Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Daddy & Them

I'm a big fan of Billy Bob Thornton. He's a Southern boy and knows his people well: their slang, mannerisms, love/hate relationships within the families, their idiosyncrasies.
I was thrilled when I came across a Billy Bob movie I had never heard of. Released in 2001, he wrote, directed and starred in the film, which was shown in a handful of southern test markets and immediately went to video. Although it didn't get great reviews, I really enjoyed it.
Daddy & Them is a dark comedy about the trials and tribulations of an eccentric Arkansas family. A blond Billy Bob plays Claude, a poor-white-trash sort of fellow, and Laura Dern plays his wife Ruby. Due to Claude's long-ago relationship with her sister, Ruby is insecure, so she is constantly spouting lies about a "muscled-up" lover she once had. Claude is obsessed about the former lover, feels inadequate, and seeks reassurance of her love at every turn.
In the middle of all this, news comes that Claude's Uncle Hazel (Jim Varney) has been accused of murder and is in jail, awaiting trial. Claude and Ruby head for the Alabama town where they grew up, and all hell breaks loose.

Claude's father, O. T., is played by Andy Griffith. Sandra Seacat plays his mother, and Ruby's mother and sister are played by Diane Ladd and Kelly Preston. Jamie Lee Curtis and Ben Affleck play bickering married attorneys handling Uncle Hazel's case, and Jeff Bailey and John Prine play Claude's brothers.
John Prine was an added bonus for me; I love the man and his music. Unlike some singers, who should stick to music and stay away from acting (Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, for example), he is very good as Claude's "Zen hillbilly" brother.
As the credits were rolling, he and Iris Dement sang a catchy little song he wrote for the movie. Bill and I laughed all the way through In Spite of Ourselves.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dudley In All His Glory

Although this is not the best of pictures (something is wrong with my camera!), I knew readers would want to see Dudley in all his glory. He loves attention from the ladies, and he got it in spades when Brooke and Kate came callin.'

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Noel's Pictures

Uncle Noel was tall and slim with black curly hair and the brightest blue eyes I'd ever seen. He wore pleated gabardine trousers, white shirts, sports coats with shiny gold buttons. He smoked Chesterfield cigarettes, blew smoke rings. I could see my face in his shoes.

That is the first paragraph of a story based on the life of my uncle, who left Kentucky soon after he graduated from high school in 1922 and headed to New York City. When he returned each summer in a big shiny car to visit Maw Maw, I thought he was a movie star. But that's understandable, I suppose. After all, he once danced with Katherine Hepburn.

Much of it is true, but I 'filled in the blanks' in some areas (not the dancing with Katherine Hepburn part; he did dance with her), so I must call it a work of fiction.

I was thrilled a few days ago when I received word that "Noel's Pictures" has been accepted by the online literary ezine, Up the Staircase Literary Review. It will be published in their May issue.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Imagining what it is like to be someone other than oneself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality.
~Ian McEwan~

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Who You Ringin'? (Part II)

