The View from Plum Lick
Storehouse of ideas
began falling softly then steadily in the early morning on the tin
roof of our mortal selves.
It was the old
familiar-sometimes troubling, sometimes reassuring-pattern of
sound. We lay in bed, and we quietly listened for messages. We
were expectant not of voice mail, but of ideas arriving
Flush in the joy of the birth
of our new book Rivers of Kentucky, my wife, Lalie, and I
instinctively knew there's hardly anything more pleasant and
important as a new idea- or an old idea freshly inspired by
We recalled the Kentucky side
of the Mississippi River from Wickliffe to Hick-man, then around
the looping Kentucky Bend, where people-farmers, welders,
electricians, shopkeepers, clerks, retirees, teachers, students,
doctors, nurses, lawyers, towboat crews, fishermen, and
descendants of Indian chiefs-stir and arise on another new day.
As for Ol' Man River, he plays
no favorites. The wise (or shall we say, the river-rat savvy)
respect the power of the Great Stream, because it flows no matter
our attitude or mood, whether we're good or bad. The water
responds to Ol' Man Gravity, and we surely know all about his
reality, don't we? Without the absolute mandate of Mr. Gravity
we'd be poured in a watery second into the great big bucket of
space. And then where'd we be?
In this month of March, with
enough high water, up and down crests, and windblown surprises to
keep us fully employed for another century or two, it might be as
good a time as any to put on waterproof shoes, take stock, and try
a little of Grandmother's annual remedy. She'd open up the
windows, air out the house, and lay in a new bottle of spring
There are enough litter,
debris, and cobwebs from excessive holidays past lying all around
us, stuff just aching and daring to be pitched. Might even be time
for a fresh coat of paint or an occasion for considering an
untried garden seed.
During the winter past, we had
the good fortune to stumble upon a book, Self-Made in America:
Plain Talk for Plain People about the Meaning of Success,
by John McCormack. When it was published 10 years ago, the price
was $19.95, but Book Warehouse downstream in Baton Rouge had it
marked down to 99 cents-and we can't resist that kind of bargain!
A storehouse of ideas, we brought the volume back to Plum Lick
Creek in Kentucky to help keep us warmer and drier on rainy, windy
The idea is to dare to dream,
put well thought-out plans into action, stay focused, go with the
flow of earthly and spiritual life, and don't ever lose sight of a
worthy harbor. In short, don't give up, and whatever we do, keep
our heads above muddy water. Otherwise, we might as well be
driftwood and be done with it.
Each individual has her or his
own goal. It can be as strong as Ol' Man Person wants it to be.
The stronger it is, the more ethical it is; the more successful it
becomes, the greater the benefit for society. Determined, ethical
work is everybody's improvement.
The Commonwealth and the
nation are built on individual excellence, commitment, and
persistence. It begins at home port. It flows to the workplace.
Dedicated effort and pride in workmanship are master oar strokes
to success in the finest meaning of the word.
As we move closer to another
graduation season, when more young deckhands try on their new
careers for size, it's not too late to examine and re-examine the
quality of our preparation. It might be learned at a school board
meeting, a parent-teacher conference, or a parent-student reality
check. It could begin with a little 99-cent book washed ashore by
Ol' Man River.