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Uncle Bud Long

Uncle Bud Long: The Birth of a Kentucky Folk Legend

Kenneth W. Clarke
Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 88
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130jptn
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  • Book Info
    Uncle Bud Long
    Book Description:

    According to the scant historical records available, Uncle Bud Long, his daughter Janey, and her son Frankie lived near Clark's Landing, Kentucky, for about twenty years early in this century. Mr. Clarke has collected the tales of the Longs' strange ways from old-time residents of the community, both those who knew the Longs and those who inherited the stories by word of mouth. Here he skillfully weaves them into a loose narrative and, in addition, analyzes the ways in which the anecdotes have been transmuted in the process of retelling.

    This analysis of the stories of Uncle Bud reveals much about the delicate process by which the oral folk tradition grows and thrives. Though at first glance these fragmentary anecdotes hardly seem to constitute a legend, Mr. Clarke convincingly argues that from such humble roots ultimately grows much of what we think of as "literature."

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6243-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION

    • Where It Began
      (pp. 3-8)

      This is a study of the genesis of a legend, one important kind of literary origin. There are other headwaters of the great stream of our literary traditions, such as myth and ritual, or the simple oral recitation of events, real or imaginary. The spoken word everywhere preceded the written word. Folklore was the literature of all people before the invention of writing, and it continues to be antecedent to much creative writing even in our contemporary highly literate culture.

      The legend-making activity considered here was quite fragile, so fragile that even this examination has altered it beyond recovery. The...

    • The Setting of the Legend
      (pp. 9-20)

      The western coalfields of Kentucky extend eastward along old ridges and escarpments largely covered by scrubby second-growth timber. They extend through Muhlenburg, Butler, and Edmonson counties until they taper off in the flatlands. Beyond the escarpments and in such unlikely looking places as front yards and barnlots one will see here and there a gas flare or an oil pump as a reminder that the coal formations are not far distant. Still further east, the pastoral beauty of the bluegrass region dominates the scene until the scarred earth of the mountainous eastern coalfields reminds the traveler of the wronged earth...

  5. HOW IT WAS

    • Uncle Bud’s Day
      (pp. 23-30)

      Bud long awoke at dawn to the sound of Janey dropping the hot skillet lid on the hearth. The small room was only half-lit by the late summer sunlight slanting through the open cabin door. Bud stirred under the tattered, grimy quilt and noticed that Frankie was also in the process of waking up under the same cover. Up on a pole near the rafters a rooster flapped his wings and crowed.

      Bud elbowed Frankie to hurry the waking process, put his feet on the ground, and pulled on his dirty, sweat-stiffened overalls. He didn’t need to put on a...

    • Janey’s Day
      (pp. 31-38)

      Janey awoke at the first call of the big rooster. He had gotten into the loft through the hole in the gable end of the cabin, and he was in a better position to notice first daylight than she was. When she sat up her straw tick made the same kind of rustling sound the rats made under the bed. Dad and Frankie were still asleep on the adjoining bunk.

      Janey completed her dressing by slipping into a heavy denim skirt and putting on a pair of clumsy man-style brogans. She had worn her blouse to bed, and she wore...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • Frankie’s Day
      (pp. 39-42)

      Frankie trotted down the Elzie Clark fencerow, slipped through a gap where a paling was broken, and cut across the cornfield to the Cardwell barn. He was early, so he didn’t show himself at the house. He set his lunch bucket on the ground and perched on the end of Mr. Veachel’s big feed trough. There was no sound except occasional stamping and snorting from the mules in the barn.

      Frankie looked down the length of the trough, made by hollowing out a big cedar log. If he had it in the river he could travel anywhere he pleased, away...

  6. WHAT IT MEANS

    • The Narratives as Folk Literature
      (pp. 45-62)

      This small cycle of Bud Long tales was recorded when the tales were not yet corrupted by literary influence of self-conscious rendition. Thus they are useful for inquiry into the process of folk selection, retention, and re-creation of entertaining narrative. We are fortunate to have here a relatively small body of material that has not had enough distribution in either time or space to attract journalistic or historical treatment and thus begin a trend of magnification or distortion.

      By way of comparison, one might examine William Hugh Jansen’s “Abraham Oregon Smith: Pioneer, Folk Hero, and Tale-Teller.”¹ In this excellent study,...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • The Legend as History
      (pp. 63-66)

      Fortunately for the studies of folklore, literature, and history, serious investigation of the oral history of the folk at the grassroots level is becoming a growing concern of professional historians. A strong indication of this may be seen in the reception of Mantell’sThe Saga of Coe Ridge: A Study in Oral History,¹ wherein the folklorist-historian has concerned himself with the grassroots history of a virtually unrecorded and undocumented community of people who were isolated, were generally unrespectable by the norms of their neighbors, and had the added disadvantage of being mostly black in a Southern setting.

      In his preface...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 67-70)

    The systematic study of folklore involves collection of its many manifestations from the folk, followed by analysis of the collectanea. As in other disciplines, accuracy of observations or conclusions has a correlation with the number of representative samples studied.

    The collection and analysis of American legends are needed to offset some of the misconceptions, both popular and academic, that have developed through misunderstandings, premature conclusions, and wishful thinking. Children’s books which relate the quaint antics of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, for instance, are much more likely to be identified as American folklore than are narratives about Bud Long...

  8. An Afterword
    (pp. 71-74)

    Changes in the landscape and community accelerate with the passage of time. During the few months that have elapsed since the first lines of this study were set down, the State of Kentucky has approved a highway project, surveyed and acquired the right-of-way, and constructed a four-lane toll road between Owensboro and Bowling Green.

    The directions for reaching Clark’s Landing are different now because a deep fill blocks Clifty Hollow Road. The traveler, then, must take a longer way around via a gravel road that runs parallel to the new turnpike. Broad twin bands of asphalt paving wind over the...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 75-76)
  10. Informants
    (pp. 77-78)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 79-79)