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Most people, seeing her picture or listening to her calm and friendly, always cheerful radio voice, might never have guessed she had ever had a worry or a problem in her entire life. What most people did not know and she never talked about was their first child, a four-year-old little blond boy named Michael. Dorothy had thought it was just another childhood fever or maybe a cold coming on, certainly nothing serious. But by midmorning he had started going into convulsions.

He died quite suddenly and with little warning. One day he was laughing and alive and the next day he was gone. The doctors said it had been an unusually virulent bacterial infection that had hit him overnight and by five-thirty that afternoon he was dead. They never found out exactly what it was or why he had gotten it but by the time they reached the hospital the infection had already spread and settled in his lungs.

No one can ever really be prepared for the death of a loved one but losing a child is surely the worst pain a human being will ever have to bear. It struck them so suddenly and so hard that Doc's mother, a widow, moved into the house to take care of them. After a while Doc went back to work but Dorothy was still unable to do anything except sit in the little boy's room and stare at the bed.

She wouldn't eat no matter how Mother Smith tried and she couldn't sleep unless she took one of the pills Doc got for her. Though the doctors repeatedly told her there was nothing anybody could have done, she never really believed it. She questioned it over and over in her mind. She asked herself a hundred whys and what-ifs and she couldn't find one answer that made any sense. At that time Doc was little or no help. If anything, she resented the way he had seemingly just gone on with his life as if nothing had happened.

He wouldn't even talk about it with her and when she tried he just walked out of the room. She was young and did not know that men deal with grief in different ways. Doc, who was also young, was mistakenly trying to hold himself together to be strong for her.


She did not know that he often drove outside of town, parked the car, and sat and sobbed. The loss of their child was a wound that would not heal, something they would never really get over. But, after a year or so, they were both able to make it through the days. It was at this time that Dorothy first began to bake. It helped her, somehow, to keep busy. There were days when she baked as many as five or ten cakes. Pretty soon everybody in town started carrying forks in their pockets or pocketbooks because if you passed her house, you would be offered a piece of cake. Soon she was overrun with cakes and needed desperately to get rid of them so when she said, "Please come in and have a piece of cake," you knew she meant it.

Gerta Nordstrom, her friend who owned the bakery, said her cake business dropped in half because Dorothy was giving so many away. Pretty soon Dorothy began supplying the Nordstroms and became well known for her baking. The year her recipe for a six-layer surprise upside-down pineapple cake took second place in the Pillsbury Bake-Off contest she was invited to be a guest on a radio show in Poplar Bluff.

In the midst of the interview she just happened to mention that she always used Golden Flake Lite-as-a-Feather Flour. When Golden Flake Flour sales doubled overnight, they offered her a show of her own. Soon the large radio tower with the red light on the top went up in the backyard and she was "on the air. Life went on pretty much as usual until, one day when Dorothy was forty-three, long after either one of them had given it a thought, life changed again. The doctor informed her that she was not, as she had suspected, going through the change of life but was pregnant.

And seemingly out of a clear blue sky, along came Bobby, who turned out to be a real change-of-life baby in every sense of the word. Maybe it's because they are still short and close to the ground or maybe their senses have not yet been dulled by the years but to children days seem longer, smells stronger, colors brighter, noises louder, fun more fun. Bobby was no exception. He viewed the world each day through brand-new eyes, almost vibrating with excitement. If you could have plugged him into the wall he would have lit up like a watt bulb. This was all very well and wonderful for him but for his family it was like living with a sixty-eight-pound puppy running in and out of the house all day.

And this day, as usual, he and Monroe were up to something they shouldn't be. An idea that if his mother knew anything about would have caused her to have a heart attack or worse. Years before, a high school senior had fallen off and killed himself. But when you're young facts do not concern you. You are convinced that nothing will ever happen to you. Besides, he and Monroe had double-dog-dared each other to climb it, so there was no turning back. Secretly both of them were a little nervous.

Scared that they might chicken out at the last minute. But overriding any fear of being called a sissy by the other was the lure of being able to brag to everyone they knew, except their parents, that they had climbed it. And just to make sure that everybody would know for certain they really had done it, Bobby had come up with a plan. That morning he had gone over to Warren's Hardware and bought a large ball of heavy string. Monroe had a pocketful of red balloons that they were going to blow up and tie to the top of the tower to prove to any nonbelievers that they had been there.

