As Mississippi farm boys during the Depression, they cut their teeth on reports of a grisly execution, dutifully plowed their father's fields, and outwitted the federal hookworm inspectors. Joe, two years older, was the leader, worker, and shield, while Will, sickly at first, answered a call to preach. This backcountry stroll recalls those years and the darker ones following when their roles stabilized briefly, then reversed: Joe, a pharmacist, took too much of his own medicine--amphetamines and sedatives--and Will, after a spell at Yale Divinity School, turned protector. Joe's periodic ravings and remorse alienated two wives and several employers but Will, remembering the fraternity of their childhood, could not desert. Here he scratches for the source of Joe's ordeal, a reason for it all, but nothing is forthcoming. Nevertheless the shared backdrop is involving--yearly sticker races, Will's first telephone call (age fifteen), Joe's prestigious typing lessons, a chaplain's cynical prank, Will's civil rights activities. Quiet humor, enduring concern, and the uneven outcome of two lives.