Thursday, March 18, 2010

Home Again

So, I made it back home from Warrensburg, MO, from the 42nd Annual Children's Literature Festival at the U. of Central MO. If only the dorky CMSU coed I was in 1970 could know that I'd return decades later, as one of 40-or-so authors and/or illustrators presenting to thousands of young students, telling them about my books, asking them who else they'd been to hear. Claudia Mills, a.k.a. Tarzan? (Man oh man, what a writer!) Barbara Robinson? (Promise yourself to read B.R.'sBest Christmas Pageant Ever. funniest book ever) That swellegant Patricia Hermes? "Have you," I'd ask, "seen David Harrison? Have you read his poems for little squirts like you?" Sure, some of them would listen to fellow Missouri writers Vicki Grove and Veda Boyd Jones, but would they sit around withthem, as I did, basking in their brilliance whilst drinking too much wine? Nope. Brad Sneed? (What a painter that guy is!) They and many more smartypants word-mongers were all there. What a big fat privilege to be in their company!

Folks on my father's side of the family used to live south of Warrensburg. They farmed down near the village of Post Oak, where my troubled, wandering grandfather, Clarence was born in 1886. His grandpa is listed in the 1870 (the year before the founding of the teachers' college at W'burg) census: Alden Harness (56, veteran of Missouri's 2nd Infantry, CSA) and his wife, Sarah (50) and the kids who were still at home: Julius (25), Tabitha (20), 17-yr.-old Mahala, young Sarah (15), Henry (14), Felix (13), my great-grandpa, Clarence's restless, runaway dad, Alden Jr. (8), and 6-year-old Rachel. These days, an eroded obelisk in a weedy graveyard in Chihowee marks where Alden Sr. and his wife Sarah were buried, in 1886, a few weeks before their grandson Clarence was born. Now, I reckon, they're all together in the Blue Beyond, home again.

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