Loran Kyle

By Micah Muldowney

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I.


When grandma would take the mail, I would have to go up and stay with Uncle Dan.

He got up,

he contracted malaria—was sick with't when he come home.


I remember I used to get so scared.

I'd sit there just as quiet—

I wouldn't hardly breathe

'cause I knew he was awful sick.


I don't know what I was afraid of—

I was just afraid


and I know that he called down a time or two

an' I was afraid to go in there. I think what he wanted was a drink of water's all.

But I was afraid to go up and give it to him.


I was just scared.

I wasn't afraid of Uncle Dan, or my grandmother or anything like that.

No, I wasn't afraid of the sickness.


I was just afraid

It was just like being in the dark all alone;

you don't know what your afraid of

but you're afraid.



II.


My father was very stern. He didn't think, he didn't think a boy would grow

if he didn't get a pretty good licking

about once a week anyway


and ah,

I got lots of lickins that I didn't deserve an'

alot that I did

but if my dad found out that he gave me lickin for somethin' that I didn't do

why, he wouldn't apologize

he'd just hold that over,

just leave that for something that I would do in the future.


Well, there is a lot of things I did I wish I hadn't. There is a lot of things

I should have done but I didn't along the line,


and if there was ever any trouble,

it seemed like, if there was ever an trouble,


anything that happened

that shouldn't have happened it seemed that I

was right in the middle of it.


Dad used to, in the wintertime quite a bit

he'd work in the canyon

getting out logs.

take 'em to the sawmill to get lumber.

He got out the logs an' sawed us the lumber

to build us a barn an' most of it to build another house

onto the log cabin.


And that made us quite a big farm, about 420 acres he had up there.

Quite a few cattle,

quite a few milk cows—

Grazed on grain.

And he had,

I remember he had

35 head of cattle range out on the reserve

besides the fats that we had at home.


My dad always had good horses.

He was known all over the country down there

for being a real good horsemen an' having good horses.


He always raised his own horses. He had mares,

bred them and raised colts.


Every winter we would break three or four colts maybe,

sell some of the older ones,

maybe sell some of the colts.


He had a mare named ol' doll tha'was never out cold in her life.

And I remember

he traded this ol' Doll mare to Uncle Plebertain.

Uncle Plebertain, in those days

was quite well to do.

He gave dad I think eight or ten head of cattle for that mare.


My father favored him, Guy,

in preference to me,

but that didn't bother me any—





They said that I was the only one of the boys that knew how to handle horses.

That was the only thing that I could satisfy him at, seemed like.




III.


I was terrible shocked when my mother had died.




My mother was always kind.

I never, in all my life heard my mother raise her voice in anger.

And that is somethin' that you can't very often say

of very many people.


My father favored him, Guy,

in preference to me.

But that didn't bother me any:

Mother favored me.

Well, not very much.


Mother,

the reason she favored me

was because Dad favored Guy I think.


She was a peacemaker. A wonderful woman.

I've never known one such in life since


She,

with her family I've seen her working the fields.

I can remember her pitching bundles—


(She saw some hardships, had 15 children,

never was in a hospital in her life.

Even when she could go to a hospital she didn't go.)


We used to cut our grain with a binder

an' bind it in bundles, stack it in stacks.


(Well, she wanted her old doctor for her babies.

No, she wouldn't go—

He would have liked her to have gone

to the hospital, but no,

she wouldn't go.


She vowed to have all her children at home,

she didn't want to go to

no hospital.)

In those days they threshed with a horsebar threshing machine—

Threshed the grain from the straw.

There'd be about 15 men

an' wherever they threshed, why they cooked for them.


(She probably, her life would have been saved the 15th

if she had been in a hospital,

if she saw two or three nurses, two or three doctors. )


The men were always talking

that they always liked threshing at our place because my mother,

she fed them so good. They hated to leave.





(Well, she hemorrhaged.

the baby was dead.)



I was terribly shocked when my family got there and my mother had died.


My dad,

he about had a fit.




IV.