But when they finally arrived at the base of the tower and looked up, what had appeared from a distance to be just a round silver ball hanging up in the sky now seemed as big as a football field. It was so high it hurt their necks to look up at it. People said that from the top if you turned around in a circle you could see six states and on a clear day you could see all the way to Iowa… at least that's what they said. Bobby and Monroe hemmed and hawed and kicked the ground a little and discussed the balloon plan. Don't you remember what we said? If we blow them up first, somebody might see them while we're climbing up.

Monroe, a chunky, carrot-topped boy with pinkish skin, suddenly looked a little pale. He glanced back up at the top. Bobby thought about it for a minute but made no move. Then Monroe said, "This was your idea. I think you should get to go first. As they both soon found out, it was a long and steep climb. What they had not counted on was how hot the sun would be the higher they got or how hard it was to hold on to the slippery rails with sweaty hands, not to mention the wind that almost blew them off the ladder.

After what seemed an hour of climbing, they finally made it, both of them out of breath, dripping wet with perspiration, hot, and thirsty. When they stepped off the ladder onto the small, round corrugated-steel platform at the very top, their legs were so shaky from the climb that they had to sit down and rest. Monroe's face was now about as bright red as the balloons in his pocket.

After a while they mustered the strength and the courage to stand up and look over the side. The first thing Monroe said when he looked over was: "Whoa!.. We must be ten thousand hundred feet up in the air… higher than an airplane or the Empire State Building even! They weren't, of course, but you sure could have fooled them. Bobby and Monroe had never seen the world from anything higher than a tree or the top of a garage.

They could see for miles around, and when Monroe spotted a cornfield way off in the distance he was positive he had seen all the way up to Iowa. Bobby was so overwhelmed at the sight he was speechless. He stood there stunned. He had not known what the world would look like from this far up. He had thought maybe it would look round, like the world globe in his father's den, but to his surprise it was all flat! Nothing before him but big flat brown and green squares as far as the eye could see.

It looked just like a map! But when Monroe spotted their town off to the right and pointed it out, Bobby was in for the second shock of his young life. Bobby's mouth hung open in total disbelief. Elmwood Springs, which an hour ago had seemed to him to be such an enormous place, was now nothing more than a block of buildings, houses, and streets no bigger than an inch, just stuck sitting out there in the middle of nowhere.

He could see where downtown was, the church on one end and the Masonic Hall on the other. The small black specks walking back and forth were no bigger than ants, and the cars looked like Matchbox toys; the buildings were the same size as the ones in a Monopoly set. Bobby peered over to where Monroe was pointing. It was his house all right. He could see the red light on top of the radio tower and if he squinted he could just make out a black speck moving around in the backyard, hanging clothes on a clothesline. Then it struck him: that speck was his mother! At once another thought hit him, scaring him half to death.

What if he were at home right now and out in the yard and somebody else was up here looking down at him? Then he would be no bigger than an ant. No, half an ant… no bigger than a flea! From up here he would no longer be the huge center of his huge universe, the apple of his parents' eyes; from up here he would be nothing and nobody special, just another black dot. Suddenly he broke out in a cold sweat. He started back down, leaving a startled Monroe calling after him: "Wait.

You can't go… we haven't done the balloons yet. But Bobby did not hear him. All he could hear was the sound of his own heart pounding in his ears and his only thought was to get on the ground as fast as he could. He had to get back home, where he was the right size. He was determined. If he had climbed all the way to the top, people were going to know about it. The heck with Bobby Smith; he would just blow up the balloons himself As he pulled one out of his pocket and started to blow, he suddenly remembered.

He ran to the side and yelled down the ladder. Throw me the string! Bobby was more than halfway down the ladder. Sometime later Bobby hit the front door of his house running and didn't stop until he got to his room and onto his own bed. When Anna Lee, who was out on the porch, saw the look on his face as he went by, she figured someone was chasing him. She got up to look and see if it was Luther Griggs, the big bully who was always beating Bobby up any chance he got, but Luther was nowhere in sight.

Poor Monroe had stayed up on the tower for at least another forty-five minutes, trying as hard as he could to attach one of those red balloons to the side of the railing, but they all flew off. But for Bobby the day had been far more than just the failure of the balloon caper. It was the first time he had seen his life from a distance or from anywhere, for that matter, except from the center of his own giant universe. Could it really be possible that he was nothing but just another small dot among a bunch of other small dots?

