Return from Lafayette & Teaching the Civil War


Friday evening, I met with other contacts, including Jimmy and Thomas, the owner and manager of the Mason-Dixon store in Jefferson, Texas. They were very interested in my books and we are planning a signing/program there in the near future. It was a very good day for personal sales as I sold every book I had with me.

Saturday morning I drove from Marshall, Texas to the Sam’s Club in Lafayette, Louisiana. This was a quick sell-out, and a very enjoyable signing. I was so busy that I forgot to take any photos! The events manager, Maggie, was very pleased at the success of the event. I arrived home late last night, slept late, and as usual on Sundays, was on the run as soon as my feet hit the floor, catching up on business, and preparing for the week. I have a SCV Christmas party to perform for tomorrow night in Eldorado. If I can catch up on chores and tasks, I may go early enough to visit some schools and libraries there. Tuesday night, I have another SCV party here in West Monroe. Thursday, I’ll be in Vidalia, Louisiana presenting a historical/Christmas program there. It should be a lot of fun. Saturday, I’m scheduled to be at the Sam’s Club in Shreveport.


Books about the Civil War continue to be churned out. I think the War Between the States must be one of the most popular topics to write about. Through the years, I’ve managed to build up a respectable library on the War. I’m working on a book for one of my publishers, Booklocker, on how to write about the Civil War. This book is on the list of my future projects, and as soon as I get a lot of rat killing done, I can see to it.

As an English teacher for both the high school and college levels, I’ve read and taught many books about the Civil War that are in the genre of fiction. Some of the literature is very good, some VERY bad—badly written, full of inaccuracies and stereotypes and misinformation. If you’re a teacher, or just one who is interested in reading good Civil War fiction, here’s a list of those books with a few comments.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. An all time best seller and classic on the Civil War—and with good reason. I don’t think anyone has written anything comparable. It is a masterpiece. Unfortunately, few in the modern generation have read it. Few have even seen the movie, one of the greatest movies of all time.

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier The movie was good, the book is better, but as they say, “Never judge a book by its movie.” This novel is rich in detail, honest about the Confederates who fought in the war, and more or less written from a Confederate-friendly point of view. His second epic novel on the Civil War didn’t have as much success, in spite of the big bucks he received for it.

Andersonville by McKinlay Kantor. When I first began reading this novel, I was expecting more of the usual Yankee-point-of-view misinformation and propaganda. I was delightfully surprised. An honest representation of both sides and an unsettling description of this Georgia prisoner of war camp.
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt. Okay, I know this is a commonly taught book, on at least one AP list I’ve seen, and I know it presents the dynamics of a divided country (and families) well, but the ending spoiled it for me. The ending (with a deus ex machina feel to it) promotes the “Saint Lincoln” myth. I suppose Lincoln was capable of acts of kindness on occasion, but for every deserter he spared (as in this story) he executed or arrested many more, many of whom were innocent of everything but disagreeing with Lincoln. Aside: Lincoln also seemed to be quite fond of not only taking away the right of Habeus Corpus, but of arresting newspaper editors (I heard over 200) who criticized him. I know one of them was the grandson of Francis Scott Key! (How ironic is that!)

The Writings of Ambrose Bierce: Bierce is best known for his story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” which is rightfully a standard inclusion in high school and college anthologies. Bierce actually wrote a collection of Civil War Stories and it is worth reading. Though he was a Yankee, he writes about the war with the venom of a Copperhead (Democrats in the North who opposed the war). Definitely worth reading. I recently taught his haunting story, “Chickamauga” in my college American Literature class.

Stephen Crane: Crane is the author of The Red Badge of Courage which has been a classic for a long time. This is a great novel. Though the main character is a Yankee soldier, it is NOT a anti-South book. Rather, it reflects the philosophy of Naturalism which Crane embraced. A beautiful and well-written novel. Crane also has a collection of short fiction about the War entitled, “The Little Regiment” and Other Stories. This is also a good read.

Texas Friday

Last night, I went to see the Gospel According to Scrooge at the Family Church in West Monroe. I try to see it every year. A wonderful production. I generally don’t care for musicals, but I do like this one. There are so many good lines in this play. One I like was, “Let us love till we die and God bless us every one.” I think I’ll do a review of this musical in a future blog. It is certainly one of the finer theatrical productions to be produced in  Northeast Louisiana.

