Molly Tenbrooks was a character in “The Mandolin Case.” As the story ran on, I fell in love with the child. She reminded me a lot of my wife and daughter. She had a splash of freckles across her cheeks, and auburn hair pulled back in a pony tail. At first glance you’d say she was just a kid.
Don’t be fooled. Tough but still feminine, good with words, she had no fear of fools and was able to out-wit ’em and never break a sweat. Every morning I’d wake up early and couldn’t wait to get to my computer to see what she had done over night.
At first my Lit people were confused. “Why the name Molly Tenbrooks?”
“It’s after Molly and Tenbrooks. The song was a Bill Monroe number about a turn of the century horse race.”
They went back and re-read the passages. “I don’t get it. A pretty little girl and she’s named for a horse race?”
“You’ll have to read the whole story. Trust me.”
Fast forward to the Red White and Bluegrass Festival. It was my first book gig. I was hot and sweaty, and covered in red clay dust and weary, but at least I was hitched in the shade. Perry, the bass player from the Harvey County All-Stars walked by. We had jammed that morning and he had picked up a copy of the book.
He gave a thumbs up from across the field, cupped his hand around his mouth and hollered out. “Just getting started, but I already love little Molly.”
I signaled back a high-five and signed another book.
I knew a guy like Perry would get it. Perry is about medium in height, but look at his neck. He usually wears a T-shirt ’cause he can’t close the top buttons on a dress shirt. He favors an ex-Merchant Marine with those tattooed Popeye forearms. I knew Perry would respect Molly, and he did. I didn’t have to tell him, he could see it right away.
One time there was man who thought he was better than Molly. He underestimated the child, and it was an error in judgment. One reason I wrote “The Mandolin Case” was I wanted to show we should never judge people until we get to know ’em. God gave all of us different gifts so we would be able to work together to survive. My only real talent is the ability to read books and fill in the right bubbles on those computerized tests, but over the years God has always delivered me friends who have skills that fill in the gaps for my deficiencies. It’s why I hold ’em so close. I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I know my limitations, and I’ve gotta have my people to get by.
By the way, don’t underestimate Perry either. He’s good with words, and is the only person I’ve met who knows all the lyrics to the instrumental “Dear Old Dixie.” You remember that high fallutin’ fellow who said bluegrass people wouldn’t read? Well he’s home scratching his head over “The Mandolin Case” and wonderin’ what the heck happened while we’re out jamming. I want him to know Perry can bush hog a snake-infested tract of land before I finish my morning coffee, but he also reads, and reads quite well. After all, he understood “The Mandolin Case,” and was a third of the way through the book before that man could finish the Author’s Note.
And more important, Perry got it. Like any good Lit man, his smile showed he knew. He didn’t have to resort to telling anything. I could tell from fifty paces he got it, and didn’t have to ask.
If you ever come to Harvey County we’d love to have you. Just don’t underestimate my people, ’cause they’ll protect me every time. Molly would and so would Perry. They might look like they are from two different worlds, but they’re just alike; all you gotta do is take the time to get to know ’em to understand.
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