A LOOK INSIDE, CONTINUED

CONCERNING THE MATTER OF THE KING OF CRAW will be released at the Kentucky Book Fair on Saturday, November 5. To give readers an idea of what it’s about and how it unfolds we’re running a few of the opening chapters  — an early look inside. Last week, The Prologue ran. This week, we go a little further inside. Owen is  sealing his rep in the new environment. 

CHAPTER FOUR: RISE PEON

Monday came.

Collection day.

The day Tubby and his merry men would be expecting to collect their tribute, the day that would mark the start of my second full week of school in this town still strange to me, the day that would set the way my peers would think of me.

I knew they knew of Tubby’s shakedowns. They must have talked of it. The word must have gotten around. Not that they were likely to ostracize the timid and the weak among them. They’d just have no respect for them.

I understood that. If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will. To prove that you do, you can’t let others push you around.

While I was a boy, the only instruction I ever had in fighting came the afternoon Andy Charbonneau got beat up.

Jigger Swinson beat hell out of him. Jigger was the biggest and meanest boy in class.

We were playing marbles after school behind the swings. Jigger said Andy cheated. He grabbed Andy’s taw and wouldn’t give it back. Andy called him a liar.

“Don’t call me a liar you little bastard.” He took Andy apart.

When Andy couldn’t stand up any longer, Jigger kicked him in the side and walked away with Andy’s taw.

Jimmy D. and Winston and me helped him home. Andy’s dad, the guide, the elk hunter, was there. “What happened, boys” he said as he washed the blood from Andy’s face.

Mr. Charbonneau, Baptiste Charbonneau, was a cheerful man with an easy way and the build of a bear. His face was wind-burned and sunburned and his eyes crinkled at the sides when he smiled. No smiles now.

When we finished, Mr. Charbonneau said, “Did anybody help this Jigger Swinson beat on Andrew?”

“No, sir.”

He waited a moment or two, considering, then said, “I’m not for fighting, boys. But some things you can’t let pass.”

He looked around to each of us. “I want all you boys to pay attention to this.”

Another long pause, waiting to be sure we were listening.

“I don’t expect you to fight unless you have to. But from time to time you’ll have to.  Life works that way.” He seemed saddened by that, but continued.

“If there’s going to be a fight, don’t stand around jawing. Don’t waste time pushing or shoving. Knock the sonofabitch down and stomp on him. Hit him as hard as you can! Go for the stomach. Knock his wind out. When he bends over to try to get a breath, hit him behind the head with both your hands locked together. When he falls, stomp on his hands so he won’t be able to hit again for a long time. Don’t give him any quarter. Don’t give him time to collect himself.”

Mr. Charbonneau was a respected man. He had to master the mountains. Sometimes had to master the egos of the swells who could afford his skills but who drank too much or wanted to take a calf for the meat when it was bulls only season and he wouldn’t permit it.

We listened.

“Beat him so bad he’ll never want to fight you again,” he said. “Blow through him like a Maria and then stand over him and tell him if he ever sees you coming he damn well better get out of the way.”

We were gathered in his kitchen when he told us this. Andy was sitting on a stool by the sink with the bloodstained washcloth floating in the basin and we were ringed around him. Mr. Charbonneau was standing behind Andy with his hand on Andy’s shoulder.

“Understand, boys? Understand what I’m telling you? Don’t get caught up in ideas about fair fights. There are no fair fights.  You hit first! Hit with as much force as you’ve got. Drop him down and stomp on him before he knows what’s happening. Make him never dare mess with you again.”

He ran his gaze over each of us, satisfying himself that we understood.

“Now, Andrew,” he said, moving around to stand in front of Andy.  “I want you to go find this boy Jigger Swinson. I want you to give him that message. And I want you to get your taw back.”

He walked to the corner by the fireplace where he kept a staff that he used when he was scouting in the mountains, a long wooden staff of fire-hardened oak that had been shaved into round and varnished slick. He hefted it, swung it, slapped it against his open palm a couple of times, walked to the window and looked out. The afternoon was fading but there was still an hour or two to sunset. He walked back across the room to stand in front of Andy.

“This boy’s bigger than you. Take this to even that up. When you find him, don’t say anything.”

Mr. Carbonneau raised the staff above his head and swung it down in a sweeping arc.

“Smash him! Hit down, like you’re chopping a log. Hold the staff in both hands. Hit hard. Aim for a spot between the shoulder blade and the neck. Then switch your hold and swing like you’re hitting a baseball and hit him across the upper arm.”

