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Becky Meadows “Three Seconds”

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I grew up on my grandmother and grandfather’s farm, where we ate fried potatoes, green beans (cooked for an entire day or more on the stove in a pot), and cornbread. Fried chicken was a treat we enjoyed, and it was really fried—not the carbon-copy fried chicken found frozen in stores today. We ate tomatoes from the garden (straight from the garden). My southern heritage isn’t limited to food, though—I have the most marvelous southern accent that I have refused to relinquish for academia. I’m proud of my heritage!

Jackson Culpepper “Judgment House”

SLS: Growing up in south Georgia, I have a Stockholm Syndrome-type relationship to temperatures over ninety degrees and one hundred percent humidity. But the devil can have his damned gnats.

Erin Kelly “Sound No Trumpet”

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I talk slow. I eat etouffee, jambalaya and boudin. I’ve clapped my hands to gospel in hot, crowded churches, and visited Catholic psychics. I’ve gone through many Louisiana winters in short sleeves and shorts.

Barbara Nishimoto “Identifying Trees”

Southern Literacy Statement

I was born and raised in the North, but now have lived most of my adult life in the South. When I first moved my mother acted as though I were moving to another country and told me all the stories she had collected from the tabloids she loved. When she visited during the summer she rolled and tied a hand towel around her head, a desperate hachimaki, and stuffed tissues around its edges to catch the sweat before it fell into her eyes and down her cheeks. “Eight o’clock at night is the same as three o’clock in the afternoon,” she said. “That’s why horses go crazy and impale themselves.”

John Davis, Jr. “The Legend(s) of Mailman George”

SLS: John Davis Jr. is a sixth-generation Florida native. His poetry has covered the South like kudzu, including a prior appearance in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Now he’s trying his hand at a little down-home fiction. He hopes yall like it.

Diane Thomas-Plunk “The Call”

SLS — Born and raised in Memphis, Diane Thomas-Plunk is highly skilled in the three B’s of Memphis — blues, barbecue and beer. These may be enjoyed individually, in various pairings, or — best yet — all together.

Schimri Yoyo “Root For The Home Team”

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I spent four plus years of undergrad in Greenville, SC–the Buckle of the Bible Belt–and I’ve got plenty of stories to tell.

Jennifer Green “Keeping a Dead Mule Down”

Southern Legacy Statement – Half Mexican, Half Redneck. I use that to describe my heritage.

Upon hearing that: my mother’s family gets upset and offended, my father’s side laughs and hollers. I’ll let you decide which is half is which half.

From ages three to eighteen, one year of my life was spent in Southern California, the next in North Georgia. The odd-numbered years were in smoggy cities, people giving me odd looks for ordering sugar in my tea, and mocking me when I say “ya’ll.”

I was fired from my first California job because customers insisted I insulted them by saying “sir” and “ma’am.” When I got older: I chose fresh air in the woods, people that became your new best friend when you share the counter at Waffle House, and smiles when I reply to statements with “sho’nuff.” Now, I’m the boss and all my employees know full well to treat all customers with respect and address them with “sir” and “ma’am.”

Jo Heath “Sweet Tea and Ice”

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Excuse me for being southern and for not. I’ve lived all but two of my seventy-five years in the deep south, defined here as lower Alabama, and yet I drink unsweet ice tea with sucralose, and everytime I’m introduced to my place, or my duty, or sometimes my manners, I wiggle and stretch and work my way out and around.

Donna J. Dotson “Gus”

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I have spent my entire life at the foot of one hill or another in North Carolina. When I was a little girl, I spent my summers with my grandma and pawpaw.

They were farmers, but my pawpaw ran a little country store over by the road…just co’colas, nabs, moonpies and such. They had 23 grand-younguns so he kept a whole shelf full of every kind of penny candy you can think of. Whenever we would go visit, he would give each youngun a tiny little paper poke to fill up with as much candy as the bag would hold. Well, grandma dipped snuff and in the evenings we would sit on the front porch and string beans or shuck corn or cut up cucumbers to make pickles – whatever the garden was producing that day and I was always amazed at how far that woman could spit. Still am..

I admired my grandma and in my eyes she could do no wrong, so when I went to fill up my candy sack, I filled it right up to the edge with Tootsie Rolls. I would tuck one under my bottom lip and let the spit build up, then I would get grandma to spit for an example and then I would give it a go. Grandma would always clear the porch and her brown tobacco juice would land in the holly bush, but my Tootsie Roll spit would splat right there on the porch. Grandma would keep a straight face, but I could see her belly jiggling as she chuckled at my efforts. After dark, when pawpaw closed up the store and came home, we’d still be sittin’ on the porch with all the spit puddles. He would get mad and start fussin’ – using his favorite cuss words like “dad gimmit!” and “drot take it to the dickens!” while he stomped over to the spigot at the pump house to fill a bucket with water and wash the spit off the porch. The first few times, I thought I was in trouble, but then, I saw him wink at grandma and he tossed me another handful of Tootsie Rolls.

Al Lyons “Tilt-O-Whirl”

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I never tire of telling my Northern friends stories of my childhood, growing up near Tampa, FL. During season, our old man would wake us up early to pick grits from the grove of grits trees up the road. We would gather the necessary equipment: a burlap grits sack, magnifying glass, tweezers and a tall ladder. The biggest, ripest grits always seemed to be at the top of the tree. We would carefully select the grits, one by one, gently plucking them off the branch with our tweezers, then deposit them into the burlap sack on our back. As a child, I could only fill one sack before noon.

I was always amazed by my father, who could adeptly climb up and down the ladder, quickly and methodically picking the finest grits, like an artisan at work. He would fill 3 or 4 bags, before we sat down to our packed lunch of scratch biscuits and strawberry jam. As the day grew late, we would make our way back to the house, dragging the full grits sacks behind us. Tired, but excitedly anticipating Mama cooking us up a big plate of fish and grits for supper. Afterward, the old man would take out his fiddle and sit on the porch to play.

Sometimes Uncle Jim would come over and join us for dinner and bring his mandolin. We would drift off to sleep with the sounds of fiddle and mandolin coming in through the window.”

Joe Seale “Bona Fide”

SLS: Deep South is different than South even though I can’t prove it. Ever since I moved north from Alabama to Tennessee I’ve felt like a Yankee. Writing Southern is about writing legacy, and that ain’t easy. We pronounce things like they sound, and I can’t hear a banjo without tapping my foot. Sweet tea tastes different when Mama mixes it up, but yall already knew all that.

Mark McKee and Julie Sumner “Bucket List”

Southern Legitimacy Statement: How yall doin? I’m Mark McKee, born n bred in Dyersburg, TN. Short jaunt from Memphis, home of the Delta blues, Elvis, what have ye. This here story is, like all good southern yarns, based on a truth, of sorts. After relatin it to my Kansan buddy, Julie Sumner, she come along and had a right fine ending for it. Here we ere.

Scott Rooker “Food Lion”

Southern Legitimacy Statement. I was born in Sherman, Texas in the summer of 1979. I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina in 1981. Everyone in Raleigh is from upstate New York. I have lived in Raleigh, Wilmington, and Chapel Hill. I love Raleigh.

Will H. Blackwell, Jr. “Literary Brushcut”

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I was born and raised in Mississippi—I suppose I could stop my justification here! But continuing, nonetheless, I eventually migrated to Ohio, to teach (obviously, they paid me to do this). After many years, I made my way back south, finally to Alabama, where I have watched my outstanding wife, Martha Powell, work very hard—first as Chair, now “just as” Professor, Biological Sciences, University of Alabama. In addition to my attempts at creative writing (poetry and, sometimes, a short-story), I still manage a few publications in biology (on southeastern, water fungi)—As I have been wont to say, my academic publications’ backlog was as big as anybody’s! It is my hope that inclusion of limited but appropriate quotation (from a far, far greater writer than I) in this present story will, perhaps uniquely, enhance its effect. In any event, I hope you enjoy what I have written.

By English Turn: River Trilogy, Part Two by Robert Klein Engler

“For those who hope in the World to Come, Mr. Mark, Arthur Conan Doyle was correct when he wrote, “We cannot command our love, but we can command our actions.”

Cock-a-doodle-doo by L. E. Bunn

Southern Legitimacy Statement: My Daddy, who was born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, taught me the finger lickin’ pleasures of Sunday breakfast of biscuits and gravy, and, oh, yes, GRITS.

Death’s Sister, Silence by John Bach

I was born and raised in the Appalachian South, specifically east Tennessee. Thus, I have Scotch-Irish blood pulsing through my veins, and some German… and a little Cherokee, I was told by my sweet granny. I hope she was right. I also lived for a time in the Deep South, twice. Once in McComb, Mississippi, and once in Yazoo City, Mississippi. I believe my geographical dalliances as a child bode well for me in my literary pursuits.

“My Disqualification” by Prosenjit Dey Chaudhury

With respect to a Southern Legitimacy Statement, I would like to state that although I have never been in the American South, I have deep admiration for the determined and pioneering individuality that marks the people of that region. I could indeed think of the protagonist of my story as exhibiting some of that individuality in her own way.

Eula Shook, a love story by Grant Jerkins

Southern Legitimacy Statement: The thing about The South is that it isn’t southern anymore.

Cock-a-Doodle-Doo by L. E. Bunn

Southern Legitimacy Statement: My Daddy, who was born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, taught me the finger lickin’ pleasures of Sunday breakfast of biscuits and gravy, and, oh, yes, GRITS.

Athena Sasso: Throw Down

Southern Legitimacy Statement: These are names of my relatives: Clem, Lettie, Garlin, Annabelle, Elmer, Cayce, Velma, LV, and Baby Doll.
Dear Mule readers take note: every Spring needs a baseball story and this year, Ms. Sasso has given us a superb one. Read on!

C. L. Bledsoe “Stray” [2007 revisited]

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I grew up on a catfish and rice farm in eastern Arkansas. I must admit, I will take biscuits and gravy over grits any day, though.

John McCaffrey “Clamming in January” [2007 revisited]

As for my southern legitimacy: sweet tea. Once, when visiting family in Mocksville, North Carolina, I drank so much during the week that I had something akin to the sugar DT’s when I got back north. Snapple can not compare.

Celia McClinton “About Dr. Smilnik” [2007 revisited]

Celia is southern. She knows it, we know it… and Mule readers of our previous 10 years of literary excellence know she’s southern.

“Life Story” by Lauren “Elyse” Phillips (58 word micro-fiction) 2007

As for Southern Legitimacy: I couldn’t possibly be more Southern. Paw-Paw is a cotton farmer, Aunt Jean’s favorite phrase is “for cryin’ in the cow butter!”, and the little old ladies in the grocery store used to run up and touch my head so they wouldn’t give me “ojo.” If the preacher’s sermon went long, he’d apologize for holding up dinner. “Kudzu,” “The Lockhorns,” and “Tumbleweeds” were all staples in the morning paper where I grew up, though I’ve never seen mention of any of them elsewhere until now. I left home, but it’s shaped me, and most of what I write is about the love/hate relationship I have with my Southern past.

“Searching for Amy Spain” by Merry Speece [2007 revisited]

From the summer of 1989 to the summer of 2001 I lived in South Carolina. Before moving there I had not heard of the Gullah language and many other things. For the first eight years that I lived there, I read regional histories, old letters, diaries, cookbooks, etc., and took notes. Then I spent the next two years arranging the notes. The result was my Sisters Grimke Book of Days, which was published by Oasis Books (England) in 2003.

“Christmas I-55″ by John Calvin Hughes

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I’m John Calvin Hughes, son of a son of a preacher chased out of Mississippi for plucking the flock. I’m a southern (if I spell it southren you’ll get it, right?) boy who moved south and found himself surrounded by Yankees. I’m in Orlando. There’s not a hill in sight and the restaurants that specialize in “Real Southern Cooking” put sugar in the cornbread. I’m making my own red eye gravy

Transcript of Audio: Miss Jewell Eppinette by Nonnie Augustine

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I now live in Panama City Beach, Florida and have been living here since 2005. There was also a six year spell here in the 80’s. I was born in NYC, grew up in New Jersey and have lived in NYC, NY State, New Mexico, Maryland, and England, and my first book of poems, One Day Tells its Tale to Another was published in Ireland. Please excuse me for including that last bit but I couldn’t help myself. …This is a fiction submission, originally written for a Surreal South anthology and although they kindly told me it did not make it to the book, it did make it to the later stages of decision-making. Ahem.

The Subway Bride by Meg Stivison

SLS: Meg Stivison did indeed move from Brooklyn to North Carolina when her handsome Southern boyfriend proposed, but as far as she knows, he is not actually a changeling.

The Wink That Saved Me by Cindy Shearer

Southern Legitimacy Statement: My family cookbook has recipes for fried chicken, fried venison and fried squirrel. (As to the latter entrée, submitted by my Uncle Toodler, he notes that Aunt Fay “says she would just as soon eat a cat.”) Note: Ms Shearer has allowed that she will give out family recipes, upon request.

Blackout by Alan Watson

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Alan Watkins was born, raised, and still lives in the Raleigh, NC area. Generally, his writings end up as short films, but recently he has decided to delve into the written word after being intrigued by several anthologies of horror related short stories. As a Southern Baptist, there are generally subtle religious aspects in most of his stories.

My Father The Millionaire by Travis Turner

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Son of the Blackbelt. Lover of good bourbon & better storytelling.

Possum Holler Morning by William Matthew McCarter

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Them folks up there in St. Louis prolly think that Johnny Cash is a pay toilet but we know how the cows eat the cabbage down here in Ironton.

Hope Denney “Waiting for the Undertaker” [flash fiction]

Southern Legitimacy Statement: When you’re a half Jewish girl from Tennessee with a heavy Appalachian accent, people really don’t know how to take you.

Thom Bassett “Keep It In There” [flash fiction]

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I confuse the nice old ladies at my Rhode Island supermarket by asking for my groceries to put in a paper *sack instead of a bag. I’m an atheist Jew who thinks “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” is the prettiest hymn. I call hymns and lots of other things “pretty.” I get red in the face when people don’t say “excuse me” or “thank you” in public intercourse. Because I believe in decorous public intercourse. Atlanta doesn’t feel Southern to me. Hell, small towns in Massachusetts have more of the South in them than Atlanta. Or Dallas. Or Nashville, I say.

Heather Adams “Warmer Over Here” [flash fiction]

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Honey, my southern roots go way back – at least four generations of my family have been born and raised in western North Carolina.

Ashley Fields “Legacy” [flash fiction]

I never thought I was very southern until my neighbor from California came over early one morning. We were going through a “lifestyle change,” and she had arrived to drag me out for an early morning jog. She went into conniptions when she saw what I was eating – a country ham biscuit dipped in red eye gravy. Cholesterol, calories, carbs, oh my! It hit me that I was southern through and through when I very calmly told her “Something’s bound to get me eventually,” got another biscuit and a helping of grits smothered in butter, and ate to my heart’s content.

“Not Nihilistic” by Pete Armetta


I’m a Native New Yorker who’s now Southern. When I came here I didn’t think it’d get a hold on me, but it did. Living in Charlottesville, VA via too many other places to count, it’s now a life of mountains and big sky and dogwoods and hawks. Of back roads and wood- burning stoves. Of bourbon and mint from the garden in May and swimming in the river in August. It’s the long talks with old-timers of how their descendants were run out of what’s now Shenandoah National Park-mountain people getting by as moonshiners. And it’s standing on the grounds of Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia, with the columns of its Rotunda and his ghost and magnolias and people from the world over. Just like me. It’s the slow pace of living that’s tamed me. And I never planned it.

“Our Nativity – 1970″ by Dawn Wilson

Southern Legitimacy Statement: My sister used to experiment on me. At the age of twelve, she taught me how to do a Southern accent–and I got stuck. I couldn’t get rid of it. The phone rang, back in the day when you couldn’t get rid of telemarketers, so my sister started making me answer it with my fake Scarlett O’Hara oh be still mah beatin’ heart accent–and she didn’t stop laughing for three years.

Zacc Dukowitz “Ernesto and the Mule”

Southern Legitimacy Statement*
I have shot containers of propane with my grandfather’s 12 gauge and yodeled with delight at the plume of flame that erupted into the night like a spume of blood from the skull of a Foreigner. I have walked often and barefeeted, and never been a stranger to hardship. I have thought of Andrew Jackson while alone in the darkness of my dead lover’s room, and been comforted.
*featured on the Dead Mule’s Facebook page

Rena McClure Taylor “Onions Can Make You Cry”

Southern Legitimacy Statement: We only eat Vidalia onions.

Brigette Steel:

SLS: A native of the Pacific Northwest, I lived in north Florida for eighteen months as a teenager. I was introduced to cornbread dressing, boiled peanuts, and beaches you can actually swim in.

Always Clap for the Band by Clint Tyra

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born in Alabama, grew up in Georgia, went to school in Mississippi, lived in Nashville and do my fishing in South Carolina. I’ve spent a lot of time on the grounds Faulkner’s Rowan Oak and on the highway around Larry Browns farm. I currently live a street over from Carson McCullers’ house. I don’t know how much more legitimate I can be than that.

Molly Felder “Custody” flash fiction

Southern Legitimacy Statement: The family’s all tore up: PawPaw and Mimi because Pepe was such a teeniny dog and just flattened under the wheel of that teenager’s Camaro—never stood a chance!—and me because I’m on the outs with Aunt Jean.
I was only joking about her potato salad.
“Aunt Jean and her potato salad” was truly all I said.
I may have also laughed.
And now she won’t say boo to me, as if I meant that she went around offering it to people, whether they wanted it or not!
So you can see that if you accept my story, it will be cause for celebration. PawPaw and Mimi would smile again, and Aunt Jean would congratulate me, although I’ll have to take her out for some broasted chicken, Texas toast, and hand-packed ice cream first.

Jessica Wimmer “Sweet Baby Lamb”

SLS: It was probably around age seven in the middle of a winter night that I realized how southern I was while dangling my legs in Granny’s outhouse.

Susan Miller “Last Job” flash fiction

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Born many years ago in the ‘Who’sthare’ state, this writer seeks to expand and share stories with anyone who enjoys a midwestern flavor. I enjoy trying flash, shorts, and vignettes, or (postcard stories) if you will. The name ‘Dead Mule’ grabbed my attention as I’ve been called a j.a. many times over the span of 50 some years. I like walking in the nettles and then wading in the crik.

April Winters “Radio Waves”

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

Grammy used to make the best rhubarb pie. Her meals were the type where every inch of the long table was covered with food: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, and vegetables from her garden, and dessert of rhubarb pie. Yum! She expressed her love for her family by making sure we all had full – I’m talking really full – tummies. She had a quick wit and what she called a “hillbilly” accent. She may not have been ‘book’ smart, but she sure was love smart.

Ted Harrison “Brotherly Love”

Southern Legitimacy Statement: When you are born of Scot-Irish and Welsh stock in Piedmont North Carolina you start with a perceived southern legitimacy, but perhaps when you grow older you want to prove it –

One of my grandfathers was a storekeeper and the other a farmer. The storekeeper died sometime before I started school. The grandfather who was a farmer gives me a sense of southern legitimacy—at least in my mind. He farmed with his son, my uncle Richard. Their homes were about a hundred yards apart, separated by a field that by turns yielded cotton, or corn or wheat.
In the mid-1950s, Uncle Richard decided it was time to install indoor plumbing in his home. Running water in the kitchen, a bathroom, the works. He approached my grandfather with the idea that while the work was being done Poppa’s pump could be electrified, pipes run into the house for the kitchen and a bathroom, too.

I don’t know how long the discussions took, but finally Poppa agreed. Agreed, to a point. When the work finished at my uncles home work began at Poppa’s. First the pump was electrified. No more pumping the handle up and down to fill a bucket to take into the house for use. Yes, when the modern work finished you could turn on a spigot, then fill your bucket of water courtesy an electric pump—then you could carry your bucket into the house for use.

Maybe not southern legitimacy for some, but it works* for me.

*Works for the Dead Mule, too.

John Riley: How It Went Bad With Horsepen

Southern Legitimacy Statement: When my son was just a little guy, four or five, and studying the violin he loved to take a break from classical music and go with his pap-paw to an old barn down in Pittsboro that had been converted into a little music hall. When it was their turn the two of them would climb onto the stage and the women in the audience would say, “My, my” and “Look how cute he is.” My boy would be wearing his little white cowboy hat and jeans and boots and when his pap-paw gave him the signal he’d dip his head and start going to town on “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” or “Old Joe Clark” or “The Orange Blossom Special,” maybe even a Bob Wills song or two, while the house band accompanied them on dobro and rhythm guitar and bango. My son’s parents would be in the audience beaming like bug lights as their boy and his pap-paw fiddled away. I’m sure this happens in other parts of the country, but I’m not sure there is anyplace else where playing the old-time music weaves warmly through generation to generation the way it does here in North Carolina, where the music was born and the best little fiddlers in the world are bred.

Sylvia Dodgen: Encounter

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born and bred in the Alabama Wiregrass, where fireflies light summer nights and whippoorwills cry, as souls depart. My daddy never set his hat on the bed, fearing bad luck and didn’t believe in starting any project on a Friday. He believed in planting by the moon and swore long-dead cows could be ghosts too. Unmarried I said I wanted a baby and thought of artificial insemination, he said, “The little bastard will just be welcome.” He was a wise man.

Davis Slater: Helping Daddy Win

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born and raised between the Mississippi and the Ozarks, where Missouri eats into Arkansas, you can walk to Tennessee, and you can wave at Kentucky, I’m now vegan, not for health or environmental reasons, but because I’m pretty sure I ran the entire South out of edible critters when I was a boy.

Phillip Thompson: Kenny’s Saturday Night Cake Walk

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I didn’t have a “grandmother” or a “Nana.” I had a Granny. She wore red lipstick, always carried a pistol, drove fast, smoked cigarettes, believed in the Good Lord, cooked with lard (in which everything was fried — chicken, okra, corn, you name it), took all 10 grandkids fishing and was capable of slapping the taste out of your mouth if you sassed her (not that you ever would). She didn’t say “sweet” tea because there’s only one kind of tea in Mississippi (that’s spelled M-I-crooked letter, crooked letter-I-crooked letter, crooked letter-I-humpback, humpback-I), and if you ask for “sweet tea,” you’re clearly a damn Yankee. Or a carpetbagger, take your pick. She had more grandkids than she had room, so we stayed outside a lot in the summer — shirtless, shoeless, sweaty and loud and buying Co-Colas at Bubba Cox’s store or playing in the bed of Granddaddy’s dump truck. If we behaved, we could come in to cool off and listen to “Ode to Billie Joe” on the record player. She said things like “that boy’s as crazy as a junebug” and “bless her heart.” From the South? Hell, she was the South.

Phillip Thompson: A Novel “Deep Blood”

Review copies arrive on a semi-daily basis here on Brown St. This month brought quite a few volumes of teen fiction and those were passed on to willing recipients. Then there were the two novels that were especially readable and noteworthy. One from a dear friend, Mule writer Jim Booth, titled “Completeness of the Soul”   […]

Celebrate the Fourth of July, 1933 with a Story from Pete Peterson

Southernicity Statement

I live in Southern California but was reared in the Missouri Ozarks and attended schools where more hogs and dogs were under the school house than text books inside. I know that when you hunt coon or squirrel or quail, even turkey, you kill ‘em and brag at church how many you killed. However, when fox hunting, the fox holes up after four or five hours and you thank him for a good race and promise to run him again.

