Long Row to Hoe, A 1992
Author: Billy C. Clark
Boston University, the site of the world’s finest repository of 20th Century literature, praises Billy C. Clark as “one of the South’s most distinguished writers.” In this fascinating and highly readable book, Clark, founder and editor of Virginia Writing, writes of his own astonishingly primitive childhood in an Appalachian river town, Catlettsburg, Kentucky, at the junction of the Big Sandy and the Ohio Rivers.
Billy C. Clark was a member of a sprawling, ragged family. His father was an intelligent, fiddle-playing shoemaker with little formal education. His mother often took in washing to help provide food for the family. Billy grew up in a derelict house, “The Leaning Tower,” on the banks of the Ohio. Always hungry, often dirty, and without sufficient clothing, he led an adventurous life on the two rivers, swimming, fishing, and salvaging flotsam from the frequent floods. He set trout lines for fish and trap lines for mink and muskrats, and he walked fourteen miles before school to clear his traps. He learned laughter from his magnificent mother and wisdom from his father, who taught him that “poor folks have a long row to hoe….” Billy was the only one of his family to seek an education, and through his traps, his river salvage, and odd jobs, he earned money to put himself through school. The book ends with a powerful account of his parents’ pride at his graduation.
Time Magazine said that this book is “as authentically American as Huckleberry Finn.” It is a touching account of a boy and two rivers. It is a must for public and school libraries, or anyone interested in Appalachian history or literature.