Author: Ralph Semmes Jackson
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Category: Biography & Autobiography
Once again, through a boy's eyes, Ralph Jackson sees a winter sky darkened with geese and ducks, a kitchen stove glowing with cheerful warmth, Aunt May strolling in her flower garden, moonlight filtering through treetops to cast patches of white light on a sandy woodland road. Again he catches odors once so familiar: of a mysterious attic, of burning salt grass in late summer, of mountain streams with their fresh green smell, of dark-roast coffee and of slab bacon sizzling in the pan. He hears again a panther's scream from the darkness surrounding a campfire, the scampering of mice across the barnloft floor, the sigh of a felled pine tree changing to a crashing roar as it meets the ground, the sounds of a meal in preparation, the hum of a mosquito swarm rising from the marshes. He remembers the taste of barbecued goat, the sweet sharpness of peppermint candy, the flavor of gumdrops from the country store—where, as showcase neighbors of cigars and chewing tobacco, they acquired a faint tobacco taste. And he feels again the welcome shock of frigid spring water on a hot perspiring body, the pleasant sensation of sand between his toes, the breathtaking exhilaration of swinging on a sapling top. The joy of childhood on an East Texas ranch is the subject of this book: exciting events like the arrival of the first norther of the season, swimming with alligators, hogkilling, building tree houses, roundup, hunting and fishing, calf-riding, fording strange streams. Interspersed among these episodes are others of darker mood: a smallpox epidemic, the burning of the ranch house, wolves attacking the cattle. Jackson's characters come alive. Scenes are vivid; moods are various and enveloping. The author has told the delightful story of his boyhood from a highly personal yet universal perspective, and in doing so he has presented a picture of a region of the state previously largely neglected in Texas literature.