Use What You Got...what's That in Your Hand?
Today Is A Good Day to Die...
Billy Jean stood looking down into "Sirens Point." It was simply unbelievable.The wonder of it alone spoke to one's soul. It said, 'All things are possible, if you only believe.' Yet, she was there to take her life, and she was taking her children with her. "When did I stop believing," she spoke out loud. It was certainly a sight to behold, with diversity and breathtaking mystic beauty. She'd never seen anything so beautiful, but she was far from a world traveler. The furthest she'd ever been was to the county fair. Which was held every year in Homely Mississippi, just next door to her hometown of Teller City? The Gorge seemed to be as wide as it was deep, she thought looking down in amazement.
She'd never seen the Grand Canyon, but she imagined it being just as spellbinding, if not more. She stood there, wondering how long it would take her truck to hit the bottom of the Gorge. Would they die instantly, or would they linger in pain. Her eyes adjusted to the bright glare of the sun lite, allowing her to see clearly. Realizing, why so many people from all over the world, visited this beautiful and amazing attraction. There were wildflowers growing in the valley. A calming water stream, flowed through the middle the Gorge. She could hear beautiful collections of bird songs, in her ear, as they danced, and fluttered, on their invisible stages, intent on being the main attraction. A backdrop of burnished leaf green branches entwined each other, providing a tropical jungle like atmosphere, "Yes, life was growing here," she concluded.
"If I wasn't on a suicide mission, this might have very well been a place of enjoyment." Billy Jean, reckoned. "Such a beautiful and calming environment," she mused, allowing herself too smile, for just a moment. Billy Jean watched, as people came and went, she wondered what their story was. And if they had a tight grip, on the horns of their life, her honest answer for herself would be, emphatically no. She questioned whether they were happy, were they content, at peace with themselves, and God. This was the million dollar question she was searching for, but had yet to find. She was the main character in her story, and what she saw wasn't pretty. She'd never viewed her life through rose color glasses, and she wasn't about to start now. Very soon, she would write the final chapter of her life. One day a strong north wind stirred up and turn her World upside down. And she didn't know how to turn it right side up? Her two kid's, Elmer and Sarah depended on her, but she had no where to turn, and no help. At this moment in time she was sure, that driving off the ridge would be their saving grace. This was the end of the road, the place where she got off the road called life. "Today is a good day to die," she said quietly, but firmly. Billy Jean stood there, thinking death would be better than what they had, which was nothing. Somewhere she'd lost her purpose. And without purpose, one ends up doing something else, so death was more attractive to her.
At last, they would find a place of rest in God, but would He welcome them with open arms? She knew what Grandma Millie would say to her. "This is not the answer baby girl, when times are difficult, use your faith, and trust God." "Well, I did all that Grandma, now I'm doing this," she murmured.
"If There Ever Was A Time To Live Its Now..."
People were beginning to leave, the crowd was getting thin. If she was going to do it, now was the time. There were to many tourist's before. The sun was setting, she could almost reach out and touch it, but what did she care, she would soon be dead. "This is it," she said out loud, trying to steady her nerves. Quickly, turning away from the ridge, she bumped into an old man standing behind her. "Excuse me," she said, trying to move around him. Her mind was made up, she had to act swiftly, while the kid's were still asleep.They would never know what she did, her only hope was, in the afterlife they could forgive her.
She tried again to pass by him, but for some reason she could not. Finally she focused, and locked eyes with the clearest bluest eyes she'd ever seen. "If their ever was a time to live it's now." The old man said, looking at her with his piercing blue eyes. His face was the face of youth itself. And his hair was of time and wisdom, "they simply didn't match," she thought. Billy Jean was instantly paralyzed by his words, and his countenance. As much as she wanted her feet to move, they would not. The old man repeated his words. "If there ever was a time to live it's now." She hurriedly, pushed her way passed him, and staggered back to the truck.The old man call out to her a third time, repeating the same words.
She had to catch her breath. It felt as though, she had just been kicked in the chest by a mule. "What just happened"? "And what was that about, and who is he"? She questioned, grasping her chest tightly inhaling deeply, in an attempt to catch her breath. She finally spoke saying, "What's going on with my life, and why can't I get it together,?" "And does he know what I'm about to do"? She cried out. "Is this the right decision for myself and my children,"? Billy Jean questioned, now second guessing her actions.
