UNCLE BUDGE’S BARN
CHAPTER 9, MONT EAGLE DIARIES
“You know there's folks who's born with luck and folks who's not. Yes sir, that's a fact,” thought Frawg as he turned his backside to the fire, warming it in the early mornin' chill. “Why you take ol’ Stanley Parker, now there's a fellar who's got all the luck. Why, he's so lucky that folks tag a picture of him up over their door stoops instead of horseshoes. Yea, ol’ Lucky Parker, why he's so lucky that he won ol’ man Pritchard's Lottery.” That's right, the beautiful Lottery Pritchard, the most sought after gal in all of Mont Eagle. At least, that's accordin' to all the then available bachelors. Whenever folks would ask of Stanley just how he won her heart, he'ld say, “Just lucky, I reckon.”
Turning back to face the fire, Frawg stretched his hands toward the heat and rubbed them together he thought out loud, "Why cain't I be as lucky as ol’ Stanley Parker? With his luck maybe I wouldn't be a standin' here warmin' myself by this here fire. Yes sir, with anybody's luck but mine I'ld be standing here in the cold and Uncle Budge would still have his barn. Why do things always go wrong with me? How did I ever set Uncle Budge's barn on fire? Oh yea, now I remember."
Frawg recollected how he had promised he'ld look after the critters while Uncle Budge was a visitin' his cousin Thurmon in Nashville. Frawg said then it weren't no trouble, he'ld rise early and do the feedin' on his way to school. And, the two dollars Uncle Budge promise fer the week would come in mighty handy Frawg told Ma, tryin' to persuade her to let him do the job.
"It's a mighty big responsibility for to take on," said Ma.
"Let the boy show he can," said Pa a puttin' in, "'sides it'll keep him from mischief and out of neighbors ponds."
Pa still ain't forgot the No Tresspassin' thing. So, Ma reluctantly agreed and that's how come Frawg was a comin' here ever morn afore sun up. He would fall out of bed at five a.m. cause it was a good three miles walk to Uncle Budge's farm and then back another two for school. While he got dressed, Ma would pack him an onion sandwich for to eat on the way in the cold mornin’ air.
"Be careful," she would say as she watched him a walkin' off into the early mornin' fog.
Be careful! Yes sir, that's just what Frawg was a doin' this mornin' as he lit the kerosine lantern a hangin' in the barn, and then he set it on the milkin' stool while he went about doin' the feedin’, and gatherin' the eggs and such. He was kinda in a rush this morn cause he wanted to catch up with Cindy Featherman on the way to school. He kinda' hoped he could carry her books to school. Cindy Featherman. Frawg sighed as he thought of her while he stood there a leanin' on the three-prong hay fork. Bessy's bellarin' for her breakfast brought him back to things at hand. Grabbin' a big ol’ fork full of hay, Frawg reached back to pitch it to Bessy when the handle of the fork knocked the lantern off the milkin' stool. This spilt kerosine and fire all over the hay. He quickly ran outside for the water bucket and then remembered he hadn't primed the pump yet this morn like he usually did first thing. By the time the pump caught prime, the hay was a burnin’, fast. Frawg threw the bucket of water on it, but it weren't enough. Bessy was a spookin' pretty good, so Frawg dropped the bucket and ran to let her and the other critters out before it was too late. When he ran back in, the fire was a climbin' the walls toward the hay loft. He grabbed the hay fork tryin' to move the burnin' hay away from the wall, but it just spread the fire around. Realizin' without help it was hopeless, he ran outside coughin' and spittin' smoke. He turned and just stood lookin' in horror as the flames started reachin' toward the sky. The smoke would surely bring folks a runnin', but they's too far to save the barn. “Boy, is Pa gonna be mad,” Frawg thought, “not to mention Uncle Budge. Yes sir, from now on folks'll start callin' him No Luck Frawg. Ma was sure to say I told you so.” Frawg had been in trouble afore, but this time was the worst yet. The thought of disappointin' Pa and destroyin' his uncle's barn was more than he could stand. He just couldn't face them, not now. So, he just up and ran into the woods a hopin’ no one would ever find him till he was growed or till everyone that knowed him had died and it was forgotten what he'ld done.
Meantime, the smoke did bring folks a runnin'. Ma had seen the smoke as she was a gettin' water from the well and hollared for Pa. "Pa, smokes a comin' from Uncle Budge's place. Come a runnin’."
