On Seeds

There are seeds in every abandoned house, in the dry rotted floorboards and the mildewy walls, in the moss on the roof where sunlight doesn’t reach. The seeds are in the windowsills, in the clawfoot tub with as many rings … Read More

Stars and Stripes born in the Bootheel

Tucked in gentle rolling hills on the brink of the Bootheel, the Bloomfield Cemetery tells a story. The chapters unfold one-by-one on the white tombstones of Confederate soldiers from around Bloomfield who died during the Civil War. Many are now … Read More

My First Tropical Storm

And now, no wiser, I found myself in another bad situation. I had no idea that the winds outside were approaching 200 miles an hour, a nascar made of wind. With debris smacking the outside of the cabin, I slunk … Read More

Head Games

We launched a johnboat from the conservation access point and motored upstream along Big Muddy, upwind, toward a sprawling sand bar a mile away. Our most experienced hand assured us that the river, though deserving of respect and awe, is … Read More

Five minutes in an old veteran’s life…

Water Tower, Radio Tower, Tower of Power

He was going the wrong way down Broadway. As I approached him head-on, I could see he was holding a can of Budweiser. But that wasn’t the issue. It appeared he didn’t care if this trip ended in suicide. He … Read More

Raising Money for Highways

Breakfast of Champions

State highway departments are running out of money. One potential source of funding borrows from a local government trick that’s been paying big dividends for decades: Naming rights for sports stadiums and bowl games. You know, the Edward D. Jones … Read More

Ignored the Signs. Went In.

Johnnie’s Bar has been serving whiskey in downtown St. James since the Irish laborers built the railroad through here. Even from the outside, Johnnie’s looks foreboding, with its big neon Stag Beer sign over a doorway into cold, smoky darkness. … Read More

Snakes? Shamrocks? Patrick’s Real Story Is Better

Researching for a novel about my Irish priest great grandfather, I’ve come face-to-face with the real St. Patrick. Two tales make him less caricature, more saintly. Every Irish child knows the first story: Patrick ascended Clough Patrick (the Irish Mount … Read More

And the first shall be last…

Every day Missourians roll across America’s first stimulus project from the recession recovery act, the new Osage River bridge on Highway 17 near Tuscumbia. Projects like this create a unique problem for me. The dang highway department keeps making new … Read More