Autobiographical tales, told with elegant simplicity, of a boyhood spent among the rocky bluffs and woods of Cherokee country. Ross (Creative Writing/Central State Univ., Edmond, Oklahoma) was born in 1929 on an Oklahoma homestead above the slopes of a mountain named not after raccoons but after the original Cherokee owners. The author's mother, proud of her respectable Arkansas upbringing (she was one of a dozen children), maintained that Oklahoma was still Indian territory and ""only pretended to be a state to please the Federal government."" His father, who quit school at 14 and worked five years in the Colombian oil fields for the money to buy the homestead from his grandfather, was a master farmer and coon hunter. (He once sold his favorite blue-tick hound for a year's income, but had to buy the dog back to keep peace in the family.) Ross himself is a master of the old American art of storytelling. His grandfather--Monroe Garrison--left home as a teenager, Ross tells us, to take up with a circuit-riding preacher. Garrison lived with the preacher and his nine children, married and started his own family in the same house, and cared for the aging preacher. A railroad line was put in 20 miles away, and by turning pigs into the woods, letting them multiply, and herding them out, Garrison and the preacher's sons made thousands, permitting Garrison to get his own home. Ross takes us coon-hunting on the mountain at night; foraging for forgotten treats--possum grapes, black haws, hackberries, persimmons; and, along with his father and his farmer Mends, working hard on the most infernal, labor-intensive machine ever made: the horse-drawn, hand-fed hay-baler. A marvelous evocation, related with Twain-like skill, of a recent past so utterly vanished as to seem ancient.