Leaving Cold Sassy

Leaving Cold Sassy


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Anyone who came under the spell of Olive Ann Burns’s classic novel Cold Sassy Tree will delight in Leaving Cold Sassy, which returns to the story of the unforgettable Will Tweedy. In 1917, twenty-five-year-old Will now faces the complexities of adult life. He grapples with the influences of the modern world on his cherished Georgia hometown, which has recently been renamed Progressive City, and he finds his wife-to-be in a feisty young schoolteacher named Sanna Klein.

Olive Ann Burns had completed fifteen chapters of this novel by the time of her death in 1990, and she expressed her wish for them to be published, as they are here, with her notes for future scenes. In addition, Olive Ann’s longtime editor and friend, Katrina Kenison, leaves us with an appreciative reminiscence of the beloved author and the legacy she left behind.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618919802
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 09/04/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 171,669
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.76(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Olive Ann Burns was born in 1924 on a farm in Banks County, Georgia, and went to school in nearby Commerce, which was the model for Cold Sassy. She attended Mercer University in Macon, Georgia; received a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and for ten years was on the Sunday magazine staff of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. She turned to fiction writing as a respite during treatment for cancer. She completed Cold Sassy Tree and a partial manuscript for its sequel, Leaving Cold Sassy, before her death in 1990.

Read an Excerpt


I thought I was roaring into Sanna Klein's life, but if I'd been on tiptoe instead of a motorcycle, it wouldn't have made any difference. She didn't even hear me coming. Everybody in Cold Sassy was at the watermelon cutting that Sunday afternoon except the bedsick, and to her, meeting them was more of an ordeal than a party.

The school board always put on a watermelon social the day before school started in September to introduce the new teachers to the townspeople. I'd never missed a one, but this year I wasn't going. I didn't much feel like facing that many homefolks. It was 1917, the United States had got itself into a world war, and I was twenty-five years old and not even in uniform. While some of the fellows I grew up with were already dying in France, I was working for the University of Georgia over in Athens, twenty-three miles from Cold Sassy. I told myself I'd outgrown a small-town watermelon cutting. But the truth is, I didn't have the nerve to go. Then on Thursday I ran into my old friend Smiley Snodgrass at the Athens Hardware Store. "Well, if it ain't Will Tweedy!" he yelled, slapping me on the back. "Hey, Will, you go'n get over to P.C. for the watermelon cuttin' Sunday?"

I need to explain "P.C." Back in 1907 our town council decided Cold Sassy sounded too countrified for an up-and-coming business community, and they changed the name to Progressive City. My Grandpa Blakeslee wouldn't have allowed it, but he was dead. In the nearly ten years since, the town had progressed, but the new name still hadn't caught on. Progressive City sounded silly and took too long to say. Those of us who didn't keep calling it Cold Sassy just called it P.C. Old Doc Slaughter still had COLD SASSY, GEORGIA, on his office letterhead. "Anybody you hear callin' our town Progressive City," he said, "you know he's just passin' th'ew."

Anyhow, here was Smiley, come to Athens to buy some plumbing pipes. Smiley was bursting with news. "I done got you a teacher picked out, Will. Her name's Miss Klein and she's from over in Mitchellville. We ain't got but three new teachers this year," he added.

"Yeah, Papa told me." Papa was head of the school board.

"I reckon I'll see you there."

"Cain't make it this year, Smiley. I'll meet her later."

"Well, I'll gar'ntee you, Will Tweedy, if your later ain't soon, somebody's go'n beat you to her. She's a pure-T beauty, Will. Real foreign-lookin'. I-talian maybe. Or Spanish. Might could even be a Gypsy. Anyhow, she's got heavy black hair, and black eyes, and her eyelids — law, they's so smoky-dark it's like she reached in the f'arplace and got herself some sut and smeared it on."

When I didn't say anything, he added, "I reckon you know that her and them other two teachers are rentin' the upstairs rooms at Miss Love's house."

"Yeah, I know."

"I built a bathroom up there so Miss Love could rent to'm."

"I've seen it. How'd you think up puttin' it on the roof?"

"Miss Love thunk it up, to save space indoors."

