FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: This life story begins in 1973 (kind of) – part 34
We severely violated our oft-used Oak-Ridge Boy’s “no time for lengthy speeches” motto in our monologue about Mrs. Long. Cheyenne listened carefully to every detail, but I suspected our departure off the main trail was not exactly the terrain Cheyenne wanted to investigate. But you and I both know that Mrs. Long’s classroom impact and a hundred others like it are key elements of one’s story of retracing an ever-so-rugged trail that leads from youth to manhood.
Ah, Mrs. Long, I know now how right Mr. Emerson was, how right you were: We are part of all that we have met.”
“I could not tell you everything that shaped us that summer,” I said, a bit wistfully, looking away into the distance for a moment, “because I don’t think Yellowstone itself could hold all the pages of such a book.”
He smiled, because he well knew the impact Yellowstone had on his Popman many, many years after the ink dried on the story of ‘73.
As we go along, I, knowing how way leads to way… I doubt I will be able to resist the temptation to flash back at a moment’s notice to the later events that unfold two-thousand miles north and west of 1973.
There, you see, a similarly rugged journey in a even more glorious country became a fitting microcosm of the half-of-a-century that preceded it. Getting lost in Yellowstone in the first quarter of the twenty-first century seems even now to be a great deal like losing and finding ourselves bit by bit in the red clay of Georgia and beneath the tall pines on an Alabama hill in the summer of ’73.
With Cheyenne’s understanding smile came a natural pause.
I took a deep breath, for I knew the mention that the two leading ladies of our saga, Corrina and Mama, would soon meet, and this upcoming monologue would lead to a lengthy speech that would far excel the one about Mrs. Long.
Cheyenne made sure that we would get to it, though, as he took full advantage of the pause and re-entered the narrative himself.
He’d had a question on his mind, and it wouldn’t hold any longer.
“So, the young Corrina and my great-grandmother Louise got to meet that summer?” he asked enthusiastically, almost as if he was beginning to understand that he was guiding the plot along with each question.
He had full-color portraits in his mind of these two remarkable ladies that we had been painting, stroke by stroke, for some time now on the impressionable landscape of his own young mind; and he was seeing two ladies, two from different eras but bonded by a common kindness.
Ah, there is the connection, I thought, as I prepared to speak.
There is the connection of these two influences that would help shape a life. None can influence a young man more than a mother that guided him along from morning to night like a ship for sixteen-plus years, and a young lady who happened upon the scene suddenly in the middle of the bay to capture his heart and leave a lasting imprint in his mind, her instrument of change being a rare tenderness and gentleness that only a young lady can exude. Naturally, he wanted to see the two side by side, and the story could not be told without portraying the juxtaposition.
I hesitated, turning a minor pause into a literary dramatic pause, not only to make Cheyenne sense the importance of the telling of that chapter but also to gather my own thoughts and weigh the value of it all myself. I think I was beginning to make sense of it all just as much as Cheyenne was.
After a deep breath, I began.
“Corrina and I talked almost every day,” I said. “But we did not go out for several weeks. A couple of times I would drive my ’65 Chevy out so I could stay late and hang out with her after work. On one of the days I stayed over, it started to rain pretty hard about the time the boys loaded up in the back of the old red truck at 4:01, as they do. And I remember William hollering at me in his distinct hoarse voice as I stood out on the front porch of Corrina’s house watching.”
“So, Pup, you gonna stand right there where like you’s Fats Domino or somebody and let us ride all t’way home in this thunderstorm?”
But Doocy had a thing about anybody else “gettin’ up in his bus’ness” as he called it, and the Pup was his business, nobody else’s. He let William know that, quick as lightning.
“Yuh bettah jus’ get on to leanin’ agin that wheelbarrow there and leave my lil’ Pup be,” he said, standing up like a giant hovering over the wheelbarrows and Hook and William both as they wiggled to get comfortable in the back of the truck.
“Can’t yuh see nuttin’ at all, Willum, can’t cha see that the Pup there has a lil’ girl on his mind and that this rain heah ain’t gonna drive it outta his mind, not e’en a tinny-winny bit. So, you best leave the Puppy there alone and let ‘im get on with his’n love life.”
With that, Pee Wee laughed his patented laugh that the world could hear and began pulling out from the house, and I could hear Doocy “sanging” his new favorite song, “Corrina, Corrina, ooooooh, Corinna, Corrina, the Pup loves you sooooo …”
And all the boys were just-a laughing as the red truck made its way down the drive. I knew then the tension had passed and that on the morrow I wouldn’t have to worry too much about ‘Willum’ because Doocy had drawn a firm line in the sand that the Pup was off-limits to everybody else.
“It was kind of like I was beginnin’ to feel about this dark-haired girl,” I told Cheyenne, raising my eyebrows for emphasis, “I was gettin’ to where I would’ve fought lion or dragon for the young lady. Nobody may have known that, but I could feel it down in my stomach, and that feelin’ wouldn’t go away.
“Cheyenne,” I added, “I will tell you ahead of time that that feelin’ for the dark-haired girl was ‘bout to become a separate problem all its own.”
Cheyenne perked up at that, so I quickly added, “You’ll have to wait a bit for that part of the story, but it’s comin’. Don’t worry, it’s comin’ in all its glory.”
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 email@example.com or call or text (972) 824-5197.