DUKES by Robert Newton Peck


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Though presented as fiction for ""both young and old,"" this tiny tale of turn-of-the-century Florida is very much in the manner of Peck's folksy-Americana juveniles. The narrator is twelve-ish orphan Lucky, adopted as an abandoned girl-babe by old alcoholic Nose McColgan (""my geezer"") and his deaf-mute black boxer, ""Big Baptist."" Together, then, this odd, loving threesome travels by wagon from town to town--drumming up a crowd with music (Lucky on harmonica), then charging $1 a head for the locals to watch Big Baptist take on all comers. But Lucky knows that gentle, aging Baptist really hates to fight; on the other hand she dreams of saving enough money ""to purchase our dirt, for a home place."" And then, in the town of Caloosa, after a profitable two-night stint (made unusual by an impromptu lady mud-wrestle and a near-knockdown for Baptist), Lucky gets her home place--but only after tragedy: nasty doings by some local extortionists lead to a violent end for brave Baptist. Despite the overbearing sentimentality, the phony-happy endings, and Lucky's cutesy-dialect narration: a distinctive anecdote with flickers of grit and charm.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1984
Publisher: Pineapple Press