Saturday, November 25, 2017

Review: Prime Leaf: A Novel of the Kentucky Tobacco Wars

Prime Leaf: A Novel of the Kentucky Tobacco Wars Prime Leaf: A Novel of the Kentucky Tobacco Wars by Jack Wall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This Kentucky novel got a firm hold of me on a recent Kentucky trip. A family saga of tobacco farming and vigilante violence and price wars, Prime Leaf was written by a Georgia retiree who studied writing at Sewanee, the University of the South, and hence, the protagonist is briefly a student at Sewanee, albeit in the late 19th century. The prose is swift and matter-of-fact.
Hill Street Press, a fine Athens, Georgia press in business for too short a time, published Prime Leaf sometime after the author's death. It deserves to stay in print, and I recommend it to anyone interested in a compelling read about the agricultural populism and vigilantism of 100 years ago.

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Saturday, March 31, 2012

In Exile from the Land of the Snow, by John F. Avedon

In Exile from the Land of Snows by John Avedon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This telling of Tibet's sorrows starts with the story of the Fourteenth Dahlai Lama and unveils the awful story of the collision with China in the last fifty years.

My paperback from 1986 had small print, which only affected the usefulness of the maps on four key pages in front of the book.

I recommend this to all interested in Tibet.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Reuben Tuck

At All Saints Episcopal Church growing up, the friend with whom I got in most trouble was my pal Dan (or, then, Danny) Tuck. We would sneak down the stairs from the circular horseshoe-shaped Sunday school class rooms, the Horseshoe Room, natch, and attempt to sneak past the venerable Ms. Anna Gurley, church secretary of many decades. When I last visited Ms. Gurley, before her death, in the Rhodes Home beside I-20 in Atlanta, she kept calling me "Danny."

Dan and his sister Betsy were classmates of ours at Westminster. Their father, Reuben, died last week; the AJC obituary is here. I'm planning on attending a memorial tomorrow; quoting the All Saints prayer list:
"Reuben Tuck’s memorial service will be held December 16, at 3:30 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter, 737 Woodland Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30316. Following the service, Southern BBQ will be served in the Church Parish Hall.
In lieu of flowers, it was Reuben's wish that people make contributions to the Friendship Center Program at the Holy Comforter Church.
Expressions of sympathy may be sent to Sally Tuck at 587 Brownwood Ave, Atlanta, GA 30316."

Dan was one of my closest teenage friends. We wound up at the University of Georgia at the same point in the 1980s as well, and scheduled a weekly lunch at The Grill, downtown Athens, in order to keep catching up.

Dan goes by Reuben, himself, now, and works as an actor, announcer, comedy specialist and voice artist in Hong Kong. For the sake of clarity, I'm going to refer to his Dad as Reuben for the next little bit.

I admired the calligraphy Reuben practiced and taught, and examples of art & craft in his home. He taught at continuing education programs in various sites in Atlanta for years. He worked with the Foundation for the Blind (I might have the name of the agency wrong). We often visited at his apartment on Shallowford Road in the 1970s, with fine pipe tobacco in evidence, and lots of good books.

Reuben regularly would sing as a member of the All Saints Church Choir, and in Summers for a year or two, I would attempt to sing in the choir, too, when an open invitation was extended to us congregants. Most of all, I remember the joking and laughter shared by Reuben with the late Herb Beadle in the robing room. Much laughter.

Reuben bought a house over in the East Atlanta neighborhood and Bronwood Park area and remarried. I visited when Dan returned occasionally over the years since the early 1990s. I believe Reuben began worshiping at Holy Comforter when he moved in that neighborhood. We'll be there to honor him tomorrow.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My little girl is eight today!
As soon as I'm off duty, I'll join the girls at a Brownie Scout retreat to a Girl Scout Camp south of Atlanta in Spalding County.
Eight years ago, I became a Dad, and Elizabeth became a mom, through the good auspices of Tallahassee Memorial.
Eight years ago, the United States went to war in Iraq.
It's my daughter I'm celebrating.
And, her school, which celebrated a birthday all year recently, is now in its forties, like me, though I'll soon enter another decade.
Here's The Children's School in a recent profile in Midtown Patch.
Lechaim, y'all!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy birthday, Betty Mae Jumper

I just heard good news of the publication of a new biography for children of a great soul, Ms. Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, of Hollywood, Florida. Old pal, author Jan Godown Annino, is promoting her new book for children (of all ages), titled She Sang Promise , with appearances including one in a favorite spot, the St. Marks's National Wildlife Refuge, Saturday, May 1, described here, courtesy of the Tallahassee Democrat.