Life Is Like A Roller Costar...
One day she was married to Willie Jessie Owens, her high school sweetheart, and the next day she was a widow at the age of twenty two. With two young kid's to raise all alone. Her beautiful smart children would grow up without their Father. "Damn you Willie Owens, Damn you, for getting yourself killed by the police," Billy Jean said, fighting back tears. She still cries herself to sleep, and wakes up haunted by the same old recurring dream.
One cold winter night the Mississippi State Police shot and killed Willie for bank robbery. What was she supposed to do now; she only had a high school education. How far would that take her, and her kid's. She and Willie married right out of high school. And nine months into the marriage Elmer was born, and two years later she gave birth to Sarah. Billy Jean name her son Elmer after her Grandfather, but everyone called him Ell. He was the strongest man she knew, and she always prayed and hoped the same strength for her children.
Love is A Powerful Force...
Billy Jean never knew her parents. Her Mother walked away, leaving her at the tender age of three, and she never returned. Grandma Millie provided a strong, loving, and safe, home for her. She took pride in her beautiful 'baby girl.' Billy Jean never doubted her Grandmother's love. One day, she asked her Grandmother who her Father was. She'll never forget Grandma Millie's answer. She said, "Baby girl I'm going to tell you the truth. I don't know who your Father was. And your Mother didn't know either." Grandma Millie said, with so much sadness in her voice. "You never lied to me, you always told me the truth." "And for that reason, I never asked you again, I buried my Mother and Father that day," Billy Jean said humbly.
Willie died one month and her Grandmother died the next. She and the kids continue to live in the old homestead, until it became uninhabitable, and she didn't have the money to make the repairs. Billy Jean eventually found a job at the fish market in town. She tried her best to keep food on the table, but it was never enough. Her day began at 4 o'clock in the morning and end at 7 o'clock at night. She hated being away from Ell and Sarah for such long periods of time. She knew in her heart, she was missing the most important year of their life. Her two young children needed more than she could provide, she'd failed them and herself. "I can't keep food on the table, or a roof over our heads." she groaned, still trying to rationalize her actions
This Is It! Or Is It?...
"This is it," she said out loud, opening the door, getting into the truck. "Mommy what do you mean this is it"? Ell asked rubbing sleep out of his eyes. Billy Jean looked at her son, thinking, he was a picture image of his Father. She missed her husband, and would always love and cherish what they had, but she was never getting it back. Willie was not a bad man, he was just a weak man. She knew, and he knew, it was wrong to robe a bank. She also knew how much he loves her, and the kid's. In his heart, he wanted to be a good provider. But he chose the wrong way to do it. Which led to his death, leaving her husband less and their children Fatherless. "I would have rather struggle with you, than be without you," she alleged, but couldn't say it in front of the kids. Ell repeated his question, attempting to sit up waking his little sister, Sarah. "Mommy where're we going, and I'm hungry." Sarah managed to say in one breath. She looked at her two beautiful children who God had entrusted her to take care of. "But how, how"? "Oh, Father please forgive me," she whispered. Turning the key and putting the truck in gear. As Ell and Sarah looked on in confusion, they'd never seen her act this strange before. She was always cheerful, and playful, even when she was tired.
"Use What You Got..."
Billy Jean backed the truck up, she wanted to build a running start over the ridge. Then out of no where, she heard her Grandma Millie's voice, saying, to her "Use what you got." Hearing those words hit her like bolt of lightning. Stunning her, and bringing her back to reality. Grandma Millie always, said those four simple words when times were hard. She would say, "We have to use what we got." "God always puts in our hands just what we need to take care of ourselves." "But we have to seek God's help." "If you use what you got, baby girl you can make it. "Billy Jean smiled, mimicking her Grandmother.
Tears began to flow down her cheeks, the dam just broke, and she could feel yokes being broken. "Why are you crying Mommy," Ell asked, hugging his Mother, as Sarah hung on. Billy Jean sat for hours holding her precious cargo. Planting kisses of love on them, as laughter and giggles filled the air. Billy Jean looked up toward heaven, and quietly thanked God, for allowing her Grandmothers words to speak to her, when she needed them the most.
