The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Blue Ridge Bookshelf - March, 1984

By Parks Lanier, Jr. © 1984

Issue: March, 1984

PAPER BOY, by David Huddle (University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. 57 pages, $4.95.)

Eugene Gant, in Look Homeward, Angel, was a paper boy. So was Lucius Hutchfield in David Madden’s Bijou. Both worked their routes in large urban areas. Not so the “paper boy” of David Huddle’s book. His route is Wytheville, Virginia, as he says in “Delivering the Times, 1952-1955,”

80 papers was all there was, in the whole town, a 4-mile walk before school and 3 dogs I had to watch for.

Along the paper route, we meet characters as compelling as any we would meet on a journey of a thousand miles. Some of them would have made headlines in any city newspaper; others would never make even the back page. Sherwood Anderson, that novelist and newspaper man from Ohio who spent his last years just south of Wytheville would have understood, and liked this book.

Here are the headline makers - the murder of J.C. Lawson, the paper boy’s great-grandfather; sinkholes falling in peoples front yards from indiscriminate mining; twin brothers drown; Frank Sawyers burned in a freak fire; the murder of Billy Mabe; and local pilot buzzes Wytheville. But none of these are seen with the journalist’s dispassionate eyes, but with the eyes of the paper boy who knew these people, lived with them or was kin to them. David Huddle takes us behind the headlines, to the things that really matter.

I found my copy of PAPER BOY at the new Blue Ridge Books on West Main Street in downtown Wytheville. They take pride in displaying the work of local and regional writers. It’s nice to know that David Huddle could come here from Vermont, where he lives now, and maybe make the front page of his hometown newspaper and find his book for sale on Main Street.