In The Beginning were The Brothers Brass…

KESTREL WATERS Front Cover - Randy_Thornhorn_18 MARCH 2014_MediumA

An epic fable of human love, of an epic family, comic and profane. Inspired by The Everly Brothers (whose harmony grew from the tortured bluegrass roots of The Louvin Brothers), this odyssey of The Brothers Brass builds to a ferocious, unforeseen ending–never to be forgotten.

The Kestrel Waters are sweet and deep and full of sorrow.

The Kestrel Waters are dark and scary.

The Kestrel Waters are the waters of life.

In The Beginning were The Brothers Brass of Savannah, Georgia, singing at tent revivals, at 45 rpm, and on a transistor radio near you. Until some devil pulls the plug.

Stuck in Bible College, brother Kestrel Brass falls for a wild mountain girl who hides in trees. Her name is Bettilia. And, long ago, Bettilia says, she had to kill her bad step-daddy who stole her.

Soon love blossoms and Bettilia joins the shattered Brass family in their seafront home, Angel’s Prey House. She arrives in the teeth of a winter storm, bearing blood secrets and a big white puppy. She is stalked by hobnail boots. The Brass family bonds around Bettilia, she sings with The Brothers Brass. She climbs into their treehouse, she entices Kestrel there. She grows and flourishes in Kestrel’s world, swimming in Kestrel’s waters. Yes, soon, they will be married.

But, again, Bettilia hears hobnail boots coming. And before their song is sung, Kestrel will dance with his devil and do battle for his bride on a haunted mountain called Riddle Top.

The Kestrel Waters is an eerie, heroic, and beautiful tale, awash in the waters of redemption.

“Captures the tragedy of romantic and familial love better than any story I have ever read.”
~ Janeiro Bento

from author Randy Thornhorn:

“One of the South’s wildest new voices…”
The Oxford American Magazine

More readers’ comments:

The Kestrel Waters is one of those books that leaves the reader with an emotional hangover. It’s difficult to start reading another book, because one’s feelings are still so influenced by the book just read. This emotional hangover doesn’t happen too often for me, and I’m a voracious reader. Indeed, it happens more often with music. But in a way I can’t explain, The Kestrel Waters is like music…”

~ Joy Williams

“I had no idea what to expect when I started reading The Kestrel Waters…I didn’t expect to care for the characters the way I do. I didn’t expect to be as concerned for them as I became. And I certainly didn’t expect to finish this book with a lump in my throat, tears in my eyes, and the sense of having experienced something profound.

This was a hell of a good read had I sought only an engaging yarn of good and evil, love and redemption, and a mystery solved. But it’s a lot more than that.

This is immersive, obsessive, and deeply affecting. Disorienting – in that way that a good book can connect you to something that leaves a tint on everything around you, an aftertaste… this is powerful.”

~ Jeffrey Lindner

“I found it masterful…I feel almost as haunted by [Bettilia] as Kes did. She’s a haunting, haunted little creature, but I fell in love with her. Her snappish wit, her obvious devotion to Mambly and Mama, her courage and strength, and her fears…The climax was riveting.”

~ Brianne Harris (Age 20, Illinois)

“I just finished The Kestrel Waters. I started it this morning and read it mostly in one sitting…I could not put it down. The language was beautiful. Honestly, I think it an amazing book…It was a profound experience.”

~ Rebecca Jacobson (Age 44, Texas/Washington DC)

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Herald the shadowed things…


Herald the shadowed things, the hearth and tinder,
Lo, she comes, yon midnight madonna, newborn and beheld.


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Thank you to The Gnu’s Room!


I want to proclaim my deepest appreciation to Tina and The Gnu’s Room (–and all the wise and wonderful folks who came yesterday to my first reading and signing for The Kestrel Waters.

Never has a writer had a more thoughtful, attentive, or appreciative audience than the good people who graced this event. Thank you for spending time with me, along the way, on Kestrel’s odyssey.



