A Milking Fool by Gary Benton
Maude looked down at Bubba Lee sleeping and realized how deep her love was for him. Oh, they had their fights like most couples, but overall they got along fine. Besides, she would never leave him now, because it would take too long to train another man. Bubba was jus’ like she wanted him to be, easy goin’, polite, and she knew all his faults. Now, that was not to say Bubba didn’t have any good traits, ‘cause he did. But, of course, she never pointed those out to ‘em or else he’d get a big head.
She picked up her housecoat, slipped into her pink rabbit house shoes, and then said, “Bubba! Ya need to get up and feed them critters. I can heah the cow too. She needs milkin’ too. Ya ain’t goin’ deer huntin’ till yer chores are all done.”
“Wha..wha..what time is it Maude?” Bubba asked as he sat up and rubbed the sleep from his tired eyes. “It’s normal time Bubba Lee. Now, get up and get dressed. Them critters shouldn’t have to wait all day on a lazy man.” With that said, she turned and made her way down the hall of their doublewide mobile home. She would start the coffee, smoke a cigarette, and listen to the morning news on the portable radio she had on the kitchen windowsill.
Bubba slowly got out of bed, donned his bib-overalls, and put his ever-present ball cap on. The cap, a hot neon pink, advertised Lort’s feedlot and bridle gowns. His boots were last, and he took his time to ensure he laced them properly. He still laced them like the army had taught him to, right lace over the left. Bubba even tucked the ends of the laces in his boot tops. Old habits were hard to break, not that he even tried.
Making his way into the small kitchen, Bubba sat down on one of the old chairs at the table. The legs wobbled and a loud snap was heard as he moved to get comfortable. It was just a little before five in the morning and so far a typical morning for Bubba and Maude. His coffee was strong and hot, just as he liked it.
“Bubba, when ya finish the milkin’ and the feedin’, oh, and getting’ me some fire wood, we need to go to town this mornin’.” Maude said with a big smile. Bubba put his coffee cup down, turned to looked at Maude, and said, “Why? We was jus’ there a month ago and ya know I want to do some deer huntin’.” “I need to pick up some thangs and ya can hold off on the hutin’ fer a few hours too.”
Bubba, who hated to have his routine changed and was not very understanding, said, “Maude, when we went to town before, why didn’t ya get all the thangs ya needed then?” Well, Maude had been married to the man for over twenty-five years and she knew where this conversation was heading, “Bubba. Don’t ya pay no never mind ‘bout why I need to go to town. I never ask ya fer much, cept somethin’ fer the house now and then.”
Mumbling to himself, Bubba stood, finished off his coffee and without a word left the mobile home. He was still wondering about Maude as he entered the barn and started gathering up his feed for the critters. Picking up his chicken feed bucket, he moved out into the barnyard and started throwing corn for the chickens.
“Dang woman. Why does she need to go to town today? I got better thangs to do than to wonder ‘round the store while she looks at the candles and smells the perfumes. I need to get that big twelve pointer over by old man Cisco’s place.” He was not aware he was not thinking his words, but speaking them. “Bubba Lee! I done tolt ya not to worry ‘bout the why I have to go to town!” Maude yelled from the open kitchen widow. “Okay!” He yelled back as he took his anger out on the rooster by kicking a large rock toward the brown bird. As the rooster made noises and flew away, Bubba turned and made his way back into the barn. Iffen I hurry this, I can still get a couple hours of huntin’ in this evenin’
He put the milk pail under the cows udder, positioned the three legged stool, made sure there was feed for her, and then reached down to start milking. He had just touched her when she gave a loud moo and kicked. Bubba, still mad at Maude and preoccupied, never saw the hoof that knocked him from the stool. He was surprised by a sudden force striking him, discovered himself falling, and felt himself land on the straw packed floor . . . hard. After a few minutes, Bubba attempted to stand, but the world suddenly started turning gray. The gray faded into black and then into….nothing. Bubba was out.