That night Bobby was especially sweet and after dinner, when they were all out on the porch, he went over to his mother in the swing, lay down with his head in his mother's lap, and went to sleep, something he had not done since he was six. It was an extraordinarily warm evening and the entire family, including Jimmy and Dorothy's red-and-white cocker spaniel, Princess Mary Margaret, all sat out trying to catch a little night breeze. It was a quiet night and they were enjoying the sound of the crickets and the soft squeak of the swing.

Dorothy looked down at Bobby. He was now in such a deep sleep that when she crossed her legs with his head in her lap he did not awaken. She smoothed his hair back off his forehead. Anna Lee said, "I thought Luther Griggs was after him again. He ran in the door this afternoon going about a hundred miles an hour. His mother sighed.

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He's already a head taller than Bobby. He'll have to catch him first. Bobby may be little but he's fast. Dorothy thought about it and was somewhat reassured.

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The other day, by the time I got my switch he was out the door and so far out in the field all I could see was the top of his head. Anna Lee, who, now a teenager, had recently started referring to her brother as "that child," made an observation. Mother Smith agreed. You were the best-behaved little girl. I used to take you everywhere with me and all I had to do was to put you down with one of your little dolls and you'd sit there and play and I never heard a peep out of you.

They sat there in the quiet listening to the crickets for a few more minutes. Then Dorothy turned to Anna Lee. Just then Tot Whooten, a frazzled-looking woman, walked by on the sidewalk headed somewhere in a hurry. She did not stop but waved her hand in the air and called out over her shoulder, "Momma's left her purse at the picture show again and I've got to get there before they close.

A few minutes later, Tot came walking by again, this time with her mother's huge black purse on her arm. Mother Smith called, "I see you got it. And after she was out of earshot Dorothy said "Poor Tot" again. Several other people walked by on their way home from the movie and waved. I was hoping you could give it to your little girl someday. I took you the first day but you weren't afraid. You seemed happy to go really, you and Raggedy Ann. I stood there and watched you go up the steps and when you got to the top you turned and gave me a little wave and went on in.

And oh, it nearly broke my heart, I was losing my little girl. I stood there on the street just crying my eyes out for all the world to see. Doc nodded. You would have thought she had just put you on a freighter headed for China. This was the first time Anna Lee had heard this story. I hate to say it but I think I was actually relieved.

Book Summary

The day before he had ruined all six cakes I had baked for the church sale, ran his finger around the bottom of each one and ate the icing. So, no, I was glad to let somebody else have him for a while. But little boys are different. When you get married and have one of your own, you'll see for yourself. Mother Smith laughed. You may want little girls but wishing doesn't make it so. Mother Smith smiled. Right comes waltzing in the door. Isn't that right, Dorothy? Then your father asked me to the Christmas dance and there went my Broadway career plans out the window.

I don't know what he has in his head but it weighs a ton. Jimmy stood up, yawned, and stretched. See y'all tomorrow. Dorothy looked at Doc. Right, and take your son to bed. I need to get on in and work on the show before it gets too late. It's almost ten o'clock. Doc put his pipe down and walked over and picked Bobby up and put him over his shoulder.

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Doc said, "Good night, all. Doc was much older than the other fathers of Bobby's friends and it worried him because he could not roughhouse or play football with his son like they could, but as far as Bobby was concerned there were plenty of things he did with his father that more than made up for it. Doc, it seems, had been a good baseball player in his youth and was still an avid baseball fan and so was Bobby. They listened to all the games on the radio together and studied the players' statistics. With Doc's vast knowledge of baseball he taught Bobby to appreciate the finer and more subtle elements of the game.

And though Doc was never much of a hunter, he did love to fish and from the time Bobby could walk he always took him along. Doc would come into his room at about in the morning, long before it was light, and wake him. Bobby would get up and dress and they would both quietly slip out the front door so the Robinsons' chickens would not wake up the neighborhood. Doc would start the Dodge with the bad muffler as quietly as possible and drive in the dark through the back roads until they came to the river. It was on these mornings that his father would let him have a sip of coffee from the thermos he had brought, preceded with "All right, just a sip, but don't tell your mother.

