The Long Home

The Long Home by William Gay

Book: The Long Home by William Gay Read Free Book Online
Authors: William Gay
in the shadow of the barn wiping his face with his handkerchief. Hardin reached him a cigarette and Wymer took it and stuck it in his mouth. When he made no move to light it Hardin proffered the gold lighter.
    “Who do you reckon they belong to, Wymer?”
    “Nobody around here got any Morgans but them Blalock boys over on Harrikan. They got to belong to them.”
    “Man owns horseflesh like that ought to tend his fences.”
    Wymer gestured with his cigarette. “You won’t keep em in there.”
    “I will when you get through patchin it and proppin them posts and loopin me three strands of bobwire around it,” Hardin said.
    “Lord God,” Wymer said. He peered toward the sky as if beseeching the intervention of some more authoritative word. The sun was in ascension now and the sky was a hot, quaking blue, it seemed to pulse like molten metal. Against the deep void a hawk wheeled arrogantly, jays came to tease it and it rose effortlessly on the updrafts from the hollow like an intricately crafted kite, climbed until it was only a speck moving against the infinite blue.
    Hardin put an arm about Wymer’s shoulders. “Now, it won’t be so bad,” he told him consolingly. “It won’ take long and while you’re doin it you know what I’m goin to do? I’m goin to take a case of beer and put it in the freezer, and it’ll be there icin down just waitin on you.”
    Wymer didn’t say anything. He just stood there staring at the leaning fenceposts.
    “You tell Pearl I said to give you some money and take that truck and go get two rolls of bobwire.”
    “Why, I ain’t even got no license,” Wymer protested.
    “I never knowed one was required to buy bobwire,” Hardin said.
    “It likes to grow on the north slope of a hill,” Oliver told him. “Shadier there I reckon. It’s funny stuff, some places it’ll grow and some places it won’t . And it don’t come up ever year. You won’t find it none in no pineywoods or in a honeysuckle thicket. Lots of times you’ll find sang up on a hillside from where a branch runs. But then lots of times you won’t.”
    Winer followed the old man down a steep hillside, Oliver negotiating his way tree to tree, pausing to point with his stick toward an arrowheadedshaped fern.
    “See that? Now, that’s a pointer. Where you find that you’ll generally find some sang though it ain’t no ironclad guarantee, it just grows in the same kind of ground sang does.”
    They had been out since daylight and Winer’s legs ached from clambering up and down the hillsides and he did not how the old man held up. He was agile as one of his goats and he seemed possessed by a curious sense of excitement.
    “It’s like gambin or drinkin or runnin women of whatever you get habited to,” he had told Winer. “You get started huntin sang and it just gets in your blood.”
    Oliver paused, peering groundward. “Come here a minute, boy.”
    Winer came up beside him. Oliver was pointing out with his snake stick a plant growing in the shade of a chestnut oak. He dropped the point of his stick back against the earth and rested his weight on it.
    “What would you say that was there?”
    Winer laid his sack aside and knelt to the earth, raking back the leaves and dark loan from around the delicate stem of the plant. He studied the wilted top he carried for reference.
    “It’s ginseng,” he said.
    “Are you right sure now?”
    “Well, its looks like it.” He studied his top some more. “Sure I’m sure.”
    Oliver grinned. “That’s just old jellico,” he said. “See how limbs grow out of the stems on it? One here and one there? Now look at ye ginseng. See how them limbs grows out right even with one another? That’s how ye tell it.”
    “Well, it looks like it to me.”
    “It ain’t though. Folks dig some peculiar things thinking it’s ginseng. Back in the Depression it couldn’t stalk peep out of the ground without there was somebody there waitin on it. I never like to dig it myself fore

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