Big Hair and Flying Cowsby Dolores J. Wilson
Bertie Byrd is unique. To say the least. She calls Sweet Meadow, Georgia, home, where she works for her father doing auto repairs. She also drives the tow-truck, although Sweet Meadow's rather colorful denizens tend to treat Bertie more like the local, free taxi service. You know, someone has to get to a doctor's appointment or pick something up at the dry
Bertie Byrd is unique. To say the least. She calls Sweet Meadow, Georgia, home, where she works for her father doing auto repairs. She also drives the tow-truck, although Sweet Meadow's rather colorful denizens tend to treat Bertie more like the local, free taxi service. You know, someone has to get to a doctor's appointment or pick something up at the dry cleaners. Bertie's favorite day of the week is Friday, when she leaves the wrecker with her father for the whole weekend and joins her friends at the Dew Drop Inn for a night of dancing. Her best friend, Mary Lou, sometimes fixes her up with dubious dates, although Bertie has to remind her friend not to tease her hair too high for those occasions. Like the time when they went to Carrie Sue's open house, and a ceramic cow with angel wings hanging from a ceiling fan locked its hooves into Bertie's big hair and refused to let go. She had to wear it all night, dangling chain and all. Bertie's nearly perfect life is about to take a downhill turn, however. It starts when her landlord, Pete, currently a resident in a nearby nursing home, starts showing up at her house. In his birthday suit. A very badly wrinkled birthday suit. And then she goes to her mailbox, a rubber large mouth bass, and finds a notice from the zoning commission saying she can no longer park the wrecker in her driveway. The notice is signed by George Bigham. But when she goes to the courthouse to take care of her little problem, it is only to discover George Bigham is deceased. And Mary Lou's pregnancy test just came up positive. Can it get any worse?
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Big Hair and Flying Cows
By Dolores J. Wilson Medallion Press, Inc.
Copyright © 2005
Dolores J. Wilson
All right reserved.
Chapter One "Bertie," my father yelled from the doorway between his office and the hot garage. Roberta Byrd is my name, but everyone calls me Bertie. That's right. Bertie Byrd. Please don't ask what my parents were thinking. It's pretty obvious ... they weren't.
"Yeah, Pop?" I slid out from under the Lincoln Continental I'd been working on, struggled to a sitting position, then pulled a rag from my coverall pocket. A twinge of old age crawled across my shoulder blades. Rolling my head from side to side, I hoped to relieve some of the ache.
When I lay under a car, flat on my back on a creeper, as opposed to flat on my back with a creep, I tend to feel much older than my thirty-two years.
"Were you sleeping under there again?" Pop had left the sanctum of his air-conditioned office to see what I was doing.
"Only for a few minutes," I lied. By the pain in my back, it must have been quite a while. "I didn't get much sleep last night. I worked that big wreck out on Turner Highway, and Martin Griffin drove off the culvert in his driveway about three this morning."
"Well, you got a call now too. Ethel Winchell's out of fuel, again. She's in front of the Dew Drop Inn and Tavern. She wants you to get her away from that 'heathen breeding place.' You better get out there before she develops a case of apoplexy."
"I'm sure it's not the first case she's had today." Or the last. I had to smile thinking of the snit she'd be in worrying that someone might see her out there and report her to the Sweet Meadow Garden Club. They might put her on one of their lists. Trust me. You don't want to be on their list. I know I try to stay in their good graces at all times.
Every Sunday morning, when anyone enters the back of the First Baptist Church over on Liberty Street, the whole Garden Club turns in unison to see who came in. As people enter, the ladies mark that person's name off the list. At the end of services, they check to see which infidels didn't show up.
The Garden Club is easy to spot from the back of the church. They're the group of women who have two hair styles-high and higher. The colors span about three shades of blue.
They're a powerful group. I go to church every Sunday, as much for the Garden Club as for the Lord.
