Introducing my new book: Confessions from the Road
June 1, 2018
Everyone who crosses my path has a story to tell. Is it fact or fiction? Who really cares?
I GREW UP in a world occupied by storytellers. Their stories were better than books. Their stories became books. After all, life is just one story piled on top of another with page numbers.
I would sit in the back of Mr. Wyche’s Country Store while men played dominoes, or at least talked about playing dominoes, and traveled the forgotten roads of their memories.
“Homer left yet?”
“Didn’t know he was going anywhere.”
“Neither did he.”
“Why do you think he’s leaving?”
“Agnes bought a shotgun.”
“Agnes never shot a shotgun.”
“She has now.”
I stood on the front steps of an underpass in Leverett’s Chapel where we all had gathered when the big storms came rampaging through East Texas. It was a time of tornadoes.
Our world was thick with oil derricks. The winds weren’t always kind to them.
So we went underground to watch the lightning flash with rattlesnake tongues to strike the oil fields and hear thunder growl in a distant sky while the men told stories.
Pass the bottle.
In those days, storytellers did not know they were telling stories. They were simply carrying on a conversation. I never outgrew their stories. Nor did I ever stop listening to conversations that hopscotched their way along the side of a wayward road.
The voices stay with me. So do the stories they told me.
The voices may come from down the road apiece, at the counter of a diner, on the bar stool in a beer joint, sitting in the front yard of a mountain cabin, along a stretch of spun-sugar sand, back in the darkness of a pine thicket, amidst the downtown traffic jam of a city at sundown, or from the faint memories of a distant past.
Everyone who crosses my path has a story to tell. It may be personal. It may be something that happened last week or the year before. It may have been handed down for more than a single generation. It may even be true, but who knows anymore?
Mountains fade into the distance. Beaches are timeless. The tides come and they go, but once they have gone, they are gone forever. New tides arrive at their appointed hour, but the old ones have washed back into the mysteries of a timeless sea.
The city is an abstract sculpture of steel and glass, but so is the next one, and the next one. The cities, in reality, are only small towns separated by sidewalks instead of city limit signs.
Voices remain eternal.
Some people collect coins and stamps, model ships and lighthouses, driftwood and seashells, cars and boats, paintings and homemade crafts.
I collect stories.
The miles are endless. So are the stories. I find them most when I listen to other voices while traveling to other towns. I began in Texas, writing feature stories for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, spent a few years promoting Texas with Governor John Connally’s Texas Tourist Development Agency, and finally moved on through the South as Southern Living Magazine’s first travel editor.
I couldn’t read a road map.
So I took back roads.
Ruts where only the wheels of wagons had gone before.
I was little more than a lost ball in the tall weeds.
But I found towns I wasn’t supposed to find and was always a stranger among strangers where the next story was just down the street, around the corner, across the river, past the cotton gin, and if you go too far you’ll miss it, and if you go even farther, the road runs out.
Not all of the places are on the map.
Not all of them want to be.