What Happened Next
When you’re old and you think about friends and loved ones passed, what you remember most are the days of your youth; the times when you got a little mischievous, like when your brother and you pulled up all the turnips from your mother’s garden cause you’d rather get a whoopin’ than have to eat that wretched root. Or, when you and your buddy got a little too fascinated with how well your new magnifying glass could focus the sunlight pourin’ in through the window—and the next thing you knew a smokin’ black hole appeared out of nowhere on Momma’s freshly waxed wooden floor.
Then there’s your first love. And when ya tell of her, your throat goes all dry. Your knees start to shake, and your lips stammer just like they did all those years ago. And you recall every bit of that story with a silly school-boy’s grin plastered across your face.
But the memories that really take ya back are the crazy ones. The knee slappin’ stuff that makes ya curl up clutchin’ your gut, and nearly suffocate from laughter.
Why, just the other day I was a boy again, back on our farm in Southeast Texas. I got zapped through time when my sweet little great-granddaughter plopped down next to me with an old, dusty photo album her mother had pulled from the attic. We spent the afternoon turnin’ the pages, talkin’ about folks long gone. And then I came to a picture that made me bust a chuckle cause we all looked so calm, clean and snazzy. We could’ve almost passed for a high-society bunch given our grooming in that photo. Just lookin’ at it, you’d have never guessed what happened next.
But first, I gotta tell ya what happened before.
* * *
“Jacob! Momma said ya better hurry. The sun’s gonna get too low.”
“Almost done Ruthie. I just gotta feed Pilgrim.” I wished they stop pesterin’ me. I was movin’ as fast as I could. It was just a stupid picture.
I trampled through the mud toward Pilgrim’s pen. He was our pig, and future Thanksgiving dinner. It had been raining all morning, makin’ the ground as sloppy as what Pilgrim was about to eat—and my boots suctioned with each step, which caused a poppin’ sound every time I lifted my foot.
First thing I noticed when I got to the pen was that he’d, once again, turned over his feed trough.
“Stupid pig!” I set down the bucket, cause no way was I entering with it. Pilgrim was a feisty fellow, and he’d knock me over for sure.
“C’mon Jacob, you gotta go get dressed!”
I looked up to see that my older brother, Joe, had joined in on the nagging. He was walkin’ my way all spiffed up in his white dress shirt and tie. He might have appeared cosmopolitan if his dress pants weren’t tucked into mud-sloshed boots—and he wasn’t pullin’ a rope with a goat tied to its end.
“Where you takin’ Sunshine?” I asked, and flipped the trough. She was a little nanny of ours—that’s a female goat for you city folk. My mother had let her loose in the yard earlier that day to eat away some overgrown shrubs.
“Momma doesn’t want her running up on the porch gettin’ us all dirty,” he said, and then started inspecting his shirt for evidence of such. Ever since his sixteenth birthday—and Rae Ann Matthews—he’d gotten all concerned about that sorta stuff. “Here.” He thrust out his hand with the rope. “I don’t wanna risk getting muddy. You go tie her up.”
“If ya want me to hurry then quit givin’ me your chores.” I strutted out of Pilgrim’s pen and dumped his rancid slop. It hit with a nice firm splat. Then I turned to Joe, who stood there still sticking out his hand. Without sayin’ a word, he took a step forward and thrust the rope at me again, with a bit more force.
I didn’t care what he was wearing, if he hadn’t been two years older and a foot taller I’d have taken him down right there in the pig-messed mud. But, age and size have their persuasion, so I walked the few feet between us—glarin’ the whole distance—and yanked the rope hard enough to give him a burn, just to make my point.
As I passed by Pilgrim at the far end of his pen, he took a break from his feast to give Sunshine a squeal; lettin’ her know just how he felt about her. Now I’m not sure if Pilgrim was stupid, or just lonely, but from the time he was a piglet and she was a kid, he’d been declarin’ his undying love. Sunshine never did return his affections though.
I pulled the girl over to a tree, well away from Pilgrim, and tied her up. Then I dashed to the house, flinging mud the whole way, to put on my Sunday best. By the time I got out on the front porch of our clapboard farmhouse everyone was all ready and waiting, and lookin’ a bit perturbed.
My dad had on his brown, Sunday suit and tie. My sisters, both of them, wore their new dresses that Momma made for Easter. And Momma was wearin’ something she’d whipped up with the left over fabric from each. When she stood between my sisters it reminded me of a triple-dip ice cream cone with the three flavors melting together.
Momma yelled for Danny and Jonny, my two littlest brothers, to stay on the porch and out of the mud. She knew that if they got one foot on the ground they’d be off around the corner, not to be seen until their stomachs dragged them home.