The bathroom was set into an L-shaped corner of the roof. From the street it looked like a playhouse. Had a roof, a porch, a corner column, banisters, a door, and two little windows. Smiley had cut a door to the bathroom porch from the upstairs hall. This bathroom was an improvement over the backyard privy Miss Love had to use when she married Grandpa Blakeslee, but nobody would look forward to going out there on a freezing-cold, rainy night.

The clerk came over to Smiley. "I've got up your order, sir, and toted the sum. You want to come see is it right?"

Smiley started to follow, then turned back to me.

"Well, anyhow, but ... well, you know ..." Smiley kept the conjunctions coming whenever he was trying to think what he wanted to say. "Well, ain't it about time you quit bein' hurt about Trulu Philpot or whatever her name was?"

"You tend to your business and I'll tend to mine."

He shrugged. "Well, so anyhow, yesterd'y I took Miss Klein's trunk and thangs upstairs to her room, and I'm sayin' you better latch on to her."

I picked up a tenpenny nail, tossed it, caught it, and put it back in the barrel. "I know I'm God's gift to women, Smiley, but you met her first. How come you're so willin' to give her to me?"

"Shoot dog, Will, Miss Klein is — well, refined as heck. She wouldn't give somebody like me a second look. Now I don't go so far as to say you're refined, but, uh ... at least you're educated."

Smiley wasn't the only one who already had me matched up with Sanna Klein. The next day I got a note from Miss Love, my grandpa's widow. The word widow sounds like "old woman," but Miss Love was still high-style and beautiful, and looked young despite the fact her hair turned solid white in the month after Grandpa died. Every widower and bachelor in town would be courting her if she'd give them half a chance.

As usual, she began the letter "Dear Will Tweedy." Grandpa Blakeslee used to call me both names, and Miss Love had kept it up — in his memory, so to speak. Maybe it was in his memory that we both still called our town Cold Sassy instead of Progressive City or P.C.

* * *

Dear Will Tweedy,

You must come meet "my girls" — all twenty-two years old. The first to arrive was Miss Isa Belle Hazelhurst, from Ty Ty. She has dimples and a sweet face, but is a little empty and silly, I'm afraid. You'll be interested in her south Georgia accent. She pronounces the "i" in "nice" and "ice" like the sound of "i" in "bicycle," Those sixth- graders will be mocking her from the first day, poor thing. "Isa Belle" is pronounced like "Isa-belle" but she says just call her Issie.

She is sharing the large upstairs bedroom with Miss Lucy Mercer Clack from Clarkesville, a nice plain sensible young lady.

Miss Sanna Klein has the small bedroom by herself. I think you may be really interested in her, Will. She's a beautiful little brunette.

Judging by the quality of her clothes and her manners, she obviously has what your mother would call "background." She's from Mitchellville and is to teach fourth grade. Just a lovely girl.

See you at the watermelon cutting if not before.

Hastily, Love Simpson Blakeslee

P.S. I guess you've heard that your Aunt Loma came in on the train Tuesday.

* * *

Two years before, Aunt Loma had gone off to New York City to seek fame and fortune on the stage, leaving her son, Campbell Junior, for my parents to raise. She claimed to feel guilty about it and had just gone back to New York after being home for a month "to be with my boy." But from what I heard, she didn't spend any time with Campbell Junior except to tuck him in bed at night like he was still little bitty instead of twelve years old.

I wondered briefly why Aunt Loma was back again so soon. But I was more interested in Miss Sanna Klein. Sanna ... Sanna ... What an odd name. Vaguely familiar, though I was sure I'd never known a Sanna before.

Sanna Klein was exotic and beautiful. She was refined. Miss Love approved of her. Suddenly nothing this side of dropping dead could have kept me away from the watermelon cutting.

* * *

Usually when I went home, I took the train from Athens and used Papa's car after I got to Cold Sassy. But that Sunday I rode my motorcycle, with the sidecar attached so I could take two pillowcases full of dirty clothes for Mama's washerwoman to do up. There's nothing like a Harley-Davidson for getting around mud holes, rocks, and wagon ruts on dirt roads — or for making an impression on girls. I stopped by home, left the clothes on the back porch, and went directly to Sheffield Park.

Saddle horses and buggy horses were tied under trees on the far side of the baseball field. Cars sat in a straggly row near the wagon road into the park, so as not to scare the horses or make dust. I stopped the Harley-Davidson between Miss Love's old black Pierce automobile and Wildcat Lindsey's new Model-T Ford, and lit up a cigar. Most of the university students smoked cigarettes, but I favored Tampa Nuggets.

