Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Skating Rink (1969)

The Skating Rink
Mildred Lee, il. Ilse Koehn (cover)
1969, The Seabury Press

One thing stood out, raw and bitter, in his mind: he was his father’s son and doomed to failure, no matter what he undertook.

Tuck Faraday, 15, is a poor country kid in rural southern Georgia.  Alienated by a stammer that’s evoked constant ridicule from family and classmates since he was little, he’s ready to quit school the moment he turns 16.  Then he meets Pete Degley.

“Degley’s the name,” he said.  “Pete Degley.”  His handshake made Tuck feel older than his fifteen years and he liked the feeling.  Pete Degley told Tuck he was going to put a roller-skating rink here beside the highway, confiding in him so naturally that it wasn’t till afterwards, when he thought the whole thing over, that Tuck saw anything unusual about it.

The rink is going up close to Tuck’s bedraggled house, where his bitter father Myron is struggling to keep a chicken farm going and his exhausted stepmother, Ida, labors every winter over a foully smelly and recalcitrant oil stove.  Tuck, staring at this despairing failure every day, is drawn to Pete’s optimism and the sense that his dream, his skating rink, could actually succeed.

Pete has reasons of his own for talking to Tuck.  His young wife, Lily, is a wonderful skater and Pete, with a bum knee and a couple decades on him, wants a young male skater to pair her with, as an exhibition to draw crowds and to give skating lessons.  So he trains the two in secret.

Curiously, as Tuck gains skill and confidence, he also gains insight.  He finds compassion for his teasing little sister Karen, loutish brothers Clete and Tom, and even his parents. 

About the Author
Mildred Lee Scudder was born a Baptist minister’s daughter in Alabama and spent her childhood travelling around the rural south, a region that appears in most of her books.  She worked as a librarian at the University of Alabama, and married James Scudder in 1947.   It also appears that she had married Edward Schimpff in 1929, and had 2 children. 

Other Books
The Invisible Sun (1946)
The Rock and The Willow (1963)
Honor Sands (1966)
Fog (1972)
Sycamore Year (1974)
The People Therein (1980)
The Bride Of the Lamb

UA list of Alabama authors

Other Editions:

Interesting, the metamorphasis from the first edition to the paperbacks.  Tuck seems to go from being a kid to being a big teen to being John Travolta.