I finished a trial this week that should have been over a year ago. My client found a job in Texas after several hard years of unemployment, and sought leave to relocate with her child. A year ago, the father agreed; or so his lawyer said; and a temporary order allowed her to start the job, and the child to start school, in a Dallas suburb.
But the man changed his mind, which is his right; and the case was to be tried in October last year. We got kicked from the docket twice, then a third time. Then we spent a grueling day convincing my client to move back, one day last June; but the man wanted more and better than what we negotiated so the case got set for trial and we started evidence in late July, nearly a year after her temporary move. A second day; then a third; and now the case has been taken under advisement, while the school year marches forward and the woman wonders how either of them will survive if her child is taken from her for no reason other than her need to support the two of them and her older daughter.
I came home last night and thought about her, down there in Texas, with her son and her daughter and the friends they have made over the last twelve months. Suddenly, I thought about Ed Florida and his song, "Wind Blows Through West Texas", and I found myself standing on a porch in northwest Arkansas listening to Ed and Carol sing, drinking coffee, watching the pale shimmer of the autumn sun slip behind a low-lying mountain.
Friends I had made, in a new life, far from my old one, south of Kansas City.
By the time I journeyed to Ed and Carol Florida's cabin to sleep beneath a hand-made quilt with the cool air filtering through the curtains, my reason for being in Arkansas at all had tragically altered. My wild and crazy Murray Valley wedding had spawned nothing other than sorrow and anger. My marriage had crashed and burned. I took a job in Fayetteville, but this weekend, I had come back to Newton County for a little bit of the comfort found on hand-built porches and in the bottom of mismatched china cups.
"I wasn't sure I would be welcome," I told Carol, whose warm eyes shone as she enfolded me in her arms. Eddie just chuckled and grabbed my satchel, and soon I held that mug of coffee, curled in a wooden rocker, listening to Eddie sing while Carol hummed the harmonies.
"There's a sandy breeze a swirling round the corner of the shed,
Between the house that Grandpa built and the barn Grandma painted red.
Now the shed door keeps on slamming,
And the breeze keeps circling round.
I know Grandpa surely built it strong,
But that old shed's falling down."
I fell asleep with the sound of the song in my head, and dreamed of lush green fields gone brown in the summer's unrelenting heat, rust and wind ravaging the empty buildings and old tractors of the farm that Eddie's grandfather lost. I woke with a sense of sorrow and went outside to stand in my nightgown in the quiet October morning.
Their cabin sat snug on the side of a hill, with a long stretch of easy valley and a barely visible road beneath them. The sounds of morning began to rise on the ridge. A bird called to its mate; the wind whispered through the pines. I wrapped my arms around my body and shivered slightly, shaking the fog of sleep from my brain. How did I come to this place, I wondered. A city girl with piles of baggage in square, stodgy cases, standing on the edge of everywhere, a place where nothing I had packed would be necessary.
I felt the air change, and turned. Carol stood beside me, holding out a cup of steaming liquid. I took it from her; and we stood together for the longest time, watching the lazy flight of a carefree hawk and listening to scampering critters in the underbrush.
"There's a wind blows through west Texas
Like west Texas wasn't there,
Then on through Oklahoma,
But do you think them Texans care?
Then the old cold blue Northern hits
Like something cold and mean
After summer's hot breath scorched the land,
It's the dangdest thing I've seen."
Carol and I stood drinking coffee, without speaking, in the coolness of that morning. I don't know what went through her mind; probably something serene, something joyful and easy. As for myself, I thought about where on earth I could unload the worthless contents of my bulky city baggage if not right there on that mountain, with the smell of the earth all around me, and the kiss of the rising sun falling gently on my brow.
Ed Florida died a couple of years ago. I heard he and Carol had divorced and that they both left Newton County. I don't know what happened to the cabin, or the charming collection of country china, or the quilt that I wrapped around myself as I sat in the porch rocker and let my burdens ease away, in the quiet of that morning. But it all lives in me, wrapped in the gentle tones of Carol's voice on the radio a few months after I moved back to Kansas City, and they came to town to do a gig on KKFI. As I prepared Sunday breakfast for them, in my little apartment, on a side street just south of the Plaza with its narrow streets, blaring horns and lingering stench of traffic, I listened to the last, haunting guitar cords. Then Carol spoke, on air, right to me: "Put the coffee on, Corinne. We're almost there." And so I did.
P.S. I used to have a link to a duet of Ed and Carol performing Ed's song, but I cannot find it again. So here's a link which I hope will take you to a YouTube of Ed Florida singing it solo: