The Year of Our Discontent

Darrel (River) Bird

© Copyright 2009 by Darrel (River) Bird


This is the story of two children who, after being punished, set out on an adventure and run into trouble.

I was full of vip and vinegar when old Mrs. Shoebottom caught me and Lindy Lou down in the root cellar making out.

That was her name, Lindy Lou Shoebottom.

We had just come from the creek where we netted a haul of three frogs plus a tadpole, and we went to the root cellar to get a jar to put them in.  While we were down there Lindy Lou mentioned as an aside about seeing her Ma and Pa kissing quite a lot, and we decided it was worth a try.

Just about time we was getting into it, old Mrs. Shoebottom decided she wanted a jar of green beans to cook for dinner and that’s when she walked in.  Needless to say it weren’t my fault as Lindy Lou had a bulldog grip and was sucking my face and I couldn’t get loose.

 Old Mrs. Shoebottom hit me with a stick hard as she was able and told me to get on back to the orphanage where kids like me belonged.  Well, the truth of the matter, I didn’t feel like I much belonged there neither.

As the orphanage was only two blocks away, I knew there weren’t no need to try and slick out of going back, so I went.

When I got back there old Mr. Blumstock hit me with a stick again and sort of set my teeth on edge and that was when the trouble started.

I was fed up with getting hit with a stick and made up my mind to leave that night.  I climbed down the elm tree that night real quiet and skedaddled into the darkest ally I could find, which was the exact one that Lindy Lou Shoebottom had skedaddled to.

I was feeling my way along and we bumped into each other.  After we got over the frights she said “What you doin’ here James Lee, I thought you was goin’ back to the orphanage?”

I told her as to how I just might not ever go back to that orphanage, and she said she allowed she would not be going back home neither.

Well… the upshot of it was that we decided to light out for more friendly territory.  At first light, we took off up the main road like a cat with his tail afire.

We walked along that morning when of a sudden she asked me a question, “James lee,” Says she, “Do you love me?”

 “Well… what does love feel like?” Says I.

 She thought about it a minute. “It feels sort of squshy like you had stepped on a frog.”

 “But I ain’t never stepped on no frog, they always jump out of the way.”

 “Yeah, but if you was too!”

It sort of hurt my head to imagine something that seemed nigh onto impossible.

 “When am I stepping on this here frog?”

 “It was when we kissed.”

 “Oh, that frog. Yeah, I reckon I felt just a tad squishy.”

She then asked the next dumb question. “Where will we sleep?” She says.

 I says “Girl, don’t you know nothing? We got to sleep in the woods, or somebody’s haystack or a barn.  Adventurers sleep like that; they just drop where ever they are at.”

 “But what will we eat?” She says.

 And there went one of them headaches again.

I don’t know! Sort of accidental like! That’s just the way people do it what’s on a adventure!”

The grass was just starting to turn golden the summer that we both turned nine years old. It was one of those days that kinda made you lazy feeling. It just weren’t a day to rush things.

 Lindy Lou started skipping along and it threw my walk out of kilter, but she skipped along in spite of what I could do.

 “Cain’t you walk right? What are you skipping for anyhow?”

Then she said something that surprised me a little.

 “I’m skipping because I’m happy we are going to be married.” She says.

Those were things I didn’t know too much about, nor had I studied on them so I had no opinion on it.

Can we stop over there by that oak tree?”

I said as how I reckoned we could.

The big oak tree by the side of the road in that field looked mighty inviting as we approached the shade and sat down.  She set down close to me and seeing as how I wanted to cool off I poked her in the ribs and told her to scoot over.  She looked sort of miffed at me but she scooted.

 “James Lee. Will we always be together?”

Why no Lindy, we got to separate too gather fire wood and stuff.

No, I don’t mean that, I mean together like…”

A big old tear started down her face what looked like dew dropping off the end of a willow leaf and that made me feel awful bad.

 “I reckon we can do that if it means that much too you.”

Then she reaches over, grabs me and kisses me right square on the mouth again.   I reckon I felt like I had stepped on another frog and I decided it was really getting into frog season what with stepping on so many of them.

As we left the shade of the oak, I suggested that we catch a grasshopper, so we caught some.  I decided to step on mine too see the color of the grasshopper juice and Lindy Lou objected when I done that.

James Lee, why did you kill that poor grasshopper, he weren’t doing you no harm!”

Well, what is the difference in stomping one and sticking him on a fishhook?”

Well, I don’t know, but there is!”

Then she went to bawling again.

I says, “Girl, what is wrong with you? It twarn’t nothing but a grasshopper!”

I don’t know, I feel all tore up and squshy inside.” She snuffled and wiped her nose on the back of her hand, then wiped it on her gingham dress.  Then she took off walking faster, her yellow curls bouncing on the back of her dress, just like that! There just weren’t no figuring her out.  I reckon she had stepped on another frog.

