Driving down a country road a few hours after the thunderclouds hit the mountains and busted wide open. The thirsty soil had already soaked up the sudden downpour, but the air was heavy and thick, and no longer hot. Make the left-hand hairpin turn off the main highway, and drive all the way to the gravel road. The car slows to a near crawl and decends into the lush green depths of a riverine forest. The air temperature drops ten degrees within the next fivehundred feet, and light reaches the ground in dappled patches. It smells sweet, and all the windows are down so me and the dog can hang our heads out the window.
Turn toward the mountain after you cross the bridge. The road narrows and winds through a meadow until you get to the cattle guards. Daddy pulls over and we go for a walk down to the creek. A little river, really, with big white rocks to hop on and a place to wade with the minnows and crawdads. A cluster of black and white cows wanders the birch trees, stamping and swishing at flies as they graze alongside the water. The big one is watching my dog. My dog is watching him, too. There’s a barbwire fence between us and him, so I’m not afraid. Insects and birds hum and sing in the trees and tall grass. The sun has peeked through the clouds, warming the earth and reminding me the summer is not gone.
Daddy whistles for me, and I take off running. We load up in the car and head back to the main road, stopping at Red’s Fill-Em Up to get chewing tobacco and malted milk balls. If church hadn’t gotten out yet, he’d still have fried chicken and taters. We loved Red’s chicken, and so did the rest of the county. Best to pick up some while we could; Mommie Dearest might be cookin’ tonight.