Tom Sawyer, Opie Taylor and Me.


The houses in my grandmother’s neighborhood were built just after the turn of the twentieth century. Some of them were made of brick, but most were wood-frame, usually painted white. They were sturdy houses, and all of them were well-kept, because to do anything less was unthinkable. They were small by the standards of today. My grandmother’s house had two bedrooms, one bathroom and a garage big enough for one car. It was shaded from the sun by the branches of oak trees. This shade, in concert with a smorgasbord of fans, served as air-conditioning, such as it was.

My grandmother lived on Elm Street, a tree-lined thoroughfare in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. When I was a boy, my brothers and my mother and I, and sometimes my father, would make the trip from our home in Houston to visit her. We travelled there every summer, often by train, from about…

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