That first night the house was full of visitors, people going to
the music festival in Sodom and needing a place to spend the night. I
shared the sofa bed with a left-handed guitar player named Grover.
During the night, Grover rolled over against me, rubbed my back, and
sleepily murmured, "Oh, baby." I heard the door to Dellie's room open
long before daylight. I lay there quietly as she made her way to the
chair next to my bed. She put on her glasses, fiddled with her hair, and
gathered herself for the day. Soon, she lifted the box of Bruton's snuff
from the windowsill above her head and put a spoonful in her mouth.
Everyone left later in the day, and that night the place felt deserted.
No music or long conversations. I talked with Dellie and Junior, but I
didn't know what questions to ask or thoughts to pursue. I didn't yet
understand the significance of their stories or their lives. We watched
TV with terrible reception, even with the trio of antennas perched on
the hill behind the house, each pointing in a different direction. We
ate cookies, drank a glass of milk, and went to bed early.
I was given my own room with a double bed covered by a homemade quilt, a
nightstand, and a reading lamp. An open window provided air, and a look
out to an old shed and a tree-covered mountain. It was calming, but I
was anxious and didn't sleep well. Branches scraped the tin roof of the
house. Dogs barked throughout the night. A car revved its engine close
by. It was still dark when I heard Dellie yell, "Junior, bring me some
He did, grumbling. Biscuits and gravy were his reward.
After breakfast, I helped Dellie wash the dishes in two tin pans placed
on the kitchen table. One for washing, the other for rinsing. Then,
Junior and I did chores. Split and hauled in stove wood. Fed the
animals. Hoed the tobacco. Later, he showed me the place: the spring,
garden, and barn. We took a short walk to an adjoining cove that Junior
called the Teat Holler. There were the remains of an old house where
Dellie's son lived before he was killed.
Dellie talked on the phone, watched the soap operas on TV. It was a slow, monotonous day. I was
bored, restless. I shot film, but the pictures felt staged and static.
And Dellie and her farm didn't fit my image of mountain life. She wasn't
romantic or historic in her look, but somewhat rough and coarse. The
place was going downhill. Fences needed mending. It was being overtaken
with weeds. Junior bothered me in some indefinable way. He was loud,
with an opinion about everything. But he was also fearful and insecure.
When it was time to leave, I said I would come back, but did I mean it?
Dellie looked me directly in the eye and said, "You'll be welcome as the
flowers in May."