Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Meeting LeRoy Tucker: Ozark Raconteur

You see above a photo of LeRoy Tucker and his wife Patsy from their visit yesterday with us at the home of my brother John. Regular readers of Gypsy Scholar will know that LeRoy, who goes by the nickname "Tuck," is the writer at Folk Liar of the Ozarks, a blog with stories real and fictional from earlier days in the Ozarks. If you're unfamiliar with his tales, click over to his blog and look around, especially if you enjoy regional stories with backwoods dialect, but he offers far more than that for the dedicated reader, for he writes with sharp humor and deep insight into human nature, so he's actually far more than an 'Ozark Raconteur'. I recommend "Cadillac Pie" for a poignant story illustrative of the truth that you really can't go home again.

Here you see Tuck and me deep in conversation. If I recall, he was explaining about the land scam story behind Cherokee Village, a local land-development community. I'd not heard the details before because I was a very tender age when the place was getting started over in eastern Fulton County. I suppose that Tuck was already in his late twenties at that time. We knew some of the same people because my maternal grandparents had been into politics at the local and state level, and nothing is more political than land development in Arkansas, given the money involved. Moreover, my grandmother worked in the Tax Assessor's Office down at the Fulton County Courthouse some time later, so she knew all about the monetary value of the land on the Spring River where Cherokee Village was located. But my grandparents hadn't told me all the details, so having Tuck over to relate the concrete facts was enthralling. I won't retell them all here since I prefer to let sleeping dogs lie, but I did learn that the scam started with a bait-and-switch gambit. A lot of folks on a mailing list in Memphis received letters implying that they had won deeds to property on the Spring River near Hardy, Arkansas. A couple of days later, the gravel road to Hardy saw a line of cars driving up from Memphis. People arrived only to discover that they'd 'won' nothing more than an opportunity to purchase deeds to property lots for various sorts of downpayments -- even the gold watch off their wrists! If they had a gold watch. I reckon folks were embarrassed to leave without title to the property that they'd 'won', so a great many lots got sold. That's the dishonorable way in which the entire business got off the ground.

At this point, our conversation was interrupted for a more posed photo. My wife looked at this photograph later and remarked that one can readily see that Mr. Tucker is a great, impressive person. She's right. He may be nearly eighty and reliant on a cane, but he's got lively eyes, a very sharp mind, and an articulate, loquacious tongue. I was sorry that our visit was so short, only about four hours.

You see in this last photograph another friend, Herschel, who was also present because his father and Tuck were good buddies way back in the 1960s. Also an excellent raconteur, he and Tuck had a great time trading stories of people whom they'd both known. I mostly listened, though I knew the same people and could occasionally toss in a name.

I wish that I had more photographs from the meeting yesterday, but my wife and I were both deep in conversation with Tuck and his wife almost the entire time, so we had little opportunity for taking pictures.

Once again, let me urge you to go over and familiarize yourself with LeRoy Tucker's blog: Folk Liar of the Ozarks.

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At 6:25 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

What a privilege!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never having been in the south, it's hard to imagine what Arkansas people sound like. The famous politicians, athletes, and entertainers from that little state I have heard most speak with a soft southern accent. They make Arkansas sound closer to Midland than other southern sounds. The people I personally know from Texas, Georgia, and Oklahoma deliberately and effectively hid their accent when they came out to the west coast. The folks from Oklahoma seem especially sensitive to their sound. So they don't help.

So, I had to read Tucker's spellings with non-Arkansas sounds. Experts of southern dialects assert that Mark Twain was especially good at "spelling" the different dialects of the communities along the Mississippi. But for an outsider, none of it means anything. This is not to say that it is a futile thing to spell the sounds. All I am saying is that I wish I can hear more American sounds.

"Cadillac Pie" is a sweet sweet melancholy short story. Interesting title, by the way. What does the title mean to you?


At 6:26 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I agree that the title is interesting, even compelling, but it has baffled me. I should ask Tuck.

As for the accent, you might get to listen to a CD sometime since Tuck has read the story aloud for posterity.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thinking that:

greater desire for Doris,
means banana pie > cadillac pie

greater desire for the opportunities Michigan provides,
means cadillac pie > banana pie

cadillac pie = or is reminder of no Doris

He bought both pies because he is the only one there who had the money to do so. But he had to give away the much cheaper yet more valuable pie.

I think the way the title works is by inviting comparisons. For me, I think the value of "banana pie" is what the value of "cadillac pie" is being compared to.


At 5:57 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You've given the question more concrete thought than I have. You may be right. I'll need to re-read the story sometime and reflect on your suggestions.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Just a thought. Cadillacs in that region, in those times, were for the most part - unattainable.

And recognized as such.


At 12:29 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Good point.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pies are also perishable consumables. A relationship with Doris is more robust:

-->Them Sutherland gals is the loyalist gals they is. If you got one of ‘em she’s your’n fer keeps. They’s more’n a half dozen ole boys would like to change that but they ain’t got no chanst either, an’ they know it.

Because of the context, the wonderful concluding lines further invite comparison between the La Salle and Doris. Immediately after Windy implicitly acknowledges Marvin's engagement to Doris by giving him the pie Doris made--and which pride made him buy--he drives off miserable in the rain in the most amazing object of luxury Saddle may have ever seen:

-->Little Bob, still holding his buggy spoke said “Did Ya’ll see that? Lights come on when he opened the door, an’ went off when he shut it. Down yonder, he touched the brake and I be dang, they was extry lights come on in the back, red ones. Dang, what a car.”

But we know what Windy would rather have.

-->“Truth is though, if I could have her I would drive my car off the bluff and fergit it, never miss it, an’ be glad I done it too. When I left home my Daddy said “You make your own bed, now lay in it.” He was right. I’ll go on back to Michigan. Oh well, I got a steady job.” I’ll bid on Doris’s pie but I ain’t aimin’ to go crazy on it. I could go on back to Michigan today fer all the difference it makes.


At 3:41 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Good analysis, more for me to reflect upon.

Jeffery Hodges

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