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

Home, Too Briefly

With dear friend Cathy Bishop. No trip to Bowling Green is complete without seeing Cathy and Mike Bishop. (Thanks to Mike for snapping the photo.)

I spent last Saturday at the Southern Kentucky Book Festival in Bowling Green. What a great day. I met and chatted with David Madden – one of my literary heroes – and sat next to Dana Chamblee Carpenter, whose new novel, Bohemian Gospel, is selling briskly and receiving strong reviews. Over the course of the day, Dana and I covered a lot of conversational ground, ranging from Southern literature to football (she wanted to play in high school) to the merits of introversion to the virtues of coffee.

This was one of the nicest, best organized literary events I’ve attended; big enough to draw a good crowd, but not so big as to be hectic and confusing. My thanks to event coordinator Sara Volpi and other staff members and volunteers. Of course I’m proud of the festival’s association with my beloved Western Kentucky University.

J. and I spent four of the happiest years of our lives in Bowling Green. We left, reluctantly, only because the careers we’d prepared for weren’t available there. It’s hard to convey the feeling of peace and gratitude I experience whenever I visit familiar places in my old home. Driving from Louisville, where I enjoyed a long lunch with my niece Courtney Chappell Boyer, I got off I-65 as soon as I could, and took backroads to Bowling Green. As I drove into Edmondson Country, Grayson County, and Warren County on once familiar roads I hadn’t traveled in 34 years, the dogwoods blooming in the greening woods and the familiar accent at stops for gas and coffee brought on something close to heartache.

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Meet Leon!

Leon at work


Some of you may remember a post a couple years back about my friend Randy Walker’s fine Catahoula Cow dog being killed by wild hog. Yes, most working dogs are necessarily exposed to danger, but no amount of philosophizing can blunt the pain from the loss of a beloved dog. Randy took it hard, but like everyone who works closely with dogs, he had no choice but to get up the next day and go to work with his surviving dogs.

So his April 25 email, accompanied by a photo of another Catahoula at work, with the question “Does this dog remind you of another dog,” made my day.

According to Randy, “He is a nephew of Leo. He is not the dog Leo was, but there is still hope. Happy!” Of course no dog is ever as good as the great one that died too young. But I know Randy, and he won’t put up with a sorry dog. I’m betting Leon will make a good one.

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Yes! Pay the Writer!


All of my writer friends have seen this, but It's a classic and worth posting again. I wish I had a dollar for every time some pleasant person has told me how much free exposure I'll get if I'll allow the use of an article or essay at no charge. Or, "Yes, we'd love for you to drive 300 miles to do a 45-minute talk to the Society of Semi-Literate People who Want to Write Books About Themselves. We can't pay you or even reimburse you for gas and lodging, but you'll get a good meal out of it, and you can bring books to sell to folks who don't read, let alone buy books."

Yes, it occurs to me that Ellison probably isn't getting anything for this YouTube clip. (Yes, but just think of all the free publicity ...)

Mild profanity warning.



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Words I Wish I'd Written



Just back from the Southern Kentucky Book Festival, where I made new friends, enjoyed the company of old friends, signed plenty of books, and had an all-around fine time, I'm feeling like quoting a great writer from my beloved home state. James Still, Kentucky's first poet laureate, feels just right:

“The flat fruit of the locust fell, lying like curved blades in the grass. August ripened the sedge clumps. Father began to come home from the mines in middle afternoon, no longer trudging the creek road at the edge of dark, with the carbide lamp burning on his cap. He came now before the guineas settled to roost in the black birch. We watched the elder thicket at the hillturn and plunged down to meet him as he came in sight. The heifer ran after us. Euly was the swiftest, reaching him first and snatching the dinner bucket Father carried. She hid in the stickweeds to nibble at the crusts in the bucket, scattering crumbs for the field-larks seeding the grass stalks. Fletch waited halfway down the path and Father would swing him to his shoulder, packing him to the house like a poke of meal.“

James Still, River of Earth


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New Book - Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut



We’ve kept it under wraps for the past three years. At last we can talk about it. My newest book, with the great Wyman Meinzer, Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut: The San Antonio Viejo Ranch of Texas, will be out late this summer. This has been the most challenging and satisfying non-fiction project of my career, and our most ambitious collaboration yet. San Antonio Viejo, one of the world’s greatest ranches, has been closed to outsiders for generations. The East Foundation gave Wyman and me full access to the ranch and the family archive. What a privilege and blessing to introduce this great ranch to the world. Currently the book is in the design phase. I’ll post updates and short passages in the coming weeks. Of course I can’t wait to share the cover. For now, I’ll send you to Wyman’s site for more info. Just click on the photo. Thanks!

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