Cracker Barrel Troubleshooter

January 5, 2016

So, here’s a fun book.

Cracker Barrel Troubleshooter, by Jim Kjelgaard, is about Bill Rawls, a college student whose guardian — his uncle — dies after having frittered away Bill’s fortune. All that’s left is a country store in a tiny former lumber town called Elk Shanty. Bill could probably work his way through the rest of his college course, but this is, as I said, a Fun Book, so he decides to check out Elk Shanty instead. He finds:

  • a pretty girl.
  • a funny dog.
  • a population not capable of supporting a store.
  • a burly local youth who inexplicably hates him.
  • lots of food. Like, so much.
  • good fishing.

He decides, for whatever reason — the girl and repeated blows to the head are factors, I think — to stay and attempt to make a go of the store, which is, after all, all he’s got. This, for me, is the really fun part. I mean, sure, the fishing is made to sound reasonably exciting, and so is the eventual big fist fight, but for me the bit where Bill has to convince a local wholesaler to extend his credit is better.

And, I mean, this is a book for teenage boys, so everything is simplified, but Kjelgaard lets Bill make mistakes and give you enough material to understand them. Making the store a success usually looks achievable, but never easy. Also the food sounds very appealing, although I’ve always found it difficult to imagine people consuming pie in the quantities they do in old books.

Anyway, I enjoyed this a lot. I can’t imagine any of Kjelgaard’s other books will feel quite as specifically geared towards me — I’d happily subsist on a diet of books about people doing good things with unexpected inheritances — but I think I’m going to have to check a few out anyway.


  1. You had my attention at lots of food. Sounds great!

    • It’s not a food book like, say, Swiss Family Robinson is a food book, but the meals all sound awfully appealing.

  2. They burned more calories on the olde timey frontier, so they had to eat more pie!

    • I guess that must be it.

  3. If this is the same Jim Kjelgaard who wrote the Big Red books, you might like him. Tought kid outwits upper class twit was the subplot as I remember.

    I read him a lot as a kid because he had great dog books. But it’s been – well, it’s been a long time & I’ll have to reread them to be sure.

    • I came across a reference to Big Red when I was trying to find out about Jim Kjelgaard. And dog books seem to be what he’s remembered for, chiefly.

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