Pulling into the parking lot, I didn't see Mrs. Winchell. I backed my wrecker up to her 1982 Mercedes. You couldn't ask for a finer running machine, if Ethel Winchell would quit letting the diesel engine run out of fuel. However, Mrs. Winchell felt that pulling into a filling station was beneath her. I thought that having to be towed about six times a year was stupid. Of course, I make more money with her way of thinking. I hooked the chains to the undercarriage, then winched the wheels off the ground. As I walked toward the Dew Drop Inn to find her, I caught a glimpse of Mrs. Winchell scrunched down in the front seat. I walked to her car, then tapped on the window. With dark eyes she looked up at me. The driver's window eased down. Mrs. Winchell whispered something I couldn't make out.
I leaned closer. "What'd you say?"
"Get me out of here before someone sees me." The old woman ground her words through her teeth and stared at me like I'd sucked all the fuel from her car and left her stranded at the devil's doorstep.
"Yes, ma'am. Come on up in the truck with me." I opened her door. She snatched it shut so fast, I almost got my hand caught.
"I'm not setting foot on this parking lot. Now, get me out of here."
"If you didn't get out, how did you call for a tow truck?"
She reached to the seat next to her, then waved a cell phone in my face. "I'm electronically connected to the world. I have a computer too. I even do e-mail. I instant message Millie Keats every day."
"Millie only lives three blocks from you. You could holler out the window at her."
"It's the thought that counts, Bertie. You'd do good to get yourself a computer. Might find you a husband on the Internet."
I shook my head and walked back to my truck. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I glanced at my rear-view mirror. Barely sticking above the steering wheel of Mrs. Winchell's Mercedes, I could see the cutest wisps of blue hair.
I guess the world advanced for everyone, regardless of age. Imagine Mrs. Winchell being electronically connected. Now, if she'd learn to keep fuel in her car, that would be a real advancement.
I dropped her and her car at our shop-Thomas Byrd and Sons' Garage. Of course, Sons' chose to move to other towns leaving me, Pop's only daughter, to fulfill his dream of sharing his business with his children.
He'd had the sign painted when Billy and Bobby were in high school. They joined the Marines and Navy, respectively, and never came back to Sweet Meadow to live. Pop never had the heart to repaint the sign. I think he still hopes they'll change their minds and come back. Personally, I've been real tempted to climb up on the old tin roof with my trusty spray paint and turn Pop's sons into a daughter.
The phone rang, its shrill jangle magnified through the office, garage, and probably as far away as the Chow Pal Diner down the street. Before the phone could wail again, I plucked it from its cradle. "Byrd and Sons."
"Bertie?" A weak voice floated through the receiver.
"Who is this?" I asked.
"It's Carrie Sue. Please come get me."
"Oh, good Lord. Have you been in an accident? Where are you?"
"I'm at home. Yes, there's been an accident. Please come get me." She sounded on the verge of tears.
"Where's your car?" I hoped no one had been hurt.
"My car's in my garage. Why do you ask?"
"If you need a tow truck, Carrie Sue, I need to know where the car is."
"I don't need a tow truck. I need a ride," she announced.
"A ride? I drive a wrecker. Not a taxi cab."
I hate it when people beg. "Okay, I'll be right there." The day kept getting stranger.
Carrie Sue Macmillan had graduated with my brother Bill, the Marine. I think she actually auditioned for the village idiot, but got turned down. Whatever she wanted me to do surely would be interesting. Of this, I was certain, but I had two cars I had to finish putting back together before five o'clock. I really didn't have time to play games with Carrie Sue.
I arrived at her house in about five minutes. Pulling into the drive, I blew the horn. She didn't come out. After waiting a few minutes, I climbed out of the truck and made my way along a path lined with various flower containers-tires turned inside out, plastic swans, and my favorite, a commode overflowing with petunias.
"Psst!" The shrub with the pink flamingo in front of it hissed at me. I walked around it and found Carrie Sue stooping behind it. Her head sported a bright yellow knit cap pulled down over her ears. A purple pom-pom danced on top of it. I glanced first at her, then up at the sky where the bright sunshine caused the thermometer to teeter somewhere between 92 and 93 degrees.
"Your head cold, Carrie Sue?"
