Jul. 7, 2005
Poem: "The Exchange" by Ron Rash from Among the Believers. © Iris Press, Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Reprinted with permission.
Between Wytheville, Virginia
and the North Carolina line,
he meets a wagon headed
where he's been, seated beside
her parents a dark-eyed girl
who grips the reins in her fist,
no more than sixteen, he'd guess
as they come closer and she
doesn't look away or blush
but allows his eyes to hold
hers that moment their lives pass.
He rides into Boone at dusk,
stops at an inn where he buys
his supper, a sleepless night
thinking of fallow fields still
miles away, the girl he might
not find the like of again.
When dawn breaks he mounts his roan,
then backtracks, searches three days
hamlets and farms, any smoke
rising above the tree line
before he heads south, toward home,
the French Broad's valley where spring
unclinches the dogwood buds
as he plants the bottomland,
come night by candlelight builds
a butter churn and cradle,
cherry headboard for the bed,
forges a dougle-eagle
into a wedding ring and then
back to Virginia and spends
five weeks riding and asking
from Elk Creek to Damascas
before he finds the wagon
tethered to the hitching post
of a crossroads store, insidev the girl who smiles as if she'd
known all along his gray eyes
would search until they found her.
She asks one question, his name,
as her eyes study the gold
smoldering there between them,
the offered palm she lightens,
slips the ring on herself so
he knows right then the woman
she will be, bold enough match
for a man rash as his name.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of Robert Heinlein, born in Butler, Missouri (1907). He wrote over 50 novels, and many collections of short stories. Heinlein is best known for his novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, about a boy born during the first manned mission to Mars.
He called his books "speculative fiction" rather than "science fiction." He was trying to write about events that could actually happen, taking into consideration the natural laws of the universe.
It's the birthday of the novelist and short story writer Jill McCorkle, born in Lumberton, North Carolina (1958). Her novels include July 7th, about the events on a single day in a little town in North Carolina; and her short story collection, Creatures of Habit, which came out a couple of years ago, and begins: "We used to all come outside when the streetlights came on and prowl the neighborhood in a pack, a herd of kids on banana seat bikes and mini-bikes. The grown-ups looked so silly framed in their living room and kitchen windows. They complained about their days and sighed deep sighs of depression and loss. They talked about how spoiled and lucky children were these days. 'We will never be that way,' we said, 'we will never say those things.'"
It's the birthday of the popular historian David McCullough, born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1933). His first big book was Truman (1992), one of the best selling biographies ever published. The sales were even greater for his biography, John Adams, in 2001. Both John Adams and Truman won the Pulitzer Prize for biography.
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