Book Review: When hippies met the Ku Klux Klan
Sue Riddle Cronkite has once again given a voice to the wiregrass country in her newest book, "White Sheets: Where the Hippies Meet the Ku Klux Klan.” Time to get a quilt (that old tattered one that grandma made by hand is just the trick), grab a cup of something hot to warm your winter bones and curl up in your favorite chair with a good book, this book. You won’t be disappointed.
White Sheets: Where the Hippies Meet the Ku Klux Klan” is a 272-page paperback published by New Hope Press. It is available at Downtown Books, at 67 Commerce Street in Apalachicola, www.downtownbooksandpurl.com or 653-1290; and at No Name Café Books and More, at 325 Reid Ave. in Port St Joe 229-9277.
Let Sue introduce you to the families living around a wide spot in the blacktop along the Choctawhatchee River in northern Florida. A general store to your left and a church to your right mirrors small towns where we all grew up or at least visited family. The year is 1970 and the country is divided between the long-haired hippies in tie-dye and denim who were off to march against the war in Vietnam and those other good citizens who supported the war or at least our country’s leaders in whatever they chose to do.
The story takes place during this turbulent period in our nation’s history as vanload upon carload of hippies take a wrong turn on their way to war protests in Atlanta. They all come together in a field in the middle of nowhere north Florida and mingle with the local folks who either like, tolerate or just barely stand their presence.
You will meet characters like Pidge, the going-on-13 local girl who sees her world change before her eyes as she learns what it means to be a woman. Frances, a young girl kidnapped and seeking a safe haven during tumultuous times. Two-Toe Tom, the legendary alligator that resides in the nearby river and keeps the hippie squatters wary while camping along the Choctawhatchee. Strong women who sometimes listen to their men and other times come together to support each other during a time that is unique to their sisterhood – birth. All of these and many more who are much like people you grew up with, are related to and know right now.
You will feel that you are standing behind home plate during a Sunday, after church pickup baseball game that pits the locals against the outsiders and lead both sides to find common ground and share in a unifying All-American pastime. Soon a national tragedy once again polarizes the two groups and leads to the night that the birthing of a baby takes place in the shadow of a Ku Klux Klan cross.
Sue Riddle Cronkite, who lives in Apalachicola, has shared a story 50 years in the past that parallels events today. Americans with strong feelings in the political arena who need to remember that the left-wing and the right-wing are both part of the same bird. That family is the most important thing there is, and that while we don’t always agree, we should always respect.
Apalachicola resident Jerry L. Hurley is author of “Wildcrafting and Other Stories I Share Only With My Friends,” and two stage plays “Secrets and Sweet Tea,” and “Sweet Tea on the Front Porch.”