I fry chicken in a cast iron skillet that’s been in the family over a hundred years. It makes great cream gravy. My monthly chicken dinners are quarterly affairs now, since my doctor said I’m to eat only foods I like, and fried chicken’s not listed. (He doesn’t know about the yellow corn grits and sausage on Sunday mornings.)

I understand the difference between the American Baptist, Reel Foot Baptist and Southern Baptist churches and have tasted the baptismal water of all three. I call ladies of a certain age ‘Ma’am’ and younger ones ‘Miss’. Finally, if there’s a more delightful sound than a nightingale singing at midnight from a magnolia tree under a full moon, only angels have heard it.

When I’m not writing you’ll find me tending my Arkansas Traveler, Nebraska Wedding or Brandywine heirloom tomatoes,

“A Very Bad Thing” by Jim Booth

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

Jim Booth was born and raised in Eden, North Carolina. He wrote a novel about his hometown – you could look it up. His other novel has the word “Southern” in the title. You could look that up, too. He likes barbecue and sweet tea. What more do you need to know?

“Imagining a Son’s Barns Elsewhere From Here” by Tom Sheehan

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I once worked in the south, went through the south to and from an appointment in Korea in 1950-51, have written many stories set in the south, had four books published in the south and many Internet and print appearances in the south, including Dead Mule some time in the past in that southern exposure.

“Saturday Afternoon at the Drive-In” by Al Lyons

*We love this story because it rings so true. Real Stories of Real Folks Posted As Real Fiction.

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born and raised in sunny St. Petersburg, FL during the time of Webb’s City, where the mermaid show was free and the ice cream cones were 10-cents each. Once, in my youth, I attended a donkey-baseball game. I spent many a Saturday watching Creature Feature and Professional Wrestling on TV-44, while carefully adjusting the rabbit ears and tinfoil on the back of the set. In college, I waited tables dressed in bib overalls and a straw hat at Skeeter’s Home of the Big Biscuit. I believe eggs and bacon should always be served with grits, as the good Lord intended, although I do endorse the sacrilege of added cheese. I know in my heart that God is a Gator. Several years ago I escaped to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Western NC. I have a homemade camper and a homemade fiddle, and I can be found wandering in the mountains, when I lose track of time.

“Fried Tomatoes and Milk Gravy” by Margaret Frey

My Southern Legitimacy Statement is as follows:

I’m a native of New Jersey, South Jersey to be precise. My family and I were transferred to Tennessee a decade ago. I write from the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Though I have yet to develop a taste for grits or okra, I have fond childhood memories of fried tomatoes, best summer dish around!

“Jolene Jolene” by John Michael Flynn

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I live in central Virginia, and I teach English at Piedmont Valley Community College. My wife and I have owned a little townhouse on the outskirts of Charlottesville for five years now. One of my writing mentors was the late George Garrett, who back in the mid-eighties encouraged me to write and got me a full scholarship into the University of Michigan, where he was then teaching. My story derives from my time as a very young man working as a tobacco farmhand in western North Carolina.

“My Wife As a Dog” by John Tarkov

From September to December, I watch SEC football on TV, and I spike my mouthwash with Louisiana Hot Sauce.

Brenda Wilson Wooley: “The Poem”

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born in Kentucky into a family of storytellers. I spent many summer nights on my grandmother’s front porch listening to relatives tell one story after another about the eccentrics in the family: a great-grandfather, who walked everywhere he went (even though he had a fine buggy) and had a song written about him (“Walk, Tom Wilson”); a corncob-pipe-smoking great-great grandmother who took off running and hopped on her horse from the rear; a distant cousin’s wife, Lily, who baked cakes when she was depressed. Many cakes. All night long. And a distant cousin who strolled into the local truck stop, perched himself on a stool at the counter and leisurely sipped a cup of coffee. (Did I mention he was clad in nothing but a towel?)

Ben Shields … “Jim Threw Things From Trucks”

I grew up on a plantation. I’ve been baptized. My grandmother just died. At her house there’s a monster sycamore. My grandfather hung a fire extinguisher on it probably thirty years ago or more for fish frying. The tree grew around it, and now there’s just a piece of pale red not yet sucked up into the bark. My family is selling the house and the little piece of land it sits on. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. I’ve got pictures of it on my cell phone. That disturbs me more.

Chad Rhoad: A Novel Excerpt Or an excerpt from a novel…

SLS: I come from a town with 700 residents in South Carolina. I thought it was legal to drink and drive until I was 14. I fired a gun before I kissed a girl. I use the word ain’t in my proper speech, and I pronounce the word “can’t” the same way I do the word “ain’t.” I am the only liberal in my hometown. I never stay longer than 24 hours at a time.

“Never Trust The Weatherman” by Shane Hinton

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

My family has been farming in the South for fifty years; longer if you count cotton. I don’t count cotton.

“Damn Tourists” by John Baradell, Jr.

SLS: Most of my family was born and raised in the Deep South, and remains there (Mississippi, Alabama, and East Texas). Things get a bit confused by some in those areas when they find out that I grew up in the Upper South of Tidewater, Virginia. When they hear my soft accent or that I prefer to be asked first before my tea is sweetened, I am sometimes accused of being a Yankee (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Not so with my family, though–I’m still Southern through and through–and proud of it. I’m so Southern that I can go into great detail about my usual scratch staple of grits and its historical importance to the South’s survival. True, but I eat them so often (always stone ground–never instant) because they’re soooo good.

Plus, I know the difference between a chicken house and a hen house, and have met both chicken catchers and chicken sexers.

Jessica Wimmer – If I Let My Babies Be Born

Southern Legitimacy Statement: It was probably around age seven in the middle of a winter night that I realized how southern I was while dangling my legs in Granny’s outhouse.

Diane Hoover Bechtler – Illiteracy

Southern legitimacy statement
my grandmother made fat back sandwiches at lunch for all the grandchildren and our cholesterol is just fine.

Kevin Winter – What The Storm Did

Southern Legitimacy Statement: A snapshot of the South. A line of watermelons laid out in the grass. The road, just glorified gravel. My wife pointing through the windshield at the hand-painted cardboard leaning against the fence post. A smile playing across her face in the shifting sunshine. An empty gumdrop jar gleaming beside the cardboard sign. “Take a melon” on one line, “Leave a dollar” on the next.

Hannah Thurman – Snakes in the Ceiling

Southern Legitimacy Statement: When she was 8, Hannah attended a weeklong Kay Yow Lady Wolfpack basketball camp at NC State University, where dribbling was optional but prayer mandatory.

Frances Badgett – Wishbone Stick

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I grew up in Lexington, Virginia steeped in summer afternoon storytelling that winds its way late into the night. I walk 74 percent slower than most people I know here in Washington State. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who orders grits at the diner here in town. I have that way we have that makes us really tiresome at the grocery store in places like Seattle and New York. I’m descended from Felix Grundy. I’ll let you Google him.
*ValNote: I google’d him.

Robert Klein Engler — The Tourist

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

I have passed a lot of time living in New Orleans and traveling from there to Des Plaines, Illinois and back to NOLA. I take comfort in living by a river. I know what “lagniappe” means, and I plan on being buried above ground.

Rachel Kapitan — the notion …

I moved to Virginia at age seven and was baptized by vernacular when on my first day at the new school my teacher told me to do something “right quick.” The whole world sounded different. Decades later, I can make fried green tomatoes without a recipe, and (not so) secretly enjoy going to the Bass Pro Shop.

Vera Tuck: Memoir and Requiem by Randall Ivey

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’m so Southern the only other book I allow on my top booshelf besides the Bible is “Gone With The Wind”.

Seeker by Cecile Dixon

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Mother, Grand-mother, Great Grand-mother, nurse, writer, chief cook and bottle washer, they are all me and they are all Southern. As the years of my self imposed Northern exile roll I by, I have come to know that Southern is who I am, no matter the location.

No Questions No Lies by Eric Boyd

SLS: Me, I grew up in Charlotte, and shortly after having my dog eaten by the people in the apartment building across the creek, was moved up to Pittsburgh by my family. Milled around for a while, then had a sabbatical from 2010-2011 which resulted in my winning the PEN American Center’s Prison Writing contest. Weird how things work out. Funny in a sad way.

The Familiar by Sylvia Dodgen

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born and bred in the Alabama Wiregrass to a father, who said, “Yes, Ma’am” to every female no matter how old or young, and a mother, who painted her lips and nails red and wore heels, hose and a garter everyday of the week except Saturdays, when she rode horses with my father then she wore jodhpurs and boots. Her hair was the hardest thing she had to deal with on a daily basis. If for some reason she couldn’t make it to the beauty shop, she took meals in her bedroom, announcing that her hair looked like a “stump full of granddaddies.” She believed in benign neglect. I ran around barefoot in cutoff dungarees without a shirt. The dungaree suspenders pulled over my shoulders and hooked to metal buttons on a bib, covering my chest. I was sandy, freckled and tick-ridden.
Occasionally, daddy would bring in quail and partridge from a Saturday morning shoot. I would pick them clean on Saturday night, while my parents were dining and dancing. We’d have fried quail and grits for dinner at noon on Monday. We ate fried fish roe and grits for breakfast on Sundays and brains and eggs many weekdays. I grew up on scuppernong wine made by my granddaddy. I was a child of the 1950′s and life in the Wiregrass was peaceful, pleasant and in some ways peculiar (I just didn’t know it then).

The Vehicle My Father Slept In by Jason Sobelman

SLS : I have seen a couple episodes of Lizard Lick Towing. No?
Well, I traveled across two states to hear a Southern Preacher, because that is as close as he would get to the abyss that is my current residency . God bless you Pastor David Terrell.

Thomas Scott McKenzie: Barges

An exceptional story by one of our favorite writers… so happy to have finally found this again.

Bob Thomas: Duel In the Sun

Another piece of very short fiction from yesteryear, the 1998? 1999? archives. From the notes: “Bob Thomas is the owner of Kristi’s Gallery in Swansboro, N.C. After 13 years as an Executive Recruiter he decided to pursue a less stressful lifestyle and moved to the North Carolina Coast. His Gallery looks out over the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and is an outlet for the work of over 215 Artists and Craftspeople from across the United States. Since his move to the coast he has discovered a love for writing and publishes his own in house monthly newsletter. His readers have realized that his style is not “hindered” by the rules of good grammar and that he writes mainly for his own entertainment!

Tim Peeler: The Great Race

Many of our Mule readers know Tim Peeler the poet, but did you know that Tim was one of the first fiction writers ever published on the Mule? Yup.

Tammy Wilson: Running on Empty

from the 2000 archives. Read it again for the first time.

Thomas Scott McKenzie: Spook In the Night

Another great tale straight from the 2000 archives.

Lynn Veach Sadler: Bell, Pol, and “Miss Bird”

Fresh from 2000 archival goodness. Published again as we peruse our backfiles… enjoy.

Marsha Nicholson: Snapshots *originally published 2000

Marsha Nicholson, a middle manager by day, freelance writer by night, is most consistently occupied with exploring where she fits into her Appalachian heritage, and vice versa.

Don Cooper: Amos

First published in 2000, we found this in the Mule archives and we’d like to put it up — front and center — once again.

Tim Bullard : The Little Red Man

Tim is the oldest of Mule Friends. He is one of my very first true online friends. His talent as a writer speaks for itself. His southern legitimacy transcends a statement. Welcome back to the Mule, Tim.

April Winters : Mommy’s In a Better Place

Southern Legitimacy Statement

Grammy used to make the best rhubarb pie. Her meals were the type where every inch of the long table was covered with food: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, and vegetables from her garden, all topped off with rhubarb pie. Yum! She expressed her love for her family by making sure we all had full – I’m talking really full – tummies. She had a quick wit and what she called a “hillbilly” accent. She may not have been book smart, but she sure was love smart.

William Wurm : Junior Hoarder

SLS…I have only become more Southern since I last submitted anything. The story series is inspired by West Alabama (going there soon to prepare for deer season) and is written in Ocean Springs, MS.

Anthony Marshall : What Remained

SLS: I live in the REAL south, South Carolina, and, while that statement alone should legitimize my southerosity, please indulge me. I own a wardrobe sprinkled with camouflage shirts, pants, hats even though i do not hunt. When I was young, my parents told me total bullshit stories of how my grandmother, sometimes great grandmother depending on how much PBR she had drunk, (Always a female ancestor), was a Cherokee. As I grew older and realized how many of my fellow southerners had this ridiculous mythological Cherokee ancestor I quickly ditched the story. As I type this, I am wiping the slime off of my boiled peanuts on my camouflage pants and airbrushed wolf-howling-at-the-moon-while-sitting-next-to-an-indian t-shirt that I bought from the flea market.

Shelia Lamb “Lodestone”

Southern Legitimacy Statement
I grew up in Manassas, Virginia, near the battlefield. (Just ‘the battlefield’). I graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School. A one-armed, long-bearded Confederate in uniform was our mascot who shot cannon blanks when touchdowns were scored at football games. It wasn’t until my junior year that I understood the South had lost the war. Also, I like okra.

Ed Laird “Crazy”

Southern Legitimacy Statement
For southern highlanders and we who are their descendants, words are revered, but reserved and used with economy. But when the few words we use fail us, music enlarges our emotional vocabularies, and our simple ballads of love and heartbreak speak volumes.

Deb Jellett “Dancing Pine Trees”

Southern Legitimacy Statement
I was born and raised in the South, occasionally eat grits, but hate football. Oh dear.

Bobbi A. Chukran “Sadie and the Museum Lady”

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

I was born in Texas and influenced by eccentric kinfolks who were farmers, artists, graveyard caretakers and sharecroppers. I was raised on fried catfish (caught on trot-lines using blood-bait), fried chicken, collards and turnip greens. I used to help my grandmother gather poke sallet down in the bottoms. At the age of 42, I realized that I was more Southern than Texan. Since then, I haven’t forgotten that.

Carmen Kunze “My Skunk Ape Christmas”

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I am a native Floridian, born in Hialeah, lightly seasoned in Belle Glade and served up in West Palm Beach. That makes me from the South and I’m proud to be a Cuban Cracker.

Laura Seaborn “The Turkey’s Beard”

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
We moved to Florida when I was sixteen and when we crossed the border into the state, there were bill boards: This is Wallace Country. That was my introduction into a different and intriguing world. I took to the South, learned to love grits, rutabagas, and anything deep fried. My Midwestern born and bred parents never adapted to Southern ways, but I quickly learned to call sweet potatoes, yams, and baked them into pies like any true Southerner.

Caren Rich “The Fruitcake”

Southern Legitimacy Statement
I was born and raised in the South. Sweet tea runs through my veins. There are enough lights on my house during the Christmas season to signal planes. I make fruit cake and love the sweet sugary pillows that are divinity. My kids run year round barefoot and the dog doesn’t wear a collar. I am southern and proud of it.

Gregg Punger “The Candle Girl”

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I was born and raised by a true southern woman from Mars Bluff, South Carolina in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where I spent most of my youth making forts and mud slides in the creek behind my house and playing football. Through her stories about her life growing up on a farm and my time spent at my ancestral home, a two story white farm house with columns and a large porch surrounded by woods and acres of fields, I learned to be a southerner.

Steve Gowin “Ringneck”

I am a Yankee… Ok you’d find out sooner or later. But most of my writer friends are Southern writers. My affinities are for Faulkner and O’Connor. Well if that doesn’t sink me, I hope you enjoy my story.

Marah Blair “My Grandfather’s House”

Southern Legitimacy Statement
I was born in the “sticks” of Central Virginia. Silos across the street, bare feet in the freshly tilled garden patch, and mud fights in the rain. I am a very big fan of sweet tea, biscuits with real salted butter, and good old fashion bon fires. The south is very dear to my heart.

Lacey Jean Frye – The Last Marlboro Man

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Alas, I dwell in the midwest, but my namesake’s buried in Alabama. Crimson Tide. I think about the South, and I want the South to think about me.

Lee Wright — Tuesday Evening In A Small Southern Town

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Lee Wright was born, raised, and educated in a tiny textile mill town just across the Georgia line from Chattanooga. In spite of that, he managed to learn to translate things like “I knowed that he’d get throwed outta school for drankin’ ‘n’ when he growed up, he wuddn’t gonna ‘mount to nuttin’.” into actual English sentences.

The Acceptance Speech by Hope Denney

I grew up cutting out biscuits on my grandmother’s formica countertop while wearing an apron that belonged to her mother. I am on a first name basis with my relatives that have been dead for over a century and can tell you about every feud that has happened in my home county for the last fifty years.

The Intruder by Brenda Rose

Southern Legitimacy Statement
I grew up barefoot and poor in southern Georgia. During the summer months, I worked in the tobacco fields. Mama and Daddy were my parents. I speak and write in the language of the South.

No More Blues by Ferdinand Hunter

My Southern Legitimacy Statement is both brief and simple; I was born and raised in Georgia, and I always referred to my 5 ft tall paternal grandmother as Big Mama,

Herself Alone by John Riley

Southern Legitimacy Statement

In August there was always the river. On dog days, school beckoning, the joy of uninterrupted time between the morning and evening chores long absorbed by a sun that had flattened your expectations of what summer would bring, I seemed to always find myself at the river. Some people are drawn to fire, others to water, moving water that is, even if the movement is nearly imperceptible, and in my South the summer heat warned me away from fire. It was the river inching through the thick woods that lured me to come, preferably alone, to come and clear away a spot to sit among the dead leaves and rocks and branches, to come and immerse myself in the stream of thoughts and dreams and ambitions that, yet unbruised by the world, raced inside the visitor sitting above the patient river.

The Pontiac and the Dodge by susan robbins

southern legitimacy statement: I am legitimately Southern, though I have moved across the road from the 1820 farm house where I grew up in rural Virginia. That house had seventeen rooms, seven of which were falling away, so we let them. A big snapping turtle lived under the sagging porch. Down the road from us was a house Thomas Jefferson had designed for his poor cousins who moved out of our house when that miniature Monticello was ready.

Ruby by NL Snowden

Yea! A mule story! Southern Legitimacy Statement I was bred, born and raised in Demopolis, Alabama. I’ve always lived in the South, and I’m about as stereotypical as anyone can be. My sister has two of the columns that were in the Georgia Confederate Hospital in her house. Our great, great granddaddy Snowden recuperated in that hospital. I grew up with a black maid who I thought was mama, and the white lady in the house I wondered why she spent the night with us every night. As I’ve aged I discovered that eating cheese grits every morning for breakfast will make you fat—twenty-five pounds fatter to be exact. I once owned a Jersey milk cow and made my own butter, sour cream, buttermilk, cream cheese and drank a gallon of fresh milk with one third of it sweet cream floating on the surface. Anastasia raised me three calves in all and we milked her daily until she dried up for her next calf. The years I owned the cow, I was er, plump to say the least. I really do have a daughter who Pony Clubbed a mule. And I eat turnip greens from Cracker Barrel every day of my life.

White Trash by Gary Powell

SLS-I come from Ozark hillbillies in Arkansas and Missouri. They could sing a tune, shoot a squirrel, pick cotton, and tell a good one. I grew up in the north, but live in North Carolina. I favor collards over spinach and know how to cook fat back. I reckon that makes me southern enough.

Peaches by Wanda Stephens

My Southernhoodness may be snatched, and I apologize to the collards aficionados, but I did not like collards during my childhood. Maybe I was adopted, born up in Yankeedom perhaps in…Saginaw, Michigan. Saginaw popped into my head because of Lefty Frizzel’s song.

When I became twenty-one, I decided I should try collards again and began scarfing them down by the bowlful. A favorite hangout became Bubba’s Barbeque Buffet where I found all the collards and fatback I could eat. Now, I can say, honestly, I love collards. Though I got off to a slow start, I put “Dixie” in the CD player and take up a fork.

Morning by Thomas McGauley

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Raised by mudfish on the St. Johns River near Welaka, Florida.

Savannah Ghost Tour by David Massengill

SLS: It’s about the South–and it’s based on my trip to the South.

The Patriarch by Carla Cummins


My family arrived in the Isle of Wight, Virginia, in the early 1600s and decided they were here to stay. Fortunes being what they were, it wasn’t long after before they headed down to Carolina and set up camp on the Black River, where they’ve pretty much been ever since.

I grew up drinking tea from mason jars and sitting on porches, catching lightning bugs and dropping my r’s. I can recite all the books of the Bible and sing all the verses to “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.” My first kiss was to a boy with a pickup truck and Cherokee blood in his veins, who smelled of Drakkar Noir and tobacco.

I keep bacon grease in a coffee can under my kitchen sink, fry my cornbread, and ensure my luck by eating black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day.

I may now live in Australia, but the South is the home I always carry with me.

“An Old Man The Night Before His Death” by Colby Swift

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

In the southern summers, my childhood friend/neighbor and I kept ourselves busy. If we weren’t following our mutts up the backroads to the corner grocer for a ham sandwich and Mountain Dew, we were in the woods behind our houses, stalking down squirrels with our Model 10 Daisies. On one such day we happened across a copperhead snake coiled up in the underbrush. My friend retrieved his father who, equipped with a hoe, followed us to the snake’s bed and beheaded the thing. He dumped the body in a tin trash can behind the house for fear that the dogs would eat the remains, and me and my friend spent the rest of that day daring each other to open the trash can’s lid and look in at the headless carcass. As I recall, neither of us was brave enough to do it.

Educated Tina by T L Sherwood

My SLS is like a country song. At 17, I moved to Texas, got married, moved to New York, got divorced and now I think about my exes, and Texas, but not always. Sometimes I think about the pool at the La Quinta hotel next to the Kettle restaurant where my husband and I used to eat pecan pie.

The Front Porch by Tracei Willis

I consider myself to be a Southerner with Northern tendencies, an illegitimate daughter of the South if you will. I was born in Ohio to parents who were born and bred in Alabama. They felt their southern roots wilting when I was five years old, so they uprooted their flower child from sidewalks, snow, and front stoops, and transplanted me in red clay of Alabama, the Magnolia trees of Mississippi, and right up on my Big Mama’s front porch.
Whenever my Northern idiosyncrasies began to surface, my parents would send to one of my grandmothers for some Southern reconditioning. It was in the kitchens of Nellie Willis and Annie Jones that I learned some vital Southern lessons: 1. In the South there are canisters on kitchen counters that contain sugar, flour, corn meal and grits– store brand sugar is acceptable, but anything other than Martha White Self-Rising flour, Sunflower corn meal, and Jim Dandy grits, and you’ll have a sure-fire riot on your hands. 2. There are as many ways to cook grits as there are women who cook grits, just smile and rave about not ever having had a finer bowl of grits and you’ll be okay. 3. Every kitchen counter has two blue cans of Crisco, one that actually has Crisco in it, and the other to hold bacon drippings. (Don’t ask questions, just eat.) 4. Sweet tea comes two ways down here, cold and sweet. You can make it on the stove top, you can make on the back porch, you can add lemon, mint, peaches or berries– just don’t make it from a jar of instant powder mix, and don’t make it with sugar substitute– if you ask for unsweetened tea down here, you’re libel to end up with a cold glass of ice water. 5. The best seasoning for greens, peas, beans, squash, and corn? Meat. Preferably smoked meat. Preferably the neck, hock, or tail of a turkey, hog, or ox. Running short on meat? (That’s what that can of bacon drippings is for.)
I am a Southerner, by way of Ohio, transplanted in Mississippi, with kudzu-like attachments to Alabama.