He drew back, pivoted and stepped into the swing as if he expected to drive it out of the park.

“Then swing it down and bark his shins. Then stab it into his gut. When he falls, stand over him and jam the stick into his neck where the Adam’s Apple is. Not too hard. You’ll kill him if you press too hard.”

Mr. Charbonneau stood there, legs apart with the staff’s point shoved into the floor at his feet and him leaning into it, steel in his tone.

“Tell him give me back my taw. Tell him don’t you dare come at me again.”

He handed the staff to Andy. “Go now.”

And turned to us. We were breathless at what we’d seen, shocked at what we’d heard.  “You boys go with him,” he said. “See that no one interferes.”

No one did.

Andy got his taw back.

Jigger Swinson didn’t mess with any of us again.

I remembered.

Tubby and his three merry men circled me when class let out for morning recess.

“Pretty boy, pretty boy, we’re waiting for you. It’s Monday morning and tribute is due.”

They were standing by the outside water fountain.  You had to pass it on the way to the playground. Tubby made his little sing-song chant loud enough to be heard by those who were passing. Most of the class knew what to expect. They didn’t stop as they passed but began to gather in little groups just far enough away to be close enough to watch.

The morning was chilly. Tubby had on knickers again and a neatly knotted tie and a button- up sweater, with hair slicked back and an arrogant smile. He stood hands on hips, looking big and threatening. The three merry men grinned at each other.

He held out his right hand, palm up, smirking. I smiled right back and drove my fist into his gut with all the force I had. Tubby’s eyes widened.  He folded over, gasping, and I hit him behind the neck with my interlocked hands. He splayed out flat, almost bouncing off the concrete pavement at the base of the fountain.  I let him lay gasping for a minute, then rolled him over and knelt down with my knee in his chest. I grabbed his tie and forced his gagging face up to look me in the eyes. The surprise on his face was deeper than the pain.

“Wha….” he tried say but he was fighting too hard to breathe.

I tightened my grip on his tie. “Tubby, the peons have risen,” I said.

I dropped him down then and rose to deal with the merry men. But there was no need.  Lucas was standing behind me, protecting my back.

Across the schoolyard kids were running in to get closer.

Tubby was still on his back gasping for breath.  The merry men seemed dazed. Lucas nodded his head toward Tubby and said to them, “Your little shakedown is over, boys. I wouldn’t try it again or pretty boy might get mad. Now pick your friend up, clean him up, and get out of here.”

Then he turned to me laughing and shaking his head said, “Where’d you learn that!”

(more to come) 

 

 

 

 

A LOOK INSIDE

CONCERNING THE MATTTER OF THE KING OF CRAW will be released Nov. 5, 2016 at the Kentucky Book Fair.

         King of Craw by Ron Rhody I’m not sure how to characterize it. It is a work of fiction, yes —  but it is based on real people and real events. A mystery? Yes, but not of the usual kind. This one has to do with a man of glaring contradictions —  a mercurial man of lethal temper and tender compassion  whose acts cause him to  becomes an iconic figure in Bluegrass folklore. No one who knew him, not even he himself, could explain why he did the things he did.  He was either Lucifer let loose or Galahad  to the rescue of the poor and the powerless. The debate on whether the sum of his actions was good or evil was intense then and remains so now. And the matter of his death is still suspect.  Was it a fight over a game of dice  as the newspapers reported, or a killing ordered by powerful men who had had enough of the King of Craw?  The book is about all that, and friendship, and the odd turns love can take. Considering this, I thought it might be  good  to give prospective readers an idea of what the story is and how it unfolds. So over the next few weeks we’ll run a  few of the opening chapters here. The one that follows is the Prologue – the “overture” before the curtain rises. Comments and questions are welcomed.

* * * *
“The essence of good and evil is a certain disposition of the mind.”
                                                                                    Epictetus

PROLOGUE

 

I have been able to reconstruct most of the facts of his life, but I still cannot explain the man.

The sudden explosions of violence.

Like the cutting of Semonis.

The surprising acts of compassion

Like the burial of the mountain child.

What drove him?

He and Semonis were friends. At a dance. A woman. A remark by Semonis that John Fallis thought insulting? The knife was out and in Semonis’ side before anyone could move.Some spark, some circuit in his mind connected and he reacted violently and without thinking.

That happened often.

