Plowshare in Heaven
Throughout these stories the Kentucky hill country is a persuasive evocative background. It is in this land of sharp contrasts and powerful traditions, between barren, razorbacked hills of rock and yellow clay and lush green valleys, that a proud people act out the daily drama of their lives, here recorded by Stuart's sensitive pen. In a delightful mixture of irony and warm humor, Jesse Stuart presents the broad panorama of the mountain people and their individual way of life. In these stories the reader will meet Zeke Hammertight, patriarch of a clan as numerous and pesky as the sassafrass sprouts in the corn rows...Uglybird Skinner, a clown with a face so mean that no one could think well of the man behind it. Folks said on his back-country farm he beat his wife and made her work in the fields. Then one summer his wife died, and Uglybird proved the depths of his devotion to her. There is Old Bird-Neck, who heard Death sneaking up behind him. He sold his body to a medical school to get the two last quarts of moonshine for a hearty send-off to the Beyond, and managed to defraud the doctors in the bargain. An amusing vignette is Sylvania-the biggest moonshiner (650 pounds) in the mountains. Sylvania's funeral brings out a large number of devoted friends and thirsty mourners. There is Brother Thomas Bowles, member of the Old Faith, which frowns on dresses above the ankles, sleeves above the wrists, cards, liquour, dancing-you name it, if it's fun they're "agin it." Brother Thomas's moment of revelation comes with his new TV set! Phoeby, the dead mountain wife in this volume's title story, longed to set her heavenly plowshare in Kentucky soil. Like her, Jesse Stuart hoped to spend his eternity on Kentucky earth. For him, Heaven was, in the words of the oldtime preacher, a "Kentucky of a place."