"Why, yes, as a matter of fact you did, Uncle Jep." Now I most never interrupt nor comment when Uncle is spinning one a his tales, mostly on account ya can't get a word in edgeways. "You told me how she put him to workin' so hard on the farm, he decided he'd be better off to home."
Nah, I don't mean that time. He was a youngun then, his Paw thought hit'd do him some good to find out what bein' responsible for hisself was like. Weren't more'n fourteen, I reckon, maybe fifteen. His Paw made him earn the train fare and pay him back, too, when he got home.
So, anyways, Gene was a growed man by this time. Workin' in the bakery over to Syracuse. Puttin' some money away, too, fixin' to make somethin' of hisself. Had his eye on that Smollett gal. She was from up to Eads, you know, daddy tore up lotsa countryside puttin' in wheat and rakin' in dough, if you get my drift. Reckon he made his conterbution to the Dust Bowl. Ol' Drought and Wind, they passed that bowl around, ever'body chipped in something, I'd say. Lotsa people hiked it on outta here, but them's stories for another time. So Gene had that ol' A model Ford coupe, an' he decide afore he married he'd oughta take a run back to Ol' Virginny, keep the fambly ties tied, so to speak. So he drove that car all the way back there. Got stopped in Looey Vill, too. Had his driver's license, but couldn't put his hand on no papers fer that car. Cop hauled him to the station, too, and ever'body there thought Gene looked mighty suspicious-- shifty, they mought a said. Gene was persuasive, but he warn't glib, and he allowed as how he was good friends of the sheriff in Prowers County, and if they'd let him get off a wire to him, Ol' Frank Coleman would vouch for him. So they done it, and Gene lolled around downtown fer three, four hours whilst waitin' a answer. An' they got it, and let him go.
So, anyway, after about a week a gettin' there, Gene come to Aunt Mel's house in Gate City. See, by this time, Mel had sold her farm and done chucked it in, so to speak. She had bought a little house, just edge a town, close enough to ever'thing, she said, that she could walk wheresoever she needed to be, and far enough from ever'body her cow and her goats wouldn't bother no one. They mought hear the rooster of a mornin', though, but that's life.
Aunt Mel bought that house offen the Larkin estate when ol' man Larkin passed. Hit were in purty good shape, but needin' gen'ral cleanup and attention. They say Larkin's daughter, Sybil, inherited, tuk the money, and said, "The dusta this hell-hole won't never besmirch my shoes again." And no one's seen her nor heard from her since. So Mel was right glad to see Gene, and fixed him a pallet on the back porch, and give him a "to do" list. Now Gene was right responsible by now, and he tuk it all in stride and in good spirits, told her, "Aunt Mel, so long's you set that good ol' down-home cookin' in fronta me, I'll be at your service." An' he fell to, scrapin', paintin', cleanin'. He even built new back steps to the house-- done a right neat job, he did. And then he was hangin' wallpaper in the sittin' room. Gene used to he'p his Mama when she papered for people. Twel one Sattidy noon time, Gene says, "Ima go on over to Kingsport for the evenin'."
So he gotten his A model and whu-whu-whu on down the road. He decides to go to Harlan's for his supper-- Jake Harlan has the Oasis edge of town there in Kingsport. Purty quiet crowd, good food, and not too much rowdy'n around. Jake married Cleota Jones from over to Rogersville, you know. Gene dated Cleo some when they was in high school, but there was no hard feelin's atween Gene and Jake-- all worked out for the best. Anyway, he gets his order in with the cute little waitress-- he thinks she mought be Nick Widman's daughter, but he weren't sure, and he was too much the gentleman to ask. Nick Widman had run off with Cub Wadkin's wife, you know, Marlene was her name, I think. Anyways, ever'body said they gone to Albuquerque. Your Aunt Maude over there says it's so, says they have six kids a they own, evidental forgettin' all about his three and her two they left back in Tennessee. Happy as if'n they din't know no better, and breedin' like mice in May.
So anyhow, while Gene was waitin' on his order, of a sudden somethin' slapped him on the back. It were ol' Anse Willowby, down from Bristol, did a little buyin' for his store, doncha know, and had a evenin' at loose ends. Now Gene re-cog-nize him at once, though he'd not seen him since they was kids. Gene went to school with Anse the couple years they lived over on the Holston, fourth and fifth grade they was good buddies, Gene says.
So like they never been apart, they make it up atween 'em to go out and have some fun, so then they et up and got in Anse's Buick, one them ol' long-block eights, bear on gas, but hell on wheels! '31, I think it was. So then they drive on up to East Ridge to ol' Peck Willowby's place. Now ever'body knowed Peck run a still somewheres backa his place, but the revenooers could never find it, 'n they got a pint a lightnin' fum Peck. Now a pint is more'n enough fer two young bucks-- 180 proof, hit were.
Well, best leave the rest of the evenin' blank, 'cause it were blank to Gene somewhere after they left Hiltons, and he don't rightly know how he get back to Aunt Mel's house. But when the toe a her army boot landed in his ribs, he shot off'n that pallet right pert like, 'n she were in no mood to talk. Booted him plum off'n the place, and that's when he decided to get back home. Bread was needin' to be baked, and he was needin' to get back to the straight 'n narrow, hopin' Raejean Smollett would never hear of his adventure "back home."