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Riverside Remembered

Riverside Remembered

Wallace Neal Briggs
Illustrations by Barbara Minton
Copyright Date: 1992
Edition: 1
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Riverside Remembered
    Book Description:

    A moving personal memoir of Mississippi in the 1920s and the bitter harvest of racial repression. As the story opens, six-year-old Buster Briggs boards a Pullman car headed south over the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, and we embark with him on what will become his journey from childhood into adolescence. Bus Briggs is a white boy from Indiana who spends his summers and Christmases at his grandparents' Mississippi homeplace -- Riverside.

    Travel with him on this journey of discovery. Join Bus and his cousins as they string popcorn and chinaberries for the yule tree, savor ice cream made from rare Mississippi snow, eat cornbread crumbled in buttermilk, enjoy all-day suckers and dill pickles at the general store. Meet the extended family that lives at Riverside -- Buster's grandparents Mammy and Pappy, his aunt Allie and uncle Cally, and his cousins -- as well as their black neighbor Mattie Riley and her son Leroy.

    At the heart of this story lies Buster's strong and sustaining friendship with Leroy. From his Pullman window, Buster first sees Leroy sitting on a stile near Riverside waving at the passing train. Leroy soon becomes Buster's fellow explorer, fishing instructor, and best friend. Before Leroy waves goodbye to Buster's departing train for the last time, an unbreakable bond is formed with the gift of a pocketknife -- and what happens because of that gift. Even so, the racial prejudices of the time dictate that the paths of their lives diverge.

    Wallace Briggs set out to write a memoir of his family and of his own youth, but he has shaped a story that is far more than a personal recollection. Its themes are among the most powerful in literature -- love and death, family dynamics, the innocence and selfishness of childhood, the struggle with cultural mores. What Briggs has produced is a work of great power and many pleasures, as finely constructed as a novel or stage play. His prose is crisp, cool, and sweet, like a slice of the watermelon chilling in the artesian well-water at Riverside.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4778-9
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. SUMMER—1920
    (pp. 1-68)

    Daddy was walking directly in front of us carrying two heavy suitcases. Mother was holding my hand and clutching a suitbox under her arm. She shifted it carefully at times, and each time she did I looked up to be sure it was safe. That box was much more important to a six-year-old than either of the heavy valises that my dad carried, for it held the supper that we would eat on the train that evening. We would eat breakfast in the diner the next morning, which was always one of the highlights of the long trip home to...

  3. SUMMER—1924
    (pp. 69-126)

    In July of 1923 Daddy was transferred to Cincinnati, Ohio, and I suppose that was the reason we didn’t get back to Riverside that summer. I missed not going, of course, but Mother was busy with packing and moving and then finding a place to live once we got there. It was a busy time for all of us, and we really didn’t have a chance to think about going to Riverside. We finally settled in Covington, Kentucky, a city just about the size of Terre Haute. Daddy always called it Cincinnati’s bedroom because it was just across the Ohio...

  4. CHRISTMAS—1926
    (pp. 127-196)

    Two days after Thanksgiving Mother got a letter from Mammy. She read it quickly and would occasionally look up at me with a smile on her face. Then she turned back to the center page and read that again.

    “What does Mammy have to say?” I asked. “Is everything all right at Riverside?”

    “Everything’s just fine.” She looked up smiling again. “Matter of fact, this letter is mostly about you. Mammy and Allie have invited you to spend Christmas at Riverside. What do you think about that?”

    I could feel the excitement rising in me. “You mean we’re going to...

  5. SUMMER—1927
    (pp. 197-234)

    We were planning a trip to Terre Haute that summer to visit the Carmichaels, just as soon as school was out. We had never been back to see them or Mrs. Patton since leaving, and I was looking forward to the trip. I would start junior high in the fall, and I wondered if I would recognize any of my old classmates from training school in Terre Haute. Mother laughed at me, saying, “My, but you already sound like an old man at the ripe age of thirteen.”

    I was finishing my last year at the First District School, and...

    (pp. 235-239)

    I went back to Riverside again on Christmas Eve. The sun was brilliant in a cloudless sky as my wife and I drove down Interstate 59 from Meridian that morning. I had seen the old homeplace only twice before in the intervening years; in 1966 when Daddy died and we buried him in the little country graveyard close-by, and again in 1968 when Cally joined him and the others—Allie, young David Wallace, Pappy, and Mammy—in the same quiet spot. Mother was the only one of her immediate family still living and had recently moved from Arkansas to Mississippi...