Wednesday, April 27, 2011

LeRoy Tucker's Stories: The 'Trifling' Sally Mae (An Excerpt)

Climax 1: Cotton on the Rocks
(Image from Tuck's Book Page)

In my idiosyncratic review of LeRoy "Tuck" Tucker's book, Climax 1: Cotton on the Rocks, I noted the significance of his fictionalized story "A Blending," for it combines fact and fiction in a way that nearly all of Tuck's stories do.

It also contains much humor, as the following passage -- lifted from a section of the story describing the hardship of the Tucker family in moving from Georgia to Arkansas in the 1850s -- nicely illustrates, to the amusement of this reader, and probably to other readers as well.

So, meet Sally Mae Tucker, who doesn't at all enjoy the hard, taxing effort of moving, who would prefer to have at least stopped in Kentucky and stayed there, and who isn't shy about voicing her hard-edged complaints:
There may have been the voice of a recalcitrant girl, one or two in every generation. "This here is bullshit. I druther be back in Kentucky." Girls like that never troubled their parents for long. Inevitably they disappeared at a young age and reappeared in a future generation of Tuckers bearing a different name, and born to a different set of Tucker parents, but with the same contentious ways. The parents of those unruly female children considered them selves unlucky and dealt with the problem scripturally, and unsuccessfully. Prudently, those girls were left alone once they were old enough to make a serious physical stand.

Young Tucker women were pretty. Metaphorically, they bloomed in early March and were pretty much gone in late July, by either ballooning and hiding inside a mountain of newly acquired fat, or shrinking into nothing much but hide and bone. Their beauty faded in a variety of styles and methods but their timing was reliable. Being a hill woman was bad luck at best. Being both a hill woman and married to a Tucker was bad luck and poor judgment. Sally Mae had never been a promising child but neither had she been impossible. Shortly after her first monthly, an eagerly anticipated event, which Sally greeted not as a curse but rather as the day of her emancipation, she declared her new status in a most indelicate manner. It was not that she wanted to argue. There was to be no question of her new position.

Sally's mother thrust an empty basket in her direction and said, "Run out to the henhouse and gather the eggs."

"Gather your own goddam eggs," Sally replied with a tone of finality seldom heard from a Tucker child of any age most especially a female. Her disgraceful speech was duly recounted to her father. Her mother was surprised that he received the news so calmly.

"I was afraid she was one of them an' she is I guess. Ain't nothin' I can do about it."

"Whup her," said the mother. "I need help in the house, with the youngon's an' ever thing. She jist needs a good whupin that's all."

"Won't do no good. Ever once in a while, one of them pops up sommers in the fambly. Whupin' don't help; not after they git old enough to pee hard against the ground."

"You mean I got to put up with a grown gal right here under my feet that won't turn a hand to help. An' you say that you cain't do nothin' about it? Is that what you're sayin'?" The mother was screaming by then.

"I could shoot her," said the father. "I druther not but they ain't no other action 'vailable that I know about. Hit's jest a old Tucker problem, that’s all."

Thereafter Sally Mae would accept no regular assignment. She would occasionally do work and contribute to the family welfare but never would she accept any direction or follow any order. She was an emancipated woman. (Tucker, Climax 1: Cotton on the Rocks, pages 151-152)
Maybe I'm simply revealing my crude, backwoods sense of humor here, but I just had to laugh right out loud when Sally Mae's father tells his wife there's only one solution to the problem of the 'trifling' Sally Mae: "I could shoot her . . . . I druther not but they ain't no other action 'vailable that I know about."

But if that sort of humor appeals to you, too, then do Ol' Tuck a favor, and order his book.

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