cover of book

The Road to Wildcat: A Tale of Mountain Alabama
by Eleanor Risley
introduction by Carroll Viera
University of Alabama Press, 2004
Paper: 978-0-8173-5093-2
Library of Congress Classification F326.R58 2004
Dewey Decimal Classification 917.61063


A remarkable chronicle of southern mountain life in the early 20th century

The Road to Wildcat recounts the travels in North Alabama in the mid-1920s of Eleanor Risley (suffering from diabetes), her asthmatic husband, Pierre, their dog, John, and a Chinese wheelbarrow named Sisyphus that held their travel goods. Advised to make the walking tour for improvement of their health, the group left Fairhope in south Alabama and walked hundreds of miles in the southern Appalachians for months, sleeping out under the stars at night, or in a canvas tent or an abandoned building, cooking their fresh-caught foods over campfires, and accepting the generosity and advice of the mountain people they met, some of them moonshiners and outlaws.
During their sojourn across the rural wilderness, they enjoyed fiddlin’ dances in rickety halls, joined Sacred Harp singers, learned about the grapevine telegraph, saw the dreadful effects of inbreeding, and attended “Snake Night” at Posey Holler (a religious revival that included snake handling). Published in segments in the Atlantic Monthly in 1928 and 1929 and then reorganized into book form, the travelogue is a colorful record of the culture, customs, and dialect of the southern mountaineers of that era.

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