by: B.L. Davenport
On a brisk September day in 1975, not cold but the temperature wasn’t too warm either, Brandy Lou Davenport or B.L. as she was better known; her brother and two older cousins having thought Brandy Lou was too big a name for such a tiny baby had quickly nicknamed her B.L. ; found herself being called to the principal’s office for what she couldn’t imagine she had not caused any trouble this day for doing so would have meant that the new youth 410 shotgun she had gotten for Christmas would not be used after school to open Dove season. Walking slowly to the office, she tried to remember all that she had done that could have gotten her into trouble but, nope nothing rang a bell she had been on her best behavior that day. Entering the office she noticed that her Uncle Allen and his wife Aunt Chessy were there along with her brother Longstreet B. Davenport or L.B as he was better known; all of them looking at her as if the roof might collapse on her head, L.B. had even been crying and did so now as he came over and picked her up.
“L.B. what is wrong with you? Your scaring me, quit it.”
Uncle Allen and Aunt Chessy stepped in now, Allen taking B.L. from her brother’s trembling arms, the young man really was a mess; tear tracks ran through the grease on his face that was left behind from working at the garage in town where he’d had a job since the summer before his eleventh grade year in school. Chessy knelt in front of her husband who held their niece on his knee, stroking one finger down the girl’s jaw her own lips trembling as she spoke.
“Darlin’ we come to take you home” “Why? Where are Daddy and Mama? Why didn’t they come? What’s going on?”
the questions spilled from the blonde teenage girl’s mouth like a faucet as she searched her own mind for answers to it all. The answer was soon to come L.B silently gave his Uncle and Aunt a look, that clearly said he thought he should be the one to break the news to his sister,
“He was k…killed this morning in an accident at the mine. Mama sent me to get you; Uncle Allen and Aunt Chessy came with me.”
L.B swallowed the baseball in his throat before continuing; B.L. had started to shake her head ‘no’ as tears streamed down her face, yet she knew her brother spoke the awful truth, continuing after he regained his composure L.B said
There mother had come down with Scarlet Fever a few weeks ago, so both L.B. and B.L. had been staying at their Uncle and Aunt’s house. There mother was over the disease now, but L.B. had decided they should stay with their Uncle, Aunt and Cousin Cooter a few more days to give their mother more time to recuperate.
In the days and weeks to come, B.L’s and L.B’s father was laid to rest in the family cemetery;
Only a short two years later in March of 1977, tragedy was to befall the siblings once more when L.B who was now man of the house since his father’s death, got the call that his mother had just passed on to be with their father, due to a massive heart attack; he shook his head and wiped his eyes he had to go get B.L. from school before she heard from someone else. An eerie since of de ja vu crept over B.L. as she walked slowly down the silent hallway lined with lockers painted in the school’s bright colors of blue, red and gold. Entering the office seeing L.B along with her Uncle Allen and Aunt Chessy, standing there made her stomach plummet to her shoes.
“What’s going on?”
Clearing his throat once, twice, three times before he could speak the young man hung his head sadly mumbling
“Mama had a massive heart attack that killed her a little while ago, remember the doctors told us that scarlet fever she had a couple of years ago, had done damage to her heart.”
Sitting in the nearest chair, B.L. tried to comprehend how first her father could be taken from her by a mining accident 2 years ago; now her mother.
Leaving the Hazzard High School, L.B his arm protectively around B.L.’s shoulders headed toward home with their Aunt and Uncle. A few days after laying their mother to rest beside their father, B.L. left the only house she’d ever known, to live with Uncle Allen and Aunt Chessy and Cooter while she finished high school. Six months later in September of 1977, just when B.L. thought the worst of her trouble had passed; she was once again summoned to the principal’s office. She hadn’t done anything wrong this day either, as far as she could recall anyway, she knew it was bad when she entered the office to find Cooter sitting there waiting for her.
“There was a car accident when Pa and Ma went on that parts run, Ma was killed instantly and Pa’s in a coma in Tri County.”
When the cousin’s arrived at the hospital, the man didn’t resemble much, the same man that they had eaten breakfast with that morning; now there was a bandage covering his dark brown hair instead of the greasy ball cap that read “Chattanooga Chew” that he’d worn to work that morning, although Allen wasn’t the type of man who partook in tobacco, the cap had been free and it was his favorite. It was yellow with a train on the front heading down the tracks. His blue grey eyes were closed and black/blue from the blood that was settling due to the accident.
B.L watched the rise and fall of his chest as the ventilator breathed for him, and thought how she and Cooter would never again see Chessy with her strawberry blonde hair and slightly crooked nose that had been broken at some point in her youth, the woman who was meant to be her second mother, after the death of her own mother would not be there with a hug and comforting words anymore, and it looked as if unless a miracle happened the man who had been like a second father these last two years would not be there either. Seventy-two hours later, B.L. and Cooter sat in a conference room at the hospital discussing what to do.
“I don’t know if I can do this B.L.”
Cooter sniffed not the weak sort but he was definitely a man in tune with his feelings.
“You don’t have a choice Cooter, you’re his kid not me so it’s your decision.”
Reaching to the chair next to him the young man hugged his cousin tight;
“It’s both our decision, you got just as much say as I do, because I say you have and to hell with the doctor’s rules.”
After some more talking and debating on what to do, the cousins agreed that it was more humane to turn off the machine’s allowing Allen to go to his reward in peace rather than to keep him alive by machines for their own peace of mind, at half past 5 p.m. the machine was turned off and the tubing removed leaving the two cousins orphaned but at peace with their decision.
“Cooter, I got a job!”
B.L. practically flew into the garage, her long dirty blonde ponytail streaming behind her. Cooter startled by the sudden commotion, bumped his head on the underside of the hood to the car he was working on, rubbing his sore head as he stood straight he grinned
B.L. pointed out of the garage’s bay door as if her cousin could miraculously see through any obstacles in his way,
“The Busy Bee Café, I get minimum wage and keep all my tips.”
Cooter listened then asked
“When do you start and what are the hours?”
“I start tomorrow after school, working till closing at 6. I work every afternoon and all day on Saturday.”
Cooter was thrilled for his younger cousin; it would sure make things easier around home if they were both working. The only problem was he didn’t want their need for money to pay bills to interfere with B.L.’s schooling and her participating on the track team at school; that just wouldn’t be fair to her. After all she had not asked to be orphaned at 13 and had not asked for his parents to be taken from her either, in the same way he had; after he’d gotten Beverly pregnant and married her before he had finished high school, having had to drop out in order to support his new family.
One night three months into the new routine, Cooter came home very late from the garage to find B.L. still sitting at the kitchen table an open book and notebook before her.
“Shouldn’t you be in bed? You have school tomorrow.”
B.L. shook her head ‘no’
“Big geometry test tomorrow, I gotta study”.
Cooter shook his head, washing his hands he sat down at the table with the plate of food B.L. had left in the oven for him, too tired to eat he stared at the food a several minutes, finally digging in the least he could do was eat some of it, after all B.L. had prepared the meal after going to school all day and then working after for a few hours, before she had even begun studying for the test, he marveled at how much in the last few months she had grown up and become a young lady instead of a little girl that everyone thought she still was.