Best-selling author’s arrival has some howling at the moon
Posted: Friday, February 3, 2012 8:01 pm
By: By Glenda Caudle
When the coyotes howled, it was Rick Bragg’s name rippling their vocal chords, rolling past their thin black lips and rising on haunting waves toward the moon.
I’d swear it was. On a stack of his best sellers.
Wednesday night, just after tornado sirens shrilled and right before lightning flashed and thunder rolled, the canine band met to moan the Pulitzer Prize winner’s name on the edge of a deserted tarmac in Muscle Shoals, Ala.
It’s hard to say whether they were mourning his leave-taking from his native state on such a stormy eve or maligning his name over some late unpleasantness that occurred a while back on his mama’s farm, just to the southeast. It was there that the solitary gun-totin’ storyteller took out some of their wolf-like cousins for poaching newborn calves in an appetizing manner. But only one at a time — so it took a while to clear out the wiley critters.
Two nights ago, Bragg was on his way from Tuscaloosa in Alabama, where he’s a husband and a stepdad and a writing teacher and an author, to Obion County in Tennessee, where he was going to talk about all those things to people who love the way he spins a spell about feats and folks who surely live just down the road a piece.
The guest speaker for tonight’s Rotary Club Distinguished Speaker banquet hadn’t planned on coming down from just below the stars quite so soon after he’d headed up to greet them in pilot Tony Lester’s Beech Baron twin engine.
Still, the descent had the distinct advantage of being the careful decision of the man in charge of the controls and not a calamitous downfall engineered by fate.
There’s a lot to be said for the difference.
Bragg will most likely say it at some point in the future.
Maybe it will be in one of his back-page Southern Living columns. Or perhaps it will pop up in the next book he fixes with his definitive style, once he’s played out the non-fiction lyrics on Jerry Lee Lewis — the rock ’n’ roll legend.
Could be, though, he’ll just talk about it; just let his good-ole-boy Southern twang sort of settle on the ear — jarred only occasionally by a word his “Aint Neeter” would disapprove of mightily — as he tells the Tennessee travel tale in the future.
He can add to the narrative how he and Lester and a nameless stage-struck female hung out in the barren vestibule of the Muscle Shoals airport after they abandoned the plane and the eerie landing strip, staring longingly at the chairs and water coolers and vending machines and restrooms just beyond the locked doors of the deserted terminal for a couple of hours while they waited for the storm to mosey on past. Then he can get some mileage out of the high drama — once he was safely delivered to the local airport — of riding with a female driver down an under-construction two-lane road filled with a series of heart-stopping hazards.
And to finish it up, he can relate how he evened the score with his hapless chauffeur-ette and plane traveling chatterbox companion by gallantly insisting on buying her a late-night burger and then sneaking it out from under her very nose and — at long last — into his home away from home for a fast food feast before he finally claimed an evening’s rest on foreign soil.
He can tell it all, one way or the other.
It will be his story alone.
I swear it will be (now that I’ve had my say). On a stack of his future best sellers.
Special Features Editor Glenda H. Caudle may be contacted by email at glendacaudle@ucmessen ger.com.