Then I headed over toward the town band, already playing in the big eight-sided pavilion for the crowd gathered in the shade of some huge oak trees. The dusty, dried-up grass was thick with low-hovering yellow jackets, but I barely noticed them. My mind was on Sanna Klein.


It could have been a scene in a moving picture show — except I was walking into the picture. And instead of everything being black and white or gray, I was seeing blue sky, green trees, and ladies in bright-striped or flowerdy dresses, dazzling in the sunlight.

It was a hot day. The very old sat on benches in the shade, some holding babies, all tapping their feet to the band music, and all smiling except for poor old Dr. Hedge Rufesel, the dentist, who used to travel from town to town, filling teeth and making dental plates right in people's homes. A year after finally settling in Cold Sassy, he'd had a stroke. Today Dr. Rufesel's wheelchair was parked beside the bench where Miss Effie Belle Tate had sat at the watermelon cutting in 1914, not long before she died. A Negro man was pushing bits of watermelon into his mouth.

Long planks had been laid across sawhorses to make tables, and people stood around in clusters, talking. Every few minutes they parted like the waters to let one of the Negro men get through with a huge watermelon that had been cooling in the creek. With much laughter and howdy-do-ing, the colored men would tote melons to the tables and slash them open with a flourish of their big sharp knives. The slices fell like red dinner plates on each table, as neat as place settings.

Loomis Toy saw me before I saw him. "Hey, Mist' Will! How you doin', son?" I loved Loomis, a very tall, very black man who had worked for my family for as long as I could remember. He taught me how to garden long before the university's School of Agriculture taught me to farm.

"I heard your little girl took sick last week, Loomis." I'd never noticed the sprinkle of gray in his hair before.

"Yassuh, Mist' Will, but she doin' mo better now, yas-suh. And she sho 'predate that doll Miss Mary Toy sont her. Lawdy, I 'member Miss Mary Toy playin' wid dat doll her ownself. Don't seem lak that long ago, does it?"

Mrs. Avery came up from the creek with some wet towels. "For when folks are ready to wipe their hands," she said, smiling at me. "Will, go put'm on that sycamore stump over yonder."

Near the stump I saw the Widow Abernathy and her eight children lined up at a table in front of eight watermelon slices, like dairy cows at their feeding troughs. The mother opened her purse, took eight spoons out of a napkin, and handed one to each child.

I wondered where Sampson was. Several young boys were dodging out from behind trees to spit watermelon seeds at each other, but he wasn't with them. Nor was he among the clusters of parents and children who stood with favorite teachers from years past. My own favorite, Miss Neppie, had died of appendicitis in the spring.

I headed for the biggest oak tree, where the rest of Cold Sassy would already be waiting in line to meet the new teachers. Snatches of conversation drifted in the air:

A young woman jiggling a fretful baby was talking to Mrs. Means. "I don't know if he's teethin' or just tired."

"Most babies are teethin' or tired, one. Unless they're hungry or wet. What I call a good baby is one that's asleep. I never have ..."

"In the paper it says we 'sposed to join the Women's Army Against Waste. What in the world's the Women's Army?"

"It's just a way a-talkin', honey. What the gov'ment really wants, they want us women to serve less meat. They say raise more hogs and chickens, quit fryin' the pullets, let'm grow up to hens. Can more vegetables. They say quit cookin' light bread and biscuits. Save the wheat for our soldier boys, and ..."

"... seen that new teacher?"

"Miss Klein? The dark-complected one? She's a pretty little thang, ain't she?"

Mrs. Snodgrass, Smiley's mama, was talking to two women I didn't know. One had a voice like a crab. "You wouldn't think mill hands would come to a town social," she rasped.

"They got chi'ren in the school same as us," said the third lady.

"But they ain't comf'table here," said Mrs. Snodgrass. "Look at 'em, standin' off to theirselves, starin' at all us. Not to change the subject, but have y'all seen that great big diamond Loma Blakeslee Williams is flashin'? I hear her fee-ance is a rich Yankee banker!"

"It's all right to marry rich, Wi-nona, but anybody marries a Yankee is a lost cause. Loma's daddy fought in the War, for heaven's sake!"

