From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives forever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.
Algernon Charles Swinburne, Félise, 1866
By Glynn Wilson
Sometimes there is no accounting for hope. Thanksgiving is upon us, and what do we in the South have to be thankful for?
Alabama voters rejected a lottery to fund education in a statewide referendum in October, meaning bold proposals are dead in my home state for the next 10 years at least. We didn't even bother to cover the Alabama lottery vote failure in this issue, since the newspapers tell a sad enough tale.
But we couldn't resist David R. Osier's cover piece on the Okefenokee swamp, his sidebar on Walking the Bog in Lab & Field, or the cartoon from Sam Rawls. DuPont wants to dig a titanium mine in Georgia's Okefenokee swamp, but the company will desist if the taxpayers agree to pay them some percentage of what they would have made off the mine. The Fifth Amendment not withstanding, this looks like corporate welfare at least, extortion at worst, and even the major national environmental groups are in on the settlement. DuPont needs to take a hike. Most of the money to buy them off will come from oil and gas leases, however, and if it saves some important upland habitat in the Okefenokee, more power to the stakeholders in this fight.
In South Carolina, David Duke says he loves the people and promises to move his family there, if only officials will keep the Confederate Battle Flag atop the Statehouse. Meanwhile, the NAACP is threatening a tourism boycott if the flag stays up. In some quarters, people can't seem to figure out how to win for losing.
The South may be a slippery concept, in the words of John Brummett, and some may not agree with his Arkansas assessment. But it's a thought worth pondering in Essays.
Myself, I've been thinking about how I miss being in the midst of the migrating Monarchs on the Gulf Coast this time of year. In Secret Vistas, Andre Bergeron would rather be chasing trout on Rock Creek, and you can't blame him. It matters not whether the fish are biting.
On Beale Street, John Elkington, the man who is largely responsible for bringing the people and dollars back to downtown Memphis, now wants to kick Judy Peiser and the Center for Southern Folklore off Beale Street. It's a sad state of affairs. Read the entire tale in-depth in Southern Culture.
But there is serious business to attend to on the family farms of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. The drought in the South's center is reaping the worst soybean harvest in 30 years. That's the Bottom Line.
But then there's always the diversion of football, practically a religion in the South. In R&R, some Southern women speak out on the game as a social institution, and admit it's not a bad way to spend a Saturday in the fall.
If you want to know where to hang and escape the tourists and their prices in New Orleans, listen to the local French Quarter wisdom of Lee Dresselhaus. Then find out the best place to hear Texas blues and get Tabasco in your ribs in East Tennessee. Shhhh. Don't tell anyone about Sassy Ann's at Fourth & Gill in Knoxville. We like it the way it is. While you're at the Bar & Grill, Jack Neely's tryin' chitlins. Not so sure he likes 'em.
We all know no party's worth a damn without good tunes, so Ron Sitron gives us the lowdown on the hard times of Wilson "Wicket" Pickett and more blues than you can listen to all at one time in Southern Sounds.
David R. Mark helps us introduce a section on Books in this issue, and we mourn the passing of another great Southern columnist this time around. Carole Ashkinaze gives the Atlanta Journal-Constitutions's Celestine Sibley her due in another new section, In Passing.
With any luck, you will help us figure out how to take the news that there is life in outer space after all. It turns out Elvis is alive and well, at least if you believe Thomas Fortenberry and the lead in to our first virtual short story. Play along and help us flesh out this conundrum on the eve of the new millennium.
Y'all come back now after the first of the year, when the Y2K thing blows over. We will be cookin' up some superb fiction in the special issue featuring the winners of the Robert Penn Warren Prize for Fiction.