Nin Andrews on Her Essay “Bird Watching with James Dickey”

January 21, 2013 § 2 Comments

Nin-AndrewsWe regularly ask Brevity authors if they would write a short blog post on the genesis of the essay just published.  Today, Nin Andrews tells us how she came to write “Bird Watching with James Dickey:”

My father was an habitual story-teller. It was a day like no other day, he would say, beginning one of his many stories. Immediately my mother would correct him.

It was a perfectly ordinary day. I remember it well.

The air was so electric, my father would continue, ignoring my mother. Even the hairs stood up on my hands.

Hairs don’t stand up on hands, my mother said. Besides, it’s hair, not hairs.

I said hairs. I meant hairs. 

Sitting cross-legged on the living room floor in front of the box fan after dinner, I would listen to my father’s tales, and my mother like a hound tracking his every word. They were good stories, made better by my mother’s interruptions. And they were evolving stories that changed with every telling.

Sometimes my father would be joined by his friend, the writer, Peter Taylor. The two would trade tales about their families, the south, ghosts, and famous writers. My father, a competitive man, could hold his own on the first three categories of stories. He even suspected Peter was stealing his tales and using them in his fiction. Secretly my father thought he was the better raconteur of the two.

But when it came to stories about authors, Peter Taylor, held most of the cards. He and his wife, Eleanor Ross Taylor, could talk at length about Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, Jean Stafford and many others. But my father did hold one ace. William Faulkner visited our farm before I was born. Did I ever tell you about the time William Faulkner was thrown off our horse? he would begin. Peter nodded. After a while, my father decided to tell a James Dickey story instead. After several tellings, my father went back to talking about William Faulkner. I’ve often wondered how many times William Faulkner fell off our horse.

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