Even though the coffee always tasted bitter and horrible, he endured it without making a face. It was a man thing. Sometimes they would go with Glenn Warren and his son, Macky, but he liked it best when it was just him and his father. He loved having his father introduce him to the other men at the camp as his son. He could tell they all respected his father and it made him feel proud. He also enjoyed going to Old Man Johnson's fishing camp, where they rented their boat. The ramshackle wooden cabin was filled with rods and tackle.

Mounted fish of all kinds and sizes hung on every inch of the wall. Also alongside the fish hung a calendar with a picture of a pretty girl in short shorts fly-fishing in a stream that Bobby thought was exotic. They always bought their live bait out of the cooler plus two cold drinks, crackers and tins of sardines and Vienna sausages for their lunch, and were usually out on the water just as the sun was coming up. Bobby's job was to row the boat back up into the deep shady places, where the big fat trout and catfish liked to hide, while his father cast his line as close to the bank as possible.

The crackers Mr. Johnson sold were stale and the drinks warm by noon but it didn't matter. Anything tastes good when you are hungry. Some days they would catch a huge string of fish, sometimes just three or four. One day the fishing had been so bad that his father bought some trout from Old Man Johnson to take home. That night Bobby went into such long and elaborate detail about how each trout was caught and how hard it fought that his mother began to suspect something. But Bobby didn't really care how many fish they caught; he just loved being alone with his dad.

A few years before, his father had casually laid out a handful of baseball tickets on the kitchen table and asked, "Son, would you like to go to the World Series with me? Louis Browns, was playing the St. Louis Cardinals that year and everybody in the state of Missouri was trying to get tickets. As it turned out, a friend of Doc's from pharmaceutical school just happened to be Luke Sewell, the St.

Louis Browns' manager's brother-in-law, and Doc had been able to get tickets from him. Doc brought in a replacement to work for him at the drugstore and Dorothy packed their bags. On October 3, the two of them got on a train headed up to St. Louis with tickets for all six games if it lasted that long and they hoped it would. What a town.

What a trip. Just him and his dad staying at a real hotel, eating out at restaurants just like two grown-ups. A Yellow Cab ride to the huge Rexall drugstore in downtown St. Louis to visit his father's friend and back. He had his picture made under the big steel Gateway Arch, and got a brand-new Browns baseball cap. Each day they took a streetcar from downtown to North Grand Avenue, all the way out to Sportsman's Park. Going and coming it was always filled with the aroma of Old Spice shaving lotion and cigarette smoke and packed full of loud, exuberant men and boys of all ages headed to and from the game.

The sight of the ballpark that first day the crowds the noise the smells the crack of the bat the green grass the hot dogs the peanuts that sip of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer! It was all too much. Bobby was so excited he was dizzy. Their team won the first game 2 to 1, which gave them hope, but went on to lose the series as expected. Still, they had been there cheering them on anyway.

It had been a wonderful time for both of them.

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Although the poor St. Louis Browns were never to play in a World Series again, at least Bobby did not come home empty-handed. He was the proud owner of a real, genuine World Series baseball, a foul ball his father had managed to catch, autographed by none other than the National League's MVP of the year, shortstop Marty Marion.

Bobby and his dad stood in line for about two hours to get the autograph but it was worth the wait. When they got home Bobby showed it to everybody. He was quite the big man around town for a few days, or at least until everyone had seen it several times. As for Doc, he came home happy and rested, a rest he had much needed. On the surface, being a small-town druggist did not seem like such a hard job, certainly not a hazardous or a grueling profession.

But it had its own hidden stresses that few knew about. His was a multifaceted job of many duties. Not only did he have to stand and listen with great patience to everybody in town who seemed compelled to tell him in long, drawn out detail all about each and every little pain or complaint they had, but people also brought him birds with broken wings to fix, kids with cuts and scrapes, smashed fingers, and sprained ankles to bandage, and a variety of colds, upset stomachs, sore throats, cat scratches, dog bites, black eyes, and poison ivy rashes to ask about.

All this he was glad to do but for Doc, as Elmwood Springs' only pharmacist, it meant that he was also privy to private information and secrets he sometimes wished he didn't have to know. With his knowledge of medicine he often knew exactly what was wrong with people by what the doctor had prescribed. He was painfully aware, for example, that his best friend had a bad heart condition by the strength of the medicine and by the frequency it was to be taken but he never mentioned it. He also knew that Poor Tot Whooten had been given a prescription for Antabuse and she was secretly slipping it into the coffee of her husband, James Dwayne, every morning to try to get him to stop drinking.

