Taylor (Wheels Up, 2014) offers tales of his Southern youth that ramble easily from one high-risk adventure to another.
Describing his early years in South Carolina as a form of parental “benign neglect” and noting that his mother was a “powerful influence” worthy of her own book, Taylor uses his prologue and epilogue to focus mainly on the strong influence of his father (“the finest man I ever knew”). The author makes clear in these sections he was deeply affected by the childhood freedom his father granted him—and much of the rest of the book goes on to show that he’s very lucky to have survived that freedom. He received his first gun (and “stern ownership instructions” from his father) when he was quite young, and the book also features knives, firecrackers, and even dynamite. Some stories even contain potentially jail-worthy events (which apparently inspired the title, based on an acquaintance’s comment). Although Taylor was “absent more than I was present for several years” of school, he goes on to tell of how he eventually got a degree from The Citadel and had a successful career as an international airline pilot. Overall, the book has a loosely woven structure, which is effectively highlighted in a relatively benign chapter that introduces a man named Old Jim, with a “face black as a cast-iron skillet [that] radiated a pleasant, mischievous look,” who manages a neighboring farm. After relating a tale of an impromptu horse race with Jim when the author was 13, Taylor segues into a comparison between Jim and a hired man named James and discusses the latter’s indebtedness to a loan shark. Taylor tells how his father stepped in to put an end to the outlandish usury, and then the story leads back to Jim, a mishap with a slingshot, and an almost tragic story of a horse getting stuck in the mud near a creek. Occasional black-and-white family photos offer even more nostalgia.
An anecdotal memoir that could possibly appeal to a new generation of free-range parents.