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Thursday, November 1, 2018

On the First Cold Day of 2018

Today felt like first winter when you're kind of delighted it's Christmastime but the sky is pewter and the air is cold and you wonder if it's ever going to be a bright, sunshiny day again. Halfway between desolation and utter joy.
You think of all the dead, but also of the children who still wonder at the magic. And the knowledge that one day in the not-too-distant future, you'll be among the dead they're missing at the table, wishing you could make it easier for them.
In the meantime, the constellations turn in their heavens and never notice the tiny starts and finishes of the ants who live upon this hill. And people wonder why I never make the bed.


Monday, July 2, 2018

Politics of Summer

Garden-district cottage.
Cats on the porch.
Ancient oaks. Peaceful.

Tomatoes -- blood red --
and mayonnaise,
salted, peppered,
on the table.

Last week a feather
in the kitchen.
Yesterday a wing in the hall.

A cardinal batters
the bedroom window,
knocking to come in.
A wren batters from within.
How do I get out?
How did you get in?

Last night, a fight. Barking
In the den.  Flick the light
and then, a raccoon
dashes for the door.

Soon half a squirrel,
intestines twirled
on the front steps. Cats
draped on benches,
lick themselves.

Sweet scent of summer
Smells like death.

~ Elodie Pritchartt

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Remembering the Enslaved: Delia -- A guest post by Tom Scarborough

This is an oil portrait that has been in my family since the 1840s. It is of an enslaved woman named Delia. 

She was the house servant to my great, great, great grandfather, William Bisland, at Mount Repose, the family's plantation near Natchez, MS. 

It was painted by James Reid Lambdin, a relative of the Bislands by marriage. Lambdin also painted the official portraits of presidents Zachary Taylor, and William Henry Harrison. 

This painting hung in the library of my grandparents' house in Washington D.C. for several decades. I remember being entranced by it when I would visit them. It is currently on exhibit at the Mississippi Museum of Art, in Jackson, MS. 

I went to Jackson last week to see Delia for the first time in at least twenty years. It was strange seeing in a public space, this painting that was a part of my ancestors' history, and a poignant reminder of their implication in the system of American racial slavery. 

William Henry Harrison

Zachary Taylor

Having done my graduate work in the study of the plantation slave economy, I am fascinated by the historical nuances of this painting. 

My Natchez family was deeply involved in the slave economy, owning over 400 human beings spread over five plantations, from Natchez, to Terrebonne Parish, LA. 

I don't know if the family commissioned this painting; if so, it would have been very unusual as slaveowners did not typically commission portraits of their human property. Oil portraits of enslaved persons are exceedingly rare. If they did, however, it would speak to the bonds that sometimes did form between bondspersons and those who kept them in thrall. 

More likely, Lambdin painted Delia on his own initiative, and then gave the painting to his in-laws. 

I love her expression--strong, proud, unbroken. She is dressed in what were most likely her finest garments--for her this must have been an event of special meaning. My aunt and I have both tried to track down any evidence that might indicate what became of Delia, but documentary evidence is scant. What little I have gleaned indicates that she may have moved from Mount Repose across the river to New Providence Plantation, in Concordia Parish, another Bisland plantation. But no records have yet been found to shed light on her life during, or after the Civil War.

It was wonderful to once again see this woman who has been a part of our family for nearly 175 years, though not by her choice. I am delighted that she can now be viewed and appreciated by the public. I encourage all of my friends in Natchez and nearby to make the trip to the museum, perhaps in conjunction with a visit to the new Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.

Tom Scarborough lives in St. Francisville, Louisiana, where he and his wife, Denise, own and operate the Nouvelle Candle Club, and parent a precious, precocious, politically savvy  cat named Andy.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The King versus James Armstrong, Part VII

This testimony has been edited for clarity.

At Fort Panmur at Natchez, 19 August, 1786, voluntarily appeared Moses Armstrong, bringing with him the negro Sam who had escaped the day of his father's death with the two Lovels and George Blair.  It being necessary to take his confession by the means of an interpreter, Mr. George Fitzgerald being indisposed, I appointed Don Estevan Minor, Adj. Major of the Post, for that purpose, which
he accepted.

