“Coonin” is slang for hunting raccoons, and no one in the world hunts raccoons as good as my daddy.  But Daddy didn’t hunt raccoons just for sport and/or food.  His primary purpose was collecting coon bounties from the farmers who were bothered by coons and other various critters that would wreak havoc on their farms.  Most of these were of the nocturnal variety.  Most farmers work hard all day and need their sleep, and didn’t want to be bothered with staying up all night hunting pests.  So that is where my daddy came in.  He charged fifty bucks a head and got to keep whatever varmint crossed into his sights.  He worked anywhere within fifty miles of our home, which was halfway up a steep hill along a dirt road, and guaranteed his work.  A good week was five kills.  An average week was two to three kills.  A bad week was one or less kills.  You could count the number of bad weeks on the fingers of one hand in my lifetime.  Daddy had a secret.

Daddy never said more than a single word at a time.  Once in a great while he would say two, but that was rare.  He was tall and stout and had black eyes and wild black hair.  He believed in keeping things simple.  He did not like complications.  We had no running water in the house, no electricity and definitely no Internets, and no TV’s, Ipods, radios or clocks.  Daddy paid cash for everything and had no bank accounts or credit cards.  He drove a ’56 Chevy short-bed, step side pick-up truck and had been since 1955 when he bought it new.  He was an excellent provider.  Ma and me had everything we needed and never ever went hungry.

Ma was something else.  Daddy always called her Princess and with good reason.  She was beautiful and graceful and hard-working and passionate and humorous and level-headed all at the same time.  She absolutely owned me and daddy, and she kept us in line and made us bloom a little more every day.  I’ll be talking a lot about Ma.

You may think even five coons a week might not be much even at fifty bucks a throw, but you would be wrong.  On top of the fifty buck bounty, we got the meat and the skin.  The meat daddy would trade sometimes for fish, or beef, or pork or something just to give us some variety in our diet.  On top of all that, Ma, being as industrious as she was given to be, made coon skin caps out of the hides and selling them off the back of the Chevy alongside the road by town.  Ma made stuff from squirrel skins, raccoon skins, rabbit skins, fox skins, coyote skins, deer skins, beer skins and even some snake skins.  We kept some livestock at the house, and when the beef steer got slaughtered, she tanned that hide and made clothing and stuff out of that.  So anyways, this was our home economy.

I was shooting a twenty-two caliber rifle at four years old.  I shot my first coon when I was five and a half, and daddy made me clean it.  I threw up a few times, and cut my finger, but other than that I must have done well.  “Good,” said daddy.  By the time I was twelve I had shot and killed literally every available kind of critter in a hundred mile radius.  When I shot my first bear daddy said, “YeeHah!”  Ma made me an apple pie.

Ma had a garden and a green thumb.  Daddy and I never paid it no mind because we didn’t need to.  Ma also tended to the chickens, but the men had to tend to the yearly steer.  Oh yeah, we had three hound dogs and a couple tom cats.

Our house was actually part log cabin and part mobile home.  It’s hard to explain.  There were no rooms.  It was kind of like a teepee.  The fireplace was in the middle and vented up through the cone daddy erected on part of the mobile home. I slept on the tin side of the house, and ma and daddy slept at the opposite end in the log cabin part.  We all slept on bear skins.

This story really gets going when I turned twelve and daddy put his hands on my shoulders, stared me straight in the eyes and said, “Man now.”  Six nights a week, every week, daddy took me out bounty hunting for varmints, which in our area was coons.  But, this night was different.  This night daddy taught me how he bred raccoons and released them next to vulnerable farms.  For years he had been slowly building a large network of farmers, business and homeowners who suddenly became beset with raccoon problems.  Sometimes he would even put foamy soap on their chins.  Daddy could only be reached via word of mouth because we had no phones, but that didn’t slow him down one bit, of course.  It always seemed as soon as we cleared out one coon from one place, some farmer would chase us down and want another coon killed someplace else.  They called daddy, Coon Man.

The county judge had a chicken farm, and coon problems every March.  Daddy never charged the judge.

