Ka'line's country

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Editor's note: This is a chapter installment from Jean Bell Mosley's book "Wide Meadows" that was first published in 1960.

"Lynchie Sal!" someone hollered form the field. "Get up out of that dust and fetch some water."

Lynchie Sal stirred, raised to a sitting position, stuck her tongue out at the big man.

"Why, you little black devil," he said and started toward us. Lou and I shrank back and Lynchie scampered on down the road, stumbling, falling, getting up, stumbling again.

"Who is that man?" we asked Lynchie when she came loitering back up the lane, slopping her water and watching her geese.

"Who? That big black devil? Don't let him scare you none. He ain't fit to run company with a yaller egg-suckin' dog." She spat in his direction. "What you eatin'?"

"Candy. Want some?" Lou offered her what was left of her chocolate bar. Mine was already gone.

"I'm really not hungry." Lynchie took the bar and stuck it all in her mouth at once. "Ka'line had scrambled eggs and bacon, biscuits, cornflakes, butter, waffles, coffee, strawberries and chocolate cake for breakfast, so I'm really not hungry." The candy went down with a noisy sound.

"Lynchie Sal. C'mon here with that water," someone called from the field.

Lynchie Sal stomped her foot in the dust. Tears of frustration spilled down her dusty cheeks. She started to pour the water out again but Lou caught the bucket in time.

"You'll just have to go get it again, Ka'line. Why don't you take the man the water? What difference does it make what they call you? Then you'll have more time to play with the geese."

"Oh, I plays with the geese goin' and comin' with the water." She smiled broadly, her white teeth gleaming, but she set the bucket over the fence where the workers could get it.

Broken china

"I got a whippin' this mornin'," Lynchie said.

"What for?"

"I broke one of Mama's Have-a-line dishes. Boy, it went into a hundred million pieces. You should have just saw it flyin' all over the floor," Lynchie Sal giggled. "Then I come out here and hops on these old geese and I say, 'Now listen, you old black devils, I want you to take me to a land where dishes don't break, you hear,' and they took me there, too, and I had the best time with Have-a-line china, throwin' it around ever' which aways and it wouldn't break at all. I'd stayed there, too, but we's havin' oysters for suppah and I had to come back."

"Why didn't you have your oysters there where you were?" Lou asked.

Lynchie Sal giggled and looked at us sideways like she'd caught us at something, rather than us trapping her.

"Why, they was fresh out," she said. "Yessir, fresh out of oysters they was," she repeated. "Ka'line's goin' fishin' this afternoon. Want to come 'long?"

We went, and Lynchie Sal caught a snapping turtle.

"You're not going to take that thing home?" Lou demanded.

"Sure. They makes good turtle soup," Lynchie Sal assured us.

The banjo didn't come the next day or the next, or any other day we were there.

"How long ago did you order it, Ka'line?" Lou asked.

"Oh, I 'specks it was last December sometime."

"Then it's not coming," Lou assured her.

Lynchie Sal turned on us with blazing black eyes again. "You all gives up too easy. That's what's the trouble with you and your kind. If nothin' happens in a week, you gives up. That banjo'll come someday. You just wait and see." Bright tears rolled down her cheeks, leaving shiny streaks behind them.

"Well, I'm sorry, Ka'line," Lou said. "I didn't mean to make you cry."

"What you havin' for suppah?" she asked, after a while.

"Cousin Becky said she was having fried chicken cause we're leaving tomorrow," I said.

"Is that all?" Lynchie Sal demanded.

"Oh, I guess mashed potatoes and gravy and a vegetable and salad."

"She must be awful poor, not to have no more'n that."

"Well, what are you having?" Lou wanted to know. "Chocolate cake?"

"Why, sure. We always have chocolate cake."

Didn't see any cotton

Lynchie Sal was playing with her geese when we went down the lane in Uncle Hayden's car the next morning. We waved goodbye to her and she waved back as far as we could see her. She was smiling broadly, her white teeth gleaming in the early morning sun.

"Wonder where she'll go today?" Loud said.

"I'd go some place where they'd call me Ka'line, wouldn't you?" I asked Lou.

"Silly," she replied.

"Well, well, well, and did you learn all about cotton?" Mama asked, hugging us tightly like we'd been away a year.

"Yeah, we learned all about cotton, except we didn't see any cotton," Lou said.

Mama looked puzzled, and Uncle Hayden explained that what we had expected to see, he guessed, was the cotton bolls, after they'd opened. "But we'll go back in the fall," he assured us, "and you can see it then."

It was good to be home after a week away. We ran to see old Anabelle, Trudy and Trixy to find out if they'd still know us. Driving them down the lane to the pasture seemed fun now instead of a chore.

Vacation days slid by lazily. We often talked of Lynchie Sal and wondered whether or not the banjo had come and where she had been that day on her B.B.D.'s. We weren't allowed to talk like she did, so we just used the initials.

One day Lou came running across the meadow to where I was knocking over crawdad castles. "I've got 'em. I've got 'em," she shouted, hopping high into the air and running on.

"Got what? I shouted back, thinking maybe measles.

"The B.B.D.'s."

Don't give up too soon

I ran to meet her.

"You've got to be the right height for the wire," she explained excitedly. "Come on up here. I'll show you. She did see geese. Lynchie Sal did." We hurried to the barbed-wire fence along the cow lane. "See," she stood up close. "The barbs are right on a line with my eyes. See if the next lower strand will do for you?"

It did. We squinched our eyes and looked sideways as we walked along and made the barbs seem far away and there they were, flying along over about the Fifteen Acre Field, in a perfect line, and all equidistant. We laughed and pirouetted in the dusty lane like Lynchie Sal had. It was the silliest thing, seeing the big old fat geese flying along!

"She was right about us giving up too soon, wasn't see?" I said.

"Yeah, I guess so," Lou replied. "Well, come on. Where you want to go?"

"I'm going to St. Louis to see Aunt Hannah and Uncle Joe," I said.

"And I'm going to Flat River to see Uncle Hayden." Lou got behind me.

"We going the same way?" I asked. St. Louis and Flat River were different directions from our cow lane.

"Why, I 'spects directions make no difference to them B.B.D.'s." Lou mimicked Lynchie Sal and patted the barbs affectionately.

We walked to the end of the lane, giggling helplessly along the way.

"I saw Aunt Hannah," I reported to Lou at the end of the lane. "She's bringing us some new dresses for school."

"And Uncle Hayden says he's sure coming out soon to take us back to see Lynchie Sal -- or I mean cotton," Lou said.

Next week: A return to the cotton fields.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: