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Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell (Excerpt)

Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell (Excerpt)

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Published by OpenRoadMedia
Even before the Great Depression struck, Jeeter Lester and his family were desperately poor sharecroppers. But when hard times begin to affect the families that once helped support them, the Lesters slip completely into the abyss.
Even before the Great Depression struck, Jeeter Lester and his family were desperately poor sharecroppers. But when hard times begin to affect the families that once helped support them, the Lesters slip completely into the abyss.

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Published by: OpenRoadMedia on Feb 09, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/17/2013

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TOBACCO ROAD
By Erskine Caldwell
LOV BENSEY TRUDGED homeward through the deep white sand of the gully-washed tobacco road with a sack of winter turnips on his back. Hehad put himself to a lot of trouble to get the turnips; it was a long andtiresome walk all the way to Fuller and back again.The day before, Lov had heard that a man over there was sellingwinter turnips for fifty cents a bushel, so he had started out with half a dollar early that morning to buy some. He had already walked seven and a half miles, and it was a mile and a half yet back to his house at the coal chute.Four or five of the Lesters were standing in the yard looking at Lovwhen he put his sack down and stopped in front of the house. They had beenwatching Lov ever since he was first seen an hour before on the sand hillnearly two miles away, and now that he was actually within reach, they were prepared to stop him from carrying the turnips any farther.Lov had his wife to feed and provide for, in addition to himself, andhe was careful not to allow any of the Lesters to come too close to the sack of turnips. Usually when he came by the Lester place with turnips or sweet potatoes, or for that matter with any kind of food, he left the road half a milefrom the house and made a wide circle through the fields, returning to theroad a safe distance beyond. Today, though, he had to speak to Jeeter aboutsomething of great importance, and he had ventured closer to the house thanhe had ever done before when carrying home turnips or sweet potatoes.
 
Lov’s wife was Jeeter Lester’s youngest daughter, Pearl. She was onlytwelve years old the summer before when he had married her.The Lesters watched Lov closely while he stood in the middle of theroad. He had dropped the sack from his shoulder, but he held the
 
neck of itin the rigid grasp of both hands. No one in the yard had changed his positionduring the past ten minutes. The next move was left entirely up to Lov.When Lov came to the house and stopped, he had a good reason for doing so; otherwise he would never have come within hailing distance. Hewanted to speak to Jeeter about Pearl.Pearl would not talk. She would not say a word, no matter how persuasive Lov tried to be, nor how angry he was; she even hid from Lovwhen he came home from the coal chute, and when he found her, she slippedaway from his grasp and ran off into the broom-sedge out of sight.Sometimes she would even stay in the broom-sedge all night, remaining outthere until Lov went to work the next morning.Pearl had never talked, for that matter. Not because she could not, butsimply because she did not want to. When she was at home, before Lov hadmarried her, she had stayed apart from the other Lesters and rarely openedher mouth from the beginning of one day to the next. Only her mother, Ada,had been able to converse with her, and even then Pearl had never used morethan the barest of negatives and affirmatives in reply. But Ada was herself like that. She had begun to talk voluntarily only during the past ten years.Before then, Jeeter had had the same trouble with her that Lov was nowhaving with Pearl.

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