The prosecuting attorney had a horse farm, and had coon problems every November.  Coon shit is not good for horses.  The DA happily paid in advance a hundred bucks.  He loved his horses and they were expensive.

Norm Buckley called every June.  Something ate another cat and was tearing up the missus’ garden again.

The key to this operation was this seven acres on the back of our plot where daddy found a cave and kept at least a dozen trapped critters in cages for future release, slightly drunk, in the area near a customer.  When I turned twelve I had to lug all the food back there and clean out the cages and entertain the critters.  Daddy taught me how moonshine entertained them more than anything.  We soaked apples in it.  Occasionally someone would get lucky and shoot the critter before we arrived, but daddy always talked them out of the meat and the hide.

Daddy would get actual customers, too.  Daddy would drive real slow like through town every day yodeling with the radio and waving at anyone passing by.  “Hey Coon Man!” people would yell!  The cops even used to hire daddy to handle jobs they didn’t feel like doing like getting cats out of trees or rabid dogs out of alleys.  Daddy could climb like a monkey for kitties and rabid dogs got flat out shot with a 12 gauge.  Since Ma was home schooling me, I got to ride with daddy a couple days a week.  I had the greatest life in the world, and then Ma came along and spoiled it all.

“It’s time you went to a real school,” she declared absolutely.

“Yup,” agreed daddy.

They had given me zero days notice.  The next morning Ma had me up early ad out the door and drove me personally to the school, gave me fifty bucks and these words, “Make your Mama proud,”

I was scared as Hell, but what I didn’t know was that Ma had taught me a few grades beyond my years already.  Except for gym, I could have taught every class I was in.  Without even trying I was getting all A’s and B’s.  Everyone thought I was some kind of country bumpkin dork nerd creep.  I wore mostly jeans and flannel shirts, and that didn’t help I suppose, but I really didn’t care.  I just hooked in with a couple other dudes who weren’t popular and we hung out.  It wasn’t so bad.  I still got to coon hunt with daddy every night, and school was easy, and my new buds were dorky but not boring.  I introduced them to moonshine and we had a ball.  Life was good again.

And then everything came crashing down around me one brisk autumn afternoon when Robbie Lynn Reiger stepped blindly into my path in the hallway outside the library and unwittingly stole the entirety of my heart and soul.  Oh yeah, this was senior year so some time had passed.  Now I wasn’t a total rookie. I was a virgin, but not a total rookie.  No girl would ride in the pick-up truck, but I talked a few into meeting me at the mall or the movies or something.  BUT, Robbie Lynn Reiger was the queen of the high school and she dated the captain of the football team.  Her parents were filthy rich (she drove a Beamer to school.), and she was very talented and charming and had hair woven of the finest golden strands.  Every boy in the school wanted her, including the teachers.  And she had just run smack dab into my face with hers, in mid-sentence with her mouth open, and I put my hands in the standard stop position and boom.

We helped each other up from the floor and both apologized and both felt awkward and just as I was about to introduce myself her stupid boy-friend showed up and asked me what me deal was.  I had no idea what this guy meant by that, but I thought of an insult but that got blared out by the bell. The next thing I know the queen of the high school is scurrying down the hall in the grips of sissy boy, but did she steal a quick peek over her shoulder?  And now I knew exactly how them coons felt when we shot them.

Daddy made special coon and critter ammo.  The slugs he machined from carbon steel rods at his brother Jake’s machine shop downtown.  He balanced and hand polished every single round we shot, which was rarely more than seven per week.  We used this kind of slug because it did not come apart or mushroom on impact.   If one of these rounds did completely penetrate a critter, it came out the other side the same size it went in.  You had to watch your background carefully but it was worth the risk due to these slugs not tearing up the pelt as much as hollow points or wad cutters.  Plus, they were damn accurate, and we always aimed for the heart.

None of that really mattered much though because we always knew where the critters were and where the best place to shoot them would be, because we put some moonshine apples there.  We rarely took a shoot more than fifty feet.  It was duck soup.   Daddy built a silencer for the rifle so dogs didn’t start yelping every time we bagged us a coon.  Daddy might have been a little more skilled in Jake’s machine shop than he let on.