Running the Dogs by James Dunlap

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
Born and raised in Arkansas with a hog pen in the front yard and pond in the back–grits on the stove. In these parts the Civil War is only referred to as The War of Northern Aggression. I grew up about three miles from Clifton Clowers and if you don’ t know who that is, I’ll have to ask you about your southern legitimacy. I could also tell you about the fishing, the trees and much cattle.

A Mule’s Gotta’ Die by Molly Dugger Brennan

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Southern Legitimacy Statement: My family, having disappointed everyone on the European continent, arrived on the shores of Virginia in the early 1700s to start anew. Being too lazy to pack for another big move, we have stayed in Virginia ever since and made the best of it. I live in the Shenandoah Valley with my husband and the trifecta of Southern legitimacy: a porch, a pack of dogs, and pie.

Fat Tuesday by Gary Powell

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Gary V. Powell is a North Carolina writer with his back against New Orleans.

Just Like His Daddy by C. Ciccozzi

Southern Legitimacy Statement

My parents were born in the south. Colloquialisms are so ingrained in me that when I repeat them, people in the western states look at me like I’ve got a caterpillar perched on my nose. I don’t think I’ve pronounced the ‘g’ on any word ending with ‘ing’ since I learned how to talk. I say pillas instead of pillows and windas … well, you get the idea. My brother taught me how to catch crawdads in a can when we were kids. He also shot me in the face with his BB gun. Ouch!

The Recidivist by John Branscum

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

My father was possessed by a trailer. My sister gave into the influence of a creek full of evil spirits housed in wrecked cars. I myself am unduly vulnerable to the influence of heavy metal and hip-hop. I wear my shirt open two buttons – not on purpose but because this is simply the kind of animal I am. I partially grew up in a trailer in Big Flat Arkansas, without electricity, that smelled kind of funny because of the dead salamanders. I almost fell over in the outhouse while simultaneously balancing on the one plank that wasn’t rotten and taking a crap. I had few friends as a teenager in Kentucky. And the ones I did have were mostly dogs and trees. I’ve killed a lot of things and felt bad about it, but can’t figure out any other way to live.

The Preacherman by Hannah Spicer

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I proudly claim Southwest Virginia as my home. I grew up in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains with three brothers. My childhood was spent roaming through the woods, choppin’ off roosters’ heads (Mom said we couldn’t have more than one rooster at a time), and going to school. When I was fourteen, my daddy taught me how to drive a tractor. When I was fifteen, my little brother taught me how to shoot a gun (only because them darn coyotes kept snatchin’ the baby cows – I would not have touched a gun otherwise).

As I grew older, people seemed to think that these things were something to be ashamed ’bout. I tried to write things that didn’t quite sound like me, but were about city people. I don’t know a darn thing about city people, except what I read in books. Therefore, my writing wasn’t that great. Then, I started writing about what I know – country people, and my writing sounded pretty good.

I say, leave the city writin’ for those that live in the city. Me? I am goin’ to write about the country and my beloved Appalachian Mountains.

The Treehugger by Dawn Corrigan

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I live in East Alabama, otherwise known as the Florida panhandle.

Herself, Alone by John Riley

Southern Legitimacy Statement

In August there was always the river. On dog days, school beckoning, the joy of uninterrupted time between the morning and evening chores long absorbed by a sun that had flattened your expectations of what summer would bring, I seemed to always find myself at the river. Some people are drawn to fire, others to water, moving water that is, even if the movement is nearly imperceptible, and in my South the summer heat warned me away from fire. It was the river inching through the thick woods that lured me to come, preferably alone, to come and clear away a spot to sit among the dead leaves and rocks and branches, to come and immerse myself in the stream of thoughts and dreams and ambitions that, yet unbruised by the world, raced inside the visitor sitting above the patient river.

Tended by Laura Seaborn

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
Moving to Florida when I was sixteen, we crossed the border under the shadow of a billboard which read, “This is Wallace Country.” I turned to my mother and asked who Wallace was. I had a lot to learn about The South.
Now, I’ll slip in a ya’ll once in a while and I love grits and Southern Magnolia blooms, but I still hate gators and that horrid kudzu.

Grudgeholding by Janice D. Soderling

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I know what a crawdad hole looks like and how to make sassafras tea. I know the south is a place where you can get your heart broke. I’m not the only one with that knowledge.

At Morganza’s Gates by Lucinda Kemp

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
My Mama celebrated the birth of my son by having her picture taken in front of the Jefferson Davis Memorial stone on First and Coliseum Streets around the corner from her house in the Garden District. When she died, I put her ashes in a Ziplock bag and flew her to La Guardia. Today she’s shelved in an urn of her breakfront in my house on Long Island. My black Labrador named Comus—in honor of the parade (Mama was a Comus maid)—has never been down south.

Chrissie’s Parent’s Bed by Elizabeth Glass

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I was born when mama was making Benedictine and daddy was drinking a Mint Julep. They were supposed to be at The Derby, and they had fine outfits. Mama had a long white dress with embroidered flowers and a huge white hat with flowers—lots and lots of yellow, pink, and white flowers. Daddy had a seersucker suit with a smart straw hat. Mama handed the Benedictine over to Granny Bray, who had come to stay with Sister. Daddy lit his pipe and said, “For this, I’m missing the Derby,” then smiled with his blue eyes and lifted my mama and carried her to the car.

Killing Nighttime by Brad McLelland

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I’m one of those South Arkansas kids, born and raised in the cotton fields of Chicot County and weaned on sweet tea and fried chocolate pies. I’m one of those kids who has slapped a jillion mosquitoes dead on my neck, and combed my legs for a jillion seed ticks, and fought a jillion G.I. Joes in the trenches of my rain-washed back yard gulley. In my youth, when I wasn’t outracing three-legged coon dogs on three-wheeled ATVs (me on the wheeler, not the dog), I was cane-pole fishing in the 43 Canal, down near Grandma Bernice’s house in the swarmy Dermott Delta. Under Grandma’s dusty quilt I learned to read and write, and on the brown banks of the swimming hole I learned that a good story can sometimes be one of Dad’s good ol’ fishing lies.

A Suburban Story by Wayne Scheer

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
Although I was raised in New York and lived in Iowa for five years, I saw nothing strange in a local newscaster breaking into the TV show I was watching to warn us about the quarter inch of snow predicted overnight.

Polar Bears Don’t Cry by Isaac Kirkman

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I consider myself very much a southern writer, and my work generally revolves around illuminating the social struggles of where I am from. If this particular piece is not for you I look forward to submitting to you in the future and continue the courtship. Have a wonderful day.

The Hunger of Dogs by Rebecca Clay Haynes

Southern Legitimacy Statement: You couldn’t make my husband leave the South if you set a pack of dogs on him — he’s spent his whole life in North Carolina but for a spell in Vietnam and that was against his will. I, on the other hand, landed here by accident and have spent some good years plotting my escape. Born and raised Yankee, don’t you know.”

Your Head or Your Heart by Andrew Waters

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’m Southern because a photo of Robert E. Lee hung in my childhood home but I was named for a bona fide scalawag. I root for Lost Causes like Tar Heel football and Democrats. I’m Southern because when I lived in New York, and some sassy New York City girl teased me about my accent, I said, “What accent?” I think Pabst Blue Ribbon tastes like piss. I hear trains in the night. I still hate Jesse Helms and that son-of-a-bitch has been dead for years. I’m Southern because my momma’s buried in the shadow of Thomas Wolfe’s angel. I’m as Southern as the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is where I’m from. Is that Southern enough for you?

Room by J. Malcom Garcia

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I say ya’ll and I declare and I think billboards quoting scripture are as natural as trees. So whatever ya’ll may say otherwise, I declare in the presence of the Almighty, that’s southern.

How to Treat a Horse by Kitty Liang

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Being born and raised in Beijing doesn’t make me a Southerner. But two-stepping to George and Merle, wearing bolo ties and spurs on my boots, raising rabbits and barrel racing do. Most of all, it’s the drinking of Southern Comfort that makes me so.

The Phantom Truck by strannikov

Am I Southern? You tell me.

I eat sushi, not fried seafood. I don’t drink bourbon; I drink unsweetened tea.

I was born and raised in South Carolina but graduated from the University of Mississippi.

A paternal great-great-great grandfather was a Confederate combatant at the Second Battle of Manassas and died from his wounds months after that illustrious victory; to compensate for misgivings about the prudence of secession in 1860, I argue that secession was undertaken at least thirty years too late to avert war or to avoid losing one.

My grandfather and my father were both tobacco farmers. I am no tobacco farmer and do not smoke or chew tobacco, or dip snuff. I am no farmer, period.

I was raised on Pepsi but have not had a twelve-ounce serving in years or even decades. I can eat boiled peanuts but do not commonly seek them out. The odor of Coca-Cola sickens me.

My taste in barbeque veers toward the tomatoey-peppery-vinegary, although I will sample the mustardy varieties for a change of pace. I restrict barbeque consumption to the months between October and March. Ounce for ounce and gram for gram, I eat more pasta in a year than pork.

Avidly, I have read Cousin Flannery; but to date I’ve not read one line of Eudora. I’ve paid my respects at Faulkner’s grave but have never visited Macon to pay respects to Duane Allman and Berry Oakley.

I do not own or drive a pick-up truck, with or without gun rack, with or without mud flaps, with or without Confederate emblems.

I once owned Marshall Tucker albums but can’t even name a tune by Hootie and the Blowfish.

I disagree with James L. Petigru, Esq.: South Carolina is large enough to qualify as a republic and if anything is too small to be a serviceable insane asylum.

Fields White With Harvest by Sylvie Galloway

Southern Legitimacy Statement

I am certainly what you would call a southern woman. I grew up in East Tennessee, married then moved to the Western North Carolina mountains then moved even further south to the upstate of South Carolina. Now divorced, I attend a small southern woman’s college while wading hip deep through the world of perm rods, hair spray and tease combs. Hairdressing keeps the mortgage payments current, and my asthma doctor’s budget in the black.

I live in a world where ya’ll is a token word in most conversations, ice tea is strong and harmful to one’s pancreas and grits is considered one of the four essential food groups. I also live in a world, that although I’ve been called a southern gal all my life, I don’t always feel like I fit in. Maybe that’s from being nerdy, somewhat bookish, and exhibiting no real talent or interest for sports of any kind, fishing, hunting, beauty contesting, baton twirling, clogging, shagging, or the baking or the frying of southern culinary delights. I also couldn’t tell you who is in the running for this year’s NASCAR driver of the year award if my life depended on it.

But where else but here in the south can you get peaches and strawberries picked fresh that morning? Where else does the hint of snow send two thirds of the county scrambling to the grocery for a week of supplies? Where else can one spend the summer partaking in the battle of trying to get something to grow in your backyard besides fire ant colonies?

What I am is woman who lives in a place I can’t imagine ever leaving. I raised my kids here, my grand kids were born here. My four cats were deposited upon my doorstep here. I’m a southern woman, and quite content with the label. Now can someone pass me a glass of that iced tea? I’m rather parched.

Ray Abernathy – Valentine’s Day

Marianne was a smart young woman, but careless. You know, the kind of careless that makes you forget the zip code when you’re addressing a letter, and then the letter comes back and because it contains a bank deposit, causes checks to bounce. You know, careless, the gift that keeps on taking. But on this […]

Tish Rogers Mosely – Recollections

Miss Tish was born and raised in Middle Tennessee where she still makes her home with her first husband J. and their sooner pup, Frances Montgomery. Where “take your shoes off and stay awhile” is not an invitation but a way of life. Where everyone has an Aunt Sis and Uncle Junior and no one outgrows their nickname. Where it’s football on Friday, grapplin’ on Saturday, and preachin’ on Sunday. Where cuttin’ your own switch is the price of forgettin’ your manners and “because Mama said so,” and “wait ’til your Daddy gets home,” keeps you on the straight and narrow. Where “bless your heart” is better than cussin’. And, the two things you’d save in a fire are the family Bible and your ‘naner puddin’ bowl.

Cecile Dixon – The Key

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I am a college educated, teen mother. I am a God fearing, gun-toting woman. I am a sixties liberal who has learned to survive and thrive in the new millennium. I am old in body and young in spirit. I am laughter and sorrow. I am a contradiction. I am a daughter, mother, wife, lover and friend of the south. I am a southern woman.

kenneth ennis – The Mule and the Parachute

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’m a redneck thats seen and done much in my life. Telling stories about what I’ve experienced sort of lets me go back ever so briefly to my youth. I’ve also found that the stories and tall tales effect other folks the same way. If you recognize yourself in my stories thats even better.

Sara Amis – God of the Marching Teddy Bears

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Sara Amis has lived in Georgia her entire life, except when she moved to Chicago for two weeks. She currently resides in Statesboro on a dirt road off a four-lane highway.

Wayne Scheer – Mysterious Ways

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’m a y’all guys kind of Southerner. I was raised in Brooklyn, New York and lived in Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia for the past forty years. I’m the kind of mixed breed who might order a side of grits with a pastrami on rye, but I refuse to eat pizza with a knife and fork.

Ed Laird – The Merchants of Mayhem

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was always conscious that I was Southern, even while living in a foreign country, Southern California, a land of perpetual sunshine and brilliantly white teeth. But my roots were brought to my attention rather dramatically when there was a discussion among friends of what we would like for dinner. I suggested catfish and hushpuppies. “What are hushpuppies?” they said with all seriousness. On the way home I said to my wife, “I don’t think I can live among people who don’t appreciate hushpuppies. I think it’s time we go home.” And we did. Sometimes it’s as simple as knowing what you should be eating for dinner; sometimes it’s as simple as knowing where you belong.

John Tarkov – Mule Heaven

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Some of the best days of my life were spent in the state of Virginia.

Roy Jeffords – Saturday Afternoon

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Southern Legitimacy Statement

I was born in the lowcountry of South Carolina, and have lived in the South ever since. I lived about ten miles from Darlington International Raceway, the Grandaddy of Them All on the Nascar circuit, and grew up rooting for Cale Yarborough. While still a child I learned to eat souse meat, hog jowls, hogs head cheese, pickled pork feet, and chitterlings. I was in college before I met a male who hadn’t been hunting or anyone who didn’t eat grits.

I graduated from The Citadel in Charleston, SC, and a great source of pride for my alma mater is that Citadel cadets fired the first shot in the War of Northern Aggression. Similarly, a great source of pride for my home state is that South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union. While earning an English degree from The Citadel, I was fortunate to take a Southern Lit course from the greatest professor ever to teach the subject, and I’ve had a love for it ever since. I learned to appreciate not just our richness of geography and culture, but also our richness of beauty and spirit, and to love them right along with all those things that make Yankees laugh at us.

My wife and I have been in Texas for the last three years, and it’s a little different. They think tea should be unsweet, shagging is something you do in the bedroom, and barbeque is a slab of beef covered with cooked down ketchup. Other than that, I guess they’re okay. And, even if they’re a little different flavor of Southern, it beats living with a bunch of Yankees!

Jeff Baker – Interviewer in the Dust

Southern Legitimacy Statement: SLS: I was born in Tuscaloosa, AL, and spent summers with kin in either Arkansas or Mississippi. Attended the University of Mississippi & worked at The Oxford American magazine. I drop peanuts in my Cokes. When my relatives say “ain’t” it never sounds wrong. I have heard my uncle construct a sentence that contains only articles when referring to how deep in the woods his coon dogs took him: “Way back off down in there.” I like fried frog legs (they do not “taste like chicken” — they taste like frog legs.) I now live in Seattle, where the tea served in restaurants is horrible, and the waitresses do not know what “unsweet” means. I spend most of my time straightnin’ the curves, flatnin’ the hills. Someday the mountain might get me, but the law never will.

Adam Lambert – Old Man Dan

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I currently live in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was born and raised on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in western North Carolina.

William Wurm — Trash Lightning

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I am eating Stuart’s Cajun Dill Beans from a mason jar (canned in Gautier, MS), wondering where do I even start? I was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I saw Bear Bryant in his tower when I was 8 years old. I moved to Prattville, then Clinton, MS. I married my college sweetheart from the Mississippi Delta. I’ve lived in Starkville, New Orleans, Nashville, Franklin, Jackson, and Ocean Springs. At different phases of life, I’ve been Methodist, Southern Baptist, and Presbyterian. Barter Theatre is as good as the Wintergarden Theatre, in my opinion (better really — they do more with less — isn’t that a Southern thang?). My grandfather Fritz is mentioned in Melissa Delbridge’s “Family Bible”…I like to write.

Jim Booth — Explanations

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

Jim Booth was born and raised in Eden, North Carolina. He wrote a novel about his hometown – you could look it up. His other novel has the word “Southern” in the title. You could look that up, too. He likes barbecue and sweet tea. What more do you need to know?

The Mule Man of Maury County by Alex Miller

Southern Legitimacy Statement: When I get breakfast at Shoney’s, I eat the grits.

A Visit With Pops by Shelia Sims

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born and raised in Alabama where pine trees and red dirt are in no short supply. There are still faint red dirt stains around my ankles from going barefoot during my childhood. My mother was on the cutting edge of nutrition back in the 60’s and 70’s. She deep fried broccoli and cauliflower. We ate breakfast, dinner and supper. Nothing called lunch was ever served. When daddy said he’d be home about dinnertime he meant noon. We drank our sweet iced tea from Bama jelly glasses. During the summer little old ladies in sunbonnets worked in their flower gardens and in the evening they sat on their front porches and shelled peas and butterbeans into their aprons. We all talked with that melodious southern accent and we used that beautiful language peculiar only to a Southerner.

A Divine Calling by Ed Laird

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

We Southerners are nothing more than the jesters’ costumes of the stories we tell. Our stories can be full of common sense and truth, while often disguised in folksiness and disarmingly told with a sweet, southern cadence.

The Tipping of Miss Julia by Deb Jellett

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born and raised in the South, exiled to England and then returned. *one of two stories in this issue by Deb Jellett.

Humble Beginning by Susannah Cecil

Southern Legitimacy Statement: “I’m from boys & bike ramps; curly hair, unruly in the damp heat, cut short to tame. I’m from Women teaching Bridge until midnight; from day lilies and red clay, sand in my bathing suit, sunburn and oysters. I’m from peanut butter and jelly; plain, salty chips and chocolate cake for birthdays.

I am here because William Wallace cried for freedom, British savaged Highland clans, and pushed Presbyterians into the sea. I’m here because Huguenots sailed, and Kid-the-Pirate swung dead from the bow of his ship in Charleston Harbor; but not before poaching and stealing, and damp hot nights with her…

This stuff counts, right?”

Jarboy by Gregory Kuehn

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee and have nearly my whole life. Though my submission has a vague setting centered around the confines of a mason jar, I imagine this jar to be within a southern state, North Carolina perhaps. I love biscuits and gravy, sweet tea, William Faulkner, and relaxing in a creaky wooden rocking chair while looking out onto a quiet southern landscape through the gaps of porch railings. Though I’m not proud of it, I have friends and family who now live or at some time have lived in a trailer park. Yesterday I saw a raccoon chewing at my garbage. I use the phrase “fixing to” a lot. As in, I’m fixing to submit this story to yall.

I Think Your Husband Is Cheating On Us by Renee Ryan

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’m from southwestern Virginia where being southern means manners, simple-living, and a love of storytelling that begins at the dinner table and moves onto the front porch as the evening wanes. It’s about smiling, even when you don’t feel like it, and knowing that kindness warrants a smile from God. It’s a sense of place and belonging, a hazy memory of home that comes to you when the world seems harsh.

Boob Patrol by Thomas Kearnes

Southern Legitimacy Statement: My first home was in a trailer park. I grew up in the middle of East Texas, in a town with just 4,000 citizens. According to records, my ancestors owned slaves.

Carted Away by Walter Staples

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Though not as bad as in some other places, theft is still a fact of life even in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. In this case, a paratrooper’s hunting proclivities come through to recover a of a set of stolen wheels.

A Snake in The Grass by Randall Ivey

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I live in Union, SC, and have all my life. I’m so Southern that NC is little better than a Yankee outpost to me.

The Legend of Blindin’ Keith Robowski by Tom Doughty

Southern Legitimacy Statement
After the Mardi Gras, on Grand Isle, at the far south end of the Mississippi Delta, I met a Real Louisiana Coonass. He was a large burly man in a uniform with a badge and a gun and spoke with a Cajun accent when he asked, “You know what a real Louisiana coonass is?”

I shrugged my shoulders exercising my constitutional right.

“Well son, you’re looking at one.”

I figured.

Ed Laird – Dog Days

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

Being a true Southerner is the product of a shared mindset, a particular, some would say peculiar, way of viewing the world. Blame it on our Camelot ideas of the old south, or blame it on our lingering mortification at having been an occupied region. Or blame it on a somnolent climate before air-conditioning. Or just blame it on your great-grandmother’s second cousin Randolph, twice removed on your mama’s side. And if that doesn’t make sense, Sugar, have another glass of iced tea and let’s talk some more.

W. F. Lantry – Desire

Southern Legitimacy Statement

The Mason-Dixon Line means nothing. I was at a party in Fairhope Alabama. There was a woman there drinking Bourbon. I told her I’d lived in the South before. She said, “Oh, really? Where?” I told her, “Charlottesville, Virginia.” She said, “Oh, that’s not really the South.” So I told her my Australian Shepherd was born in Red Level, Alabama. I told her, I’d driven out to the farm to pick him up. There were old propane tanks rusting in the yard, and a John Deere tractor that wasn’t even green anymore. Everything, even the dirt, was the color of rust. “That counts as the South,” she said.

John Riley – Jimmy Crack

Southern Legitimacy Statement

When you prime tobacco the old way, moving down a row, hunched over at the waist, snapping the bottom three leaves off the stalk and stuffing them under your arm, you’ll get thick black wads of tobacco gum from your armpit to your waist. The bottom leaves, the ones you’re picking, yellowing a bit at the tip and along the veined edges, are the last to dry. If you’re lucky you get the row closest to the wide sled row so that, when you’re loaded with all the tobacco you can carry, it’s only a short shuffle to drop the leaves in the sled. If you’re unlucky, or are too young or too old or too slow, whoever is in charge of pulling the sled forward might leave you behind and you’ll have to walk twice as far to unload. But it’ll be okay. When they reach the end of their rows the rest of the primers won’t mind taking a minute to catch their breath. Maybe they’ll even have a short Coke and a package of nabs while they wait.

Robert Turner – The Cat Knows Something

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I grew up in West Georgia on the Chattahoochee. Now I live in Florida with the hawks and tree frogs.

Lynda Montgomery Parsons – Scalping

Southern Legitimacy Statement
Lynda Montgomery Parsons was born and raised in Alabama. Granted, we are talking Huntsville, the Rocket City, which as many know ‘isn’t really Alabama’ on account of all the transplanted engineers and scientists. But along with the engineers, whom Senator Sparkman convinced needed the red clay to hold down the rockets for testing, in Huntsville, there is still plenty of cotton, churches, barbeque, tornados and twang-talking folks to make an upbringing there legitimately Southern. Her parents came from border places, meaning northern Virginia and south Florida – but when they lived there (and the generations of kin before) those places really were southern and hardly anyone lived there. All Lynda’s kin have moved away– to Tallahassee and Roanoke. Her Yankee children brag about her good biscuits and grits. She’s got relations called Little Bit, JB, Buster, Pixie, Perky, Bob-Williard, and Bob (who’s real name is Clyde). There’d be a different version of the family tree if she were talking to her friends Mary Margaret, Mary Shea, and Mary Jean – all former debutantes. But if being able to rattle off the right version of the family tree isn’t a trait of Southern legitimacy, well then, Lynda wonders, what is? Right. Somewhere in the attic is a Confederate two-dollar bill. Ouch.

