Lyin’ Like a Dog
Pros: highly appealing, well written, fast-paced, fun read
Cons: none noted
Richard Mason’s Lyin’ Like a Dog opens in a burst of words on 23 September 1945 as we find Richard sitting with his hound Sniffer, and musing about his birthday. In reality, it is the lack of festivity which is causing Richard such musings. With the awareness of lads his age, 12 today, Richard ‘fesses up that he is bent outa shape and sitting around feeling sorry for himself.
The framework for down home fun is set and actually is launched a page or so later on December 1944 when it snows on Christmas and Richard and his friend John Clayton Reed got to spend some time Christmas Eve with Uncle Hugh. Hugh was not their uncle, he was an old colored man living in a small cabin in the nearby woods. The boys carried groceries to from the store in town Hugh because he had trouble walking.
Plundering around the woods and down along the river bank, going to school, reading and re reading comic books, visiting Uncle Hugh and maybe, just maybe, getting to listen to a ghost story, Vacation Bible School and an evening revival highlighted with a truly unforgettable baptismal service conducted using the church baptistery; underscore some of the complications, troubles and unanticipated mischief a twosome of enthusiastic lads can get themselves almost without trying move the narrative along and keep the reader turning the pages.
Saturdays spent at the movies with other kids from school, perched atop the breadbox down at the grocery store jawing with friends are all a part of the chronicle. Scheming with best friend John Clayton to gain ownership of a hoped for one of a kind funny book having an upside down front cover to sell for big bucks, camping out in the woods when they were supposed to be camping in one or the other boys’ back yard, as well as angel food cake with pink icing and licking out the icing bowl are all a part of the tale.
Helping Daddy put in and, care for, the annual vegetable garden, embracing a bad miscalculation regarding a red pepper fresh from that garden, tug of war, gathering as a family around the radio to listen to Walter Winchell announcing the end of WW2, and, when one money scheme ends in disaster, another is quickly hatched; are sure to appeal to lads aged 11 and 12 years along with the generation who were themselves kids growing up and playing outside without TV and hand held game devices during the 1940s and 50s here in the US.
Running into trouble and facing possible harm to themselves during one of their forays into the woods culminates with the Richard and John Clayton become town heroes; while the work culminates with unease. Daddy has come home liquored up, again, and while Mama does not tie into him; Richard cannot quite put his finger on it, but he does recognize that there is something not quite right about the situation.
I definitely appreciated reading the escapades two pre-teen lads transmitted in the youthful jargon of storyteller, Richard Mason. The shenanigans and hijinks perhaps actually taken from the author’s life in rural Arkansas bring to this reader’s mind the tales my Daddy shared many evenings at the supper table concerning his growing up, in part, in rural Arkansas as sisters and I were growing up in rural California.
While my own growing up years was lived in the San Joaquin Valley, California during the 50s where we lived surrounded by cotton fields, grape vineyards and fruit and nut orchards and not swamp or woods; the big irrigation ditch carrying water needed for farming was the site of many adventure for 3 little girls and their friends as we too played outside without much supervision, or baby sitters and the like. We share tales told to parents only after we were grown and enjoyed watching Mama’s hair turning grey before our eyes.
The eleventh year of the lives of Richard and John Clayton introduced in book one of the Richard the Paperboy series, their friends at school and the little town of Norphlet, Union County, Arkansas takes place in the area just north of the Louisiana border where Union County, LA meets Union County AR. The setting is the troublesome WW2 period December 1944 to September 1945; time repeated during the 1950s as families gathered around the radio to listen to the evening news. Richard’s family listened to Walter Winchell report the war news WWII. During the 1950s families listened intently as Edward R Murrow told us of the events far away in Korea.
Lyin’ Like a Dog told in the first person, using local parlance, is a work having appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. This is a book reminiscent of Twain’s writings. While teaching 4th grade I read aloud daily and found girls and boys alike listened raptly as I read Twain and his Tom Sawyer adventures. Lyin’ Like a Dog will be placed in my Sub bag for reading a chapter aloud to students; should I received a call for classroom subbing in a classroom of 4th graders rather than my usual K 1 preference.
I had no problem visualizing or believing the antics Richard, John Clayton and others in the area experienced. Trying goofy, to adults, schemes generally centered on how to get rich, i.e. maybe bring home as much as $100!, beginning to notice girls, as well as the you can’t be serious!, activities including Vacation Bible School, revivals, a still out in the woods, jars of ‘shine, going barefoot, Big Chief tablets, a kid with a newspaper route, even the term colored man indicate another time and place many readers experienced during the early years of their lives.
Characters are well fleshed, locations are filled with imagery, names of the kids, John Clayton … both names used rather than just first name, Connie, Rosallie, plain simple names, and nick names Tiny for the big kid, Ears and the like are right for the time and place. Readers will be drawn into the tale from the opening lines as the storyline hijinks hold reader interest and keep the pages turning right on to the last when Richard ruminates over the carryings-on during his eleventh year and ponders Heck, I’m twelve now, and maybe I’m old enough to keep outta trouble…. But, naw, I can tell you right now if I told you that, I’d just be lyin’ like a dog.
Highly comprehensible text, Lying Like a Dog will have a place in the home, library, school library, classroom and as an item in a gift box for birthday, Christmas or anytime.
Above all, I like the old photo c 1940s of a skinny kid, hands on hips, down at the calf pen, farm house in the background used as cover art.
I received a paperback ARC for review.
Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend
Amazon: About the Author
As a young boy R. Harper Mason lived on a small farm in southern Arkansas. He is able to vividly capture an era of American history, before air-conditioning, television and modern technology. His story reflects a time of brown sunburned feet, shirtless summers and very special country Christmases.
Mason earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in geology from the University of Arkansas. He worked for the King Ranch in South Texas, followed by an overseas assignment on well-sites deep in the Libyan Sahara Desert. Thirty years ago Mason started his own company, Gibraltar Energy in El Dorado, Ark. of which he is CEO and President. In the early 1990’s he was the president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation and wrote a monthly column for them covering state environmental issues. Mason also wrote an environmental column which ran in newspapers around the state and hosted an environmental radio show, both called Natural Solutions.
Reviewed by Molly’s Reviews
Product Details and Shipping Information from Amazon
TITLE Lyin’ Like a Dog
AUTHOR Richard Mason
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Createspace (Feb. 22 2010)