Are there layers to Jackson Speed?

I have this image in my mind of Jackson Speed, the old man, sitting at his desk in his home in Madison, Georgia. Hair and whiskers have gone white, the old wounds from battle ache. He doesn’t get around as well as he used to, but he’s outlived nearly all of his enemies.

He sits over his papers, furiously writing, as he recalls the events of his life: The battles he fought in, the people he knew, the women he got belly-to-belly with. Especially the women. They are his favorite part to reminisce about.

I think for Speed, the battles, the generals, the presidents – they are all just a backdrop against which he fondly recalls the women of his life.

Marcilina de la Garza dancing at the fandango in Cervallo.

Eliza Brooks in a California stream, “Jack Speed, we’re covered in gold!”

Kate Cherry disguised as a Yankee soldier, kissing him outside McClellan’s tent.

Jenny Rakestraw, “It’s an awful world Jack. I despise it, every bit of it. I am broken hearted and downtrodden. I have abused my body and cast aside my morals for a cause I don’t know that I continue to believe in. And so now I just want to go home. And it’s a fact, Jack, if I found you at home with me, I wouldn’t be too disappointed.”

And, of course, Ashley Franks tempting our young hero with her peach cobbler.

They’re old memories, but I think they keep him going.

I never know if Ol’ Speedy is being completely honest with us. I have to wonder if he ran quite as fast as he claims to have run or if the women were ever quite as willing as they are in his memory.

He’s been accused, by a history professor who has read some of his memoirs, of exaggerating his own cowardice. I suppose that’s possible. I suspect, for those who grew up with the Jackie Speed legend and imagined him as a brave and daring adventurer – a war hero, an Indian fighter, a gunslinger, a Pinkerton – it’s hard to read his confessions of cowardice and accept them as fact.

When I read his memoirs, I assume that he’s telling us the truth when he says he ran or hid, but I’ve always wondered if the old man didn’t concoct at least some of his dalliances.

Many of the people who have read the Jackson Speed memoirs have used words like “rascal” or “scoundrel” to describe him, but I wonder if maybe even in his memoirs he’s not playing us a bit. Is Jackson Speed as awful as he tells us he is, or do there exist layers worth exploring?

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