Excerpt: 'Teaching the Pig to Dance'

The former Tenneesse Senator writes about his small town upbringing.

ByABC News via logo
May 17, 2010, 11:44 AM

May 18, 2010— -- In "Teaching the Pig to Dance" former Tennessee Senator and Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson writes about his small-town upbringing and unlikely journey to Washington and Hollywood.

Read an excerpt of the book below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.

In the part of the country where I come from, most people are proud of their hometown. Folks in Linden, Tennessee, are a good example of that. Situated in rural country in Middle Tennessee, about fifty-seven miles from where I grew up, Linden had about a thousand residents.

One day during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, the coffee drinkers at the drugstore on the town square noticed out the window that one of the local good old boys had his pickup truck loaded with what appeared to be his worldly possessions.

As he walked into the drugstore to buy supplies, one of the coffee-drinking busybodies said to him:

"Lem, looks like you're moving out. What's up?"

"Ain't you boys heard about the missile crisis?" Lem replied.

The fellow answered, "Yeah, but what makes you think they're gonna bomb Linden?"

Lem said, "It's the county seat, ain't it?"

Well, Lawrenceburg is a county seat, too. This meant that Lawrenceburg had a courthouse with a square. Every courthouse in the state was located to be not more than a half day's horse ride from any part of the county. It also meant that Lawrenceburg was the location of the county fair. As the center of county culture, it had a movie theater. And it had an organized Little League. In short, growing up in the county seat was pretty much a privileged situation.

Like thousands of little towns across America, it was populated mostly by folks who had grown up on the farm and come to town to enjoy the fruits of a better life. Usually having little in the way of a formal education, a man's reputation for hard work and keeping his word were his most valuable assets. That's the way it was with my people and just about everybody they knew. It's not that our town didn't have its share of scalawags. As one old-timer put it, "We weren't big enough to have a town drunk, so a few of us had to take turns."

What we did have for sure was more than our share of characters, used-car lots, and churches, all of which were an important part of my years growing up.