By Parks Lanier, Jr. © 1984
Issue: October, 1984
The Brindle Mule: Stories and Poems of the Brushy Mountains by Robert Rosborough Leeper. 130 pages. Cloth $11.95; paper $7.95. Appalachian Consortium Press, University Hall ASU, Boone, N.C. 28608.
This collection of eight stories and thirty-two poems captures the essence of mountain days gone by. It is the work of a man, now retired as an editor of professional educational publications, who loves the mountains, the countryside, and the people of his native region. These works are as pungent as honey on the tongue (see "Sarah") and as unforgettable.
Leeper says of his mountain upbringing, "Afoot or on horseback, in good weather or bad, I roamed the fields, the roads, the footpaths, the woods of the area, talking with farming people, storekeepers, lumbermen, mill hands. In the homes, by the fireside, in the fields, at husking bees, in the schools, in churches, at picnics, or hunts we listened to stories and songs. This may explain the folk element in my stories. The rushing cadences of the folk songs, the imagery of the ballads, the tone and color of folk music are found in the poems in this volume."
My favorite poems are his sonnets about "Grandmother Eunice" who knew "with golden flowers and cotton dress/ A monarch's court, without its emptiness." Like her, the simplicity and sincerity of Leeper's book are its chief ornament.
Let me say, too, a word of commendation to Appalachian Consortium Press and its executive director, Barry Buxton. They have taken the lead in regional publishing, and everything they do is excellent, finely crafted, and highly professional. From them you can also order The Mountains Have Come Closer, poems by Jim Wayne Miller, Minstrel Of The Appalachians: The Story Of Bascom Lamar Lunsford, by Loyal Jones, as well as many volumes of mountain history and culture. Their catalog is a feast.
This column invites presses of all sizes in the Appalachian region to submit work for review. Our goal is to examine work of as wide a range as possible. Please include prices and ordering information. Copies submitted cannot be returned. Mail to Dr. Parks Lanier, Box 5917 RU Station, Radford, Va. 24142- 5917.