Then I caused the said Moses Armstrong to appear before me, who being duly sworn by the interpreter to answer truly such questions as should be put to him on the part of the King, as follows:

Q:  What is your name and how old are you?
A:  Moses Armstrong.  Sixteen years.

Q:  Where were you born?
A:  In South Carolina

Q:  What religion?
A:  Protestant

Q:  From whence came you now?
A:  [I] came from Stoney Creek to the house of Gibson Clark.

Q:  With what motive did you go to the house of Gibson Clark?
A:  Having heard that [my] mother and the rest of the family had gone to Natchez, [I] went to the house of Gibson Clark, as being the nearest, with the intention of bringing to the Fort his father's negro Sam.

Q:  Where [were you] when the detachments of Samuel Gibson and William Brocus surrounded the house of [your] father?
A:  [I] was in the house carroting tobacco.

Q:  What other persons were in the house at the time?
A:  The whole family were in the house, likewise John and James Lovel and George Blair, who were sitting with [my] father at the door.

Q:  Why did they not all surrender when ordered to do so?
A:  [I] always heard [my] father say that he would not surrender to any party sent to take him. Therefore when the detachment appeared, knowing that [my] father would not surrender and supposing they would fire on [us], [I] fled to the woods for fear of being killed.

Q:  Did you take any arms with you?
A:  No.

Q:  In what manner did you join the company who escaped?
A:  When they fled they took the same course that [I] had taken and overtook [me].

Q:  Were they armed?
A:  Each one had a rifle.

Q:  How long did you stay with them and how were they employed?
A:  The day following the detachment appeared, [I] slept with them. Early the next morning [we found] there were several paths leading from the place where we slept.  Blair and the Lovels took one path and [I] and the negro took the path leading to the plantation of Gibson Clark.

Q:  Did you hear any conversations from which you could infer what resolution they had taken?
A:  John Lovel purposed [sic] remaining in the District and the other two planned taking refuge in the Nation.

Q:  Did you accompany your father in any of the robberies?
A:  [I] I never left the plantation where [I] was employed about the crop.

Q:  What effects and cattle did your father bring to the house which he had stolen with the company before-mentioned?
A:  [My] father and the others had stolen two horses, two saddles, two pair of boots, a great coat, etc. from Manuel Texada and a horse and saddle from Richard Dunn, but they left another in its place.  [He] saw three rifles and a gun which they said they had taken from the houses of Stephen de Alva, James Cole, David Odam and Jacob Cable.

Q:  Were all the horses and effects they had stolen taken to your father's house?
A::They were all in a camp about 70 yards from the house.

Q:  Did you know what further plans your father and his companions had concerted?
A:  They were making ready to go to Georgia.

Q:  Your father took his negro with him when he went to rob.  Was this negro armed?
A:  He always took his negro with him but always unarmed.  The last time, however, the negro returned to the house with a small gun.

Q:  Who furnished your father and his companions with provisions while they were out on these expeditions?
A:  [I] do not know.

Q:  Have you heard them hold any seditious conversations concerning their mode of life?
A:  [I] did not hear any such conversations, but remember to have heard [my] father, on the day of his death, say that in two days he would leave the District.

Q:  Had [your] father and the rest of the troop quitted the house when [you] fled?
A:  [I] remember that [my] father and one of the Lovels were outside the door, but [I cannot] recollect where the others were at that moment.

Q:  Have you any knowledge of a seditious letter addressed to Tacitus Gaillard bearing the signature of David Smith?
A:  [I] never heard of such a letter.

Q:  Did you ever hear your father say that he had frequented the house of Jeremiah Routh and obtained provisions there?
A:  [I] remember to have heard them say that they had taken a horse between Routh's house and that of Jacob Cable.

Q:  Did the two Lovels and George Blair who had come to your father's house intend to go with him to the Indian Nation?
A:  The persons named came to [my] father's house and as they approached Father called to them to halt until he knew their business.  They talked apart for a time but [I] don't know on what subject.

Q:  Do you know of any other persons who intended to join your father's troop?
A:  No.

Q:  Did you from the place where you hid see your father killed and your brother wounded?
A:  [I] saw nothing of it but I heard the report of the rifles.

