Okay, so we’re having a pre-order party for The Wolf’s Bane on November 8th from 6 to 8 p.m. at East Side Story. I think I’ll be reading promptly at 7, but you can come hang out earlier, eat some treats, look at some stuff, and buy a copy of Allendale, which will be for sale there for either $4 or $5 depending on what my costs to print it end up being (which I guess I should check on). There will also be some other cool take-home things, I think. And there’s going to be a book trailer!
Last night, I went over to the East Side Storytelling which was Sara Harvey reading and Bill Davis performing. Sara, though sick, was great, as always. Bill Davis was a hoot and his music was fun and his voice was lovely. He’s got a cool Halloween song, which he played acoustically, but which you can hear in it’s full, silly, wonderful glory here.
The venue is another story. Everyone’s food was not good and they basically abandoned our server to handle thirty people who all sat at once. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so bad for a server. And there were few people inside. They could have sent another server outside to help keep order.
The weirdest thing, though, is that it smelled like a horse barn. Like horse poop and hay. Which seems like a weird smell for a restaurant.
That place is in a good spot and I know people go there and love it and never have any problems. But every time I go there I end up wishing they could get their acts together so that I could go there more often.
On Saturday, I took the Lipscomb Civil War tour. It was incredible and they gave us a shit-ton of flyers and maps and a book. They could easily get $25 to $30 a head for that and it was free! I learned a ton.
Then that night we went over to the Madison train station and took their living history tour. I basically learned that Jane Addams is literally my old boss and that my dad and mom have hobo stories.
Then yesterday, we went over to Bledsoe’s Station and Mom and I wandered around the inside of the fort, while Dad and the Butcher yelled facts to us from the observation deck. Then we tried to drive over to where the Renfroe massacre had been, but you can’t get that close. It’s weird, though, how close that was to Clarksville but the remnants of the Renfroe party were driven down into Cooperstown (or what is now, anyway) and a bunch more of them killed at what is now Battle Creek (hence the name). Why didn’t they run to Clarksville?
All I can figure is that they must have been being attacked from the north and driven south, intentionally herded away from Clarksville.
But we know that eventually Mrs. Refroe and Black Bobb at the least ended up in Nashville.
I need to remember this for my next chapter–the thought I had when I woke up this morning. The kind of history that I’m trying to write for Nashville is, in some parts, a history of holes–where you look at the people we do have information about and try to figure out what that would mean for the person we don’t.
Today at Pith, I talk about Mary Overton–a woman with two prominent husbands, a really significantly historical father, and a prominent family. You look at everything you know about the people you know about and see if you can discern from all that the life of the woman central to all of them.
And, of course, it’s hard. It’s deliberately hard. The people whose histories are so hard to come by–women, minorities–their lives are hard to come by on purpose. Names left out, chances to write their own stories denied.
Anyway. It’s sad and frustrating.
I have a post on the thing I found in Ron Ramsey’s office. I will have a post on our chances of digging up Timothy Demonbreun. And, you guys! I spent all afternoon at Traveller’s Rest, sitting in the office where the old kitchen used to be, talking about history and Overtons and I got to ask if everyone was given an Overton upon their arrival at Nashville and they laughed.
And more importantly, even though I did not get to buy one–Traveller’s Rest has pie birds! In the gift shop.
Plus, I got to introduce Traveller’s Rest to Ben & Sue Allen’s The Thing, which, you may recall, from my incessant babbling about it, has many Overton connections–from Ben’s cousins to the Baxters’ friendship/enemyship with Dickinson.
And the other cool thing–Okay, I’ll just be honest that I learned many cool things–that I learned was that Mrs. Overton’s first husband was Andrew Jackson’s personal physician (a job with real security), hence how she ended up with a kid named Andrew Jackson May.
Plus, plus, I’m going to the TSLA at the end of the month to read to them about the fictional feud they fictionally had with the state museum over The Wolf’s Bane. I am so tickled.