"No," she snapped, glaring at me.
I waited for her to explain. Explain anything. Why she'd called me to her house? Why she hid behind a yard shrub? Why she wore a wool-knit cap on a stifling day? Finally, she stood erect, then pulled the hat from her head. It looked like it was sucking her hair from her scalp. When it popped free, I realized something really had removed her hair.
"What happened?" I asked, shock vibrating my voice.
"I was babysitting Donna's kids. I just dozed off for a minute. When I woke up, this is what they'd done to me."
"Looks like they tried to scalp you. What do you want me to do, drag them behind the tow truck?" I visualized Carrie Sue's two nephews and one niece bouncing along behind the wrecker like tin cans tied to a wedding bumper.
"No. I want you to take me to Bonnie Boo's Curl Up and Dye. I can't drive downtown looking like this. You gotta sneak me in her back door."
"I don't gotta do anything, Carrie Sue. I drive a big, old truck with beacon lights on top. I can't sneak anywhere. Besides, I'm not a taxi driver."
"Oh, come on, Bertie. You can do this for an old friend."
"You've never been my friend. Especially after you threw me into the boys' locker room."
"I gave you your first glance at a naked man." She smiled.
"Yes, but it was fat old Coach Henderson, for crying out loud." She started laughing. I did, too. I gave her a ride to Bonnie Boo's Curl Up and Dye. Although bald Carrie Sue never realized it, my beacon lights flashed all the way there. On my way back to the shop, Pop dispatched me to Sweet Meadow Elementary School. Ida Josevedo, first-grade teacher and bus monitor, needed to be towed to Wal-Mart in Shafer. Her car's battery thought it was a good day to die.
Everybody who climbs inside my tow truck has a story to tell. Most of the time, I'm as interested in listening to them as I am performing my own root canal. At those times, I take a deep breath and let the gas fumes carry me away to a tropical isle. But, when Mrs. J. talks, I listen.
Her students call her Mrs. J. because they can't say Josevedo. Until she went on vacation a few years ago, she was plain Ida Mae Wells. In Mexico she met her own personal, generic Antonio Banderas. Within two days of her arrival at the Ritz Carolino, she became Señorita Duarte Josevedo.
At the end of her two weeks, she returned home. She called me to pick her up at the airport. I objected due to the fact that I'm not a taxi driver, then I picked her up at the baggage claim. She climbed into the truck and proceeded to tell me about her vacation. I zoned out shortly after she told me about the bumpy flight there.
When I came back to earth, she'd given all the details about her marriage which ended with something to do with a voodoo curse and chicken's feet. She was going to keep his name because it was more romantic than Wells. I had missed it all. I swore right then and there I'd never miss another word Mrs. J. had to say.
"This has been one bloodsucking, backbreaking, migraine kind of day. Ever had one of those?" Okay, I could miss some of her words.
"Must be something in the air. It's been one of those for me too." I hadn't really thought of it in those terms, but now that she mentioned it, it was exactly that kind of day.
"My kids got kicked out of art class this morning. Some people have no sense of humor. That woman from the museum brought a bunch of books with Renaissance pictures of naked women in it. She freely passed the pictures among six-year-olds, then had the nerve to get all flustered at their interpretation of the finer arts." Fire seemed to shoot from her eyes. "What did she expect?" Mrs. J. demanded.
"I ... I haven't a clue." I tried to appease her, but she appeared very distracted with her bloodsucking, etc. "What did your little darlings do?" I scooted closer to my door.
"One boy looked at the naked women and announced that he could see their boobies. The next one hollered, 'Oh, he said Boobies.' Then the next, 'He said boobies.' 'Boobies,' 'boobies.' It went through the crowd like the wave at a football game." She floated her hands through the air and raised her backside from the seat to mimic the wave.
I tried not to smile. Really I did.
"I don't know what that curator was so uptight about. I was just thrilled the kids didn't start a wave with the "F" word like they normally do."
I lost it. I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes. Mrs. J. just stared at me. I guess the voodoo curse she'd told me about when she returned from Mexico, which I never did get to hear about again, had something to do with her being stripped of her sense of humor.
