The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature

Donna Walker-Nixon: Daddy’s Legacy (fiction)


Southern Legitimacy Statement: My daddy was a good man, who asked for little or no praise. He worked hard to provide for my sisters and me, and this prose piece shows the sacrifices of men who long for the country can do.

Daddy’s Legacy

Paw Paw lusted after 387 acres of black dirt loam, stretching as far as his eyes could see
He must have told Daddy, “We need that land to make a home, Donnie Clint.” Daddy bought it with his severance pay, and never looked back.

Paw Paw died in 1960 of emphysema without a making a will.

Before he died Mother feared we could catch his disease. Each Easter and Christmas with the silent stealth of a Nancy Drew villain, she snagged tobacco-stained toothpicks with Kleenexes she carried in her purse. She carefully lodged them on the bottom of the kitchen trash can.

“The doctor said you can’t catch emphysema but you can inherit small lungs which can cause it.” Daddy never remembered medical terms—“Airborne irritants” or “Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.”

Daddy never thought about his inheritance from the land he bought for Paw Paw and Maw Maw. He received a child’s portion—half of the property went to her, and Daddy shared with his two brothers and his sister one-fourth of the leftover land.

Sometimes he told Mother he wanted to keep his portion in case Maw Maw needed it. In 1976 Uncle Earl deteriorated into a smiling puppet brought on by Parkinson’s disease. Mother fumed when Aunt Lee’s husband, a real estate huckster, paid $750 an acre for Uncle Earl’s portion that had once sold for $1000, as he offered up a sorry excuse, “The market price went down last month.”

“Take my word,” Mother snarled. “It will go up next year. He cheated your uncle and aunt when he knew full well they were down, and he teaches adult Sunday school at the
Church of Christ.” But Daddy said nothing.

We lug with us our family mythology, reality never quite fomenting into truth. Legal descriptions rotate into null, void, dull, useless words that detract.

A0522A J. HARRIS, TR 6, 24.19

We lose from our fleeting image of a young soldier who served his country, learned his trade as an aircraft mechanic who was rated at the top of his class.

Once in the dead of night, he was commanded to tell no one. He was called to duty, and he stood at attention. “I didn’t know what was happening until I saw the wheel chair being rolled onto the platform.”

He recognized the power of the President who some labeled a traitor to his class. “He could speak six languages fluently. He didn’t need no translator. Now that was a man who changed the world.”