'YOU LIVE AND LEARN. THEN YOU DIE AND FORGET IT ALL.' by William Ferris

'YOU LIVE AND LEARN. THEN YOU DIE AND FORGET IT ALL.'

Ray Lum's Tales of Horses, Mules and Men
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Unique stories of travels about the rural South, livestock trading, and persons famous and obscure. Ferris (Anthropology/Univ. of Mississippi; Blues From the Delta, 1977) was a child when he met Lum at the Vicksburg, Mississippi, livestock auctions where Lum, while trading mules, spun out his countless stories. In 1970, Ferris began recording Lum, then 79, and the text here is almost entirely in Lum's voice. Lum's childhood was full of animals, such as his family's razorback hogs that were left to forage among neighborhood trash cans. Dogs chased these fleet pigs in vain: ``When they get to running they go so fast they just float.'' Starting in 1922, Lum traded livestock throughout Texas and met many famous people of the day. Al Smith, running for President, was popular among Texans with his saying, ``I'm for more whiskey and bigger bottles.'' In Dallas, Lum met the outlaw Frank James, brother of the slain Jesse. Frank had been acquitted at trial and was now offering himself on exhibit in a shoe store. In Lum's travels, persons rarely seen in the American literary landscape emerge: stout German farmers in Texas with mules they kept ``fat as town dogs''; solitary and silent West Texas ranchers that Lum considered shrewd judges of character; Lum's own black traveling companion, Squire Harris--an expert rider who displayed Lum's stock, making rough horses ``turn on a dime and then have a nickel to spend.'' Lum reveals some of Harris's secrets: How do you tell if a horse is blind? ``Clap your hands and if he throws up one ear he's blind on that side. If he's blind in one eye, he'll try to see out of that ear.'' A singular voice, detailing rare and fascinating views of the early 20th-century South.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 1992
ISBN: 0-385-41926-0
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Anchor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1992