Ted Bates.Not serious. The bullet missed the bone and the leg healed. Tubba Dixon had a pool cue broken over his head and would have had the jagged stump shoved down his throat if he hadn’t been pulled out of Fallis’s reach.

There were other shooting and cuttings.

Anger? Surely.Self defense?  Perhaps.

For the Semonis knifing, he was arrested, charged with cutting and wounding with intent to kill without killing, and jailed. But nothing came of it.

From his bed, Semonis petitioned the Judge to set John Fallis free. John is my good friend, he declared. It was a simple misunderstanding, as much my fault as John’s.  Please let him go.

The battered and the wounded often petitioned the court to let him go.

Because of acts like the burial of the mountain child?

A stranger, a man from the mountains, had come to town to find work and feed his family. No work could be found. While the man searched, his baby son caught the river fever and died.

The man knew no one. Had no friends or family to call on.  No job. No money. No way to bury his baby son, his only son. For a man like him, a man from the prideful culture he came from, the shame of it was damning, the despair of the loss of his son crippling.Then someone told him about a man who might help.

No need to belabor the story.

The stranger came to the grocery. Stood before the counter. Humble. Humiliated. Told his story. Promised somehow, someday, if only Mr. Fallis could see his way clear to lend him enough money to bury his son, he’d pay it all back, swear to God.

John Fallis listened quietly. Took the measure of the man. Didn’t lend him the money. Gave it to him. More than was needed.  And stood with the man and his wife at the burial so that they didn’t have to endure it alone.

Like the spark that set off the violence, there was a spark that triggered compassion.

I doubt he was aware of either.

Whatever the case, to most of those in that section near the river where the poor lived, that section where the bad-ass bars and the honkey-tonks and the cat-houses huddled, to most of the people in that part of town where John Fallis had his grocery, and to many others all over town that were poor and powerless, he was revered. He stood up for them.

To the proper folk of the city, though, he was Lucifer unleashed. He was a lawless, thuggish, un-intimidated insult to decency and the Powers-That-Be. They wanted him gone.

John Fallis was ten when he began to carry a knife.

The older boys, the bigger boys, picked on him. He fought back. They thought it was funny. Until he got the knife.

When he became a man, no one thought it would be funny to pick on John Fallis. He brooked no insult, would not be cheated, would not be pushed around. He bent a knee to no man.

He was the King of Craw and Lucas Deane was his acolyte.

I came to know Mister Fallis through Lucas. That’s how I thought of him—as Mister Fallis.

He was strikingly handsome. He had a charm that was almost magnetic. When he chose to use it, which was not always, he won friends easily and women became willing prey. Being around him was like being swept up in a vortex of energy where something exciting, something dangerous, something unexpected could happen, would probably happen, at any second. I fell gladly into his orbit. I was only a boy then. We were in the seventh grade, Lucas Deane and I, when we met. I was transferring in from a distant school. Lucas was already there. That year was nineteen-twenty. The Great War was over. The country was opening the door to the Roaring Twenties.  The Big Shoot-Out was a year in the future.

The Big Shoot-Out. The day John Fallis took on the entire city police force. You’ve heard of it. Everyone’s heard of it. Even the New York Times was appalled. But John Fallis was special to Lucas Deane long before that. Lucas and his mother would have starved but for John Fallis.

Lucas’s mother was ill and couldn’t work. They were penniless.  No money for food, no money for rent. Lucas was only seven at the time.  John Fallis heard of it. He found Lucas and gave him a job … things he could do, sweep up at the grocery after school, stock the shelves … and paid him enough that they could get by.

Later, Mr. Fallis kept Lucas on. He liked the boy. Lucas’s gratitude was endless, his admiration boundless. I could understand that. I came to admire John Fallis, too. But not to the point of blind devotion.

Lord, save us from our heroes.

WHY HIM?

Antonio (Anthony Policastro, the CEO & Publisher of the Outer Banks Publishing Group) asked the question, and others, in an interview after reading the final manuscript of Concerning The Matter Of The King Of Craw. Fair question.  The answer, and others, follow:

What brought you to write about John Fallis and his life and times?

