Weekends were filled with trouble. Older folks liked to say the reason was kids being two days off of school. If anything, school was one more reason for trouble, not one less. In my house it was because Daddy was around. With half a day of Saturday and a whole day of Sunday with nothing to do it was all just too much for him. So, by the time Sunday rolled in, we minded our ways.

Sundays were difficult from the start. It wasn’t easy getting five country boys into church clothes, especially when the britches were made from the heaviest wool Ma could possibly find. We would sit on our beds with our heads in our hands and just stare at them. Imagine wearing wool pants in the middle of a Tennessee summer then sitting for a sermon in a church filled with a lot of sweaty hill folk. It didn’t make much sense to us either. But Ma insisted that nothing focused a young man’s attention like wool pants on a hot pew.

Ma, for her part, wore a bright green dress that buttoned up to her neck. She was a big woman, what you’d call thick-set, and the tiny collar made her broad shoulders and hefty bosom look even bigger. Daddy on the other hand was small framed. He weighed not more than a hundred thirty pounds.  Standing next to Ma he looked like a piece of kindling. But don’t go judging him by that. He had the volatile constitution of a yellow jacket; and that ain’t the sort of man you’d want to cross.

Daddy always looked good, though. Everyone agreed he wore the smartest clothes in town and he didn’t need a Sunday to do it. Drove the smartest car too. When we would ask him how come this was the way it was and at the same time we lived in a shack at the bottom of Poplar Holler, he would say, “Boys, you got to look green to make green!” We never pressed further regarding this issue because right after he’d say that he’d give us one of those looks. We knew what trouble was, and we avoided trouble with Daddy as best we could.

When we got home from services our job according to Ma was to let him be. What ever happens, she would say, leave Daddy alone. He would usually sit in his chair and spend the rest of the afternoon listening to the radio, which was fine by us. We never did like when Daddy got himself too involved, especially if he had the notion for a project. Somehow, we’d get dragged in and when things fell apart, which they often did, we’d take a scolding.

Yes, every Sunday was just about how I described it; that is except for one. Everything started out normal; Daddy was listening to a ball game like always, Ma was in getting supper on, and a couple of the boys were doing their lessons at the table. Then, out of God knows where Youngest comes through the door like a crack of thunder.  Nearly took the screen hinges off, too. Not knowing how Daddy would take to that, we just froze and listened. Ma did the same. Realizing right away that what he did had never been done before, and made more frightened by our terror struck faces, Youngest started to whimper. I swear Daddy was out of his chair and in three swift steps had that kitchen lit up like the fury of hell. And he didn’t say a word; he just towered over Youngest silently. Our eyes crept over in his direction, but fearing a direct look might implicate us too, we put them back on Youngest and kept them there ’til Daddy spoke.

“What in the hell has come over you, boy?” Afraid for our brother’s life we looked at Ma to see if she would save him, when we saw that he was on his own we looked back to Youngest.

“Well?” commanded Daddy, “let loose that tongue before I reach in and loosen it for you.”

Youngest stood there pale as a skipping rock, then finally, just when we thought he’d crack, he let it all out as plain as day.

“Daddy, the crick done stole our outhouse!”

Daddy ran to the window, pressed his face to the glass and leaned in as hard as he could to see that the outhouse had banked on the other side of the creek. It was darn near the bend. “Jesus Christ!” he exclaimed.

“Ed Mooney,” Ma fired, “I don’t care if the outhouse is clear in the next county, don’t you take the Lord’s name in this house.” That was one line you didn’t cross with Ma.

“Woman, don’t you tell a man what he can’t say in his own home.”

“It wasn’t me that said it. My body is a vehicle for the Lord,” she said, “and if you paid any attention in church you’d know that as fact.” Anytime Ma needed to get a handle on a situation with Daddy she channeled God. This was about the only thing that put the fear in him, and he’d be quick to temper down.

