Sunday, October 17, 2010

I drove the long road down to Springfield, Missouri, and back again in the course of these last few days, passing road signs that spell out the life of me & mine. Humansville. We moved there the spring I was 8, to a rundown farm outside of town. I remember seeing the stars through a hole in the roof. The folks used to pile us into the car every once & a while for a trip to Dunnegan Springs or over to Osceola, just about exactly a 100 years after the town was sacked, burned down & out by Jim Lane's Kansas marauder,s in Sept. 1861. I think he killed himself some 5 years later. That's not all of his story by a long shot, but I'm not of a mind to go into what I've read of the notorious James Henry Lane.
My people have lived &/or traveled along that road more than 150 years. My great-great grandparents are buried a little ways west of the way, near Chilhowee. south of Warrensburg, where I went to college, where I got my heart busted a couple of times and learned not nearly enough. Alden & Sarah's grandson, Clarence was born in Post Oak, in the year that Franz Liszt died, the year in which the Statue of Liberty was dedicated. I knew him as Grandpap. Peppermints in his pocket. Not the best of dispositions, soured by a father, Alden Jr., who abandoned him & his mom, went off no one knows where.

Off I was visiting Paxton Elementary School in Platte City on the 14th, the 120th anniversary of the day that David & Ida Eisenhower welcomed their 3rd boybaby into the world, into the time/space intersection of Denison, Texas and 1890. They named him Dwight, but this kid with the sunny smile came to be known as Ike and, in time, well, you know. I swear, after all these years, talking with school children is THE best part of my job. Telling them about the making of books – the research, the writing, the rewriting [kids, those who aren't wicked hard on themselves, tend to let themselves off way too easy when it comes to revising their work when it's already done for crying out loud.] The drawing and the painting.
Oh, I draw for the little squirts, bless 'em, and try to make it all as vivid and fun as I possibly can, then away I go. Down to a literature festival in Springfield, MO State U. on the 15th, on the 129th birthday of P.G. (Pelham Grenville) Wodehouse, bless him forever for the books he wrote. I've painted many a picture while listening to the incomparable Alexander Spencer read Right Ho, Jeeves and its sequel The Code of the Woosters.
Talking with children. Talking with other authors, wishing that I did not remember the words of Oscar Wilde, [b. 16 Oct 1854]: 'Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.' Alas, I do remember. His words do come to mind, but thank heavens they're not the only ones that do.) Good it was to be there. Good it was to get back onto the highway for home, on Saturday, yesterday [oh my goodness - I just checked, was reminded that on 16 Oct 1793 Marie A. was marched up the steps to the guillotine. How frightened & exhausted she must have been, she and a multitude of others there & then. Golly. Pauvre enfants.
Two more hours, by my clock, until this 17th of October is over once & for always. Happy birthday long gone movie stars, Rita Hayworth. Jean Arthur, Spring Byington & Montgomery Clift [did you see him opp. brilliant O. de H. in The Heiress, 1949? oh baby.}. Happy deathday, Frederic Chopin & Julia Ward Howe. So long. Thanks for everything and on we go, further & further away from them all, back up the road in time.

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