Author’s note: This is an entry in the fourth semi-annual Jake Rivers “invitational.” The initial one was based on the Statler Brother’s song, “This Bed of Rose’s.” The second used the Marty Robbins El Paso trilogy: “El Paso,” “El Paso City,” and “Faleena.” The third had stories based on the various versions of, “Maggie May,” or “Maggie Mae.”
The current invitational has looser criteria: the stories are based on any country & western song.
I have decided to do a story based on John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” as sung by Bonnie Raitt.
While John Prine is not generally considered a country songwriter, his ironic musings have a definite rustic twist to them, and while Bonnie Raitt is better known as a pop singer with a bent toward the blues, her voice in this song has a plaintive quality to it that a lot of Nashville wannabees would kill for.
This is the first of a two-part story.
^ ^ ^ ^
There’s an old saying that all good Texans will go to heaven when they die, because they’ve already been to hell.
Hell in this case was another brutally hot day, hot like it can only get in Texas in mid-July. It wasn’t even noon yet, and already the temperature was pushing 100, and the humidity was high, since we weren’t so far inland that we got the drier, more Western climate.
I was sitting in my favorite old rocker out on the long front porch, still in my house coat, shelling black-eyed peas. We had jars and jars of peas put up in the pantry, but there I was shelling more peas. Hell, I didn’t have anything else to do, and since I hated being idle, I was adding to the pea population there at the big house my husband and I had called home for over 40 years.
I have arthritis, and every step I take now is a new exercise in pain, so nowadays I do a lot of sitting. Fortunately, my mind and my eyesight are still sharp, and that keeps me from going crazy.
Unlike Jim, my husband, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. It’s hard to tell, really, because he’s always been a little goofy, at least outwardly. Of course, behind the happy-go-lucky outside was a sharp-eyed, keen-witted businessman, who bought this ranch in the country east of Austin from a bankruptcy auction and turned it into a profitable enterprise.
We made it a family operation, and two of our sons now run the show, and Jim mostly hangs out with the old folks who linger around. That’s what he was doing on this morning, sharing the same old stories and off-color jokes in his mangled Texas Spanglish with the crew of Mexicans that was repairing a fence over by the barn.
The boys were having a huge laugh about it all, and Jim was laughing right along with them. But I could see the look on the foreman’s face, and it was a look of pity, almost. And I guess I should have expected it.
Raul has been with us from the beginning; in fact, we inherited his family when we bought the ranch. He’d grown up there and we considered him and his people part of the extended family. I knew it pained him to see Jim losing it mentally, ever so slowly as he was.
Me? I just didn’t think about it; didn’t want to think about it. I’d just love him and care for him right to the bitter end. It’s what we do for the ones we love.
At length, I heard the whine of a engine growing louder, and I soon recognized the little green pickup truck that belonged to my granddaughter, Shannon. She was the youngest child of my oldest daughter, the baby of her family, and a real doll.
I have gone to great lengths to not play favorites with my grandchildren, but everyone knows there is a special bond between me and Shannon. She’s the spitting image of her mother — who is the mirror image of her father — so I can’t help but have something special for her.
I could tell something was wrong, because she whipped the little truck into the circular drive in front of the house, brought it to a screeching halt amid flying gravel, climbed forcefully out of the cab, slammed the door and stalked into the house, slamming the front door so hard it rattled the glass.
Special or not, she wasn’t allowed to get away with that kind of behavior, and I immediately, and painfully, stood up, walked in the door and barked at her.
“Shannon Marie Turner!” I bellowed. “You know damn good and well we don’t go around slamming doors like that around here!”
She came out of the kitchen sheepishly, and that’s when I saw the tracks of the tears on her dusty face.
“I’m sorry, Gram,” she said softly. “I … I. Oh, Gram!”
And she just buried herself in my loving arms and sobbed uncontrollably.
It took me awhile to get her calmed down enough to get her to tell me what was wrong. When I did, all she did was pull a piece of paper out of the front pocket of her shirt and handed it to me.
I opened it and saw a picture of her long-time boyfriend, Jason, in a very compromising position with a woman who was not Shannon.