My grandma was also there, but she wasn’t dressed up. She was takin’ this special picture, which my mom planned to send to her parents in Louisiana. She gave us a holler to get ready and then walked out into the yard with the camera my dad got for Christmas.
Momma positioned us, and we all stood there with frozen faces waitin’ for Granny to click. Finally she did, and not a moment too soon.
* * *
Let me catch my breath before I continue. Whew. . .a story like this is hard on an old man’s heart.
Alrighty. . .now I can’t tell ya what went on after the picture until I tell ya what was likely occuring while we were gettin’ ready for it. Nearest I can figure—being in such a rush and all—I wasn’t too thorough in tyin’ Sunshine to the tree. And. . .nearest I can figure—being that Joe had me so flustered—I didn’t latch Pilgrim’s gate. So, at some point Sunshine got loose, I assume, and went struttin’ by Pilgrim’s pen. And Pilgrim just couldn’t help himself; had to go after her. I can only imagine his surprise when the gate actually opened.
Now I didn’t see this, so I’m just giving the most logical explanation. What happened next though, I witnessed first-hand, and boy was it somethin’! Let me grab another breath.
Where were we? Oh yeah, on the front porch, posed and smiling—and Granny had just snapped the shot.
* * *
“Take one more,” my dad yelled.
But she didn’t get the chance. Sunshine rounded the house and jumped right onto the porch, barreling through us—bleatin’ and bellowing—scared out of her mind. And right on her tail was Pilgrim, covered in fresh mud, poop and slop. Pigs are messier than usual after a rain.
Well, Sunshine just wanted to get away, and I guess she was hoping we would give her some cover. But we were all dressed in our best, so we were tryin’ to get out of her way; except for Joe. He decided to forgo his usual concern with spit and shine in favor of saving the women, and had the bright idea that he’d jump Sunshine and wrestle her down. It might have worked if he hadn’t missed and landed flat on his face.
Sunshine reached the edge of the porch and went timid all of the sudden; didn’t want to jump. So instead, she turned around to head back, only Pilgrim was coming, and in between them laid my prostrate brother.
Sunshine bellowed, and used my brother’s back as a ramp to jump over Pilgrim. And Pilgrim—who saw that he was about to have a collision—put on his brakes. Problem was, he’d picked up so much speed that his fat body had no choice but to disagree with his legs. So, just as Sunshine leaped from Joe’s back, Pilgrim went slidin’ across it. And he knocked my mother, Ruthie and Abbey over like bowlin’ pins. Then all four of them rolled off the side of the porch, right into the freshly tilled mud of Momma’s new flower garden.
That mud made for a nice cushion. For a split second Pilgrim seemed pleased to the point that he’d almost forgotten what he was after, but then Sunshine came circlin’ around from the back of the house. She thought Pilgrim was still chasing her. And when she came face to face with him she let out a bleat and took off the other direction—again—with pellets shootin’ like bb’s right out of her back end. Pilgrim started running but he couldn’t get much traction in that mud, so mostly he was just spinnin’ his wheels dirtying up my mom and sisters some more.
And that’s when I decided to take action. Why I thought I could catch him, I don’t know. I was a puny fourteen year-old, and he probably weighed three hundred pounds or more. But I dove off the porch anyway and wrapped my arms around his hind quarter—slippery critter—all I managed to do was give him a hard surface to push off of, and then he was chasin’ after the goat again.
Imagine tryin’ to explain to folks why ya got a pig’s foot stamped in the middle of your forehead. It took nearly a month for the bruise to fade.
We finally caught that blasted big. It took us another hour, cause first we had to catch Sunshine. Then we terrified the poor girl by making her think we were gonna leave her in the pen with Pilgrim. But she was just bait. Once we got him in there, Joe and I picked her up real quick and helped her over the fence before climbin’ it ourselves.
The next day—since it was pretty much all my fault—I got to scour the mud from everyone’s clothes.
* * *
I have to say, I miss the old days. I’m not sure kids get those kinds of experiences anymore. They’re too busy with all their electronic gadgets, which is a cryin’ shame.
That’s got me thinking. I might just get my great-granddaughter a baby goat and piglet for her next birthday. I hope her mother won’t mind.
Shawna Williams is a writer of fiction and inspirational. She is a member of the Christian Writer’s Guild and an aspiring novelist. Many of her stories are inspired by the nostalgia of life in a small town, as well as the humorous situations that arise daily on her family’s ranch. Other works have been featured in Heart Touchers, A Long Story Short, The Sermon Illustrator, and local community newsletters.