Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

TUSK EDITOR'S NOTE: Sept. 19

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

TUSK EDITOR'S NOTE: Sept. 19

Article excerpt

Decades back, Glenn House Sr. faced the task of creating a sign for that way-outta-town lodge on the old Birmingham highway by recalling how his mom, Lucille "Ma'Cille" House, taught him to sculpt his name into a crescent moon. Glenn could point out where the letters went, but once bent into dazzling neon, some of the hidden mystery faded. The final N, or perhaps both Ns, resided in the bow tie, which as you can see from the still-shining Alberta landmark, is noticeable by its absence.

I met Glenn 20-something years ago, as a then-young writer, along with his partner and later wife, Kathy Fetters, and Barbara Lee Black, the trio that would form the heart of Gordo's Crossroads Arts Alliance. Working from there led me to dirt magic: Ma'Cille's lifelong collections, much of it literally unearthed, on acres outside Gordo, opened in the '60s as "Ma'Cille's Museum of Miscellanea." University of Alabama photography professor Gay Burke described the site as "the mind of an artist." It comprised room after room of dug-up bottles, children's discarded dolls, worn farm implements, stuffed animals (Ma'Cille took a taxidermy course, by mail), antiques, ammonites, one human skeleton (later remanded to the Bureau of Indian Affairs) and an 1800s-era general store, contents intact. Walls of glass and lumps of clay and bone, fields of feathers and fur bled into visions prosaic, yet, taken in total, dizzying, hypnotic, almost hallucinogenic.

In an interview with me in 1998, she said: "I never threw anything away. My husband used to tell it he had to climb in the window to go to bed." She looked around that 16-by-16 room and wondered aloud where all her things had gone.

Glenn had guided me to his mom at an adult-care center, a sad but necessary move, its financial requirements necessitating the breakup of the museum. He trusted me to write about the auction, about her decline, her fading recollections. When Ma'Cille died at 90, on Dec. 31, 1999, I didn't get word until 11:45 p.m., because, as required by work, I'd been covering not-millennia parties (Seriously, folks: Counting. What number do you start with? …

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