Forrest Carter’s novel “The Education of Little Tree”, tells of a young boy and his adventures with his Native American grandparents. The main character, Little Tree, is about 5 years old at the beginning of the story. His parents die, so his grandparents take him into their home. His grandpa is half Indian and half Scottish, while his grandma is full Indian. They live in a small cabin out in the wilderness on a mountain. Most of the novel is a coming of age story of how Little Tree grows to know his heritage, how to survive in the wilderness, and his grandpa’s trade. This story is also one of loss, sadness, but optimism to the future and what happens after physical death. The story begins as most stories do, with the introduction of the main characters and some of the supporting characters that play small, but key, roles in the story and in Little Tree’s life. The other two main characters that are brought into the picture are Little Tree’s grandma and grandpa. The grandfather, or Wales as he is called later in the book, is the one who Little Tree follows and is a father figure and teacher to Little Tree. The grandfather is half Scottish, half Indian by descent. He is over seven
feet tall and about seventy years old. Little Tree listens and learns all he can from his grandfather. Wales is devoted to his Cherokee side of his heritage. He does everything and Indian does and believes in. Little Tree’s grandmother’s heritage is Cherokee Indian. She is a shorter individual and is just about the same age as her husband. Since she is full Cherokee, she does all the same things the Cherokee women did. She knows all about nature, just like her husband, Wales. She is a very good cook, and uses all natural ingredients, like berries and wild game that Little Tree and his grandfather would pick and hunt. Now Little Tree’s grandparents weren’t a very wealthy people, if fact they lived very simply. Wales was the only one who would make money for the family, and it was a decent source of income for the family. The didn’t need much money to survive since they grew and hunted for most of their food and anything else material that they need that they couldn’t get from a deer skin, they traded or received from friends. Little Tree’s grandfather was in the whiskey business. It was a dangerous business, as it was against the law to make our own whiskey and sell or trade it
with other people. It also had it rewards; Little Tree and his grandparents were paid fairly well for their contribution to their local market store, The Crossroads Store. Wales had his own still hidden out on the mountain in some bushes. The grandfather would take some of the corn he grew and use that to create his whiskey. Wales was strict in the way he grew his whiskey. He revealed to Little Tree his secrets and the art of whiskey making. It seemed that Little Tree was to become Wales protégé and successor. Wales only used his copper still and pot to distill and store his whiskey. He also told Little Tree that aging the whiskey did nothing for his whiskey, and the distillers that did it in barrels were stupid and the people who liked the “barrel flavored” whiskey were even more stupid. After Little Tree and Wales had added all the ingredients and the whiskey was distilled, it was ready to sell at The Crossroads Store. They made about eleven gallons of whiskey, but kept two gallons for themselves. Little Tree and his grandfather would haul the other nine gallons in bottles stamped with Wales own “makers marker” a few miles to Mr. Jenkins and The Crossroads Store so it could be sold to which ever consumer came to the store needing whiskey. Little Tree learned and experienced this and more about his grandfather’s art and trade.