After eating a meal of fried chicken, homemade bread, potatoes salad, and fruit. She and the kid's got back in the truck and made their way down the highway. Billy Jean didn't know where she was going, but she knew it wasn't to their death, she now felt energized, and empowered to work her life. Thank's to her Grandmothers infamous words, "Use what You Got." She didn't know what it was, but she knew God would reveal it too her, If she asked Him.
Billy Jean drove seven hours none stop, thinking and reflecting over her life. The sun was slowly setting, giving way to a beautiful full moon. She Looked over, smiling at Ell and Sarah sleeping soundly, without a care in the world. But she on the other hand, had grown tired and weary. From a distance she could see bright lights, hopefully a motel. They all could use a good night sleep. She needed to watch her money closely. Her Grandmother left her a small savings. She collected the Insurance money from the homestead, after it burned down. And successfully sold the land right away. It was not enough to retire on, but she and the kid's would be alright for a while. A good night sleep would give her time to rest, and pray, about her next move.
Grandma Millie said, "Use What You Got." "What do I have?" She asked out loud, getting out of the bathtub. "I can't think about it now, I'm to tired" Billy Jean said, pulling the covers over Ell. And crawling in the bed beside Sarah, closing her eyes, and allowing sleep to take over. "Finish your breakfast," Billy Jean told Sarah, drinking down the last of her coffee. "We have to get moving," she said, taking two thermoses from the waitress, hot coffee for her, and hot chocolate for the kids.
"Mommy where are we going?" Ell asked once again, fasting his seat belt, looking up at her with quizzical eyes. It finally hit her, she had no clue where she was going. "We're going to California." She blurted out, still not sure, but wanting to satisfy the kid's so, they wouldn't ask again.
Billy Jean got into the truck and maneuvers her way onto the highway headed to no where. Thank God the truck was in tip top condition. Willie was an excellent mechanic, and he overhauled it before he died. Both the engine and transmission was brand new. She wasn't worried about it stopping on them.
Glancing at her watch, realizing it was now 6:30 in the evening, time to find another hotel to settle down for the night. Throughout the day the same three question kept playing over in her mind like a real to real tape, inquiring? "What do I have, and how am I going to use it to support me and my children." "And where in the name of God are we going?" She wanted to scream out in frustration.
Rain had begun to fall, and it was coming down hard and fast, it sounded like hail hitting the truck. She had to pullover and stop, before she caused an accident. She saw a sign saying, "Wrangler Nightclub," next exit. Buckets of rain was falling by now, and her windshield wipers couldn't clear the rain fast enough.
The parking lot was empty. She decided too park and wait the storm out. She pulled out her thermoses of coffee, it would keep her awake. But to her surprise she woke up to someone pounding on the trucks window, and demanding it be roll down.
Billy Jean immediately compiled, looking into a big red face burly man."This is private property," he screamed at her "You were parked here when I closed last night, and you still here this morning," "I'm calling the Cops and have you arrested for trespassing on private property," get out of the truck he demanded.
Billy Jean opened the door, and got out, she had to think fast. She couldn't go to jail, the authorities would take her children. Looking up at the billboard sign in front of the bar, which read "Country and Western Singer wanted." "I'm not trespassing; I was waiting to speak to someone about the singing job." Billy Jean said, with hesitation in her voice. "Singing job," the man repeated with a scowl on his face. "Yes," she said pointing up to the billboard sign.
"Oh! yeah, yeah, that's John's territory." He said in a much calmer voice "John," she asked. "Yeah John Moody, he's the owner, and the one you need to speak with." "I'm Big Slim, the bouncer." "I'm sorry I screamed at you earlier." "But we get all kinds, trying to camp here for days." "John should be here around 9 o'clock tonight." "You do know this is a Country and Western Nightclub" he said, looking at her strangely.
"Yes, yes, I know," she said getting back into her truck. "Oh, by the way is there a hotel in the area," she asked. "Yes, about a mile up the road. To your right" Big Slim answered. "Thank you, I'll see you at 9 o'clock tonight." Billy Jean said, leaving Big Slim wondering.
