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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.”

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Running Water by Ted Harrison

SOUTHERN LEGACY STATEMENT: In my archives there is a picture of a young tyke sitting astride a mule—a live mule. The youngster is me; perhaps age 5. The mule was one of the pair my Grandfather owned: Bob and Mag. Poppa plowed those mules on his farm in Rowan County, North Carolina where he raised cotton, corn, wheat, and a vegetable garden that couldn’t be beaten.
Although I wasn’t raised on that farm, I was allowed to pick cotton in his fields. Rest assured as a young grade school kid, my bag wasn’t one of the big bags made up of two “tow bags” sewn end to end. Those bags stretched out along the rows as various family members pulled the white fibers from the bolls. As small as my bag was, I was never able to fill it. Poppa usually gave me a quarter for my meager efforts. He took the coin from his leather purse which he kept in the chest pocket of his overalls.
I have memories of him sitting in the “fire room” of the weather beaten farm house as he filled his pipe from his can of Prince Albert smoking tobacco, listening to Gabriel Heater on the radio during World War II.

Read More

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.

Read More