My Grandfather’s Finger
I purchased this book in 1999 and it has been crammed on a bookshelf with such diverse books as Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrases & Fables, Milton Cross’ Encyclopedia of the Great composers and their Music and Rona Jaffe’s The Best of Everything. !!!
No organization whatsoever.
While working on a project (with a deadline that is not as far in the future as I thought), I glanced at that bookshelf and remembered how excited I was when I purchased the book – thinking it would be a very good read.
Well, I took a moment from the project-with-a-close-deadline and glanced at the book and I definitely must read it.
My Grandfather’s Finger was written by Edward Swift. A sample below . . .
I was born in a small corner of East Texas that has come to be known as the Big Thicket, sometimes called the biological crossroads of America. To be technical, the Thicket is an ecotone, a transitional area between two adjacent ecological communities.
No more than a stone’s throw northeast of Houston, the Thicket is an area of about two hundred square miles where the coastal plain and the timberline meet and overlap, creating a variety of soils and a climate that ranges from temperate to subtropical. It is not uncommon to find cactus growing in patches of arid sandy land that border and bisect swamps, pine savannas and hardwood forests where around fifty species of orchids have been collected and four carnivorous plants grow in abundance. It’s an area of sharp contrast, not only in landscape but in the character of its inhabitants. The early settlers called it No Man’s Land, a hiding place for ne’er-do-wells of all descriptions.
During the Civil War, the Thicket was a well-known refuge for pacifists and Jayhawkers, those who refused to fight for the South. It was also a haven for renegades, recluses, and religious fanatics, but today the Big Thicket is primarily known as a national biological preserve. Five separate tracts of land and several stream corridors have been set aside for recreation and scientific research. No Man’s Land is now overrun with bird watchers, herpetologists, and hikers. Botanists are forever collecting samples there, while old-time evangelists still preach doomsday on street corners and crossroads. It is not surprising that fishermen, hunters, and retirees have found their way to the Thicket in great numbers. Outside the biological preserve, the countryside is spotted with new homes hugging streams and rivers or clustered around man-made lakes. There’s hardly a place where a car horn or a television set cannot be heard.
Unfortunately, the Thicket of my childhood no longer exists. Much of the forest has been cut down, and my grandparents, along with most of their children and closest friends, are no longer living. They were an imaginative lot, and I was most fortunate to have spent my formative years around them. They were the wildest of dreamers, and the maddest of madmen. And although they were rabid individualists, they were similarly marked with loose tongues and poetic speech. Not only did they live their lives as if they were characters springing from the pages of a book, they were front porch storytellers of the highest order. They knew instinctively how to tell as well as how to enlarge upon a story while keeping it rooted in truth. They understood that an oral story is a living thing and should grow with each telling. Furthermore, they seemed to have no interest in writing about themselves, no need to record their imaginative ramblings on paper. That they left to another generation, a far more troubled one.
Edward Swift is also an artist and now lives in Mexico. I’ve just begun reading My Grandfather’s Finger (although I must get back to the Overdue Project . . . and a myriad of other things – but I don’t think I can put the book down now that I’ve read the first couple of pages . . .).
Posted on November 5, 2009, in Books and tagged artist, books, East Texas, Edward Swift, Jayhawkers, Mexico, My Grandfather's Finger, New York, reading, The Big Thicket, writers. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.