Alicia Hyland – God Is In The Naming

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
My granny never mixed words. If you deserved it, she would call you a Jezebel or a hussy. Just never to your face. She even taught her bird to say hellfire and damnation and let him do the talking when she couldn’t.
Her room was full of prewrapped gifts organized by sex and age. She might not have been happy that her grandchild had brought a perfect stranger to Christmas, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to be accused of being non-hospitable by not having a gift ready. I used to think it was better to be upfront with people. If you thought they were a Jezebel, tell them. Don’t say it behind their backs and then say, “Have you had supper yet? If not, I can whip up something real quick.” Now, I miss people smiling at me, no matter what they really thought, and no matter how they felt I might be wronging them or could be wronging them in the future. They might have been cursing my name a few minutes before, but when I arrived at their house they would pull out a chair and offer to make me a glass of milk and cornbread.

Oh, and not only do I know where the Mason-Dixon line is, but my Papaw used to drive for them, The Mason and Dixon Lines, Inc. that is. This story is for him.

Walt Staples – Enough Gun

Southern Legitimacy Statement

New people have been moving into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley of late–some good, some bad. As a native Virginian, looking at the Singhs, I’d say, “’bout right.”

Rocky Rutherford – Roses Are Red

Southern Legitimacy Statement (*we like this one!)
I am “Southern, not redneck, not peckerwood, not good old boy…Southern. I believe in America, where it came from, where it has been and where it is going.
I thank God I was born breathing Southern air and with His blessing my last breath will be Southern.

Norman Cooper – Watching Over Us

Southern Legitimacy Statement
Despite being born in central Texas, I was raised among the wheat fields of Oklahoma. Where the lazy hawks swooped through tornado alley and we all would get sick from eating too many crab apples. The land of the Indians, the outlaws domain, and the center of Big XII football was my home for 10 years of my youth. Now, living south of the Red River, I enjoy the winter season in shorts and sandals, a snow cone while Christmas Caroling, and wonder why anyone would want to shovel snow. If that is not enough to prove my southern legitimacy, please note: my grandparents were second cousins!

John Tarkov – Cordillera *Finalist in Best of the Net 2011*

SLS: Some of the best days of my life were spent in the state of Virginia.

JA Tyler – Variations of a Brother War

Southern Legitimacy Statement: The first time I went to Tennessee we visited Mud Island and I clearly remember walking in the Mississippi. The second time I was much older and with my wife and we felt skinny and overwhelmed by rocking chairs. Most recently, I learned that Tennessee Williams’ real name was Tom, and that makes me the most sad of all.

Brian Tucker – Pseudoephedrine Served Nightly

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I grew up in southern Kentucky where poke sallet was considered a delicacy and the blackberry squall was something to be feared. My grandparents still slaughter their own hogs, and I prefer riding in the back bed of a pick-up truck to leather upholstery any day. Still to this day it makes me miss home when someone asks “Your last name is Tucker and you’re from southern Kentucky? Well, you must know such and such?”

kenneth ennis – artus and buck

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
As a kid I lived in rural west central Alabama. Artus was just one of many people that were part of my everyday life. It was a good time to be alive.

Adam Crittenden – Skin

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I currently live in the south… southwest. Things are a little different here than the actual south, but I have seen a mule here (not dead).

Barry Basden – The Sound of Doves

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
Some may think Texas is not necessarily a legitimate part of the South, but I once almost picked up a copperhead in an East Texas corncrib and I’ve eaten Black Diamond melons before the 4th of July in a hot sand field my granddaddy plowed with a team of mules.

I left Texas many times but I’ve always returned and sit at home in the Texas hill country right now. It’ll likely be my final resting place.

Nick Sweeney – The Collector

Southern Legitimacy Statement

While my body is in New York, my mind is elsewhere; stuck with the likes of Atticus Finch and the dreaded Snopes family. Southern literature has always be a consistent part of my constantly growing reading list, and I carry my Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor nearly everywhere I go. The short story included here, “The Collector” is set in the South, a land perhaps similar to that of O’Connor, and I think that remembering that as great as we are, there are somethings we can’t just win against. Hopefully this story carries that message.

Helen Peterson – March to Sunday School in March

My father was born in Florala Alabama, and although the Navy shipped him north around the time I was born, I grew up on stories of my Grandma whacking gators in the head with her purse and Grandpa shooting rattlers right between the eyes on orange dirt roads deep in panhandle country.

Carol Rhodes – A Partin’ of th’ Ways

My Southern Legitimacy Statement:
My great great grandparents on both sides of my family arrived in TX from Germany & Austria in 1850. My maternal grandparents were born in Round Top TX; paternal grandparents born in Caldwell TX. My father was born in Cooks Point TX, my mother in Dime Box TX. I was also born in Dime Box TX and have lived in Texas all of my life.

doris davenport – Collins Street

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
When i was six, and we lived in Gainesville, Ga., my great-granddaddy (Mr. Arthur Wright) told me that if a turtle bit you, it would hold on til it thundered. (i believed him but tried to test it anyhow.) Then, chewing raw garlic like it was a piece of Juicy Fruit gum in church on fourth Sunday, and smiling, he offered me a taste. i bit the garlic and went into a trance of sensory overload. Instantaneously accepted that the world was amazing, miraculous, and real surprising, all at once. And that was good because when we moved up the road to Cornelia, Ga. soon after (when my bio-parents separated), there was at least 20 of us living in a four room wooden house. i’m Southern to the bone because i though all of that was “normal.”

Walter Staples – Sammy’s Christmas

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I was born up in the southern end of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. As far as I know, I’m legitimate (in our town, I’d have heard if the various widow ladies had come up a finger or two short in their count). I married a Northerner (as opposed to a Yankee), so I’m more or less in exile for the time being. As it happens, I did have grits for breakfast this morning (butter and pepper, thank you) and I am drinking sweet tea as I write this.

I think I spent far too many years thinking the unthinkable for a living. This has had no effect on me that I’m aware of, though I do have a predilection for collecting odd people and an inordinate thirst for Dr. Pepper. While my physical position is generally indeterminable, my heart is firmly anchored at 38.9N,78.2W.

kenneth ennis – A Mule Tale

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
My family lived in rural Alabama when I was a kid.
I was to witness some big changes in the south after WW2. Although change was inevitable I loved the old south. I’ve tried to preserve the south I knew in short stories. Sadly I have few writing skills to showcase. Some of my stuff is a combination of truth and fiction. My story, “A Mule Tale” is true in fact I’m surprised at the number of mule stories I have store in my head.
Hopefully this story will create a yearning among the readers for more.

Alberto Arza – A New Number

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
My Latino roots offer a unique perspective to my Southern legitimacy. I was raised so far in the South it’s not even the South to many, that’s how far south I lived, Miami to be exact. Eventually I moved up with you “northerner’s” to Raleigh, North Carolina, and was introduced to a pig pickin’ almost immediately. My friendly neighbors weren’t impressed about how we Colombians do the exact same thing, but they were awful polite! So here I am, a stranger in a strange land, 5 years now. I say hey, not good morning, and my wife is hot on the trail of the best hushpuppy recipe she can find. Legitimacy established!

Jessie Carty – Practicing Disaster

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Watch and learn as we take a Mule Poet and turn her into a Mule Flash Fiction Writer.

erik svehaug – The School of Dad

My Southern Legitimacy Statement:

I’m Southern by adventurous inoculation. I left college in Chicago the first week of January as a White Seattleite with Mardi Gras on the brain. My friend and I got a lift from Farrell Haney in a rumbling Camaro convertible with Texas plates, and spent the first night away in a hotel in Kentucky. Pool was closed and covered with a thatch of brown leaves that stuck to us like fish scales: baptized as we swam a celebrating-being-free lap.
When Farrell disappeared with all our stuff in New Orleans, we tracked him to Homa, Not the Other Homer, where we got to look into the flashlights and down the barrels of the Sheriffs’ guns, in the process of getting our gear back. With over a month to go before Fat Tuesday, we turned up at the local manpower barracks for roustabouts. Swede was the foreman and had just tossed a couple of guys out with a couple of smacks of his 2×4 and needed some fresh meat. Welcome to the Company Store… After 5 weeks of dwindling funds, with the pay from a 23 hour stint of throwing bags of drilling sand as a grubstake, we broke out of servitude and went to stay with the Brothers of the Little Lamb in the City. Fifty cents a night; grits, gravy and okra for breakfast. With luck, we’d be picked each morning for dish washing and room service prep at the alley entrance of the Roosevelt. We finally got to see her, and she was worth it. We sneaked below the chains and rode under the captain’s window on the river ferry crossing, bringing our boyhoods into synch with our surroundings. We manpowered at the Picayune and at the airstrip. Eight of us descaled the inside bilge compartment of a river tug with welding hammers that rang like a waterfall of ball bearings on a tin roof. We lived on red beans and rice, with sometimes tea, and slept under azaleas in the park when Brother Joseph smelled the wine on our breath. Yeah, we got in on the party, too.
My buddy and I separated in March, he for the Smokies and me for Austin. I left town on a one speed cruiser towing an upside down Pirogue. Never made Austin. Seems that all the traffic on the southern route to Texas puts bikes onto the shoulders; since there’s not a stone to be found for highway work, tiny shells are packed down instead and wait to suck in big fat paperboy bike tires. I hitched home with $2.67 in my pocket, and left my gear on purpose, this time, with a note for whichever bayou-comber found the bike and boat: “All yours. Hope they do you better than me.”
That was forty years ago and I’ve been selling hardware on the West Coast since then. But if the Real Estate agent or the Seller had dropped their commission or asking price even another $5K three years ago, I’d be selling screws out of Shelbyville, Kentucky, today and loving it.
By the way, if you are reading this and happen to have found the blue bike and pirogue with wheels, let me know! I’ve got yourall owner’s manual.

Jeremy Hopkins – Kismet

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born in Tennessee, started growing up in Louisiana, and finished in Virginia. I have never lived anywhere but the American South and to me it is normal. Being Southern is like being tall (which I am) in so far as it’s most noticeable when you’re around people who are not. I explain why I don’t play basketball with the same enthusiasm with which I acknowledge that certain contractions I use in everyday conversation are not officially recognized. Bein’ tall doe’n't mean youc’n play good. Talkin’ diff’rent doe’n't mean you can’t write right. Right?

Norman Cooper – Watching Over Us

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
Despite being born in central Texas, I was raised among the wheat fields of Oklahoma. Where the lazy hawks swooped through tornado alley and we all would get sick from eating too many crab apples. The land of the Indians, the outlaws domain, and the center of Big XII football was my home for 10 years of my youth. Now, living south of the Red River, I enjoy the winter season in shorts and sandals, a snow cone while Christmas Caroling, and wonder why anyone would want to shovel snow. If that is not enough to prove my southern legitimacy, please note: my grandparents were second cousins!

JB Hogan – Phoenix Arizona

Southern Legitimacy Statement
Not only am I from the South, Arkansas, but with a few exceptions “Southern” or “South” has been part of most everywhere I’ve lived and worked. When I moved from Arkansas just before I turned 16, I moved to the very southernmost area in Southern California – the Imperial Valley, right along the Mexican border. When I went in the service I did basic training in San Antonio, Texas and technical school in Biloxi, Mississippi – in late 1964, the latter was almost “too” southern for me actually. After two years in northern (uh, oh) Japan, I was stationed in Goldsboro, North Carolina. I went to Korea after that – but it’s South Korea. After the service, I had a couple of stints in Nebraska (definitely out of the pattern) but then I began a series of travels taking me south of the border. I lived in Puerto Rico (very south of the border), spent some time in Central America, and a good chunk of time in Mexico. I lived in the southwest as well – in southern Arizona. I think that’s enough places to counter the times I spent in more northern areas like Nebraska, Colorado, and Missouri – although Missouri south of I-70 and west of Columbia is so much like northern Arkansas that you have to be a native to know the difference (if there is one).

Ed Laird – The Arrangement

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
If the folks in your head are more interesting than those in your living room, and you’re willing to share them, you might be southern.

Drema Hall Berkheimer – Bona Fide Donor

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
A coal car ran over my platinum haired father and killed him in the dank of the Penman, WV mines when I was five months old. That’s when we moved to East Beckley, WV. Grandpa was a retired miner turned hellfire and brimstone Pentecostal evangelist, and he and Grandma looked after me and any other strays she could get her hands on while Mother went off to work in a defense plant as a Rosie the Riveter during WWII. I grew up around the good people of West Virginia, and those of us who didn’t have coal dust under our fingernails still shared some visceral connection to the mines. Grandma said scratch a West Virginian a few layers deep, and you’re bound to find a vein of coal. Mine runs close. Oh, and I recently won the WV Writers First Place Nonfiction Award. And First HM too.

Gary Carter – The Joke

As we say down here in North Carolina, I’m Tar Heel born and Tar Heel bred and when I die, I’ll be Tar Heel dead. Fruit of a good old boy who loved his beer and was full of colorful sayings for every occasion. You know, something that smelled real bad would “gag a maggot,” while a steamy July day was “hot as a young wife’s passion.” His nemesis was dear old mom, who would roll her eyes when these things popped out of his mouth because she was the daughter of a Southern Baptist minister, which makes me the grandson and is deemed worse in some circles, and god knows I’ve tried to live up to it. One of our best family stories involves my daddy standing in line in the ABC store with a bottle of bourbon when one of the deacons from granddaddy’s church happened in, getting a little spooked when he knew he was spotted. “I’m, uh, just picking up something for a friend,” the deacon claimed. “That’s okay,” daddy told him. “I’m getting this for the preacher.” My granddaddy stayed pissed off about that for a long, long time.

Lydia Ship – Parent Puzzle

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
We buy our fireworks in a trailer, from a man with no arms.

Karen Shugart – The Wheel of Fortuna

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
One of my earliest memories is of a relative sipping a Budweiser while I sat on his lap and “drove” a tractor down U.S. 601 to the creosote plant. That’s pretty Southern, isn’t it?

Julia Patt – On US-501

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
My Southern condition just keeps getting worse. I was born south of the Mason-Dixon line in that North-South ambiguous state named Maryland. Southerners call me a Yankee and Northerners call me a redneck, so there’s no winning really.

At the age of eighteen I started college at a former plantation in Virginia, a school for women founded by a slave-owner’s daughter. There I developed long-lasting addictions to sweet tea and cheese biscuits, and an unironic appreciation for Lynyrd Skynyrd. The day before graduation, my friends and I walked to the slave graveyard and offered words and watermelon wine to the dead.

Now, I’m ankle-deep in the North Carolina Piedmont and who knows where I’m going next? All my life, I’ve gone farther south and I’ll admit it: I feel at home here.

Deborah Dansante – The Lives Of Dinosaurs

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I have proof.

My grandfather spent his twilight years drinking cognac and reliving the War. Initially Papa Jules had been assigned submarine duty. Fortunately he was transferred to a desk job in Belgium. This, of course, only after his commander realized Papa spoke a peculiar form of French. When Papa died we found over a hundred naked photos of Belgian women in various poses . When my New Orleans born Creole grandmother saw the photos, she noted each woman’s posture accordingly. That fact alone would tell you that if only the names were different my family would be considered as deeply southern as if we lived in Cumberland County.

Grits: Butter usually; sugar never; shrimp sometimes.

Gary Carter – Imprecise Reality

Southern Legitimacy Statement taken from the story:
“…Then she knew that he was not seeing her as she was, but as she had been in high school when she strutted the halls in her pleated cheerleader skirt and tight sweater, white socks and saddle oxfords. Those were her greatest moments, the times when she was an acknowledged force in control of all around her.”

John Riley – Keep Chopping

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
We had two mules on our old farm–Bob and Mike. Bob was blind in one eye and Mike died from the grass founder. Bob got old and died a peaceful but lonely death.

My dad was from Mississippi, outside Oxford, and my mom from North Carolina, where I grew up. The old farm was in Randolph County. The old man up and left us and my mom rented out our tobacco allotment and got a job in a mill in town. Later on my grandpa moved in with us. He’d lost half of one arm to a cotton gin back in 1919. Everyone called him “Nub.” He was eighty-two when he moved in and I was ten.

I’ve lived down here most of my life. Did the Southern thing and left, determined to never come back, and came back a few years later. The old farm place was sold years ago and is a trailer court now. I live in a city and work as an editor. I love sweet potatoes.

Chelsea Peloquin – Old Tool Shed

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

Chelsea Peloquin – Spanish Oak Creek

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I once asked a prospective suitor if I could cook him up some catheads ‘n pig skins. He never called again.

David Lindsay – The Sound of Liquid Rising

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I was born in Texas, lived also in Georgia, mostly Alabama, now live in Arkansas. I mentioned, once, to a friend who was from Chicago, that I hadn’t had a good, sliced ‘mater in quite a while. He looked at me like I was from Mars. I’m Southern. Y’all have nice day.

Christine Fadden – Presto

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
Basically, I am southern legit because when I moved from Delaware to Oregon in 1982, all the west coast kids made fun of the way I said the word “door.” And oh, I got my MFA at Warren Wilson College.

Allen Edwards – Cleaning the Boat

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I am a product of the Georgia flatlands, my feet cow-hoof tough from running barefoot through the acres of words that stretched untouched and wild from the Okapilco Creek to my back door. The pinelands were my bedroom and study. I cooked greasy eggs over campfires on pond bank where I shot squirrels, smoked rabbit tobacco and stolen cigarettes, and impressed friends with cuss words I learned on the bus. In the heat of the late afternoon I would stretch out in the spider-webbed sunlight, pine boughs pillow enough, and read of Travis and his yellow dog, Billy and his little red ones, and Brian eating choke-cherries on some far-off Canadian lake.

I am reborn each summer in the brackish waters of the St. Johns, my life reduced for a week to sunburned ears, shellcrackers on taut lines, and coke cans floating in a red and white cooler. The low hum of a trolling motor, the far-off grunt of an alligator, and craft’s rhythmic rocking soothe my spirit. The whine of a line zipped quickly by a retreating bream holds more excitement than it should, and the foam lapping the side of the boat baptizes me as we move from fishing hole to hole, memory to memory. It is here I know myself best and understand life most clearly, the river’s murky water cleansing me again and again. It is here I find God, his existence undeniable in a sunset over Shell Point, his presence unmistakable in a blue heron’s awkward flight from atop the channel marker, and his love overwhelming in the arm of my father on my shoulders as we load fish baskets into the bed of a Dodge pickup at the end of the day.

Hope Denney – Prisons

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I was raised to catch lightening bugs in a Coca-Cola bottle, say “I swanny”, and praise Margaret Mitchell in a tone that most people don’t even use when talking about their mothers. When I was ten years old and I asked my mother what kinds of cultures our ancestors had, she didn’t bat an eyelash when she replied “Southern”.

Kevin Winter – The Traveler

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
To me the South is home. It’s where you know folks because you always knew them. You know their parents and their grandparents, their brothers, sisters, husbands, and wives. It’s a place you can wear a smile and not feel like it’s a mask. It’s where you can be yourself because that’s how folks expect you to be. It’s where looking people in the eye is a good thing. It’s where you can sit down and enjoy the pie. It’s home. To me the South is home.

Steven Mooney – A Mike and Ike Tycoon

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
Along with my brother and sister, I was hauled away from Minneapolis at a knee-high age by a couple strangers who took us to red soil red brick red hot Atlanta, and then to a sleepy town near Charlotte. To ease our alienation they said they were our parents, so we were nice to them and let them read us stories and take us to the Dairy Queen, though I had my doubts when they committed us to a fenced brick edifice full of kids screaming Yankee and whistling spit wads, that is until I knew the Civil War would never end and that we were outnumbered and surrounded. By then we had grown older than tree frogs in The Old North State and so they figured we had surrendered, as indeed we had, gracefully; that trial by assimilation gave us our root and heart home not merely in the South, but in North Carolina: ‘with all the rights, honors, and privileges thereunto appertaining.’

Ed Laird – Through a Looking Glass Darkly

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
If your ring tone is “heartaches by the number and trouble by the score,” and you’re willing to talk about it, you might be southern.

Sheldon Lee Compton – Grocery Shopping

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
Seven out of ten people I speak to out of state cannot understand a single word I say. I have done all of the following: eaten chicken I saw running in the yard a few short hours before, lived in a house with no plumbing for more than a year, been held at gunpoint by a drunk coal miner and swam in the creek with my dogs. Likewise, I grew up in Eastern Kentucky reading and writing and, as a result, developed a mean right hook I use every chance I get.

Ashley Taylor – Sunday School

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
… grew up in Maine but lived in Maceo, Kentucky, on my family’s farm from the middle of high school till I went to college. Though “she has not asked Jesus into her heart, she does love okra, cornbread, grits, and heirloom tomatoes. Taylor also plays old-time fiddle, which she learned from her father. Taylor lives in Boston most of the year, but this summer, she is at home in Maceo helping her mother grow tomatoes for the farmer’s market. ”

Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy – If Ever, If Ever A Wiz There Was

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I can cook red beans rice like the Cajun lady, Miss Odile, who taught me, I like my tea sweet and my whiskey neat, and I can find an ancestor of mine in more Southern graveyards than you could shake a stick at, and I call everyone over about sixteen “Sir” or “M’am”.

Janice D. Soderling – I Am So Lucky

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I live in Sweden now, but I grew up saying you’uns and howdy. I’ve made my home in Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky. I know all the verses of Redwing and Mexicali Rose, learned at my daddy’s knee while he played his gee-tar.

I think I can still chop off the head of a old rooster. I know I can still make a pecan pie. I respect cottonmouths.

I just love Eudora and Flannery and homemade sassafras tea, don’t you?

Reilly Maginn – High Iron

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I love grits, fried okra and fried green tomatoes. My grandpappy was a mule skinner from MS. in WW I.

J. B. Hogan – December 1967

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
Not only am I from the South, Arkansas, but with a few exceptions “Southern” or “South” has been part of most everywhere I’ve lived and worked. When I moved from Arkansas just before I turned 16, I moved to the very southernmost area in Southern California – the Imperial Valley, right along the Mexican border. When I went in the service I did basic training in San Antonio, Texas and technical school in Biloxi, Mississippi – in late 1964, the latter was almost “too” southern for me actually. After two years in northern (uh, oh) Japan, I was stationed in Goldsboro, North Carolina. I went to Korea after that – but it’s South Korea. After the service, I had a couple of stints in Nebraska (definitely out of the pattern) but then I began a series of travels taking me south of the border. I lived in Puerto Rico (very south of the border), spent some time in Central America, and a good chunk of time in Mexico. I lived in the southwest as well – in southern Arizona. I think that’s enough places to counter the times I spent in more northern areas like Nebraska, Colorado, and Missouri – although Missouri south of I-70 and west of Columbia is so much like northern Arkansas that you have to be a native to know the difference (if there is one).

John Tarkov – I Just Grew Up There

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
Pat Conroy once wrote, “I am a prisoner of geography.” I know the feeling. I’ve been stuck in New York most of my life. However, I’ve crossed the Mason-Dixon Line a few times, and I’ve always felt a lot better entering the South than leaving it. I use Louisiana Hot Sauce — thank you, Justin Wilson — on foods that other people flavor with maple syrup, and I read The Dead Mule, to see what I’ve been missing.

