By Frances O’Roark Dowell
Copyright © 2000 Frances O’Roark Dowell
All right reserved.
My name is Dovey Coe, and I reckon it don’t matter if you like me or not. I’m here to lay the record straight, to let you know them folks saying I done a terrible thing are liars. I aim to prove it, too. I hated Parnell Caraway as much as the next person, but I didn’t kill him.
I know plenty of folks who thought about it once or twice, after Parnell shot a BB gun at their cats or broke their daughters’ hearts. They’re the same ones who go around now making out like Parnell was an angel, a regular pillar of society. The truth is, there ain’t no one in Indian Creek who didn’t believe Parnell Caraway was the meanest, vainest, greediest man who ever lived. Seventeen years old and rotten to the core.
Of course, his daddy being the richest man in town meant Parnell could do about whatever he pleased without anybody saying boo back to him. Most of the folks who live in town rent their houses from Homer Caraway and buy their dry goods from his store, and they know better than to cross him. You so much as look at Homer Caraway wrong and he can make your life right miserable.
Every time I start complaining about having to walk a half mile down the mountain to school every morning, I remember how lucky we are to own our land. It ain’t much — four acres, a five-room house, and a barn — but it keeps us Coes from being beholden to Homer Caraway, and I’d walk ten miles to school to keep it that way.
I know it pained Parnell that we weren’t indebted to his daddy. Maybe if we had been, my sister Caroline would have married him the way he kept asking her to do. Caroline Coe was the one thing Parnell wanted he couldn’t have. As conceited as Parnell was, it took him a long time to figure that out.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, which I do from time to time. You probably want to know where I’m from and who my family is, the particulars folks tend to be interested in.
Like I said, my name is Dovey Coe. There have been Coes living in Indian Creek, North Carolina, since the beginning of time, and I expect there always will be. We’re mountain folk, and once you been living in the mountains for a while, it’s hard to live anywhere else. You can walk over to the graveyard behind the church in town and see Coes going as far back as 1844. The most recent stone belongs to my Granddaddy Caleb, who passed on two years ago, when I was ten. It says: HERE LIES CALEB COE, LOVING HUSBAND TO REBECCA COE, FATHER TO MATTHEW, LUKE, AND JOHN COE. BORN MAY 17, 1861. DIED DECEMBER 2, 1926. MAY HE WALK WITH THE LORD.
John Coe is my daddy. He’s what they call a jack-of-all-trades, meaning he can fix anything you got that’s broke and some things that ain’t. Folks bring him their busted radios, their hay-wire toasters, their broke-down automobiles, and Daddy tightens a screw here, reconnects a wire there, and makes it good as new. Them who have money to pay give him a dollar or two, depending on the size of the job, and them who don’t have a dime in their pocket work out a barter. When Gaither Sparks’s carburetor died, we got a new pig and a pound of sugar. It evens out, as Daddy is all the time saying.
Mama grew up over in Cane Creek Holler, not two miles from here. She still hums the songs she learned when she was a little girl while she works around the house, and she has taught many of them songs to me. I try my best to remember them the right way, and I always pretend like I’m paying attention when she’s telling me all the things she says a young lady ought to know.
Besides Caroline, I got me an older brother named Amos, age of thirteen, and he loves good adventure as much as I do. We spend a good portion of our days running around on Katie’s Knob, hunting arrowheads or hunks of crystal quartz, tracking all manner of wild animals and generally having a big time.
We live in the house my daddy grew up in, and every morning I look out upon the same mountains my daddy looked out upon when he was a child. I like sitting on the porch watching the summer evenings fall across the valley, listening to Daddy pick old tunes on his guitar. I enjoy the cozy feel of sitting next to the woodstove when there’s a frosty bite in the air.
There’s at least a million other things that all add up to my good life here, more things than I can say or even remember, they’re so natural to me now.
That’s why it’s hard to believe they might send me away from here.
It’s not that I blamed Caroline for this whole mess. I know deep inside it ain’t exactly her fault. But on top of things, it sure feels that way.
Copyright © 2000 by Frances O’Roark Dowell