"Can you do the Rebel yell?" Tolbert asked Samuel.
George Raney answered, "Papa can. But he best not."
Samuel waved his son silent. He spoke of the war and began to reminisce about his first action at the Battle of Murfreesboro. The cedar trees and cotton stalks set afire by the roaring cannon ... the band playing ... the charge. Abruptly the old veteran threw back his head and started yelling, "like an opera singer hitting almost impossibly high notes, ... as if a mountain lion and a coyote were crying in chorus." As the yell trailed off into convulsive coughs, George Raney ran to the well to fetch his father a dipper of water, while Tolbert headed for his car and the tape recorder.
"With this thing we can make a record of that yell," Tolbert explained. "I'll give you a record of it, and you can play it for people who want to hear a real Rebel yell. All I've got to do is plug in this switch and then you can start yelling again."
"We haven't got no electricity," said George Raney. "We never did tie on to REA [Rural Electrification Administration]."
"We could get into the car and drive to the nearest house that has electricity," suggested Tolbert.
"Best not," answered George firmly. "Papa don't ride in cars."
"Never do," agreed the old man. "Cars shake me up too much. Bother my kidneys."
"You come back later and bring a battery for that talking machine and he'll yell for you," George recommended.
A few days later Tolbert returned to Raney's farm armed with a battery-powered tape recorder. A big red hen was resting on Raney's rocking chair in the breezeway. Tolbert knocked on the bedroom door, but there was no answer.
"Mr. Raney, Mr. Raney!" he shouted.
George Raney suddenly appeared from the field, hurdled the wire fence, recognized Tolbert, and remorsefully informed him: "Papa died."
It's hard to imagine, but at the time that was filmed the Civil War was about as far back in their past as WWII is to us today. Maybe 65 years?
« Older On Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harpe... | The Creative Personality: Ten ... Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments
Buy a Shirt