A snippet from my completed novel: A Confluence of Rivers
A Fat Back Story
Cut Bank ( MS ) February 1917
“Uncle Fats. Look, Uncle Fats.” Warren yelled, running across the distance between the house and the mule barn. He held a Martin fourteen fret, Model 1908 flattop guitar. The polished wood gleamed in the faint February sun. He handed the guitar to Fat Back, danced three times around. He watched the big man run his fingers over the sound board, up and down the strings, testing the tuning pegs.
“Sweet mother ‘a Jesus,” Fat Back said. “I heard they was guitars like this.” He plucked the first string. “Strike us a tunin’ note, boy. Let’s see how she sound.” Warren tapped the hammer against the plow shear.
Fat Back ran a fingernail across the string, turned the peg. He looked up, nodded; the boy tapped with the hammer again. They both laughed. “This ‘n ‘s different, ain’t it?”
He handed the guitar to Warren. “Tune her up, boy; she’s yore’s.” Warren turned the pegs, Fat Back struck the plough shear.
They stayed in the mule barn deep into the fading February evening. They stroked the strings of the two instruments: the steel strings, the cat gut strings. They switched the guitars back and forth.
It’s plowin’ in the mornin’, plantin’ in the evenin’,
We plow in the mornin’, plant seeds in the evenin’.
Cotton seeds, corn seeds; slip in some beans.
Cotton, corn, now and then peas and beans.
Plant in the morning; be home lovin’ in the evenin’.
Torie stood off from the kitchen door, on the small back veranda; she pulled the down comforter close around her. The sounds drifted across the expanse, across the feed lot and the back yard, from the barns. There was laughter, the clear sharp notes of the twin guitars, the soft rhythmic voices of the big man and boy.
Plant that cotton, that corn, them peas and beans.
Work in the daytime, be home lovin’ come evenin’.
Mavis pushed open the door. “Can I ring the bell, Mama, call him in?”
“No,” her mother answered. “He’ll come in soon.” She touched her daughter’s hair, her shoulder.
They warmed their fingers over the small fire, the old black man and the eleven year old white boy. “Ole Fat Back be walkin’ home in the dark tonight. Ain’t no moon neither.”
And so it went.