I do feel a little bad for insisting the Butcher walk the dog this morning, because he was being so obnoxious yesterday after a week of very little getting-out-and-walking-around, and now it’s raining.
But pie birds!
Whew, what a weekend. The Southern Festival of Books will teach you things about relative time you never knew–like how long, oh, so long, the hour of 5-6 on Saturday is and how quickly 12-5 on Sunday passes. They seem like equal amounts of time.
It rained, a great deal, but I still had a wonderful time and got to see a bunch of people and learned a lot.
I am super tired, though. But also, feeling happy.
My car’s battery was dead this morning, so I spent a great deal of it–this morning–at Autozone, where the men all smell like mechanics. You’d think a mechanic would taste sweet, based on the smell, but my experience is that they either just taste dirty or exceptionally clean. The smell lingers even when the dirt is gone. I love honestly dirty fingernails, the way oil or grease or even field dirt, makes tall, narrow Us at the ends of fingers, how it gets into the knuckles of your skin and makes your hands look like a map full of tributaries.
Your body is a map to your life.
Anyway, the dude who smelled like dead leaves and dinosaurs changed my battery and got me on my way.
This is the busiest week of the year for me–leading up to Southern Festival of Books. Last night was the Best of Nashville shin-dig. The Butcher went with me. We got cornered by a local prominent attorney who, when told I blog, informed me he doesn’t read blogs. He negged me! I mean, it’s bad enough to be negged in a romantic context, but just because that’s how some dude goes through life? Ha ha ha.
And I have this friend who’s really pretty in a very approachable way who dude kept trying to impress with stories about how he shot a dude! But the thing that cracked me up about it is that my friend could rock the Faye Dunaway “Bonnie & Clyde” look, but, if you knew her at all, you’d never try to impress her with “I could be your badass” stories. She’s just not the gangster moll. She’d be the gangster.
Tonight I have a meeting about Project X.
Tomorrow is the most important day of my professional life. So, no pressure or anything.
And there’s some stuff happening after that, but who can focus?
I felt like I came home from Gallatin with something clinging to me. A bad memory that wasn’t mine. All night long, I dreamed about lost little girls. Sometimes I had lost one, sometimes I was the lost girl.
Do you guys read this blog, That Devil History? Today he’s talking about the urban/rural divide. Here are the people mentioned in the text as articulating the rural, supposedly more moral, side of the debate: Thomas Jefferson, James Henry Hammond, the Agrarians, and Sarah Palin. Lumping the Agrarians all together as one and not looking into it/their lives, that’s 50% rapist.
The thing that’s interesting about Hammond–aside from all the gay sex he had–was that he raped his nieces.
In my Isaac Franklin section, I’m arguing that one of the reasons for the slave traders to invite all planters in an area to the “fancy girl” auctions, where the women were stripped and auctioned off in a sexualized way, was that it was both about bonding–that to be a rich, successful planter meant you could just buy your own whore and have her around instead of having to go to the brothel like a normal man, so you and the rest of your cohorts were celebrating that you all had so much money that you could “waste” it on a slaves whose primary labor was sexual–and about hierarchy–the most desirable women at these auctions had the lightest skin color (Franklin even calls one of them “white.”). So, obviously, they all knew they were buying and raping the daughters of other planters. Which meant that they were standing there, in a group, admitting that they desired to rape the daughters of other planters. That the only think keeping them from raping another planter’s daughter with his wife (his white unenslaved daughter, as opposed to his daughter that Franklin might describe as white, but who was enslaved) was the steep social cost.
But the fantasy had to be that the man with enough status could rape another man’s unenslaved daughters and get away with it.
Hammond had that kind of status. He raped his nieces and got away with it. Got elected to the Senate after the scandal blew over.
Their lives were ruined.
