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The Run for the Elbertas

The Run for the Elbertas

JAMES STILL
Foreword by Cleanth Brooks
Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 160
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vkk56
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  • Book Info
    The Run for the Elbertas
    Book Description:

    In language both spare and colorful, sure in its command of Appalachian dialect and poetic in its evocation of mountain settings, James Still's stories reveal the lives of his people -- lives of privation and struggle, lived with honesty as well as humor. With a foreword by Cleanth Brooks and an afterword by the author, The Run for the Elbertas features thirteen stories from one of America's masters of the short story. Enjoyable and enriching, Still's stories sparkle with wisdom and joy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4637-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    CLEANTH BROOKS

    This collection of James Still’s stories—The Run for the Elbertas—is doubly welcome. It makes generally available in book form pieces of highly interesting Americana and it also goes far toward insuring that an excellent contribution to our literature will not be lost to sight. WhenOn Troublesome Creek,from which several of these stories are taken, appeared in 1941 it received the acclaim of the thoughtful and sensitive reader. So had Still’s novel,River of Earth,published a year earlier. But Still’s literary virtues are solid and quiet, not flashy and sensational. Still’s work needs to be absorbed...

  4. I Love My Rooster
    (pp. 1-15)

    We lived in Houndshell mine camp the year of the coal boom, and I remember the mines worked three shifts a day. The conveyors barely ceased their rusty groaning for five months. I recollect the plenty there was, and the silver dollars rattling wherever men walked; and I recollect the goldfinches stayed that winter through, their yellow breasts turning mole-gray.

    We were eating supper on a November evening when Sim Brannon, the foreman, came to tell Father of the boom. Word came that sudden. Father talked alone with Sim in the front room, coming back to the kitchen after a...

  5. The Proud Walkers
    (pp. 16-29)

    We moved out of Houndshell mine camp in May to the homeplace Father had built on Shoal Creek, and I recollect foxgrapes were blooming and there was a spring chill in the air. Fern and Lark and I ran ahead of the wagon, frightening water thrushes, shouting back at the poky mare. We broke cowcumber branches to wave at the baby, wanting to call to him, but he did not then have a name.

    Only Mother forbore stretching eyes to see afar. She held the baby atop a shuck tick, her face pale with dread to look upon the house....

  6. Locust Summer
    (pp. 30-42)

    I recollect the June the medicine drummer and his woman came down Shoal Creek and camped three days in our mill. That was the summer of Mother’s long puny spell after the girl-baby was born; it was the time seventeen-year locusts cried “Pharaoh” upon the hills, and branches of oak and hickory perished where their waxy pins of eggs were laid. Wild fruit dried to seeds, and scarcely would birds peck them, so full their crops were with nymphs. Mulberries in the tree behind our house ripened untouched. Lark and I dared not taste, fearing to swallow a grub. Fern...

  7. Journey to the Forks
    (pp. 43-47)

    “Hit’s a far piece,” Lark said. “I’m afraid we won’t make it afore dusty dark.” We squatted down in the road and rested on the edge of a clay rut. Lark set his poke on the crust of a nag’s track, and I lifted the saddle-bags off my shoulder. The leather was damp underneath.

    “We ought ne’er thought to be scholars,” Lark said.

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

  8. On Quicksand Creek
    (pp. 48-58)

    Aaron Splicer drove a bunch of yearlings into our yard on a March evening. Heifers bawled and young bullies made raw cries. We hurried out into the cold dark of the porch. Aaron rode up to the doorsteps, and Father called to him, not knowing at first who he was. “Hello?” Father spoke, and when he knew it was Aaron, called heartily, “’Light and shake the weather.”

    Aaron opened his fleeced collar, rustling new leather. His breath curled a fog. “If this Shoal Creek mud gets any deeper,” he called, “it’ll be beyond traveling. A horse bogs to the knees.”...

  9. The Stir-Off
    (pp. 59-71)

    “Come Friday for the sorghum making,” Jimp Buckheart sent word to me by Father. “Come to the stir-off party, and take a night.”

    Father chuckled as he told, knowing I had never stayed away from home. Father said, “Hit’s time you larnt other folks’ ways. Now, Old Gid Buckheart's family lives fat as horse traders. He’s got five boys, tough as whang leather, though nary a one’s a match to Gid himself; and he’s the pappy o’ four girls who’re picture-pieces.” He teased as he whittled a molassy spoon for me. “Mind you’re not captured by one o’ Gid’s daughters....

