Possum Trot, book report part one

A few years back, I decided to stop walking around with the GET ME OUTTA HERE mentality long enough to thoroughly get to know ‘here’ for the first time in my life. I started tracing my genealogy to figure out how I ended up ‘here’ in the first place. And to come to know more about the places and people of the past, I started studying up on Alabama history in general.

I wrote down the names of every county. Then, I did a search for each town, ghost town (former town), and unincorporated community in each county.  I drew a  giant Alabama-shaped figure just like Mrs. McCleod had us do in 4th grade when we were studying Alabama History in the official way (with an Alabama History textbook). Squiggly lines and all, I marked out the counties. Then I searched each one and each town or community for significant people or happenings relating to the places.

I found sitings and landmarks of lynchings, inventions/inventors, Civil Rights marches, firsts and onlys, lots of hometowns of famous athletes, a few authors and artists…that sort of thing. While searching authors, specifically, I found out about a man named Herman Clarence Nixon, an American political scientist and Southern Agrarian born in 1886, and died in 1967–and evidently, he hailed from (and wrote several books about) a used-to-be community which is now just a curvy little cut-off road to the highway, just a half minute from the road I grew up on.

Growing up, I heard my great-grandmother and grandparents, great uncles and aunts, and other family members who mostly all lived on or around the road I grew up on tell stories about way back when. Great stories they were, but I don’t recall, too much, ever knowing much about anything ever happening there, where we lived. Sure, in ‘town’, there were loads of things (the mill village Rick Bragg wrote about). When I realized there were books out there, floating around about a slot on a timeline even my grandparents wouldn’t have remembered, I had to see what was between the covers of those books!

It took me over a year to find a copy of the out-of-print Possum Trot Rural Community, South (1941). I had to fork over $50 for it, too. But I’ve never in my life so eagerly watched the mailbox. 😉

The book itself is in pretty good condition as far as readability goes.

There’s even pictures and illustrations.

Best of all, it was a former library book, which I LOVE to collect. The library cards (there’s two still in the back pocket envelope thingy) are dated 1952 and a more recent 1975.

The book is about 300 pages, but it’s packed full of names of local families and stories about the people and places as well as details on all of the little communities (most of them still by the same names as back then).

Some funny bits I’ve read, just while flipping through…

  • The story was that John Maxwell and a neighbor, Wash Smith unexpectedly one night, were each going home with a basket of cotton stolen from the other.
  •  There was Bill Martin, community character, who had been for a time an inmate at the state hospital for the insane, but who had mighty good sense, drunk or sober, though he was rather distinctly wild when drinking. When he was being taken or accompanied to the ‘asylum’, he came in contact on the train with another man who was going to the same place. Bill was worrying the other man, asking him for a quarter. The other man’s custodian said peremptorily to Bill, “Let that man alone. He’s crazy.” Bill responded, “You fool, you. I’m crazy too.”
  • I call names and tell of people, of persons I have known in Possum Trot and in the South. It takes people to make history, to make the South, or to make a Possum Trot. Even those activities which great thinkers call ‘social forces’ function only through the agency of human beings. Many errors have been made in the interpretations of the South, because those interpretations were abstract generalizations, not at all applicable to human particulars. Such erroneous interpretations have been made equally by Southerners and by outsiders, who knew ‘so much that ain’t so’. I seek to find the truth in people. I have known persons through many years of living in my native hamlet and in other parts of my native state. In addition, I have had occasion to know many persons through residence and work over months or years in eight other southern states. I have taken years to discover the south.

Honestly, I’m so tickled to have this book, I can’t even rush to finish it. There’s so much to learn! I’m finding out answers to questions I always quietly pondered but never held a hope that there’d be such epic tales behind them. I’m going to update periodically, as long as I can keep up the steam for blogging.

Until Next Time. 😉

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