Q:  Have you anything more to say?
A:  No.

The foregoing being read to him by the interpreter, he acknowledged it to be the same that he had made, having nothing to add nor diminish thereof, and not knowing how to write has made his mark in the presence of the King's Solicitor, the Interpreter, the Clerk and witnesses assisting.

Testimony of the following was also obtained:

Sarah Armstrong, widow of James Armstrong; Gibson Clark, planter; Manuel de Texada, a Cole's Creek planter; James Cole, planter; Estevan de Alva, planter; Richard Dunn; David Odam; Gaspar Sinclair; Jacob Cable; Susannah Cable; and Margaret Sinclair.

At Natchez, 21st August, 1786, the King's Solicitor in this cause, accompanied by the Clerk and two assistants, repaired to the Hospital, where [they] found the body of James Armstrong and directed the Surgeon of said Hospital to give [him] a certificate of the manner of his death, hereinafter inserted in the proceedings:

"I, Louis Faure, King's Surgeon of the Post of Natchez, do certify that a certain James Armstrong died at the Hospital of said Post, on the 21st day of August of the present year 1786, in consequence of a gunshot wounds he received in the head."

Signed by Louis Faure, Antonio Soler, Joaquim de Ossorno, Juan Carreras and Carlos de Grand-Pre.

The end

 See also:

Monday, May 28, 2018

In Memoriam

“You tried, Sweetheart,”
she whispered.
She tossed a handful of dirt
down on the coffin.
A cold wind blew.
The sky was dark. Acid
rained. Chaos.
Two-hundred some-odd years.
Well, not really such a good run,
after all.

Few came to the service.
Few knew who had died.
Or when.
Rest in peace, Dear One.
Blood will fertilize the ground.
Tears will water it. Hope
springs from the scorched earth.
Some day, we will learn.
Or not.
~ May 28, 2018

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Inside Out


Doves the color of dust.
Dust scattered with seed.
Birds eat as though
nothing has changed.
continue unabated.


Movements have disturbed
old dust 
that settled, quiet
over time
on unmoving things until
we'd almost stopped seeing them.
after the roar.


In the aftermath I wait,
wincing at the insistent sun,
and fear the naked air.
Turn away, look back as
this rusted truck takes
roads long denied.
Dust lingers in its wake.

    ~ Elodie Pritchartt, 2007

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The King versus James Armstrong, Part VI

* I have edited the testimony for clarity as the original is almost all one complete, run-on sentence.

At the Fort on the same day and year before-written (17 Aug 1786), appeared William Brocus who headed one of the parties detached to take the troup of robbers commanded by James Armstrong in this District and the said Brocus, placing his hand on the Bible according to the custom of his religion and promised to answer truly such questions that should be put to him by the interpreter on the part of the King, to relate circumstantially every occurence that took place from the time the party left the Fort until their return.

On the road to Cole's Creek they joined another party who set out on the same expedition under command of Samuel Gibson.  It was agreed to keep together until they obtained some encouragement of Armstrong but about three leagues from the place of meeting they discovered footsteps and tracks of horses leading towards said Armstrong's plantation.

They followed until within 500 paces of the house where they dismounted and left one-half  of the company with the horses. The other half proceeded to within 200 paces of the house from whence they perceived the wife of Armstrong in the cowpen, who, seeing them immediately, left off milking. Finding that Armstrong had likewise perceived, they separated a second time, one-half passing through a tobacco field to the rear of the house and the other half approaching in the front.

Calling to him to surrender to the King, [Armstrong] answered that he should surrender with his rifle, and at the same time going into the house to get it. [Once inside], he encouraged the men in the house to stand to their arms and defend themselves, and appearing at a window of the house in front of us, called out to come on and try it.  [Then] we approached still calling on him to surrender.

When close upon him he determined to go out by a back window, which they effected and perceiving his troop ready to fire upon the party, I ordered one-half of the men to fire, which charge the said Armstrong fell dead and his son was badly wounded in the forehead.  One ball [appeared] to pass through his head and one lodged therein.  Likewise a ball in the right side.