By the time I got back to the shop, it was after five o'clock. The two cars still needed repairing. I'd have to work pretty late to get them finished, and, since I didn't have them done when the owners got off work, I'd have to deliver the cars to the people's houses.
With the long hours I put in every day and well into the night, it's a good thing I don't have anyone or e-mail waiting at home for me. Although a husband could bring me dinner and, if I had e-mail, I could let people know how much I love them. I guess I am just an old-fashioned gal. I have to do things the old-fashioned way. I picked up the phone, then punched in the numbers.
"Hi, Mom. I love you. Can you bring me dinner?"
* * *
Friday has always been my favorite day of the week. If I could survive until five o'clock in the afternoon, then Pop took over my duties as an on-call mechanic/tow truck driver until eight Monday morning. I looked forward to my Friday nights at the Dew Drop Inn where I could enjoy a few glasses of Sweet Meadow champagne, better known as draft beer, and dance with some of the local cowboys. Yee haw!!
Tonight would be a little more interesting than usual. My best friend, Mary Lou, planned to introduce me to her cousin from Atlanta. A fine specimen of mankind, according to Mary Lou. She just knew for sure we'd hit it off.
Only time would tell.
I glanced at the tire-shaped clock which hung on Pop's office wall. Eight-fifteen. I tapped on the face, hoping it had stopped. No such luck. Just then the phone shrilled. Lordy, I wish Pop would get a different bell. I swear to high heaven that sound could shatter glass.
"Byrd and Sons."
"Hi, Bertie," Millie Keats sang through the receiver. The woman had to be a hundred years old, but still lived an active life that I could only dream of, including an on-again, off-again romance with Coach Henderson.
Let me make this point perfectly clear-I dream of romance, not Coach Henderson. That thought sends chills through my entire body. I saw him naked once ... Never mind, it's a long story.
"Good morning, Millie. What can I do for you this beautiful, sunny day?" Darn, I must be in a better mood than I thought, probably the Mary Lou's cousin thing.
"I want to reserve a ride to my doctor's appointment at ten. I have to take him a urine specimen."
"I'm not a limo service, and I've told you a hundred times, unless you can tell me you have a car in the ditch, don't call me for a ride. Good-bye, Millie." I hung up the phone.
Guilt washed through me. I hoped Millie needed to see the doctor for maintenance reasons and not some life-threatening condition. Time would tell that too, I figured.
Later, I'd just pulled the fuel filter from a Honda Accord when the phone rang. After wiping the grease from my hands, I answered it.
"My car's in the ditch." Millie Keats' voice sounded rushed. I checked the time. Ten o'clock.
"You don't have a car." I tried to hold my temper to a slow simmer.
"No, but I do have a doctor's appointment, and you're not here."
"I told you I can't take you to the doctor." Feeling a tad guilty, I asked, "Why do they need a urine specimen?"
"To see if I'm pregnant." Hysterical laughter zinged its way through the phone to my unappreciative ears.
I gave myself a mental head slap. "Miss Smart Aleck, you'll have to find another ride."
"But Bertie. I'm all dressed in my brightest pink dress to go see Dr. James."
I wondered if Millie realized, no matter what dress she wore to the doctor, he'd never see her in it. That thought would probably be wasted on the old woman.
"I can't take you. Good-bye, Millie. I have a date with a fuel filter."
"Well, I hope you two have a grand old time." She snorted into the phone. Then the line went dead.
Thirty minutes later, Chief of Police Bob Kramer phoned. "I need a wrecker in the two-hundred block of Laurel Street. There's been an accident."
While I washed my hands in the garage sink, I jostled the phone against my neck.
"Anyone hurt?" I asked.
"No. It's a man from Shafer. He just seems a little confused. He said some lady stood in the middle of the road, raised her skirt, and flashed him. It startled him so bad, he ran into the ditch. Gotta go." It took the Chief a few seconds to actually hang up. Before the connection ended, I heard someone in the background yelling, "I tell you, it was a shocking pink dress."
