By Karen Brode
John Hawk hated deception of any kind, but his wife Effie forced him to be deceptive at times. He stood behind the barn and reached into his tobacco pouch and put a nice pleasing pinch of tobacco between his teeth and his cheek. It always made him feel so hopeful about things. Effie forbade John to chew tobacco or to smoke it. He tried, most of the time, to obey her rules, but gul-dern, a man had to have some satisfaction in life.
It seemed to him that as the years went by that Effie was getting old more quickly than he was. She was truly an old woman at 35, and he still had some life in him even though he was almost 40. He still itched to go to the local plays at night and visit with the neighbors, but Effie liked to stay home. Sometimes she went to bed by 7 PM. And it wouldn’t do for him to go out at night by himself. Sometimes he wanted to go to a movie at the Bonham drive in, but Effie had no use for drive-ins or movies of any kind.
John began to think of all the things he wasn’t allowed to do. He couldn’t play cards, but he understood that. Cards were used for gambling and gambling was a sin. Everyone knew that. Well, he couldn’t remember exactly where it said that in the Bible, but surely, the Bible condemned gambling. He would have to look it up in his concordance in the new Bible that Effie had given him for Christmas last year.
He wasn’t allowed to play dominoes in her house and she strongly disapproved of him playing dominoes at all. He liked to play dominoes so much that sometimes he went over to Bells and played dominoes in the back of the barber shop. Darned if he could see what was wrong with a game of dominoes!
He sighed as he stood behind the barn like a young boy enjoying his tobacco. He would have to get back to work soon, but just for now, he was happy, standing in the sun and letting the tobacco turn to sweet juice in his mouth.
He took the knife out of his overall pocket that he had traded his old worn-out knife to get. The young man who traded him the knife was obviously an idiot, and hadn’t known what the knife was worth. He felt a little bad when the young fellow looked so happy to get his well-used knife. John didn’t want to feel as if he had taken advantage of the young man. It wasn’t John’s fault if the young man had not known much about knives.
He had been whittling on a piece of wood earlier, and he picked up the wood and begain whittling again. A friend of his had whittled a continuous chain out of wood and if that wasn’t about the most interesting item John Hawk had ever seen! He wanted to try it when he found a good block of wood. He tried to imagine how the man had whittled the links, and separated them from each other. There must be some kind of trick to it.
His straw hat hid his face as he squatted to whittle on the piece of wood he had found. His life wasn’t really that bad. Effie had been so much fun when they were younger. He had been so in love with Effie Gamble that he couldn’t even look at any other girl. He knew her daddy was no good, but Effie and Emma and the rest of those children were at church every Sunday with their Momma. And when he showed up at Effie’s front door that Saturday afternoon so long ago with a bunch of hand-picked wildflowers, she had blushed and said, “Why John Hawk!” and then he had blushed, and they had sat out on her porch and talked into the night. Her sister, Emma, had been peeking out the window watching them, but he didn’t tell Effie. He just knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with this girl. And he still did.
Just then, Effie came around the corner of the barn and John turnd his head away quickly to spit his tobacco out in the other direction.
“John Hawk! What are you doing chewing tobacco out here? Do you want your children to chew tobacco and rot their teeth?”
John couldn’t think of anything to say to her. Of course, he didn’t want his children rotting their teeth. He stood there and hung his head and looked at the ground. She had caught him fair and square.
“Tonight at supper you confess to your children what you have done,” she yelled in complete exasperation with him. Then she turned on her heel and went back to the house.
John stared off into the distance and wondered if it was going to rain. The clouds were gathering up, but they were just white cumulus clouds so far. Lots of times they got darker in the late afternoon, and it would come a gully-washer, a “frog-choker,” as his daddy used to say. He needed to get more of the plowing done while it was dry. He picked up the plow, and hooked it onto his horses, Kit and Rhody.
“Gee Haw!” he hollered to get them moving. They were not the most industrious horses, but they were steady, and that’s what John admired in them. He knew they would keep pulling the plow as long as he wanted.
Karen Brode grew up in Denison, TX and graduated from Denison High School in 1972. She took courses at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and worked in a church office for 25 years. She and her husband, Gary, have been married 39 years and they have one son, Brandon. Karen’s hobbies are writing, sewing, and gardening.