I think about Adelicia Acklen, surrounded in death by her children with Franklin, none of whom lived to adulthood. And I wonder what it must have been like to be married to a man like that. Did he stop raping women after he retired? Did he only rape women in Louisiana on those plantations when he was down there without her? Did she sit in her room, watching him walk down the path to the slave quarters, knowing what he was going there to do? Did he rape her?
I have this desire to read some kind of justice into the fact that none of Franklin’s children lived long enough to have children–that he was such a blight on this world that his line ended with him, or that some old witch cursed the fuck out of him and this is that curse playing out–but that feels like a sick way to think about dead children. And it also feels like a convenient lie. We don’t know how many of Franklin’s children lived long enough to have children. We don’t know how many men raped Franklin’s children like he raped their mothers.
But you can go play golf at one of the sites of Franklin’s atrocities. And I guess I don’t know what I’d want us to do instead. My fear is that we’d tear all these buildings down–because their history is so horrid–except a few we’d leave as museums and then we’d get to pretend the problem wasn’t that wide-spread.
So, last night I stumbled across information that some of the descendants of Jackson’s slaves believe they are also descended from Jackson himself–that he “had an affair” with his slave, Hannah, and that, at the least, her daughter, Charlotte, is his child. Hannah’s an interesting person in that she did a few interviews before she died and she seemed quite delighted with being Jackson’s slave (she was there when both Andrew and Rachel died). Of course, actions speak louder than words and she did escape during the chaos of the Civil War, so one gathers it wasn’t “being a slave” that was so great, but that, if she had to be a slave anywhere, being a slave under (um, no pun intended) Jackson was the best bad option.
I am, of course, curious as to whether this can be substantiated.
On the other hand, I have now read a lot of Nashville histories. And it’s like Nashville spent from 1850-1880 just making shit the fuck up about our history. “Oh, remember when Jackson wiped out the Chickamauga at Running Water?” “Oh, yes, right. All gone. Every last one of them. Terrible tragedy.” And then people study that story of how Jackson wiped out the whole village of Running Water and jot down the names of the people killed there. And it gets passed along–those names of the dead–without anyone checking to see if the source of those names isn’t full of shit.
Like I thought White Man Killer died at Buchanan’s Station because all the history books say so, but it turns out he was just injured and that the U.S. government kept close tabs on him until he disappeared into an Arkansas swamp where he then reappears in Arkansas history. He’s not a hard guy to follow through primary sources. He didn’t die at Buchanan’s Station. That’s a fact. We just went with the legend instead.
So, here’s part of what I want to get at. At first glance, I’m inclined to believe these descendants. It’s not just one person saying this. It appears to be a pretty wide-spread family story.
But true or not, the fact that a great number of people believe it to be true and yet it can’t gain any traction in the general public’s imagination when “Yep, Jackson wiped out Running Water” (when we know Jackson didn’t lead that campaign and that captives were taken at Running Water because they flat out said that among their captives were Richard Finnelson’s wife and son) still does, tells you a lot about whose myths get to become public legend.
I think the thing that bothers me most about Isaac Franklin, which is both why I want him in my book and why I’m finding it really unsettling to have to ponder him as a human being, is that, as far as I can tell, he was “one of the good ones.” By the standards of his time, he was a respected businessman who, while occasionally upsetting the people of Natchez by leaving dead enslaved people all around the outskirts of town, was a lot of people’s preferred trader to do business with.
The other successful slave traders who were at Franklin & Armfield’s level–or at least who could reasonably aspire to be–had some really shady business practices that people at the time found shadier than Franklin & Armfield’s, a fact Franklin & Armfield regularly used to their advantage to increase their own sales.
In their own context, these were good businessmen and good people (which is why the University of the South took Armfield’s money) who, yes, had the distasteful job of slave trading, but aside from that. In other words, they had reputations similar to how we view used car salesmen. People kind of thought the job was icky and involved a level of them trying to pull one over on you, but success spoke for itself.
