Consider 29-year-old Mat Roper. "Handsome, with shoulder-length blond hair and an ocean tan, the Californian looked like a king among the dour-eyed country folks and pale Midwestern collegians returning to farms for Christmas." Roper is on board a bus bound for Dickeyville, Wisconsin, to meet Daphne's family. Daphne Dickey, his fiancée, in the town named after her ancestors.
It's snowing, and very cold, and a strange old man on the bus seems overly talkative. You've got to understand the Midwest, says the man, by reading its writers. "Because it's like the winter insomnia, when it comes. Like a bare bulb swaying while a blizzard pounds your hundred-year-old farmhouse. Same place your Pappy and Ma was married and died in, buried in the family graveyard next to your grandmother and father. Same storm rages in your soul, son. Nor-wester of hunger and fear. ..."
So, Dickeyville, population 999, and Mat arrives just in time for Dickeyville Horror Days, a boar hunt of mythical proportions, hunting a boar of mythical proportions. "European wild boar," one local tells him. "A killer who runs to five hundred pounds, judging from the hoof prints. ... Most dangerous animal in North America" haunting the great Mazy forest wherein dwelt old Dead Alice and her witchy wiles.
Butte College language arts instructor Joe Abbott has created a strange and wondrous world in "Dickeyville" ($17.50 in paperback from Starhaven; also available in Amazon Kindle e-book format). Abbott will be signing copies of his book at a free literary event tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. at Lyon Books in Chico.
There's Ma and Pa, Verne, Bascom, the well-endowed twins Twila and Cabella, Buster Hieman, and a cartload more: "Dickeyville hicks," Mat thinks. Yet he is "flummoxed by hayseed yokels." There's the boar hunt, and "angel dinosaur bones," all in the "little town with twisty streets and twisted jokes. ... Crazy beer-swilling hicks with muscles by Jake."
Part of the fun of the story is to see the Roper get hog-tied. And then some. Says Mat: "I feel like I stepped in a pile of Dickeyville."
"Dickeyville" is a comic novel rife with oddballs who are never quite what they seem. Abbott's radiant prose reminds us there are plenty of snow jobs to go around.