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That Ain't a Word


If you can't say something nice about someone,
give 'em both barrels. 

That's what Later Billy used to say. 
Course he didn't have many friends,
and most of them ended up wounded in some way.

What Later Billy did mostly was talk. Lacey said he could talk the ears off a jackrabbit. I suspect she never considered the damage Billy might do to an elephant. But there weren’t any of those around, and Lacey’s metaphors usually related to something close at hand.

Apart from putting things off, storytelling what was what Later Billy did best. When he was telling stories folks generally liked to hang around and listen a spell.

"You shure got a way with words," Cousin Luke said one inauspicious day. Course Luke was limited to some fifty-seven words, including twenty-nine of the cussing kind. "You oughtta send some of them off to those magazine types," Luke advised, "They pay top dollar for yarns like that."

"Maybe some of these stories will figure into print someday," Later Billy mused -- for about six months -- before he commenced to send his "tales" off to anybody that printed anything—except Billy’s tomes.

"All I got back for my trouble was little pieces of paper sayin’ ‘Don’t send us nothin’ else,’" Later Billy explained a few months later to anyone within earshot.

So, for a spell, Later Billy gave up his writing career while he held forth, ad nauseaum, at the Bar None Bar & Bar-B-Q about the aggravations of his new profession.

"Them publishing fellers don’t know squat about what’s good. On top of that they don’t even know the King’s English. One of ‘em fellers wrote back saying "ain’t" ain’t a word. Now we’ve all heard ain’t used. So now you tell me," he challenged the assembled congregation of good ol’ boys in the bar, "is ain’t a word or ain’t it?"

Well, R.L.—who still was sporting a sizable knot on his head for telling Later Billy Sam Houston walked best backwards—chimed in quicker than a shot out of a shovel, "Ain’t is my favorite word!"

"Know what else one of them lamebrains said about my stories? Said they was "provincial". Now I looked that up in Webster’s book of words and what I got out of it was that my tales was "countrified". Now I don’t know what critter birthed that boy, but the way I figure it every story comes out of some part of this great country. So one way or the other, they’s all gotta be countrified. Best as I can figure, them citified publishing types was looking down on the Great State of Texas. Now I don’t know about you fellers, but I ain’t—I said I "ain’t"—takin this serious affront to the honor of all we hold dear, from turkey vultures to horney toads, without some measure of satisfaction."

"You gonna put a knot on their heads?" R.L. asked.

"I ain’t figured out yet what I’m a gonna do, but whatever it is, it’ll be a memory."

A silence fell over the Bar None Bar & Bar-B-Q while Billy pondered. Sometimes he’d stay that way for weeks.

Someone ordered another round of longnecks, especially for Later Billy. The idea being, if he was good and liquored up he’d do something that would be talked about for years, even if it was only Later Billy doing the talking.

"I tell you what boys," Later Billy said after an appropriate amount of time—just to give his words some weight in the silence they filled. "I think I’ll just send them a burden of stories. And I’m gonna use ain’t and git and yonder and y’all ever sentence or or so. I’ll send them more stories than their children’s children can read. If it takes me till my dying day I’ll educate them boys, or at least their young’uns to the ways of us provincials. Sooner or later they’re bound to say ‘Ain’t these yarns right up there with that Shakespere feller? Let’s print ‘em and let the whole wide world in on what Texans ponder.’ "