Probably 99% of our kills came between midnight and one-thirty.  Then we just picked up that critter and threw him in a burlap bag and toted him back home for cleaning and skinning.  Daddy always demanded payment in advance and it was never a problem.  Customers did not want to see that critter or my Daddy again if they didn’t have to.   Half the time they just left a wad of bills in the mailbox.

Ma had one of those foot pedal sewing machines and whenever she was sewing she was singing and she had the voice of a songbird.  And she could sew anything.  She was also good at tooling leather and played the fiddle, mandolin and flute—and she had one of each.  She handled all the family money and that is all I knew about that.  She was also a natural born doctor and mid-wife.  We never went to a regular doctor and never saw a regular dentist and were in perfect health and had all our teeth.  She even hand made our toothbrushes out of pine and goat whiskers.  There seemed to be no end to Ma.

Daddy could fix anything and hunt anything and smell anything and see everything, and build anything.  That is about the best way to describe him.  Once in a while he’d swing a wrench for the tractor repair garage or hook in on some construction job for a few weeks.  The money was good but we really didn’t need it.   He’d come home drunk and want to dance with Ma, who gladly obliged and the party was on.  Daddy blew the jug.  He was our rhythm section.  I played guitar, and not very well.

I never asked where we were going to hunt.  Daddy would just say, “There.”  But, when we pulled into the rich neighborhood I did sit up in the seat.  My heart started throbbing and I started sweating and daddy was giving me strange looks and before I knew it, we were in Robbie’s driveway and her daddy was walking down the drive.  It was a mansion, and some critter killed a cat or something.  Daddy charged the rich people one hundred dollars a critter.  And then Robbie appeared in the big picture window and she was wearing a fuzzy pink bath robe and was brushing her hair with long graceful strokes.  My whole body began to tingle as I slipped real cool like out of the truck.  I tipped the bill of my hat back with the barrel of the rifle trying to look even cooler.  I could see Robbie smiling in the window.  And then I was floating along next to daddy and walked right by that picture window and my eyes were so stuck on Robbie, I walked right into an oak tree face first.  I wasn’t hurt much, but daddy grabbed the rifle from me.  When I looked back Robbie had gone.  I remember nothing else about that night.

The next day at school the football captain confronted me in the hallway for being a coon hunting hillbilly.  I failed to see the insult and that made him even angrier.  We don’t even have running water I proclaimed, or electricity.  At that, everyone in the immediate area came to a complete halt and went silent.  Football captain was confused, and to tell you the truth so was I.  Some teacher happened along and we all started moving and talking again.  I saw Robbie walking off with football captain and once again, she peeked over her shoulder at me and smiled.  I wasn’t worth a shit the rest of the day.

Ma noticed right away.  I wasn’t hungry and just wanted to go to bed.  She made me eat and then made me chop wood for an hour, and then I had to feed the business critters, and then daddy took me hunting, but when we got back Ma sat me down and broke me open like a monkey does a coconut.  Ma listened patiently for a few minutes, and then she asked me if she could change my diaper.  “Don’t be a crybaby, Sugar.  You go out and get that girl if that’s what you really want.”  And, for the next few hours Ma told me exactly how to accomplish this.  She could really connive when she wanted to.  We ended up on the roof watching the sun rise.  “That right there is all you need,” Ma said.

Daddy refused to buy gasoline whenever he could afford not to.  He rigged a siphon hose, powered by the Chevy battery that he concealed behind the seat.  He never got greedy.  He never left anyone high and dry completely.  He just took enough and didn’t make a complete pest of himself.  This is why he always parked the truck next to the customer’s car. Before we left, we’d take a few gallons in the still of the night.  He loved stealing gas, and so did I.

