do about it.
Anyhow, there were eleven of them in all that I had counted, not counting the fat fellow because he didnt amount to so much, and the next thing I knowed, there I was trying to figger out which one to shoot first. I mean I didnt want to shoot nobody, and I didnt mind the draft neither, but I was all primed up for it all of a sudden because of all the noise and everything, so I went ahead and throwed a shell in the chamber of the rifle and started getting lined up for it. And when I seen this arm come up from behind one of the cars and seen the handkerchief waving, I drawed down on it right quick, waving the gun back and forth, not even knowing what was going on for a minute.
But then Pa called out, “All right, Roy, come on up!” and yelled it so loud that it made me jump and almost pull down on the trigger I was so primed for it and everything. But I stopped myself right quick and looked at Pa and then recognized it was Roy Burton he was yelling at, and I lowered the gun and stood there watching him as he come walking up to the wire, standing there looking at it. I remember everything seemed like it was all mixed up all of a sudden. I was so pitched up for it that it made me feel kind of shaky and let down and sickly somehow.
But then it come to me right quick that that was all it was, it was over just as quick as it had started. I could go on in and get my stuff and go in to the draft, and that was all there was to it. It made me feel mighty good all of a sudden and I turned to Pa, but just about that time, he called out, “What do you want, Roy?” and it hit me then that they was going to start talking some more, and I mean it made me feel ornery too. I mean I just didnt care to fool with it no more.
But then Roy called out, “I want to talk to you, Tom. Can I come up there?”
“Shore, Roy, come on up.”
“How’m I gonna get there, Tom? You speck me to crawl under this here wire?”
“I reckon it’s the only way, Roy,” Pa called back. “If you want to come up here.”
So they talked some more that way for a while, and I finally just set down on the steps and put my rifle across my lap and tried to keep my mouth shut until they got it straightened out, one way or the other, it didnt matter to me much any more.
Anyhow, they talked back and forth, and Pa said Roy would have to come through the wire or not come at all, and then Roy tried to wiggle through, but he got all tangled up; and then they had to call back and forth for a while to get somebody to come out and help him out, only that didnt work too good because didnt nobody want to come out. So Roy called up and wanted Pa to vow not to shoot one of them if they did come out, but Pa said, “I couldnt vow that, Roy; one of them might take it in his head to cause some trouble and then I’d have to break my word.” But he finally decided he would let one man come up if he left his gun behind, and they kept pushing this fellow out but he kept going back behind the car again, so finally they got this other one to come out, only that didnt do no good neither because he got hung up in the wire just like Roy did. So finally the only thing left to do was to go back and get the clippers. Course Pa could have walked out to the wire, but he wouldnt do nothing like that—no, if they wanted to talk to him, they would have to come up to where he was. So finally I went out and clipped Roy out and talked with the fat fellow for a bit; he said it was right hot and I allowed it were and such things as that with him still hanging there in the door, and then we talked about crops for a while, but finally I got Roy out and followed him up to the porch to talk with Pa.
Roy used to live out at the Corners and him and Pa knowed each other and it seemed like to me they could have got it straightened out right quick, but then they had to argue about it a while just the same. McKinney, the one who was out yesterday, come and stood in front of the car and called out things for Roy and Roy called back to him, and then him and Pa talked about it a while. And what it come down to after about ten minutes of that was that McKinney wanted me to get in the car and go back in town with them, and Pa said he had already made it clear what he thought about that and warnt going to back down on it. Then Roy called out, “Hey, McKinney, he says Will can come in all right but he aint going to ride in. How about that?”
Then McKinney called back, “We came out here to get him and that’s what we’re going to do. We want him to come in right now.”
Then Roy turned to Pa and said, “What’s the difference, Tom, if he comes in now or later on? I dont see nothing wrong with it.”
“Nosir,” Pa said. “I’ve made up my mind about that and there aint going to be no changing it.”
So they went on that way a good while until I kind of got on McKinney’s side of the argument because I didnt mind riding back in the car nohow. But they kept yelling back and forth that way until what it come down to was that Pa thought it would be all right for me to come in as long as I walked in, and McKinney finally said it didnt make no difference to him how I got there, just so long as I got there. So actually McKinney finally backed down on the thing. I didnt see much sense in him giving in that way and really thought the less of him for doing so, too.
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