Bestselling Amazon author Robert D. Bennett, NSU Alumni and Natchitoches native, is to appear at the Northwestern State University Folklife Festival on July 20-21, 2012 to promote his book, The Bottle Tree, which has just been released in print.
The Bottle Tree is a story set deep in the piney woods of what is now Kisatchie National Forest but in the early 20th century was the site of logging and turpentine camps which provided a living to many of its residents.
Deep in these forests of central Louisiana, three children learn that life amid the turpentine and lumber camps they call home is not what defines who they are, or who they will become as adults. In the early 1900s, Louisiana’s forests were home to hard working men who made turpentine from the piney lumber by day, and then went home to the clapboard houses in company camps set up around the sawmills. If they were lucky, they had families waiting for them when they got there. The Bottle Tree is a gripping account of life in a turpentine camp for 3 resilient families and their children, who must face this harsh environment in order to survive. Leesie, Johnny, and Caleb endure many of the same hardships as their parents, but once their bond is forged, the trio takes a stand against one of the camp’s most common problems: the struggle with racism. While the segregated camp feeds adult insecurities, Leesie and Caleb befriend Johnny and begin teaching each other that racial divides are fabricated by ignorance and fear; 2 qualities each child refuses to possess. The Bottle Tree will make you laugh and cry and leave you entertained.
This book was influenced by stories told to the author by his Great Aunt, Thelma Leach. Ms. Leach was a graduate of NSU back when it was the Louisiana State Normal College and was a life long resident of Natchitoches Parish. She taught thousands of children during her years at the area schools, including the Kistachie School and Provencal High School. While a child she was also a resident of the logging and turpentine camp upon which the story is based.