About a week later I ran into Robbie in the school office.  I was dropping off a permission slip and she was dropping off her yearbook deposit.  I ignored her, even when she dropped her math book.  When she bent over to pick it up I leaned a little in her direction so when she came up her head hit my elbow and all the books flew out of my arm.  She was pissed!  So we scurried around trying to gather our stuff and finally I got out an invitation for dinner.  She looked at me like I was retarded, but I didn’t let her speak.  “Think about it,” I said, and turned on my heel.  I had her French book and calculator under my arm, and resisted with every ounce of energy inside me the urge to take a peek over my shoulder.  I proved impossible for her to find for the rest of the day.

That night I lay in my bed alternately playing with the calculator and reviewing that French book.  It was raining, and daddy didn’t much like hunting in the rain, so I had a few extra hours.  The calculator, of all things, suddenly got my attention.  I was thinking of things to add and multiply when I decided to count critters hunted.  Averaging five skin-able critters per week for a year comes to about 260.  In my lifetime, that would be 4,680 critters.  At fifty dollars per, that is 234,000 dollars, which is about 13,000 dollars a year.  I learned in school that is below poverty level, but I hadn’t yet figured in all the stuff Ma sold—which was basically uncountable.  But I did know she got five hundred dollars per coonskin cap, and two or three of those went out of the house every week when she went to the post office.  So, let’s say two just to be on the safe side.  That’s 936,000 dollars.  My perspective on life changed a lot that night, but I never said a thing.

The next morning Robbie was waiting for me at the door to my math class.  She did not look happy.  I told her the French book was in my locker and handed over the calculator, but now it was in a sleek, black leather pouch—initialed and everything.  “Oh my God,” she exclaimed.  “Where did you get this?”

“I made it last night,” I replied, then turned on my heel.  “My locker is up on the second floor.”

“Vos désirs sont mes ordres, ma princesse.  Mes pieds sont comme des ailes”, I said while handing Robbie that French book.  Ma had been teaching me French since I could talk, but Robbie didn’t know that.  Robbie knew I was taking Spanish because her best friend was in class with me.  She stood there like a statue until out of nowhere comes football captain and I just walked away.  This guy had some stupid good radar.

On the coldest day in January Robbie’s car ran out of gas about a mile from the school.  I had siphoned out all but about a half a gallon.  I happened by about thirty seconds later in the Chevy and asked what the problem was.  “What are you doing here?” she asked.  It was a legitimate question.  I lived in the hills in the opposite direction, but I had an answer ready.  “I’m going to the mall to get a birthday present for my Ma,” I half-lied.  I took a minute or two pretending to diagnose Robbie’s car problem before discovering the gas gauge.  “I have a five gallon can in the back.  I can hook you right up.”

Robbie tried giving me a wad of money, but I wouldn’t take it.  Finally, she says, “Let me do something at least.”  I smiled.  “Okay, I do need some advice on something,” I said.  “Can you help me pick out a birthday present for my Ma?  It has to be extra special, and money is no object.”

She looked at me as if I had just spit in her face.  “No sense in both of us driving, park your Beamer in that Burger King lot and we’ll take my truck.”  And then I walked back to the Chevy and climbed in.  I didn’t look back.  I drove directly to that Burger King and parked.  Sure enough, Robbie slid in next to me, but she waved for me to come to her car.  She even said I could drive.  I just shook my head and drew her in with my index finger.  I reached over and opened the passenger door and that is when she got her first look at the bear skin seat cover in the Chevy.  Quite clearly, it stunned her.  “Is that real?” she asked.  “It doesn’t bite anymore,” I replied.  “Get in.”

The Chevy had a floor shifter and the knob was a raccoon paw and a big one.  It kind of freaked Robbie out until I let her touch it and then she couldn’t let it go.  I got to touch her hand every time I needed to shift, which I made sure to do often.  She had never ridden in a shift vehicle before and it was exciting for her.  Before we knew it, we were at the mall and Robbie knew right where to go, of course.  She was firing questions at me left and right about Ma.  I was trying to keep up, but she started answering her own questions and I just shut up and listened.  And then I heard it.

“Hey Hillbilly!”

Captain jock was at the freaking mall.  I turned on my heel and walked away and didn’t look back.  I had a huge smile on my face.  This could not have worked out better if I had planned it.  Ma about cried laughing so hard when I told her, and Daddy even let out a hoot.

