The pickup was blue, and looked new. The glare of the windshield prevented Brice from seeing who was driving; he could see a man’s arm resting on the door of the driver’s side. The arm waved, and Brice waved back. The truck pulled into the drive way and stopped short of the cleared area. The door opened and two people climbed out. Brice did not know them. The man was tall and thin, with him was a pretty woman wearing a little black hat on top of neatly braided black hair. She had red lipstick on and against her white skin it made her lips glow like an ember in a camp fire. As they walked towards Brice, he realized that he was staring. The woman flushed slightly and Brice turned his head and coughed. The man spoke. “Hello young man, my name is Gaylord Rightfield, this is my wife Connie. We know Doyle and Heidi Dunigan. We heard that your family may be related. Is your Pa around?”
“No, he and momma went into town to learn more, and to visit Uncle Doyle and Aunt Heidi.”
The man smiled, “So you are related. Do you have any more information about what happened?” Brice handed the note to the man, who quickly handed it to his better half. “Don’t have my glasses” he explained sheepishly. She read the note out loud, folded the paper and said, “That is what we heard.” She handed the note back to Brice.
Realizing that these nice people might have driven a long way to pay their respect, Brice mimicked what he had heard his father say many times, “why don’t you come in and sit awhile. Make yourself at home.” The man looked at his wife and said, we don’t want to impose, but we could use a drink of water to wash away the dust.” Brice smiled and said “You are welcome come and sit.” The pretty woman acknowledged his comment and walked towards the truck. She called out, “Joey, Jenny, you all come on and get a drink of water”. A boy of about 10 years of age vaulted out of the back of the truck and jogged towards his dad who was already pumping water into the bucket.
Brice heard the tail gate squeak and hit the end of the chains that held it out flat when let down. A girl climbed out of the back and strolled towards her mother who waited with hand out stretched. Brice’s jaw hit the ground, the sky started spinning, and he reached out for something to steady him. Of course nothing was there and he stumbled forward a little bit awkwardly catching himself. The girl placed a hand on her mouth and giggled. Brice turned shades of red, purple and green all at once. The girl was wearing a red dress, with a white sweater over the top. Brice could not believe what he saw standing in front him. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his life. Her mother looked at Brice, and said, “Son, are you alright?” As he continued to stare Brice said “No ma’am, I mean yes ma’am.” Mrs. Rightfield choked back a laugh, and said, “Brice this is my daughter Jenny Rightfield. Jenny this is Brice Dunigan.” Mrs. Rightfield placed an arm around her daughter and said, “Come on honey and get a drink.”
Jenny and her mother walked to the pump where her father and brother were standing. After Jenny took a sip of water she turned in Brice’s direction and gave a little grin, Brice had absently bent over to pet the dog just to be doing something. The little grin made him stumble tripping over the hound’s legs and land on his face. Mr. Rightfield reached out and helped Brice off of the ground. Mr. Rightfield said, “You ok?” Brice dusted himself off and replied “Huh, yes sir, I just tripped.”
They all took a seat on the benches and enjoyed the shade. “Were you all planning a picnic or something?” Mrs. Rightfield queried.
Picking at a skinned place on his elbow Brice replied, “Yes, every year at this time, give or take a couple of weeks the whole Dunigan family get together and have dinner. Ma says it is a family tradition started way back when everyone had farms. They did it to celebrate the harvest. Now they just call it a summer celebration”
Mrs. Rightfield nodded, “Yes that is an old tradition many families’ still take part in. Brice, does anyone in your family, Uncles and Aunts, still farm?”
Brice was looking at the ground trying to avoid eye contact with Jenny who was leaning on her father. He said, “Not full time, I have one uncle that has 80 acres of hay, but it is just for his animals and he sells a little.”
Mr. Rightfield joined in, “That would be Clyde Dunigan, over in Midland. I bought some hay from him last year. He has a nice place over there. It gets pretty hot, a lot hotter than here.”
“Yes sir it does”
Mrs. Rightfield asked, “How many of your kin were coming over today?”
Brice thought a moment “I think everyone in the area, which would be about five families about thirty people plus our family.”
Mr. Rightfield stood and stretched and Brice’s stomach sank. They were going to leave. They were going to drive off and he would never see Jenny again.
“Well, we had better get. We don’t want to be no trouble for your family, especially with all that has happened.”
They all stood Jenny grabbed her dad’s hand and they started walking to the car. She looked at Brice and said, “Thank you for the water.”
Brice floated just above the ground, starring at her with a dumb look on his face. Something came out of his mouth but he was not sure what he said. She smiled and walked towards the truck with her family. His feet touched the ground and once again reality struck like a thunder bolt. If he did not do something, he would never see her again. “Ma’am, uh Sir?”
They all turned to look at him. “Uh well, we will have plenty of food, we always do, and well, since you came by to pay your respects, I know my momma would want you all to stay and share a meal with us.”
“Thank you son, but we need to be getting back home” From behind the house Brice could hear the old hound Talker, began to bark. They all turned towards the road and saw a cloud of dust following an old pickup.
“I think that is Momma and Daddy. Sir, my apologies for arguing but would you please wait and say hi to my folks, I know they would like to meet you.”
Mr. Rightfield looked at his wife and smiled, “Of course son, we’ll say hi to your folks.” A feeling of relief spread through Brice that was telegraphed to his face and then visible to the whole world. Jenny smiled.
The Dunigan family truck pulled into the drive way and parked away from the house to make room for anyone else who came by. Virgil Dunigan stepped out of the truck and walked towards Brice and the Rightfield family. “Hello, I’m Virgil Dunigan.” Rightfield grabbed Virgil’s hand and shook with a firm country handshake. “Glad to meet you, I am Gaylord Rightfield; this is my wife Connie and my two children Joey and Jenny. We did not want to impose on you but we are friends with your brother Doyle, We heard there was some kind of accident and wanted to make sure everyone was alright. Did you hear anything?”
Virgil motioned to the bench and they all sat down. “Well they are both in the hospital, but out of danger. Doyle broke his leg where the door was pushed in by the other vehicle and Heidi has a big bruise and cuts on her head and neck. They think she may have a concussion. The doctor wanted to keep them over night just to be on the safe side.” There was a collective sigh of relief around the table. This was good news.
Virgil said, “Gaylord, we have a passel of folks on their way over with more food than twenty families could eat, would you and yours join us for a meal?” The Rightfield’s looked at each other and nodded in agreement. “Thank you for your hospitality we will join you for a meal, Can we be of assistance in the preparation?” “I have some turkeys to pluck and fish to clean; you just sit here and enjoy the shade. Gaylord jumped up and said “Show me the fish, you want em gutted, tailed, finned and headed?” Virgil smiled, “That is perfect, I got a pair of rubber gloves over there if you want to keep your hands from smelling like fish.” He looked towards the house and saw Patricia and Connie Rightfield giving directions to the children. He noticed something odd about Brice. He couldn’t put his finger on it but something was different in the way he was acting.