When white people in the South say that their slave-owning ancestors were good people, here’s the rub–if they’re telling the truth (and let’s not doubt that they are), a good person in the early 1800s would have, if he needed to, bought his slaves from Franklin & Armfield. That would have been the “ethical” choice.
And they seemed to have raped a lot of the female slaves that passed through their business. If you bought a woman from them, you likely bought their victim from them. The scale of their rape cult is just mind-boggling (can you have a three-person cult? I don’t know what other word to use here.) Franklin & Armfield sold about 1200 people a year. If half of them were women and they “only” raped half of those women, that’s still almost a rape for every day of the year. The very least you can say is that, if you fell into the clutches of Franklin & Armfield, you were going to witness a rape.
One place I read said that Franklin & Armfield controlled about 5% of the U.S. economy. A nickle of every dollar passed through their hands.
I don’t know.. I don’t know what I want to say, exactly, except for that we, here in Nashville, talk about slavery like the worst of it happened someplace else. And yet, if you want to see those Franklin & Armfield nickles up-close and personal, you can stroll around Belmont or drive to Suwanee.
Chapter Three is divided into three parts–the Harpes, John Murrell, and Isaac Franklin and John Armfield. Basically, if you ever cut open someone’s belly and dumped them in a creek, I have room for you in this chapter.
But Franklin is just such a sick fuck it’s kind of ruining the fun of the chapter for me. The research is just grueling. UNC has some of Franklin’s letters scanned in so that you can read them yourself without having to travel to North Carolina and, good god damn, it’s just so fucking… Like I was relieved when I couldn’t make things out, because his handwriting is so crappy.
And, on a more minor note, I swear, there’s no way to do even a tiny bit of research into John Murrell before you start to suspect he was framed. Not very well, but framed. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure he was a “thief of horses and negroes,” but to the extent people claimed he was? No, that was a frame-up job by a guy I think was a great deal scarier in his own way. No one can put a body count on Murrell, but his “biographer” leaves a trail.
I spent the afternoon cleaning the house and rereading the two chapters–“Chapter 1: We Arrived and were Promptly Kidnapped” and “Chapter 2: The Battle of Buchanan’s Station or The Night We Unexpectedly Weren’t All Slaughtered in Our Beds”–and I’m pleased. It did mean spending a little more time rifling through the war papers devoted to the Indians. And I realized that I had fundamentally misunderstood something. I thought Richard Finnelson and Joseph Deraque were interviewed together here and that information was sent on to Governor Blount. Thus the stories that Finnelson and Deraque weren’t believed about the attack and offered to throw themselves in jail and that they then might have even fought at the battle.
But in rereading yesterday, I realized Governor Blount personally took Finnelson’s testimony. In Knoxville. And then he sent Finnelson to Philadelphia to talk to the War Secretary. I repeat, he sent Finnelson, an Indian, to the Capitol. Before the battle. Then they send Demonbreun after the battle with further updates.
So, in order of “Who can we trust with these papers and important testimony?” It went 1. Richard Finnelson and 2. Timothy Demonbreun. Trailing far behind appears to be our friend, Joseph Deraque. Granted, he did just spend all summer as a Spanish agent, but still.
The next chapter is about land pirates–the Harpes, Tom Mason, John Murrell and the Mystic Clan (and did I tell you this appears to be mostly made up?! Which is perfect for the book)–and Isaac Motherfucking Rape Cult Franklin, who resented being compared to land pirates, but when you’re slicing people along the belly, filling them full of rocks, and then throwing them in the swamp, what the hell kind of comparison do you expect people to make?
And yes, yesterday morning, I couldn’t even stand the thought of looking at it. I’m on a rollercoaster of emotions. And I’m ready to just be back to my normal self.
Last night, Nashville had a community meeting about whether Ferguson could happen here. Over at Pith, I already went into how what was a weird question, because it has happened here.