By the time we got on up the road apiece we got the walking squared away, Lindy Lou got off of that frog and my life was once more taking on balance.  I heard the unmistakable clatter of the tinker’s wagon coming up the road behind us.  We had just rounded a bend, but there ain’t no mistaking a tinker’s wagon what with all them pots and pans rattling around.  We stopped and waited and sure enough here comes old Mr. McGillacuty with his wagon load of junk.   He woed up his mule when he got up to us and inquired as to where we were heading.

 “Callville.” Says I.

  “Does your parents know you is going all the way over to Callville?”

Our Daddy works over to the mill t’other side of Callville,”

Course I lied, I didn’t have no daddy in the first place and in the second place Lindy Lou’s pappy would have whupped the pants off her if he caught up with us.  Shoot, I didn’t even have no Momma that I knowed of and gathering from what Lindy Lou had for one, I didn’t want one neither.

You is a right smart looking young man there son, what with your freckles and black hair sticking out from that straw hat. And you are as pretty as a picture girl.”

Do you both be needing a ride, or does it suit you to walk all the way to Callville?”

Mr. McGillacuty says, dripping tobacco juice off his jaw. I thought maybe he had been eating some of them grasshoppers as it looked like the same juice, cept there weren’t no green in it.

 “I reckon we could ride.” Says I, and we climbed on the tailgate of the wagon and hung our legs over.  We swung our legs and looked thru the cracks in the floorboards, it made the wagon seem to go faster although old Mr. McGillacuty’s mule was a mighty slow go.  We rode side by side, not saying anything as it weren’t no use with all that racket the pots and pans made no how.  When we come close to the river bridge just before we got to Callville I motioned for Lindy Lou to jump, so we jumped off.   I took off down through the cane breaks that line the river with Lindy Lou close behind.

 “What’ed’ your do that for James Lee?” She said between breaths.

 “Lordy girl, they will get us and send us both back. We got to hide out down here.”

 I went to cutting me a cane and then stomped the ground real hard.

 “Stomp the ground real hard Lindy Lou!”

 “Why do I want to stomp?”

 “Why, to make the night crawlers come out, that’s why!”

 We both stomped around awhile and a few night crawlers got fed up with it all and came to the top of the ground to offer themselves as fish bait.

 I took the hook and line I had in my pocket and caught us a fish and a half apiece.   I got a fire going and baked the fish in green leaves on the coals.  Lindy Lou remarked as to how I might make it as an adventurer yet and we lay down to take a nap in the late evening sun there by the river.

 When we woke up it was plumb dark.

 “I’m cold James Lee, could you sqwunch over next to me?”

We ain’t going to step on no frogs are we?” Says I.  The up shot of it was, when I scooted next to her I stepped on a frog myself.  We were laying there just nigh onto getting comfortable when I heard a noise downstream.

 “Did you hear that Lindy lou?”

 “I never heard nothing James Lee.”

 “I know I heard something, you just lay quiet here, I aim to check it out!” I whispers.

 “You ain’t going to leave me here James Lee, you promised!”

 “All right, but you be quiet and don’t you go to bawlin’ on me you hear?”

 She put her hand to my lips and then to hers to seal the deal.

 We snuck through the cane breaks about a hundred yards and soon spotted a campfire.  Two men were sitting there jawing and tipping the bottle. I felt better about the sneaking because the men were hitting the booze.  We were able to sneak up on the camp real close as it was dark as a dungeon in them canes and there was nothing but sandy loam underfoot.

When we got close I heard one of the men say, “When we get done robbin’ that Callville bank we will have us lots of booze an women too.”

 When I heard that, I clamped my hand on Lindy Lou’s mouth hard.   She went “Umumf.” So, I cracked her across the head with my knuckles.   She knew I meant business from that and her eyes got big and scared looking.  I let loose of her mouth and put my hand on her lips and then mine to seal the deal. She nodded, her curls bouncing.

One of the men had a double-barreled shotgun lying next to him, but I didn’t see no evidence of horses so I figured they was afoot.   I took Lindy Lou’s hand and we snuck back through the woods, only this time I went clear to the other side of the bridge.

Them men are up to no good, they are planning on robbing the Callville bank tomorrow I reckon.”

 “What we going to do James Lee?” Says Lindy Lou and she was getting all teary eyed on me again.

Well, if we alert the sheriff he’ll want to know what we was doin’ down here and take us into custidiy. I reckon there ain’t much we can do.”

We laid down again and slept scrunched close to each other till morning.

At daybreak I say’s “Lindy Lou, I got to go get us something to eat, will you stay here for me till I get back?”

 “You won’t leave me by myself?”

 “No, as soon as I get us something to eat, I’ll come right back.”

 “Promise on the Bible?”

 “Lindy Lou, we ain’t got no Bible and you know it!”

 “No, but if we had one?”

 “Yeah if we had one, is that like the frogs we didn’t step on?”

 “Just like them frogs.” Says she.

 “Well, I reckon I’ll swear by it then.”

 “Now you stay right here, promise?”

 She shook her head and I headed for the bridge that crossed the river into Callville.  I got across without anybody taking notice accept a boy on the riverbank getting some early morning fishing in.

