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Miss America Kissed Caleb

Miss America Kissed Caleb: Stories

Billy C. Clark
Series: Kentucky Voices
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 184
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130j6jr
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  • Book Info
    Miss America Kissed Caleb
    Book Description:

    The mountain is a lonely place. Welcome to Sourwood, a small Kentucky town inhabited by men and women unique and yet eerily familiar. Among its joyful and tragic citizens we meet the crafty, spirited Caleb and his curious younger brother; Pearl, a suspected witch, and her sheltered daughter, Thanie; superstitious Eli; and the doomed orphan Girty. In Sourwood, the mountain is both a keeper of secrets and an imposing, isolating presence, shaping the lives of all who live in its shadow.

    Strong in both the voice and sensibilities of Appalachia, the stories inMiss America Kissed Calebare at turns heartbreaking and hilarious. In the title story, young Caleb turns over his hard-earned dime to the war effort when he receives a coaxing kiss from Miss America, who sweeps into Sourwood by train, "pretty as a night moth." Caleb and his brother share in the thrills and uncertainties of growing up, making an accidental visit to a brothel in "Fourth of July" and taming a "high society" pooch in "The Jimson Dog." These stories invoke a place and a time that have long passed -- a way of living nearly extinct -- yet the beauty of the language and the truth revealed in the characters' everyday lives continue to resonate with modern readers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5818-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Miss America Kissed Caleb (pp. 1-8)

    It was July 1942 and my older brother, Caleb, and I had been on the mountain since daylight picking blackberries that Ma wanted for cobblers, jams, and jellies. We had picked her a bucket before high noon and another gallon of our own to sell off in Sourwood for a dime, which would buy us two nickel ice-cream cones. Then we would drop off at the edge of town to swim in the Sourwood River, cheating the heat and washing away the chiggers we had gathered picking berries on the mountain.

    That was our plan, at least. It had been...

  4. The Ring (pp. 9-38)

    Caleb said that when it came to Thanie Miller you could be sure of three things for sure: that she had to be the ugliest woman ever born on Sourwood Mountain; that she was a witch-in-the-making because her ma, Pearl, was a witch and these powers were always handed down and ran in families; and that Thanie had never been with a man and was never apt to be, because of her looks and because Pearl never allowed her to be off out of sight.

    On the first, I thought that Caleb was right, mostly. Especially in the beginning before...

  5. Fourth of July (pp. 39-46)

    It was to be my best July fourth celebration in Sourwood ever, especially when it came to the two main events: the “greasy pole” and the “greasy pig.” I had laid plans to win them both this year, even coming out ahead of Caleb. But I kept a secret about that.

    The truth was, I had started early. To be ready for the greasy pole I had made more trips into Sourwood than you could count, circling the pole like a sorghum mule, sizing it up and, whenever the main road was clear of people, shinnying up it for as...

  6. A Pair of Shoes (pp. 47-66)

    I had gone into Kelsey Stumbo’s hardware store in Sourwood for two reasons. One, I wanted to figure the cost of line and hooks needed to run a trotline from the mouth of the Sourwood River to just this side of the tip of the West Virginia point. With work scarce around Sourwood, and blackberries that I picked now in the hot July sun fetching no more than ten cents a gallon, I needed a job in the worst way, which made for my second reason. Caleb had heard that Kelsey was looking for a boy to tar the roof...

  7. The Jimson Dog (pp. 67-94)

    On Saturday the stern-wheelerMattie Wrenblew for a landing at Sourwood, and the whistle settled across the town like a river fog, bringing life to the rumor that had hovered over the town for days: Homer Spurlock, who owned the Sourwood Bank, had bought his wife, Generva, who owned the society in Sourwood, a big highbrowed dog the likes of which the town had never seen. A dog too societied to be ciphered by commons, like ones owned by uppities in Cincinnati, Louisville, and as far away as Boston; a showing-offsort that was heard-say to cost as much as...

  8. On Joe Carter’s Mule (pp. 95-106)

    It all started with Mose Alley. I mean the way it happened with Joe Carter’s mule. Not for what Mose could remember, but for what he couldn’t. The way it ought to be for the making of a good rumor: enough room left on the end for add-ons.

    Mose held two titles in Sourwood: he was the town drunk, but also the finest butcher ever to work on the mountain. From slaughtering to special cuts. Slaughtering being, according to Caleb, the reason Mose had turned and stayed to drink. Caleb said all butchers generally ended up this way because of...

  9. The Cornstalk Fiddle (pp. 107-124)

    When Nathan’s grandmother died, his father coaxed his grandfather into moving into the hewed-log cabin behind their farmhouse. It stood close enough to be seen but far enough for voices not to be overheard. And that was important. For the old man was furiously independent. Especially now when his life had become too lonely and the winters had grown too long. He needed to be watched without knowing it.

    They helped move him in early spring, and he chose to bring his small yellow Jersey cow and mule, Sam—a cow that his hands were too arthritic to milk and...

  10. Girty (pp. 125-132)

    Growing up, we called her Girty. For those of us who still remember, we still do. It didn’t seem important back then that she had a last name. It still doesn’t, although I have since learned that her last name was Barton.

    Girty lived in a world of hearsay, especially among boys. The older around Sourwood were never willing to talk about her other than to say she was a child-woman, having the body of a woman but the mind of the child. She was a warning and a brag. A warning for young girls not to be like; a...

  11. To Plant a Windsong (pp. 133-158)

    Hattie Milton was said to be a witch among the boys on Sourwood Mountain. For as long as could be remembered, she had been the age-set for growing up and the high mark for making brags. Growing up was gauged by the degree of belief in her witchery, and brags by the distance she could cast a spell and your bravery in being the closest in range.

    Among the youngest she was a witch, pure and simple. They believed everything. In older boys, shadows of doubt crept in regarding some of her powers, and on these doubts small brags had...

  12. Love and a Can of Worms (An Appalachian Love Story) (pp. 159-166)

    On his way down the path to the cowshed Eli thought of how it had been that he had carried her books to school. He had been walking the mountain path to school with his older brother, Aaron, when Aaron had spotted Gunus and some of his friends up ahead and had hurried to catch up with them, leaving Eli to walk alone. Eli didn’t mind. In fact he wanted to be alone. Without having to listen to Aaron, he could ponder how he was dreading these last days of school. He could meander alone and look toward the river...

  13. Reliefing It (pp. 167-174)

    You take Deck Billips. Great big thing weighing over two hundred pounds, strong as a timber mule, hairy as a Hampshire hog, and ain’t turned twenty-five yet. Worked on and off in the mines around Harlan, Hazard, Pike, and Elkhorn until one of them government people sidled up to him telling him how bad off he was but didn’t have to be with what all he was entitled to, and the next thing you know he gives up working coal and moves into Sourwood where he’s closer to the handouts. You think he’ll associate with me? I mean, my watching...