But this morning on my walk, I thought of a better way to illustrate the problem. We live in a city where white people ask a question that rests on an unspoken question, “Do we have that kind of despair over racial inequity here?”
We live in a city where people my age have living parents who were banned from whole swathes of the city, who were beaten and poisoned and arrested for trying to make that different. Those people my age are trying to raise children in this city–a city that would treat their parents that way.
The people who treated their parents that way, some of them, are still alive. Their children and grandchildren still live here.
And yet, it always seems like we want to move ahead as if the past doesn’t weigh on us. At least, some of the past. We pick the weights we want to bear and it seems like Nashville’s long history of what we do to black people is a weight most white people are constantly surprised to find still exists.
I’m not planning on having cancer tomorrow or dying of it in the future, at least not any time soon, but I want to say this here so that you can help the Butcher with it, should he need it. I want to be buried in the City Cemetery. Ideally, unembalmed in a plain box, for maximum weird and spooky noises emanating from my body as I decompose. It’s virtually impossible to be buried in the City Cemetery now, especially since I have no people in it already. I will still, should I find out death is imminent, attempt to make it happen. If I fail, stick me in the City Cemetery anyway. It might be hard to dig a grave in there under the cover of darkness, so, if you have to, cremate me and dump me in over the far wall.
I was out at Traveller’s Rest yesterday because Mrs. Overton’s garden nags at the back of my mind. I need to someday take the whole house tour, but it’s expensive and I’m cheap. But two things struck me as I was out there, well, three. 1. Mrs. Overton knew how to work an herb garden. It wasn’t some slave of hers (or not totally), but her calling the shots on what was in that garden. And her first husband was a doctor. As the woman of that house, she would have sat at some interesting intersections. I think her garden reflected that. 2. The kitchen is missing. Well, almost all the old outbuildings are missing, with the exception of the weaving house, the smoke house, and a building up front that I forget what it is. But the kitchen is really noticeable in its absence because the smoke house is still there–the other building that would have been incredibly close to the house. I tried to suss out where it would have been, just using my eyes and the size of the trees. 3. In the weaving house, there was a hank of wool yarn. You can tell it’s wool as opposed to cotton because it’s got a little stiffness to it, the curve of yarn holds its shape instead of folding under its own weight. I assumed the yarn on the loom was therefore wool, but this morning that seems stupid. It could have been cotton. Now I wish I’d given it a sniff. Anyway, my point is that nm is right, there’s an odd absence of sheep in Middle Tennessee.
We talked about this with the Bell Witch. People must have had sheep, especially early on, or what did they make clothes from? Sheep would be a good use of the rocky land to Nashville’s south. But we’re not a heavily lamb-eating culture and you don’t see a lot of sheep around now. I also haven’t run across any mention of people having sheep. But the Overtons had a weaving house and they didn’t grow cotton (they appear to have been a diverse farm at first and then, when they pared down into growing one main crop, it was tobacco), so… right? What’s being woven in the weaving house, then? I wonder if this is some weird sexism problem. If women cared for the sheep and women used the sheep’s products, and if the sheep never contributed to the commercial culture of the farm, did it just not get mentioned? Kind of went without saying? Or am I just somehow failing to notice mention of sheep? I feel like I’m geared up to notice their mention, but maybe I’m not.
I went over to St. Thomas to have my boobs squished, which meant there was plenty of Jesus and calming hymns playing in the waiting room (so, word to the wise–if you find that stuff appalling, don’t go there). But that thin veneer of “A man is always watching you, and loving you, but watching. Jesus is always watching and caring deeply about everything you do.” could not mitigate the fact that getting your boobs squished at St. Thomas is an experience utterly devoid of men. There were no men in the elevator with me, no men in the waiting room. Two hilarious older women checked me in, a woman gently squished the shit out of my boob.
It felt really powerful. Not the mammogram, but the feeling like I’m in a place where my body is utterly known and familiar and ordinary.
