Ode to Billy Joe



Everyone has a favorite scene in a movie.  Here’s mine from Ode to Billy Joe.


NOTE: Video and Audio is out of sync by about 1 second.





(At 00:37 in video clip)



[It’s a Sunday.  Bobbie Lee Hartley and her parents and brother are just leaving the church when Billy Joe McAllister grabs Bobble Lee by the arm and drags her away to talk in private.  Billy Joe is wearing a rust-colored suit with a white shirt and white shoes that stand out like beacons.]



Billy Joe:  OK, Bobbie Lee.  By now your papa surely knows who I am.


Bobbie Lee:  Oh, he knows who you are.  He just doesn’t know what you are.


Billy Joe:  That very well may be.  Still, you inform your papa that I am comin’ to call.


Bobbie Lee:  You don’t seem to understand, fool.  My papa’s problem is not with you.  His problem is with me.  And the fact that I’m only…


Billy Joe:  Fifteen.  Yes, I know.  You’re also 32, and you best start using them real quickly before they go bad and fall off.  Miss Hartley, I shall arrive at your home at seven p.m. this very evening.


Bobbie Lee: You would be wise to make no such personal appearance.


Billy Joe: Seven p.m.  On the nose.  And you please inform your papa that I am coming to call, I would appreciate some iced tea, as befits a gentleman caller.  With lemon and sugar.  And a straw, if you got one.


Bobbie Lee: You set one foot on our porch and he’ll blow both your ears off in one shot.


Billy Joe: I shall not be needin my ears, little lady, as eyes shall be doin’ all the talkin.’





[Bobbie Lee is sitting home waiting impatiently with a pitcher of iced tea, lemon, sugar and, of course, a straw.  Her mama is knitting, and her papa is reading. Bobbie Lee turns off the radio.]


(At 00:45 in video clip)


Mama: That was a nice station.  Why’d you turn it off?


Bobbie Lee: Just to save my battery.




Bobbie Lee:  Papa, may I have a few words?


Papa:  A few?


Bobbie Lee:  Yes, I’m lately bothered.


Papa: Oh?


Bobbie Lee:  Yes, I’m lately bothered by an attitude of yours.


Papa:  By an attitude of mine?  Am I about to hear about that now?  Yes?


Bobbie Lee:  Yes.  Sir.


Papa:  Well, you go on.  You just choose your words real careful.  You hear?


Bobbie Lee:  Yeah.  I hear.


Mama:  Bobbie Lee, your papa’s listenin.’  This is your moment.


Papa:  You gonna have to move on now, honey.  I got me some reading to do here.  I ain’t in no mood for no time wastin.’


Bobbie Lee:  Well, that’s my botherment.


Papa:  What is?


Bobbie Lee:  The light in here.  It’s surely gonna ruin our eyes and, and we need our eyes for readin’ and lookin’ and singin.’


Papa:  Is that a fact?


Bobbie Lee:  Yes, and I think it’s high time we add some electricity into this place and stop livin’ like Tobacco Road.


Papa:  Tobacco Road, you say?


Bobbie Lee:  Well, only in a manner of speakin.’


Papa: Come on girl.  You’re into it now.  You best make the most of it.


Bobbie Lee:  Well, here it is.  1953.  And we have yet to get electricity into this house.  My eyes are goin’ bad.  And I have yet to see life.


Mama:  Rural electric associations don’t supply power to isolated areas, Bobbie Lee.  Now you know that.


Bobbie Lee:  Well, then what about the plumbing?  Surely we could have some modern plumbing in here.


Papa:  Does goin’ to the outhouse hurt your eyes, girl?


Bobbie Lee:  Oh, well, if that’s your attitude.


Papa:  My attitude?


Mama:  Your papa hardly knows what you’re talkin’ about, Bobbie Lee.


Bobbie Lee:  Yeah, ain’t that always the way?


Papa:  What way?


Mama:  Be specific.


Bobbie Lee:  I think I’m old enough to receive gentlemen callers.


Papa:  So that’s your botherment, huh?


Bobbie Lee:  Yes, that is my botherment.


Papa:  Why’d you have to drag plumbing into it?