By the same discharge another of the troop was wounded who however escaped with the others.  With whom we found it impracticable to come up with although we followed them by their tracks all day until they crossed Stoney Creek where we lost them.

The party under command of Samuel Gibson remained at the house to collect the arms of the dead and the wounded and some horses which they had stolen and took an inventory of everything in the house and on the plantation.  When done, they conveyed hither together with the wounded and the wife and the rest of the family of the deceased.

[That] is all that occurred within the knowledge of the deponent, upon the oath which he has taken and, not knowing how to write he has made the mark of the cross, in the presence of those in preceding.

See also:

The King vs James Armstrong, Part V

The King vs James Armstrong, Part IV

The King vs James Armstrong, Part III

The King vs James Armstrong, Part II

The King vs James Armstrong

McBee, May Wilson.  The Natchez Court Records, 1767-1805. Greenwood, MS: 1953.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The King versus James Armstrong, Part V

Drawing of Fort Panmure, date unknown.  The site is now known as Fort Rosalie.
*  In order to make this easier to read, I have taken the liberty of putting it into a question-and-answer format.  The original is all one long paragraph without the Q-and-A notations.

At Fort Panmur at Natchez, 17 August 1786, I, Don Carlos de Grand-Pre, in order to take the confession of James Armstrong, who is badly wounded, in Hospital to which he was brought by one of the parties detached to arrest him and in danger from dying from one moment to another, wherefore it is necessary to examine him without loss of time, I have appointed Juan Careras to act as Clerk, which he has accepted and promised faithfully to discharge the same, and has signed with the King's Solicitator, Carlos de Grand-Pre, Juan Carreras.  It being necessary to appoint an Interpreter to translate the confession of the criminal, James Armstrong, and the declarations of the witnesses in the case, all of whom speak the English language, I have appointed Mr. George Fitzgerald, who, being informed of said appointment, has accepted thereof, in witness whereof he has signed, with the King's Attorney and the Clerk.

Witnesses also present:  Don Antonio Soler, Lieut. of the Artillery, and Don Joaquim de Ossorno, Lieut. of the Grenadiers.  All of whom have repaired to the Royal Hospital where the said James Armstrong lay wounded and inquired if he would swear before God truly to answer such questions as should be put to him on the part of the King, to which he answered, laying his hand on the Bible according to form and rites of his religion that he would declare the truth.

Q:  What is your name?
A:   James Armstrong.

Q:  What religion?
A:  Protestant.

Q:  Where were you born?
A:  In South Carolina.

Q:  By whom were you wounded, and with whom?
A:  He does not know exactly who shot him but he is certain it was one of the party who came to take him, and he was in the company of his father, his younger brother and John and James Lovel.

Q:  How long had he been in that company?
A:  They joined company about seven days before.

Q:  What had they been doing?
A:  Robbing.

Q:  State truly how many robberies they committed and on whom.
A:  John and James Lovel and his father, himself and his father's negro went to the house of Manuel Texada and by force of arms robbed him of two horses, a saddle, two bridles, and a cloth great coat, and the same night they went to the house of John Cable, whom they robbed of a bag, two blankets, a horse, a saddle and bridle, from whence they went to the house of Jeremiah Routh to supper.

Q:  Did they commit any violence in these robberies?
A:  Threatened that if any resistance was made they would take the property by force and shoot them.

Q:  Did they go to the houses of any other person?
A:  They went to the house of David Odom, whom they robbed of a rifle and from thence they were to the house of Jeremiah Routh from whence they took a barrel of whiskey.

Q:  To whom did the barrel of whiskey belong?
A:  It belonged to George Blair.

Q:  Name all of the other inhabitants whom they robbed.
A:  The same night they robbed the house of Stephen de Alva and James Cole, from each of whom they took a rifle, with the same violence as before mentioned.

Q:  Who furnished them provisions?
A:  They concealed themselves in the house of Jeremiah Routh who furnished them provisions.

Q:  How many persons were in the troup where they first met together and for what purpose?
A:  The troup consisted of his father, his father's negro, the brothers Lovel, George Blair and himself, and the manner of their meeting was as follows:

The two Lovels and George Blair, hearing his father was about to set out to the Indian Nation,k came to the house and dissuaded him from going to the Indian Nation but rather to join with them in robbing in the District, and they accordingly robbed the houses before mentioned as also those of Douglas and Sinclair, at each of whom they took a rifle.