Avery Oslo – Storm Chasers

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
“I was raised by nomads and so am a native of nowhere (but also of everywhere). This makes me Southern not by birth (or the “grace of god” if those bumper stickers everyone has on their trucks down here are to be believed) but through choice. I’m currently working on a YA novel set in my current residence; Nashville, TN.

Robert Canipe: “Tonight” from “Amazing Heroes”

Classic fiction.

Christopher Rowe: High Water

I’m Christopher Rowe, a Kentuckian temporarily relocated in Washington, DC. I’ve published a handful of stories in nationally distributed science fiction and fantasy magazines, all with a Southern bent (my stories, not their magazines.)

Don Cooper: Dad and Big Red

Don Cooper was raised in southwestern Arkansas. After service as a
German linguist
with the U.S. Army Security Agency in Berlin, he earned a bachelor’s degree
in history from
Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He later did
post-graduate studies at the
East Texas State University branch in Texarkana, Texas, and studied creative
writing at
Amarillo (Texas) College.
During his career in journalism, which spans nearly three decades and
six states, Cooper
has won numerous professional awards for feature and editorial writing,
political columns and
editorial cartooning. He also won awards for his pencil sketches in art
shows in New Mexico.
With the release of “C Trick: Sort of a Memoir,” he is completing work
on a novel,
tentatively entitled “Slap Happy Arkansas.” His short fiction has been
published in several
publications; his book reviews and columns are often distributed by The
Associated Press; and
he contributes political cartoons and book reviews to Texas Observer.
Cooper and his wife, Annette, and their nine dogs, ten cats and
potbellied pig live in the Texas

Jim Collins: Martha Jane and The Suit

” Well just put the wheels back on your goddamn house and pull the sum-bitch offa my lot !” As funny as that sounds now, there wasn’t one touch of humor in her voice. She was yelling into an older model cell phone, about the size of a shoe. She had that unmistakable, southern, country […]

Sue Walker – Good Grief

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Southern writers don’t have to make a thing. Good grief: everything just happens right before their eyes.

This huge fiction issue…

both challenged and enthralled us. We read over 200 stories and ultimately chose the amazing dozens you will soon click to read.

Glenda Beall – “What Did You Say?” flashfiction

Southern Legitimacy Statement
My favorite memories are sitting in the dark on the porch while Daddy told stories after he had worked in the fields all day. Across the road, in a swamp, the frogs’ chorus often grew so loud, I couldn’t hear my father’s voice. We fought mosquitoes until Mother finally said, “Come on in, girls, time for you to go to bed.” My brothers stayed up with Daddy, Ray playing his Sears Roebuck guitar and learning songs from his Roy Acuff song book.
Inside, I leaned my head in the open window trying to get just one little breath of fresh air. No place is as hot as south Georgia in summer.

J. B. Hogan – “Pledge”

A new SLS from Mr. Hogan:
I play upright bass in an Americana/Bluegrass band composed of myself and three other family members. We call ourselves East of Zion. Can you hear the wind in the live (black) oak trees? – apologies to Don Williams. And speaking of Williams’, another line of Don’s applies as well: “those Williams boys still mean a lot to me, Hank and Tennessee.” That works perfectly for me. I play southern music in an Arkansas Ozarks band and Hank Williams is almost the first singer I ever heard in my life. We do an occasional Hank song ourselves. I also have a Ph. D. in Literature and am a big fan of Tennessee Williams – in particular I like the Richard Burton film version of Night of the Iguana and I’ve always enjoyed The Glass Menagerie. I think that sufficiently covers the hillbilly-literary dichotomy of the south well enough for now.

Ray Abernathy – “Calling All Fish: Sandy Springs, GA 1955″

“My Southern Legitimacy Statement is the opening paragraph of my novel, Stepping on the Cracks: Early on a humid Saturday in late August of 1952, Dirty Billy Williams was waiting with the other paregoric addicts at the backdoor of Powers and Moore Pharmacy when a particularly brilliant idea caused his eyebrows to dance and a chuckle to cough its way up and out of his sunken chest. After plunking down his buck -and-a-half and signing his name in the ledger kept fastidiously by Dr. Powers himself, he slipped the small bottle of morphine-laced liquid carefully into his pants pocket and kept his hand closed around it. Mindful that the good doctor didn’t permit riff-raff to frequent his soda fountain, Billy fairly bounded across the street to Berrey and Marks Pure Oil, where a nickel in the outdoor Coca-Cola machine yielded six ounces of a sweet mixer to cut his bitter daily legal limit and the unlocked bathroom gave him the privacy to take a leak while downing his needed morning cocktail in one long, eager slurp.”

Siddartha Beth Pierce – “Come with Me” flashfiction

I was once approached in a bar somewhere in the outskirts of Virginia by a toothless man who clearly stated via drunken whimpers, ‘You are pertier than a catfish and that’s a compliment ‘cuz catfish is real perty.’ I love to catfish. I was born and raised in Virginia. I am a catfish.

Eileen Elkinson “Saying Goodbye to Clem”

I love the South deeply, and I am loyal to grits, scrapple, and storytelling.

Debbie Ann Ice – “Lagoon Snake”

I’ve lived so long layered up with wool in Connecticut, I sometimes wonder whether Georgia was a dream. Up here, the land is rocky and shoves itself into the sea. Unlike the islands of Georgia, where the land eases itself towards the sea until it is mushed up and happy to be hidden. The snakes up here have no venom and stay in the garden buried in warm holes. Unlike the mean snakes of Georgia, who always dare you to come near. But if you look hard enough, you can find those snakes here, particularly in New York. They walk on two legs and dare you to come near.

Susie Wiberg – “Knackermen”

SLS: We’ve been here twelve years, having moved from Southern California. After my first “covered dish” (we referred to them as ‘pot luck’) I knew I was firmly in the South when my cilantro and black bean salsa was overlooked for a congealed salad with a pretzel crust. I didn’t take it personally and can now create a fine presentation for any covered dish occasion, any time!

Thomas Fultz – “Relativity”

Nothin’ like spendin’ all day on your hands and knees in the woods diggin’ ‘gensang’ and ‘yeller root’, to fund the next expedition to the top of that hill with a couple friends, a tent, and all the natural light you can carry. Cept, maybe the addition of a string of redeyes caught from Kinni Creek.

Sara Amis – Two Flash Stories “East Tennessee” & “Watermelons by Night”

Southern Legitimacy Statement

As soon as there was a boat to Virginia, my family was on it. More or less. I grew up in Georgia, and when I go other places, people tell me I don’t have an accent. I don’t consider that a compliment but I don’t think it’s true anyhow. Also, I am one of those Southern women writers, yes, one of those.

Eileen Elkinson “Looks Like She’s Sleeping”

I love the South deeply, and I am loyal to grits, scrapple, and storytelling.

Trina Allen – “The Good Old Summer Time”

I have lived in North Carolina for twelve years. I was born in Rolla, Missouri and now live in what my relatives would call the “big city” of Raleigh. I am somewhat doubtful about writing a Southern legitimacy statement because I have serious doubts about my legitimacy, or at least that of my mother. But I’m a true Southerner, laid back to the point where I probably spend more time in traffic commuting from Durham to Raleigh and back than actually working.

My father grew up in the western Missouri with no running water, plumbing or electricity. That might not be Southern, but does that sound familiar to anyone here? My daddy’s grandmother’s claim to fame is that she could pour a dishpan full of moonshine into a jug without spilling a drop. I may not be a moonshine drinkin’, sweat-drippin’, pickup drivin’, yankee hatin’ redneck who eats greasy bacon, runny eggs fried in lard with grits, and sits on my neighbor’s sagging porch drinking beer and smoking cigars, but I like to write about them, and I do enjoy an occasional meal of shrimp and grits.

Peter McMillan – “A Place Called Hope”

I lived in the South–Alabama and Georgia–about 20 years.

Brian Baxter Smith “Marmaduke Jones”

I was born, raised, and have lived my entire life in Louisiana. My high school’s mascot was a rebel foot soldier, and our flag was the Confederate flag. My Me-Maw’s pecan pie was the product of a secret miracle recipe that to this day cannot be reproduced. My grandfather wore his best overalls to church. Although I’m now a vegetarian (an unforgivable offense where I’m from), I can shoot and skin anything, set crawfish traps and run a trot line (but never on Sundays). I learned to swim in ponds, out-swimming water moccasins and mosquitoes. The good and the bad, the exquisite and the brutal, the refined and the raw, I am and always will be a proud Son of the South.

Eileen Elkinson – “Pumpkin Rain”

I have always been Southern in my heart. William Faulkner and Truman Capote are my favorite authors. Grits, kale, collards, all my favorite vegetables. I love the South.

Kathleen McClain – “Thousands of Chances to Win”

For more than 30 years I have lived in North Carolina, which last I knew, was still considered part of the South even if the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area probably has as many Northerners as Southerners living in these part nowdays and you can’t find a meat and three vegetable restaurant or hushpuppies any place. Please let me know if you have kicked us out of the South. Before that I was from Appalachian Pennsylvania and West Virginia which are lot like the South except we say you-ens instead of you all. My story also takes place in the South. So, I guess I got my bases covered. I understand you like under 1,000 words and I tried but I guess, like horseshoes, it doesn’t count because I got 1,150 words. Hope you still like it. Lydia, Janine and James are really good Southern people. Leticia and Bobby, too.

Adam Hofbauer – “The Easter Machine”

d prefer to let the work speak for itself as much as possible. Its set in Lousiana and up the Ohio river. And though it doesn’t all take place in the physical south, it all takes place in the mental south. The river mind.

Wayne Scheer “Sweet Potato Pie and The Word”

Although after living in the South for over thirty years, I still find it more natural to say “You guys” than “Y’all,” I hadn’t realized how Southern my progeny had become until a recent dinner with my son and his family. My son, who was born and raised in Atlanta, prepared curried chicken over grits.

Dixon Hearne – “Threads”

Born and raised along the graceful river traces in Louisiana, I kept a keen ear and eye on things around me. I must have known that one day I would write about all the feuds and fistfights, scandals and scams, and hellfire and salvation that brought color to our little world. In between time, we feasted on a mess of what folks today call “soul food”: cornbread and collards, grits and gravy, catfish and hushpuppies, sweet potato fries and pecan pie, hot water bread and purple hull peas. We had no special name for our “cuisine” — just “food.” It costs a lot more once you give it a fancy name.

Nancy Hawkins – “Hey Buddy–”

Southern Legitimacy Statement
I was born in Alabama, and I now live in Maryland. Maryland is a Southern state, you know. It’s below the Mason-Dixon line. Llots of Yankee transplants would say different, but Yankees don’t have a clue about Southern geography. There’s home (the South), and “up North” (everywhere else). There are home folks (Southerners), and Yankees (everyone else). I make scrumptious fried chicken and biscuits. I believe barbeque is the food of the gods. My blood runs sweet tea.

Jeanne Lupton “O Death, Where Is Thy Sting?”

I am 8th generation Virginian recent transplant to Berkeley CA. Willa Cather is a distant cousin, or was. I love Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor and Carson McCullers and Tennessee Williams too.

John Tarkov – “Lonesome Whipporwill”

My mind went South in 1964. I was 16, playing football on
sorry-looking fields in front of twenty people on Saturday
afternoons. A teammate bought a magazine and we saw what
Friday Night Lights looked like in Valdosta, Georgia: ten
thousand people in the stands, the gold-and-black uniforms
shining like silk. I started wishing I’d been born there, not
realizing I might have had trouble benching the Valdosta
playbook. My fantasies moved to Knoxville. I dreamed next of
hurling my then-170 pounds at ‘Bama fullbacks, denying them
the checkerboard end zones of Neyland Stadium. Football
passed. Country music took its place. I would boom-box the car
radio and broadcast George Strait and Shelly West to the
unenlightened folk of my backward northern town: New York
City. For the record, I have spent (not done) time in Virginia
and Maryland, for sundry purposes, all of them legal. I have
eaten Southern cooking there and, when he was with us, I never
missed Justin Wilson on the TV. Thanks to him, I now use
Louisiana Hot Sauce on selected breakfast items.

Dave Wright – “Dorthy Jane McAlister is World Famous:”

Ain’t it just like a bunch of Southern folks to have to qualify how Southern they are to other people claiming to be Southern on a site devoted to Southern Letters, so that the other so-called Southerners won’t question the validity of whatever it is they are about to say about some peculiarity of Southern life, their life? Ain’t that just like us. ‘Cause it don’t really matter none to us about what gets said about the South so much as it does who is do the talking. I mean, my granddaddy was born in Tennessee; and if he got to telling me about a flood that that flooded the river over forty feet above the bank when he was little, no doubt I’d have known by his word exactly what happened in the biggest flood in a half-century. But if I didn’t know where he was raised, and I couldn’t hear him tell it in person, then I’d have been real skeptical about a story like that myself. ‘Cause I don’t want somebody else from outside the region telling our stories. So, normally I feel no need to validate my Southern Blood— but I’ll gladly do it here: Born in Nashville. Raised out on Piney River. Schooled up on the Cumberland Plateau. Still here. I’ve seen the Grand Ole Opry live no telling how many times. I know what a hogsucker is. I know what a pole cat is. If someone says they measured out a rick, I know what they measured and what the final dimensions are. I’ve heard the old stories. I’ve listened to the tales.I’ve made my pilgrimage to Rowan Oak. I can bring ten orange pekoe tea bags to a quick boil in a medium sauce pan. I can bring the water down to a simmer, and slowly pull the flavor from the leaves in the bags. After they’ve simmered long enough, I can pour that hot tea in with two and a half cups of sugar and enough water to make a gallon and a half out of the sweet medicine. Then I can pour it over ice (maybe a tiny bit of lemon), and go on living another day. Been here all my life. So if ya’ll don’t mind I’d like to tell a story about some places and folks I know.

C.R. Geary “Grizzly John and the Raccoon”

I’m from Grayson County Kentucky which may not be the deep south but to most folks it is the south as I learned when we moved to California back in 1955 ten years before the state started tipping into the ocean from too many people, cars, freeways and earthquakes where friends called me “Kentuck” and others just “dumb hillbilly” and a teacher once accused me of abusing the English language and I said I abused it no more than Bill Shakespeare and he said get out of my class…

Justin Smith – “Changing Hands” flashfiction

Justin Smith was born in a border town in deep South Texas, and he’s spent most of his life trying to figure out if that qualifies him as Southern or not. His favorite pastimes include listening to unordained pirate radio preachers on the AM dial and drinking cheap bourbon.

Kendall Giles – “A Healing Place”

Bred and buttered in Lynchburg, Virginia. Been frog gigging and fishing with a hula popper. Had chiggers and poison ivy. Went to college at Virginia Tech. Know how to make buttermilk biscuits and blackberry cobbler. Love my mom and got more dogs than cats. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Paul H. Yarbrough “Yankee Rush”

Reared in Mississippi; married in Louisiana; raised a family in Texas. When I get north of Kentucky I get shortness of breath, cold sweats, blurred vision. It’s a weary existence far from home.

Jordan Fennell – “Becoming”

I grew up and continue to live in the flatwoods outside Baxley, Georgia. Aside from that, my story serves as my SLS. If that’s not enough, we must have drastically different interpretations of what constitutes “southern-ness.”

P. E. Lewis – “The Story of Henry Smeth”

Not countin’ schoolin’, I have lived in the south, in the North Carolina mountains, for my en-tire natural life to this very point in time. My father is partly to blame for this. His humorless ancestors (judging by the few pictures we have) were among the earliest settlers of Ashe County, although I don’t believe it had been so identified when they got there. Named after Samuel Ashe, a patriot of the Revolutionary War and notable jurist of the Superior Court bench, Ashe County is stuck uncomfortably in the northwesternmost corner of the Carolinas with Virginia on the immediate north and Tennessee just to the west, right in the saddle of the wandering Blue Ridge Mountains. Jefferson is the county seat, and Jefferson is where I grew up. If anyone ever knew how my father’s family first found themselves clawin’ out an existence in this cold mountain town, they have long since been silenced by slow, inexorable time and no record of that journey was left behind. So no one knows for sure. I suspect they must have migrated to the mountains sometime before the town and county were incorporated, such that it appeared to everyone thereafter that father’s family was simply indigenous to the area, as if like rhododendrons they had sprung up out of the cold ground at the beginning of time. It is doubtless no secret therefore that I carry what is almost certainly compromised genetic material, but that, I s’pose, balances out about right with knowin’ where yer from.

Eli Finley Cranor “The Pard Within”

I was born in Forrest City, AR. Moved to Russellville, AR when I was four. Went to college in Boca Raton, FL, for a year to play football. People thought I was dumb because I talked slower than them. By about mid-semester most of the team was coming to me for help in Composition One. Wore boots, a red flannel, and Wranglers out to my first ever club in Fort Lauderdale and got some funny looks. After one year, transferred back to Arkadelphia, AR, and now attend Ouachita Baptist University. I still play ball.

Nels Hanson “Shadaroba”

My grandfather’s grandfather was a doctor who graduated from Vanderbilt and was a field surgeon in the General Sterling Price’s southern cavalry–the War broke him and he became an alcoholic, though he was sober enough to deliver my grandfather. The family story goes that the Johnstons–my grandmother’s people–were related to the Civil War Confederate generals Joseph Johnston and Albert Sydney Johnston. My grandmother’s father was a spy for the South at 14 and when he died at 84 still had the saber scar on his bottom where a Union captain sliced him and cut off the back of his saddle as he escaped from an inn after throwing a cup of coffee in the face of a black man who sat at the table across from him–this story was told with pride when I was a boy and at the age of five it made me sick. Martin King is my most beloved American and my childhood friends were blacks, hispanics and dust-bowl whites from Oklahoma, Arkansas, etc. My mother was a graduate of Stanford, but as a boy at a poor school I said “k-a-i-n-t” instead of “can’t” in order to fit in and not embarrass my less fortunate friends. Half the South after the Civil War and the Dust Bowl ended up in California, where I was born. That’s how my people got out here, and they were still talking about the burning of Atlanta when I was a boy.

Joseph Koehl – “Our man who walks in the night”

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I live in Austin and was born in San Antonio, which are technically in the South but fall more in the Southwestern category. However, I did go to summer camp in Tennessee, which inspired this story, and I am currently raising three gulf coast box turtles (exclusive to the South) in my bathroom.

Ed Laird – “Mister Touchstone’s Translation”

Whether by birth or adoption, southern legitimacy is an earned position, the result of listening to and telling stories. It’s the best form of therapy, particularly if explored with agreeable friends and in the company of front-porch libations.

Mike Tebo – “First Day of Summer”

Things that I have done that make me Legitimately Southern: I drew my first (and will probably draw my last) breath in a shallow part of the Deep South. My family has always called biscuits “Cat Heads” – understand, it ain’t a biscuit unless it is handmade and the dough punched out with a tin can. Those things squeezed inside a roll of cardboard are NOT biscuits. I have a cousin named Man and another named Tater Head – notice I did not say “called.” I have done my business in an outhouse, realizing too late that all that was left of the Sears catalogue was its front and back cover. I have done other business in the woods at night. My granddaddies rolled their own cigarettes and spit a lot. I have pulled water from a well and not for the pure delight of it; nor was it part of some museum’s cultural, educational activity. I have ridden in both a mule drawn wagon and ground slide. I have been pulled through a cotton field on a cotton sack by one of my cotton-pickin uncles. Once me, Man, and Tater Head climbed up in the loft of Uncle Leon’s barn with a pair of Aunt Gladys’s old garden britches and a shirt. We tied ‘em together with hay strang and stuffed ‘em with hay until we had a headless lookin thang that we dropped down into Bessy’s stall and onto her back while she was eatin corn. I have lied about causing farm animals to damage farm structures. One time me and Tater Head was fishin for mud cats after we had heard Ronnie Joe tell about seein flyin fish while he was in the Navy. The first mud cat Tater Head caught – when he finally got it off the hook – he slung it not quite straight up into the air, but more on an ever-so-slight angle behind him. The sun blinded Tater Head when he looked up to watch it sail up against the blue sky the way Ronnie Joe had described, so he lost track of it, or else he woulda had sense enough to move. That mud cat come down and stuck right between Tater Head’s shoulder blades by one of its side fins. Tater Head became a Pentecostal preacher who could speak in tongues. Man decided he was tired of Uncle Grover and Aunt Gladys tellin him what to do all the time, so he joined the Army. We found out later that Ronnie Joe served four years all right, but not in the navy. So, considering me and mine, I’m Southern enough, I think.

Kevin Winter – “A Young Man, Once”

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I grew up on the outskirts of a small Mississippi town in a house at least a mile from the first paved road. My brothers and I made games out of throwing red clay clods at one another. My mother has never been able to extract the letter R out the word “wash”. I married my high school sweetheart. Her great-grandmother sat on her porch and listened to the cannons of Shiloh. I get chills at “A Country Boy Can Survive”. I wouldn’t change a thing.

S.D. Lavender – The Locust Eaters

I have lived in Georgia for fifteen years now and I feel as Southern as a pecan pie cooling on the window sill of a cosmetologist’s shotgun house as she sits in her rocker chuckling over old Lewis Grizzard columns. I feel as Southern as a Krispy Kreme in the petite paws of a Pentecostal lady before she races off in her long, long skirt to speak in tongues at Sunday meeting. In other words. I feel Southern. And that’s what counts.

Wendell Wood Collins – Widow’s Walk

Southern Legitimacy Statement — I’m a Tar Heel Born and a Tar Heel bred (and educated – UNC Chapel Hill J School) and when I die I’ll be a Tar Heel Dead. For the past 20 years I’ve lived in the Southern Yankee town of Princeton (the only Ivy where Southern gentry seem to get away with seersucker suits and white bucks), but I join my motley family of mostly women on an annual summer trip to Sullivan’s Island SC or thereabouts, the location of my story.

Tiffany Pridgen – Cecily Cooks

Southern Legitimacy Statement
I’d like to tell you I’m a native Southerner, but it isn’t true. I was born in New York City, but crept down South under cover of night when I was eight. I came to NC under pretenses of a visit, but cute kid that I was, managed to secure permanent residence with my granny in a place called Tyner. She taught me about such delicacies as ham hocks and butter beans, and how sometimes it’s okay to eat leftover fried fish for breakfsat. I now live in Durham, NC with my husband and son (both legitimate natives).

Padgett Farmer – Envy

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
Originally from Allendale, SC and then transplanted to Charleston, Columbia and Myrtle Beach, I now spend my days fixin to do things in Chicago, Illinois. And no one in Chicago has any idea what that means.

Brent Fisk – 816 Mulberry Circle

As far as my SLS, my brother and I once removed ticks from a dog with a pair of pliers and used them to catch bluegill from the end of our grandparents’ dock. And I currently live in Kentucky and like to camp in North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas.

Noah Lederman – Cooking With Jazz

My Southern Legitimacy Statement can be validated by this piece about New Orleans and the fact that I once drew the Mason Dixon line on a map with a red crayon.

J. B. Hogan – Waiting For Jesus

My third Southern Legitimacy Statement:
As a boy, my country family – my own family moved into the small town of Fayetteville, Arkansas when I was four years old – had no electricity, no running water, and no indoor bathroom facilities. I remember clearly using coal oil lamps, carrying buckets of water from the well and from a clean, sweet water spring down by the creek, and using the outhouse – which I dreaded in the cold of winter even more than in the hot, sticky, insect-riddled summer. I occasionally attended a one-room school with my cousins in the little community of Mayfield. My family was musically talented and although the old generation of players is now gone, I join my generation of country relatives every other week in a music get together at which I play the upright bass. I have often said that I would not trade the family or the part of the country that I was born and raised in for any other. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Editor’s Note: The South is not the South without its hellfire, brimstone, and damnation stories and neither is this Dead Mule.

