September 05, 2017

We both loved Gary Stewart, and we both loved Grace.

My wife Grace’s father was a big man. He wasn’t much more than six feet tall, but I think folks thought of him as taller because he carried himself large. He tried being a hippie once, he said, but couldn’t abide the non-violence (too many people needed to get their asses kicked). At the first job he ever had, on a ranch, he got a business card with his official title: COWBOY. He kept that card. He wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. He had the best hunting dogs in Levy County. For a while he ran a sawmill. For a while he was a watermelon farmer, then a beekeeper, then he raised buffalo on the family farm. That’s just a small sampling. His name was John. He went by Chuck. 

August 25, 2020

An essay from the Place Issue

The quest was half-ironic, but I was hoping at the same time to feel something I couldn’t make fun of. If a revelation from the Earth manifested inside my body, well, that would mean some of that light was in me, too. 

October 08, 2018

Anne Spencer’s ecosystem of art and activism

As I read, I fell in love with Anne Spencer’s fierceness and wit. In some ways, she reminded me of my own grandmother—a voluble woman, gardener, and scrawler of notes on the back of lists. Finding Spencer’s scraps, I felt the same sort of matriarchal literary presence amid the dailiness of domestic life: glimpses of how an ambitious, literary-minded woman might manage a house.

August 25, 2020

An essay from the Place Issue

This congregation is the only one in eastern Alabama and was born out of a potluck dinner for Rosh Hashanah in the early ’80s when a local couple invited four friends over, telling them to extend the invitation to everyone they knew. Eighty people showed up, all surprised at the number of other members of the tribe around them; many had assumed they were one of the only Jewish families around.

September 04, 2018

Sarah Winchester and the legacy of living with guns 

It’s difficult to understate how the repeating rifle revolutionized killing, of both animals and man, as it brought the world from the single-shot muzzle-loaded rifle to a gun that could hold multiple cartridges and fire two shots per second. It’s the “gun that won the West.”

August 21, 2020

An essay from the Place Issue

Hursley has a visual appetite for the broad sweep of landscapes and architecture. He doesn’t necessarily re-envision the commonplace in order to invite us to see it again, but instead directs us to see the effect of forces beyond our own ambitions—forces like time or perspective or serendipity—on objects we believe under our measly control. Hursley peeks inside structures so mundane from the exterior, so commonplace in Arkansas towns like Helena, Wilson, Brinkley, and Lake Village, that most folks familiar with the region would barely take note of them.

April 21, 2016

If you believe that frogs have personalities, then think of the dusky gopher frog as a diva with a death wish.

August 25, 2020

An essay from the Place Issue

I don’t know about this stuff. I’m not a car guy. But it seems I’ve always been aware of Yello Belly Drag Strip as a place an only child of somewhat fearful disposition would not ever want to go. I’m pretty sure, however, (odd to be uncertain, but one wishes things, one tends to make things up) I went there once when a business associate of my father’s came to town in his brand-new ’59 Impala (you don’t have to be mechanical to know that was the very best year for fins—in this case arcing, horizontal; almost practical, anticipating flight) and wanted to race it. Or, more likely, simply time it down the track.

November 10, 2020

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

There was a moment in 1958 when the future of jazz took an extraordinary turn that would be imperceptible to the world for another quarter century. That’s when Ellis Marsalis Jr., freshly discharged from the U.S. Marines in Southern California, drew his mustering-out pay, loaded up his car, and decided which way to go.

June 26, 2013

I took down my bird feeders today after coming home to find a neighbor’s cat on the doorstep eating a goldfinch.