I hung up the phone, then stared at it for a few seconds. Surely, Millie wouldn't do something like that. I'd almost convinced myself when the phone startled me from my wishful thinking.
"Byrd and Sons." I held my breath.
"Bertie, now there's a for-real car in the ditch. I'll be waiting for you," Millie Keats announced, then hung up the phone.
After I winched the wrecked car out of the ditch and found no damage, the owner drove away, still mumbling to himself. Inside the truck, I found Millie Keats, wearing a pink dress, waiting for me.
"That could have all been avoided, Bertie." She stared straight ahead, nodding.
"You're a fruitcake, and I should turn you in to the Chief." I nodded too, knowing full well I'd never tell anyone. Millie and I rode toward the doctor's office, both of us nodding like those toy doggies in the rear windows.
If my luck held out, Millie would buy me a cap with the words "Millie's Limo Driver" embroidered on it.
Excerpted from Big Hair and Flying Cows by Dolores J. Wilson Copyright © 2005 by Dolores J. Wilson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Dolores J. Wilson and her husband own a body shop and towing service. She lives in Florida.
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Brilliant author. I've not laughed that hard in so long! We've been passing it around at work and everyone says the same thing. Its a Must read.
This is the funniest book I have ever read. I laughed out loud the whole time I was reading it. I recommend it for anyone needing a good laugh or someone wanting to read a southern book.
Big Hair and Flying Cows has a cast of wacky characters that will keep you turning the pages to see what they'll do next. It's southern humor at its best. What a terrific read!
Get ready to laugh yourself silly with this book. Getting a flying cow caught in her hair is the least of Bertie's problems. When you have a landlord that shows up unannouced in his birthday suite, a friend who measures your love life in hip height and everyone in the town of Sweet Meadow, GA using your tow truck as a taxi service, life can't be anything but very interesting. When Bertie gets run over by an airplane, it just adds the extra spice needed to make this one of the funniest book I've ever read. I laughed. I cried. If you think your life is crazy, you'll change your mind after sharing Bertie Byrd's adventures in Big Hair and Flying Cows.
Open Big Hair and Flying Cows to any page, any paragraph, or any sentence... I dare you not to laugh. Southern humor at its best! Dolores J Wilson's rich, delightful voice fills the pages of this debut novel. Poor Bertie Byrd only wants a normal life. But a black cloud of bad luck follows her around, making daily life anything but normal. Filled with vivid, enchanting characters, laugh-out-loud situations, and even a few poignant, emotional moments, Big Hair and Flying Cows makes you glad you're not Bertie and thrilled that she came alive in Dolores Wilson's imagination.
All Roberta ¿Bertie¿ Bird wants is to live a normal life. However that is not easy when you drive a two truck five days a week in which your neighbors in Sweet Meadow, Georgia think is a taxi service. They will do anything and everything to get their ride. Even moving out from her parents¿ home has not proven easy since the owner and previous resident elderly Pete Forney constantly sneaks out of the nursing home to ¿visit¿ Birdie when he is not trying to toss her out.--- She has males in her life, but none reach first base because the zany world intrude from Catch 22 zoning laws to running over a mattress that destroys her wrecker that places ¿Dirty Bird¿ on national TV. Following the death of Pete, Birdie meets Pete¿s son Arch and his granddaughter Petey; they make her feel normal except he fled when she kissed him. Life in Bertie¿s beloved rural Georgia means the sublime is the norm.--- BIG HAIR AND FLYING COWS is a series of vignettes centering loosely on a series of misfortune hammering at Bertie that is similar in many ways to the Mossy Creek tales. Bertie is a delight as her efforts to obtain normalcy is constantly devastated by those in need of her services. Her autobiographical account of s**t happens is southern humor at its most jocular. Mossy Creek readers will appreciate a slice of life in Sweet Meadow through the eyes of a native daughter who just wants the garage sign changed to Bird and daughter from Bird and Sons as she remains while her brothers flew the coop years ago.--- Harriet Klausner