Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fair & Tender Ladies

I just finished rereading Appalachian writer Lee Smith’s Fair and Tender Ladies, and it is still my favorite novel. I read it the first time about 17 or 18 years ago. It was originally published in 1988.

Lately Fair and Tender Ladies has been in the news because a few months ago someone wanted it banned from the Washington County Schools. Granted there are a few scenes that might have been shocking fifty years ago (like the scenes where Ivy is “ruint” or where she runs away to the mountain top with the bee man), but those scenes are pretty mild compared to what’s being written now. And, yeah, it contains the n-word, but its usage fits the context.

I doubt many high-school students would be shocked. I doubt even that many high-school students would be interested in the book. It wouldn’t interest boys in the least. I’m glad I read it the first time in my forties and now in my sixties. It’s a book for both ages. To appreciate it, the reader has to have lived for a while.

Told as a series of letters to various folks that Ivy Rowe knows or is kin to, Fair and Tender Ladies covers Ivy’s lifetime from the turn of the 20th century to the Vietnam era.

Some of my favorite lines come from that book: Ivy Rowe’s father says, “Farming is pretty work.” Ivy repeats the line several times in her letters. I thought about that line a couple of weeks ago when my neighbor plowed his fields. While I stood in the mares’ pasture, I could admire the beauty of what looked like a giant quilt spread upon the land. My late aunt once told me how my grandfather would slip into his wheat field to pull a weed if he saw one growing. A perfect field was important to him. When I was a kid visiting my grandparents, I used to think how pretty those fields were.

Another line of Ivy’s father: “I need a mountain to rest my eyes against.” I feel the same way. During the times we lived on the coast, I missed the mountains. I’m lucky to be surrounded by them now. One that I especially enjoy resting my eyes against is Turkeycock Mountain, directly to the south.

We own a hunk of it that we bought from my uncle in the late 70s. Over several years, he’d planted several stands of loblollies, fast-growing pines used for pulpwood, so that’s our crop. Over a decade ago, we did some thinning of the loblollies and some hardwood timber further up the mountain, but we don’t—and won’t—clear-cut. Part of our property is adjacent, though, to a patch that was clear cut and then sold to a Mr. Mullins, who built a cabin on it. For the past few years, we’ve leased the hunting rights on our land to him, and he also keeps an eye on our property.

On a clear day, when I’m resting my eyes against the mountain, I can see the sun glint off his cabin roof.


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Blogger CountryDew said...

Sounds lovely. I can't recall if I've read that particular Lee Smith book or not; I suppose not if I can't recall. But I've read many of her other works. I have always enjoyed them.

7:46 PM  

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