Q:  If he had any knowledge of a seditious letter found in the District, bearing the signature of Davvid Smith and addressed to Tacitus Gaillard?
A:  That letter was written by George Blair who counterfeited the signature of Smith.

Q:  If he knows for what purpose the said Blair fabricated the said letter.
A:  With the intention of ruining Smith and his family.

Q:  If he knew any other persons who intended to join the troup.
A:  None.

Q:  If his brother was concerned in their robberies.
A:  No, he was too young, and never left home.

Q:  If they intended to leave the District and at what time and where did they intend to go?
A:  They intended to leave the District in two days and go to the State of Georgia.

Q:  Where was his brother?
A:  When the party appeared he flew to the woods.

Q:  Where were the rest of the troup?
A:  Also in the woods.

Q:  Where is the negro, before-mentioned?
A:  It would appear that he was wounded?

Q:  And was he armed?
A:  He was near the house and had his rifle.

Q:  Why did he not surrender to the party when ordered to do so?
A:  He was not at liberty to do so, being under the orders of his father.  And Lovel and his brother threatened to kill him in the house if he did not go out with his rifle and defend himself.

Q:  I his father stood on the defensive when ordered to surrender?
A:  He did.

Q:  Where was his father killed by the party?
A:  In the same tobacco field, distant about an acre from the house.

Q:  If he had not concerted a projct of robbing the stores in Natchez?
A:  He never concerted any project, but being under his father's command was bound to obey his orders.  He did hear the Lovels one day propose to rob the stores of Natchez but his father objected going so near the Fort.

Q:  If he has anything more to say and how old is he?
A:  At present, he doesn't remember anything more except he heard the Lovels say that they intended to kill Joseph Duncan; and he is eighteen years old.

And the foregoing confession being read to him by the interpreter, he acknowledged it to bethe same he has made, ratifying and confirming the same on the oath which he has taken, and not knowing how to write has made the mark of a cross, in the presence of the King's Attorney, the Interpreter, the Clerk, and the witnesses assisting.

Signed:  Carlos de Grand-Pre, George Fitzgerald, Antonio Soler, Joaquim de Ossorno and Juan Carreras.

See also:

The King vs James Armstron, Part IV

The King vs James Armstrong, Part III

The King vs James Armstrong, Part II

The King vs James Armstrong

McBee, May Wilson.  The Natchez Court Records, 1767-1805. Greenwood, MS: 1953.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The King versus James Armstrong, Part IV

p. 109

I the undersigned, Surgeon of the Hospital of Natchez certify that on the 16th day of August, 1786, a certain James Armstrong was brought to the Hospital wounded in the right eye by a ball which penetrated and came out about an inch above the eye-brow.  I also found another ball in his head which lodged upon the skull.  The wounded man continues to be attended daily by order of His Excellency, Don Carlos de Grand-Pre, Commandant of the Fort and Post.  In testimony, whereof, I have gven these presents, to serve when need be.

Signed, Louis Faure.

See also:

The King vs James Armstrong, Part III

The King vs James Armstrong, Part II

McBee, May Wilson.  The Natchez Court Records, 1767-1805. Greenwood, MS: 1953.The King vs James Armstrong

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The King versus James Armstrong, Part III

Don Carlos de Grand-Pre
Circular to William Brocus, Samuel Gibson, Roswell Mygatt, William Tabor, Prosper King, Ezekiel DeWitt, John Swayze, James Swayze, William Smith, John Coleman, Samuel Walker, Waterman Crane, Israel Leonard, John Pickens, John Ford, James Stoddard, John Martin, Jeptha Higdon, Richard Adams, John Adams, Edward Lovelace, Adam Lanehart, Jeremiah Coleman, Hohn Lum, John Stampley, William Collins, John Kincaid, Joseph Fort, and Elias Bonnell:

The robberies lately committed by rebel James Armstrong, his two sons and negro, together with the vagabonds, named John and James Lovel and George Blair, who forcibly entered the houses of four inhabitants of this District and putting them in fear of their lives, stripped their dwellings of everything most valuable they could carry off, such as clothes, goods, firearms, horses, saddles, bridles, and other effects, contrary to the public peace and tranquility, being well-known.

