Big Country

t were long before even the slightest sniff of daylight when Harliss shook me awake on account of the hogs what got loose during the night and opted to turn their twitching, ever-noisesome snouts up at their slop in favor of the newly stretched and glued tubulars I’d left to cure in the root cellar just the day before. Them 290tpi silk Dugast casings weren’t no kind of match for them gnashing, yellowed hogs teeth, all gummed as they were with the mastick I’d painted on ever careful with the brush I’d f’ashioned myself by chewing on a piece of willow switch til it were soft and wet; soft and wet like Joon’s curls what I touched gentle with my hand when no one were looking as she lay dead and cold after that preacher washed her sins in the river a little too powerful last summer.

“Damn yer devilish hide, boy. Them tires were for the Sunday cyclocross meeting.”

Harliss breath were ripe and sweet with sourmash, words spitting like fire in the prickly air of that cold, bitter cold morning, that morning I would run, run from the crik and home I knew, run hard on bare, bleeding feet til I’d run all the way to the city where the JVA boys scooped me up like a just-born baby and told me, “You done running, Big Country. You with JVA now, and you’ll ride like a foaming coondog is at your heels, and when you’re done riding you’ll sleep the powerful sleep of the righteous, the powerful sleep of the dead.”