He knew which soldier had come home from the war having contracted syphilis, what lady was taking pills for bad nerves, which men were being treated for impotence, and those women who were having female trouble, as well as who did not want any more children and who did. All this he kept to himself It was especially hard when his own family was involved. The day his father's prescription for morphine was called in he knew his dad was dying, long before his father did. But if his job was sometimes complex, Doc's life at home was a pleasant escape. And it certainly was never dull.

Just last week a complete stranger had wandered in and had dinner with them. Because the Greyhound Bus stopped in front of their house, people were always sitting around on the porch or in the living room. This combined with the number of Neighbor Dorothy's fans that dropped by all day caused the man to make an honest mistake. When he saw everyone going in and out and the radio call letters written on the front window, he naturally assumed the place was a restaurant called WDOT and decided to stop by later and have a bite to eat before driving on to Poplar Bluff At around he parked his car, strolled in, and sat down in the living room with Doc and Jimmy, who were reading the paper, and asked, "What time is dinner served?

As far as Doc knew, he could have been one of Dorothy's sponsors come to town. When Dorothy called out that dinner was on the table the man got up and went in. Nobody asked him who he was, all thinking he was a friend of someone else's, and Neighbor Dorothy quietly put out another place setting. He thoroughly enjoyed the pot roast and mashed potatoes and happily chatted away all through dinner, entertaining everyone with his tales of life as a professional poultry inspector for the state of Missouri.

And how people always kidded him about being a poultry inspector with Fowler for a last name. He amazed them with how many different breeds of chickens were in the world. After finishing his second piece of coconut cake, he pushed himself back from the table and announced, "Well, folks, I better get on the road before it gets too late," and dug into his pocket and asked Dorothy how much he owed. A surprised Dorothy said, "Why, you don't owe a thing, Mr. Fowler we were just happy to have you.

I hope you'll be sure to drop in and see us again anytime you are passing through. That night Mr. Charlie Fowler left town thinking that Elmwood Springs was the friendliest place he had ever been. He did come back often and they were always glad to see him. On an ordinary weekday Jimmy Head, the Smiths' boarder, is usually the first person awake. He gets up around , goes out to the kitchen, puts on the coffee, drinks a cup, then heads out the door before five. The only other lights on in town are at Nordstrom's bakery, which opens at , but Jimmy has a big breakfast crowd and has to get the Trolley Car Diner ready to go by Doc and Mother Smith are also early risers and usually come into the kitchen and have a cup of coffee together around Dorothy is up and dressed by , comes in, and starts her day by putting a batch of radio cookies in the oven for her guests and then feeds Princess Mary Margaret and her two yellow canary birds, Dumpling and Moe.

If it is summer Bobby is up by and Anna Lee tends to float into the kitchen around or She needs her beauty sleep. Doc is down at the drugstore by , which opens at The milkman, the iceman, and the bread man have already been there by and Beatrice, the Little Blind Songbird, who sings on the show every day, has come over from next door. She and Mother Smith, who accompanies her on the small organ, go on into the living room to run through Beatrice's song.

Dorothy and Princess Mary Margaret arrive for the broadcast around Princess Mary Margaret greets anyone else who is in the living room to see the show with a wagging tail and often jumps up and sits in some one's lap during the show. Or if she is not in the mood she gets into her basket under Dorothy's desk many have remarked how the dog is much better trained than Bobby. Then Dorothy says hello to her guests and welcomes her live audience, usually people waiting to catch the bus or ladies from women's clubs. Dorothy sits down and runs over the format and her commercials for a last-minute check and looks out the window so she can give her radio audience the very latest weather update.

At on the dot the red light on the organ blinks, the on-air signal, and Mother Smith hits the first strains of the theme song, the show begins… and everyone in town and thereabouts is usually tuned in. Today, fifteen miles outside of town Mrs. Elner Shimfissle, a large-boned farm woman with a plain but pleasant face, dipped her hand into a blue and-white speckled pan filled with Purina feed and threw it to the chickens in her yard.

The chickens, mostly Rhode Island Reds, ran every which way with their heads down close to the ground, trying their best to beat all the other chickens to each grain.

