Goodbye Kate, Billy C. Clark’s sixth novel, is based in part on a mule he once owned. In the novel, Kate is found far back in the hills by a lonely country boy named Isaac Warfield. He lives close enough to Tatesburg, the nearest town, to walk to school there, but it’s a small town, and his home is isolated. Isaac has graduated from the little country school he has attended and the other members of his class will be moving on to another school, or to no school at all. He won’t have much contact with his friends anymore, and the nearest neighbor, a money-hungry man named Simm Johns, has no children and is “mean as a striped snake.” Isaac finds Kate when he goes back into the hills to pick some blackberries for his mother. The little mule is apparently as lonely as Isaac is, and she adopts him and follows him home – as far as the pine grove above the house, that is.
Kate gets Isaac into trouble by following him to school and disrupting the teacher’s history lessons. But Isaac fins a new friend, Elwood Sperry, and they devise a scheme to make some money by renting out Kate for rides during lunch hour. Unfortunately, their plans are exposed when Kate follows Isaac into the school building, and the principal marches the boys into his office and makes them tell him all about their little business enterprise.
Kate really gets Isaac into trouble when she follows his new route to school directly through town and starts trampling flower beds and getting into gardens. But the big trouble comes when Kate gets caught eating feed at John Naper’s feed store. Naper has Kate arrested, and the two-man police force puts the little mule in jail.
What happens next is sheer comedy, but with a very serious side to it. If no one stands up for Kate, she will have to go to the tannery, where she will be killed for her hide. Isaac and Elwood hatch up a scheme to free Kate, but they have to use both the legal system and public opinion to do it. You will enjoy reading about how Elwood and Isaac awaken the town’s conscience and create sympathy for the little mule, and you will be interested in how Kate finally proves herself to everyone, including the skinflint Simm Johns.
Goodbye Kate is recommended for reading in grades 5-9, but adults will enjoy it, too. Billy C. Clark’s wonderful novel is enhanced by excellent illustrations by Harold Eldridge. This book was edited for republication by Dr. Jerry A. Herndon, an English Professor at Murray State University. Dr. Herndon is a widely published scholar, a skilled editor and archivist, and a member of The Board of Directors of the Jesse Stuart Foundation.
By Billy C. Clark