A Memoir of Growing Up and Second Chances
On Sale: May 18, 2010
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Fred Thompson has enjoyed a remarkable career in Hollywood
and politics, but when he sat down to write a memoir about
how he got to be the person he is, he discovered that his
best stories all seemed to come out of the years he spent
growing up in and around his hometown of Lawrenceburg,
Tennessee. It was a small town but not the smallest—after
all, it was the county seat and it did have a courthouse, a
couple of movie theaters, and its own Davy Crockett statue.
For truly small, you had to travel to nearby Summertown,
where the regular Sunday dinner was possum and chocolate
gravy. But Lawrenceburg is where Fred got to be a kid, get
in his share of trouble and scrapes, get to know folks he
didn’t realize were so colorful at the time but sure does
now, get married, have a few kids, become a man, and start
his career as a country lawyer (pretty much in that order).
And as Fred tells it, getting that law degree was something
of a surprise for him, since in school he’d been less than
stellar as a scholar. “Teaching Latin to someone like me,”
he says, “was like trying to teach a pig to dance. It’s a
waste of the teacher’s time and it irritates the
In these reflections, as hilarious as
they are honest and warm, Fred touches on the
influences—family, hometown neighbors and teachers, team
sports, jobs, romances, and personal crises—that molded his
character, his politics, and the way he looks at life today.
We get to know the unforgettable characters who congregated
at the Blue Ribbon Café, like the rotund gentleman called
“Shorty” whose claim to fame was his ability to quickly suck
in his stomach and cause his pants to fall to the floor. Or
Fred’s Grandma Thompson, who became an early TV adopter for
the sole purpose of watching “Wrestling from Hollywood” and
who once had a “gourder” removed from her neck and
subsequently walked around town with it in a handkerchief
showing it to folks. One day Fred and an accomplice placed
small explosive Fourth of July “cracker balls” under the
four legs of their teacher’s chair. Mrs. Garner sat down
and, despite the racket, didn’t flinch so much as a
muscle—but Fred felt a twinge of the one emotion he hated
most—shame. Fred idolized Coach Staggs from his high school
football days, even though he was “like Captain Ahab without
the humor” and didn’t like smart alecks, comics, or
individualists, which put the young Fred at a disadvantage.
More than anyone else from those days though, Fred remembers
his mom and dad, who taught him that kids are shaped most of
all by the love and support they can take for
granted. Teaching the Pig to Dance
delight everyone who admires Fred Thompson for his
contributions to politics or for his work in movies and on
TV, along with all those who just love to hear rollicking
but unforgettable stories about growing up in a place where,
as one of the local old timers put it, “We weren’t big
enough to have a town drunk, so a few of us had to take turns.”
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