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FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: This life story begins in 1973 (kind of) – part 29

Spinnin’ a yarn of romance

“That was just such a traumatic transition, not havin’ Mama at home anymore,” I told Cheyenne, continuing the story. “That jus’ took its toll on all of us, and I still can’t help but cringe thinkin’ ‘bout it. At least, before when I came home, Mama would be there. It was our home, and a sixteen-year-old boy …”

I had to take a deep breath, then kind of floated back in time.

“... I can’t believe that I was only 16 then and havin’ to grow up way too fast. A 16-year-old boy should not have to come home from a hard and hot day’s work on the bricklayin’ job and have an empty house, with no Mama.

“But, you know,” I added quickly, “through all the years, I never lamented that, never used it for an excuse. Even now, when I comment that it was not what a young boy should have to go through, I feel sorry for the young Georgia boy back then as if it was another person in another life. It’s funny how that works. For myself, though, I never complained. I guess I figured the Lord knew what He was doin’.”

Cheyenne was listening carefully. I don’t know if he realized it, but I knew one day he would realize he was getting a rare look into a life-story.

I gave it time to sink before continuing.  

“I would shower and all after work,” I said, “then go down to Grandma’s and see Mama then. Grandma always had supper on the stove waitin’ for me, so I was fed good. Most of the time, after supper and seein’ Mama for a few minutes, I’d go down to the Y and play ball. The two things my brothers gave me were our salvation. It was bricklaying durin’ the day with all that hoopla, and basketball at night. The older I get, the more thankful I get for your great-uncles.”

With that, I waited a moment to see what Cheyenne had on his mind. He seemed always to know where the story should go next, which was a definite help to me.

“Well,” he said, sensing that I was leaning on him for the next part, “bricklaying, basketball …” and he paused, “and the girl.”

We both laughed, and I said, “Oh, yeah, can’t forget the girl, that flower in the desert. This story would’ve been a tragedy, for sure, if not for the girl,” before adding this commentary, “The Lord really is amazin’, isn’t He!”

After a moment, I picked up the plot, “I guess you’re wantin’ to know how the ‘romance’ was progressin’,” and his smile told me that that was exactly what he wanted to know.

“It didn’t take long after we first talked for the little soap opera to start runnin’ every day, like clockwork,” I said. “Corrina would come out with her momma or daddy every day, usually late mornin’ but sometimes late afternoon. And we always found a chance to go around to the back of the house and talk, basically anywhere Red wasn’t. We didn’t have time for ‘lengthy speeches,’ mind you,” I said, referencing one of the Oak Ridge Boys’ songs that came along a few years later. “We had to talk while I’d casually be pickin’ up brick culls and throwin’ them in the wheelbarrow.”

“What’s a brick cull?” Cheyenne said.

“They’re the pieces of brick layin’ all over the ground after the bricklayers finish up a wall. It was a job that has to be done, so I would figure a good time to get around the house to pick ‘em up would be whenever Corrina happened to be there, and the best place, you know, was always the opposite side of the house where the bricklayers were. If I could catch Red engaged talkin’ with Mr. McClain about how the job was comin’ along, then that was just a bonus. The other laborers would give me a little bit of a break, because, trust me, they weren’t missin’ a beat with all this. As soon as that black Studebaker drove up, they kept one eye on layin’ brick and t’other on the soap opera runnin’ in ‘livin’ color,’ as Doocy would say.

“Ever’ now and then Pee Wee or Charlie, the other bricklayer, would holler, “Pup, we got to have some mud up here!” forgettin’ that I was ‘engaged’ at the moment; but my ‘friend’ with the webbed hand would always rise to my defense and rebuttal.

“Now, Pee Wee,” Doocy would say, “you just gots to holler for the Breeze and leave my Pups alone rights ‘bout  now. Can’t you see that the Puppy is busy pickin’ up them culls ovah on there? If you needs some mud, you holler for the Cool Breeze and leave my Pup be.”

Of course, he’d say it as if he was mad at Pee Wee. But if he happened to be in eyesight of me, I could see him grinnin’ at Pee Wee and lookin’ over wherever I was with the whites of his eyes showin’. He was a mess.

“Of course, Pee Wee would play right along, and say, ‘Well, excuse me, Breeze, I won’t let that happen again. Those culls have gotta be picked up, and the Pup’s the one to do it.’

“I could hear all of that, and Corrina and I would get to laughin’ about it, too. We couldn’t hear everythin’ they were sayin’, but after those fake conversations between Pee Wee and Doocy, we could hear them gigglin’ like little ten-year-old girls, and we knew what they were sayin’. They actually did me a favor, because it gave Corrina and me plenty to talk about. But pretty soon, Red would get wind of what was goin’ on and came stompin’ around the house. But I’ll have to give it to Red, when he came lumberin’ over toward me then saw that the dark-haired girl was back there talkin’ to me while I was ‘workin’,” I said, with air quotes, “Red would calm down and say somethin’ like, “‘Pup, when you finish up where ya are, I would be mighty appreciative if you would haul some brick over to the scaffold there,’” and he would say it without too much sarcasm; but I got the point and told Corrina I would talk to her later, then remind her, “Now, be careful walkin’ around here. You don’t wanna step on a nail or a sharp brick.

“I guess watchin’ out for her that-a-way, and jus’ stealin’ every moment I could at the risk of life and limb, I could tell she was pretty enamored by the young fella out there flexin’ his muscles,” I said with a grin.

“But all this sneakin’ around and throwin’ little smiles to each other every time we could, it all caught up with us one day. It was one of the funniest things that happened that summer, but it wasn’t funny to me, not funny at all.”

With that, Cheyenne and I both laughed, and he waited for his Popman to spin that part of the yarn. It was a ‘romantic yarn,’ I guess, and it was about to get ‘hot and heavy,’ as we say.


Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a writer and preacher of the gospel. And, after a ten-year hiatus, he’s also returned to work with students at Ferris High School as well.

In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email or call or text (972) 824-5197.

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