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• Chapter Six Interior rodeo and Dance Saturday, July 19, 1969 Melvin stirred the dust under his boots walking back and forth in front of the tumbledown picket fence in front of Clayton’s house. Sonny was a no-show, so either Clayton or Melvin would have to keep himself awake on his own coming home. “He’ll be there after the rodeo for the gig,” Sissy said. Clayton raised up from shoving more equipment in the backseat of his car. His oiled black hair gleamed. “He tell you that?” “No.” “You need to tell him he’d better straighten up. You’d think a man who’d been to the seminary would have a better sense of responsibility.” “Clayton, I’m his cousin, not his mother. Tell him whatever you want.” Heslammedthecardoor,butitwouldn’tshut.Heslammeditagain.It wouldn’t shut. A trickle of sweat ran down the side of his face. He took out a pocketknife, fiddled with the latch on the door, then slammed it again. It shut. He dropped the knife on the ground, leaned over to pick it up. “Clayton, if you can’t get along with the way Sonny does things, why don’t you get someone else to play bass? What about Rabbit? What’s he doing these days?” Sissy asked. “MaybeIwillgetRabbit,”Claytonsaid.Hewalkedbacktohishouse, fumbling with his door keys before opening the door and going inside. Melvin got into his pickup, rolled down the window and drummed his thick fingers on the top of the door. Humidity curled tendrils of hair on Sissy’s forehead. It would rain soon; the flies were biting, and cicadas buzzed in the trees. A few clothes hung disconsolately on a clothesline at Old Lady Henderson’s house across the street. Melvin tried to tune in to a good music station on his pickup radio , but there weren’t any. He got the news and weather on KOTA out of Rapid City and left it on that station. 62 Chapter Six Claude Sauer’s voice came on, saying, “. . . partly cloudy with scattered afternoon and evening thundershowers, heavy at—” Melvin switched it off. “Think Sonny will show up?” he said. “Yeah. He always does. He doesn’t like Clayton telling him he has to show up hours before time to start the gig.” “You mind?” “Not if I get to see the rodeo first. But I’m not going to show up eight hours early to play a gig if there isn’t anything to do until we go on.” “Yeah. Clayton’s trying to be the boss,” Melvin said. “I suppose he is the boss of the Red Birds, isn’t he?” “Now he is. Marlene used to manage all that kind of stuff. You know, getting the bookings, making sure we had all the equipment, that everyone showed up on time. She said Clayton couldn’t manage his way out a wet paper bag.” Sissy didn’t say anything. Marlene was all right. Sissy thought she knew why Marlene left Clayton to run off with that other guitar picker if it meant getting away from this place. It wasn’t that the grass was ­greener someplace else, it was just that she couldn’t stand Clayton anymore. “I guess she just ran out of patience,” Melvin said. Clayton came out of his house, slammed the door, tried to lock it, dropped the keys, cussed, took long steps on his short legs out to the car. “Get in. Let’s go,” he said. “Rabbit coming to take over for Sonny?” Sissy asked as Clayton cranked the car over, roared the motor, and backed out with a lurch of the transmission. “No. He hocked his bass,” Clayton said, pressing his lips together. To get to Interior, you turn right at Kyle instead of left like you do to get to Scenic. They drove through grassland, fenced on both sides of the road with old gray twisted posts holding up rusting barb wire, here and there spliced where it had broken. The dusty road ran on like a tangled string between the fences. Black Angus cows and their half-grown calves and the necessary bulls lazily ate the fading grass, here and there reaching through the fence to get at the ungrazed taller stuff in the ditches. You can tell a whole lot just by looking at the color of the grass up here.Thecelerygreeninthespringquicklyturnedemeraldifitgot ­plenty of rain or kelly green if it didn’t. Around the middle of June, the seeds formed...


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MARC Record
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