How Pulpwood Annie Met Scarlett O’Hara
By Maxwell Taylor Courson
I certainly was in for a surprise when I wound tape #12 onto the Ampex and turned it on. Seems Annie had just come back from the local movie theater, where a newly released version of Gone With the Wind was playing. Apparently, Annie had not viewed the film before, much less read the book.
"I just seen a movie about the Old South," she blabbed into the microphone. They shore dressed funny back then. Don’t know how them women stood it in all them skirts and underwear."
Let me add that Annie was infamous for wearing as little as possible, and as I recall her once describing her choice of lingerie, her underwear usually consisted either of fishnet pantyhose or those awful split-at-the-crotch numbers that Frederick’s of Hollywood pioneered.
However, Annie’s main interest was in Scarlett O’Hara and the men in her life. It became apparent that her evaluation of the South’s best-known literary heroine found poor Scarlett somewhat lacking in taste.
"Lordy! Look at all them sorry men she took up with!" Annie said, ignoring the cardinal grammatical rule about ending a sentence with a preposition. "Who in the world would want to marry that jerk Charlie Wilkes? (!) Talk about a mamma’s boy! Scarlett was shore lucky that Charlie hauled off and died of the whoopin’ cough or the measles or whatever as quick as he did. She’d have spent the rest of her life pickin’ cotton and nursemaidin’ that guy. What a loser!"
Annie then took on Scarlett’s endless, non-reciprocal lust for the scion of Twelve Oaks. "Wonder what it was that made her want that Ashley so much?" she pondered. "I shore don’t see it. He lost his house and farm to the Yankees, he wasn’t no good as a clerk, and all he wanted to do was walk around kinda dreamy like and talk about the good ole days. Phooey! Best thing about most ‘good ole days’ is that they are gone!
"Can’t decide who was the worstest choice-—Charlie or Ashley. Maybe it woulda been better if Charlie and Ashley had teamed up. That sorta thing musta been goin’ on back then. Only question is, which one of them would have been the ‘wife’?"
On this pregnant thought, Annie dropped her explosive concept and advanced to another idea.
It came as no surprise to me that Annie was fascinated by Belle Watling, the Atlanta madam. She liked Belle’s bleach-from-the-bottle hair, her gaudy, low-cut gowns and her easy way with men.
"Now, I can identify with that Belle," Annie said. "She had a real fancy cat house, too. Not like them dumps here in Zenobia that I have to work from."
The only place where Annie parted ways with Belle was when Belle donated some of her tainted money for The Cause.
"Damned if I would give a nickel of my hard-earned cash to them snooty Atlanta society dames," she said with a snarl. "Not even to that mamby-pamby Melody! (!!) She was just too kissy-sweet for my tastes! I ain’t at all surprised that Melody had such a time givin’ birth to that baby. Maybe if Melody had pulled a few shifts at the sock factory like my ma did, she’d have popped that baby out and then got up and fixed supper for everybody!"
Wow! What a scene that would have made in the movie. Where was Annie when David Selznick was dictating the script? Or when Margaret Mitchell was writing the book?
Gerald O’Hara—-Scarlett’s father-—was one of Annie’s favorites. She admired his bluster and unabashed fondness for his daughters-—especially Scarlett. However, Gerald’s Irish accent tended to throw her, and she commented that he certainly didn’t talk like people do today.
"Guess he oughta have took a few ridin’ lessons, since he kept running them horses at fences and hedges. Shoulda known he’d end up ass over elbows and on the ground sooner or later," she added.
I was bemused to hear that Annie showed great interest in and support for the carpetbagger Jonas Wilkerson and the Slattery woman he had impregnated and later married. After all, these were people who were typical for Annie, and this also was behavior that was common, normal and natural in her less-than-elevated society. In fact, she said it was a downright shame that Scarlett was able to save Tara from Jonas Wilkerson’s clutches.
"Them O’Haras had their time at bat," Annie observed with unwavering blue-collar logic and empathy, unaware of the inappropriate sports comparison she used. "And them Wilkersons and Slatterys shoulda had a go at runnin’ the farm. Wish my folks had had a chance like that! I can name plenty of stuck-up people right here in Zenobia that I would be glad to kick outta house and home!"
Well! So much for Southern solidarity in the face of the enemy.