King of Craw by Ron RhodyI had just wrapped up When Theo Came Home (the last, maybe, in the Theo trilogy) and was searching for a subject for the next book. I had two ideas. One was for a story about what happens when the meek inherit the earth – you know, the promise in the Beatitudes, Mathew 5.5, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” – what would happen, I wondered, if that happened?  The end of times… everyone gone … to heaven or hell … only the meek left. What would happen? Fascinating idea to play with. The other idea was to try to build a story around John Fallis, the King of Craw. Fallis was a real character, a fascinating character, a dominating figure in Kentucky’s capital city during the Roaring Twenties, controversial at the time, legendary now. I grew up in that town.  I remember hearing stories about about him  – most of them bad. He was a legitimate businessman on the one hand, but on the other a gambler, a brawler, the biggest bootlegger in the whole area with a violent temper and a reputation for mayhem. He was also handsome and charismatic. The  common folk loved him. He helped them and stood up for them against the Establishment. The powers that be thought he was Lucifer unleashed. There is speculation even today that powerful forces in the city sent a hit man to do him in.  I thought I’d try to find out about him and build a story around him. The meek could wait.

Fallis is a real person. How did you get the information you needed to craft an informed story?

 The way a reporter goes about it. Search the record. Ask questions.  Talk to people who might have some information on the matter.  Son Bixie Fallis’s “biography” of his father at the Capital City Museum was a start and an enormous help.  Bixie’s story is that of a loving son writing about a hero father, so it has to be taken with a certain reserve, but it is first hand and intimate. And, thankfully, there is Jim Wallace’s collection of oral history interviews with people who lived in the Bottom and Craw and who did know John Fallis. Those interviews are in Jim’s This Sodom Land treatise done for the University of Kentucky. It is enormously rich. And there is Doug Boyd’s work in his book Crawfish Bottom. It has a whole section on Fallis. Those two pieces, and the local area newspapers, were my principal sources. And there are, of course, people who didn’t know Fallis but have relatives who did and who remember the stories they were told. I managed to find and talk with several of them.  After that, it was a matter of imagining what might have happened or could have happened. I’ve tried to stay true to facts I could uncover and make sure the inferences I’ve drawn from them are fair.

Concerning The Matter Of The King Of Craw is my fourth novel.  I think it is the best. I learned a lot listening to Theo. The first three books are about him and make up the Theo trilogy. They did not start out to be trilogy. But one story led to another and then became three. Like Concerning The Matter, they are set in Frankfort, which is Kentucky’s capital city – a jewel of a place, a river town in a Bluegrass Valley that has a character and a feel to it that works on me like magic. The Theo books are about a young man who starts out as rookie reporter assigned to cover a bizarre murder which he leads him to a career in big time newspapering in New York city and other world capitals and ultimately back to that little town on the river trying to decide whether to run for Governor. Along the way there are a couple of murders. There is political intrigue and malfeasance, graft, blackmail, Melungeons, and, of course, a girl, Allie, who becomes a woman and who is in and out of his life through it all. I don’t know whether Theo runs and gets elected Governor or not. At present, I’m not interested in finding out, but I may want to.

I “reported” those first three books.  I grew up newspapering, That’s the way you tell a story – who, what, when, where, why –and, if you can figure it out, how. I think they’re good books. They move fast and the stories should keep the reader wanting to know what happens next.

I didn’t “report” Concerning The Matter Of The King of Craw.  I wrote it. There’s a difference. The who, what, when, where, why, and how are there. But there’s more. I think I’m getting the hang of it.

When you start a novel, who are you writing for?

I’ve given that a lot thought. I’m writing for myself. I’m telling myself the story. If I can hold my interest, keep the story moving, touch a cord of emotion, be intrigued by things I didn’t know, discover something of value in the motives and actions of my characters, I’m happy.  All I’m trying to do is tell a story that makes the reader want to know what happens next and feel satisfied when she gets to the end. Not art. Not “literature.” A story.  We live by stories – the stories we are told by others, the stories we tell ourselves.

Is there another book on the horizon?

 I imagine. For a long time I’ve wanted to try a memoir of a sort. Not a real memoir. A string of stories or vignettes that tell of some of the things – people, places, events – that have mattered and may hold some interest for others. I’m not sure I have the courage to do that. There is the remembering of course. Pain came along with the good times. Not sure I want to revisit all that.  And there is the matter of ego. I’ve never been accused of being overly modest, but there seems something so egotistical about presuming to do a memoir that I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with trying one.

And, of course, there’s the meek. I’ve often thought that given the prospect of an uncertain Heaven, or the beauty and bounty of Mother Earth, I’d opt for her.

We’ll see.

 

King of Craw by Ron Rhody

COMING IN NOVEMBER: THE KING OF CRAW

He brooked no insult, would not be cheated, would not be pushed around. He bent a knee to no man. He was the King of Craw and the powers-that-be wanted him gone.