I rose at 4:00 a.m. this morning and was on the road by 5:30 to drive to Marshall, Texas. I presented my program at the Trinity Episcopal School from about 8:30-12:00 and had a grand time.  I was so impressed with the school’s librarian, Peggy Elliot, the administrative staff, and the teachers. The children were models of propriety, with excellent interest and behavior. All seemed to love the program, which I presented to differing grades in four  sessions.

Leaving Trinity School, I met with Marsha Edney, the librarian at Marshall High School. This school is a huge and nice facility.  After I left there, I met briefly with the public librarian. Though I’m REALLY tired, I have more appointments ahead of me, and I can’t afford to stop. I just stopped here at the public library long enough to check my email and make this post. The library here is spacious, quiet, and clean. I’m working in the children’s section.  A few people are on computers, a mother is working with her two children, and except for me, only one other patron is on a laptop.

Overall it’s already been a profitable trip, with several venues tentatively planned for the future.  It definitely looks like I’ll be spending a great deal of my future time in Texas.

Tonight, I’ll sepnd the night in Marshall, and tomorrow I’ll be at the Sam’s Club in Lafayette from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Hopefully I’ll have another sell-out, and then I’ll likely drive back to Monroe. I may be able to get off another post tomorrow morning, but if not, I’ll return to the blog either late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. Sometimes this fast-paced writer’s schedule of mine is so physically and mentally and emotionally draining that I have little energy for little else, but now I can’t see myself doing anything else. Several people I’ve talked to have said I’m living their dream, or that they’re living vicariously through me. Perhaps. I just know I’m having the time of my life.

Cypress Point Elementary & Darrell Scott

Yesterday was a grueling day of editing. Today, I’ll be presenting a program at Cypress Point Elementary School in Monroe, Louisiana. I look forward to that. I’ve got a long list of things to do before I go there this morning.  Tomorrow, I’ll be at Trinity Episcopal School in Marshall, Texas! Then Saturday, at the Sam’s in Lafayette.
I’ve already expressed my admiration in an earlier post for Darrell Scott, one of the finest guitarists and songwriters I’ve ever listened to. One song he did, entitled “Shattered Cross,” particularly caught my attention. I could not find a printed version online, so I decided to transcribe the lyrics from the CD. Forgive me if my ear or pen made a mistake in the transcription. It’s a song I’d like to be able to perform in the future.

Shattered Cross

You don’t mess around with a man in black
You’ll say something wrong that you can’t take back,
You’ll go for a ride in his automobile
To a spot in the woods just over the hill
No, you don’t mess around with a man in black.

You don’t fool around with a woman in red
You will wake up alone in the cold barren bed
She’ll empty your pockets and rip out your heart
And leave you the ruins of a life torn apart.
No, You don’t fool around with a woman in red.

You never make deals with a man named Doc,
You’ll have a gun in your hand by 12 o’clock,
Beneath the sodium lights with your heart in your throat,
Your life won’t amount to a bottle of smoke,
No you never make deals with a man named Doc.

Don’t bring me your tales of temptation and loss,
The rags of your dreams your shattered cross,
I have heard your confession I know who you blame,
If you had it again, you’d just lose it again,
Can’t bank on redemption if you ain’t saved,
Don’t bring me your tales of temptation and loss,
Don’t bring me the pieces of your shattered cross.

A Silly Short Story

I’m working feverishly on university business, writing business, and editing business today. I decided to stop long enough to post something and decided on a silly short story I wrote some time ago for a contest. Yes, I know. It shows what a madman I am.

“I Want My Mummy!”

Jeannie answered the phone.
“Dallas Museum of Natural History.  Robert!” Jeannie said.  “It’s good to hear from you.  I can hardly wait!  Bert’s doing fine. Yes, I know you said he’d be difficult, but I’ve got him under control.  It’s hard to believe it’s been six months.  You too. Goodbye.”
Jeannie hung up the phone and meditated about her future.   Robert was the Director of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.   Next month she would leave Dallas and move to Washington to become the Assistant Director of the Museum of Natural History.  A very prestigious, lucrative position.
Bert, Robert’s nephew, was the reason she had landed the job.  Last year, Robert had called the museum on Bert’s behalf, asking if the museum could use a good solid worker.
Knowing Robert’s importance to the museum world, she agreed to hire him. The next day Bert appeared, and she put him to work.  A good bit above minimum wage too.  And after Jeannie explained Bert’s connection to the Smithsonian, the board didn’t buck her decision.
However, she had a very real problem.  Bert was pretty much an idiot.
There was also another problem.  Since hiring Bert, she and Robert had become romantically involved, seeing each other once a month.  It was nice, but not perfect: Robert had a great love for his nephew and when Robert flew Jeannie out, he insisted that Bert come also.
However, Jeannie also saw Kenneth occasionally.  Kenneth was an IBM executive, and when in town, they would get together for a little late-night romp late in the museum.  Making love surrounded by priceless artifacts of ancient history excited Jeannie.  Robert didn’t know about Kenneth, and Jeannie didn’t feel he needed to know—ever.  And, Kenneth’s work also took him into Washington.
Recently, the museum had acquired a mummified Indian baby, affectionately dubbed “Lime Drop.”  A priceless acquisition, obtained for a small investment.
Bert was quite taken with Lime Drop.  He stared at her for hours, and often photographed her.  Jeannie, ignoring museum rules banning photography, told Bert that he could use his camera when the museum was closed.  And in a moment of temporary insanity, she had given him a key to the museum.
Once, she caught Bert holding Lime Drop, nestling her to his breast and cooing as if he were a parent.  Jeannie made him return her to the display basket, and warned him to not molest her again.  But only yesterday as she returned from lunch, she found him wheeling Lime Drop in a small baby carriage in front of the museum.
“I love little Lime Drop, Miss Jeannie,” Bert said. “I ain’t never had no one I cared for so much. “  He reached down and tickled the leathery skin on the mummy’s chin. “Goochee, goochee, goo!”
Jeannie winced.  She led Bert inside quietly, internally rehearsing scenes of the terror such a sight would create for the community.   The backlash would be terrible.  She couldn’t fire Bert, or her new job would be in peril.  Yet, she also knew she couldn’t allow this behavior to go on.   She was confident Bert’s uncle would agree with her decision to protect Bert from his quirky obsession.
She found Bert studying a newly acquired piece of Egyptian papyrus.
“This is real purty, Miss Jeannie. What does it say?”
“It’s an Egyptian ritual telling how to raise the dead.”
“What’s a ritual?”
“You know, like a formula. It tells the steps of how to do something.”
“You mean, like a recipe?” he asked.
“Yes, Bert, like a recipe.”  She sighed.  “Bert, I’ve got bad news.  I’ll be taking Lime Drop with me to the Smithsonian, so I must pack and prepare her for the trip.”
“You mean, I won’t get to see her no more?”
“No, Bert. You better say goodbye now.”
Jeannie felt sorry for Bert, but she knew this was for the best.  Moreover, she would be in Washington next month and Bert would then be someone else’s problem.
The next day, Bert didn’t report to work.  Jeannie called him, but there was no answer.  How could she explain Bert’s absence to Robert? She and Bert were supposed to fly to Washington this weekend.
She paced restlessly through the museum, willing herself to think of a solution.  She paused in front of Lime Drop’s now empty display area.  A sealed envelope, addressed to her, was Scotch-taped to the glass.  She opened it and carefully read the two-page typed letter.  For a moment, she thought the museum might be a terrorist target.   The rambling, cryptic message had enough personal information about her that she knew she had to take it seriously.   It wasn’t until she read the last lines of the message that she understood. “Be at the corner of Third and Main at 10:30 with the recipe and the child or you will be sorry!  I’m sure Uncle Robert would be quite interested in hearing how you mistreated his only nephew.  He might be really interested in knowing about Kenneth.”
Lime Drop. Bert wanted Lime Drop!  She looked at her watch.  It was already 10 o’clock.   She was being blackmailed by an idiot!  And Bert knew about Kenneth!  What if he had taken photographs?
Jeannie decided to grant his demands.  She slipped the Egyptian resurrection ritual into a folder, retrieved Lime Drop from the storage room, and rushed to the rendezvous point.  Bert was there, his baby carriage ready.
She handed him the folder and the mummy. “There! I hope you’ll leave me alone and that I never see you again!”
Bert grinned idiotically. “Uncle Robert didn’t tell you? He’s hired me as the head janitor for the Washington Museum.  We’ll all be together, like one happy family.  You, Uncle Robert, Me, and Lime Drop!  And Uncle Robert says he’s got a bunch more mummies I can play with!”

Good Arkansas Moonshine

Today has been filled with university work as we wrap up the semester.  However, I stopped work long enough to make a post on this blog.

Guy Clark is one of my favorite songwriters. I posted his beautiful waltz, “Magnolia Wind” last May.  Here is another song of his that I do in my little one man shows. It’s called, “Soldier’s Joy 1864.”  One source said that Clark and Shawn Camp co-wrote the song, imagining a Civil War soldier learning to play the fiddle after losing his leg during the war and passing down the art of fiddle playing from generation to generation. Here are the lyrics:

SOLDIER’S JOY, 1864  by Guy Clark and Shawn Camp

Now at first I thought a snake had got me
It happened dreadful quick
It was a bullet bit my leg
And right off I got sick.
I came to in a wagonload
With ten more wounded men
Five was dead
By the time we reached that bloody tent.

Give me some of that soldier’s joy
You know what I mean.
I don’t want to hurt no more,
My leg is turning green.

Well, the doctor come and he looked at me,
And this is what he said.
Said your dancing days are done, son,
It’s a good thing you ain’t dead.
And he went to work with a carving knife
Sweat poured fell from his brow
Bout killed me trying to save my life
When he cut that lead ball out.

Give me some of that soldier’s joy
Ain’t you got some more,
Hand me down my walking cane,
I ain’t cut out for war.

Well, the red blood run right through my veins,
It run all over the floor
It run right down his apron strings.
Like a river out the door

He handed me a bottle, said,
Drink  deep as you can.
He turned away and turned right back
With a hack-saw in his hand.

Give me some of that soldier’s joy
You know what I like
Bear down on that fiddle boy,
Just like Saturday night.

Give me some of that soldier’s joy
You know what I crave.
I’ll be hitting that soldier’s joy
Till I’m in my grave.

Places Named: Influence of the War Between the States

 So many buildings, schools, roads, and parks were named after someone or something in the Civil War.

A friend sent me this information on this park. I thought some of you must have certainly passed it in journeys and would like to know the origin of the road and park’s name.

Site of Confederate Park
Located on FM 1886 (Confederate Park Rd.), 1.5 miles
west of SH 199 (Jacksboro Hwy.), Fort Worth

Local businessman Khleber M. Van Zandt organized the
Robert E. Lee camp of the United Confederate Veterans
in 1889. By 1900 it boasted more than 700 members. The
camp received a 25-year charter to create the
Confederate Park Association in 1901, then purchased
373 acres near this site for the “recreation, refuge
and relief of Confederate soldiers” and their
families. Opening events included a picnic for
veterans and families on June 20, 1902, and a
statewide reunion September 8-12, 1903, with 3,500
attendees. The park thrived as a center for the civic
and social activities of Texas Confederate
organizations. By 1924 the numbers of surviving
veterans had greatly diminished, and the Confederate
Park Association voluntarily dissolved when its
charter expired in 1926. (2000)

If you have stories of how any places in our area can trace their names to the Civil War, please send them to me.

Today is exam day at ULM.

Stories of the Confederate South: An Excerpt

stories of the confederate south

Stories of the Confederate South is my collection of historical short fiction, formerly published by Booklocker and recently published by Pelican. Here is a short excerpt from one of the stories entitled, “Just Another Confederate Prisoner.” This story is about a boy from West Monroe High School who is uprooted and taken into Yankee Land. (If you remember, the West Monroe Football team’s mascot is The Rebels).

Just Another Confederate Prisoner

The vilest deeds like poison weeds
Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
And the Warder is Despair.—Oscar Wilde

When my father died in Afghanistan, I think my mother lost her mind. Most nights, she’d get crazy drunk at the Backdoor Lounge, and even though she got two DUI’s, she didn’t let up. The drinking gave her a mean side, too. One night just after last call, a man called her a drunken whore, so she sliced him a couple of times with a straight razor. It’s hard to imagine one’s own mother, her eyes glazed and hard, standing over a whimpering, bleeding man like she was a Southern belle avatar of blood.
One night she brought a man home. He spent that night, and the next thing I know, he’s moved in with us. I know my mama’s entitled to have a life, and it’s not her fault that my Daddy’s Army Reserve unit was attacked, but I still didn’t cotton to the man being around. I don’t think my daddy would have liked him either.
One morning, I fixed myself some grits and sat down at the table, leafing through my Civil War Times magazine. He stumbled into the kitchen.
“Coffee’s made. Help yourself,” I said.
“What on earth are you eating?” he said.
“Grits. Want some?”
“Hell, no. I can’t believe some of the things you Southerners eat?”
Oh, great, I thought. Mama’s taken up with a durn Yankee. “Yeah, we’re Southerners. Where are you from?”
“Iowa. You know where that is?”
I stood and stacked my dishes in the sink. “Yeah, that was the Yankee state that wouldn’t let any black folk live there. I guess they weren’t fightin’ to free the slaves.”
After he left for work, Mother joined me in the kitchen. She was in a tear, scrambling around, fighting her way into her work clothes. I poured her a cup of coffee and set it on the counter. I asked her, “When is this new boyfriend of yours going away?”
“Jim’s not leaving. We’ve decided to live together.”
“You’re kidding me. Daddy hasn’t been buried two months and you want to shack up with this freeloader?”
“Don’t you get pissy with me, Joseph. You make our relationship sound trashy.”
“I don’t have to make it sound trashy—it is trashy and you know it is.”
“Well, he’s not going to leave. We could move into his apartment, but this place is bigger. We’ve even talked about getting married.”
I looked at her ring finger—seeing a white ring of skin where my daddy’s wedding band had been. “I think you’ve lost your mind. Must be some kind of mid-life crisis.”
“Well, if you don’t like that information, you’ll like this even less—we’re moving sometime next month.”
“Where to?”
“Davenport, Iowa.”
“I don’t want to go. I want to finish school here.”
“You’re only sixteen, so you will go. The West Monroe Rebels will do fine without you. When you’re seventeen, I’ll sign for you to get out on your own and you can do what you want. Now, you get your butt out the door and get to school without getting another tardy.”

*    *    *

At any rate, the book is now available. You can read Pelican’s press release about it here and you can get a really good deal on the price if you order it online:

Return from Thibodaux, Louisiana Book Signing

I had a long but fruitful day. I left the house before 6 am and just returned home (about 8 pm). The signing at Cherry Books went well. I signed my Jim Limber Book and for the first time at a bookstore, the recently Pelican published, Stories of the Confederate South. I met so many cool people today: Teresa Fruchey, the manager; Charlotte LaRue, a reputable writer of romance and mystery novels; Robert Sims and his family (Robert works with the University of New Orleans. I signed a book for his bright and beautiful daughter, Amanda); Woody and Susie Falgoust, the owners of the bookstore, and so many others (including members of KA, a college fraternity that wants to book me for a speaker/entertainment).

At the bookstore, I did a reading from my children’s book for the kids and also played my guitar and sang some songs. This store will definitely be a place I’ll return to. In case you missed my earlier entry about the store, go to this link:

On the way home, I stopped at Laura Plantation (Creole), outside of Vacherie, and talked to them about including my book in their store.  God blessed me with beautiful weather today, and as I traveled I listened to a book on tape, which I nearly finished and  I’ll comment on later.

I can tell it’s the Christmas season. Traveling as I do in the dark so often (both literally and metaphorically), I’m seeing beautiful holiday lights. Yesterday in Ft. Worth, I saw a giant air-filled Santa, with his arms extended in an almost Messianic pose.  Today, I saw two inflatable Santas on 4-wheelers. I wonder if Yankees would have appreciated that sight.

I love this gypsy writing life.