“Someone sent this to me last night, and I confronted him about casino şirketleri it this morning,” Shannon said between sniffles. “He tried to weasel out of it, but I knew he was lying, and he finally confessed.”
Turns out the alleged great love of her life had another girlfriend in the city, and he’d been playing one against the other for months.
“I’m so sorry, sweetheart,” I said.
And I was. Jason had fooled all of us. He was a charming young man — too charming, as it turned out — and now he’d broken Shannon’s heart. They’d been high school sweethearts, and she’d been convinced they were going to marry and live happily ever after.
“I don’t know how I can live without him, Gram,” Shannon wailed, as a fresh bout of sobbing erupted.
That’s when I made up my mind. It was a snap decision, really, but she needed to know that the world wasn’t going to end because her first love had fallen apart.
I had some experience with that, and I felt it was time to impart some of my hard-won wisdom to my granddaughter. But I wanted to do it in a way and in an environment that was uniquely ours.
“Look here,” I said forcefully, in my best grandmother’s voice. “Run into the kitchen there and let Maria rustle you up some lunch while I get dressed. You’n me are going for a little ride.”
“Where are we going?” she blubbered.
“I’ll let you know when we get there,” I said over my shoulder as I headed back to my bedroom.
I ignored the pain in my knees as I struggled into a pair of blue jeans, a pair of socks and my worn-out boots. I threw on a T-shirt, not bothering with a bra, grabbed my hat and headed off to the kitchen.
Maria, our cook, had been getting tamales ready for the guys working on the fence, so she’d fixed me and Shannon plates, and Shannon had already devoured hers. Once you’ve had homemade tamales made by a true Mexican culinary genius such as Maria, you’ll never tolerate store-bought or restaurant tamales again.
I polished off my plate, washed down with a cold beer — hey, I’m 71 and I can drink beer for lunch if I want — then we headed out to the barn.
Shannon didn’t say a word as we strode purposefully toward where the men were working.
“Raul!” I said in my most commanding voice. “Get a couple of your boys to saddle up Betsy and Spice for me’n Shannon here. And send the rest of ’em into the house. It’s lunchtime.”
“Si, Senora Rosa,” he answered with a smile, calling me by the diminutive of my given name, which is Rosalie. He barked out a command in Spanish to two of the older fellows, who hopped to the task at hand. Another burst of Spanish and the rest of the crew dropped their tools and headed to the bunkhouse, where Maria was already laying out lunch.
“Gram, are you sure you’re up for this?” Shannon asked hesitantly.
“Girlie, the day I can’t ride a horse is the day y’all can start throwin’ dirt on me,” I answered. “You’n me need to go somewhere we can be alone and talk.”
After a few minutes, the two men who’d saddled up the horses came out of the barn with the two mares in tow. Betsy was my baby, a sweet-natured filly I’d taken a shine to almost from the day she was foaled, and Spice was one of several smaller girls that we kept for the kids.
Shannon climbed right into the saddle, but I needed a little help, due to my arthritic joints. Petey, the young man who was leading Betsy, helped me get my left foot in the stirrup, then put his hand on my butt and boosted me up and into the saddle.
I grinned at him, and we winked at each other. I’ve managed to retain most of my figure, and my ass has always been one of my best features. Even at 71, I still like the feel of a man’s hand on my butt, even if it’s unintentional.
Well, I think Petey may have been taking a few liberties, but I didn’t mind. I’m still a woman, and while Jim is no longer able to fuck me like he once could, we can still play, and I still like to flirt.
Carlos, the fellow who had brought Shannon’s mount out, came back up with a couple of canteens filled with water, which we each tied off on the pommel of our saddle, and off we went. I had a specific place in mind, and we headed there at a leisurely pace.
At the far end of the property, there is a stand of hills, and in the midst of it is a natural spring-fed pond. When we first bought the place, it was just a standing pool of water, with a little creek running down into the flatter countryside.
But the scenery is so beautiful, with wide-open spaces in every direction as far as you can see, that we decided to make that our go-to spot. We hauled some rocks up there, dammed up the pond, leaving just a small outlet so water could still get down to the flats, and fenced it off so the cattle wouldn’t come in there.