I walked easy like down the main street then turned up a side street where they was houses.   I had no more than got three houses down when I spotted a pie in a windowsill and I swung by, grabbed it, and ran.  Thank the Lord for old ladies that cook early, I  thinks to myself as I headed back across the bridge.  The boy was still sitting there laid-back with his fishing pole propped up on a rock, he had his hat over his eyes and didn’t see me atall.  I got back down to the riverbank to where I left Lindy Lou, when she seen me she ran up and smacked me on the mouth again. I figured she was froggin’ again.   I told her to quit her foolishness and get to eating.  It didn’t take us long to gobble the pie down, it was apple, my favorite pie and I can put considerable away. It had sugar sprinkled on the top real thick just like I like it.  After we ate the pie, we lain down again to let it settle.  About nine we heard two gunshots and we peeked out at the Callville side of the river.  There were two men hightailing it for the river.

Sure as shootin’ that’s them same two men we seen last night a high tailin’ it for the river!” Says I.   I figured we would be safe enough if we went back to our old camp; the one thing I didn’t figure on was those rascals swimming back to our side of the river.

When we were going through the thick cane we run smack into them.  They each grabbed one of us apiece and clamped their hand over our mouth and I was looking square into Lindy Lou’s terrified eyes.

Now you youngin’s better be quiet or we will just slit your throat and let the buzzards have you!”  He whacked me across the head hard with the palm of his hand to prove up on the point.

Well… the upshot of that was that we heard men beating the bushes along the river all through the day while we lay there stifled, all thrust up close to the two stinkin-est buzzards what a man ever smelled.  I finally got tired of the whole thing and I looked at Lindy lou and then slid my eyes to a big rock laying beside her and then the one laying beside me then back at her and she got the message.  She grabbed hers and I grabbed mine and we laid them suckers clean out cold with a rock apiece.  We found some leather string in their pockets and thrust them up like a pig on a spit.  I rumbled through the men’s pockets and got out the big wad of bill’s one of the men had on him and we lit out for the bridge to Callville.

We just walked right into that sheriff’s office cool as you please and there was the sheriff sitting at his desk.   I handed him the money and told him where those two robbers were lying all tied up.  He gave us a stern look, but he wasn’t taking no chances and sent some men to take a look-see.

You kids just stay put until my men get back,” says the sheriff.  After about an hour they come hauling the robber’s back to the sheriff’s office.

Sure nough sheriff, we found them tied up just like they said and judging from the knots on their head the kids rocked’em all right!”

Well..I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” Says the sheriff, “Git them rascals locked up and I’ll return the money.” So, they did.

It turned out the robbers weren’t no more than two-bit thieves till they got up the nerve to rob the bank. The sheriff reckoned it was the liquor doing most the robbing.  The only thing was, they shot the teller so they was going to get hung.  I felt awful bad about the man they had killed and I knew I was indirectly responsible because I didn’t report it to the sheriff before the fact.

The Sheriff let us go if we promised to go straight home and we promised we would.   We were heading down the street toward the bridge when we passes a church.   I told Lindy Lou that I felt plumb rotten and she suggested we go in so I agrees to it.   We got in there and I told the pastor what had happened with Lindy Lou chiming in ever once in the while.

 “My, My such a load for children to carry!” Says he.  “Do you want me to pray with you?” says he.

I reckon I do, but I ain’t got much words like yorn mister.” Says I.

The pastor looks at me and says, “Son, it don’t necessarily take words for the Lord to hear, it just takes your heart and what words you got.”

 So, we knelt down with him one on each side and he laid his hands on our noggin’s.  I was just getting into being sorry about not doing my duty; when I remembered too throw in the pie I stole for us to eat as an aside just in case the Lord was in a good mood.

Do you think he forgived us mister?”

 “I am just pretty certain of it, but I’ll check… yep he did.” Says the preacher.

We both went away feeling all sqishy inside, I reckon there’s frogs of all kinds just laying around just waiting to be stepped on, only these kind don’t seem in a powerful hurry to get out of the way.

The upshot of the rest of this story is that we both went back without having to be drug back a kicking.  Lindy Lou went back to her house and I went back to the orphanage and stayed there eight more years and you know what?   Old Mr. Blumstock heard about the fracas over to Callville, he said I was a hero and he never took a stick to me more than a few times after that. Mostly he was a nice man when you got to know him.   The night we got back old Mr. Blumstock took me up to the room.  He patted me on the noggin and tucked the quilts up real good and it made me feel more to home.   I got to noticing particularly that he would come around and give thisun’ a pat on the noggin and thatun’ a little tuck in and I found out he weren’t near as mean as I thought previously.

Well now…me and Lindy Lou was never far apart after that. Her Ma said as how “It is just the Lord’s will that you two kids will be together!” She throwed up her hands, scooped us both up at once and hugs us both till we near smothered.

 “Grandpa, did you and Grandma really do all that? Catchin robber’s I mean?” Says Lindy Sue.

 “Yes child, I reckon we did.”

 “I betcha Grandma rocked that old mean man hard didn’t she Grandpa?”

 “She sure did James Linn. Now off to bed with you scamps before your ma finds you still awake. This story has took a heap a tellin”.

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