They don’t expect much out of us Tazewell County girls. We were ruined from the start, thanks to geography and circumstances beyond Mama and Daddy’s control. I reckon they did the best they could with what they had.
They didn’t expect much out of Mama or her Mama neither. Or Daddy, for that matter. Not that he seemed to mind.
But no, they don’t expect much out of us girls especially. We talk low and slow and don’t speak up when we should and hide our grins when we laugh at things we shouldn’t be laughing at. It’s bad manners, you know, to speak or laugh out of turn. Especially if you’re wearing a skirt. Speak only when spoken to, girl.
They never came right out and said it, but it was implied and suggested, and even in the Good Book, too. Mamaw once told me that God liked boys better, and I believed her for the longest time. And maybe I still do, if I get to thinking on it. Looking back now I can surmise how come she figured such a thing. Always implied and suggested, just like everything else.
There was this one girl I used to know, a little wiry thing with dirty fingernails from climbing trees and fighting boys. She chopped off her hair when she was twelve, just to spite them all. Cut it clean up to her ears. She hated it as much as they did, but she’d have eaten dirt before she’d admitted it. That girl said what she pleased. She said what needed saying to whoever needed to hear it. She took up for those who couldn’t fight like she could, and wore bloody fists on occasion and a broken heart on more than a few. She had a big mouth and a big head. And could outrun boys twice her size! Oh, she didn’t care if they never expected much out of her! I recollect daydreaming about how she would one day fool or damn them all whenever she got the mind and money to do it. She chopped the locks off, of both her hair and her spirit. She was the most free soul I’d ever known.
I still envy her.
There were a few that tried to tame that girl and force her down from the trees and tell her to be quiet and remind her that God likes boys better. And one or two succeeded. For awhile, at least. But you can’t cage a free spirit. That’s got to be a bigger sin than speaking out of turn or cutting off your hair. Surely God would agree, no matter what that ol’ book says.
A half truth is a whole lie, or so I’ve heard.
I haven’t seen that girl in years. She is a mere vapor, now gone forever. I miss her. I wonder what she would have done with her big mouth and big head had she not been ruined by civilized thinking and left the trees for the call of words instead of the wild.
But my hair has grown back out, at least. And my nails are short but they are clean. As of now I am thirty years older than twelve, but I haven’t found a cage to suit me yet.
No, they never expected much out of us Tazewell County girls. And the woman I am now knows why.
We’re easier to handle when we do what’s expected, especially old girls like us. We make things easier on everybody else when we hide our grins and stay on the ground and don’t complain about anything. They have it made until we chop those locks off.
Chop them off, young sister, while you’re looking down on them from your trees. And may you never find a cage big enough to tame you. Oh, I still root for the underdogs and get a bloody fist every now and then. That wild girl is still in me somewhere. Sometimes her loud laughter comes from my mouth and surprises me.
No, I reckon they never did expect much from us Tazewell County girls. And I figure that’s their misfortune. There’s a pretty smart handful of old girls like us looking down from the cedars. And most of us can still outrun the boys, even if God does like them better. And one of these bright days we just might fool or damn them all whenever we’ve got the mind and money to do it.
You just never know.