Sometime in the mid-1970s, I got in my car and drove to Avalon, Mississippi. While I was by no means a blues aficionado, I loved Mississippi John Hurt's music, and Avalon was his hometown.
Saturday we were having lunch in a small, overcrowded barbecue joint in Avondale, a revived neighborhood northeast of downtown Birmingham. One of the two young women waiting in line to order in front of us turned to Beth, who was pondering her choices out loud.
It was too much to get into a single photograph, the scene in front of us.
Sitting astride his bicycle, his foot on the curb, a man with a small dog was having a conversation with an unseen person on the other side of the street. Though they were a block away, the cyclist's voice reverberated down the street blending with the chorus of katydids, cicadas and crickets.
Turtle has just one plan at a time, and every cell buys into it.
-- Ted Kooser, poet
It's not often you see a box turtle swimming across a river. At first glance, it appeared to be a snake engorged with prey it had just swallowed. When I pulled close and realized what it was, I turned the boat to watch.
Call someone obsessive, and you run the risk of sounding critical. Yet, I meant it as the highest compliment for the late Gill Harris, the beloved engineer, musician, raconteur, gourmand, father and husband.
We are standing in the graveyard of a country church talking in hushed voices, about 60 of us. Hollywood could not have come up with a more beautiful setting for a funeral.
I was almost to the church that lost its steeple to the tornado, when the rooster started crowing. It sounded like he was a block away, somewhere on Third Avenue South. I was driving down College Street, windows down, headed to Mark Stokes' to have the pick-up's brakes checked.
In a world trending toward one-click-and-it's-on-the-way commerce, it's reaffirming to run up on someone who grows and sells watermelon plants from seeds found in a deceased uncle's freezer 20 years ago. Or white eggplant from seeds stashed in a baby food jar in the house of a grandmother named Zada.
At 5:30 in the morning it sounds as if the motel I'm staying in has been transported during the night to trackside at Talladega where time trials are going on. Outside on Airline Highway, pickup trucks, bumper-to-bumper, are roaring east in the dark toward the refineries at Norco and Destrehan.
On a rainy morning last week, William "Peppy" Biddy stood in front of a computer next to his desk in Cromwell Hall talking via Skype with a student in Italy. The student's name is Tristan, and he and Biddy were going over a marked up version of the student's M.F.A. thesis discussing Biddy's suggestions for improvement.
OK, here's a math problem for you, one I was faced with one day last week. A 1-cubic-foot bag of topsoil at a big box store costs $1.50. A yard of topsoil from the Lowndes County Co-Op is $40.
The only time I ever went deer hunting was when Bull Sullivan was recruiting me to play football at Scooba. A group of fellow recruits and I spent a night or two at a deer camp somewhere in the wilds of Noxubee County. (A friend who was similarly recruited two years earlier said the deer camp belonged to the Sparkmans of Macon.)
Ross, a kayaking buddy, likes to take a garbage bag on our river outings so we can police the take-out area after we've finished paddling.
Most of us, one time or another, have been called upon -- or taken it upon ourselves -- to serve as a tour guide. The call came for me a couple weeks ago. An eminent musician would be here for three days and his host wondered if I would give him a tour, share with him some of the "historical richness" of our community.
On a recent, brilliantly cold morning while navigating a kayak down the Buttahatchee somewhere between Lawrence Bridge Road near Caledonia and Highway 45, I thought about the late Robert McG. Thomas Jr., the celebrated writer of obituaries for the New York Times.
For as long as I can remember, I've been walking the trestle. By that I mean walking out on the old railroad bridge over the old channel of the river near the south end of First Street near Carrier Lodge. My children have "walked the trestle," so have the grandchildren.
In January 1996, when I took this job, I had little idea about the inner workings of a newspaper. As a kid, I had grown up running up and down the halls of this place, and I'd had a few summer jobs here.
"The Lower Mississippi River is suffering from gross misunderstanding & neglect. Most people think of it as either a drainage ditch or a super-highway for tugboat commerce. Its neither. It's a wilderness in the heart of the South."
One evening this past week, at the urging of James "H.D." Taylor, the subject of last week's column, Beth and I headed east toward Mac Davis Road to see the herd of plywood cows in a pasture next to Mitzi and Tom Green's home.
H.D. allowed he had made the cows for the Greens and even made a set for a woman from Tennessee who saw them and had to have some of her own.
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