Like its courthouse, Woodville would remain, throughout Swift’s writings, a maddening model of backbiting, small-town repression, while Camp Ruby would be mythologized \(in A Place with Promise and as an East Texas Edena green and easy home of hot melons and tall tales from which Swift would inherit his dissent and his story-telling craft. He offers this history of the Big Thicket: “The early settlers called it No Man’s Land, a hiding place for ne’er-do-wells of all descriptions. During the Civil War, the Thicket was a well-known refuge for pacifists and Jayhawkers, those who refused to fight for the South. It was also a haven for renegades, recluses, and religious fanatics … the wildest of 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 11, 2008 dreamers, and the maddest of madmen. And although they were rabid individualists, they were similarly marked with loose tongues and poetic speech … They knew instinctively how to tell as well as how to enlarge upon a story while keeping it rooted in truth … that a story is a living thing and should grow with each telling.” It seems merely a nod toward Thicket tradition, then, that Swift’s novels fairly burst with outrageous talkers \(notably Clarissa Spellbinder of who prefer the well-told yarn to literal truth. One of Splendora’s most amusing passages consists of a series of slanderous letters passed among the members of the ladies’ Epistolary Clubletters resembling a runaway game of Rumor, each one
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