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Magpies Ascending: BOOK SIGNING TODAY! “The Kestrel Waters” at The Gnu’s Room


This is the one, folks. Today, the Big River begins at The Gnu’s Room in Opelika, Alabama at 4 p.m.

Randy Thornhorn will be visited upon any of you who do visit. (He walks! He talks! He crawls on his belly like a reptile! He warbles sweet songs of love and sorrow whilst spewing clouds of devout dementia! Yes, he’s ten ticks past midnight on the red eye express, a runaway rebel train on life’s railway to heaven…)

Or, maybe, just maybe, for the first time Thornhorn will read and sign that new novel: The Kestrel Waters

Don’t miss this. It is bound to happen.

P.S. I would love to see you there (RT)

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Meanwhile, over on Bluegrass Today…



You might need to click on this and enlarge it to really see it. But I thought you might enjoy a gander at what is popping up regularly this weekend and in weeks to come over on Bluegrass Today dot com.

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BLIND FIDDLER (from The Kestrel Waters) *reposted by Popular Request

performed by Hoyt Axton

Currently Available in print and as Kindle ebook on

Get a $6 Promotional Code Discount on print book of The Kestrel Waters at Amazon/Createspace (Code: DF6MFL8X)

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Cottage For Sale (from The Kestrel Waters)

performed by Judy Garland

COMING: The Kestrel Waters will be available in print on April 1. (That’s right, April Fools Day, folks!)

(Currently available as Kindle ebook on

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A Letter from William Peter Blatty (re: The Kestrel Waters)

Well, folks, today I received a letter from a very gracious man whose words moved me deeply. I can never thank him enough for taking the time to read and respond to my request.

I have not told many people until now–but The Kestrel Waters (my new novel) is going to be available in print the first of next month. The cover is designed already, everything is falling into place for it. (It is already available online as a Kindle ebook at Amazon.)

Then, this afternoon, I received an email from Oscar-winning, best-selling author William Peter Blatty (who wrote The Exorcist and The Ninth Configuration). It began like this:


I took most of the rest of the day off to read The Kestrel Waters after which I’ve come to believe that it is I who should be asking you for quotes. I was haunted throughout by a sense of mystery and otherness, it’s a mesmerizing, wonderfully written and extraordinary work of the imagination…


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The Brothers Everly


What strange creatures brothers are…

~ Jane Austen

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Don’t miss this. Why worry now…

The Everly Brothers.

Sublime. Back in 1986 this onstage performance achieved perfection with this beautiful, classic song, penned by Mark Knopfler originally for The Everly Brothers. It (arguably) transcends all other recordings of it, before or since–including those earlier versions by The Everlys and Knopfler himself.

With Mark Knopfler, Chet Atkins, and Michael McDonald.

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The Brothers Louvin


The Louvin Brothers.

The Louvin Brothers. The most beautiful brotherly harmonies in the haunted history of bluegrass music.

More than any others, they inspired The Everly Brothers. The Louvins also inspired my new novel The Kestrel Waters.

If their song Knoxville Girl has never resounded in your ears, then you might rest easier. But you will never have known The Louvin Brothers.

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In The Warm

(for more author videos, visit Thornhorn Videos)

“In The Warm”

(written and read by Randy Thornhorn)


In the warm of you
There rings this righteous
Betwixt us
And revealed.

Here in the warm of you
We have known the days
We’ve known the bells
Of twilight
Feast and rich reward
Our sword of grace
Founded and forged

Here in the warm of you
We’ve sipped the wine
Of abiding communion
Nurturing kinship
And kin
From within
This chord
And regaled.

Here in your lips
I’ve heard
Our weaving reed
Of love

Here in the warm of you
We’ve made haven
For wastral souls
We’ve charted trace
After trace
Given rise
To corinthian designs
And wee euphorias
The tiniest terns
Of kindness
Given wing
We have known the times

Here in the warm of you
I vow to see you safe
Cross the river
I’ll be your bread and drink
Your comfort and your ember
I’ll bind each ancient wound
Fine tuning your filigree
And your spoon
These things I’ll forever set true
Here in the warm of you.

