A genial, folksy small-town Texas tale, set in 1926, with matters like the Klan eased down to cracker-barrel size. Baxter Reid, the 14-year-old narrator, has eight siblings, a black housekeeper of the Hattie McDaniel school, and preachy, blue-ribbon parents. So, when the town (pop. 2700) starts gossiping about the mysterious pregnancy of 15-year-old Ocie Wiggins (the one bright rose in a cabbage patch of numerous vacant Wigginses), it's kind Mrs. Reid who sees that Ocie gets proper care. . . while Baxter, staring at beautiful Ocie, finds a brand new sensation, a kind of ""weakening of the spine."" But Baxter's role as Ocie's champion leads to some unsettling discoveries. She's ostracized, called nasty names and attacked by a couple of toughs (sons of prominent citizens); even worse, Ocie, an accomplished amateur naturalist, has picked up woods lore--and something else?--from reclusive Mr. Clark, manager of the estate of mean old Mrs. Ramsey. Baxter is jealous--so Mother finally tells him the story of Mr. Clark: he's the illegitimate offspring of Mrs. Ramsey's dead brother and a Mexican/Indian/Negro housekeeper. Thus, because of fear that the bullyboy local Klan would lynch Mr. Clark if he were the father of Ocie's baby, Baxter is sworn to keep his suspicions to himself. Still, he snoops the Ramsey preserves, finally meeting Mrs. Ramsey's intelligent, crippled, lonely grandson--who will figure large in the final chase-and-pursuit-action involving the Klan, rescues, and revelations. With the popular gloss of art old Saturday Evening Post yarn--a generally likable, if relentlessly simpleminded, down-home episode.