The Pulitzer Prizewinning author of All Over but the Shoutin continues his personal history of the Deep South with an evocation of his mothers childhood in the Appalachian foothills during the Great Depression, and the magnificent story of the man who raised her.
Charlie Bundrum was a roofer, a carpenter, a whiskey-maker, a fisherman who knew every inch of the Coosa River, made boats out of car hoods and knew how to pack a wound with brown sugar to stop the blood. He could not read, but he asked his wife, Ava, to read him the paper every day so he would not be ignorant. He was a man who took giant steps in rundown boots, a true hero whom history would otherwise have beem overlooked.
In the decade of the Great Depression, Charlie moved his family twenty-one times, keeping seven children one step ahead of the poverty and starvation that threatened them from every side. He worked at the steel mill when the steel was rolling, or for a side of bacon or a bushel of peaches when it wasnt. He paid the doctor who delivered his fourth daughter, Margaret -- Braggs mother -- with a jar of whiskey. He understood the finer points of the law as it applied to poor people and drinking men; he was a banjo player and a buck dancer who worked off fines when life got a little sideways, and he sang when he was drunk, where other men fought or cussed. He had a talent for living.
His children revered him. When he died, cars lined the blacktop for more than a mile.
Rick Bragg has built a soaring monument to the grandfather he never knew -- a father who stood by his family in hard times and left a backwoods legend behind -- in a book that blazes with his love for his family, and for a particular stretch of dirt road along the Alabama-Georgia border. A powerfully intimate piece of American history as it was experienced by the working people of the Deep South, a glorious record of a life of character, tenacity and indomitable joy and an unforgettable tribute to a vanishing culture, Avas Man is Rick Bragg at his stunning best.
From Chapter One:
The Beatin' of Blackie Lee
The foothills of the Appalachians
Ava met him at a box-lunch auction outside Gadsden, Alabama, when she was barely fifteen, when a skinny boy in freshly washed overalls stepped from the crowd of bidders, pointed to her and said, "I got one dollar, by God." In the evening they danced in the grass to a fiddler and banjo picker, and Ava told all the other girls she was going to marry that boy someday, and she did. But to remind him that he was still hers, after the cotton rows aged her and the babies came, she had to whip a painted woman named Blackie Lee.
Maybe it isn't quite right to say that she whipped her. To whip somebody, down here, means there was an altercation between two people, and somebody, the one still standing, won. This wasn't that. This was a beatin', and it is not a moment that glimmers in family history. But of all the stories I was told of their lives together, this one proves how Ava ...
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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