© Randy Thornhorn

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~ RT ~

It’s the Thornhorn thing.

(For more author photos, visit the Gallery.)

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Carl Perkins’ Hands


Photo © Randy Thornhorn

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A Southern Winter Interlude.


Here is home. Yes, we miss you and wish you safe return…

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August 26, 1855, Schoonswyk House

Dearest Corliss,

As I sit writing this letter upon your desk, my husband, I am surrounded by your pipes and ledgers while across the room, our room, you lie sleeping with your new bride, Katrine. Her coppery hair is pressed against your sleeping lips where my own dark strands were once clenched in your teeth. It is only a few hours since you spent yourself inside her belly, as you often tried to seed my belly in repeated carnal fits. You are both so lovely to behold, entangled, enraptured in each others arms. She is a divine creature as you well know. She was my friend. But it is you, dear Corliss, who is the true beauty. Your clefted chin, so familiar to me, catches the candlelight as I pen these words and I am taken once again by the delicate assurance of your face, your long lashes and sinuous arms. Arms that can hold me no more.

Perhaps she will bear you the son you so desire. I could not. Certainly you have sired more than one pickaninny with that precious octoroon who lives beyond the mill pond, the tiny, sad-eyed girl who still does your laundry. But, of course, she could not and can not provide for all your needs. My, oh my, Corliss, for such a wealthy young heir bred into such privilege and fortune, it has taken so many of us to leave you so unsatisfied.

The hour is late. I can hear the oaken grandfather ticking mournfully outside the locked door, he ticks and tocks, echoing the halls of this great house. I always loved that clock. You said he was mine. But he is still yours, for you never give up anything once you possess it, do you dear husband? Long after person or thing are of little worth to you, you still cannot relinquish that which you deem as yours. So be it. I love you. Will always love you and would never deny you.

Did I deny you when you insisted on ravaging my insides so soon after my last miscarry? Did I deny you when later that very evening you led me to the root cellar and cut the vein in my neck? Did I deny you when you kissed my open eyes, as I whispered your name, sweet Corliss, as death overtook me?

I could not deny my love. And in so many untold ways, you have sent me wandering afar, to vast faraway fields and visions of spiritual wonderment that I never knew in life, muchless within the confines of your manor. For I have seen things, Corliss, visited places that I dare say even you in your travels have never dreamt of. My desires were small, silly, sometimes even petty dreams that belonged to a not unattractive lass who was fatefully spoiled by her kind father, no doubt. A genteel child who only longed for poet’s lace and a love that would bind. And so, I was given to you, and you to me.

Can you possibly fathom the worlds that you have opened to me? I have stood atop these mountain peaks in a raging firestorm, and looked out across these heavens while a thousand veils enfolded upon themselves, revealing phantasmic secrets to my thirsting soul. The skies have swum like nectar before me, engulfing me, sworling open like some infinite camera obscura, allowing me to glimpse the unknowable beauties we can never unlock in life. For me, as I walk these hills, there is no daybreak–only eternal twilight betwixt death and redemption. For I am passing my love, forever passing. And as I go, I meet others like myself who bespeak tales of utter woe, far more beleaguered and horrific than any sorrow I have to tell. We listen, each to the other, then we pass on. I have met lost children, the grieving mothers who smothered them, and I have visited with soft, gentle souls who are only asking forgiveness for sins they cannot remember, questing in peaceful resignation for an everlasting passage to home. We are all going home.

Oh, Corliss, I have so much left to see and learn. And you have given me the time, the means. My heart is full as I watch you cuddling your freshly deflowered bride. We are each so fortunate in our mystery, Katrine, you, and I. What will become of her? Will you torture her into submission, will she give you sons, will another Schoonswyck heir make the difference? Surely not for you my husband, surely not for you. I worry that your ravenous charms might consume you before you find the blessings of rest. You shan’t harm or corrupt my vessel or hers, only yourself, and the pity you have wrought would be unbearable to those of us in the passing.

