Rucker Blakeslee, a grandfather, patriarch, and successful storeowner, is the commanding center of Cold Sassy Tree. His imposing physical stature reflects his authority over his family and the ease with which he flouts Cold Sassy’s conventions. Not only Rucker’s morals but also his wit and prankish tendency stimulate his desire to be a thorn in Cold Sassy’s side. He takes particular joy in shaming the town’s hypocrites. He marries a much younger woman, holds church services in his own home, and puts on a lavish burial for Camp, even though Camp kills himself. Rucker is determined to defy every convention that the rest of the town observes. Cold Sassy grumbles at Rucker’s cantankerousness, but Rucker is a figure of integrity for his grandson, Will, and for us. The town is prejudiced, but Rucker is open-minded. The town clings to outdated rules, but Rucker behaves according to the dictates of his conscience. The town pays lip service to Christianity, but Rucker deciphers Jesus’ words.

Despite—and also because of—Rucker’s stubbornness and individuality, he holds a position of authority in Cold Sassy. He owns the general store, which is the hub of the town’s business and gossip. He rules, sometimes fiercely, over his obedient daughters and their husbands and children. Because Rucker is an established part of Cold Sassy life, his brashness is easier than it looks. He can safely rail against the status quo, knowing that his power, his will, and his money protect him from the anger his behavior inspires. His rebellion commands admiration, but it also sometimes makes scapegoats of Will, Miss Love, and Loomis, who do not have the same power that protects Rucker and makes him invulnerable to criticism.

Rucker becomes more cheerful and easygoing as the novel progresses. During his marriage to Mattie Lou, various difficulties affect his temperament. Although Rucker and Mattie Lou are kind and considerate to each other, the traumas of their marriage make Rucker controlling and stingy. He provides well for his family, but he vents his sadness through miserliness. Under the influence of Miss Love Simpson, however, Rucker begins to exhibit a new generosity and gentleness.