“Daddy?” one of us asked cautiously, “What are we gonna do?” We all looked up at him and waited for an answer. He was mumbling and turning and pacing every way you can imagine. Then Ma said to send one of the boys over to old Ben Stokes for the mule. Ma was right of course, that is what Daddy should have done, but we could see she was mad at herself for not cultivating the idea in him like she usually did.

Nope, he wasn’t at all satisfied with that. Instead, Daddy raised one finger in the air and shook it as hard as a preacher on Saturday night: “I don’t need no mule,” he proclaimed, “I got the Buick! Grab your boots boys we’re gonna round up an outhouse.” We all set to running around; that is except for Youngest, who felt Ma’s calm firm hand of reason descend upon his head. “You ain’t taking this one,” she informed Daddy, “and Ed, you best change out of those fancy clothes of yours lest you ruin them with mud and who knows what else.”

“Mother,” he said, “I’ll have that outhouse set in place quicker than an hour, and I won’t have a spot on me, I guarantee it.” He ran up and kissed her on the cheek and was out the door like a kid on his way to a candy factory.

As Daddy drove us away in the Buick we watched Ma and Youngest standing in the doorway. Even though the car was full of hootin’ an hollerin’ we were mighty sad that Youngest got left behind. And seeing the consternation on Ma’s brow nearly put a damper on the fun we were having. But what we didn’t know at the time was that Ma had a plan all her own.

After we were out of sight she went straight to the kitchen, took several biscuits and some country ham, wrapped them up good and packed them into a pail with some of Daddy’s homemade wine and a jar of her mama’s burgoo. She handed it all to Youngest telling him to take it on up the ridge for old Stokes. She told Youngest to explain Daddy’s predicament and Youngest set off running as fast as he could.

When Stokes opened the door and saw the youngest Mooney standing there holding out a pail, he knew right off that Daddy was up to something. He took the goods from Youngest, peeled back a piece of cloth to get a look inside, then raised a bushy white eyebrow. He tilted the glass jar to the side with his big finger, then looked down at the boy and said: “Son, looks like we got ourselves a fine snack. You best come in and sit a while, no sense in going any earlier than necessary. We’d have to wait ’til your daddy’s got himself in a hole so deep he can’t see the light of day before he’d accept a helpin’ out.”

Old Stokes lit the stove, took the ham and tossed it into the skillet. Looking back over his shoulder he winked at Youngest who had got himself up to the table and was swinging his legs back and forth. Now obviously I wasn’t there and I’m relying on the recollections of my little brother. But I can say there are few on this side of the hill with a better eye for detail than him. Even though he was but six, I took his part of the story as hard fact. Youngest sat there admiring old Stokes who he liked a lot. Stokes was the opposite of Daddy, big and burley with a nice round belly. Unlike Daddy who always kept a clean shave, sometimes even shaving a second time in the evening before he went back out to work, Stokes had wispy whiskers that grew long and gray and soft looking. There was a yellow patch beneath his mouth though, which made Youngest think of yellow snow. He didn’t like that at all so he avoided that spot the best he could.

“Son,” Stokes said as he turned the ham over and let the sizzling die down before talking again, “There are some people in this world that are just plain stubborn…”

Meanwhile, we arrived at the creek and several people had already come down the hill to see the goings on. This didn’t please Daddy one bit. “What the hell,” he ranted as we pulled up, “these people ain’t got nothing better to do on a Sunday but busy themselves with somebody else’s trouble?”

Daddy slammed the car into park and jumped out. “Mooney,” someone shouted, “looks like you got yourself a fine pickle.” Daddy waved the crowd off and kept mumbling. “Yeah, yeah, its too bad y’all came down to see a lot of nothin’,” he said. “What can we do for you, Ed?” Somebody else offered. “You can get the hell out of the way before you get run over for starts.” “Gee Ed, we was just trying to be neighborly.” Daddy didn’t say anything, just kicked his shoes off, rolled the cuffs of his slacks up to his knees, grabbed the rope and waded across the creek. Luckily for him the outhouse had banked in shallow parts. He threaded the rope through the door and the little back window then around the roof. After tying a strong knot he yanked hard on it a few times. The only problem was, when he started back across the water he didn’t even get half way before his line ran out. Folks standing around at the edge of the creek just looked at one another and shook their heads.

