Karankawa County exists, Neal Morgan tells us at the outset of his masterful book of short stories, in a vague never-never-land, “clouded in the minds of residents and outsiders alike.” But the stories he tells of Karankawa County and its residents are anything but clouded.
Maud and Mahatma, Duke Grant, Frog Mason, and other intriguing chracters come alive before our eyes. We learn how War Hoss Kelly got his football scholarship and how Jimmy Gene lost her high school sweetheart to the Texas State University gridiron. We grieve over Greenberry Turnbull who, despite what the Karankawa County coroner said, died of madness looking for a Waxahachie Coke bottle.
Mechanical things just wouldn’t work around Willie Joe Kolander. He couldn’t go to school in Karankawa County because the bus would break down. Even if he got there, one look from him would jam the pencil sharpener. So Joe Willie stayed at home, at one with nature. Wars were fought and men walked on the moon. Then one morning Joe Willie found dead birds in his pasture, poisoned by wasted from the local Tex-Eco-Safe Chemical Company. Joe Willie had a job to do.
In 1957, some eight years before War Hoss Kelly was born, the Karankawa City Gator football team won the Texas class 3A State Championship. After that, no coach who did less could last. Winters and springs came and went, coaches came and went with them, as Karankawa City raucously waited for another ‘57.
These are stories–some hilarious, some bizarre with darkly compelling twists–that might be told in Karankawa County today, if there were such a county, at house parties of the semi-affluent or in redneck beer joints of those less fortunate.