She hurriedly fed the kid, and gave them a hot bath, before they set down to study. Ell and Sarah were very smart. She made sure they always did their homework. She wanted her children to have every opportunity possible, and education was the foundation. "Why did I tell Big Slim I'm a singer?" "The most singing I've ever done was in the church choir," "Grandma Millie always encouraged me to sing, she said, God kissed my voice when I was in my mother's womb." Billy Jean smiled, thinking loving thoughts of her Grandmother.
What's That In Your Hand?...
Instantly, she remembered old Blind Jimmy Lattimore, he lived across the street from her Grandmother. Back in the day, he was a well known Blues singer. He started teaching and developing her voice, and guitar, playing skills at the age of five. Jimmy knew he had discovered a diamond in the ruff. He was hard on her from the time she started, until he died. Old Jimmy poured himself into her. If she closed her eyes, and listened closely, she could still hear his voice. He would ask her over, and over, again, "What's that in your hand?" And she would reply, "It's a guitar." Jimmy responses was, "I'm blind, I can't see it, make it talk to me." If she couldn't do anything else, she could sing and make a guitar talk.
Compelled To Try...
Billy Jean was afraid, and excited at the same time. After a long hot relaxing shower, she put on her best dress, her best makeup, and her good pair of shoes, and went back to the "Wrangler Nightclub." She didn't understand why she didn't pack her kid's up, and get in her truck and drive right out of town.
But something was compelling her too try. The kid's stayed in the truck. She had taught them well, many times she took them too work with her. She would rather have them with her, than all alone in a hotel.
John Moody was a small man, he wore a big cowboy hat, covering most of his face. Along with all the trimmings, of a true cowboy. "I hear you're here too audition for the singing job." John Moody asked, with a big cigar protruding out of his mouth. "Big Slim tells me you claim to be a Country and Western singer"? He said, glaring at her in unbelief.
"Yes I am," she said, with confidence, looking him in the eyes. Her Grandmother taught her to never be afraid to look a person in the eyes. "Well, tonight is a big night, right now you're all I have." The group, "The Night Cruisers," canceled at the last minute." "I have no choice, but to take a chance and use what I got." "There a dressing room down the hall, maybe you can find something more suitable for a Country and Western singer." John said, looking her up and down, before dismissing her with a grunt.
Grandma Millie, It Was In My Hand All The Time. And I'm Gonna Use What I Got...
Billy Jean finally settled on a Blue Jean skirt, a top with fringes, a big cowgirl hat, and a pair of cowgirl chic boots. "What am I doing?" She kept repeating, as she paced back and forth. She enjoy all genre's of music, and could sing anything, but this was out of her league. There was a knock on the door. "You're up in five minutes," she heard the voice say.
"What will I sing?" She asked, wringing her hands. "What a dilemma to be in," she thought. Finally remembering, Jimmy not only groom her to play the guitar. But he trained her God given voice, to sing all kind of music. He showed her the art of reading and writing music. And he taught her how to change one song to another. She was trained by one of the best in the business.
Wake Up Lazy Susie...
She grabbed her guitar, "Lazy Susie." "Grandma I'm using what I got." "Thank you, thank you Jimmy, and thank you, my blue eyed Angel." "Yes, if there ever was a time to live, lt's now."
She heard John Moody introducing her, the crowd erupted with enthusiasm. But when she ran onto the stage all mouths dropped, including the band members. The applause stopped as suddenly as it began, and all eyes were on her. She heard the whispers and felt the stares. She imagined her Grandma, laughing and saying. "Wow! look what you fell into, this is not the time to quit" "Do what you do best, baby girl, Use What You Got."
Billy Jean begin to play a few cord. Waking up old Lazy Susie, and she began to talk. She looked back at the band, and nodded her head Inviting them to join her, and they did with excitement. Billy Jean opened her mouth and began to sing "Baby, Baby, won't you come home tonight." The crowd went crazy, her voice ring out like a bell, mesmerizing all who heard her. The Song was written by her old mentor, Jimmy Lattimore. "Grandma, I'm using what I got." She whispered. There were talent scouts in the crowd that night, and Billy Jean Owens name went to the top of all their list. And with in six months she skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard Charts and stayed there, with hits after hits. And the rest is History.
Chuck My Truck...
© 2019 Carroll Latting