Chris Deal – The Great Schism

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
When my folks had me, they were stationed in San Antonio. They had a place on the base, a nice spot for the three of us. This is where, in my walker, I locked them both out and they had to get the MP’s to unlock the door. Where the naked man was at the front, crawling on his hands and knees and howling at the distinct lack of a moon all the while saying, I’m a wolf. At about a year old, we came back to North Carolina, and that’s where we’d stay. My dad had worked at the local gas station when he was a kid. Puckett’s, it became a barbecue joint after the influx of people brought in more gas stations, and a grocery store. In middle school, I caught the bus in front of Puckett’s, where I would buy cokes and sell them on the bus, candy too. The trailer we lived in when I first started remembering things, it doesn’t exist anymore. The old Presbyterian church, it’s still there, by the new high school. The Baptist church is a Food Lion now. Everything’s changing here. Building’s going up where cattle grazed. They can put up damn near 50 houses in one development in two weeks. This is Huntersville. It’s changing all the time.

Burying the Stranger by Carla Martin-Wood

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I was born in Alabama and have lived in the south almost all my life. Being about three bricks shy of a load and stubborn as a mule, I strayed north once upon a time. Turned tail and ran back home after three months because it was Sunday and I couldn’t smell fried chicken cooking. And nobody understood that pot likker and moonshine aren’t the same thing. I’ve been to river baptisms, downhome revivals, and my share of dinners on the ground. I don’t eat fried green tomatoes unless cornmeal and a cast iron skillet were involved in the cooking. After the famous movie came out all these crazy Hollywood types started putting out low-fat, baked versions – that would’ve had my granddaddy writing Washington and threatening to secede again. And when I was a kid, Grandmama picked out the cloth sacks of flour and feed based on her fashion sense because I wore feedsack dresses till I was about seven.

Her Ways by Meta Griffin

Southern Legitmacy Statement

Even though i pretend to be an intellecutal, I’m a redneck at heart. My Jewish stepmother says NY woudl be a better place for a writer. She’s right about many things, but Spartanburg, SC is a happening place for writers. When my Dad comes to visit from Princeton, he appreciates the fact that you can go to a thai resturant and hear Red River Valley playing on the radio. We’ve got grits and thai and sushi and a little bit of everything. I was born and raised in the house where my mother and grandmother grew up. My mother now owns the house and the land located in Spartanburg, SC.

Mange by Henry F. Tonn

Having spent sixty years in the great state of North Carolina, and having attended four of its finest universities, and having married a genuine southern belle whom I dragged from city to city in pursuit of a career in psychology, I hearby declare (declaah) myself a southern boy, who was raised in the boondocks, hunted and fished a lot, and socialized occasionally with live mules, but no dead ones.

Peg Pendarvis Sews a Snap by Erin Cormier

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
In this mid-sized town nestled in the deep south of the U.S.A., every street corner has a church and every church has a sign reminding me that I should be there. I’ve been told I have a southern accent, but only by Yankees, which (in these parts) includes folks from north Louisiana. I have gotten superficial cuts from peeling shrimp. I have cramped my fingers by using crackers on crab legs. I don’t buy groceries; I make them. I consider buttermilk biscuits to be divine. Where I’m from, folks say things like “bless her heart,” “cha baby,” and “boo.” Nine times out of ten, the city feels like it’s operating under a wet blanket because the humidity is 90 percent.

Miriam Johnson — Johnson’s Bridge

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

How much more Southern can I be? I was born and raised between Auburn and Phenix City, Alabama, 30 minutes from the nearest gas station. Our land has an old slave house, water wheel, pecan orchard, and a creek. While growing up, I played with sticks and climbed trees for fun, because we didn’t have more than 3 TV channels. II worked at a Western Store, selling boots and spurs, ropes and cow feed. I went to Auburn University, where, as any Southerner knows, tailgating and football is a way of life. I then moved to the UK for graduate study and am trying to bring a bit of the South to the rest of the world. So far, I have convinced my friends that roping is the best thing ever and that y’all is an acceptable phrase no matter what your accent.

Julia Reynolds — Shiloh Orchids

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

I regularly end up stuck in traffic behind George Jones’ Lexus SUV at my interstate offramp from I-65, here where I live just South of Nashville, Tennessee. Sometimes Mr. Jones wears a funny fishing hat. In addition, I am a diehard Tennessee Titans fan. I had an ancestor who fought for the South, Sgt. Fed Wilson. (Fed short for Frederick.) Often at my local Waffle House, I order grits.

Ahhhhh!! More summer fiction for our Mule fans.

More fiction, more Mule, more fun for our fans.

Charles Hale — Walter’s Birthday

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I was born and raised in Athens, GA. Now I live in Oxford, MS and I have a toothpick in my mouth right now.

Ed Laird — The Resurrection of Saint Nick

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
As a preteen I ran through civil war trenches of Kennesaw Mountain, crawled through tunnels of Cheatham Hill and looked for bullets that my father and his father as children had missed. I dug unexploded canon balls, pristine as the day they were fired, from the creek behind the house. I listened to old men, who missed the war by a hundred years or more, recall it as vividly as if it had happened the year before. Being southern is to share a region and a history, and to know with a certainty that while you are here, you were also there.

Charlotte Jones — Billy Ann’s Box

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here just as fast as I could after college. I found myself a 5th generation Texan and married him. For New Year’s, we plan to eat black-eyed peas and collard greens for breakfast, lunch AND dinner, just to ensure that I’ll have the good fortune of being published in DEAD MULE this year. No, I’ve never dealt with a dead mule, or a live one for that matter, but I did once find a dead raccoon outside my back door. I tried to figure out how to make a Daniel Boone hat out of it, but finally gave up and threw it in the freezer until I could round up a few other critters for some road-kill stew.

Dale Duke — R. D. Wilson

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Even today when my energy is low because of a cold I see my Aunt Nina coming at me with the bottle of Vicks Vapo-Rub. How I hated that sticky ointment and the statement I knew would come out of her mouth, “If you would quit going outside with your hair wet, you wouldn’t be sick now! Though I now live in Oregon I have infused into the people who work for me the knowledge of,”Lit up like Levi’s.” This was a department store in downtown Louisville, Kentucky that at the turn of the century had a LOT of lights. People used the expression, “Lit up like Levi’s, whenever they saw what to them was a preposterous amount of lighting. Every time someone left on a trip the words hearken to me from long ago, “Don’t watch them out of sight, its bad luck.” WE still have our superstitions. If you drop a fork, a woman is coming. If you drop a knife a man is coming. If a bird gets in the house and sings on you’re bed, God help you.

Allen Hope — Christmas In The Big Easy

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Although I’m a native Floridian currently living in Northern California, the majority of my family are still scattered throughout the south. As a child I spent the summers in Tennessee, on a parcel of land that was also home to my grandparents, three great aunts and uncles, and five cousins. Plus, there was never a shortage of folks stopping by just to sit a spell and pass the time of day. I have discovered, upon returning to visit, that there is a feeling I get in the south that I get nowhere else. I suspect it has a lot to do with some of my fondest memories of those long lost summers: waking to the smell of country ham and eggs, playing in the tobacco patch, hand churning ice cream, catching bees in a glass jar, and picking fresh blackberries that soon found their way into the most delicious cobblers. Whatever it is, I will always consider myself a southerner, and enjoy to the fullest every opportunity I get to return.

Wayne Scheer — Neighborly Concern

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’ve lived in the deep South long enough to get annoyed when I hear a Yankee or a Texan use “y’all” in the singular.

T. M. Spooner — Wheelies

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
As a Yankee, one who grew up and resides north of the Mason Dixon, I claim an unusual amount of Southern ties. On my mother’s side I have plenty of late relatives from Memphis. My late Uncle Henry liked to say ‘The War of Yankee Aggression’. Apparently he was speaking of the CW, but as an 8 year old I just didn’t get it. Trips to Memphis in my early years sparked me to write a novel which includes a road trip from Northern Illinois to Memphis. Novel yet to be published – collecting dust as we speak.
I spent three years in the U.S. Army, all of them in the south. I called North Carolina and South Carolina home for that time and traveled around quite a bit. This included tobacco roads, cotton fields, and an occasional drive from Ft. Bragg to Myrtle Beach where I’d spend the weekend sleeping on the beach. During my army years I had oodles of friends from the south (the Army’s full of them) Ashland KY, Lake City, FL, Dothan, AL…. sweet tea for everyone to wash down that Sizzler steak.

Gary Carter — The Ghost of Dale

Southern Legitimacy Statement: As we say down here in North Carolina, I’m Tar Heel born and Tar Heel bred and when I die, I’ll be Tar Heel dead. Fruit of a good old boy who loved his beer and was full of colorful sayings for every occasion. You know, something that smelled real bad would “gag a maggot,” while a steamy July day was “hot as a young wife’s passion.” His nemesis was dear old mom, who would roll her eyes when these things popped out of his mouth because she was the daughter of a Southern Baptist minister, which makes me the grandson and is deemed worse in some circles, and god knows I’ve tried to live up to it (or down as the case may be). One of our best family stories involves my daddy standing in line in the ABC store with a bottle of bourbon when one of the deacons from granddaddy’s church happened in, getting a little spooked when he knew he was spotted. “I’m, uh, just picking up something for a friend,” the deacon claimed. “That’s okay,” daddy told him. “I’m getting this for the preacher.” My granddaddy stayed pissed off about that for a long, long time.

Diane Kimbrell — Confessions of a Clown

We weren’t allowed to go to school barefooted but from Easter Sunday on, the minute we got home from school, our shoes came off and stayed off till the fall and that’s the way it was growing up in my small, southern, hometown of Derita, NC. My family drank iced tea with all our Sunday dinners — winter, spring, summer and fall but nobody ever asked for more “sweet tea.” Only Yankees would need to clarify it. Everybody in the whole south knew that tea was always sweetened with sugar before it was served. We did, however, have to ask for lemon if we wanted it. And another thing, Othermama made sure I always had a pair of white gloves. I wore them to Sunday school, family reunions and funerals like all the other southern ladies. On these white-gloved occasions, I was often allowed to have a stick of chewing gum, but I had strict orders not to chew it. Othermama believed that chewing gum was common and that the wellbred just didn’t do it. Weeks before I entered Womens College in 1961, which is now UNC-Greensboro, I went into Montaldo’s Dress Shop in Charlotte and bought my first pair of Weejuns. It was common knowledge that Weejuns were the shoes worn at all southern colleges. The loafers (the most expensive shoes I’d ever had) cost forty something dollars. They were must-haves and Othermama, my maternal grandmother, who understood “must- haves,” gave me the money to buy them. As a freshman I wore my Weejuns with tremendous pride — day in and day out — even though the shoes were so tight they absolutely killed my feet. I keep praying they would stretch out but they never did. Unbeknownst to me at the time (in those days they only
measured the length of my foot), I needed a “D” width. Going barefooted all those years had made it so. Every kid in Derita probably grew up to have “D” widths or worse.

I have always had a lot to say and, in my opinion, I think that’s part of being a southerner.

Albert Anthony Saltalamachea — Ode To The Waffle House

Southern Legitimacy Statement – I hereby do swear and attest that I am, always have been, and always be a resident of the SOUTH. During those unfortunate times that I have had to leave it has remained the home of my heart and soul. BBQ sauce runs through my veins and sweet ice tea on a hot Southern Summer Day is my heaven. I may be a Yankee by virtue of birth but the south is where I have planted my heart!

Colonel Gassious Q Clay — Dad and the Mule, or a Lesson in Southern Literature

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

I was born in the south. I have always lived in the south. And I plan on dying in the south. And on my tombstone it shall read “Her Lies Colonel Gasseous Q Clay, Proud to have never even visited New York City”. -If that is not the core of southern beliefs, I don’t know what is. By the way, Colonel is an honorary title bestowed upon me by my most gracious neighbors.

Pam Tabor — In With the New

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I was born in West Virginia – 101 years after the 35th state whose statehood came about during the war of Northern aggression. Due to the fact that Bluefield has the state lines of Virginia and West Virginia separating it and the only local hospital being located across the line in West Virginia, my parents had no choice in the matter.

I was raised in Southwest Virginia – a coal miner’s daughter who hauled in the coal that kept us warm all winter and took out the ashes each and every day before and after school.

I slopped the hogs, weeded the garden, cut the grass, fed the dogs and argued over the housework with my brother and sister.

We flew the rebel flag, listened to Hank Jr., rode around in pickup trucks held together by rust and neglect and attended church by force as free will didn’t exist where Jesus and my Mother was concerned.

We spoke of the South with hushed reverence, staggering around under the weight of self-identity that being Southern had bestowed upon us. We were Southern by the grace of God, chosen people existing in a land flowing with coal and the word of God. We were rebels who were going to rise again or die trying.

Andrew Rayle — The Secret

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I’m from South of the South. That’s South Carolina, where we inch up the humidity one degree every year until we learn how to breathe underwater. We haven’t forgotten about secession, we just changed the strategy. I can’t tell you about momma’s great cooking and grandad’s famous stories but I’d love to pull on your coat about grandma’s four tablespoons of salt in every meal cause the sixty years of cigarettes have killed her sense of taste, or uncle robert’s career as a d-leaguer for the Braves. I’m now living in North Carolina and enjoying the barbecue and unending wealth of creativity that is limitless in both subject and form.

Cindy Thames – The One-Armed Man

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I live in Yankeeland now but every time I come back from going home I talk like I did down there. One time I was in the elevator with a man I was the boss of and when he commented on my newly enhanced southern accent I started going all-out like my cousin Mable Ann and he cringed visibly and said, “Please stop.” I think he thought I’d gone stupid on him, bless his heart. That tickled me to death.

Alan Stewart Carl – Shark Teeth

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I am writing this with cowboy boots on, which I consider the most comfortable shoe God ever gave this planet. Some like to say Texas isn’t the “real” South and maybe they have a bit of a point. Most of us aren’t familiar with kudzu and I can’t claim to have eaten many moon pies. But when it comes to crazy preachers, sweaty summers, pickup trucks, beer in the cup holders, all-day barbeques and those other down home peculiarities, we’re proudly Southern here in Texas. As for me, I’m from here in the born-and-raised sort of way. My parents are from here too. My grandmother grew up on a cattle ranch near Lubbock. Her mother worked that ranch. And the bloodlines go further back than that. I’ve moved out of Texas twice and moved back twice. I don’t plan to leave again and am glad my two children are growing up watching Cowboys games and eating cornbread and beans and fajitas cooked right. I like this life. I write a lot about this life. “Shark Teeth” is about a piece of this life dying.

Shome Dasgupta – Eight Hours Later

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I would like my ashes to be thrown into the Vermillion River, underneath the Ambassador Caffrey bridge, but before all of that happens, I enjoy talking to the ducks and nutria rats at Girard Park. I’ve been living in Lafayette, LA for roughly 26 years and one day I hope to have one spinner rim spinning on one of the rims of my Toyota Camry, which has just reached its 222,000 mileage mark. I love the fickle weather–how it can snow one morning (after 5 years of no snow), and then two days later, it will be 75 degrees. Firstly, I put hot sauce in my cereal.

Pam Tabor – Minotaurs

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I was born in West Virginia – 101 years after the 35th state whose statehood came about during the war of Northern aggression. Due to the fact that Bluefield has the state lines of Virginia and West Virginia separating it and the only local hospital being located across the line in West Virginia, my parents had no choice in the matter.

I was raised in Southwest Virginia – a coal miner’s daughter who hauled in the coal that kept us warm all winter and took out the ashes each and every day before and after school.

I slopped the hogs, weeded the garden, cut the grass, fed the dogs and argued over the housework with my brother and sister.

We flew the rebel flag, listened to Hank Jr., rode around in pickup trucks held together by rust and neglect and attended church by force as free will didn’t exist where Jesus and my Mother was concerned.
We spoke of the South with hushed reverence, staggering around under the weight of self-identity that being Southern had bestowed upon us. We were Southern by the grace of God, chosen people existing in a land flowing with coal and the word of God. We were rebels who were going to rise again or die trying.

Paula Ray – Jack-in-the-Box U-Haul

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I grew up watching Hee-Haw while shelling speckled butter-beans. These days, my country students get excited about prom, like most teens do, but unlike most American teens–they wear camoflauge tuxedos, even the boys. The homecoming queen has a t-shirt that explains it all: Southern Bred/ Venison Fed. Now if that ain’t country; then you can have the homemade pepper vinegar I use on my collards.

Adam Moorad – Franklin

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I was born in the North but moved to the South at a young age. When I did, my accent was loud and nasally
and no one liked it. I mellowed out and started chewing tobacco. It helped me fit in. My family joined one of those Baptist mega-churches with a jumbo screen in the auditorium. I was baptized there in a pool-sized tank up on the altar. Afterwards, they told me I was saved. I only felt wet. I live up north now. People here tell me my accent sounds like a banjo. I don’t go to church anymore, but I still chew tobacco.

June 2009 Fiction

We are all looking forward to Fiction Reborn from the literary ashes of the smoldering pocosin we call home. June 5th. Meanwhile, check out the lovely little remembrance by Sue Ellis over on the Essay page.

The Paper War by Geoff Balme

Geoff’s at NC State, and you don’t get more southern than that (ahem, right Tarheels?).

The Dress by Mary Bass

Southern Legitimacy Statement
In my rearing, I came to know that food is almost a religion in the south. Very few events, large or small, happy or sad, don’t involve eating. Food-oriented mixings can be viewed as something like a First Prize, Second Prize, or a Consolation Prize. Not only are there copious spreads at weddings, funerals, and reunions there are gatherings to attend with food as the central purpose when one gets a new job, loses a job, or quits, especially if in a huff. Then there is food as a major consideration when a girlfriend acquires a new boyfriend, when one finds out one’s spouse is cheating, when getting divorced, and when trying to talk one spouse out of murdering another. Educational pursuits are a source of dining too. A little one’s passing through kindergarten, headed for “real” school, necessitates getting together to celebrate, and to eat, in case this milestone might be the only one the youth in question achieves to distinguish himself. The later equivalent of this sort of event is when someone’s child graduates from high school or fails to. Not to be forgotten are the meals held upon a release from jail or when someone is about to be a guest of the state for a spell, when a new preacher arrives in town or a congregation has ousted one they’ve been trying to boot and finally has. No matter what the reason for the occasion to gather and eat, there’s something every true southerner never mistakes no matter how things are done outside of the south, and if they are done differently are in error, of course: dinner is the name of the mid-day meal and supper the evening one.

A Big Ole Train by Douglas Campbell

Southern Legitimacy Statement
I lived my first eighteen years in New England, but since then I’ve spent most of my life below the Mason-Dixon Line. I’ve traveled all over the South, from Key West to the Blue Ridge to South Padre. I’ve been to the Alamo, and went to the Grand Ole Opry when it was still in downtown Nashville, in the old Ryman Auditorium. Important things have happened to me in the South. I ran my fastest marathon ever in Georgia. I lost my virginity in Florida, and had my heart broken in North Carolina.

But my strongest claim to Southern Legitimacy lies in my twenty years of living in West Virginia. For ten of those years I lived without running water or electricity, in a cabin surrounded by 300 acres of woods. Now that was a Southern life, an old-timey one. I drew my water from a spring and lived by the light of kerosene lamps. I drove around in a beat up pickup truck with “Farm Use” painted on the side doors. I hoed corn and canned it. I put up hay in bales and in haystacks. I cut brush with a scythe. I killed, cleaned, cooked and ate squirrel, rabbit, quail, groundhog and snapping turtle. I learned to make a mean biscuit. Every fall, nuts from the shagbark hickory beside my cabin fell and crashed onto my tin roof. I often laid in bed at night and listened to foxhounds running through the hills, barking into the wee hours.

Southern? Yeah, I think I’ve got that covered.

Ozark Beats by J. B. Hogan

Here’s my Southern Legitimacy Statement: When you are born and raised in the Arkansas Ozarks where does one begin a southern legitimacy statement? Do I actually need one? Well, okay. I grew up thinking Robert E. Lee was the father of my country. I also grew up being fed the plantation owners’ version of southern history, which had nothing to do with my part of the state or our way of life. Northwest Arkansas was as pro-Union as it was pro-Confederate. I am a staunch Federal Unionist and always have been but I was trained to be a southern Rebel. It creates a mixed mess sometimes but I remain a Southern-American. I spent forty years away from home but have come back to finish my life as a writer. I write about local history, I write fiction that sometimes is about or set in the south. I write all the time. That’s pretty southern right there, isn’t it?

The Ostrich that Cured Johnny Cash of Drugs & Booze Dies of Old Age by S. Craig Renfroe, Jr.

Born and educated in the South, I have lived all my life in North Carolina, except for a few months in London. And though I don’t have a discernable Southern accent, I spent three years as a child eating only grits for breakfast. My last claim to legitimacy is my ancestor Stephen Renfroe who appears in the book STARS FELL ON ALABAMA and who caused some of his relatives to misspell their name “Renfro” or “Renfrow” to avoid being associated with this sheriff and horse-thief hanged by his friends before his enemies could get him. My side of the family was apparently fine with it.

Lost in Twilight by John Lathern White

I was born and raised in Mississippi. I left Mississippi to broaden my horizons. My daddy cried and my mama made Daddy drive all the way to South Carolina, where the United States Army had me hidden away in the brig, to try to talk my NCO into letting me come home.

Mama missed the $50 dollars a month I brought home from de-barking pine trees at Mr. Brewer’s Lumber Mill outside of Natchez. I hit my West Point-educated Lieutenant in the mouth when he playfully tugged on my big toe and told me to get my redneck ass out of bed. I then proceeded to admonish him as I pulled his damn pants down to see if his panties had lace on ‘em. They did.

Two weeks later our Yankee President declared war and my NCO finally did let me out of the brig. But he didn’t send me home to Natchez, after all. No, sir.

I celebrated my seventeenth birthday in a hole; a foxhole.

Now about my chosen field:

When I returned to the United States of America, I moved to Louisiana. I joined the Baton Rouge Police Department. After thirty years, I retired.

For the last twenty years I have spent my time fiddling around with my tractor and diggin holes of my own, in the pasture with it. I dug a hole 400 feet long, 75 feet wide and 12 feet deep with my Massey Ferguson and a box. It filled up with rain water on its own and then I hired a man from Arkansas to fill it up with fish. I fish some but nowadays I catch and release. My wife thinks it’s smart, because of my age and all, just in case when I do kick the bucket and find out God is in actuality a striped bass that He won’t have anything to hold against me, much.

Now about my eating habits:

I revert to eating what I was brought up on and grits was the thing. Mama could make kudzu and poke salad taste like mustards. My sisters let me help pull taffy and drop the peanuts in it while it was still warm. Iced tea was the drink but we didn’t have ice, mind you. I still get a hankering for cold sweet potatoes and still spell a singular said spud with an “e” on the end of it.

Now about my music habits:

Tina not Ike. Waylon not Willie. Julie not Lisa. Anybody who is or once was signed with Sun Records.

