put up with something or somebody unpleasant
“Hiram,” he’d say, straightening up tall like a preacher, “the world’s got plenty enough hate without you adding to it. I will not
tolerate such language—or even such thinking—in my home or in my family!”
a moralistic rebuke
He’d go on with his
sermon for too long, five minutes or more, preaching about the evils of hate and reminding me how hate had hurt folks back in our old home, the Mississippi Delta.
someone who is a diligent and ardent advocate of a cause
I can’t tell you which was worse, the sermons or the soap, but I will tell you this: I hated Dad when he acted like that, like some kind of born-again
crusader out to protect everybody’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
a partiality preventing objective consideration of an issue
Dad came home from the war, took one look at how tight I was with Grampa, another look at the South he hated, and used the GI Bill to go up to Ole Miss to get a master’s degree in English so he could land a college teaching job out west, far away from Grampa, from Mississippi, from racism and
prejudice, from hate.
design or destine
“Well, sure, you’re good with your hands, Hiram, but there’s lots more that you can do. These folks, they’re doing what the good Lord
intended them to do; that don’t mean you can’t do it too, but you got more in you, boy. You’re meant to be the boss, not the worker.”
characterized by orderliness
I looked out over the field at the black men, the backs of their shirts stained with sweat, bent over their hoes chopping weeds among the cotton plants. They worked
methodically, quickly, almost like machines.
held in great esteem for admirable qualities
Our way of life is
precious. It’s the way I live, the way my daddy lived, my granddaddy, and his daddy before him. It’s going to be the way you live too, if I have anything to say about it.
the activities involved in managing a state or a government
“Now, Earl, you remember our rule: No talking
politics at the supper table.”
a feeling of annoyance at being hindered or criticized
“Fine, Florence. I’ll just hold all this
frustration and nonsense in until tomorrow morning, but don’t you go blaming me if I pop open and spray you all like a hot can of beer.”
in a state of decay, ruin, or deterioration
R.C. Rydell lived way down River Road, along the Yazoo, in a
dilapidated old house that he claimed had been in Greenwood since before the Civil War.
showing regard for others in manners, speech, behavior, etc.
“Gramma says it’s not our business what they do long as they don’t bother us. She told me I had to be neighborly and
polite and stay out of their way.”
unpredictably excitable, especially of horses
She always seemed
skittish, kind of like a cat that’s been kicked around too many times.
That old cane pole didn’t slow R.C. down at all; he seemed to snag fish at will. Every time he hooked one, he’d laugh and jerk it out of the river onto the shore where he’d let it flap and
flail on the ground.
move or stir about violently
“Hoo-boy, this one’s a little fighter!” R.C. stood out of the fish’s way as it
thrashed on the ground.
make senseless or dizzy by or as if by a blow
When it quit flipping around, he
stunned it and held it up.
pierce with a pointed object; make a hole into
He pressed the nail gently against the fish’s eye. The fish jerked when the nail touched it, but R.C. held it firm. Gradually he pressed harder and harder with the nail until it
punctured the eye and clear fluid trickled out.
draw back, as with fear or pain
He kept poking that fish until it
flinched and snapped its stingers into R.C.’s hand.
poke or thrust abruptly
He picked up the fish line nail, bent over the fish, and
jabbed the nail into its side. Blood oozed out. R.C.
jabbed it again and again until it was pockmarked with bloody holes.
express grief after the death of a loved one
I wrapped my arms around Grampa’s neck and hugged him while we cried together,
mourning the loss of a wife and grandmother and friend, wondering how we could possibly survive without her.
an expression of sympathy with another's grief
Please know that you have our most mournful
a kindly and lenient attitude toward people
Did you know that she often brought us dinner? Leftovers is what she called it but it was a feast. That woman could cook, but she was full of
charity, looked out for Ralph and me, not that we can’t look out for each other, for ourselves, of course.
having high or elevated character
Many times I’ve seen you with your grandparents.
Noble family you have here, young Harlan.
the time when something ends
I apologize for Ronnie’s unseemly outpouring of emotion, but your grandmother’s
demise has come as a real shock to him, and, of course, to me as well.
a triangular area of alluvial deposits where a river divides
I love the
Delta, but there are some things you can’t understand that keep it from being a good place for us right now.
completely neat and clean
She worked five and a half days a week—she had Sundays off and didn’t come in until Monday afternoons—kept the house
immaculate, and kept me and Grampa stuffed with delicious food.
marked by great fruitfulness
It always seemed ironic to me that once we left the Delta in
fertile Mississippi for the barren Arizona desert Mom and Dad
suddenly started producing kids at the rate of one per year for four years: Joseph was born about a year after we got to Tempe, 1949; then came Emma, Eliza, and finally Brigham in 1952.
adapt or conform oneself to new or different conditions
It took me a year to get over leaving Grampa and Greenwood, and even though I eventually
adjusted to living in Tempe, the annual invitation from Grampa to spend the summer in Greenwood would get me mad all over again.
tenaciously unwilling to yield
When I turned into a teenager, I got older and bolder, and I’d argue with Dad about it, but he was
stubborn as a stump.
a statement of what is required as part of an agreement
If Grampa really wants to see you, he’ll come out here and visit on my
terms. I will not have you spending three months in Mississippi getting a head full of your grampa’s Southern nonsense.
marked by extreme anger
He should be the one trying to get to Greenwood; he should be the one most concerned about Grampa. It made me
furious that he didn’t care at all about his own father or about what I wanted.