Southern Gothic


It’s hotter’n hell. It’s a hunnert if it’s a degree. The devil hisself wouldn’t last more’n an hour walkin’ along this ol’ dirt road afore he just sat down and quit.

But I’m walkin’ it, just like I done walked it a thousand times at least. Ever since I was a young’n. Back and forth. Hotter’n hell or colder’n a well digger’s butt. I walked it when I was 7. All by myself. It was a mile from the house down to the blacktop road where the ol’ yaller school bus’d pick me up and carry me on up to Worthen to the school there. But I didn’t take to schoolin’ none. All that there readin’ and math and such, that weren’t for me. I’m a Shumate, just like my daddy and his daddy and his daddy. We ain’t never had much use for school lernin’. But Mama … she said them people in Montgomery passed a law and ever young’n had to go to school whether they wanted to or not. Mama … she was proud. Said it was good fer me. But Daddy said it was a waste of everbody’s time. But the law said I had to walk this ol’ dirt road and take the bus into town. Cold … hot … rain … didn’t make no diff’ernce.

After I was in seventh grade they said I didn’t have to go no more. All the men went off to the war. I had to help Mama with the farm. Weren’t much I could do about it. Nothin’ much would grow in that poor ol’ Alabama red clay except Johnson grass and bitter weed. But I reckon it was enough for the five of us; me and Mama and my three little sisters. Or maybe it weren’t really enough. Seems one or the other of ‘em was always sick or feelin’ poorly. I did what I could, but Doc Everit wouldn’t come out all that way for no Shumate. I said we had a good passel of collards about then, but he just snorted and said he wad’nt comin’ out all that way for no collards.

Ain’t much harder than diggin’ in that red clay. Specialy in summer when it was like digging in brick. But I done it. Deep as that feller told me I should. The preacher said it looked real nice and nobody coulda done no better, even them fellers over in Thomasville that got paid to do it. And he preached real nice. I told him I didn’t have no money but I had some collards or some black eyed peas or a hen. And he said he didn’t need nothing. He said he done it out of Christian love. And I said I was much obliged.

And now I got to do something. I cain’t raise no three girls on just collards or a scraggly hen. The preacher told me they was hiring men over at the mill with strong backs and they didn’t care none about if they had any book lernin’ or not. I reckon Daddy ain’t coming back. They said the war was over a year ago. So I’ll just keep on walkin’ this dusty road a while longer. At least til they’s grown up enough to get married and go off on their own.




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