"Sometimes I wonder bout Loma," said Mrs. Snodgrass. "It's like her corn bread didn't git done in the middle."

This was my Aunt Loma they were talking about. I paused to relight my cigar, took some slow puffs, tried to act like I was looking for somebody.

"... Well, Loma left here two year ago to make her fortune in New York City," the crab-voiced lady commented, "and if'n that diamond is any measure, Wi-nona, I reckon she has did it."

"She's also took up smokin'," said old Mrs. Calvert, joining the group.

"No!" exclaimed Miss Winona. "Who told you that?"

"Miss Hazel's cook smelt it on her."

Mrs. Tabor, walking by, heard that and said, "But y'all, she whistled for the Presbyterians at preachin' this mornin'. It was real pretty."

Miss Winona was incensed. "Now, Miz Tabor. What could a vaudeville whistler possibly whistle in church?"

"Why, Wi-nona, you should a-been there! She done 'Whisperin' Hope.' She whistled it in two-part harmony — like doin' a duet with herself!"

"What I heard was she looked mighty peculiar doin' it," said Mrs. Crab-Voice. "Kept pokin' on her mouth and cheeks with her hands and fingers the whole time."

"Well, she did look funny. But it was bout the prettiest sound I nearly ever heard. Sent chills up the back of my neck. Why, there's Will Tweedy! Where you been keepin' yourself, sugar?"

Greetings and handshakes came thick as I made my way through gaps in the crowd. "Hey, Will Tweedy, you old son of a gun! Come 'ere, boy!" "Goodness, Will, ain't seen you in too long!"

A group of excited boys and young men were carrying on about the war. Old Mr. Henry Botts put his arm around one in uniform and said, "We go'n have the Kaiser on the run in no time, ain't we, son?"

The Army boy was Harkness Predmore. Last time I saw Harkness he looked barely old enough to shave. "Hey, Will!" he called to me. "I enlisted!"

"Congratulations, Harkness. Take care of yourself," I called back, and walked on — faster ...

Nobody had asked why I wasn't in the Army. They may have wondered, but nobody asked.

Fat little Mr. Homer Boozer was already eating watermelon at a table shaded by the big oak tree. Fat little Miss Alice Ann saw me, poked Mr. Homer, pointed in my direction, and called out, "Will Tweedy, come say howdy!" I went over and said howdy, then excused myself to join those waiting under the tree to meet the new teachers.

I couldn't see Papa for the people, but I knew he was there. When I did catch sight of him, I felt the usual twinge of shame, but I also marveled how he could keep on in his role as community and church leader despite what he'd done — as if it hadn't even happened. There he was, prosperous and dignified, standing with four other school board members. By craning my neck I could see two of the young ladies. But not the dark-complected one.

Instead, I saw Lightfoot and Hosie Roach with their four children, all holding hands as they headed for a plank table already set with watermelon slices. I wanted to go speak, but let the moment pass.

In high school when I was so crazy about her, Lightfoot was skinny, tow-headed, fresh from the mountains, eager to learn. But she had to leave school and work in the mill, and at fifteen she married Hosie Roach, a twenty-two-year-old mill hand who had gone to work for Grandpa Blakeslee at the store. Lightfoot was kind of fat now and her hair had darkened, but from where I stood she looked proud and happy.

I used to hate Hosie. He always was smart, no denying, and a few years ago, he and Lightfoot had started a store of their own in a little shack at the edge of Mill Town. Townspeople called them uppity, which meant they were making a go of it. Their oldest child was about nine now, a pretty little white-haired girl named Precious.

Precious Roach. Good Lord!

Watching the family stroll away, I wondered if Precious would be in Miss Klein's fourth grade.


Excerpted from "Leaving Cold Sassy"
by .
Copyright © 1992 Estate of Olive Ann Burns.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Leaving Cold Sassy 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Two2dogs More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book, after reading the first book (Cold Sassy Tree) I could not wait to read the second, not disappointed. At the end of the book it talks about the Author, loved this section too, amazing and very interesting woman, sure wish she could have written much more books for the world to enjoy. I highly recommend this book, if you read the first you have to read the second!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the first book!! This is not a finished book so save your money. See if your local library has it.
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earlyB More than 1 year ago
Ordered for my wife to use at her book club. She has macular degeneration so large print is a must. Book is in excellent condition. It is just as good a story as "Cold Sassy Tree".