Stealing Black Jack Gum: A Family Memoir

In an echo of the A Girl Named Zippy and A Hillbilly Elegy, he tells the story of the Locke and Foster Family that hails from Butler County, Kansas.  He concentrates on the day to day life decisions and actions that make up a legacy.  He includes recordings of relatives talking about what they remember about the ‘good old days’, as well as stories from the younger family about what is to come, what is happening in the world at the time, and what the future holds.



The bees belonged to Mr and Mrs Snyder.  They didn’t really belong to them, but they were in their backyard.  The Snyder’s house sat between JD’s house and my house so we cut through the front and backyards all the time to play.  We didn’t really have fences between yards then.  Hedges were more the style.  And there were a few places that we could step between the hedge gaps.  I remember running down the gravel driveway with JD, the bees in hot pursuit.  I may have been stung once or twice, but it was nothing serious.  I’m still sure it was because of the Levi’s.


The backyard of the Snyder’s was lush with peonies.  I am still fond of peonies to this day.  I remember walking over to their backyard, they never seemed to mind, and marveling at the hundreds of buds.  Before the buds actually bloomed, they grew into a pink ball of compressed petals about the size of a ping-pong ball or a candy jawbreaker.  They had a real weight to them.  The stems of the buds gamely held themselves as close to attention as they could, like young soldiers fading in the sun while at parade rest at their military academy on parent’s day.  Black ants found these buds irresistible – my theory from then, which, of course, I still believe, is that nectar seeped out along fault lines in the compressed petals announcing the imminent glory of bloom