That night Daddy and I shot an entire family of raccoons.  It was a totally unplanned Bonanza.  Daddy didn’t even charge the old farmer.  In fact, I could have sworn I saw Daddy hand a wad of cash to that old farmer guy.  I never did get the full story on that one.  The last thing I needed to worry about was money.  It is hard to explain the comfort of having a ton of money and not needing any of it.  All I can tell you is, it’s hard to keep the smile from your face.  Daddy and Ma had known this feeling for much longer than I had.

The only place Ma’s home schooling had failed me was with computers.  I never touched one before being sent to a real school.  Those dork friends I made initially came right to my rescue however, and in a few short weeks I was competent enough and by my senior year I was downright expert.  I never had an interest in owning one because outside of school, I didn’t need one.  But, I said all that to say this, and that is I had a Book of Face account just so I could follow (stalk) Robbie better and that is how I found out her birthday.  May first.

April proved to be an eventful month.

First of all, Daddy was getting excited about my exploits wooing Robbie, and he wanted to help—but he didn’t tell anyone.  What happened turned out to be only incidental to his intentions, but still extraordinary.

Secondly, captain jock and I had an epic confrontation resulting in suspensions and hospital trips.

Thirdly, I got to bestow the fleece of the Gods on the princess of my dreams.

The second thing actually happened first.  I avoided Robbie as much as possible for a few weeks after the incident at the mall.  I had no idea of what happened after I fled, but that flame didn’t quite need stoking presently.  April first, which was totally appropriate, captain jock caught me flirting with Robbie in the hallway or someplace and finally made real his threats of tearing me a new asshole or skull fucking me or choking me with my own dick.  “Are you gay or something?”  All those sexually oriented insults were making me uncomfortable.  Captain jock got so mad right then he threw a vicious right cross that connected squarely with the edge of the door to my locker causing his arm to explode in bone and blood and havoc to pop.  Captain jock’s loyal best friend then took a shot at me and I ducked that as well, only when he missed me he connected with Robbie’s best friend forever’s face—who was always trying to keep Robbie away from me.  Boom, down goes Sally in a spray of blood and screams.  The crowd was moving like angry hippos and people were getting knocked to the floor and run over.  Captain jock’s friend didn’t let up. I kept ducking his punches and then, out of the corner of my eye, I see Robbie starting to get pushed into the wall and with one great leap I caught her, wrapped her up and twisted between her and the wall.  Boom, my head bounces off the wall and that brick puts out my lights.  I actually don’t remember any of this.  I got to see the security camera footage later.

Ma told me I had a slight concussion.  Her and Daddy had seen the video of the brawl.  “She sure is pretty, that one,” said Ma.  “Yup,” agreed Daddy.  “Purdy.”

Even though I hadn’t thrown a punch, and had saved Robbie from a concussion, they threw me out of school for a few weeks just like captain jock and his idiot friend.  Seeing Robbie now would be nearly impossible and I was pining like a little girl until Daddy kicked me in the butt to go hunting one evening.  This is the second thing.  Daddy drove right to Robbie’s house.  He’d planted a coon there the night before.  I could tell he was rightly proud of himself, and I couldn’t have been happier.  It went exactly like the first time to the letter, except for one thing.  Robbie blew me a kiss.   I walked straight into a tree again.

What happened next was the thing.  Just as me and Daddy crossed into the woods behind Robbie’s house to set up for the evening we heard the distinct growl of a bear and turned around—and there he was—probably a six hundred pound male black bear and he was eating a raccoon—and looked drunk.  In fact, the bear keeled over and fell into the swimming pool. (moonshine apples)  “Shit,” Daddy says, and heads off toward the bear.  “All we have is a 22, Daddy”, I said, but he didn’t stop.  In fact, he threw the rifle down, and then jumped into the pool on top of that bear.  It was in the deep end and Daddy was holding its head under trying to drown it.  He yelled, “Boy!” and I jumped in on top of the bear, too.  That bear tried everything to shake us, but when it rolled over onto its back it must have got a mouthful of pool water and he flipped back over and had sucked in too much water to fight any longer.  Daddy dragged me out of the pool through the shallow end.  I couldn’t stop shaking—not from the cold, mind you but from realizing what I had just done.  And then I looked up and saw Robbie’s entire family standing in the patio door windows. At least two of them had camera phones going.  Robbie was the only family member missing.  My heart sunk.