“Daddy!” Ed Junior shouted out from where we were standing, “You done run outta rope!”

“Damn son, you think I can’t see that? Now get here and hold this for me.” After Junior got a hold on the rope Daddy trudged back over and walked up the bank; everyone standing there cleared a path so he could pass. Then he got into the Buick and started backing up to the water.

“Now Ed,” Mr. Barnett weighed in, “I hope you’re not considering driving that car into the creek, your gonna get it stuck.” After hearing this Daddy gunned it and made everyone jump out of the way. In the car went making all kinds of ruckus and splashing water up everywhere.  Even though he was in nearly a foot of it, he didn’t seem to have any problems. He got out there so fast Junior had to jump out of the way, too. Daddy proceeded to climb out over the back seat and slid down the trunk, something us boys had only seen at the matinee, and for a moment we thought everything was gonna turn out just fine.

After tying the rope to the tow hitch he yelled at Junior to stay back and make sure the outhouse didn’t get stuck on any rocks. Then in one swift movement he leapt over the door and slid behind the wheel. Mr. Barnett continued to say that things didn’t look so good, over and over he said it, shaking his head and frowning.

We watched as Daddy pulled the gearshift all the way down into low. Nothing much happened at first beyond a little rocking back and forth. Then, in a slow lugging movement, the car crept forward, the rope grew taut and the outhouse started moving. When it turned full around with the roof pointing our way and began crossing the creek we all started jumping and cheering for Daddy. Even Mr. Barnett looked hopeful. Daddy just ate this up. He was a hollerin’ like never before shaking his fist in the air and smiling like a rabbit in a pea patch. That was until the swishing sound. I ain’t never seen happiness drain out of someone’s face so fast. Of course Daddy knew what was happening before we did. We looked on with curious faces, but soon enough realized he wasn’t getting any closer and that swishing sound was the back tire spinning in the soft mud. Daddy got real fierce looking. He started putting the car through all its gears and cussing at the wheel, but he only got himself stuck more. Mr. Barnett looked around at everyone to remind them he saw it coming.

“Junior, God damn it,” Daddy yelled back, “get yourself behind the car and push like hell!”

Junior got behind the car, Daddy punched it, and Junior got himself a face full of water. He started choking so hard Mrs. McFadden had to hike up her skirt and help the boy back to dry land. Daddy was so huffed up he jumped out of the car, went around to the wheel, then kicked it as hard as he could. We knew that it hurt real bad, and we were sorry that he forgot he wasn’t wearing any shoes.

It was probably about this time that Ben Stokes leaned back in his chair all satisfied from Ma’s biscuits and ham and looked over at Youngest and said, “Well son, you reckon we should get the old girl hitched and make our way?” Youngest thought this a smart idea and jumped off his chair. “Why don’t you carry this pail back and if you spot some berries we’ll gather them up for your ma, and maybe have a few ourselves.” They got the old mule hitched and started following the trail that would take them over the ridge and down to the creek where all the commotion was.

After Daddy recovered himself he walked up the bank directly over to Jasper Talbot.

“Jasper, go on up and get your truck and help me get that damn car out the creek,” he demanded, pointing up the hill to where his house was. Jasper was uncomfortable, what with everyone watching him and being confronted like that by Daddy who he had a hard time saying no to. “Now Ed,” he stammered, kicking around a rock, “I just don’t think that’s a good idea. You know the wife will lay into me good if anything happens.” Daddy walked right up, grabbed him by the arm and led him away so none of us could hear what he was saying. Jasper looked just like one of us does when Daddy gives us a talking to. Then Jasper walked off all slunked over shaking his head and we figured Daddy got his way.

