I want you to get to know some of the characters of my novel That Summer. For the next few Mondays I’ll interview one of the characters and you can leave comments if you want. I think this might help you when you read my novel to know how these characters feel as they move through the story.
Today I’m interviewing John Lee Callaway who is the father of the Callaway family of his wife and five children. It's 1928, they live on a farm in the Southern Appalachians of East Tennessee, and are poor.
JO: Hello, John Lee. Thank you for talking with me today.
JOHN LEE: Glad to be here.
JO: We’d like to get to know a little about you. Can you share with us something good in your life?
JOHN LEE: Well, uh, there’s not much good about my life right now. Me and my family are havin’ a hard time with the farm—the crops didn’t make like they ought to. And I can see fear in the children’s eyes whenever I come around. My life’s pretty messed up right now.
JO: Go on, John Lee. I’m here to listen and maybe help you see things better.
JOHN LEE: I don’t know anything else to tell you about.
JO: John Lee, do you know why your children have fear in their eyes when they see you?
JOHN LEE: I guess it’s because I’ve been pretty mean to the boys and seein’ how I treat them, it makes the girls even afraid of me now. But, you know, I don’t want them afraid of me. I love my children and Elizabeth, my wife. But somethin’ inside of me has a hold on me and I can’t do no better.
JO: What do you think has a hold on you?
JOHN LEE: I don’t really know but I can feel it deep inside of me. Whatever it is makes me be mean to the family. I act like a mean man most of the time. I wish I could shake the feelin’ down inside of me and maybe everythin’ would be good again.
JO: Can you put a name on that feeling inside you?
JOHN LEE: My brother says it’s the devil. My brother says the devil can twist people every which way until they do things they don’t mean to do. My brother says the devil is workin’ on me with some awful sin I keep hidden inside me.
JO: Do you think you have some hidden sin in your life?
JOHN LEE: What do you think? I reckon I could have. You know I really don’t like God at all. In fact I’ve hated him for a long time. Could that be a hidden sin?
JO: Yes, it could. Do you know why you hate God?
JOHN LEE: I reckon I sure do.
JO: John Lee, could you share it with me?
JOHN LEE: I’ve never told nobody before. I just keep it to myself.
JO: Keeping it to yourself is probably the worst thing you could do. If you could share your sin with God I’m sure he would forgive you. That sure would lift a burden off you that you have carried around for so long.
JOHN LEE: Well, I don’t know about that … You want me to speak it out loud?
JO: Whatever way you want to do it will be fine.
JOHN LEE: Well, then…I guess I could talk it out loud. Might ease my mind. You won’t tell my family? I wouldn’t want them to feel bad about me talkin’ to you like this.
JO: I won’t tell them.
JOHN LEE: Well, you see, this started a long time ago. Me and my little brother was in the back of the wagon and Mama and Daddy was up front. We was crossing the Big Stone River in a narrow and shallow place when one of the wagon wheels got stuck up on a big rock in the river bed. Daddy had the mules go up and back trying to get the wagon to go over the rock. When he finally got the wagon wheel to go all the way over the rock, the wagon leaned to the side real quick like and Momma fell into the water. The Big Stone was really rollin’ that day and the water got ahold of Mama’s long dress and weighed her down. Daddy told me to grab ahold of her while he righted the mules. I was holdin’ her hand but it was mighty tough against the rushin’ water. I wasn’t about to turn loose of Mama’s hand and Daddy reached for me just as I was about to go into the water with her. When Daddy grabbed my leg her hand slid out of mine. The waters took her down the river and out of our sight. The men found her the next day hung up in some tree limbs hangin’ low over the water.
JO: John Lee that must have been awful for you to see.
JOHN LEE: Sure was. Now you tell me how I should love a God that took away my momma right before my eyes. Tell me. That’s been a burr under my saddle all these years. Tell me why that happened? Can you?
JO: No, I can’t. I can tell you this—you need to have a personal talk with God and tell him how you’ve felt for all this time. If you’ll listen to God he’ll help you get this thing settled. He’ll wash you sins away and then you will be a better man to your family. But you have to go to God and lay it all out there. Can you do that, John Lee?
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