Life on the Mississippi Delta
Boy, Boy, Boy, Boy, Boy
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Newman was old, cantankerous, and deaf as a doorknob, but mighty handy around the farm. One of his regular chores was hauling off garbage, and he would let me sit on his knees and steer the old flat bed truck as we drove to the dump.
It was harvest season in the Mississippi Delta, and, excited about gathering a huge crop, Dad was running in ten different directions at once. In the field next to our home, a cotton picker was harvesting, a stalk cutter was following it, and Dad was handling Newman’s job of weighing up sacks for the hand pickers until the old man finished his chores.
After loading the garbage, Newman said, “Junior, Boss is in a powerful hurry with all these folks on the payroll and him trying to git the crop out ’fore it rains. You can’t drive today. Find sumpin’ else to do. I’ll let you drive next time.”
Dejected, I stood behind the truck poking my finger through holes in the bumper. One was a little tight, but I shoved my finger through anyway, frowning and glaring defiantly at Newman. He cranked up, and I heard the gears grinding as he shifted.
“Wait, Newman — don’t go yet,” I yelled. “My finger is stuck.” He didn’t hear me, and I panicked as he headed down the blacktop.
At first, I trotted along behind, yelling louder and louder, but soon I could no longer keep up, and was holding on with one hand while trying to free the other. “Newman, Newman,” I screamed with all my might, as he shifted to a higher gear.
Big Willie was driving the picker and saw the calamity unfolding. Abandoning his machine, he galloped across the field, trying to stop Newman. Rufus, the stalk cutter man, followed, and cotton sacks flew in all directions as the hands stampeded to witness the pandemonium.
Finally, they stopped Newman. I hung limp and crying, smelling the odor of burnt rubber from the toes of my tennis shoes.
“What in God’s name is going on here?” my father roared as his pickup skidded to a stop. Sizing up the situation, he roared again, “Willie, go tell his mama to bring some soapy water so I can pull his finger out.”
Mama was feeding Queenie, Dad’s prize bird dog, in heat at the time.
“Miss Lena, Boss said bring some soapy water to git Junior untangled from that truck.” Horrified, Mama scrambled toward the house … leaving Queenie’s gate open.
“Boy, you brought this whole farm to a halt,” Dad snarled as he pulled up to the house. “Don’t cause me no more trouble, dang it.”
Suddenly, stomping the brakes, he groaned, “Oh, no, oh, no, no!” There was Queenie, now the common law bride of the mangiest cur in the county.
Dad looked at his prize dog, at his sniffling son, at his wife, at his cotton picker and tractor sitting idle, and all he could say was, “boy, boy, boy, boy, boy.”