Gimme some of that there corn pone

2009-01-28 00:00

I have at last now read a Western. I think. A novel novel-type for me. And against all expectations, I liked it for the hamming it up, bonanza reminiscence, over the top, craziness of it all.

For example, as the characters camp out under the stars at the end of a long day in the saddle, they always seem to be rustling up something called “corn pone”. I have no idea what that is but by the end of the book I was cravin’ corn pone somethin’ bad. (I seemed to read the entire book in a broad Southern accent, because the ambience seemed to demand it. Words like “posse”, “chile”, “sass”, “thankee kindly”, “schoolmarm”, “yessum”, etc. Yee-hah! What fun!)

Anyway, Augustus Cain has lost a heap of money during a drunken poker match. A slave catcher by trade, Cain is offered the chance to repay his debt by pursuing the runaway slave of the plantation owner he owes the small fortune to. Why does the slimy Eberly want this particular slave back so badly that he is willing to cancel an enormous gambling debt and pay a top dollar reward on top of that? What hold does she have over him?

The swaggering Cain (he’s also addicted to laudanum) contemplates these questions and then decides he’s up to the task. Many meals of corn pone later, all eaten under a star-studded sky, and a couple of run-ins with John Brown — yes the John Brown, who rides in with a posse of unionists — Rosetta the alluring is found and caught.

But Cain does not reckon on the emotional side of the task and when he thinks about having to return her to her cruel owner, he kicks down. It helped, I think, that she was beautiful, willing to be bedded and a master corn pone baker. I wondered if he would feel the same kind of compassion for an ugly slave who cooked stodgy and tasteless corn pone.

Anyway, it’s all damn predictable and kinda far fetched, (especially when Cain performs surgery on himself to retrieve a bullet which has lodged way down near his kidney), but I enjoyed the read.

Contemplating the genre carefully now, it couldn’t have been a Western, as it was mostly set in the South … Hmmm. Confusing.

But anyway, anyone got a recipe for corn pone?

Stephanie Saville

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