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Sporty Creek

Sporty Creek

James Still
Illustrated by Paul Brett Johnson
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Sporty Creek
    Book Description:

    With illustrations by Paul Brett Johnson

    Sporty Creekis a series of short stories set in the Kentucky hills. Narrated by a young boy (a cousin of the narrator of Still's classic novelRiver of Earth), the book tells the story of his family during the Great Depression. With work in the coal mines sporadic, they move from place to place, trying to earn a living the best they can. The story is told with gentleness and humor.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4629-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. 1 simon brawl
    (pp. 1-6)

    I ran into the fields one April morning, thinking to climb to the benchland where Uncle Jolly was breaking new ground. The sky was as blue as a bottle. A rash of green covered the sheltered fence edges, though the beech and poplar trees were still brown and bare. I began to climb, hands on knees, the way being steep. I went up through a redbud thicket swollen with unopened bloom and leaf, coming at last to where Uncle Jolly was plowing. He had already broken a half acre of furrows in the rooty earth.

    My family had moved from...

  3. 2 school butter
    (pp. 7-25)

    “If Sporty Creek ever reared a witty,”* Pap used to tell us, “your Uncle Jolly Middleton is the scamp. Always pranking and teasing. Forever traveling the road on a fool horse, hunting mischief. Heading toward middle age and not wed. Why, he would pull a trick even if it cost him his ears, and nobody on earth can stop him laughing. Laughs like a man dying with the cornbread consumption.”

    Uncle Jolly didn't actually need to work. He could pick money out of the air. He could fetch down anything he wanted by just reaching. And he would whoop and...

  4. 3 low glory
    (pp. 26-46)

    We moved to Houndshell after school closed in February. We were startled by the altered camp. Three rows of houses were unoccupied with windows shattered and doors unhinged. Seven chimneys stood stark where dwellings had burned. The mineowners were paying scant attention to buildings and tenants. Sim Brannon produced a key to an empty house, and we moved in. Nobody said “scat.”

    Hardly anybody we knew was left, none of my playfellows. Pulleys and cables at the Low Glory tipple groaned two days a week. The shelves at the commissary were only a third stacked. The gob pile* still smoked,...

  5. 4 the moving
    (pp. 47-53)

    The mines shut down. The operators pulled out the machinery and dismantled the tipple. Thieves stripped the copper wiring. The iron rails threading the tunnels to the coal face were removed, and all else which could be taken apart or pried loose. The scrap metal was salvaged: rusted piles of spikes, augers, discarded mine car wheels, tangles of cable. Low Glory was picked clean. Even the road into the Houndshell hollow vanished. A spring tide turned it into a gully.

    Families with a place to go sledded their plunder to the highway where a truck could reach it. Some went...

  6. 5 the force put
    (pp. 54-58)

    “Fetch the lamp,” Pap said. “I can’t see by the light of this blinky lantern.”

    Saul Hignight’s calf had a cob in its throat, and he had brought it to our place on Sporty in the bed of a wagon. He lifted it in his arms, letting it down onto a poke spread upon the ground. It was a heifer, three weeks old, with teat buds barely showing.

    I went after the lamp, but Mother feared to let me hold it. She put the baby in the empty wood box and gave him a spool to play with. She lit...

  7. 6 locust summer
    (pp. 59-74)

    Mother’s puny spell came at the time the seventeenyear locusts* criedPharaohupon the hills. Branches of oak and hickory and beech perished where eggs of the locusts were laid. Behind our house a mulberry tree was loaded with fruit. But Dan and I feared to swallow a grub and dared not eat them.

    “Berries are poisonous during a locust season,” Mother had warned us. She understood our hunger. Pap was doing the cooking and we fared rough. The food got better the week Sula Basham came to attend Mother, grew worse when Mother began to mend and Sula returned...

  8. 7 the dumb-bull
    (pp. 75-86)

    Aaron Proffit drove a bunch of yearlings into our yard on a cold March evening. It was the very week Cass Logan sent word to Pap he needed a sawyer. Heifers bawled, and young bullies rattled the dark with their bellows. We hurried out onto the porch to learn what was afoot. As Aaron rode up to the doorsteps, Pap hailed him, not recognizing him at first. “Hey-o?” Pap called in uncertainty and, when he recognized Aaron, shouted heartily, “Alight and show your saddle!” Aaron was a penhooker. He was a skinflint to boot. Those who had been stung by...

  9. 8 plank town
    (pp. 87-95)

    We were living at Logan’s camp when Uncle Jolly appeared on the plank road, heading toward our house. We hadn’t seen him since spring. He arrived on an idle Thursday when only the loggers were at work, and folks sat visiting or being visited on porches. The mill operated three days a week. The saws were quiet, the steam boiler sighing instead of puffing. Smoke raised from the burning sawdust mountain as straight as a pencil.

    Word had reached Uncle Jolly that Dan had lost two of his fingers and they needed transporting for burial on Sporty. The third and...

  10. 9 tight hollow
    (pp. 96-113)

    We moved from Plank Town to Tight Hollow on a day in March when the sky was as gray as a war penny and wind whistled the creek roads. Pap had got himself appointed caretaker of the tract of timber he had long told us about, his wages free rent. He had made a quick trip in, returned to say nothing was lacking. He had talked to the people on Grassy Creek who were to be our closest neighbors.

    Cass Logan took us in his truck. Pap rode in the cab with Cass, and every jolt made him chuckle. He...

  11. 10 journey to the forks
    (pp. 114-120)

    “Hit’s a far piece,” Dan said. “I’m afraid we won’t make it against dusty dark.” We squatted down in the road and rested on the edge of a clay rut. Dan set his poke on the crust of a mule’s track, and I lifted the budget off my shoulder. The cloth was damp underneath.

    “We ought never thought to be scholars,” Dan said.

    The sun-ball had turned over the ridge above Gideon Whitfield’s farm, and it was hot in the valley. Grackles walked the top rail of a fence, breathing with open beaks. They paused and looked at us, their...