Caney Boyd

They romped all over these hills
Those two
That Caney Boyd
and that wild hearted girl
Junie Sue
Whose dad was ken somehow to his

Little Jimmy Kohler caught ‘em onc’t
Over to the fishin’ hole
Swimmin’ in the altogether
And swingin’ on the grape vine
And no more mindful of their error
Than two calves caught in seed corn

They wasn’t no keepin’ ‘em apart
Though their mamas fretted
And their daddies threatened
And we all figgered they’d pull together
When they got into the traces
But there’s no account for what goes on
In the minds of the young

He up and married a town girl
She, that shiftless Harley Payne
And their daddies both
Just shook their heads
They’d reckoned them two
Ol’ hard scrabble farms
Might someday be one
But when the old men died
Not 10 days from one another
The fences was all still up

Ol’ Caney Boyd
Took to walkin’ out of an evenin’
When that pale slip of a thing
He’d brought out to the farm
Was talkin’ on the phone to her ma
And we’d watch him
Amble down to the back pasture
Lean out on that old fence
With his coffee cup in his hand
Lookin’ up into moonrise
At that ramshackle house on the hill

Miz Junie Sue’d be a’settin’ out on the porch
Rockin’ in that old chair
Her granny drug over the bald
When she was jist a gal herself
Harley in watchin’ the tv and drinkin’ beer
Him half drunk and snortin’
Like a ol’ pig in his waller
No more missin’ his missus
Than you’d miss the buzzing of a fly

We are agreed those two’d get together
Soon or late
And we figgered it’d be just fine by us
That prissy town girl
Never took no account of us
And Harley wasn’t ken
But the days stretched to years
And he never crossed the fence
And she never left that chair

They both had kids, you know
Out there jist one fence between
Him with a passel of girls
All blue-eyed like their mother
And her with them four boys
That all took after dad
Not one of them any account at all
They all got growed and left the place
And times got hard for Junie Sue

That ol’ Harley Payne
He never did do much
And after the ol’ timer’s disease got him
He didn’t do nothin’ more a’tall
She kept up the place
Best she could
You know she could work
Right ‘long side the men
But there’s nothin’ for it
But to say that ol’ hill farm
Was more than she could tame

It come on so gradual
We didn’t notice at first
But that’ Boyd, he started
Runnin’ fences for her
And lookin’ after fields
Sister’s husband Hank
He said ol’ Boyd
Would jist have to take it out in trade
And li’l sis smacked him
Hard and with a fist

But you know
He never went up to the house
Near as we could tell
Never stayed over
When his missus was up to town

There was that one time
Jake he seen it
When ol’ Harley started ravin’
Thought he was back in ‘Nam
Came after Miz Junie with a shovel
Chased her clean acrost the pasture
Hit her a mean lick
Jist as she reached the fence
And ol’ Caney Boyd,
He come out of that house
Like a pit bull mean
And low and bad
Jake, he thought Harley was a dead man
But Caney jist grabbed that shovel
And pushed that ol’ man hard
All the way back to the house
Pushin’ and swearin’
And lookin’ meaner than sin

He come out the next day
With the preacher and some deacons
They made Miz Junie see
She couldn’t do for that ol’ man
No more

So, when Miz Junie moved that Harley
Into town
Into the home
We all jist set up and took notice
And let me tell you
When that town girl of Caney’s
Took off with a travelin’ man
We figgered it was time
Ever thing was gonna come right

We watched him
Walk out of an evening
Cup of coffee in his hand
Watched him down the road
Her, up on that porch
We saw them talkin’ easy
Him leaning on the gate
And kickin’ at the dirt a little
Her quiet in that chair
And rockin’ small

We listened for her laughter
Like tiny chimes of glass
Stirred by a summer wind
And we watched and waited
For him to cross the gate
But come dark to the pasture
That man’d head for home

They met in town once
Junie down to see ol’ Harley
Caney Boyd in for feed
They took lunch together
Over to the drug store
Big John seen ‘em
And he said that Caney smiled
Ain’t seen that boy smile
Since high school

Nothin’ much after that
He took to settin’ on the porch
With her through twilight
Them talkin’ on into evening
Him tellin’ tales
And her laughin’ soft
As she rocked in that ol’ rocker
But come dark he always
Turned toward home
And though they both
Kept lights in the window
We never ever saw him go in

Ol’ Harley lived forever
Some men are jist cussed that way
And Junie Sue went up to see him
Ever day
‘Til she couldn’t drive no more
And we thought Caney would take her
But she rode in with the preacher
Onc’t a week when he was making rounds

It was Caney that found her
Don’t you know
When she died
Settin’ out there on that porch
With her light in the window
And her little hands
Together in her lap
He carried her to town
All the way
Walkin’ along like an ol’ man
With that little bit of a lady
In his arms

Didn’t go to the funeral
No, sir
Don’t know why
And we ain’t seen him at her grave
But ever evenin’ still
He comes walkin’ down the road
Him with that gol darn coffee cup

And he sets out on her porch
Through the twilight
Just quiet like
And he’s always home by dark

Author: Library Kat

If cats have nine lives, the Library Kat is about to run out of re-incarnations. A Missouri girl who lived in the trees, she was pulled kicking and screaming over the line into Oklahoma as a Senior in high school, but fell quickly in love with that overgrown cow town down south. High school teacher in the 60's, Earth Mother in the 70's, playwright, director, poet, she raised her own children and most of the neighborhood. Professor of English in the 80's, lover and wife in the 90's, she traded her overgrown garden in the City for a man and a mission in Enid. And now? She rules the halls of a microplex library with metroplex aspirations and shares a desk with a tuxedo cat named Oreo. Lives are meant to be lived! All nine of them!

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3 Comments

  1. I had a cousin Caney Boyd in Russell, Co, VA and found this poem when I was looking up something about him – a guy named Jimmy Webb wrote a little book about him called The Days of Caney Boyd. I have the book some place, but was looking for an online reference to it that I saw one time. Caney was a wild guy – dear, deceased, elderly cousin Wanda told me about how he killed two men before he was made a lawman. For a while, he did policing for the Clinchfield Coal Company, and was also what eventually would be called a state trooper. Caney was shot and killed in the county jail in Lebanon, VA. This isn’t the same Caney is it?? There’s a picture of a young Caney if you follow this link – I think posted by another cousin (kin to the Jessees family I believe). PLEASE let me know. I play music (fiddle) and always wished somebody had written a song about Caney.

    • Caney Boyd was my cousin. Please email me so we may share information about him.

      Thanks,
      Ann

  2. Dave, your Caney inspired mine. I was doing a search for a patron at my library when I came across Caney Boyd and Dove. I thought, Oh My! There’s a pair of names crying for a poem. I saved their pictures and, yes, they are Jessees. His true story is so much more interesting than my poem, but the poem could curl up inside the truth of the story, maybe.

    I didn’t think about the two again until just recently when I was puzzling over the anomaly of how we townsfolks think we know what’s right for folks but often don’t see our opinions justified. The name Caney seemed right for my fellow, but I couldn’t make Dove work, so opted for Miz Junie (the name of my son’s exceedingly wise mama cat).

    Tell me more about the real Caney Boyd (m.librarykat@gmail.com) and I may try a series of poems about him–I might try a song, though my songs tend to turn out pretty silly instead of profound. You understand that poems are lies? Even taking a really truly person as the spark, the poem will wander off wherever it chooses to go. You will often find Truth in a poem but very seldom facts.

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