I’m so Southern that I use to listen to Jerry Lee Lewis play the piano at the black churches in Ferriday when he was a boy. White Churches wouldn’t let him in the door. Nothings changed much and that’s the way I like it.

If that ain’t enough, James Lathern is my first name.

Out of Sight by Vickie Clasby

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

I was born in Tennessee, am raising my children in the quaint Southern town of Franklin, and embrace my Southerness like the badge of honor it is. My mother’s people were poor, working class folks without a pot or a window. My father’s people owned some land and attended church, which made them a bit ‘uppity,’ according to my mother’s folks. I was the first person on my mother’s side to attend college, much less graduate, so that makes me ‘uppity,’ too. But I learned my most important lessons from my mother’s mother, who graduated from eighth grade and had her first baby a couple of years later. She taught me it’s not what you have that counts, but how you use it.

Swing Shift – a lurid story for the holiday

Many things make me southern. When I was 12 I would ride my bike into town on Saturdays and sell bags of fresh roasted chinquapins. I know the different items used in baiting a catfish hole and a hog trap, and have practiced both on numerous occasions. I know that the bark of a persimmon tree can cure poison ivy and the nuts from a shaggy bark hickory taste the worst but make the best sling shot ammo.

A Mule for Christmas by Joellen Jones

Well, kiss my grits, I guess I am southern. Born and raised. Helped my momma kill the chickens, pluck the feathers, and fry up for Sunday dinner. I have “drug” a cotton sack and hoed the corn fields nearly killing a cousin with the hoe. I hardly ever wear shoes, maybe to a funeral or wedding, but always slip them off under the pew. Everybody in town is my cousin and two even married each other. Lordy we were all born at grandma’s house and we kept the milk in the well. Sally and Mable were my pet pigs and I rode one of them nearly every day when I was three. When Sally died, my momma buried her next to the creek. I walked 2 miles to school on a red dirt road, used an outdoor toilet, and ate turnip greens and cornbread. What was leftover after supper was put in the slop jar to feed the hogs. As a true southern lady, I hardly ever spit on the sidewalk. There really ain’t many in the world more southern than me.

“Poorly” and “I Wonder What Makes People the Way They Are” by Henry Dale Duke

Even today when my energy is low because of a cold I see my Aunt Nina coming at me with the bottle of Vicks Vapo-Rub. How I hated that sticky ointment and the statement I knew would come out of her mouth, “If you would quit going outside with your hair wet, you wouldn’t be sick now! Though I now live in Oregon I have infused into the people who work for me the knowledge of,”Lit up like Levi’s.” This was a department store in downtown Louisville, Kentucky that at the turn of the century had a LOT of lights. People used the expression, “Lit up like Levi’s, whenever they saw what to them was a preposterous amount of lighting. Every time someone left on a trip the words hearken to me from long ago, “Don’t watch them out of sight, its bad luck.” WE still have our superstitions. If you drop a fork, a woman is coming. If you drop a knife a man is coming. If a bird gets in the house and sings on you’re bed, God help you.

Even though I was born in Northern Indiana frequent visits from a seemingly endless amount of cousins kept my accent skewed towards the South. I remember my first year of school when I had to explain to Mr. Rust, the principal of West Township High School that someone had stolen my towel. “Mr. Rust my taaal is missing.”

“You’re what?”

“My taaal.”

“What is that?”

“The thing you dry your self on after gym class.”

“Son that’s a Ta-wool. “ I don’t think even he had it quite right but communication improved gradually.

Every summer we returned to Louisville (Loo-eh-vuul) to visit our relatives. My mom would take us to Cherokee Park and show me the great rock in the river that supposedly had three bodies under it from when it fell. She showed me the big hill they used to wait by, when they were roller-skating. Now they were not at the top, but waited at the bottom for a car to slow for the turn onto the hill, and grab its back bumper to ride to the top. Many skinned knees and hilarious stories came from those times.

My cousin’s house in Corydon, Indiana, which was just across the bridge from Louisville, was up in the hills, past the church with the blue Iris’s. I would have so much fun there. They did not have running water but they had a cistern. They grew tobacco and had cows. The cows were a never ending source of pleasure as they often “got out.” “Russell, Cherry is out agin’.”

Motivation was not a top priority in my family. Their extended fence was a single line of barb wire around several acres. Russell would yell, “Get ‘im dogs,” and charging out from under the porch (I swear to God this is true) came a bunch of dust and dirt covered dogs, barking ferociously, heading straight for poor Cherry. She knew the game and hopped the wire and the dogs returned bearing their heads high with Southern dignity.

Swimming With the Gar by William Bryant

First, let’s deal with the issue of geography. I am from Missouri…yes, Missouri. But where I am from is decidedly Southern. Even the name of my home county, Mississippi County – which straddles the bootheel and hugs the river, pays tribute to the South. My home is further south than 90% of Kentucky and I can be in West Memphis in about ninety minutes. I live closer to Ole Miss than Mizzou. We shop in Memphis, not St. Louis, and if you try to tell anyone from around here that we are not part of the South, you may have a fight on your hands.

I have castrated hogs with a pocket knife and washed the wounds with turpentine…and enjoyed it. I have pitched watermelons and chopped cotton. My family raises cotton and I can remember playing in the cotton trailers and nearly crying when we sold the gin (not the drink, we kept that). I’ve run trot lines, hogged catfish, gigged bullfrogs and attended an annual “squirrel fry “. I have ridden a tractor all day long while chewing “Days O’ Work” tobacco and spitting in an oil can with the top cut out. I’ve known my wife my whole life. We grew up two miles from each other, dated since my freshman year of high school, and her daddy is the pig farmer who taught me to castrate hogs.

Presently, I am a family physician in southeast Missouri. I make house calls. I call little old ladies Ma’am. And two months ago, a lady brought me a sack of turnip greens. And I ate them. My wife cooked them with hog jowl, beans and cornbread. I washed it down with sweet tea. And finally, I can sing Dixie…the whole song, not just the “living in the land of cotton” part.

Annette’s Café by K. Bond

Even though I moved away from Georgia ten years ago, I still check pickups for a gun rack before I honk.

Is Santa a One-legged Man?

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
Born and raised in Kentucky, love grits with butter and pepper, don’t understand people who screw up grits with milk and sugar, for gods sakes people, grits and cream of wheat are two different things, as different and horses and mules.

I live below the Mason Dixon line, only time I get in trouble is when I go north and marry some Yankee woman, always have to buy them a house, pack them up and then send them back north with all my money; I just can’t speak or understand their language, you know what I mean.

A Very Bourbon Christmas

If I need a Southern legitimacy statement again, then let me say that I drink my tea sweet, that I make my biscuits from scratch, and that I do like a little bourbon during the holiday season.

The Scent of Peaches

I’m so durned Southern — writing Southern fiction from my mountaintop lair in east Tennessee. Just me and the goats.

Edam Elvis by Virginia Lee

Virginia Lee is back in Memphis after spending thirteen years in Mississippi and nearly two in North Carolina. She’s about as Southern as a body can get, having been born in North Carolina in the mid-60s to a Memphian mama with roots in middle Tennessee and Louisiana and an Arkansan daddy with roots in Alabama and also Tennessee. Lee even has a degree in things Southern from the University of Mississippi. Like the South, Lee is a survivor who defies her detractors with humor and a determination to stay true to herself, her mama, and the region. She’s a rebel, Lee is, and you’d best not forget it. She certainly won’t.

Family History

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, but have lived in the South long enough (Atlanta for over thirty years, Baton Rouge and Austin before that) to enjoy collards and black-eyed peas, and to have developed peculiar linguistic tendencies. If I don’t watch myself, I utter phrases like, “how y’all guys doing?”

Octopus by Whitney Collins

I was born in Tuscaloosa, raised in the Bluegrass, and educated north of the Mason-Dixon line where I introduced the Yankees to Maker’s Mark. I believe in grits, grit, and God, keeping a loaded gun under the bed and a handmade afghan on top of it. Don’t tell me Kentucky’s not South. I’ve got a mimosa tree in my backyard, tomato aspic in my refrigerator, and a Skoal ring on the back pocket of my high school jeans.

Delta Christmas 1947

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I have lived most of my life in LA (lower Arkansas) and have enough sense to know Dr Pepper doesn’t have a period behind Dr and RC Cola is the preferred drinks of the southern aristocracy. Further proof indicated by former co-ownership in a newspaper with Picayune in the title (yes, in Arkansas). I graduated from high school as a Curley Wolf, and now I am a freshman at the University of Arkansas in Monticello, whose mascot is the Boll Weevils. My wife graduated from a university whose mascot was the Mule Riders. Our son, RC, is a temporary Yankee (living in north Arkansas), and is attending school where the mascot is the Wonder Boys.

Seeds — Christmas Story #1

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I grew up in south central Virginia and attended college North Carolina. I currently live in New England. I like up here a lot but I do still yearn for the south — its people, places and uniquely southern events. I miss how strangers will tip their hats in greeting, and I miss how thunderstorms roll through in summer with such fury and then leave behind a sky scrubbed clean. I have talked of returning to the South, to Virginia, most likely. A small house with a back porch, on a hill. I can sit in my rocker and stare out at the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. It’s a dream.

Movement to Movement, a story by Richard Osgood

Southern Legitimacy Statement
I spent the better part of 1978 working on a Spruance class destroyer at the Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. While venting at a local hole-in-the-wall, the name of which I can in no way recall, I met a slide pepper by the name of Linda Lutts. We had sex on the kitchen floor in her mamma’s trailer, with her coonhound, Roxy, three inches from my face, and her step-brother, KB, lying in the dirt outside beneath a 1968 Plymouth Valiant, assisted by a hundred watt drop lamp. I am eighty-seven percent sure I didn’t leave kin down there, given the distractive tendencies of bloodshot eyes, puddles of drool, and sleeveless step-brothers, but I’ve always wondered, given my luck and the thirteen percent chance I did.

In case you need it, I also spent a week in the town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, researching lineage from the Hurricane Plantation on Davis Bend. Mr. Milburn Crowe, God rest his soul, was a gracious host and his photo archive, all contained in boxes and random albums at the time, was a tribute to the heritage and tradition of the community. At present, I live in Cincinnati, a city on a river where the north meets the south, and while the northern banks of the Ohio River may have been a first stop on the Underground Railroad, Cincinnati has always considered itself a southern city. Just ask ‘em.

Life on Black Mountain – the book

Okay folks. Fans of Ann Hite. Lovers of fine prose. Samplers of the short story form, tipplers of torrents of fictionary delight… Click here to download the .pdf version of Life on Black Mountain by Ann Hite A collection of short stories featured in our own *applause* *applause* Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.

We Tote in Texas – flash fiction by Jan Melara

Southern Legitimacy Statement

When I went off to college, the guy at the registration desk asked me if I was a Texas resident. I told him I was and he asked how long I’d lived there. “All my life,” I said.

He nudged the woman sitting next to him at the big folding table they had set up there in the gym and said, “How long have your parents been here?”

“All their lives,” I said.

He gave his woman friend a sidelong glance and asked about my grandparents. I told him they’d lived in Texas all their lives, too.

He gave me the in-state tuition rate, so I guess I’m Southern, if Texas counts as a Southern state.

Black Swan by Taylor Brown

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
Grits, Sweet Tea, Magnolias? Not so much. We had Captain Crunch, Diet Coke, and kilometric flora. I was born on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, which is the home to the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party, and educated at the University of
Georgia. Now I live in San Francisco, where being a Georgian is pretty much exotic.

Best Served Cold by southern writer Jared Ward

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I live in the South. I coach tennis and go to school in the South. I drink in the South. But not sweet tea, because I’ve never liked tea of any kind, though in the last four or five years my wife has gotten me to drink Asian tea when we have sushi. I used to hate sushi. Now I eat with chopsticks and drink Asian tea that might be more correctly called Oriental tea, but does anyone really know for sure? I eat in the South, way too fucking much. But not grits. They never made me smile. Though by the ever-increasing size of my ass, you wouldn’t think that taste, texture, or FDA guidelines were any kind of pre-requisite. Just whether or not it fits on a shovel. I drove through the south once. Camped with a dirty Mexican in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. We never got out of the car because we were so afraid to hear the ding-a-ling-ding of dueling banjos drifting through the trees. It was June. We hadn’t showered for a couple of days. We were drunk and sweating. I think we had to burn the car when the trip was over.

Lemoncharles by southern writer John Calvin Hughes

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I’m John Calvin Hughes, son of a son of a preacher chased out of Mississippi for plucking the flock. I’m a southern boy who moved south and found himself surrounded by Yankees. I’m in Florida. There’s not a hill in sight and the restaurants that specialize in “Real Southern Cooking” put sugar in the cornbread. My own son told me the cat pushing on his chest was “making bagels”!

Fire Fight by southern writer Alice Folkart

Southern Legitimacy Statement
My Daddy’s people came out of Arkansas in nineteen hundred and thirty-two ’cause their land blew away and all the people left. And the Sheriff wasn’t even after them! In fact, my Grandpa Milo was the Sheriff, kept the lock up and he owned sixty acres and a couple of mules too, share-cropped ‘em. Never farmed himself; he was ‘quality.’ Grandma Pearl and her sister, Mae, kept the general store, and since she’d gone clear though 8th grade, she also taught the one-room school. It was Grandma Pearl who saw the writing on the Red Sea and said, “Enough is enough,” and dragged her husband and three boys off to California in their 1924Ford touring car. [...more]

The Boy He Took To the Prom by southern writer Ed Cone

Southern Legitimacy Statement
Would anyone in his right mind claim to be Southern who is not? I was born thar, my family still lives thar, I go back for visits regularly to keep my accent in shape. Little Rock Central High School class of ’58 (that’s 1958). Heard about the integration crisis, and Faubus, and Eisenhower calling out the 101st Airborne to help us integrate? If that’s not Southern, what is ?

Wiggle Room

Our final story from Life on Black Mountain by Ann Hite. Read the entire collection by visiting the archives. Downloadable pdf realbook free version of Life on Black Mountain available by … hmmmm … July 4th (if not sooner).

The Last Stopping Off Place

by Ann Hite Mama had these little crystal bowls that sat by each dinner plate. Each bowl held a few drops of water so we could dip our fingers in the bowl before we ate our meal. Somewhere Mama got the idea that it was a sign of class like we had money or something. […]

Even Old Women Get Second Chances

by Ann Hite Men are the stupidest animals on this earth. Mollie decided this long before she celebrated fifty years of marriage, but that year, that golden year, really put her to thinking on a lot of things. Like, how men thought they knew everything and they never was wrong. Or, how they tried to […]

Conjure a Spell

by Ann Hite Carly K came to Black Mountain in the summer of 1972. Nelson should have given more thought to a woman alone in a hick mountain community, but to tell the truth he was purely dazzled by her the first time he laid eyes on that smile. She was visiting Carson Waterfall, his […]

A Stake Through the Heart

by Ann Hite The world was filled with blood: roiling, boiling, unending sticky redness. Or, so thought Miss Arlene Bradshaw, who spent most Saturday nights watching scary movies. This contributed to her over active imagination and her firm belief that something evil was in Holly Iowa’s house next door. Arlene, Holly’s dearest, oldest friend was […]

Cotton Candy Fluff

by Ann Hite My mama always took the time to tell me a story each night before I fell asleep. She was good like that. My favorite story was one she called, Ghost on Black Mountain. For the longest time I believed it was a story about our family, but when I told Mama my […]

Mend the Gash

It was late December 1965 when Susan Holcomb found Black Mountain, North Carolina. She must have lost her mind thinking she could buy an abandoned cabin in the middle of nowhere, but solitude was impetrative at this place in her life. Susan was there under the guise of writing a book, based on the true […]

A Barren Soul

Life on Black Mountain
a short story collection by Ann Hite

A Discarded Spell Cast Into the Air

Life on Black Mountain
A short story collection by Ann Hite

Mr. Snake Gets Religion

Life on Black Mountain
A short story collection by Ann Hite

The Sight

Life on Black Mountain
A short story collection by Ann Hite

The Hoodoo in Voodoo

Life on Black Mountain
A short story collection by Ann Hite

The Circle of Light

Life on Black Mountain
A short story collection by Ann Hite

Pride Cometh Before a Fall

Life on Black Mountain
A short story collection by Ann Hite

Who’s Afraid of the Dark

Life on Black Mountain
A short story collection by Ann Hite

The Doctor Bag

Life on Black Mountain
A short story collection by Ann Hite

Ghost on Black Mountain

Life on Black Mountain
A short story collection by Ann Hite

How “Life on Black Mountain” came to be. An Introduction.

“The Last Stopping Off Place is the final story in Nellie’s life and is told from quirky Bea Weehunt’s—the readers will remember her from Mr. Snake Gets Religion—point of view. When I wrote this story I thought it was over. I thought, okay that’s the end of Black Mountain. Now I move on somehow.”
–Ann Hite

May 2008 Fiction to feature Ann Hite

An original short story collection “Life on Black Mountain” to be featured here in May! Read a bit about the author, Ann Hite.

Michelle Estile – “Antibrag”

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

By birth I am a Yankee, but I was adopted and raised
in southeastern Arkansas. For that reason, I am
southern. I am southern like snake stories, like
catfish caught on blood bait. I am southern as in a
landscape always softened by humidity. I am southern
like the piano at my home church. Its middle b-flat
key wears a worn, finger-shaped divot (check your
Broadman Hymnal). I am as southern as “tote,” “I
swanny,” and “under conviction.” I am southern like a
three-quarter-length sleeved “Swangin’” t-shirt, circa
1983. I never went to a wake, but I attended
Visitations. I remember the ritual of tick check. I
have been baptized….three times. For those reasons, I
am southern.

Suzanne Nielsen – “Feed the Birds”

Southern legitimacy Statement:

Why are you southern? Mama and Daddy disowned me because of it
Why could you be southern? I giddyup when I drive
What do you think is southern? Plum pie
Do you eat grits? ya’ll, why you askin that!
Is your mama an icon? I think my mama was Edith Massey
Do you have yard dogs? tied to the pick up

Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy – “The Confederate”

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

My ancestors are divided into two neat groups, immigrants from foreign lands and good ol’ Southerners. Thanks to my Southern heritage, I say y’all and I bake my cornbread in an old black iron skillet. Some of my great-greats wore gray in the War Between the States and I listen to old-fashioned Southern music like Johnny Horton and Hank Williams. I have kinfolk buried from Louisiana to Mississippi to southwest Virginia. I drink my tea sweet (is there any other kind?) and fry every meat I can like chicken, catfish, and pork. I consider cream gravy to be a food group and yes, I like to eat boiled peanuts. I always like RC Cola and Luzianne tea.

James Naberhaus – “The Eulogy”

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

Although born in the great state of Ohio, I have spent almost all my life in the south. I eat grits, collards and occasionally fried okra. I am a southern boy. I was raised in Texas, Florida and North Carolina. I don’t know if you’d really count Florida as a southern state. It’s more like a quarantine zone for northerners so they won’t infect the rest of the south.

To bolster the point that I am southern: I have killed more deer with my car than I have with a gun and I have a hound dog out back. I have even buried a dead pet one Halloween night in the fog and dim light of a security light. I have also watched the greatest sunsets and seen the most beautiful of God’s creatures. It is good to be in the South.

Diane Hoover Bechtler “‘Til Death Do Us Part”

my southern legitimacy statement:
On a road trip, When I was a baby my aunt gave me a hunk of pork skin to gum. My daddy saw I was choking on it. He slammed the station wagon brake causing the passenger door to fly open. He grabbed my ankles as I scooted across the vinyl seat. Fortunately the duct tape covering the cigarette burns slowed me and daddy yanked me back in, ran his finger down my throat and dislodged the pork skin. which he tossed to our hound dog General Lee who sat in the back with my aunt. We continued our trip..

Andy Madden “The Irwin Sisters”

Hey Mom, I’m on the Mule! Can’t get more legitimately southern than that….

Michelle Estile “This Could Be You”

Southern Legitimacy Statement
By birth I am a Yankee, but I was adopted and raised
in southeastern Arkansas. For that reason, I am
southern. I am southern like snake stories, like
catfish caught on blood bait. I am southern as in a
landscape always softened by humidity. I am southern
like the piano at my home church. Its middle b-flat
key wears a worn, finger-shaped divot (check your
Broadman Hymnal). I am as southern as “tote,” “I
swanny,” and “under conviction.” I am southern like a
three-quarter-length sleeved “Swangin’” t-shirt, circa
1983. I never went to a wake, but I attended
Visitations. I remember the ritual of tick check. I
have been baptized….three times. For those reasons, I
am southern.

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James Ladd Thomas — There Isn’t Any Right Now.

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I’m named James for my daddy and his daddy who was named after a book in the Bible (so I’ve been told). He was a one-armed man who lost his arm in a car accident with a drunk driver on country road in Headland, Alabama. People said he could do the work of two men. And the Ladd is from my other grandfather whose real name was Frank Lester but was called Ladd since a boy playing baseball, a love he never shook, listened to the Braves and Hammerin’ Hank on his GE radio while sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee. He’s the only person I’ve ever seen eat red hot chilli peppers like they were licorice. I’ve lived in Dothan, Prattville, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, and Auburn but now live in central Florida, not far from Orlando, a place that is nothing more than a very large small town that is too south to be in the Deep South. People keep talking about the New South, but that’s a lie. The South will always be the South because it can never give up its past. Just look at the fans wearing Bear Bryant hats at an Bama football game. And that’s not really a bad thing.

Mary Bass — Beware the Belle

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
The Southern in me pipes up so fast that I usually have no advance notice of it. I’ve been known to state that I never want to live north of the Mason-Dixon line, that I enjoy a good fish fry of catfish and hushpuppies, that I can let off steam by sliding into an out-in-the-country-Bible-thumping-hands-raised-to-heaven deep south church service at the passing of an old straw hat in lieu of a collection plate and that I can pick out the best barbeque places (and we must have pork!) by knowing their look — the tucked away, hole-in-the-wall, dirty, grimy shacks that pass the sauce-better-than ambrosia dripping sandwiches through the front door and the super “gullet washers” out the back.

Rosanne Griffeth — A Piece of Money

I left show business to pursue my lifelong dream of goat farming in
Appalachia. Speaking of which, I now live in Cocke county, reputed to
be the most lawless rural county in Tennessee. I run into Popcorn
Sutton now and again at the grocery store and can tell you where to
get the best ‘shine–through a friend of a friend of a friend. I’m on
good speaking terms with the cockfighting crowd. Oh, and the church I
attend–they handle serpents. Really.

My hobbies include soapmaking, canning, gardening heirloom vegetables,
wildcrafting and squirrel hunting with dogs.

In my spare non-goat related time, I write about and document
Appalachian culture–or assist production companies, scholars and
artists who are doing the same thing. I also write about food.

I could go on and on in this manner including my recipes for coon,
possum and fricasseed squirrels with sherry over biscuits or go
through my DAR lineage but I think you must agree–my Southern
credentials are impeccable.

Katie Winkler — Friends of the Library

I verify that I am Southern based on my heritage, including but not limited to, blackberry picking with my brothers and sister in the heat of a Black Belt June, getting chiggers that would, my Mama K swore, only come out if we soaked for 20 minutes in baking soda, riding my Shetland pony Buttermilk through the fields and woods of Pine Grove Farm in Ridge Grove, Alabama, riding her on down to Washburn’s store to get a little Peach Nehi that “Was so good,” old Mr. Washburn told my dad, “that you could almost taste the furs.”