I had this thought as I was walking back to the dressing room, that our society is set up in many ways to prevent women from regularly having these kinds of experiences of women of all ages caring for you.
But here was the weirdest part. At lunch, they called to pre-register me and the woman asked if the emergency contact person was still my brother, and then she paused, and said “Bartholomew” and then she laughed. I said, “Yes, but you can call him ‘Bart’,” and she went “‘Bart?’ That’s worse!” and laughed some more. Then she said. “Oh my goodness. I’m so sorry.” And she wasn’t being an ass or anything. I think “Bartholomew” just genuinely struck her as a funny name. But she works at St. Thomas–Jesus’ friend–and she’s surrounded by images of Jesus and His mom. Of all the places in town where the name “Bartholomew” shouldn’t strike someone as weird, you’d think a Catholic hospital would be it. Yes, Bartholomew, like Jesus’ other friend. He also is a saint.
There’s an Episcopal church in town called St. Bartholomew’s.
Last night, I had dinner with K. and B. over at the Mad Platter and for dessert, I had the Elvis… the Velvet Elvis?… the Black Elvis?…. Well, there’s only one Elvis dessert, so that one. They slice it thin and it has some kind of pretzel bottom crust and then a kind of brownie/torte/cake/pudding layer of chocolate and then a peanut butter mousse layer, and it’s just soaking in this blueberry sauce, so that it tastes really sophisticated and like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It may be the most perfect dessert I’ve ever eaten.
When I got home, the dog was carrying around my squares. In his mouth! Not gnawing on them or anything. Just carrying them gently around the living room. And then he apparently hid two in the couch. He apparently has just come to love the squares and wants some for himself. I don’t see how this doesn’t end with him attempting to eat the squares, but it’s annoying and cute in the meantime. I was hoping that this could lead to me teaching him to pick up the squares when I drop them and hand them back to me, but that doesn’t yet appear to be the case. When I’m done with the afghan, I may make him up a square in the left-over bits and we can work on teaching him to retrieve something that doesn’t cause me to have to cry if he ruins it.
Also, I think there’s been some forward movement on Project X. Please keep your fingers crossed extra hard for me.
Here’s what each of the squares in my afghan will look like. I’m really pleased. I love this yarn so much. I know I say that. I wish I could get a picture that would capture just how beautiful it is, the way the plies wrap around each other is just about the most pleasing thing to look at. I can’t decide why. I like my cheap-o acrylic yarn, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something about wool that just feels more magical.
I am completely drained from yesterday. My meeting with the artist went great. I worry that I don’t seem excited enough, when really, I’m just kind of overwhelmed that this is even happening at all. Like my needle is buried in “excited.” I can’t really seem more excited, even though I’m really thrilled. When she starts putting the prints together, I’m going to go get to see her studio! And she’s going to make sure that there are crows tucked in the book. We’re hoping to have books ready for the Proto-pulp show in September, but, if not, we’ll at least have some prototypes to show people. And, holy shit, you guys, of course I want you to buy my book, but if she sells the art separately, some of you are going to fall over for the spread that’s poor Tom, just a skeleton entwined with the roots of a tree.
The reading went very well. I think the other guy who was there and I were both kind of on the same page, that we were there to support Sara and to make her day go well. And I think she felt that it did go well and that she was well-loved and I feel like that’s also about all you can ask of a book signing. I did laugh, though, as I was coming home because all of Sara’s people are people I think C. and his wife would really enjoy and I’m was like “maybe my job here is just to try to figure out how to make these people run into each other.” I mean, we had an awesome argument over Hamlet. I can’t remember what about, but people toasted at some points and slammed their fists on the table emphatically at others and what more do you want in a fight about Hamlet?
I said the truth about how I felt about Project X as true and straight-forwardly as I know how to be. I don’t know if it will make any difference, but I have now done everything I know how to do.
Now I need to come up with a grocery list.