  10. The Burning of the Waters
    (pp. 72-85)

    We moved from Tullock’s lumber camp to Tight Hollow on a day in March when the sky was as gray as a war penny and wind whistled the creek roads. Father had got himself appointed caretaker of a tract of timber at the far side of the county, his wages free rent. We were to live in the one-room bunkhouse of an abandoned stave mill.

    Father rode in the cab with Cass Tullock, and every jolt made him chuckle. He laughed at Cass’s complaint of the chugholes. He teased him for holding us up a day in the belief we...

  11. School Butter
    (pp. 86-96)

    “If Surrey Creek ever reared a witty,” Pap used to tell me, “your Uncle Jolly Middleton is the scamp. Always pranking and teasing. Forever going the roads on a fool horse, hunting mischief. Nearly thirty years old and he has yet to shake hands properly with an ax haft or a plow handle. Why, he’ll pull a trick did it cost him his ears, and nobody on earth can stop him laughing.”

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

  12. The Moving
    (pp. 97-101)

    We stood by the loaded wagon while Father nailed the windows down and spat into the keyholes to make the locks turn. We waited, restless as the harnessed mare, anxious to hasten beyond staring eyes. Hardstay mine was closed for all time and idle men had gathered to watch us leave. They hung over the fence; they crowded where last year’s dogtick stalks clutched their brown leaf-hands into fists.

    I saw the boys glance at our windowpanes, their pockets bulging with rocks. I spied into their faces and homesickness grew large inside of me. I hungered for a word, a...

  13. One Leg Gone to Judgment
    (pp. 102-105)

    It was quiet on that day, and the willows hung limp over Troublesome Creek. The waters rested about the bald stones, scarcely moving. I had walked along the sandy left bank to Jute Dawson’s homeseat, and in the soundlessness of afternoon young Clebe had not heard me enter the yard and climb the puncheon steps.

    He sat at the end of the dogtrot with a rifle-gun sighted into the kitchen, his crutch leaning against a knee. His eyes were closed to a bead. I watched without speaking until he had fired, and the sound of a bullet striking pots and...

  14. The Quare Day
    (pp. 106-110)

    There had been no rain during the whole of August. At the month’s end the winds came and blew through Little Angus valley, drying the creek to a shallow stream, and now it lay without motion like a long thin pond. Under the banks the waters were stained with shedding willow leaves. The wind had settled before the dew dried on the parched grass. Nothing stirred in the cool air pocketed in the damp hollows.

    The sun was high above the hills when the sky beyond the ridge took on a yellow cast. There were no clouds other than...

  15. The Fun Fox
    (pp. 111-120)

    The day I opened the Keg Branch School I rolled my sleeves to display my muscles, and I kept a pointing-stick handy.

    Keg Branch was in the upper part of the county—‘the jumping-off-place,’ some folk call it. The highway played out miles this side, and the creek bed served as the road. The behavior at the school was notorious; but I was eighteen, anxious to undertake my first teaching job, and the Keg Branch position was the only one open.

    The superintendent of county schools had given me ample warning. “All sorts of chicanery will be attempted,” he had...

  16. The Run for the Elbertas
    (pp. 121-141)

    As Riar Thomas approached the Snag Fork bridge, the truck lights picked up the two boys sitting on the head wall. Glancing at his watch, he saw it was nearly one o’clock. He halted, pulled the cardboard out of the broken window, and called, “I’ll open the door from the inside, it’s cranky.” The boys sat unmoving. “Let’s go,” he said, “if you’re traveling with me. A body can’t fiddle in the peach business.”

    Godey Spurlock began honing his knife on the concrete, and Mal Dowe got his out too. “Pay us before we start,” Godey said. “We hain’t going...

  17. Afterword
    (pp. 142-145)
    JAMES STILL

    After six years of schoolkeeping at the forks of Troublesome Creek in Knott County, I moved nine miles farther back in the hills to a century-old log house between the waters of Dead Mare Branch and Wolfpen, on Little Carr Creek. These streams boxed me in. I raised my own food and stored vegetables and fruits for the cold months; I kept two stands of bees for their honey, and for the ancient custom of “telling the bees.”

    In those days the post office was called Bath, named after the oldest Roman town in England, and the mail carrier travelled...