It became our family swimming hole and picnic place, and it also became the place of refuge, a place where we could go to be alone. At one time or another, everyone in the family had gone up there to reflect, brood, pray, think — casino firmaları and, yes, to fuck. I’ll have more to say about that in a bit.
When we approached our destination, after about an hour’s ride, we reached the gate. I tossed Shannon the keys and she slid off Spice and walked over to let us in.
We picked our way up through the rocks, until we reached the pond. Shannon helped me to the ground and we let the horses wander free in search of the grass that lay nearby. We took our canteens and headed off to the flat rock that overlooked the pond.
I took off my hat and let the fairly substantial breeze caress my hair, which I still keep fairly long, a little past my shoulders. It’s mostly gray now, but it still has the naturally tight curls I was blessed with as a girl.
We sat back on the rock and let the sun warm us with its glow.
“So, what did you want to talk about, Gram?” Shannon asked at length.
“Shannon, sweet, I do know how much you’re hurting right now,” I said. “That first love is always the hardest one to lose. You think it’s going to last forever, but most of the time it don’t. I need to tell you about your grandfather, so you’ll know you ain’t alone in this.”
“What do mean, Gram?” Shannon said. “What about Poppy?”
“I’m not talking about Jim,” I said. “I’m talking about your real grandpa, your mother’s father.”
“I don’t understand,” she said.
“That’s because you’ve never been told,” I said, and through the mists of time I looked at her face and saw the face of the first man I’d ever truly loved. “Poppy isn’t your biological grandfather. You see, I had your mom, Angel, by another man, long before I met Jim.”
I took a big swig of the luke-cool water from the canteen and proceeded to tell my granddaughter the story about how I became the Angel from Montgomery to a cowboy with an itch in his boots. I didn’t give her the bump-and-grind, the way I am about to tell it to you, but I think she got the gist of it.
^ ^ ^ ^
My given name was Rosalie Barrilioux and my parents were originally from Cameron Parish, in the far southwest corner of Louisiana. By the way, it’s pronounced Rosa-LEE, not Rosa-LYE
Everyone always said I looked just like my mother, and that’s why Daddy was gone so much during my childhood. He couldn’t stand to look at me day-after-day as a reminder of my mom.
I still have an old picture of her in a casual pose, plus their wedding photo, and she was indeed a real Cajun beauty, with dark curly hair, big expressive eyes and full lips.
That’s about the only way I have to remember her, because she died when I was 3-years-old trying to give me a brother.
She had what is known as a partial previa, a condition where large blood clots block the birth canal. While it’s still dangerous nowadays, it’s not usually fatal, thanks to early detection through ultrasound technology.
But back then, it was almost always deadly, and it killed my mother and my baby brother. Daddy’s people worked the fishing boats in the Gulf of Mexico, but when Mom died, he left me with relatives and went off to work on various drilling rigs as a roughneck.
This was before the days of off-shore drilling, and he went from one oil patch to the next, from California to Canada, and all points in between. He would come back periodically, dropping into my life for awhile, then drifting off.
That period molded me into the flinty, independent woman I became. Conversely, I craved my father’s love, and I believed it was a personal rejection when he’d take off. It was only much later that he admitted it hurt him too much to see his dead wife reflected in my face.
Everything changed when I was 11, when Daddy showed up in Cameron with a new wife. He’d met her while he was working in Texas, and he had decided it was time to settle down and be a father again.
He’d been frugal with his money and he had enough to buy a small place in Montgomery, a small town few miles outside of Conroe, where Florence was from, and he also bought a gas station in Conroe. It quickly became a thriving enterprise, thanks to Daddy’s knowledge of machines and his hard work ethic.
I moved in with Daddy and Flo, and after going to the primary school in Cameron, I started junior high there in Montgomery, and settled in to a new life.
Back then, Montgomery County was pretty much in the country. Now, of course, it’s been swallowed up by the urban sprawl of Houston. The town of Montgomery used to be a really small place, but it’s grown to be about the size Conroe was when I was in school more than 50 years ago. Conroe is now a small city, kind of like Galveston on the other side of Houston, not really quite a suburb, but still well within the metro area.
When I first got there, I was a little rebellious. I really didn’t want to like Daddy’s new wife, and I resented him for marrying her. In my mind, he was besmirching the memory of my mother.
