Shady is sort of an oxymoron:
- He's a Baptist preacher who runs an illegal saloon.
- He lives alone, but spends his life trying to keep others from feeling lonely.
- He's a great guy and a mentor for Jinx and Abilene, but he's shunned by lots of folks in town.
Let's take a deeper look and see if we can figure this guy out.
Shady is like a one-man welcoming committee for strangers in Manifest. He takes Jinx in when he needs a place to stay, and he takes Abilene in years later when Jinx writes him to ask years later. Abilene tells us: "My daddy, Gideon, had a healthy distrust of most people but he trusted Shady. And so did I" (3.70). Even the cynical Tuckers can put some faith in this guy.
And Shady doesn't just take in these strays. No, he acts like a father figure for them, guiding them through rough patches. Remember when Jinx's fireworks make the water tower explode? Shady gives him some tough love and makes Ned pay for the mess.
Speaking of selfless, Shady was also in the thick of the 1918 plan to save the town with his whiskey. As Miss Sadie tells Abilene, "Shady oversaw the process with the watchful eye of a master craftsman, wanting each of his apprentices to learn the art of his trade" (25.22). And it's during that crisis when Shady goes through a major transformation.
In 1918, he was an alcoholic, and everyone knew it: "Just a sip to stop the shakes and give him a little liquid courage" (25.18). It took a lot not to drink the whiskey he was distilling for the elixir. But by the time Abilene comes to stay with him, he's sworn off drinking. She reports: "I'd been wrong about Shady and his drinking. He would come back to the house in the morning with bloodshot eyes from the sleepless night and the smoky fire" (33.8). He spent his nights playing the harmonica for homeless folks and pouring them coffee by the train tracks—not drinking.
Anything to help another wandering soul.