In order to promptly and effectively remedy these, to cut short the course of these villians, I do hereby command all inhabitants, without exception to unite immediately and in parties of twenty persons and pursue these public robbers without delay until they are taken dead or alive, the public tranquility in a measure depending on their apprehension, as also on the expedition used, in which every person is interested.

It is therefore recommended to the inhabitants to concert among themselves the best means of taking these robbers, each party taking a different route and such as they expect most likely to be used by these villians in placing ambushes for them where they might think needful and where they may intercept them on their return from their nocturnal expeditions.

At Fort Panmurat Natchez, 12 Aug. 1786.  Signed Carlos de Grand-Pre

See also:

The King versus James Armstrong

The King versus James Armstrong, Part II

McBee, May Wilson.  The Natchez Court Records, 1767-1805. Greenwood, MS: 1953.

Orphans looking for a home

I've just finished taming these two little kittens, who are sweet, affectionate, and looking for a home.  If you're interested, please either comment at the end of the post or send me an email at  Thank you!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The King versus James Armstrong

Circular addressed to Alexander Fraser, Benjamin James, James McIntosh, residing in the Chickasaw and Choctaw towns.

Sirs:  It being the custom and interest of all nations to apprehend highway robbers who by force of arms strip travellers and enter the houses of citizens and plunder their most valuable effects, and even the horses which are so necessary for the support of their families, this is to inform you that a troup of these vagabonds have associated in this District to commit atrocities abovementioned and it is expected will shortly take the route of the Indian towns with their ill-gotten plunder to avoid their punishment imposed by the laws of all nations for such offences.

Under the impression I point out to your notice James Armstrong, and his two sons and a negro belonging to him, and likewise John and James Lovell, real and pretended brothers, and and James Blair, who have lately robbed many inhabitants of the District of their firearms, clothes, goods, saddles, bridles, horses, etc. to the end that should these villians who have committed these outrages against the peace of society and the majesty of the law appear at the Indian settlements yu might be pleased to have them arrested and with their booty conveyed under a strong guard to this District to receive the reward.

Have just learned that a certain Jeremiah Routh is an accomplice and has left this District with the effects plundered by Armstrong and companions.  I have also to request that you will not admit any person into your settlements unless provided with a passport in form.  Those to appear without such recommendations to be considered as vagabonds, disturbers of the public tranquility and the welfare of the society in general.

May God preserve you many years.

Fort Panmur at Natchez, Aug. 16, 1786.  P.D.

Such persons as may compose the escort of the prisoners and the property plundered will be amply recompensed for their service. _______________________ Signed:  Carlos de Grand-Pre.

McBee, May Wilson. The Natchez Court Records:  1767-1805.  Baltimore, MD. 1979, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.

See also:  The Wild, Wild South

Monday, May 14, 2018

An Evening at the Slave Quarters

Enjoyed Saturday evening at Concord Quarters. Dinner was superb and we got to hear about The Slave Dwelling Project by its director Joe McGill.
Concord Quarters is the only remaining building at Concord Plantation, which burned in 1901. It was the home of the first Spanish governor of the Mississippi Territory, Don Manuel Gayosa de Lemos.
The Quarters was where the enslaved people lived on the plantation. It's now owned by Gregory and Deborah Cosey, who treated us to a delicious meal of mustard greens, ham hocks, black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, cornbread and apple cobbler.
They also run a B&B there.
To learn more, go to

Dagger Cane that belonged to Spanish Governor Don Manuel Gayosa de Lemos

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Shantybellum Too Invites You

It's been nearly eleven years since Shantybellum Guesthouse opened.  And it suddenly dawned on me that I've never posted about our newest guesthouse:  Shantybellum Too!  It's half a block from the bluff overlooking the mighty Mississippi River, and only a one-block walk to Steampunk Coffee Roasters and Natchez's newest Blues Club, Smoot's Grocery on the bluff.