Over the years, I had built up such an idealized image of my güvenilir casino mom that I felt like he’d betrayed her when he took up with Flo.
Fortunately, Flo was a sweet woman who truly loved my father. She turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to either of us, and she ended up giving me a little brother and a little sister.
But I was prepared to hate her at first, until she fired the first shot in her campaign to win me over. That happened that first Christmas, when she led me out to the barn and showed me a pony that was her and Daddy’s gift to me.
Flo had grown up around horses, and she made it her business to pass her love of horses on to me. I took to it like a duck to water. I used to jokingly say that I was the reincarnation of a Mongol princess, someone who was born to the saddle.
When I was in high school, after I had become a well-seasoned rider, I started doing a few rodeos, as a barrel racer, which was at the time the only event open to females.
I was never all that serious about it, and I didn’t go too far to compete. But I usually fared pretty well when I did enter a rodeo, because I always had a knack for getting horses to do what I wanted them to do. It was like I had a innate sense about how to communicate with a horse.
But, far more than riding, my interest in the rodeo was watching the boys, and having them watch me.
Although I wasn’t a bad girl after I moved back in with Daddy and Flo, I was still a bit of a handful. I had always been very independent, and I didn’t take to Daddy’s discipline very well.
As I entered Montgomery High, my looks and my athleticism led me to become a cheerleader, which combined with my riding skills made me pretty popular. I was much more interested in the social aspect of school than in the classroom. I knew I wasn’t going to college, so I just worried about making decent-enough grades, and I could do that without too much effort.
I dated around in high school, but I never settled on one particular guy, and I was still happily playing the field when I graduated in 1955. I quickly got a job as a clerk for the drug store downtown, and settled into life post-high school.
I was just kind of spinning my wheels waiting for something to happen that would determine my future. It was a little over a year after I graduated from high school when something happened.
It was at the Montgomery County Rodeo in Conroe that summer, when I met Clint Rouse. He was a bronco rider and a pretty good one. The first time I laid eyes on him, my little heart skipped a beat.
With Clint, it was a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Honestly, he really wasn’t much to look at. He had a nose that looked like it had been broken a time or two, and one of his front teeth was partially missing. Moreover, he had this shock of sandy blond hair that he simply couldn’t do anything with.
But he had some kind of weird sex appeal, because he always had women falling at his feet, me included. He had sky-blue eyes that sparkled when he smiled, and he smiled a lot.
Combined with the chipped front tooth, it gave him this crooked smile like he knew a secret only him and God knew about. Plus, he was lean, and well-built … everywhere, as I quickly found out.
I was riding that night, the first night of the two-night rodeo, and I actually won, one of the few times I actually came in first. Our eyes met and I swear sparks flew between us. I mean, I felt myself getting wet just from that one look, and I think he knew it, because he sought me out afterwards and asked me out.
I was grooming my horse in the back area, getting her ready to head for home when I felt this presence behind me. I turned around and he was just looking at me.
“You ride pretty good, little lady,” he said in a real West Texas twang.
For one of the few times in my life, I was struck speechless. My insides were doing flips and my tongue felt like it was filled with prairie dust.
“Y-you ain’t so bad yourself,” I finally managed to spit out.
He introduced himself and I responded, then he asked me if I wanted to go grab a bite to eat.
“I’ve got to help get this trailer home, and it’s late tonight,” I said. “But I’m not riding tomorrow, so why not then.”
He was riding in the afternoon session the next day, which was Saturday, but he was free that night, so we made a date of it. I failed to notice that Flo was looking in our direction. All I had eyes for was Clint. She didn’t say anything, though, at least not right away.
Turns out, he was from Sweetwater, which is a little west of Abilene. He was trying to make a living at rodeoing, and he wasn’t doing badly at it. He was hoping to get on the pro circuit, but it was a lot harder then than it is now, and it’s not easy now.
But he was paying his dues plying the rodeos in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, picking up some winnings here and there and getting experience.
He was planning to travel further afield later in the summer, to try his hand at some of the bigger rodeos, such as the Frontier Days event in Cheyenne, Wyo. For a girl who’d never been further from home than San Antone, it was thrilling to think about.