John Fallis, the King of Craw
John Fallis, The King of Craw

That’s the notorious and perplexing John Fallis — a legend in his own time and an icon in Bluegrass folklore now – a mercurial man about whom a great deal is said but very little really known. He was a successful businessman, a political power, a gambler, a bootlegger, movie-star handsome, sometimes wildly violent, yet compassionate and charismatic. The proper folk thought him Lucifer unleased. To the the poor and the powerless, he was Galahad ascendant.

The story is set in the Roaring Twenties in Kentucky’s capital city. It’s about two boys who fall into his orbit and are witnesses to the events that made him a legend and sparked questions that are still unanswered.   It begins just before the night of the The Big Shoot-Out when he takes on the entire city police force and ends with his bullet-riddled body lying on a craps table in Craw. They said it was a gambler’s fight. But many then, and still, think powerful forces in the city brought in an assassin to take him out.

This is the first piece of fiction built around the man and the times. It moves fast, has much drama and action.  For readers particularly drawn to the mystery of why men do the things they do, and to the unending struggle between good and evil, it should hold a particular appeal.

Titled Concerning The Matter Of The King Of Craw, the book is set for release on November 5, 2016 at the Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort. The publisher, Outer Banks Pubishing Group, is taking advance orders now. The website is outerbankspublishing.com.

______________________________

Concerning The Matter of The King of Craw

Concerning The Matter of The King of CrawList Price: $16.99
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
288 pages
Outer Banks Publishing Group
ISBN-13: 978-0990679042
ISBN-10: 0990679047
BISAC: Fiction / Historical / General

Now $11.99 – Pre-order here

 

FLIP A COIN

I’m not sure whether I’m conflicted about this next book or merely procrastinating.

They are three possibilities. I’ve already mentioned them to you

One is a story about what happens when the meek, whoever they are, inherit the earth, as it is written they will.

The second is how the King of the Craw was killed, and why, and how — and what therefrom resulted. He was a person of quite some notoriety was the King, John Fallis, and the Craw itself even more so. Fallis wouldn’t be the main character, a young man who becomes involved with him would be. But Fallis will be pivotal and since he is real and much about him is known, I must be extraordinarily careful about what I imagine him doing and saying. This requires more control of a character than I’m used to. Usually, I just listen and watch.

The third is that  tale of the poor country boy trying to do the best he can in a world he never made. You’ve seen some copy from it — the More To Come stuff. I’ve put that story hold. It would be a true story, or as true as memory can make it, and very difficult to write. I’ve not jettisoned the idea entirely. It’s still there like one of those old songs rarttling around in your mind that you can’t quite turn off.

Must decide. Must pick one. Must begin. Flip a coin?

Tomorrow.

 

RECON, COMPLETED

 

The early returns are in.  The reactions to the opening copy for the More To Come manuscript have been  encouraging. The consensus was “we like it, tell me more, stay with it.”

Which I’m tempted to do.

But….

I didn’t quite realize how difficult a task I’d set myself. Making a story out of all that, a “story” of real interest to those who don’t know me or know of me, a story honest to the facts yet with the suspense and emotion a real story must have, a story that grabs yet is sensitive to the feelings of those involved and respectful of matters that ought remain confidential — figuring out how to handle all that is a bit more than I think I want to try to handle at present. Fiction is inordinately easier.

So for the time being, More To Come is truly more to come and I’m taking the easier way out — starting on a new piece of fiction…the story of Jimmy O’Day and Billy D. and the King of the Craw, I think.

Will keep you posted. In the meantime, thanks for you input.

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 9.45.55 AM

RECON,continued

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 9.45.55 AM To refresh your memory, I’m at the start of a new book and can’t decide which idea to follow,

 So I’m doing a recon.

The idea is to load a few chapters of the one I’ve started here and see what sort of reaction it gets. Loaded the first chapter last week. This is the second. If the piece seems to appeal, I’ll stay with it. If not, I’ll start on the other.

The working title for this one is “More To Come.” It’s a reminiscence of a sort, not exactly fiction, but based on remembrances and conversations with people who were there and notes and stuff.

The other, as yet without a working title, will be pure unadulterated fiction. It will probably have to do with what happens when the meek inherit the earth, as it is said they will do — or be another Kentucky based story using the King of the Craw as a pivotal character.

If you’re so inclined and have the time, your reactions would be appreciated.

Honest, unvarnished, opinion is needed.

Many thanks.

