Favorite

From “The Prince of Frogtown,” by Rick Bragg 

Here, Bragg describes the town of Jacksonville, Ala.

0416coverbraggexcerpt.gif

The East Side was the fashionable part of town, but the West Side bent its back to the place, powered it, made it run. The East Side wore a lace of dogwoods, azaleas and wild plums. Here were the college professors, the merchants and professionals, the landlords and the necktie men, prominent First Baptists and Episcopalians. The nice streets were paved with asphalt and clean, white gravel. “The East Side people dranked about as much as we did,” said Carlos, “but did keep it better hid.” Also to the east, but a discreet distance away, was Eastwood, which most people called Needmore. It was a black community of small, well-tended houses. On weekends, world-class baseball players, held here by color, played in epic games as concessionaires fried fish in big, smoking pots and served it on white bread with a single daub of catsup in the middle, like a bullet wound.

To the north was the college, a beautiful landscape of brick buildings, tree-shaded and immaculate, a teachers' school that grew into something more, and a small college football powerhouse. The mascot was a fighting gamecock, and when the marching band played Dixie, the East Siders and West Siders rose together, and roared. To the south was commerce, what people even now just call the Highway. You could see two drive-in movies in a five-mile stretch, visit a bootlegger who hid in plain sight, eat the best foot-long hotdog in the known universe and buy a pistol with no questions asked, and still not be more than seven miles out of town.

In the middle of it all was the square — not really a square at all but a circle. Off to one side squatted City Hall, not an antebellum showpiece, but a yellow fortress pieced from natural rock. For my people, it was just “the jail,” and we knew it the way some people know their church or a Mason's Lodge. It was an old-time jail with iron bars and iron bunks and white beans seven days a week, but the worst thing about being locked inside was the constant sound of motion outside its iron doors, as the bored young people circled, circled in their cars.

It was there, in that orbit of Hudsons, Packards and Chevrolets, that my father fell in love, betrayed a buddy, and third-wheeled his way into my mother's heart.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Arkansas Times Staff

Readers also liked…

  • The ballad of Fred and Yoko

    How one of the world's foremost Beatles collectors died homeless on the streets of Little Rock.
    • Mar 31, 2016
  • Big ideas for Arkansas 2015

    Readers and experts suggest ways to change Arkansas for the better.
    • Dec 17, 2015
  • 2016 Best of Arkansas editors' picks

    A few of our favorite things.
    • Jul 28, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Cover Stories

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation