Wednesday, May 18, 2016

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 278: Read “Taxes and Termites” by A.V. “Shorty” Culpepper

When I was a boy, around the age of 12, in 1988, my hometown, Frisco City, Ala., celebrated its centennial. As part of its 100th birthday celebration, town and county leaders buried a time capsule in Jones Park, which sits just off the main street through the town. Items from all over were place in this time capsule, including items from local school children.

Of all the items placed inside the time capsule, only two true books were placed inside for posterity’s sake – a copy of the New Testament and a copy of “Taxes and Termites” by A.V. “Shorty” Culpepper. A couple of years ago, I ran across an old newspaper article that reminded me that Culpepper’s book had been placed in the time capsule, and while I’ve seen copies of this book over the year, it dawned on me that I’d never actually read it. I placed it on my “bucket list” not long after that and finally got around to reading it a few days ago.

Ardis Vardaman Culpepper was born at Rossers Ridge in Sumter County, Ala. on Aug. 2, 1903. Ironically nicknamed “Shorty” because he was nearly six and a half feet tall, Culpepper moved to Monroe County, Ala. in 1928 and served as the county’s Farm Service Extension Agent. For a number of years, Culpepper wrote a humorous weekly column for The Monroe Journal newspaper called “Taxes and Termites,” and his book by the same name is a collection of some of his funniest columns.

I found Culpepper’s 114-page book to be highly entertaining, but I couldn’t readily determine when it was actually published. The book was published by the Southwest Alabama Publishing Co. and indicates that illustrations within the book were taken from a copyrighted 1949 publication called “The Crossroads Justice.” The book appears to have been published in either the late 1960s or early 1970s, but that’s just a guess based on the appearance of the book and references he makes to the Vietnam War. Culpepper died at the age of 73 on Oct. 12, 1976 and was buried in the Union Cemetery in Frisco City. My feeling is that “Taxes and Termites” was published well before his death.

I’m also pretty sure that Culpepper published at least one more book called “Poor Kinfolks and Rich Relatives” and possibly others, including “The Crossroads Justice.” According to “Monroeville: Literary Capital of Alabama” by Kathy McCoy, Culpepper only wrote two books (“Taxes and Termites” and “Poor Kinfolks and Rich Relatives”) and both of these books were endorsed by world famous, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Harper Lee, who was a native of Monroe County. On the back cover of “Taxes and Termites” a quote from Harper Lee says that “Shorty Culpepper is an astute and wry observer of the human comedy. He should spend less time fishing and more time writing.”

In the end, how many of you have read “Taxes and Termites”? How many of you have read Culpepper’s other books? Which is your personal favorite? Do you know of any other books by Culpepper aside from the books mentioned above? Let us know in the comments section below.

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