LeRoy Tucker: Climax 1: Cotton on the Rocks
LeRoy Tucker's first set of Climax stories is now on the book market and looks something like the mock-up cover depicted above. As can dimly be seen, a blurb by yours truly appears on the back:
I still remember my reaction when I first read some of these stories online: "I have stumbled across a genius named LeRoy Tucker." I had been searching for information on the Ozarks and stumbled across Mr. Tucker's blog, Folk Liar of the Ozarks. When I looked more closely, I realized what an authentic treasure I'd discovered. This self-proclaimed 'folkliarist' writes with a gifted literary hand, captures the Ozark dialect that was already fading in my childhood, and has a gift for storytelling like the one ascribed to one of his more memorable minor characters, the preacher Az Bronson:The publishers not only reveal my name, but even my 'horsepower' (as Mr. Tucker calls my PhD), though I'm not sure that these will actually help sell any books. What will sell them is Mr. Tucker's own excellent writing, of which you can be reminded -- or first become aware -- by reading the selection below from the story "Rolland Burdick," which features the characters Sheriff "Bulldog" Martin, Doctor "Doc" Clift, and Johnny "Frog" Robbins and which also supplied the above quote concerning "Ole Az," a 'scoundrelous' Ozark preacher in the great state of Arkansas:"Ole Az can start spinnin' out another'n now. It's the beatenist thing. Most preachers has about a half a dozen sermons, an' that's all they needs. Ole Az, he jest starts talkin' . . . . Sermons jest rolls out of Ole Az like mule turds rolls down a steep hill."Like Az with his sermons, Mr. Tucker gets one story after another rolling down a slippery slope. The reader is in for a wild but enjoyable ride.
"Damn!" exclaimed Bulldog. "There is ole cussin' Rolland Burdick, at church. I saw his team tied in front of the courthouse last night."There. If that lyin' don't fetch 'em, I don't know Arkansas!
"That's right," said Frog. "He took a load of ties off yesterday. You don't suppose he got religion over in Hardy? That don't hardly seem possible. Quiten' cussin' will spile his personality. He won't be his self no more. I reserves my opinion. Us give this a little time. They is somethin’ unnatural about it."
"He pays his debts. Not in money if he can 'void it, in whiskey, an' he makes the best homemade I've ever found. I hope he don't ketch too bad a case. Whiskey makin' is an art. Not many of 'em ever learn how to do it right," observed B.D.
"Rolland might quit for a little while if he takes up with them Campbellites," said Frog. "Mor'n half them fellers keeps a gallon in the barn. No, they'll need ole cussin' Rolland jest as bad atter they take him to the pond. Hit'll be alright."
"Jest fer a while, 'splain that?" said B.D.
"Hit takes a while fer a Campbellite to do his 'prentiseship. At first he would be jest a learner without none of the rights an' privileges that goes with the position. At first his job is to be peaceful and quiet, observin' and learnin' how it's done an if he don't let his mind wander too bad he won't have to go home nekkid more'n a couple or three times 'fore he gits aholt of it an' then he can start bein' a good Campbellite like all the others 'cept the real old ones or the ones that's sick and skeered."
"Well now," said the doctor, "it seems like you have given this a good deal of thought, more than I have to be sure. You lost me there somewhere about the going home naked part."
"First a new Campbellite has to learn how to forgive the Campbellite way. The way they sees things is that anything's fair. Cheatin' on Sunday afternoon is risky, the riskiest part of the whole week to swap a feller out of ever thing, includin' even his last pair of overalls. Sinnin' on a Sunday after church is the riskiest time they is. The safest time would be on a Sunday mornin' jest before Sunday school takes up. Pint is that ever Sunday they gets together and forgives each other. Whether a feller needs it or not he gits forgave. Timin' is important. Hit's a matter of exposure. When a Campbellite is tradin', the farther he is from Sunday the dangerouser it is. Late Saturday or early on a Sunday is best 'cause they ain't too much exposure 'fore he gits forgave again. You have to be a Campbellite to plumb understand it. That's the best I can do."
"And that's all there is to it Frog?"
"They is more but that is the big one. They sings hymns an' they have the pursue'nst preachers of any. Preachers talks about Jesus and hell an' heaven while the older more 'sperienced Campbellites sets an' plots out the week's business 'cause the forgivin' part is already done over with."
"Doctor Clift, Frog here ain't got much use for that perticuler brand of Christian. He might be a little harsh on 'em," joked B.D.
"No Sheriff, that ain't right. I done considered my own personal prejudices an 'lowed fer that. Doc, is them Campbellites good pay?"
"Frog, you know I can't talk about that."
"I rest'es my case," said Frog. Then he asked, "Have you fellers noticed how that little Baysinger gal has growed lately?"
"I noticed that you noticed an' I doubt the preacher will overlook it," said Bulldog. "An' most of the young fellers that's more in her age bracket. The doctor here, he don't never lust. He sees ever thing in a purely professional, clinical sense. Ain't that right Doc?"
"That's true as a general thing," said the doctor, "but I'm no eunuch. But Johnny, how does a man become so prejudiced? I know most of those folks. Your narrow minded assessment don't fit'em. If you're serious you are the most prejudiced guy I've ever known and then some, so tell me."
"Hit's the levity of it. The Campbellites is the one's havin' a meetin' right now. You ortn't to believe me when I'm jest jokin'."
"And you ortn't to use words like levity either, not here in Climax anyway. Folks will lose their confidence in you."
"Folks ain't here. Ain't nobody here but jest us. Us bein' the three most pusillanimous, oh pardon me, Doc, scoundrels in Climax. That's right though; I ort to be keerfuller. I'll tell you fellers sumthin' else. By the time this meetin' is over ole Preacher Bronson will have the dimensions of ever purty Campbellite woman in Climax set so solid in his mind that he could ride a wind broke mule all the way to Texas and pick out a new frock fer ever one of 'em. Ole Az got a eye fer the ladies. I don’t hold that agin' him much. I'm kind'er jealous, that's all. It seems to me like he is in the wrong trade fer a feller which is disposed like that."
"Frog, preachers don't pick their trade like other fellers," observed Bulldog. "Preachers jest wakes up one mornin' with a hard on, cravin' fried chicken. They ain't in control of their own fate, as the feller said."
"What can we do to keep Rolland making at least a little whiskey?" asked Dr. Clift.
"Does he like you or does he owe you?" asked Bulldog."
"Both I hope."
"I see. He owes you. Rolland don't like nobody, but he pays what he owes, with whiskey if he can. He makes maybe fifty gallon a year. He drinks about a gallon a month. He don't exactly sell none. Rolland trades where he can pay with whiskey. If he goes Campbellite, they ain't no tellin' fer shore but my feelin' is he'll keep right on makin' about fifty gallon ever winter. Rolland saves. He saves ever dime he can. He don’t like to swap money for anything. Tradin' with reg'lar money nearly makes him go to bed, sick. He would have to use money to buy sugar to make whiskey an' he jest cain't do that. He makes his'n out of jest corn that a'course he grows his self. He is the only one we got like that. All the other'ns makes jest sugar, rot gut. He ort to make a good Campbellite though. I doubt he'll go home nekkid even once. Them Campbellites better watch their own britches. They done met their match. Anyway, all of 'em are gathered up in the buildin'. Ole Az can start spinnin' out another'n now. It's the beat'nist thing. Most preachers has about a half a dozen sermons an' that's all they needs. He jest starts talking.' without no idie what he's goin' to say. Sermons jest rolls out of ole Az like mule turds rolls down a steep hill.
UPDATE: Some folks were asking about how to order a copy, so I found the publisher's site: Xlibris.