Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur and Other Meanderings

By Paul Ruffin | Go to book overview

Tales from Kentucky Lawyers

In the summer of 2003 my good friend Barbara Criswell, over in Mississippi, proofed for the University of Kentucky Press a book called Tales from Kentucky Lawyers, and some of the stories were so outrageous that she just couldn’t help sharing them with me. I mean, these were unexpurgated stories, in the words of mostly small-town lawyers involved in some of the damnedest cases you could ever imagine.

I was so entertained by the few stories Barbara sent me that I decided our class project in my graduate Editing and Publishing course last fall would be to gather all the wild and woolly and wicked stories we could from East Texas lawyers and judges. You can’t seriously believe that those Kentucky chaps have run into anything zanier than our people have. Well, we didn’t wrap our project up, since lots of lawyers and judges promised us stuff and didn’t deliver, but it’s not dead and may yet be resurrected, if for no reason other than that one of the primary players in our book is our own Judge Ernie Ernst, about whom I could probably write a book.

I’m in the process of reviewing Tales from Kentucky Lawyers, so I thought I’d pass along a few of the stories that I think particularly memorable.

Take this one: a young man in a rural county (as if there were any other kind in Kentucky) was charged with murdering his mother and father. We are not told precisely how the crime was committed, only that it was, leaving us to speculate that he probably used a shotgun or an axe or a chainsaw. Southerners are not typically very imaginative when they choose a weapon to kill you with. They just want the job to be done right the first time, whether it’s neat or not. At any rate, this ol’ boy had a really fine defense attorney representing him, so the town flocked into the courtroom to see what sort of tactic the lawyer would use in a case in which the evidence against the accused was so overwhelming that it would clearly be very difficult to generate any sympathy for him. Came the closing argument….

-45-

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Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur and Other Meanderings
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xii
  • Things Literary, More or Less 1
  • Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur 3
  • The Mosquito 15
  • The Lady with the Quick Simile 19
  • Workshopping a Cowboy Poem 22
  • Was Emily Mad or Merely Angry? 28
  • On the Death of Edgar Allan Poe 31
  • Making Preparations for the Tour 34
  • The Girl in the Clean, Well-Lighted Place 37
  • Explaining a Poem to a Student 40
  • Some Rare and Unusual Books 43
  • Tales from Kentucky Lawyers 45
  • The Boy Who Spoke in Hymns 48
  • Making a Dam in Segovia 51
  • Just Thinking about Shit 54
  • To San Juan and Back 60
  • On Likker and Guns 81
  • Drinking 83
  • Rats! 100
  • The Bowhunter Asks for My Bladder 117
  • The Day the Sharpshooter Killed Something He Didn’t Intend to 120
  • Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, off to the Gun Show We Go … 128
  • From "Growing Up in Mississippi Poor and White but Not Quite Trash" (an as-Yet-Unpublished Memoir) 135
  • Trains 137
  • Learning about Sex 143
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