A Texas Jubilee
Thirteen Stories from the Lone Star State
Publication Year: 2013
Stories like “Rock-ola” and “Pink-Petticoat” reveal secrets and raise questions about many of the town’s more colorful characters. Will Grady Dell reunite with his lost love, Eva? Is there a connection between Edna Earle Morris’s murder and her mysterious visit from Jesus?
Other stories like “Navy, Blue, and Gold” highlight the ways that World War II is causing life to change for everyone in the town. Young Tommy Earl Dell and Fred Hallmark now spend their afternoons staring at the pictures of boys from Eastis County on the Gold Star shelf in the power company's window, dreaming of the day when they will be old enough to join the army. Townspeople now hold their breaths any time John Ed Hallmark, the town’s official messenger, drives his “Chariot of Death” up the street to deliver the news to one of his neighbors that a brother, son, or husband is not coming home from war.
Although the pace of life in this small town is slow, there is never a dull moment in A Texas Jubilee. From the first to last page, readers will be constantly entertained by the exotic and unexpected in this imaginative collection of tales. A Texas Jubilee includes a preface by Jeff Guinn.
Published by: TCU Press
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...Most readers think it’s easier to write short stories than a full-length novel, and that’s as wrong as a thought can get. Those of us who write for a living know it’s damned near impossible to craft memorable scenes and characters in such a limited number of pages, let alone do it well and often enough to have the makings of a short-story collection. The collections that do reach print almost invariably disappoint, with maybe one or two good stories and the rest of them forgettable dreck...
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...No book succeeds without many hands. I owe a great deal to Dan Williams, director of TCU Press, who encouraged me to get these stories together. To Kathy Walton, who edited these stories with intelligence, wit, and a gentle pen. To Jeff Guinn, whose introduction is more than generous. To Melinda Esco, a genius production manager. ...
One: Xmas Tree, O Xmas Tree (1928)
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...At least he hated Homer around Christmastime because Homer ordered a lot of packages parcel post that filled up the back seat of Grady’s old 490 Chevrolet. He couldn’t leave the packages at the mailbox. He had to walk what seemed like a mile up a muddy drive to put them on the porch if Homer wasn’t home. This Christmas Eve Homer not only had three packages, but, what was worse, Homer had a registered letter. That meant that Grady had to stop his car, get out, and track Homer down to sign for the letter...
Two: Mr. George's Joint (1936)
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...The only customer at three thirty on a Thursday afternoon in the spring of 1936 was Grady Dell, the rural letter carrier, who sat drinking from a bottle of Hudepohl. The sign may have said “Coloreds Onlie,” but Grady was white. “You want another bottle of beer, Mr. Grady?” “I guess so, George, if you’ve got another Hudepohl. I can just about manage just one more beer before I have to head on home.”...
Three: A Blue and Gray Christmas (1937)
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...Granny Dell married in 1880 and moved to Texas. It looked to her like everybody in Alabama had either moved to Texas or was going to. She hated to leave the only home she had ever known, but Jim, her husband, said East Texas was better cotton country than Shelby County, Alabama. So they bought a secondhand Studebaker wagon, hitched the two mules to it, and made their torturous way across Mississippi and Louisiana...
Four: "Corinna, Corinna" (1937)
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...The farther north they went, the sadder both of them looked. Grady Dell was driving and Homer Brantley was sitting scrunched up against the passenger side door holding the stump of his arm in his left hand. They hadn’t talked since they got on the old, rutted county road 2306 that led them just south of the town of Telephone in Fannin County. They were headed up from Bodark Springs in Eastis County to visit Clint Carter, who had a little run-down farm a few miles south of Telephone...
Five: The Return of Jesse James (1938)
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...Grady Dell, the rural letter carrier, was trying to balance his mail sack on the hood of his brand-new 1938 Chevrolet while he pulled the undelivered parcel post out of the passenger side. Tall, skinny Tarp Davidson, the Bodark Springs walking mailman, was hurrying toward Grady with his mailbag flopping against his side, his head jerking back and forth, and the biggest Adam’s apple in Eastis County bobbing up and down...