She Sang Promise
, by J. G. Annino, is published by National Geographic, and described here; distributed by Random House, and features a cool sample of the illustrations in a viewer, here.

I've finally found Jan's blog, including the reference to Ms. Jumper celebrating today - April 27 - as her birthday each year, at
So, happy birthday to you, Ms. Jumper! Che-han-tah-mo?

I used to keep and give away copies of Ms. Jumper's own illustrated book, Legends of the Seminole (Pineapple Press), written together with writer Pete Gallagher; here's the book, and the "peek inside" via Google. When I moved to Florida in 1994, I immediately learned about her work, as she received the Florida Folk Heritage Award in that annual cycle. I met her at the Florida Folk Festival, where the Florida Folk Heritage awards celebrate those illustrious souls; we also had the pleasure of hearing a master storyteller who learned traditional stories as a member of Ms. Jumper's family, Ms. Scarlett Young.

The 2010 FFF again features a Seminole Camp this Memorial Day weekend, described here. The camp, at the South gate on US Highway 41 of the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center in White Springs, is a partnership between the State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe's wonderful staff at the Ah-Tha-Thi-Ki Museum in South Florida. Instead, I'll be selling books in our shop, or some such, again this year; tell 'em all howdy, and I sent you, hear?

The Seminole Tribe of Florida website features a wonderful page about Ms. Jumper, including a story excerpt, Little Frog, here. Ms. Jumper says,
"This story was told to me by my grandmother when I was just a baby. Where we lived, the sounds in the woods were very important to us. We were always asking, "What is that sound from?" A lot of times we were answered with a story such as this one."
[Just ignore the note, "Visit Betty Mae's website"; the tribe kept a site at something like for a while, then stopped.]

And, not to be missed - though I miss a lot of these, and all my old colleagues - in the R. A. Gray Building, is the Voices of Florida Women exhibit at the Museum of Florida History, courtesy of the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs in Tallahassee... online, here. Wait, a quick search turns up no Betty Mae Jumper, though other great Seminoles and Florida folk tradition bearers do appear.

However, a search of the collections of the Florida State Archives contains more of the documentary and ethnographic collections, audio and visual samples of Ms. Jumper. Thanks to the State of Florida, Ms. Jumper appears in both the Florida Photographic Collection and the Florida Folklife Collection; a web-based search of the fine finding aids to the Folklife Collection produces archival records as results, here. And in fact, there is an exhibit I missed in 2007-8 at MFH, Seminole People of Florida (still online here); the Archives component paralleling the exhibit features the image of Ms. Jumper I use to accompany my blog post, here.

Hm... The Florida Women's Hall of Fame inducted Ms. Jumper in 1994, as noted here.

Might some kind soul donate an appropriate artifact, working together with curatorial staff, representing Ms. Jumper's career for the Museum of Florida History?

On your birthday, then, again, here's to you, Ms. Betty Mae Tiger Jumper! Be well.

P.S. I wrote my blog post on April 27; it took a week or more to show up on Facebook notes, due to four accompanying photos and a gazillion links. Aha, more Facebook links!
The Facebook group for She Sang Promise is here.
The Ah-Tha-Thi-Ki Museum Facebook page is here.
The 2010 Florida Folk Festival is on Facebook here; and on the web, here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Vic Chesnutt, friend and talent

Vic has left the building. We'll honor him Sunday December 27:

[Vic's] memorial service will be held at Bridges Funeral Home, 3035 Atlanta Hwy, Athens, GA, 30606 on Sunday, December 27, 2009, from 3:00-6:00 pm. Following the memorial service, family and friends invite you to join them at Cine, 234 West Hancock Ave., Athens, GA.

