Friday, January 23, 2009

Harper Creek Part I

Part I

Bessie Cowan lived in a small farming town in the Texas panhandle. The town was called Harper Creek but there was no creek in sight. There was a creek about 17 miles west of town and, according to local historians, that was the site of the original township. When the state put in the highway back in 1903 the town was moved next to the highway with the hopes of becoming a thriving city. That never happened. The population of Harper Creek was 437 and everybody knew everybody whether they wanted to or not.

Bessie was a stout farm wife and mother of 9 grown children. Her husband Bill was a cotton farmer and handyman. They grew a nice garden and had a small peach orchard along with a few cows and some chickens. Bessie made a little “mad money” by selling eggs in town and some of the peaches and vegetables to one of the produce stands along the highway. Because he could build, fix and paint just about anything, Bill often hired out his services in town and in a few of the other little towns nearby. Now that Bessie and Bill's children had all grown and moved out of the house they lived a comfortable life on their little farm.

Only 2 of their children still lived near the little town of Harper Creek. Darla lived on a farm with her husband and 3 children about 5 miles out of town and Wanda lived in town with her 4 children. Wanda was a disappointment to Bessie but she never told that to anyone. Wanda had married right after she finished high school. She married the first guy that came along. He was an Air Force man who was stationed in Clovis, NM when they met. Wanda's senior class had gone to Clovis on a field trip to visit the Air Force base and they met in the commissary. Bessie tried her darnedest to talk Wanda out of marrying that man. She knew Wanda just wanted to get out of Harper Creek and thought that Air Force man would show her the world. They were married 5 years and they never got out of Clovis. Well, he got out alright. He took off with another woman and went AWOL when Wanda was pregnant with his 4th child. Wanda divorced that lowlife and moved back to Harper Creek to have her baby and raise her children. She got a job waiting tables at Nan's Highway Cafe.

Bessie and Wanda didn't have a great relationship. Wanda worked long hours and she kept a clean house but she spent a lot of Saturday nights at a bar over in Willis County. Harper Creek was in Jackson County and Jackson County was dry. Bessie thought it wasn't fitting for a single mother to be out gallivanting around. She should be home with her children and if she wanted to find a husband she should be looking at church, not at a bar.

One Friday morning Bessie had just gathered the eggs from the chicken coop and was standing at the kitchen sink washing and drying them off and putting them in the egg cartons that her customers and friends dutifully saved for her. As she washed the eggs she sang "Muskrat Love" and wished she could get that song out of her head. She heard it on the radio earlier in the morning and she'd had it in her head ever since. Then she heard a knock at her front door. She laid the egg in the sink and dried her hands before she went to the door to see who was there. She cocked her head to one side and squinted her eyes as she approached the screen door to see who was standing there. Standing on the front porch was a man in a brown suit with his hands in his pockets and facing the yard. She called out, "Hello there" to get his attention.

The man quickly turned around and smiled big as he said, "Hello ma'am. I'm Henry Johnson and I'm from the Garden of Eden Bible Company in Kansas City. I would like to show you a family bible that I think you'll be very interested in." As he said this he reached down and picked up a briefcase.
"Well, Mr. Johnson I already have a bible so..."
"But do you have a bible like this?" Mr. Johnson swung the brief case up to rest on one hand and quickly opened the two latches and lifted the lid. Bessie was impressed by his smooth action but didn't want to let on. Mr. Johnson was a handsome man who looked to be in his mid to late thirties. His suit was neatly pressed and his hair was neatly trimmed and parted to one side. Bessie looked at his finger nails and saw that they were neatly trimmed and clean. Mr. Johnson was holding the case with his left hand and Bessie wondered if there was a ring on his middle finger. There was something about this man that she liked. She thought to herself, "Now why can't Wanda find a man like this?"
She hadn't had a chance to look at the bible before Mr. Johnson asked,"May I take a few minutes of your time to show you all the features in this beautiful book of the Lord's word?"
"Well, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to look." Bessie unlatched the hook on the screen door to open it and motioned Mr. Johnson inside. She pointed to the sofa and told him to have a seat.
"Would you like a glass of iced tea or some water Mr. Johnson?"
"No thank you ma'am and please, call me Henry."
Bessie moved her crochet work out of her chair and put it on the end table and sat down.

Henry had taken the bible out of the briefcase and was holding it out to Bessie.
She took the thick bible and noticed the cover had a beautiful picture of Jesus with a slight smile and sparkling eyes that seemed to be looking right at her. The rest of the bible was padded and covered with a burgundy material that felt like leather. It was heavy and much larger than the bible she carried to church. Henry reached over and opened the cover to the first page.
She noticed that Henry didn't have a ring on his wedding finger and smiled. Henry took the smile to mean that she was impressed with the bible so far.
There was an inscription on the page that read, "Johnson Family Bible." Henry pointed to the inscription and said, "We'll inscribe your bible with your family name at no extra cost to you. May I ask your family name ma'am?"
"Why, I'm sorry Henry. It's Cowan, I'm Bessie Cowan."

He contiued to show her other pages where Bessie could record births, deaths and marriages. Then he pointed out the bolder, easy to read print and that Jesus' words were printed in red in the New Testament. He showed her the index and maps of the old world in the back and the color pictures throughout the bible depicting scenes as they were described in the bible.
Bessie liked the bible and had always wanted a nice family bible to set on her coffee table. She didn't really like the burgundy and asked Henry if that was the only color available. He opened his brief case and pulled out a card that had 6 blocks of different colors on it. He handed her the card and told her she could choose any of those colors at no extra charge.
Bessie was sold. Not so much on the bible but she was devising a plan and she had to think quick.
"How much is the bible Mr. Johnson, er Henry?" Bessie was practically beaming.
"This one-of-a-kind bible can be yours to pass along to future generations for years to come for $75." Henry studied Bessie's face as he said this and noticed a frown forming.
"I know that's a lot of money ma'am but it's not just a bible, it's a family heirloom. Not only would it look beautiful sitting right there on your coffee table for everyone to enjoy but it would also hold your family's memories for years to come. This is something that your grandchildren's grandchildren will cherish one day."

The frown was still on Bessie's face but Henry saw a glimmer in her eyes and knew it was time for the hook.
"I'll tell you what Mrs. Cowan, without the inscription I could knock $10 off the price and you can pay it in 3 monthly installments."
Bessie got an idea and asked, "Can you give me some time to think about it and let me talk to my husband?"
Henry shook his head from side to side and said, "Well, ma'am I'm just passing through town and have a couple of other stops but I have to be moving on."
Bessie knew that Wanda was working at the cafe until 7 o'clock that evening so she said, "Oh dear, I guess I'll have to pass then. I just couldn't spend that kind of money without talking to my husband." Now it was time for Bessie's hook, "It's a beautiful bible and I would love to have it but I guess it just wasn't meant to be."
"Well, now Mrs. Cowan I'll tell you what. I'll be coming back through town next Wednesday. Do you think I could stop by and get your answer then?"
Henry's disappointment was obvious but Bessie was very pleased with herself and she beamed, "Why yes! That would be just fine." They both stood up at the same time and Henry gently shook Bessie's hand and promised to see her the following week as he walked out the front door. Bessie stood at the door and watched him get in his car and drive down the road. Now, she just had to figure out how she would get Wanda to come over next Monday.

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The stories posted on this blog (Peculiar Impartations) are orginal fiction written by Steve Hamilton.
They are copyrighted on the date they are published on this blog.

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