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HOME RANGE: Notes on Literature, Nature, Working Dogs, History, Other Obsessions and Sundry Annoyances by Henry Chappell

Words I Wish I'd Written

From "The Bear," collected in Go Down Moses.

“The dogs were there first, ten of them huddled back under the kitchen, himself and Sam squatting to peer back into the obscurity where they crouched, quiet, the eyes rolling and luminous, vanishing, and no sound, only that effluvium which the boy could not quite place yet, of something more than dog, stronger than dog and not just animal, just beast even. Because there had been nothing in front of the abject and painful yipping except the solitude, the wilderness, so that when the eleventh hound got back about mid-afternoon and he and Tennie’s Jim held the passive and still trembling bitch while Sam daubed her tattered ear and raked shoulder with turpentine and axle-grease, it was still no living creature but only the wilderness which, leaning for a moment, had patted lightly once her temerity. ‘Just like a man,’Sam said. ‘Just like folks. Put off as long as she could having to be brave, knowing all the time that sooner or later she would have to be brave once so she could keep on calling herself a dog, and knowing beforehand what was going to happen when she done it,’”

William Faulkner, “The Bear”


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Words I Wish I'd Written

Janisse Ray's Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

"I was born to people who were born to people who were born to people who were born here. The Crackers crossed the wide Altamaha into what had been Creek territory and settled the vast fire-loving uplands of the coastal plains of southeast Georgia, surrounded by a singing forest of tall and widely spaced pines whose history they did not know, whose stories were untold. The memory of what they entered is scrawled on my bones, so that I carry the landscape inside like an ache. The story of who I am cannot be severed from the story of the flatwoods.

Janisse Ray, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood


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Words I Wish I'd Written

Apologies for the cheesey arrangement. Yeah, the flies are crudely tied, but mine, and bream don't care.

“… Later still, entrusted with your own safety, you went out with homemade canoes that were almost coracles in their shapelessness, and wouldn’t hold straight, and ripped on the rocks of the rapids. Squirrel shooting on cold Sunday mornings, and ducks, and skunk-squirted dogs, and deer watering while you watched at dawn, and the slim river bass, and bird song of a hundred kinds, and always the fly-fishing for fat bream and the feel of the water on bare skin, and its salty taste, and the changing shore. The river’s people, as distinct from one another as any other people anywhere, but all with a West Texas set to their frames and their faces which on occasion you have been able to recognize in foreign countries … Even first bottles of beer, bitter drunk with two bawdy ranchers’ daughters you and Hale ran across, once, fishing …”

John Graves, Goodbye to a River

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