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon, and Mother and Daddy were leaving us home alone for the first time. Since Terry and I were the oldest, we would be in charge.
“We won't be gone long,” Mother said, “Just stay in the house and don't let anybody in that you don't know.”
As soon as they left, Terry and I made a beeline for the kitchen. He popped popcorn and I made a double batch of chocolate fudge.
Afterward, we gathered in the living room, digging into our dishpan of popcorn and meat platter of fudge as we discussed how to spend our afternoon.
"We could play some baseball,"Terry said, "If it quits raining." He tossed a popcorn kernel in the air and caught it in his mouth.
I grabbed a piece of fudge. “Oh, let's have some real fun, do something different."
"Like what?”
I gazed around the living room, stopping at the phone. “I know!” I said, “Let's get on the phone and get the party-liners all up in the air!”
“We could act like some mean old man is calling and scaring us.”
Patsy and Mary Ellen were all for it, but Terry had reservations.
“Ahh...I don't know.”
“Oh, come on, it'll be fun!”
After a while, Terry gave in, and we were soon planning our strategy: We would ring ourselves several times (to make sure party-liners had a chance to get to their phones), and then one of us would answer and carry on a conversation with a mean old man on the other end. The mean old man being Terry, of course.
When it was time to begin, I cranked our ring: two longs and one short. As predicted, several party-liners picked up. One was Miss Ora; I heard her sick rooster crowing in the background.
“Yeah,” Terry said in a deep, threatening voice, “Who's this?”
“What are you doing?”
“Who is this?"
“Ain't none of your business!” yelled Terry.
He hung up, and I quickly picked up again. I heard four clicks.
“Four party-liners were listening!” I said, “One was Miss Ora!”
We all began giggling and cheering and digging into more popcorn and fudge.
After we calmed down, I cranked out two longs and one short again. I waited for the party-liners to pick up, and then I gave the receiver to Patsy.
“Well, hello there, little gal,” Terry said, “How would you like for me to come on over to your house?”
“Who is this?” Patsy said.
“Don't make no difference who I am,” Terry growled, “I'm coming!”
Patsy squealed and hung up.
I grabbed the phone and listened. There were five hang-ups.
We laughed harder. “You did good, Patsy!”
We celebrated by eating more popcorn and fudge, and then I rang again.
“Act like you're scared to death,” I said as I handed the receiver to Mary Ellen.
“Hello?” she said in her tiny voice.
“I'm coming over there, little gal!”
“Ohhhh!” she screamed, “Who IS this? I'm scared. What are we gonna do?”
Terry took the phone. “I'm coming now! I know where y'all live...right out there on Laketon Road!”
He hung up, and we all congratulated Mary Ellen. “You really did sound scared to death!” Patsy said.
Suddenly, five-year-old Ted stood up. “It's my turn." He had fudge all over his mouth.
“No,” I said, “You're too little.”
He looked up at me, blue eyes solemn, “I'm gonna tell...”
Terry gave him a stern look. “You. Better. Not.”
Ted grabbed more fudge and returned to his seat.
When I picked up the phone again, several eavesdroppers were in deep discussion.
“I saw Tommy and Evelyn go by today when I went to get the mail,” Gertie said, “So those kids are all by themselves over there.”
“I saw them go by, too,” said Aunt Mary, “Who do you think that man could be?”
“Ain't no telling.”
“I don't like the sound of it,” said Miss Ora, “Not one bit.” Her rooster gave a guarded crow.
“I'm sure they'll be back soon, but I'm going to call Miss Muriel,” Gertie said, “If she isn't home, I might better go ahead on over there myself. Those kids are scared to death!”
I quickly hung up. “Gertie's gonna call Maw Maw!”
“Uh oh,” Terry said, “We're in for it now.”
It didn't take long for Gertie to spring into action. The phone sputtered out two longs and two shorts: Maw Maw's ring. We had no desire to listen in on that conversation. I was feeling very guilty by then, and I knew Terry felt the same way.
We arranged ourselves in a line on the sofa and prepared to await our fate.
Not long thereafter, Mother and Daddy arrived home. Lucky for us, Daddy went to his workshop behind the house.
Mother rushed inside.
“Maw Maw Wilson flagged us down," she said, "Gertie was there and they were getting ready to come over here. What has been going on?"
“It's okay now,” Terry said, gazing at his feet.
“Yes, it's okay,” I said, “That old man didn't call anymore.”
“Everybody on the line was worried to death,” Mother went on, “Maw Maw and Gertie were beside themselves.”
She looked at Terry, but he was still staring at his feet.
She looked at me.
I tried staring at my feet, too, but she kept looking at me. "Well," I said, "What were they doing listening, anyway?"
"Y'all ought to be ashamed," she said, "They were just concerned and worried."
She turned and headed to the kitchen, Ted at her heels.
"I didn't do nothin'," he said.
Mother never mentioned the incident again, and we were on our best behavior the rest of the evening. We had my favorite spare ribs for supper, but I didn't eat much. I had a stomach ache. From the looks on their faces, I think my siblings did, too.
All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley