Monday, June 23, 2014

Words Come First

During the decades I spent trying to build muscle in the left side of my brain, I always admired those who were strong on the other side, the creative side. When I began to write, I noticed that songwriters and poets could tell a story in seventy words that might take me seven hundred or more (and their words rhymed). Of course, this was back in the good old days when songs did tell stories.

As I try to build mind pictures for my readers, I sometimes play inspiring background music and wish that I could put that music in my words. More often than not, the music is played only in my mind. 

When I see a book converted to a movie done well, I envy the music and cinematography that can thrill us, inspire us, fill us up with emotion and make us overflow. Writers have to make do with written words on a printed page, and nowadays, on the screen of the latest gadget.

Remember that sweeping panoramic view of Montana mountains and valleys at the end of The Horse Whisperer as Tom Booker watched Annie Maclean drive away to music that tugged at our heartstrings?

We writers try to achieve that affect in at least one or two scenes in a book (some try to do it on every page), but we just don’t have the visual effects and the sound. Still, if there had been no story told, no novel, no screenplay, there would have been no movie, no soundtrack, and no music. Words always come first, and we can take comfort in that.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hot Checks and Hogs the Final Chapter

It is well past midnight when Burl steps out into the cold yard at home.  The house is dark.  He holds the truck door that Weldon is trying to close.  “You owe me eighty-five more dollars, Weldon, and you damn sure gonna pay me this time.”
Months pass before Burl sees Weldon again.  He does see Weldon’s horses being shod by another farrier, though, and wonders if Weldon will pay the other fella with a hot check. His question is answered two months later as Burl leaves his house before daylight on a particularly hot Saturday morning and sees Weldon’s horses tied in his horse lot, waiting to be shod. Burl grunts. "Must have written that other farrier a hot check."
He sits down to smoke a cigarette as he stares at Weldon’s horses and waits for good daylight.  Other customers drop off their horses and Burl takes them in order.  It is close to five o’clock when he finishes with all the other customers’ horses.  Weldon’s horses’ hooves are still long and cracked, their shoes missing nails. 
It is after midnight when Weldon parks his truck and trailer in the dark lane north of Burl’s barn.  He walks a quarter mile on the dusty road in silence and tries to keep the gate hinges from squeaking as he enters the horse lot.  He uses the light of the moon to check the horses’ new shoes.  Satisfied and a little surprised, he is untying lead ropes when he sees the red tip of Burl’s cigarette emerge from the moonlight shadows. 
“Damn, Burl, you bout scared the livin’ shit outta  me.  Whatchu doin sneakin round here so late at night?”
Burl drops his cigarette and grounds it out with his boot.  “I live here.” 
“Listen, Burl, I hate to be so late gettin’ back an all, but I didn’t get finished haulin’ till after dark, then …”
“Was you gonna leave without payin’ me again, Weldon?”
“Aw, naw, Burl.  Shoot, I was gonna write you a check and leave it over there under the anvil way I always do.”  He walked toward the anvil.  “Didn’t you find that last check I left over there?”
“I got two of them checks in my pocket here.  Both of ‘em hot enough to bend a horseshoe.”
“Well, now, I had no idea.  That mighta been the time I was having trouble with that damn bank makin’ mistakes on me.  Try runnin’ them things through again.”
“Ran 'em through twice.  They burnin' a hole in my pocket right now.”
“You’d thank them bank people could keep up better.”
“Them mistakes usually happen a lot when you don’t put no money in your account, Weldon.”
Weldon nods vigorously and studies his boots.  “Tell you what, I’ll just write you a check to cover today’s shoes and them other two checks.  Let me just load these horses and get my checkbook out of the pickup pocket.  I parked aways down the road to keep from wakin’ you and Lillie.”  Weldon starts to lead the horses out of the lot but they refuse to budge.  He looks down to see what is the trouble and finds a chain that locks a leg of each horse to a corral post.
“You owe me for today and them two hot checks, Weldon.  Plus eighty-five dollars for that hog trip.”
“Now Burl, you know I can’t afford to carry that kind of money on me.  Places I go, it might get a man killed.  Why don’t I just come by here first thing Monday morning and bring the cash?”
“That’ll be fine.  Knew you wouldn’t have it. You just pick which one of them horses you think the least of and I’ll keep it till I get my money.  If you ain’t brought it by the end of Monday, I’ll be takin' it to the Tuesday sale.”
Burl almost feels a twinge of pity as Weldon sees he is trapped.  “What did you ever do with them hogs, anyway, Weldon?”
“Was gonna have one butchered and put in the freezer.  Sell the rest and have one to eat free and clear.”
“Who bought 'em?”
Weldon shook his head, slumped his shoulders.  “Nobody.  Was always scared of hogs and they all got away when I was trying to unload the trailer.”