In addition, I verify that I am Southern because, although I have no dead mule in my past, I do have a dead horse. Maggie was a mare my sister and I paid a dollar for so the former owner could write a bill of sale. He didn’t tell us that the old gal was already more than a bit long in the tooth, but as they say, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and we didn’t. A few months later, after we took all our horses to be wormed (Yes, it is as bad as it sounds), poor old Maggie, bless her heart, barely made it off the trailer before she keeled over. She was kind of big and we were kind of small, so we just dug a hole right beside her, flipped her over into it and covered her with lime. Worked fine, but the field where she was lying belonged to Augusta Christian Day School’s baseball team. In the end it did turn out okay, as these things do. We just gave the place a name—Maggie’s Field—and warned the players to stay away from the dent in the outfield.

Yeah, I’m Southern.

D. Alexander Ward — Once More, the Taste

Southern Legitimacy Statement

As I have grown to be a man, my work has taken me all over this great country of ours where there are many things to be seen that are grand beyond the means of words to describe them, and though I have often thought of leaving for the sake of newness and grand adventure, my address has always remained here in the sacred soil of Virginia.

Whenever possible I avoid restaurants that offer only unsweetened tea, and I can pretty much stomach any vegetable as long as it’s overcooked or made with vinegar. As yet I am dispossessed from organized religion, but have a strong faith in God and pork, the barbecuing of the latter solidifying my faith in the former. Whenever given a choice on my birthday for a cake, I always prefer my mother’s Carolina Pig-Pickin’ Cake, a religious experience in itself. Like any southron, I am always haunted by the past and enjoy the telling of a good story, though I do have a penchant for the ghostly and the weird (which I have been fond of as far back as I can remember.) I plan to tell stories until I die and on that day I plan to be buried in the dirt of Hanover County outside of Richmond, where I have always called home and woe to any soul who should seek to prevent it.

Jeannette Angell — An Unkindness of Ravens

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I like to think that the “aunts” in this piece are New Englanders, and that Edwina is Southern. She strikes me that way, anyway. I know this because my mother was born in Atlanta and years spent in Europe and New England never quite took that particular twinkle away.

Kimberly Becker — Chain of Secrets

I’m a Southerner because it’s where I’m from and where my people are from, including Cherokee. I was born in Georgia and raised in North Carolina. I had a Mamaw, a Papaw and a Nenaw. There’s a Civil War (War Between the States) rifle in the hall closet of my grandparents’ house. Story is, a relative got it off a Union solider. My Mamaw once set the place on fire by trying to burn kudzu above the garden. I have her quilts in almost every room in the house. My Granddaddy said a person couldn’t help being poor, but he could help being no count. He said never be beholden to anybody. All my book learning can’t match his common sense.

Errid Farland — How Patrick Tucker Ruined My Wedding by Barbara Jean Watkins

When I was a child, I used to run along behind the truck that drove through the alleys in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, blowing clouds of poison to kill the mosquitoes. I’d turn and twirl in the mist, reasoning that if it coated my body, the mosquitoes would leave me alone. (They didn’t. Dit’n.) I went on to acquire a BS degree, holes in my brain notwithstanding. I was born in Arkansas, and raied in Arkansas (but. I. did. not. have. sexuuuuul. relations. with . that. President), North Carolina, and finally, the suspicious foreign land of California, where I now make my home. I love grits and okra (fried, boiled, raw–slime–yum), home grown peeled tomatoes with salt, watermelon without salt (I know, I know), crookneck squash, potatoes and gravy, cabbage, biscuits, and pot roast, but my dubious connection to yon foreign land of fruits, nuts, and flakes (I’m at least two of those) leads me to drink unsweet tea. I hang my head in Cracker Barrel and say, real quiet, “Unsweet.” As long as I’m confessing: I never liked greens, not collards, not turnips, not any of them except the delicate spinach variety, which is probably direct evidence of demon possession. God love her, she don’t like greens.

Elvy Howard — Nealy Gets Some Help

Southern Legitimacy Statement

I was born to Yankees but that’s not my fault. I did have the good sense to get them to move to Birmingham, Alabama before I was born, but then they moved me to New England where I learned to talk with one of those weird New England accents!

Poor me. I worked on the universe and got us to move to Richmond, Virginia when I was six and where I managed to stay ever since. Now nobody claims me. Whenever I open my mouth people around me say, “You’re not from around here are you?” I think my accent ended up somewhere on the New Jersey Turnpike. I believe one day I’ll travel up there and find my hometown where I speak like a native and no one looks at me cockeyed.

But my heart will always be here in the South, my real home, even if nobody does claim me.

Like the true Southerner I am, I don’t give a shit.

Wayne Scheer — Pig Roast

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I used to crumble bacon into my grits, load it with butter and mix it with runny eggs. Then my doctor lectured me about cholesterol. Now I crumble turkey bacon into oatmeal topped with Smart Balance, and mix it with scrambled eggbeaters.

Sam’l Irwin — Death on the Marsh

I’m a Cajun from south Louisiana, the original, original, original land of Dixie.
An outrageous claim?
Louisiana was home of the ante-bellum ten dollar note with the word “dix” printed all over it. Dix, of course, is the French word for ten and it is really pronounced “deese,” but the Americans that poured into Louisiana, especially after that whuppin’ Colonel Jackson and Jean Lafitte put on the redcoats in 1814, didn’t know it was pronounced “deese.” They said “dix,” as in “Gimme some of that Dixie beer.”

I’m descended from the Acadians of New Brunswick, that fat and sassy bunch that wouldn’t pledge allegiance to the King of England in 1759. At the same time, I’m also descended from a redneck from the piney woods of north Louisiana.

I’m just as likely to say “poo yai” or “dang” in exclamation or greet you with a French “Comment-ca vas?” or a “How y’all doin’? How’s momma and them?”

I like okra and tomatoes and corn bread and milk, only we Cajuns call it couche-couche (pronounced cush-cush).
So when I meet folks from Mississippi or Alabama or Florida and they, upon hearing my Cajun accent, say, “You sure do talk funny!” I reply, “I like the way you talk.” And then they admit, “I like the way you talk, too.”

Virginia Lee — Mrs. Mangum

Why I’m Southern:
1. My name, on my birth certificate from Alamance County NC actually is Virginia Lee.
2. My late father named me Virginia Lee because he was a Civil War buff and had aspirations to be a member of Southern gentry, a goal he never came close to achieving.
3. My dad was born in Arkansas, as was his daddy, but my paternal grandmother was born in Tennessee. Her mama was from Alabama. (I have a deep-seated dread that we are distant kin to the 10 Commandment judge, Roy Moore.)
4. My mama was born in Tennessee, as was her mama. Her daddy was born in Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana, just north of Lake Ponchartrain. He was raised in Biloxi,
5. My parents are the first generation of heaven only knows how many who were NOT farmers at some point.

Last, but certainly not least –
6. I have a degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi.

Rebekah Cowell — Shall We Gather at the River

Unmerciful rays of sunlight, filter through the tall pine trees along the highway, and a woman wearing leather sling-backs, and a black gabardine wool suit, struggles along the pitted highway surface. She passes another field of corn; stalks as high as a young child, feathery corn silks fluttering in the heated breeze that swirls up […]

Lise Whidden — Dexter Munroe

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
When I was a little girl my Granny took me uptown to have my picture made at Belks Department Store;I think I was about five years old. She said that the photographer talked to me a bit and laughed as he told me , “Honey, the house would burn down before you got anybody told.” One word out of my mouth and the whole world knows I’m southern. Not just southern, the mountains of North Carolina southern and believe me there’s a whole lotta south in that kind of accent. Imagine the voice of Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton if they couldn’t sing. I used to season everything my family ate with fatback and salt until the doctor told my husband that I was trying to kill him. I cook healthier food these days except at Christmas and Thanksgiving. Sometimes when I’m eating something that really needs salt I remember my Granny who lived to be 96 and never ate a new age ‘healthy’ meal in her life. She ate eggs from her own chickens, pork from a pig slaughtered on her own land, and vegetables out of a garden she planted. She prayed over her food with a voice that sounded like it had a mountain in it. I might just ask that doctor what he thinks about that.

Cyn Kitchen — Doxology

Southern Legitimacy Statement

Ten reasons I’m Southern even though I live on the Illinois prairie.
1. I use “y’all,” “out yonder,” and “git” in normal conversation.
2. I can scare up a mess of collard greens that’ll buckle a grown man.
3. My Uncle Joe served a life sentence for beating a man to death over the last swig of whiskey.
4. My grandma watched a hangin’ in the town square and loved telling the story of it to warn us that if we ever had the chance to see one not to.
5. My favorite writers are Flannery O’Connor and William Gay.
6. I say “Appa-latch-in” and “Looah-vull.”
7. My grandpa played the fiddle, wore a coal tattoo and died of black lung.
8. I have kin with two first names: “Barbara Jean,” “Jimmy Jay,” “Cottoneye Joe.”
9. I have picked up paw paws and put’em in a basket.
10. Snake-handling Pentecostals are everyday folk.

Meg Claudel — Rain Jack

Southern Legitimacy Statement:

I can brag of experiences of many souths: jambalaya, but also ratatouille, pavlova, and rolled fish tacos. A bit of each has made me who I am. What attaches me to the memory of a place? Is it who I met there and miss now or what I ate there and crave now?

Thanksgiving, the Creole restaurant in Paris, doesn’t, can’t, make jambalaya like Alex did at the restaurant where we worked in Greenville, South Carolina. I learned never to talk politics with Alex, but I’d eat his jambalaya every day. On mutual days off during the summer, Alex would drive me and his two retrievers to the old quarry in his pick-up complete with gun rack. I wasn’t in love with Alex. He was cute and sweet but my small-mindedness couldn’t separate him from his politics and his gun rack. I was in love with Alex’s cooking. Alex’s jambalaya. Alex’s crab cakes. Alex’s gumbo. Alex’s soft-shelled crabs. Alex’s bread pudding. Alex’s greens. I was in love with Alex’s greens. When we went to the quarry, I enjoyed seeing the strong young man swimming, to see Alex out of his apron. In all honesty, though, I went for the picnics he’d pack: sweet tea, deviled eggs, fried chicken, cornbread, coleslaw. He probably took me there to enjoy seeing me swimming, to see me out of my waitress uniform. But, I could never stray too far from his peach cobbler. I’d be dishonest if I were to state my southern legitimacy by sharing my experiences with Alex, or by describing the quarry, or by affecting the accent of our customers. The South is in me through my stomach and it’s my taste buds, not my tongue, that make the best argument for going back.

James Kendall — A Mean Man

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
Born and raised in Kentucky, love grits with butter and pepper, don’t understand people who screw up grits with milk and sugar, for gods sakes people, grits and cream of wheat are two different things, as different and horses and mules.
I live below the Mason Dixon line, only time I get in trouble is when I go north and marry some Yankee woman, always have to buy them a house, pack them up and then send them back north with all my money; I just can’t speak or understand their language, you know what I mean. Boy, I am damn glad to see ya’ll back up and running again, only decent writing on the web in a style I can understand.

Donnie Cox — Carrying the Bear

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I, DB Cox, am an ordained Southern musical minister. I preach to the blue multitudes that gather in the cheap juke-joint playgrounds along the back roads of the great southeast. I can be found in the early-morning hours bent over a Fender Stratocaster, playing with an ache in my tone that can only hint at the dark secrets hidden behind my cheap sunglasses. I am a psychedelic redneck aging without grace-wearing my hat pulled low over one eye, working hard to maintain my spot on the musical fringe, constantly searching for a sacred sequence of blue notes to save us all.

Christopher “G” Garlington — Scooby Doo

Southern Legitimacy Statement:
I have been to a one-room Baptist Church in Shelby County, Alabama, and watched grown men, reportedly sane, reach into a box and pick up pissed-off rattlesnakes. I have hunted and eaten poke salad. I have stood outside a narrow cafe just outside five-points in Birmingham, where I was born, and devoured a chili-dog and Grapico lunch special in the hot sun. I have driven my sister to a very successful fabric shop run out of a tin shack next to a pay-per-pound trout pond five miles east of Vincent. And though I am frequently dismayed by hoakey orthography to depict the “colorful” lilt of the southern tongue, my own tongue uncurls against my will with each mile as I drive home from Chicago, where I live now, to Westover, where I started out, until by the time I get there, my speech is run-over with obese vowels like an old dead tractor run-over by kudzu and I end up sounding like Andy Griffith.

Geoff Balme’s New Year Predictions — 2008

Ten things I predict for 2008 Based on the response to my last list which suggested that I was being a bit too pessimisstic (gasp! and I thought I was being funny!). My dad once told me that it’s always EASY to predict disaster, as it’s a safe bet something lousy is going to come […]

“She’s Only Five” by Donna Johnson

What? Who said you can’t have sweet tea and grits together? It’s not about the rules, it’s about what’s good. Breakfast or dinner, I say you can!

“Broken” by Lauren Coley

The best barbecue is pork with slaw. The best pork barbecue with slaw is Polar Freeze in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas (unpaid advertisement). Their slaw has a bite to it, and after decades of wondering how they get such flavorful cabbage, I have discerned that they spike their slaw with turnips. That’s my opinion, not a fact. All of it is. Now I know I’m going to start a new war between the states by those darned Texans who call beef-slathered-up-with-red-sauce and slapped-on-a-roll-sans-Cole-slaw the best barbecue in the world. All I can say about that is they have a right to be wrong. Also, it’s a shame how young’uns don’t gather up at the Polar Freeze of a hot summer evening with the mosquitoes lighting on their Off-scented limbs like they did back when.

“Junkyard Mummies” by Brandon Patterson

Why am I Southern? I date Yankee girls because they’re easier to dump. I even managed to part ways with one at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. That’s gotta earn me some bonus points or something.

“Antinomy” by Maurice Badon

I was born amidst the Blue Bonnets of East Texas and chased horned toads and armadillos across sandy roads until Mom called us for supper. We later moved, and I was reared along side the sugar cane fields in South Louisiana. We lived so close to the “Big Easy”, we could hear an old cornet wailing the blues and the classy sounds of jazz played on a stride piano, the sounds commingling and drifting like dark fog down the bayou on a Saturday Night. A thousand frogs lined the bayou and sang chorus while on a moonlit night one could hear the lovely solo of a mocking bird, its melody carried on the silver wings of moonbeams. Willow trees lined the bayou, their branches drooping and touching the slow moving current as the soft lisping sounds of little waves touched the banks of the bayou. ‘

And in high school, every Friday night, we played high school football and dated the cheer leaders. Saturday we tail gated at the local University and watched SEC Football. Man, to be a southerner in football season tops the grits, sweetened tea and all the other trivia your southern writers talk about. I bet all their dogs are porch dogs!

But hey. Lets get real. In my neck of the woods Katrina came. Where are the sounds of the cornet playing the blues? The melodic sounds of jazz on the piano? The bayou is silent now. The thousands of frogs have been swept back into the marsh lands, and the willow trees lie twisted and torn along the banks. Occasionally on a still, pure and pristine night, when a tipping moon is full of silver moon beams falling to the ground, one might hear a single mocking bird, weeping for the time we lived before Katrina. Now we all stand in the sorrow and trauma of the aftermath, knowing things will never be the same as before and as we look forward, putting all the BS aside,we are not sure what the future holds for the “Big Easy” and South Louisiana.

“Rust in the Water” by Anne-Marie Yerks

Southern Legitimacy Statement
I’m from Michigan, but only because my grandparents left Eastern Kentucky to pick potatoes here back in 1942. Also, I lived in North Carolina half my life and graduated from N.C. State.

“A Razorback Dithyramb” by Thomas Aiello

With the exception of one summer at a northeastern university, I have never left the cope of the South for more than two weeks consecutively. For that matter, I have never left the cope of the broader boot of Louisiana and Arkansas for any sustained period. And when I felt homesick that one lonely summer, I became the only person (I believe) to pace the walks of Cornell University with the Ole Miss Rebel Marching Band’s version of Dixie blaring through his or her headphones. I told the greeter at the Walmart just outside Ithaca that the store was to be my semi-official Southern embassy. Furthermore: I wholeheartedly approved when my friend Flick convinced his fiancé to let him play the LSU fight song as their wedding recessional. I preface questions with preparatory preambles such as “Let me ask you this.” I went to a segregated high school in the early 1990s. I made a scene at a California wedding when I realized they didn’t have (nor had they heard of) a groom’s cake. I spend inordinate amounts of money traveling to Southeastern Conference football games that I can’t afford and that my favorite team often loses. I received my terminal degree in American History from a fine Southern institution (the University of Arkansas—Woo Pig Sooie!), specializing in Southern cultural and intellectual history, as well as Civil Rights and race relations. Finally (in a list intended to be representative rather than comprehensive), I feel no offense when seeing a Confederate flag, but feel simultaneously guilty for not being offended. And nothing is more Southern than a divided mind.

“Rare Bird” by Lisa Sharon

My life as a southerner, with the exception of a few visits south of the Ohio River, has been largely vicarious, but I shaped my career as a lawyer after Atticus Finch and my career as a writer after Lee Harper. I married a man who spent a summer sweating in the Mobile, Alabama heat, and who’d rather have sweet potato pie than pumpkin.

Charles Davis “Angel’s Rest” – a novel excerpt

Angel’s Rest, Charles Davis’s first novel, shines brightly amid Mule writer successes. A friend of the Mule for years and years, Mr. Davis has had quite a career leading up to “novelist” writer guy. From former federal law enforcement officer to construction worker to novelist and toddler-master-dad, he’s been my friend as well as a mule-friend and I’ve enjoyed our chats. -vmac

Lee Ardell “Return to Paradise”

My folks came to Texas from Tennessee, Alabama and North Carolina, mostly right before the Civil War – farmers except for the occasional banker or cotton ginner. I grew up on a farm and thought a fine day was lugging a Mason jar of tea out to my Daddy when he plowed. I played in the sweet dirt while he rested in the shade of the tractor. I still ache for my mother’s fried pies, black-eyed peas, cornbread, squash and okra.

Now, I live in Houston – one-time capital of the Lone Star State and all-time capital of humidity and mosquitoes. Out my window I see pine trees, azaleas and crape myrtles getting ready for summer.

Here’s my story about a little town in Texas, fried turkey and ambrosia. I hope you like it.

Ann Hite, “A Spider’s Bite”

I know I’m southern because I survived all the unwritten rules for women. You know: Don’t sleep with a man before you’re married. Don’t smoke in public. Don’t get a tattoo. Find a good man and marry him. Don’t wear white after Labor Day.

*The Mule just adores Ms. Hite’s work.

Jim Booth — Au Lecteur (a novel excerpt)

As a small boy, Jim Booth wanted nothing more than to be a goatherd wandering the ancient hills of his Southern homeland. Then he heard the gospel according to John and Paul and abandoned the pastoral life for the responsible hedonism of rock musicianship. Having failed gloriously in that endeavor, he took on the academy, ate it alive, and spat it back out as dark sarcasm in the classroom. Currently he writes occasionally award winning fiction and occasionally homeland security annoying bloggery. He lives in a heavily fortified bunker in an undisclosed location In Danville, Virginia just off 58 after you pass the Honda dealer but before you get to Carter’s restaurant.

*Editor’s note: Mr. Booth’s got a new book coming out and this story is an excerpt. Ahh, hell, let’s get personal, Jim’s even been to eastern NC and he and his lovely wife are charming folk (that’s not just because they paid for my lunch, either). A review of his book “The New Southern Gentleman” is on Popmatters.com, written by yours truly, VMac. Use the Popmatters google-search and type in MacEwan and you’ll find it.

Parker W. Howard “The Big Tree”

I was born and reared with one foot in Memphis, Tennessee and the other in a farm in Forest, Mississippi. I left the South for college in Montana, England, and Seattle, then returned to Mississippi in 2002. I am most definitely a bone fide Southerner. In fact, I can say that I have actually plowed with a mule.

Lance Levens “My Daddy’s Not a Hippophagist”

One great great grandaddy sent four sons to fight at Battery Wagner and Okalustee (Fla.), another sent three to die at Vicksburg. I scratch when it itches, even when the quality is watchin’.

J.C. Frampton “Reena”

Born in D.C., reared in Maryland with excursions in the Carolinas and the Blue Ridge, I had Navy stopovers in Virginia and Texas and, while I currently find myself in San Diego for job purposes and such, hain’t surrendered a lick of devotion to things like bluegrass w/ neckties on (BTW we have some of the best right here in SD), beat biscuits w/ white gravy and Jimmy Dean links, straight Jack Daniel’s, fried chicken takes two hand washins to get clean again, and writers like Faulkner (Light in August my all-timer), Caldwell, Welty (Delta Wedding, oh yes), McCullers, Shelby Foote.

Tracy Whitaker “Clover”

What makes me southern?

I live in Richmond, Virginia, so, one, location. Two, I have lived only once in the north, and that was for a year and a half. I worked in New Jersey for Ma Bell and people would ask me to “Say something” just to hear my southwestern Virginia accent. Three, I have attended and maybe even joined churches where women did not wear jewelry, makeup or slacks, and whose swirling, teased beehives were nocturnally swaddled in Charmin, preserving a hairstyle, that, when fully erect, could tower a good nine or ten inches, sometimes a foot above the natural hairline and the fellers they married. P.S. I have been previously published in Dead Mule, and if that don’t make you southern, Good God Almighty, what does?

Andrew Killmeier “Death’s Janitor”

Southern Legitimacy: I was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky on the banks of the muddy Ohio River. This story also takes place in the great Bluegrass State.

Sean Ryan “The Okra Story”

The three boys came back from their “coming-of-age” cross-country trip in mid-August, a few days before their freshman year at Rutgers started. When they got back, they took their girlfriends out to a fine Italian restaurant (at the suggestion of one of the boy’s old-fashioned Italian mothers) with the remainder of their cross-country funds (an […]

FeLicia A. Elam “Loretta Shine”

I was born and raised on a farm near Manchester, Tennessee, that my great-grandfather purchased after being emancipated. It is still in my family. My grandfather was a truck farmer who reared 13 children after my grandmother left him. I remember planting seed potatoes with him under the moonlight. Twenty years after his death, people still drive to my parents’ farm and ask about “Mr. Glenn” and his “Irish potatoes”.

Diane E. Dees “A Man Walks Into a Bar”

I was born in the South, educated in the South, and have lived my entire life in the South. I drink sweet tea, grow antique roses, eat Creole tomato sandwiches, and own a copy of Longfellow’s “Evangeline.”

Lanny Gilbert “Country Road”

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born in North Georgia in the Appalachian foothills. I know what cathead biscuits, protracted meetings, #9 turners and #2 washtubs are. I can read shape notes and sing from the Sacred Harp book. If that ain’t Southern, then grits ain’t groceries.

Christopher Rowe: High Water

  “That was a nice cast, boy, your daddy’s been teaching you something right down there in Florida.” “Now, don’t start in again, Hiram. The child wasn’t the one decided to pick up and move off. We’re blessed to have him visit for the summer.” “I ain’t saying anything different, Martha, I was just commenting […]

Tripp Howell: “Ole’ Doc Jenkins”

A retirement home in northern Mississippi, near Memphis: “So, anyway, like I ‘uz sayin’, I was down in ole’ Doc Jenkins’ room one day back ‘fore he died, and he ‘uz tellin’ me this story ’bout this woman he treated once…” “Man, dat ole’ Doc Jenkins, he ‘uz just ’bout a damn fool…dat man always […]

Carter Monroe: Politics

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