Bobbie Lee:  I don’t know.


Papa:  I mean, why didn’t you just come out and say what you wanted to say?


Bobbie Lee:  Well, I’m sayin’ so now.


Papa:  Well, you mighty huffy about it.


Bobbie Lee:  Yes, I’m huffy.  I’m very huffy.  Bobbie Lee is huffy.  See how huffy Bobbie Lee is.


Papa:  How old are you girl?


Bobbie Lee:  Thirty-two.  C cup.


Papa:  Well, I’ll tell you what.  In two more years, when you’re thirty-four whatever, then you can have your gentlemen callers.  How’s that?


Bobbie Lee: [Heading toward the door.]  Two more years.  I’ll be a ninety-six.


Papa: [To mama]  Girl’s ravin’ on Hannah.


Mama:  Where you goin’?


Bobbie Lee:  What’s the difference?  I’ll be old when I get there.


Mama:  Uh, what should we do with all this iced tea?


[Bobbie Lee doesn’t respond.  She leaves the house and begins walking up a dirt road.]


Papa: [To mama]  That last question, Hannah, that was a dangerous question.


[Bobbie Lee is now walking up a dirt road near a field.  She begins talking to herself.]


Bobbie Lee: Here we are…2nd half of the 20th Century.  The 20th Century !  And Mississippi has yet to hear a word of it.  Amazing !  Amazing !  I’ve come this far in life and as yet I have seen no television, ridden in no convertible car – nothinfortifyin’ has crossed my lips but a Pepsi Cola – nothin’ venturesome has crossed my mind beyond two back-issues of Torrid Romance – which I’ve read to death and I know better than the Star-Spangled Banner.  My entire life is dictated by the 1925 Sears Roebuck Catalog…pages 267 through 295.  We got plumbing that the cavemen gave up on 22 million years ago and an outhouse that further utilizes a Sears Roebuck catalog…issues 1895 through 1927.


[At this moment, Bobbie Lee meets Billy Joe on the road.  Billy Joe ignores her, and keeps on trudging toward Bobbie Lee’s house with a bouquet of flowers in his hand.  He’s changed clothes since church.  He does manage, however, to speak to her when he passes.]


Billy Joe:  Good Evenin


Bobbie Lee:  Evenin


[Bobbie Lee turns and runs back to Billy Joe, who keeps on trudging for a moment.]


Bobbie Lee:  Where do you think you’re goin’?


Billy Joe:  Your house up ahead.


Bobbie Lee:  Well, you’re about as welcome as a drought.


Billy Joe:  Lot better than the rude company out here.


Bobbie Lee:  Well, I admire your courage, but I don’t much care for your timing.  If you have any feeling at all for me, sir, and any hopes of squeezing my soft and pliant flesh…you best stop and consider what I’m sayin,’ Billy Joe.


Billy Joe:  Miss Hartley, I do not see how we can go on this way much longer.  It’s both unfulfilling and, and damn medieval.


Bobbie Lee:  I have similar concerns, I assure you, but this is no night for a shootout with my papa.


Billy Joe:  Did you tell your papa that I was comin’ to call?


Bobbie Lee:  Well, we never got past the plumbing. 


Billy Joe: Am I supposed to understand that?


Bobbie Lee:  Oh, nobody’s supposed to understand that.  Einstein couldn’t even understand it.


Billy Joe:  How can I like you?  You’re very unlikeable.


Bobbie Lee:  Oh?


Billy Joe: Yes, Oh.  You’re always onery.  You’re forever zigging when I’m zagging.  We’re always arguing.  Why am I attracted to you?


Bobbie Lee:  I ask myself that about you.


Billy Joe:  Oh?


Bobbie Lee:  Yeah, Oh.  My brother says you’re a tadpole.  I plainly think you’re stupid.  You’re an embarrassment when you try to make yourself known to my papa.  I mean, you’ve introduced yourself to my family so often they think you’re Jack Benny.


Billy Joe:  A tadpole?


Bobbie Lee:  Least you ain’t wearin’ those stupid white shoes.


Billy Joe:  I don’t wear ‘em in the evening.  They attract snakes.


Bobbie Lee: Well, they don’t attract Papa



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