Maude spent the better part of thirty minutes taking two large ham hocks out of the freezer, putting a pot of pinto beans on to cook, and cleaning up the living room. Finally, she realized, Bubba was late. She immediately became concerned because Bubba was as reg’lar as a clock. By fifteen minutes after five each morning he was always back in the house with a pail of fresh milk. He must still be mad at havin’ to take me to town today. He’s jus’ a big baby, She thought as she bent over and lined up his gym shoes by the door.
She poured herself another cup of coffee and looked out the window. No, She thought about it some more, something has happened. That boy may be late fer a lot of thangs, but breakfast hain’t neveh one of ‘em. Standing, she walked over to the open window and called out, but no response. She waited a couple of minutes and then yelled once more. “Now I’m worried. I better go check on him.” She said as she picked up her ball cap and put it on.
She made her way through the door toward the barn. She noticed a false dawn coming over the trees and there was a slight chill in the air. The sky was the dull color of tarnished silver and it looked like rain again, so deer huntin’ wouldn’t work anyway. Most likely be too windy, she thought. Iffen he’s fallen asleep, I’ll kill ‘em.
When she got to the barn door, she stopped before she opened it. Suddenly she was filled with dread. She loved Bubba and started feeling as if something terrible had happened. See, Maude was one of them good ole girls that liked to think she had “second sight.” In other words, Maude believed she could tell the future and right now, well, it didn’t look good fer our boy Bubba.
Slowly she cracked the door open. Seeing the small overhead light bulb burning and the cow’s rump, she called out in a frightened voice, “Bubba Lee?” No response was heard. She opened the door a little wider and then called in a little louder voice, “Bubba! Ya ok?”
At this point Maude knew something had happened. She opened the door all the way and looked inside. At first, she didn’t see Bubba, because he was leaning back against the wall beside the open door. Entering the barn, Maude’s eyes scanned the interior like a trained swat member, but nothing. At first glance, the barn appeared to be empty except for the cow and a cat that was sleeping in the hayloft.
“I tell ya right now. If that boy is in the beer down in the root cellar again, I’m gonna kill….” Maude never finished the sentence because as she turned to go to the cellar, she saw Bubba crumpled up against the wall. Her heart fluttered in fear as she saw bright red blood running down his face. The front of his t-shirt and his bibs were soaked with blood.
“Lordy, Lordy!” Maude screamed as she ran to her husband’s side. Right off, she noticed he was breathing deeply and steadily. The blood leaking from his cut head was flowing slowly now. Maude figured most of the blood on his clothes must have come from when he was first injured. She pulled her old blue work shirt off and tore it into strips. Kneeling beside Bubba she gently, as only a woman can do, wrapped his head. Not once during the whole process did the man move. The lack of movement scared Maude. She remembered old man Snodgrass and how he was kicked by a mule way back in 1959. To this day he walked the streets of ‘Possum Holler and talking to himself ‘bout high pork rind prices and Moon Pies. She quickly said a silent prayer for Bubba as she turned to run into house. She knew she had to call 911 and get him to the hospital.
“Maude! Maude! How come you got blood all over yerself and ya ain’t got no shirt on!” A loud voice came from the barn door and it suddenly refocused her attention. “Oh, Willy Eugene! I need yer hep! Bubba’s in the barn and out cold. The whole top of his head is open and he’s a gonner iffen I don’t call fer a am-blance right now!”
“Maude, ya call while I check ‘em out. ‘Member sweetheart, I was a medic in the army durin’ the Vee-it-nam war!” Willy yelled over his shoulder as he ran into the barn.
She called 911 and spent the better part of twenty minutes explainin’ to the operator how to get to the farm. At one point, she was so nervous she forgot the road number and she had lived in the same spot for more than forty years! She had been raised by her parents in this same mobile home. After her dad had died, her mother had rented a small apartment in town and given her and Bubba the land and trailer. Finally, the emergency medical technician told her the ambulance was on its way.
