Friday, May 28, 2010

Wildcats In The Scrub

I've been reading The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. I was looking for a book to read when I saw it sitting on Lilah's bed. I examined it --saw it had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1938, so I decided to give it a try. After reading a few chapters, I could see the prize was well-deserved. It's a wonderful book, about a boy named Jody living in the wilds of Florida with his parents in a rustic cabin. The details about their way of life, and the flora and fauna of the region, are so rich and colorful it makes my belly ache.

Below is one of my favorite passages from the book. Jody is spending the night with his friend Fodder-wing, whose family, the Forresters, are a rough and rowdy sort. After Jody goes to sleep in the Forrester cabin at bedtime, the following scene unfolds, from his point of view:

He awakened with a start late in the night. Din filled the cabin. His first thought was that the Forresters were fighting again. But the shouts held a community of purpose, and Ma Forrester called encouragement. A door was banged open and several of the dogs were halloo-ed inside. A light shone in the doorway of Fodder-wing's room and the dogs and men poured in. The men were stark naked, and they looked thinner and less bulky, but they seemed as tall as the cabin. Ma Forrester held a lighted tallow candle. Her grasshopper frame was lost inside a long gray flannel nightgown. The dogs shot under the bed and out again. Jody and Fodder-wing scrambled to their feet. No one troubled to explain the commotion. The boys followed after the hunt. It led through every room and ended with a mad exit of the dogs through the torn mosquito netting that covered one window.

"They'll git him outside," Ma Forrester said, suddenly placid. "Pesky varmint."

"Ma's got the best ear for varmints," Fodder-wing said proudly.

"I guess anybody'd hear him did he come scratchin' around their bed-post," she said.

Pa Forrester hobbled into the room on his cane.

"The night's near about done," he said. "I'd ruther have a snort o' whiskey than sleep agin."

Buck said, "Pa, you got the most sense for sich a ol' buzzard."

He went to a cupboard and brought out the demi-john. The old man uncorked it and tipped it back and drank.

Lem said, "Don't take no sense to crave liquor. Give it here."

He took a deep draught and passed the jug on. He wiped his mouth and rubbed his bare stomach. He went to the wall and felt along it for his fiddle. He twanged the strings carelessly, then sat down and began to scrape a tune.

Arch said, "You ain't got that right," and brought his guitar and sat on the bench beside him.

Ma Forrester set the candle on the table.

She asked, "You naked jay-birds fixin' to set up 'till day?"

Arch and Lem were deep in their chords and no one answered her. Buck took his mouth-organ from a shelf and began a tune of his own. Arch and Lem stopped to listen, then fell in with his melody.

Pa Forrester said, "Dog take it, that's purty."

The demi-john went around again. Pack brought out his Jew's-harp and Mill-wheel his drum. Buck changed his plaintive song for a lively dance tune, and the idle music swung into full volume. Jody and Fodder-wing dropped on the floor between Lem and Arch.

Ma Forrester said, "Now you needn't think I aim to go to bed and miss nothin'."

She unbanked the fire on the hearth and threw on fatwood and moved the coffee pot close.

"You hootin' owls 'll eat breakfast soon this mornin' or I'll know why," she said. She winked at Jody. "Kill two birds with one stone. Have a frolic and git breakfast done with."

He winked back at her. He felt bold and gay and tremulous. He could not understand how his mother could disapprove of such frolicksome people.

The music was out of tune and thunderous. It sounded like all the wildcats in the scrub rounded up together, but it had a rhythm and a gusto that satisfied the ear and soul.

1 comment:

  1. I must read this!! I wish I could be there right now with Lem and Arch and the gang. "Dog take it, that's purty" is my favorite. Thanks!