LeRoy Tucker, Ozark 'Folkliarist'
I have stumbled across a genius named LeRoy Tucker.
My fellow hillbilly friend Denny Elrod, who blogs at Exploring Izard County asked me yesterday if I had heard of French Town, which he put at about 15 miles outside of my hometown, Salem, Arkansas. I was aware of the name and location -- due east of Salem, on a dirt road, and not far from the South Fork River -- but I had to admit to Denny that I knew nothing substantive about the place, and so far as I know, it's no longer an incorporated community . . . though I could be wrong since it shows up on Google Maps.
But his query got me to thinking about the name of the place and wondering if a French trading post had once been located there in that obscure, isolated part of the Ozarks back when the territory still belonged to the French, though that didn't seem likely.
I therefore did a Google search for references to the place and stumbled across a the mention of French Town in a blog titled "Folk Liar of the Ozarks." Initially, I thought of Vance Randolph, but when I looked more closely, I realized what an authentic treasure I'd discovered. This self-proclaimed 'folkliarist' -- who apparently resides in Jonesboro, Arkansas -- hails from around Highland (I gather), not too far from my own hometown. He's a youthful 79 years and writes with a gifted literary hand. Given his obvious intelligence and his origins, I figure that he's related to Dr. Tucker, who lives at Highland and attends the church that my brother John pastors in Salem.
This 'folkliarist' LeRoy Tucker provides two photos on his blog, which he started last year, but the photos, which can be seen above, are rather earlier than his current age, for the one on the left is from 1949 and the one on the right from 1969. I don't yet know his erstwhile profession, for I've not read enough of his blog, but I already know that he can surely write. Here's the opening of a recent entry titled "The Electric Chicken":
When I was a boy I knew nothing about electricity. Now at seventy nine I know next to nothing about it. But I do know that you must close the circuit and that is the sum total of my knowledge of that subject. I enjoyed learning that, otherwise I never would have learned it. I never was much interested in accumulating beneficial information. If it wasn't fun forget it.If you think that you can anticipate what's coming next, you might be correct, but you'll still be surprised and laugh out loud at what LeRoy Tucker discovered in his subsequent 'scientific' experiment.
I did know something about chickens. All farm kids learn about chickens. Also, all farm kids learn to wipe their feet before going in the house. Chickens cause that. It started by accident, really, the product of a boy's imagination, a boy who had little to do but experiment with this or that with no discernable plan and with no expectations concerning the outcome. Some worked, some didn't. It made no difference. I had plenty of time and energy.
It started in 1946 when I found an old hand-crank, wall type telephone in the trash pile behind an abandoned farm house. Those old phones were already obsolete. I remembered that if you turned the crank the thing would produce electricity, but this particular one had been out in the rain and all kinds of weather for a long time so I didn't expect it to work. But I held the naked end of the wires with one hand and turned the crank with the other. I was surprised. The thing gave me quite a nice jolt! I knew right then that there was some fun to be had. As a matter of fact, I was confident that the fun would involve chickens. Don't ask me how I knew -- I just did.
I wish that I knew more about this old fellow and what he did with his life, gifted as he is. He must also be a source of many old Ozark stories, some of which he has posted to his blog . . . along with what appear to be fictional writings of real literary quality that capture the dialect of the hill folks.
Time to update my blogroll . . .