Scared, Maude opened the door and stepped out onto the wobbly wooden porch that Bubba always promised to fix. As she started to go down the stairs she noticed Bubba and Willy walk out from the barn and into the middle of the barnyard. Looks like one of them war movies. One man a-helpin’ the other, She thought and then slowly stepped down onto the packed dirt in front of the steps.
Bubba Lee! Ya get over heah and sit down. Ya shouldn’t be up like that ‘till the am-blance people check ya out!” Maude started lecturing him as soon as she noticed his eyes were open and he breathing was normal. “I done tolt him that Maude. But, ya know Bubba,” Willy said with a slight smile, which gave Maude the impression he was proud of Bubba’s strength. The two men made their way to the porch, where Bubba took a seat on the edge.
I . . . I . . . I am okay . . . Maude,” Bubba said with slurred words. “Bubba Lee. Ya ain’t alright. Ya been hut and are jus’ covered in blood. What in the Sam’s Hill happened to ya?”
“I don’t know. I don’t even ‘member goin’ to the barn. I jus’ woke up and there was Willy a-leanin’ over me in that old army coat of his. I done thought I was back in the war and been shot.”
“I didn’t mean to scare ya Bubba. But, I like this coat and I’ve had hit fer years.” As Willy spoke, he took out his Deadman chewin’ tobacco and stuffed his right cheek full. Working his cud, he turned and let a stream of brown juice fly toward an old rooster. Missing the bird, he chuckled, and said, “Bubba, I ‘spect you got a concussion and I know a tored scalp. Them am-blance people is gonna take ya in fer some tests, a bit of stitchin’, and maybe a over night stay at the ‘Possum Holler Ree-ginal Horse-pital.”
“Hog warsh. I hain’t a spendin’ no night at no dang med-kal fa-sill-eye-tee. I got some deer huntin’ to do ‘round heah.”
Well, they were still discussing the need for Bubba to spend the night at the hospital with the ambulance drove up into the driveway, right beside Willy’s old pick-em’up truck. The dust hadn’t even settled before two big fat men in white clothes were running toward the porch with a bouncing litter between them. Noticing the blood on Bubba’s clothes, their advanced training kicked in. In less than two minutes, the man was wired up like Frankenstein in one of them old spooky black and white movies.
Bubba attempted to maintain some dignity throughout the whole process, but finally in the end, he just plain gave up. Before you say the names of all of Grandma Patton’s kids, Bubba, the two fat men and the ambulance were gone. A deathly silence filled the air, along with a great deal of dust.
Finally, after about five minutes, Willy spoke, “He’ll be ok Maude. I treated hunnerds of men durin’ the war and ya can tell. I ‘spect he’ll be back in the mornin’ full of vinegar and a-raisin’ stink to go huntin’. Ya know Bubba Lee. But, I am wonnerin’ what happened. I mean, I guess that old cow done kicked the boy.”
“Willy Eugene, are ya shore he’s a-gonna be ok? I mean, there wasn’t nothin’ serious ‘bout that injury?” Willy looked at Maude as she spoke and felt a flutter as he realized how much she loved Bubba. “Maude, trust me. He will be jus’ fine. He’ll have a dandy of a headache fer a spell and his vision might be messed up a bit, but he’ll live.”
“Willy, it’s a shame what a full grown up man will do to avoid goin’ to a store jus’ so he can hunt a deer. I know he did that on purpose to keep from a-takin’ me. I’ll bet ya a thousand dollars, he tolt that old cow to kick ‘em.” Maude’s face was turning red and her eyes were growing in size.
Willy, having grown up with both Bubba and Maude, didn’t say a word. Now that things were back to normal, he walked to this truck. He started it and drove from the driveway he could still hear Maude yelling about Bubba getting outta goin’ to town so he could hunt. Some things, well, they just never change.