Next thing we know Jasper is backing his cantankerous old truck down to the creek and Daddy’s motioning him where to put it. After they got it hooked up it took Jasper and Daddy all of about one minute to get the truck stuck too. Even with Daddy standing behind the truck pushing as hard as he could, using every sinful word you can imagine, along with some you probably never thought of, and with mud spraying up all over his clothes that Ma warned him to change but he didn’t, even after all of that, they still couldn’t get the thing to budge. And there was nothing any of us could do but look on because Daddy made it clear he didn’t need nobody’s help.

Well thank the Lord for Ben Stokes. He couldn’t have walked down the ridge at a better time. Us boys were shocked to see Youngest trailing behind him. We looked right over at Daddy to see how he would take to that. When he looked up from shaking some of the mud from his clothes and saw them coming down the hill with the Mule he got madder than a wet cat. “Now slow down Ed,” said Ben Stokes, “don’t go jumping to conclusions. I was just passing by and happened upon your youngest here. He told me what happened. Thought I’d come on down and see if you need some assistance. And from the looks of things you need a little. So why don’t you explain to me what’s going on.”

Ben had calming ways and knew exactly how to warm Daddy up to something. When Daddy started to tell Ben the details of the days events the folks standing around looked at each other, confused by his take on things.

“Well everything was just fine, nearly had the outhouse on dry land until the wheels of the Buick started spinning out. Damn if I didn’t buy four new ones from Merle not two weeks back. Gives me the notion that I was taken for retreads. You can bet I’ll be talking to him first thing tomorrow.”

“Now Ed, let’s worry about one thing at a time.”

“So then Jasper here brings down his no good truck and proceeds to get that stuck before we even get it hitched.”

“All right then, I think the old lady here can resolve this matter in no time and we can all go back home and spend the rest of Sunday as the Lord intended.”

Everyone agreed. We all pitched in, helping to get the mule harnessed properly and hitched to Jasper’s truck. Mr. Barnett stood in front of the mule with the lead to give some extra pull, Wes Anderson was behind to give it a slap on the backside, and when Jasper gave the truck a little juice it was out quick as buckshot. The story wasn’t much different for the Buick or the outhouse either. Daddy told Ben just to leave the outhouse on the side of the road; he’d handle it from there. Daddy was a man who didn’t take well to thankfulness. We could see he was uncomfortable when he quickly shook Ben’s hand without lookin’ him in the eyes, but Ben didn’t seem to take offense.

“Spectacles over, so all you gawkers can go home now,” shouted Daddy. He wasn’t leaving until everyone else had gone first.

It was about that time that Ma came down for a look. When he had to tell her that Stokes cleaned up the whole mess with the mule she gave him that look and he turned three shades of red. That was about the last straw for Daddy. He jumped in the Buick, yelled for all of us to clear off, sped down the street in a cloud of smoke and spun the car round. He sat down there for a minute just revving up the engine. Then all of a sudden he hits it leaving a trail of burning rubber behind him. When we saw he was aiming for the outhouse and wasn’t slowing down we high tailed it to the trees just in time because he drove straight through it.

“Woo hooo!” Daddy hollered as he spun the car to a stop. After all the pieces came down on the pavement we slowly crept back out.

“What are you kids waiting for, grab up that wood… we’re gonna have us one hell of a bon fire!”

That night us boys gathered our blankets and laid them out around the fire and told stories. It was the best Sunday we’d ever had. Ma on the other hand disagreed. She just sat on the stump next to Daddy wearing her consternated brow. In fact she hadn’t said anything all evening; she stopped talking after Daddy drove through the outhouse. Then, during a long quiet moment when Daddy was poking his stick into the fire, she finally broke her silence.

“Well Ed? What do you think we’re going to do now? We ain’t got no place to do our business.”

Us boys looked at each other in shock; we hadn’t even considered that. Leave it to Ma to think of the important things.

“Don’t you worry Mother,” Daddy said confidently, “It’s about time we got ourselves some indoor plumbing.”

“We can’t afford a new outhouse, much less indoor.”

“See woman, that’s where you’re not thinking it through. We can’t afford indoor if I have Joe and John Henry Felks come in and lay pipe. That’d be like putting water through a sieve. Hell, I can do it myself for half of nothing.”

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