Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur and Other Meanderings

By Paul Ruffin | Go to book overview

Preface

Early on in my writing career I focused on little more than poetry—my first serious efforts and my initial publications were in that genre. It was only after I started a cattle operation outside Huntsville and for some reason began writing dramatic poems about cows and rabbits and drought and women (an odd stew there) that I realized how little more needed to be done to flesh them out into essays and stories.

This is not to say that I had not already written a whole lot of fiction and nonfiction. Whereas it is true that my love of poetry came from years of memorizing the lyrics in the Broadman Hymnal in church or going berserk from boredom, it is equally true that my love of fiction and nonfiction started there. I got so weary of hearing the same old Bible stories told over and over the same old way by the same old people that I started rewriting them to suit myself. I had one fine cast of characters to work with—Noah, Jonah, Lot, Moses, Daniel, David, the Magi—and I let myself go. You think God is whimsical? You ought to see Moses gleefully dashing about with a big basket picking up fish left flapping in the mud and then staring in horror as those towering sea walls close on him like a set of whale jaws. Oh, I scrambled things up.

In school I wrote poems and stories for classmates who had assignments due, and I cannot begin to tally the number of times I wrote essays as punishment for misdoings (until my teachers concluded that they were involved in a Brer Rabbit and the briar patch situation and put an end to that).

The Monday after I graduated from high school, I was on the way to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for basic and advanced-infantry training. The two things I wanted most in my life at that time were a woman of my own and a college education, but both required money for acquisition and maintenance.

You can imagine how little a buck private earned in those days—I realized soon enough where the term buck came from—but when all your living expenses are met, any revenue is cream. So, while others took off to Columbia or other points for the weekend, I stayed in the barracks and read and wrote.

-ix-

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Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur and Other Meanderings
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xii
  • Things Literary, More or Less 1
  • Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur 3
  • The Mosquito 15
  • The Lady with the Quick Simile 19
  • Workshopping a Cowboy Poem 22
  • Was Emily Mad or Merely Angry? 28
  • On the Death of Edgar Allan Poe 31
  • Making Preparations for the Tour 34
  • The Girl in the Clean, Well-Lighted Place 37
  • Explaining a Poem to a Student 40
  • Some Rare and Unusual Books 43
  • Tales from Kentucky Lawyers 45
  • The Boy Who Spoke in Hymns 48
  • Making a Dam in Segovia 51
  • Just Thinking about Shit 54
  • To San Juan and Back 60
  • On Likker and Guns 81
  • Drinking 83
  • Rats! 100
  • The Bowhunter Asks for My Bladder 117
  • The Day the Sharpshooter Killed Something He Didn’t Intend to 120
  • Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, off to the Gun Show We Go … 128
  • From "Growing Up in Mississippi Poor and White but Not Quite Trash" (an as-Yet-Unpublished Memoir) 135
  • Trains 137
  • Learning about Sex 143
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