Six: The Pink Petticoat (1938)
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...At six thirty on a cold, blue, drizzling East Texas Monday morning, Grady Dell pulled into his parking space beside the Bodark Springs Post Office. He wanted to be early so Melvin Spruille, the postmaster, and Charlie Stone, the window clerk, would be so busy working the weekend mail that they wouldn’t have any time to notice how hung over he was. Charlie was a deacon in the Primitive Baptist Church, and Melvin preached every third Sunday at the Baptist Church over in Dodd City in Fannin County. They both hated whiskey. They also hated other people’s sin...
Seven: Confessions (1938)
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...The coldest rain of the year was pouring down on Eastis County as Mamie Dell and Edna Earle Morris sat in Mamie’s kitchen smoking Kool cigarettes and drinking Eight O’Clock coffee from the A&P store. At the same exact hour, Grady Dell was in the Busy Bee Cafe telling Tarp Davidson how he and Mamie had found Edna Earle lying in the middle of Highway 5 in a pink petticoat trying to get run over and killed...
Eight: Four Roses Whiskey (1939)
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...Grady Dell almost always stopped at the last house on his mail route, got out, went in, and visited for ten or fifteen min- utes. Today, he hurriedly put two letters and a copy of the Progressive Farmer in the mailbox and started to pull away, hoping nobody inside had seen him. Just as he got his 1938 Chevy up out of the ditch and angled into the road, he heard Henry’s voice...
Nine: It's the Law (1939)
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...It was a gray, bitter, late-December day in Bodark Springs. It was so cold that Judge McCraney sat behind his desk in the little municipal courtroom with his hat and overcoat on. The judge wasn’t holding court; the only other person in the tiny three-room municipal building was Banty Isbell, who, with his twin brother Bunk, shared the roles of city secretary/volunteer fire chief/municipal jailer. One or the other of them usually sat in the outer office waiting for a fire call...
Ten: A Glory Hallelujah Jubilee (1940)
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...In that summer before Pearl Harbor, Tommy Earl Dell was nine years old. And still he had not been saved. Peavine Deerfield, who was in Tommy’s room at the Stonewall Jackson Elementary School in Bodark Springs, Texas, had been saved ten or twelve times before he was ten. Tommy Earl had seen Peavine answer the call several times at revivals, and that got him to worrying about when he would get up his nerve to walk down the aisle when some preacher or other issued the call as they sang “Almost Persuaded.”...
Eleven: Rock-Ola (1941)
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...Mrs. Pearl Farley was talking to her husband Cleatis. It was Friday night, payday night, in Eastis County, Texas, and Mrs. Farley was frying a piece a round steak, the first meat they had had since Tuesday. Cleatis sat at the kitchen table watching her. Pearl said, over her shoulder, “Every slut and whoremonger in Eastis County is gonna be up at that-there Moon River Beach whiskey house when it opens tomorrow night.”...
Twelve: Navy Blue and Gold (1944)
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...In the spring of 1944, the courthouse square in Bodark Springs, Texas, looked almost exactly the way it had during World War I. For that matter, it wasn’t much changed from the days of the Spanish-American War fifty years before. Of course there hadn’t been any cars parked around the square in 1898, and the courthouse, being only ten years old, still looked new. But there weren’t many cars on the square now. Gas was rationed, and most people’s tires were rags in this, the third year of the war...
Thirteen: Home Front Heroes (1945)
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...Tommy Earl Dell loved World War II. So did Fred Hallmark, Hal Holley, J. T. Martin, and his tongue-tied brother Roy. Every boy in the fifth and sixth grades at the Stonewall Jackson Elementary School in Bodark Springs, Texas, loved World War II. Even Peavine Deerfield, who quit getting “saved” when Roosevelt declared war on the Imperial Japanese government the day after Pearl Harbor, gave up religion in favor of patriotism...
About the Author
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...James Ward Lee is emeritus professor and former chair of the English department at the University of North Texas. He is past president and now a fellow of the Texas Folklore Society. He is author of over a hundred articles, stories, and reviews and is author or editor of ten books. He is founding director of UNT Press and the Center for Texas Studies at UNT...
Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2013