Roy Edwin Thomas,
Come Go With Me:
Old-Timer Stories
from the Southern Mountains

(Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1994)

I'm really not sure why this book is targeted at young children because it's a wonderful book that virtually anyone can enjoy -- and only adult readers are likely to truly appreciate the treasury of old-time memories collected here. This book really is living history, reflecting the memories and traditions of a generation no longer with us, taking us back to olden days when life was simpler and the world seemingly a much better place. Southerners in particular will identify with these stories and gain much clearer insight into the lives of their grandparents and great-grandparents.

Arkansas folklorist Roy Edwin Thomas interviewed countless elderly men and women over the course of a quarter century, recording precious stories and memories that would otherwise be lost to us. These subjects were just regular folks who grew up in isolated communities around the Appalachian, Ozark and Ouachita mountains, many of them past their 80th, 90th and even 100th birthdays at the time. Most of the interviews that went into this particular book were conducted in the early 1970s, thereby preserving the words and wisdom of a generation now passed from this earth.

The 94 tales you'll find in this book vary a great deal in terms of their subject matter, but they all help paint a vivid picture of rural life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, with some of the stories taking us all the way back to the time of the War Between the States. Don't expect to be entertained each and every time, though, as some of these stories are factual, in the sense they describe how meat was stored, how lye soap was made, how education was oftentimes a luxury, etc. A strong sense of community, with neighbors helping neighbors, comes through particularly clearly -- but even more obvious is the depth of feeling these individuals felt for those days gone by.

Many of the stories will make you laugh -- there's no doubt of that. As poor and rural as these bygone families were a century or more ago, folks still knew how to have a good time. Basically, these are the kinds of stories you wish you could go back and ask your departed grandparents to tell you. Thank goodness that someone like Roy Edwin Thomas came along and preserved so many of these memories before they were forever lost to us.

by Daniel Jolley
21 October 2006

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