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  7. She wore a new green-checked apron over her somewhat faded floral-print dress and comfortable old lady white tie-up shoes. She shielded her eyes from the sun and looked far out into the fields and saw her husband plowing behind the reins of their two black mules and called out, "Whoo hoo, Will! After she emptied the pan she walked over to the water pump and rinsed it out and hung it on a nail on the side of the house by the big tin washtub.

    She looked up at the sun again, wiped her hands on her apron, and guessed that it was getting to be about that time and went on back in the house. She had been up since four A. She figured she could afford to sit down and relax awhile and went over and poured herself a cup of coffee and got her pencil and pad ready to take down the receipts. She turned on the radio it was always set on WDOT, the only station that comes in clear this far out and heard The. Neighbor Dorothy Show, the same program that she had been listening to for the past sixteen years.

    It was the only show other than Gospel Time, L. A, the farm report, and the Grand Ole Opry that Mrs. Shimfissle listened to on a regular basis. And this morning Neighbor Dorothy started the show as she always did with a cheery, "Good morning, everybody, it's a pretty day over here in Elmwood Springs and I hope it's just as pretty where you are. We've got so many wonderful things to tell you about on the show this morning… so many special guests… that I can hardly contain myself.

    And sitting right here in the living room with me is somebody I know you are going to want to hear from. Milo Shipp, who has traveled all the way from New York City to tell us about his brand-new book, Hilltop in the Rain, and we can't wait to hear about that. And also we want to welcome our in-studio visitors.

    Louis for the big flower show later this morning' Mother Smith played a few strains of "Meet Me in St. Louis" and I know you all are going to have a big time up there. We have a good show for you today. First, just in case you're wondering what you are hearing, it's not your radio. Poor Tot's fox terrier got out again and that noise is coming from a box of twelve of the cutest puppies you have ever seen don you think so, Mr. He says he does. She says there are five boys and seven girls but not to hold her to it.

    We know who the mother is but she says she has no idea about the father. As far as I can tell from the look of them, I think the honors will go to that Airedale up the street, so come on by and get yourself one. Frances Cleverdon of Arden, Oklahoma, writes:. And I see we have a few items on our swap-and shop segment this morning.

    Irene Neffof Elkton writes to ask if there is anyone with a pair of size nine men's maroon felt house shoes with a black embroidered Indian on them and is willing to swap four tea towels for both or just the left one.

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    Also Mrs. She just wants the box not the powder, and will swap an Evening in Paris perfume bottle. It was then my daughter came in and asked why I was sprinkling Parmesan cheese in the sink. My husband took me for glasses the next day. You have just won a five-pound sack of Golden Flake Flour, the flour that makes biscuits that make all your family say 'yummy. Oh, here it is. James Whooten has finished with the Whatleys' house and is available.

    He says you get the paint, I need the work, so call. What else did I have? Oh, Mother Smith said I forgot to give out the question of the week. I'm sorry, girls, Monday is such a busy dayI guess I'm a little rattled, so many exciting things happening. Now, where's the question? I know I had it. The question is, "What is your favorite cooking utensil and why? There us also Norma and Macky Warren and their ninety-eight year old Aunt Elner; the oddly sexy and charismatic Hamm Sparks, who starts off in life as a tractor salesman.

    Behind the scenes there, is two women who love him very differently as night and day. Then there is poor Tot Wooden, whose luck in life is a s bad as her hairdressing skills.

    Standing in the Rainbow Book Summary and Study Guide

    At the heart of the novel is the inimitable Neighbour Dorothy, broadcasting daily, with Mother Smith on the organ, from her front room, via the tower in her backyard, to an eager, and at times lonely, audience across the state - who often hear more than her own family would like about the antics of wayward son Bobby and adolescent Anna Lee.

    And meet the Oatman Family, white Southern Gospel Singers at a pharmaceutical convention in Memphis, where they blow the place away; timid, little Betty Raye Oatman who can't stand the life and ends up in a Governor's mansion; Hamm Sparks, a super-salesman everyone likes and trusts, who soon sells all of Missouri; and the phenomena known as the Sunset Club, Dinner on the Ground and the Funeral King. Humour and poignancy, wit and nostalgia, Fannie Flagg mixes the cocktail of small-town American life to perfection. She lives in California and Alabama.