She dismissed Scarlett’s desperate marriage to Frank Kennedy with a snort. Annie saw him as little more than a middle-aged version of "Charlie" Wilkes and virtually cheered as she alluded to Frank’s death on the Decatur Road. "Serves him right for gettin’ mixed up with somebody like that Scarlett," Annie said smugly. "I’d of shot him myself, if I’d had to marry that mealy mouthed ol’ merchant!"
Annie’s keen eye for premium maleness zeroed in on Rhett Butler. She immediately saw his allure and commented caustically about Scarlett’s failure to gravitate toward Rhett until it was too late. Annie’s scorn for Scarlett’s stupidity knew no bounds. Still, she realized that the breakup of Scarlett and Rhett’s marriage was a foregone conclusion.
"Anybody with two glass eyes could see that Red (!!!) just wasn’t right for Scarlett. And I don’t mean because he was always runnin’ with the likes of Belle Watling. Plenty of deacons in the First Baptist Church of Zenobia have done business with me and none the worse for wear. But that Red! He was such a softie. Look at all them goo-goo eyes he made over that little girl of his--Barney Blue. (!!!!) It was plain as day he would always place that child over its mother. Plus, ol’ Red always wanted to go back to Charleston and make up with the folks there. Scarlett would never have fit into that scheme."
Annie paused for a few seconds and concluded her Rhettian evaluation by theorizing that maybe Rhett intended to put Scarlett on that stumble-bum pony instead of his daughter. She added, "Why, if Barney Blue had just kept her little mouth shut, her daddy could have knocked off his hussy of a wife, and they would have moved to Charleston in style! Instead, Barney Blue hopped on that pony and got her neck broke for the trouble!"
My imagination did flips as I sought manfully to digest this proposed resolution to something Margaret Mitchell surely left unexplored in her novel. On the other hand, why not? Maybe "Barney Blue" would have grown up in Charleston and would have married a cadet from the Citadel, and "Red" would have gotten his name on a marble plaque to be mounted inside the French Huguenot Church.
I fully expected Annie’s movie review to end at this point. Such was not the case, and I should have known. With Annie, the unanticipated is always unexpected.
"Of course, them people who wrote the movie got it all wrong," Annie announced firmly. "Scarlett never should have had to put up with the likes of Charlie, Ashley, Frank or Red. There was only one man who woulda’ been worth Scarlett’s time and effort, and they let her shoot him!"
What!? Annie wanted Scarlett’s big romance to be with the Yankee soldier who was stealing her mother’s earbobs?
Unfortunately, Annie’s evaluation of Gone With the Wind ended on this enigmatic note. I could not let it terminate like this, and I have projected what Annie undoubtedly had in mind.
Ike Awalt of the First Ohio Irregulars and Bummers Brigade breaks into Tara and rifles a jewelry box. He is confronted by an armed Scarlett, but he yanks the pistol from her hand before she can pull the trigger. Ike slaps Scarlett around just to show her who’s boss. Scarlett loves it. This is what she’s been seeking and not getting from all those other guys. Ike kidnaps her and heads north, on the way commandeering a horse and carriage once owned by "Red" Butler.
They eventually arrive in Lancaster, Ohio—-Ike’s home town. The two are now married, and Ike gets a job at the local glass factory. There, he assists the Union cause by helping manufacture whiskey bottles and Mason jars.
Ever the social climber, Scarlett rejects a frame house near the glass factory and pushes Ike to acquire a more expensive dwelling on East Main Street, where the Lancastrian elite reside.
Fate has it that the Awalts move into a house next door to Lancaster’s favorite son, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman. The Civil War ends, and the Great Incendiary comes home only to discover his golden years must be spent with Mrs. Ike Awalt glaring at and badgering him from next door.
In this scenario, Georgia is avenged, and Billy Sherman learns the hard way that Peace--like War--is Hell.
Now, that’s the way Annie would have written it!
* * * *
“Pulpwood Annie Meets Scarlett O’Hara” is a chapter from a yet-to-be-completed novel titled The Pulpwood Annie Tapes by Max Courson. His current novel, which precedes The Pulpwood Annie Tapes, is The Pulpwood Annie Chronicles, and it is scheduled for release on or before the first week in July.