More To Come

Chapter Two

 Brigadoon

 

My mother was afraid of thunderstorms at night.

We lived a long block away from the newspaper where my father worked as a young reporter then. The quickest way there was through an alley that ran behind the two Five-And-Dimes and the Grand Theatre.

Our apartment was on the second floor of a big brick house on the corner across from the Old Capitol grounds.  From our front windows we could look out on the almost constant activity there. In early times, it had been the town square. People were always there — young mothers wheeling baby carriages, small children running and playing,  older men sitting quietly on benches under the trees reading their papers or talking.

In the summer it was shady and cool and we played tag in among the trees and over the rises, and in the fall, when the oaks and the maples took on their colors and dropped their leaves we ran laughing and kicking through the mounds of red and orange the groundsmen had raked up.

The square was on the northern edge of the downtown business district, bounded on three sides by residential streets such as the one we lived on, and in front by Broadway, the main street of town. Railroad tracks ran down the center and all traffic stopped, pedestrian as well as automotive, to the let the long trains pass. Oddly, I don’t remember ever being wakened by the sound of a train while we lived there, but I was only four.

Fort Hill was to the rear.  Rebel cannon had been entrenched there when John Hunt Morgan’s raiders briefly occupied the town before the battle at Perryville during the Civl War, and the Kentucky River, the state’s major waterway, was almost in sight down at the end of Broadway.

The Old Capital itself was majestic. Made from Kentucky River marble and fashioned after an ancient Greek temple, it sat on a slight rise in the center of this square. The only Kentucky Governor ever killed in office was shot on the sidewalk leading up to it — William Goebel — almost caused an uprising. Politics is passionate business in the Commonwealth. A brass plate marks the place where he fell. Later, after we had moved to another part of town and I had grown old enough to be allowed out after dinner to play, we’d chase each other among the trees near the marker and tell stories of old Ruby’s ghost walking these grounds while the whole town was asleep.

So there we were, my mother and I, in that second floor apartment, she just barely into her twenties, enormously proud when his byline appeared in the morning paper, but apprehensive at being left alone with only me at night while my father did the work that newspapermen do.

She managed fine — except for thunderstorms at night.

When the big black furies of spring came roaring down the valley, whipping the trees across the street into a frenzy and thunder cracked like cannons and lightning stabbed the sky, she would grab me, no matter the hour, throw her coat around us both and run with me in her arms through the wind and the rain up the alley to the Journal and the safety of my father.

I do not know what they must have thought of us, charging bedraggled and breathless into the newsroom. The Journal was a morning newspaper. The editor and various reporters, unless out on assignment, had to be there, working on their stories for the next morning’s paper. What did they think when we came busting through the door? Though she would have been embarrassed,  I think they would have been amused, and indulgent, and protective. She was so young and pretty they would have had no other option. And they were Kentuckians. Kentuckians are honor bound to be comforting and courteous to ladies in distress.

I do know that my father would take me, frightened by my mother’s fear and the dash through the storm, and stand me on the work table in front of the big window that looked out on the street and he would stand behind me with his arms around me and we would both watch the storm. He’d tell me how to count the time from the flash of the lightening to the sound of the thunder and to watch how the wind danced with the trees.

He’d tell me what a grand show Mother Nature had arranged just for us, that all that thunder and all that rain — and the wind, and the lightening — it was nature’s magic — it was marvelous– not something to be afraid of, it was something to wonder at and enjoy.

Afterwards, when the storm had passed, he would walk us home and see us safely settled.

My mother never fully lost her fear of the storms, but after a while the fear shrank to mere uneasiness and after that season, we did not run through the alley anymore.

I, though, ever since, have loved the beauty of thunderstorms at night.

The street where we lived then isn’t there anymore. It disappeared under the bulldozers of urban renewal. But I see it still.

The town I grew up in isn’t there anymore, either. Oh there is a town there. A fine town. Just not the one I grew up in.

I still see that one, though, superimposing my memories of it over the look and the feel of the town as it is now. It’s still there, but in the background, Brigadoon like.

I bring the matter up now, here at the beginning, because I think home places, the places where we are born and grow up, mold and shape us. They set our sense of self, our manners, the ease and confidence we hold, the way we talk, the way we think. The look and the feel of them comfort us, reassure us.

And the kids we grew up with, and the adults whose values and actions defined the town as we were growing up — these thing have a fundamental influence on who we are and what we become.

So there I was in this little town that I liked a lot and that I felt liked me.

Then we left.

 

(more to come)