Vic was my next-door-neighbor, for a time, circa 1988-9. We met about 1986-7, when he joined us at the original Grit cafe with bandmate Todd McBride during a monthly Song Swap. The Athens Folk Music & Dance Society would gather there, and so would Vic. The moldy figs of the Folk Society delightfully met their match... He once told me he wanted to write a song for everyone in Athens. I thought of him as our bard, together with the late John Seawright.

So, when George Norman's place was burgled, his guitar stolen, Jennifer Hartley suggested a benefit at the Grit. Vic, Vic wrote the song, y'all: George Norman, Victim of Crime.
("Yeah, Geo-oorge Nor-MAN/ He's a friend, friend of mine/ Geo-orge Nor-MAN/ Unfor-tu-nate... victim of CRIME.") One AFMDS hoot the folk society songstresses sang backup behind him at Sparky's, and we billed them as Vic Vegas and the Vixens. I've been humming the song he wrote about Vernon J. Thornsberry ("Yes, he's a dishwasher by trade, but with loftier career goals/ At night he paints lovely nudes, in charcoal/ and he left New Orleans just a couple of Mardi Gras's ago.") There are so many great Vic songs: New Town, Elberton Fair... Who is Pulling Brezhnev's Chain... I have more favorite early ones, because I left Athens in 1994. My favorite album of his is West of Rome... bought one night with Tom Waits' Bone Machine and REM's Automatic for the People, and much loved.

AFMDS gave a concert for Vic to play for his parents at the old Unitarian Church, and he illustrated the songs on poster board. It was a magic evening, a great success, not long before they both passed. I loved his art as well as his writing.

The thing is, I loved his singing voice. He could sing a moldy standard and make it his own: "The Falling Leaves;" "Wonderin';" name it, he sang it. But the writing... One time, I went to pay rent, and my alcoholic landlord came to the door in briefs, and said, "Song titles come to me in dreams. Here, take this." And he gave me a song title: "Another One, Darlin'..." Well, I walked down the street to Vic, and later, a pretty good country song was the result.

One summer, the Augusta Heritage Center gave Vic a scholarship to attend a songwriting workshop with Nashville's Fred Koller. I drove with him, in his van. Great trip, filling me with respect for Vic; it was just before he started his regular Tuesday gig at the 40 Watt. During an outdoor evening session, listening to Whit and Barbara Connah of Atlanta up there, he named them The Fabulous Sticks, enjoying the phraseology. But, I think Koller realized Vic was already something special.

Seeing and hearing Vic made you glad to be in his presence. He was always troubled. But man, he could be happy.

Let's tell more Vic stories, sing more Chesnutt songs.

Here's a link, or three:
  • An appeal to help with Vic's outstanding debt, at

  • The online Guest Book

  • And, Nuci's Space, in Athens, Georgia:

God bless...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy birthday, Ed Daugherty!

It's the birthday of my father-in-law, Elizabeth's dad, Edward Lawton Daugherty, Senior. He's a landscape architect.

His grandchildren call him Abba (pronounced: Ah-bah.) Let's just say he's in his eighth decade... still going strong... and still going to work outside, to visit job sites in outlying areas, to meet contractors, and to provide a bedrock of laughter and support. Moreover, if you've read about the work of the Buckhead Heritage Society on behalf of Mt. Olive Cemetery, you find he's still sharing regional history.

Just October 10, the Atlanta History Center closed the exhibition of its Cherokee Garden Library, "Edward L. Daugherty, A Southern Landscape Architect: Exploring New Forms." Ed spoke a number of times, to a number of audiences. When I took my daughter, we chased each other in circles around the gallery, and when we left, we met a cousin and friend coming in. When I dropped in October by for a viewing at closing time, staring at one of his designs, I collided with an old UGA pal of mine, landscape architect Will Griffin.

There remains a wonderful oral history of Ed, thanks to the efforts of Atlanta landscape architect Spencer Tunnell and the nonprofit
Cultural Landscape Foundation; you can find it posted at the CLF website, here:

or, here:

Happy Birthday, Abba! We love you, sir.