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

One of the last little hardware stores in America

Under the only neon sign in downtown Weston, Missouri, is the venerable Sebus Hardware. Your parents remember hardware stores, before the advent of corporate chains. The Sebus claim that “if we don’t have it, you don’t need it” may not … 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

Our Raft Encounters a Queen

Around a sweeping bend we noticed thick black smoke that signaled one of the rarest sights on the river, at least nowadays. Sure enough, a paddlewheel steamer appeared, churning toward us. As the distance closed between our two craft, the … Read More

Outlaws need pants.

Just south of Lawson, in the pastoral countryside, a huge factory, built more than 150 years ago, made pants and sweaters. The factory may have sold pants and sweaters to Harry Truman, who sold pants and sweaters when he was … 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

Pay No Attention to the High Wire Act…

Only a few miles north, along Highway 13, I found The Shrine of Our Lady of the Two Ugly Utility Poles Standing Side by Side in Our Front Yard. That’s my name for it anyway. It’s the world’s best attempt … Read More

Calamity

Down the road from Dottie & Chub’s, Ravanna is an unincorporated area within spittin distance of the Vandyke Conservation Area. It boasts 248 residents, but its most famous product is Martha Jane Cannary. When she was 13, her family moved … Read More