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Showing posts from 2010

Long Hot Summer

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...  time crept by. As slowly as a thousand of those hot and humid days in the Mississippi Delta. But summer had come to an end and school was well underway. My senior year. One late fall Saturday morning, I drove to Clarksdale, parked my father's car in front of the Woolworth store and ran inside, across the freshly oiled wood floors, through the aroma of chocolate and hot cashews from the candy bins, past the smells of cheap perfume from the counters of the old familiar five and dime. I was on a mission, protocol or not.
Beth was at the lunch counter in her red-checkered uniform. She was tall and thin; her dark hair lay in ringlets about her cap; and her eyes danced when she talked, the dimples in her cheeks deepening with every smile. She moved with precision, taking orders for burgers and fries and then preparing them with little effort. Without looking, she reached for the fountain spout and drew a Coke, took a long stride over, and sat the glass in front of me.
"Jane, you…

Harrison by the Rapids

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Each of my children has given me one grandson. Phyl's Nathan; Angie's Adam; Tracy's Kyle; Joey's Harrison. I love them all with a passion.

There's just something about a "barefoot boy with cheek of tan." I loved that poem so much that I made it a permanent part of my American Literature course for external studies students at Bethany Divinity College. I think this photo gives it new meaning. My brother, Mike, took it this weekend after Harrison had just about spent himself romping the banks, skipping rocks, and just having his own private thoughts about the old Tallahatchie River that meanders through New Albany, Mississippi. A delightful spot on the southern map, the place where his great-grandparents lived for many years and where they died.

Blessings on thee, little man, Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan! With thy upturned pantaloons, And thy merry whistled tunes; With thy red lip, redder still Kissed by strawberries on the hill; With the sunshine on thy face, Th…

Pathetic Moments

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He dropped the hammer and walked out back beyond the canebrake toward the stream. When there were thoughts to be had, decisions to be made, wrongs to be righted, Isaac had always been able to tramp the woods and fields for resolution. Out where streams of warmth on a sun-drenched day hovered with intensity on his shoulders. Where southern winds blew the slightest breeze to cool the heat of an Indian summer. Where an autumn rain beat against his sun-browned face to clear the cobwebs of this war of love and hate that held him in a vice. He had dashed his own hopes and dreams, leaving Jennie behind to wonder who he was and why she had ever fallen for the roguish Payne boy in the first place.
The peaty smells of decomposing leaves atop the damp earth hung in his nostrils. He lingered a moment imagining a garden with the mossy compost subdued, wild flowers of every bloom and color replacing the piles of damp leaves, but no one to share them with. Isaac stumbled under the weight of his emoti…

It was dead of winter...

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My inspiration came the day I visited Isaac's house in Slate Springs, Mississippi in 2007. It was dead of winter and, at the time, I was writing The Mississippi Boys, the manuscript almost finished. I gave my new book its title that day—Isaac's House. It had been hard for me to say goodbye to The Mississippi Boys, and it was settled, I didn't have to. I would write Isaac's House, and behind it, Joab.These are my people. Not the Paynes, for they are my fictional family. But the Clarks—T.G., Jonathan, Albert Henry, Isaac, Joab and Samuel Clark. T.G., Jonathan, and Albert Henry all died in the Battle of Gettysburg. Isaac joined the Confederate Army when he came of age and fought until the war ended. I'm still learning about Joab, and Samuel was my great-grandfather, only two years old when his father and brothers went to war.
I returned to Isaac's house in Slate Springs in July 2009. Standing on the old front porch that day, thoughts of this man—a Confederate who s…

Cool Waters of Confession and Forgiveness

Across the gravel road from the barn was a vast piece of land neatly rowed. I took off my shoes and sank my feet into the warm, dusty loam, walked across the turn row and down a row of cotton. The tractor drivers had plowed the loamy fields, turning the fertile soil, and the tiny plants had responded. They were only about six inches high. But in a couple of months, the stalks would be as tall as I, full of blooms, squares and bolls. This was my father's cotton field. He worked long and hard to build and maintain the plantation for someone else. He knew everything about cotton from the tiny seeds to the weighty bales. The smell of the soft white fiber will be with me forever. (And so will the memory of my father.)
From House Not Made With Hands, chapter 16.


When I think about walking those dusty Mississippi roads barefoot, I remember the times I've felt a need for the Lord to wash my feet, refreshing me in the way. The vulnerability is there, but so is the daily cleansing. A tre…