We dragged the bear out of the pool and revived it.  It was obvious that thing had spent his very last ounce of piss and vinegar.   Robbie’s dad let us back the Chevy up to the pool and the three of us hefted it onto the bed.   Robbie’s dad offered Daddy five thousand dollars for the skin.  He had his wife take some pictures of him with the bear in the back of the truck.  “Maybe”, says Daddy.  I was depressed the whole drive home, but didn’t show it.  Daddy was too proud of himself.   He turned off the Chevy engine and spoke an entire sentence.  “Don’t tell Ma we pretended to drown dat bar,” he said.

My first day back to school Robbie marched right up to me and said, “Are you crazy?” only it wasn’t really a question.  Her best friend forever, who was now wearing a face brace, yanked Robbie away before I could plead my case.  My depression deepened.  On top of that people now took to calling me, Bear.  I got home from school that afternoon and Ma noted my disposition immediately.  She called me into her sewing corner and sat me down.  “Tomorrow, give Robbie this,” she said, and held up the most beautiful fabric I had ever seen.  It was pure white and light as a feather and felt like it might melt in your hand.  “It’s a shawl,” Ma explained.  “It’s made from the beard hairs of the wild ibex and comes from Kashmir, India.  I traded some coon caps for it for the thread and wove it myself.  Robbie will love it.”

In Spanish class the next day I showed it to Robbie’s best friend forever who was clearly wowed.  “It’s gorgeous,” she said.  “Where did you get it?”   I just asked her if she thought Robbie would like it.  “Yes,” she said. “Who wouldn’t?”

I was wearing it when I caught Robbie closing her locker door—I thought that might get at least a smile.  Before she could say a thing I wrapped the shawl around her shoulders and said, “Je l’avais fait spécialement pour vous.”  That earned me a hug and a kiss on the cheek.  “Joyeux anniversaire, ma princesse.”

Bang!  Hook, line, sinker.  She told that football captain to fuck off, transferred into my Spanish class, and bought me a twelve millimeter gold chain.  “I love you Beary much!” she claimed.  Life was good.

Of course, nothing lasts forever especially for teenagers but not lasting forever can sometimes be a good thing, of course.  So, one day while out riding in the Chevy I swung by the homestead.  It was hard to read Robbie’s reaction at first.  Her face kind of got a deathly pale color but her neck veins were pulsing like fire hoses.  She looked at me and asked, “You actually live here?”

I got to give the girl credit though she actually got out of the Chevy and followed me into the house.  It smelled of lavender as it usually do because Ma likes that odor.  I don’t think I told you about the skylights yet, but there were several and the natural light streamed in like it was a cathedral or something.  A burping fire bounced in the stone fire pit.  Above it hung an iron pot emitting brief whiffs of steam.  Ma sat at the supper table cleaning Daddy’s bear rifle.  She smiled and said, “Why hello there.  I know you’re Robbie.  Come on over here and sit down, Child.” To me she said, “Get your mother and the lady something cool to drink.”  And then I was sent out to hunt dinner, but they were just trying to get rid of me.  Girl talk.

A few hours later I returned and they were sitting on the porch still gabbing away.  As I approached Robbie jumped down and said, “Teach me how to drive that truck or lose me forever!”  So I did.  And then I taught her how to shoot.  And then I taught her how to hunt.  And then I tried to teach her how to field dress an animal and she told me to fuck off.  But then, she field dressed me and I knew for certain I had been slaked rather completely.  We slaked a lot after that, and weren’t exactly shy about where we slaked.  That led to a little trouble.  After the bear incident Robbie’s father had cameras installed and they were motioned operated and well, they caught some motion one night in the Chevy.   Robbie daddy rushed out of the house swinging a golf club and cussing up a storm which gave me just enough time to fire up that Chevy and scram the Hell out of there.  Actually, Robbie was driving but the result was the same.