Pa met Lester and Virgil on the way in their wagon, so they all rushed to do whatever was a needed. By the time they got there, there was no need left. The barn had burned slap to the ground. Nothin' left but smokin' timbers and such. Preacher Eljin showed up just then and asked whether Frawg was all right. It was then that Pa realized he weren't nowhere to be seen.
"He weren't in the fire," Lester hollared back while siftin' through the charred remains for what caused the fire. "Looks like he did get the critters out tho’.”
"Peers to have run off into the woods," Virgil said a pointin' at some tracks a leadin' away from the barn.
Pa sat down and breathed a sigh of relief knowin' Frawg was alive, but no tellin' in what kinda shape.
"Oscar, he's okay or he wouldn't run off like that. Most likely, he's just a feared cause of what happened," Preacher Eljin reassured Pa.
"Looks like this here lantern the one what done it," Lester said, holdin' up the charred remains.
"Man, what am I a gonna do with that boy. He's forever into somethin'," Pa said, shakin' his head.
"It's okay Oscar," said Preacher Eljin, "we'll all pitch in and rebuild Budge's barn, but you gotta rebuild Frawg's thinkin' inside. Surely, it's crushed now and needs your lovin' first."
"What he needs is a good bustin' first and then he's a gonna work to pay for the damage he's a done," Pa fumed.
"I ain't a sayin' Frawg don't have responsibilities here, but if’n you go stompin' into the woods after him you'll do more damage that what's here."
"Preacher, he’s my boy and I'll see fit to raise him my own way," Pa was a startin' to boil now.
Preacher Eljin looked Pa straight in the eye and said calmly, "Oscar, I ain't a tellin' you how to raise your youngin's, what I'm a sayin' is that love heals more wounds — bustin' makes 'em."
Pa turned without another word and headed into the woods a followerin' the tracks that Virgil had pointed out.
Now Frawg hadn't gotten too far before sittin' down to have a good cry, so it didn't take too long afore Pa came up on him. Hearin' somethin' Frawg looked up into the stern face of his pa. Through the tears he choked out, "Pa, I'm . . . s-s-soorrry! It weren't my fault the lantern spilt. And, I couldn't get the fire out cause the pump weren't primed and the critters was a hollarin' and..." Frawg's voice kinda trailed off as he lowered his head and took to sobbin' all over again, only harder than before.
Pa looked down at his boy. He could still smell the smoke on Frawg's overalls, and he notices that Frawg had a few burns on the back of his hands from tryin' to move the burnin' hay with the hay fork. It was then that Pa realized it could've been worse. Frawg could've been...Pa looked away chokin' back the tears not wantin' to think of losin' his boy.
"Son, I want you to know one thing. Now look at me, boy, cause I don't never say this enough and you need to know that I mean it." Frawg looked up into his Pa's moist eyes, while Pa continued, "Son, I . . . I sho' am proud you's okay. You did good gettin' the critters out and all. Frawg, I doubly proud, like I said, that you 're okay cause I couldn't stand to lose one of my own. Frawg, I love you, son. You need to know that."
Frawg looked with surprise at his pa, while wippin' the tears from his eyes. He wanted to make sure he had heard Pa right. “Did he say he loved me? He did, I just know he did,” Frawg thought to hisself.
With a slight smirk on his face, Frawg looked at his pa and asked, "Pa, do this mean that you forgive me after what I'ld done?"
"Frawg, sometimes love's got to be the bustin' you get cause it brings more honest sorry's than a strap sometimes," Pa said thinkin' back on what Preacher Eljin had said.
"Oh, Pa," Frawg sobbed as he buried his head into Pa's chest. Pa's big, strong arms squeezed Frawg hard makin' him glad that it was his pa that found him.
"Well, Pa let's go home. I reckon Ma'll want to love on me with some biskits," Frawg said a little too confidently as he looked up at his pa. Pa's arms were still wrapped around Frawg and he had begun to notice that Pa was a squeezin' a might harder now. "Pa, your lovin's sure makin' it hard for me to breathe."
"Lovin's over, son," Pa said as he looked down on his son. "Now comes the business of what's to be done about Uncle Budge's barn." Pa noticed the color drain from Frawg's face, but before Frawg could start to feelin' bad again, Pa grabbed him and slung him over his broad shoulders like a sack of feed. Walkin' off with Frawg a dangglin' Pa looked straight ahead a smilin' and said, "But, first let's get Ma to love on us with some biskits."