Downtown Natchez is a short walk where you can shop, eat at fine restaurants or visit the historic homes and landmarks that make Natchez one of the best small-town tourist destinations in the country.

You get the whole cottage, and it's supplied for all your needs from TV and internet to cooking and laundry.  And it's a relaxed atmosphere.  No worrying about being careful with the furniture.  It's got a Bluesy, laid-back vibe you'll enjoy.  Check us out on for rates and availability.  And be sure to read our reviews on Airbnb.  We'd love to see you.

I've said enough.  I'll let the photos tell you the rest.

Related link:  Smoot's Grocery -- Bringing the Blues Back Home

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Reckoning

In the pictures 
we seldom smiled.

Stubborn children 
forced to pause
and pose before the hearth 
in the cabin 
in the woods
in the childhood
in the life
he'd built 
in the 
happy time.

He pulls the tattered box
From under the bed,
studies each fading moment 
for clues.

The lamp sheds no new light
On the mystery of us. 

The smell of dust, 
the screen door’s slam,
the island in the pond
saddles in the shed,
the boat, the chill,
the sweat, the water,
the shadow and the light
the silence of a Sunday
night waiting 
while he locked the gate.

Turned the key 
On another memory.

The sandbar, 
Alligator gar and
Busch beer in a pull-tab can.
Dinosaurs, all gone
like the sound of a horn on a barge,
first large then drifting away.

He puts the pictures back,
Hopes the phone won’t ring,
bringing something new 
to grieve.
Lying back, he sighs,
Closes his eyes and waits
for the reckoning

~ March 3, 2010

Monday, February 26, 2018

Woodville Wildlife Festival

Woodville Courthouse

All the artists set up
around the courthouse square
beneath the oaks,
the resurrection fern
swollen and green with last night's rain.

The morning misty and damp
and strewn with color,
the smell of barbeque mingles with
hay. A skinny Catahoula hangs
around the cooking trailers,
hoping for a handout.

I buy pulled-pork sandwiches for
two -- one for the dog, one for me.
I watch her bolt it down as
a friendly cattle farmer stops
to tell me he'd bought her a hot dog
a few minutes before.

Camouflage is definitely in
at the Deer and Wildlife festival.
Don't be caught dead without it.

Didn't know what to expect,
but the dead moose being
draped over a form for mounting,
his lips hanging loosely off the side,
is a shock.

The air is filled with the sounds
of turkeys and ducks, made with
wooden calls by craftsmen
next to artists painting
things from life.

And the people....
The obese Black woman
with a blooming onion
the size of a football on
a plate, all for her.

The little girl in cowboy boots
and shorts, skinny legs so cute
it breaks your heart,

just because.
She has a puppy on a leash.
tied in her hair,
her face painted like a cat.

The baby in the stroller,
leaning in to snag
whatever is in reach.

The friends sitting on the
corner, the same conversation
they've been having for
40 years.

Doctors, bums, wives, bankers,
lawyers, maids, babysitters, boyfriends,
girlfriends, children, vendors
all in motion as the band
plays the 70s greatest hits,
going round and round
and round.

A wonderful sound.

~ Elodie  Pritchartt

Sunday, February 18, 2018


Before Gollum had tasted
the power of The Ring,
when he still had family with whom
to sing in the Gladden Fields, when
things like friendship, honor, love
and joy would bring
all the happiness of spring, 

do you suppose he considered how a
ring – a small, pretty, shining
thing could change a man?
Did he think his first
drink of power would be
a thing so easily imbibed,
how it changed
a man inside
from what he’d been
to something he despised?

Before it split his soul in two,
before his craving really grew
into a wolf howling at
the moon in the darkness
of the Misty Mountains,
did he think he might
one day loathe the light?
Did he consider
wrong from right
or did he only ask for more?

Did he grieve his own lost soul
as his father surely did when
he crawled into his hole
to find that bloody ring?

And when he clawed his way
over friends and good intentions,
and he claimed The Ring his own,
he’d lost what really mattered
and died in flames alone.

Do you think as he lay dying,
precious ring clutched in his hand,
he wished he’d never seen it?
Did he ever understand?