I thought Ma would be all cool and understanding when we told her what happened, but she flew through the freaking roof.  Daddy had to calm her down even and he isn’t very good at it because he has never had to do it before.  Either had I.  And Robbie, well she didn’t have a chance either.   Finally Ma wore down a bit and put down the cleaver and six-shooter.  She was most upset that we had been so flagrant with our love making.  She said if we got caught it was because we wanted to get caught and that was just plain sick!  But I pointed out that I once caught her and Daddy and that was probably the closest she ever came to actually striking me.  Robbie’s brain must have kicked in about then because she said the magic words that got us all over the hump of this problem.  She said, “I’m sorry, Ma.  I was stupid and selfish and I will never, ever do anything like this again.  Please forgive me!”

The apology didn’t mean shit to Ma.  She’d heard me and Daddy apologize our asses off before and always knew they were bullshit.  Nope, what got her is Robbie actually calling her, Ma, for the first time.  She was butter in a crock pot after that.

But farting on frogs Robbie’s daddy would not get over this debacle no matter how many times I tried apologizing and calling him, Pa.  It seemed it just made him angrier so I stopped.  I sent letters instead.  One day a lawyer in a fancy car showed up with some cease and desist orders.  Mama brung the young man into the house, fed him lunch and some special coffee and sent him on his way with two coon skin caps under his arm.  Mama had twelve hundred dollars tucked into her bra.  She told me, “Stop apologizing to that man already.”

Robbie’s daddy was rich and powerful and everything, but nothing can control a teenage girl but that very same teenage girl and his teenage girl was no exception.  She was smart about it, too.  She kept up her grades, kept under her limit on her credit card, made curfew most every time, and didn’t get pregnant to the best of everyone’s knowledge.  Of course, nothing gets by Mama either.   “What are you going to do?” she asked Robbie.  “I’m going to have that baby.  Never for a second did I think any differently.”  That was all Mama needed to hear.  It was all Robbie’s daddy needed to hear, as well.  He wrote her out of the will and cut off all contact with her.  I’d be lying if I said Robbie wasn’t hurt, but she hid it well.

Anyway, the baby came a spell later and unfortunately it looked like Daddy. But then Mama said ugly babies need love too so we all changed our tune.  Robbie opted for a hospital delivery instead of a mobile home log cabin delivery and Mama was fine with that as everything turned out well.  After about a month the baby’s features softened and it started looking more like me and we were all relieved.  By now we were both high school graduates.  I was supposed to go into coonin’ and Robbie was supposed to go to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan to study law.  One way or another it worked out exactly that way.  Mama wrote some letters and bing, bang, boom it was so.  Robbie drove the truck to school near every day and me and Daddy drove it nearly every night working.  It was a perfect arrangement.  Then Robbie’s daddy showed up one day and as usual he was pissed.  He was angry because he never saw the grand kid, so we let him.  He was angry because we stole his daughter’s future from her, and we told him about the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  He was running out of steam at this point and all he had left was a video of Daddy siphoning gas out of his Cadillac.  Daddy said, “I done it.”  Three whole words in a row.  Of course, then I topped Daddy’s truth with a bald face lie.  “It was late at night and there’s no gas stations open.  We didn’t want to wake you to ask,” I stammered as guiltily as I could.  I could see Mama shaking her head out of the corner of my eye, but Robbie’s daddy bought it.  Daddy offered him a drink and the party was on.  He slept next to the fire in a deer skin that night and said he never slept better.  Mama made flapjacks for breakfast.  We ate like pigs.

That’s pretty much all there is to tell in this little story.  You can imagine how things proceeded.  Once you’ve found something that works it is just not wise to change it unless you absolutely have to.   We turned that little happiness crank until it plum wore out, and then we fashioned another.  Everything is what it is and what it is is what you make of it.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, and it all starts with coonin’.










Robbie videod daddy stealing gas and planting moonshine apples