We didn't live in apple country

but everybody had a little apple, nearly everybody had

a little apple orchard.


If there was ever any trouble,

it seemed like, if there was ever any trouble,


anything that happened

that shouldn't have happened it seemed that I

was right in the middle of it.



We used to,

It seemed like in the family

by the time we got to school,

by the time we were school age and went to school,


we used to steal apples, sometimes

on the way home from school,

and I was always for that.


Somebody would mention and

all right

we'd go steal a few apples,

eat em' on the way home.


They didn't object to much— people,

if you didn't start throw'n 'em

and waste'n 'em

They wouldn't mind if you'd get one to eat,

put a couple in your pockets, they wouldn't say a thing,


but if you arms full an' started throwing them

an' wasting them,

they'd really,

oh boy,

they'd get mad at you.

They were thrifty little people.



Yes, an' Grandmother had some cherry trees—

I remember

climbing up in her cherry trees,

setting there on the limb an'

eating cherries 'til I w'so full I,

I couldn't hardly get down.



Aunt Susan would come out

and try an' get me to come down,

an' I knew, I knew she couldn't climb up after me

so I stayed right there,

and ate cherries.


She'd stand there,

and I'd start coming down

and boy, here she'd come out of the house.


She'd have kept me up there,

would have starved me to death

if there hadn't of been cherries.


Finally, I jus' sneaked down and got.

Outlasted her.




V.


When we started,

we went to a one room school.


We used to—I remember—

four of us used to ride one horse to school

when we didn't walk. (We walked

the majority of the time).


Well it was probably a couple of miles.


That was the new schoolhouse.

They built a new schoolhouse,


Just two rooms there.

Then we went to school

in a two-room schoolhouse.


Mrs. Merrill,

I think that that

was my first teacher.

She was awful good to us kids.


I fell madly in love—

just knew

I couldn't live without her, I did.


She taught me in school

two grades. Was it 1st and 2nd?

I tend to think so.


She,

An' Stella Thomas, they used to teach,

They used to teach us sounds.


They'd give us words, colors

they'd get a color

and they'd connect it to—R-E-D.


And we'd get so we could tell words that way.


I was always a good reader,

I used to get so provoked

(we'd take turns reading,


an' I used to get so nervous an' provoked)

when people would get up

an' they'd say a word—



an' they'd stumble over another one,

stumble over another one.

I'd half go crazy—


'cause I could read them right off.

I was a good reader, a good speller,

(all our family

were good readers and good spellers.)


They used to have Spelling matches.

They used to give words,


They'd line up one side

maybe the boys and the girls,

line up one on one side of the room

and one on the other.


The teacher would hear words until everybody

had missed a word.

Last one standing won the match.


I remember me,

an' my sister Cassie were

always the last two left standing.


Sometimes she won.

She was younger,

but she sometimes did beat me.

Some-times I beat her.


I remember one time I beat her

(an' I vowed

I never would forget that word)


but it had two different ways of spelling—

It was pronounced the same

but spelled different.


He gave her the word first.

And, ah, she spelled it that way,

the way she wanted to spell it,


and he gave it to me

an' I spelled it different than she did,

and I won.


Because If she had spelled it correctly the first time,

then well, he'd have given me a new word,


an' I was smart enough even then to know

because he gave me the same word he gave her

she didn't spell it right.

So I gave the other spelling.


And I won,

which was taking unfair advantage.



 


Micah Muldowney is a poet and musicologist whose essays and poetry have appeared in Soundboard, This Literary Magazine, Polyphony Online, Grey Sparrow Journal, Descant, and West Trade Review.


His freshman collection of poetry will be forthcoming in May of 2022 with Finishing Line Press. He was born in greater Philadelphia and studied applied guitar and critical musicology at Brigham Young and Temple Universities.


After living and studying abroad and in the intermountain west, Micah returned to Philadelphia in 2009, where he now lives with his wife Erin and their three children. When he is not writing poetry and short fiction he bakes artisanal free-form bread and researches critical theory approaches to questions of music and meaning.