Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Kestner Wallace: A Dollar the Hard Way

For many years I've read articles by Kestner Wallace about his life near Womble Mountain in Saline County, but I had never met him. I was delighted when his son Ray and he showed up at the group book signing at Cata's on December 17 and I had a chance to buy his book A Dollar the Hard Way: Growing Up in Tough Times in the Ozark Foothills.

As a surprise for his 85th birthday, his son Ray and his daughter LeAnn Wallace had published a collection of his stories in a beautiful hardbound book with a beautiful book cover. The book is dedicated to his beloved wife of 55 years--Evelyn. The truth is most of the people who come into Wallace's life become loved by him, and it is a worthwhile to read his shrewd observations on human nature.

This World War II veteran had lost his father at an early age, and he had assumed responsibilities early on that were daunting. Whether he is off to Michigan to get employment to help the family, hitchhiking to high school to get an education, or going fishing to have a good time, Wallace has a way of attracting interesting episodes with interesting people that he can share. Despite the family and the nation's poverty during the 1930s, Wallace, who begins teaching school with only a high school education, goes on to SIU where he completes not just a college education but advanced degrees even as he continues his career as an educator for for 42 years.

He and his son Ray lives on the land that has been in the family for five generations. His daughter LeAnn lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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