Archive for February, 2011

~ from the novel HAVENWOOD TALES Beginnings

by D.J. Houston

New Year’s Eve had come and gone to the tune of Aunt Julia’s piano and a rousing chorus of Auld Lang Syne, while the grownups held up their glasses and Timmy and I toasted all their toasts with mugs of hot chocolate and root beer.

Our house was almost done mourning the departure of its Christmas tree. Mama was back to baking for Birdie’s Kitchen and school had just gotten good and started again.

Then, on the 30th of January, a roaring blizzard slammed its way out of Canada like a bull shot loose from a rodeo pen, pummeling everything south of it from Michigan to Texas and east to the ocean. Havenwood’s countryside looked like something out of a Russian fairytale by morning.

In a place that’s lucky to get two feet of snow in a whole year put together, that storm left more than a calling card under the solid white blanket that smothered the rolling landscape. All the roads had disappeared, the well was frozen over and drifts around our house were sloped so high, you could have walked right off the edge of the porch with no place to fall.

We were loitering over breakfast, contemplating how to dig out, when the clarion cry of “Man alive!” sounded in the yard.

By the time Daddy and Timmy and I could scramble to the front door, ever optimistic Uncle Arthur was tromping in, stomping his snow-caked boots on the rug and rubbing his hands together like two sticks praying to kindle a bonfire, hollering, “Nothing like a little cold snap to clear a fella’s head!”

by Ian Wilde

by Ian Wilde

Behind him, a deep voice grumbled beneath a bundle of woolen mufflers topped by Uncle Chester’s red nose and a brown leather aviator cap with humongous, sheepskin-lined ear flaps.

Once Uncle Chet pulled the mufflers loose, we could hear him saying, “That’s the doggoned awfullest mess I ever seen. You got drifts clean up past your window sills, Ben. We better git to work.”

Extreme weather — or any challenge, for that matter, so long as it was tractor, truck, food, fire, flood, Act of God or gun related — seemed to bring out the best in men of their ilk. 

With telephone lines down across the Heartland and the roads too buried in snow to be located, much less traveled, Uncle Chet had been rolling along on a beeline since well before dawn, determined, on his big-wheeled tractor. He picked up Uncle Arthur in Rainbolt Hollow. And damn the torpedoes,  the two had arrived to help out their family at our house, shovels in hand.

We were grinning and grateful for their efforts, needless to say.

“Where in tarnation did you find that hat, Chester?” my daddy teased.  “Come in, come in!”

A quiet cloud settled over Uncle Chet’s face, and we realized at once that Aunt Rose must have given him the hat and made him promise to wear it in inclement weather, before she passed on.

McAfee Family Coat RackThe McAfees were a close-knit bunch; tacit rules of engagement for generations had kept us so.  Even Timmy and Rowdy Dog fell silent, and my daddy’s question about the hat was respectfully dropped.

Mama emerged from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. She slipped past the group of us gathered in the foyer, helped Chester out of his coat, then stood patiently by as he heaved a sigh and carefully placed his hat over the last empty hook on the hall stand.

“That husband a’ yours leave any hot coffee on the stove, Birdie?”

He was grumbling again. But he thanked her kindly with his eyes and laid a big, gentle hand on her shoulder. The rest of us picked up gabbing where we’d left off, happy to see each other, while we followed Mama and Uncle Chester into the kitchen.

I always did have a soft spot in my heart for Daddy’s older brother, especially when he had a hangover after pining for his delicate Rose.

And I figured if he was grumbling, it had to be better than singing sad songs to his own guitar all night out on the farm, with nobody to talk to but his flop-earred hound and the howling coyotes . . .


by D.J. Houston, Author

Copyright©2010, 2014 D.J. Houston. All Rights Reserved.

An excerpt from HAVENWOOD TALES Beginnings

Photography by Anna Laura Livinal Belanger

Mystery Novel – Life Lessons – Historical Fiction – Inspirations of Heartland America

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