Pinto beans, cornbread, buttermilk

My sister said once that she doesn’t really like pinto beans because when she was growing up, Mama cooked a pot three or four times a week. “We’d come home from school and walk into the house and there was that smell,” she said, shuddering at the sensory recall. Pinto beans, cooked with some kind […]

An old back road

As the road twisted and turned while rising up through the elevation of the tree-smothered mountain, I slowed the car and looked at the place so dear to my family. A place where faith and calloused hands fought poverty and poverty gave birth to dreams and eventual escape. My ancestors sowed there so we could […]

Maxine and her daughters

Maxine, whom I’ve known and admired for many years, is my kind of Southern woman. She’s exceedingly feminine, gracious, charming and tough as nails under her soft skin. Everyone who knows her loves her. She’s now over 70 and as beautiful as ever, always perfectly appointed and coiffed. Sometimes I run into her at the […]

Kudzu & change

In my early travels outside of the South, I was astounded to discover that people had never heard of kudzu. After all, Southerners have been battling to gain the upper hand of the rapidly growing plant since the 1800s. With my first book, I guested on a show in Los Angeles hosted by the likable, […]

Going off the grid

One summer night, a few years before Mama died, I tried to call her but there was no answer. An hour later with still no answer, I was pacing the floor and debating whether or not to jump in the car and take the 22-minute drive to her house. “If she doesn’t answer this time, […]

The tractor

It was time for spring cleaning around the Rondarosa which seems to always start with a ton of limbs, twigs and branches that have fallen during the winter. For the past several years as the climate varies between too much rain and drought conditions, the trees have suffered terribly. A few huge oaks have uprooted […]

Ruining NASCAR

We were cleaning up the dishes from Sunday dinner when Rodney called me into the living room where he was watching TV. “Look at this,” he pointed to the NASCAR race being broadcast live from Bristol, Tenn. My eyes widened. I shook my head. “Rodney, that can’t be. It just can’t.” He nodded. “It is. […]

Lee Smith and the dimestore

As best I can recall – and I’ve been thinking hard about this – I have only written one fan letter in my life. It was two or three years ago and came after an afternoon of reading Garden and Gun magazine while waiting for my nails to dry. Rose, as she always does after […]

Who I am

The other day an email arrived from a Korean War veteran who started off by saying, “I suppose someone else will get this, add me to your fan club and you will never hear a word of it. But here it goes anyway.” He was writing to comment on how a column I had written […]

The community dipper

Many years ago, out of nostalgia mostly, I ordered a dipper from a local hardware store. If you’re younger than 30, you might not know what a dipper is. Let me explain. It is made from aluminum or tin with a long handle, always with a hole in the curved end so it can be […]

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