A SOUTHERN JOURNEY
By Doc Lawrence
ATLANTA-Today is Jimmy Carter’s 91st birthday and I stopped over to hear Rick Bragg at the Carter Center the other night and signed a tribute book wishing him a happy celebration along with a sincere wish for recovery. Bragg, a dynamite journalist and author, referred to presidential library as “Jimmy’s house” during an hour of remarks before an audience that was even more remarkable because I observed no one fidgeting with a smart phone. Garrison Keillor would have called them all English majors.
A Pulitzer winner for journalism and a University of Alabama School of Journalism professor (“longest job I’ve ever held”), Bragg has an uncanny resemblance to actor Jeff Bridges but speaks in the much the same voice as Southern humorists like Lewis Grizzard sprinkled with a little Jerry Clower and Andy Griffith. He’s entertaining and unscripted, completely natural.
His latest work, My Southern Journey is a collection of stories, some published in Southern Living and Garden & Gun, but fresh as morning dew in North Alabama all the same. Bragg is his best when outraged and his tome on the BP Gulf disaster comes as close to what happened as you’ll read. This country boy ain’t for sale and when something in his dear state of Alabama is ruined, you hear an ear-piercing war cry.
Like Paul’s New Testament letters, Rick Bragg is ferociously quotable: “We are good at stories. We hoard them, like an old woman in a room full of boxes, but now and then we pull out our best, and spread them out. We talk of the bad years when the cotton didn't open, and the day my cousin Wanda was washed in the Blood. We buff our beloved ancestors until they are smooth of sin, and give our scoundrels a hard shake, although sometimes we can't remember exactly which is who.”
The days get shorter and the weather seems sloppy more often. My Southern Journey brightens a dim room, reduces the pain of loneliness. For those who prefer a jigger of truth mixed into some delightful stories, here’s an antidote to those bad weather blues. Bonus: Rick Bragg’s stories go down well with Jack Daniel’s.
Rick Bragg would say that one of the best stories ever from the Deep South is the life of Jimmy Carter. All together now:
“Happy Birthday, Mr. President.”
NOTE: Tailgating Down South is now on iTunes: