homespun a. simple and unsophisticatedoffbeat a. unconventional; unusual
My world history teacher was a short, stocky man who combined a fine mind with a homespun manner and an offbeat, wicked sense of humor.
ride v. travel in a vehicle, such as a car, bus, or trainragtag a. untidy, disorganized, or incongruously varied in character
I can still see Castro riding into Havana at the head of his ragtag but victorious army.
start in v. attack verbally; begin to criticizeraunchy a. earthy, vulgar, and often sexually explicit
Henry started in on me about my jeans, which, that night, were especially raunchy.
poolroom n. a commercial establishment where pool or billiard games are playedstroll v. walk in a leisurely way
I strolled into the poolroom next to the gym, where the Coke machine was, to get something to drink.
last-gasp a. done at the last possible moment, typically in desperationdisperse v. distribute or spread over a wide area
Little Rock's schools were closed in a last-gasp effort to stop integration, its kids dispersed to schools in nearby towns.
transfix v. cause someone to become motionless with horror or wonderfeel at home v. feel as if one belongs, feel accepted
I sat on the floor right in front of the TV and watched them both, transfixed; it sounds crazy, but I felt right at home in the world of politics and politicians.
rack v. cause extreme physical or mental pain tohysterical a. deriving from or affected by uncontrolled extreme emotion
Her stroke was a major one, and in the aftermath she was racked by hysterical screaming.
preacher n. a person who delivers a sermon publiclydunk v. dip or submerge temporarily in liquid
When the preacher held her nose and dunked her, she went completely rigid.
eternity n. state after deathdevil n. difficult, deceptive, or problematic part of something
Soon I was pouring blood and hurting like the devil, after what seemed an eternity my uncle showed up and saved me.
ram n. a male sheeptempt fate v. do something that is risky or dangerous
I knew there was one mean ram we had to avoid, but we decided to tempt fate, a big mistake.
kinfolk n. a person's blood relations, regarded collectivelymishap n. an unlucky accident
All my kinfolks could tell a story, making simple events, encounters, and mishaps of ordinary people come alive with drama and laughter.
modest a. underestimating of one's abilities or achievements; neither bold nor self-assertiverevolve v. move in a circle on a central axis
Social life in my extended family, like that of most people of modest means who grew up in the country, revolved around meals, conversation, and storytelling.
obsession n. persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feelingdimly ad. faintly, seemingly
She had a great laugh, but she also was full of anger, disappointment, and obsessions she only dimly understood.
bone-chilling a. very cold, causing strong feelings of fear, terrorfrosty n. very cold with frost forming on surfaces
We somehow survived bone-chilling temperatures and the night is still expected to be unreasonably frosty, but I have a feeling things are about to heat up.
peek into v. take a brief look, glancehobbyist n. someone who enjoys doing something as a hobby