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[A] quirky memoir, without the sentimentality and insistence that drives so many personal accounts. Holt Watson has a deeply moving story to tell, with fully realized characters set loose in a specific world and time. And she has a distinctly humorous voice. I'm partial to any writer who can come up with a walleyed laundress and a prize bull named Big Business, in a place called Heaven's Little Footstool. This is a wonderful book.-Bobbie Ann Mason
Jo Anna "Pee-Wee" Holt Watson's voice is so vivid that the reader is transported to a vanished rural culture: mid-20th century Kentucky. This memoir documents one summer, her seventh, at Grassy Springs Farm in the Bluegrass region of Woodford County. At the center of the book is a poetic and telling bond, an adoring friendship between this small white girl and a black foreman, Joe Collins. There's a tempestuous country-physician father, a beautiful, powerful mother in powerless times and the "wonderfully long-winded" Aunt Sudie Louisa. We witness the travail of hired laborers as well as the beauties of craft and devotion in Holt Watson's sharp rendering of traditional tobacco culture.
Here is a world of shadowy lanes, granddaddy's ice-cold artesian well, tobacco stripping rooms, a girl's pony barn, Ginnie Rae's Beauty Shoppe on Main Street and Ocean Frog's Grocery. Brimming with unsentimental innocence, she draws a tough-minded, tomboy--accomplished portrait of girlhood. In the rural tradition, Holt Watson is a conjuror of tales both hilarious and moving, mixed with temper and spirit.
Jo Anna "Pee-Wee" Holt-Watson is a fourth-generation Kentuckian and self-proclaimed Yellow Dog Democrat. She is an amateur photographer, gardener, avid sports-person, former horse trials judge, and creator of Plumbline, a series of televised panel discussions regarding critical political and social issues. She currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky.
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Jo Anna "Pee-Wee" Holt-Watson is a fourth-generation Kentuckian and self proclaimed Yellow Dog Democrat. She is an amateur photographer, gardener, avid sportsperson, former horse trials judge, and creator of Plumbline, a series of televised panel discussions regarding critical political and social issues. She lives in Louisville, and in Mountain Lake, Florida, with her Airedale, Harrie Holt, and Welsh Terrier, Maggie Tarbell.From Publishers Weekly:
Despite some uneven writing and wandering storytelling, this memoir is frequently touching and laugh-out-loud funny. The titular "sweet apple" refers to chewing tobacco, which a six-year-old Watson yearned for when she was a hell-raising tomboy on her father's Kentucky tobacco farm in the summer of 1942. She adored farm manager Joe Collins, who taught her how to test the soil by eating it, plant seedlings from a tobacco setter, chew tobacco and spit. He rescued her when she was stranded in a tree house and put out the fire when, in a rage, she shoved matches between her buck teeth and lit them. Watson inherited her temper from her father and grandfather, who were both prone to intermittent rages. Although Watson's parents loved her and each other, "we just never knew when things might come to a boil," and when life at home got dangerous, it was Joe Collins and Eva Belle, the cook, to whom Watson ran. The strongest aftertaste from this rhapsody about life on a Woodford County tobacco farm, with its horses, blooming crabapple tree, timeless summer and ubiquitous cigars, cigarettes and chewing tobacco, is of the heartfelt, old-fashioned loyalty of the hired help, and Watson's gratitude to them for holding things together when her family threatened to fall apart.
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