So I must return, often, to visit you. To assuage your wounds. I will try not to be a bother. The bedroom doors are bolted from the inside, the windows locked. They will still be so in the morning when you arise and find this letter waiting on this desk. You will recognize my handscript but I will have left, for now. But do not vex yourself too harshly, dearest Corliss. We are bound together. My love will never leave you.

Forever yours,
Earla Vi


© Randy Thornhorn

Ͽ- Ʈеӏӏеґ Ό`ŧħе Ʈąӏе -Ͼ

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who child

I been seeing it done for years.

First thing, ever purple morn, the Willerswitch Witch comes to that same steep knob atop Hulep Choat’s Peak. She ain’t much hair left. What hairs they is is white. Her skin be grey. No greyer than other hags and they’s sure to be other hags, I expect. But this hag is–now don’t you worry it–but she’s the Willerswitch Witch to that girly up the tree.

High, she is. Up that tree.

My baby never leaves that limb to ask for no Christian name, mind you. She ain’t one to ask. No, she keeps secret. Her eyes be my eyes.

Below, the old grey thing lifts her skirts and she spin eleven, twelve, thirteen times, eyes closed and whispering. The Witch ask where do time tell, where is the well went, where be the wind sent, how went tizzypoke? The Witch, she blows a French harp — her mouth organ whines whilst jigging and clogging her pointy toes in the air. Whipping up dizzy arias and canticles with her willerswitch, she blows loud and swats down her crazylegged canticles for all souls below to hear.

From that tree on Hulep Choat’s Peak, a wee girl can see hollers piled upon hollers, snapdragon hillsides tumbling into valleys, twining into murky slews. Sometimes, a twanging guitar string ricochets up from below, answering back at that French harp. Soon the Witch takes to circling the tree spire, first to the clockwise, then counter to the clock. The willerswitch will lead, my little girly will listen.

“A thousand’n ten hunert’n two babies I done pulled from they mams. Put my mark on most ever chile I borned. Ever clan has its daemon babe, ye know, a boogified daemon babe. Ask me, I tells em so. Ask me. I hate the impudent chile. I knows him right off. I gives that babe its mark. Everbody got one. I can pick a collicky babe, a trickster, a fool–yay, a fool, or I can pick me a king foretold from the birthin’ slime. So I kisses em with my pucker. Or I kisses em with my willer switch. Onliest ones I ever put back into they mams is them what this world ain’t ripe fer yet. That’s why I’m plumb ashamed this mornin’, humbled I be. That’s why I ask of thee. Do you recollect first babysteps, babysteps? First one, then two step, then three? So here you is–still a chile. So whose chile is you? Who chile, who chile, who chile is you?”

Now, my girly ain’t never been kissed. She ain’t good for that. But she’s the right fit, she can hold her shine, and she can cipher plenty good. I reckon she wonders, who chile is you?

Don’t worry it. Don’t you worry it none. It was many a morn before my girly got wise to that old woman. But she got foxy afore long. Why, that Willerswitch Witch had never left a mark on that girly on high. No tarbaby mark or fortune’s kiss, not even a willer to cry. Borned cold and quiet, she was, to a blindeyed mother cold in the grave.

You ask how could that be? You ask how went tizzypoke? We will just have to see, you see. Make no mistake about one thing.

That baby belong to me.

That baby belong to me.

That baby belong to me.


(Who Child is the opening chapter of the book Wicked Temper.)

© Randy Thornhorn

Ͽ- Ʈеӏӏеґ Ό`ŧħе Ʈąӏе -Ͼ

photo by Carlos Restrepo

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Victory Of Faith (1889)

victory of faith - george hare

Artist: George Hare

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J.Pea nuzzled the snow, snooping for frozen gooseberries. It was just another caintrip. His grey paws clawed and dug, down to the hard earth beneath. An aching hunger clenched his belly as he sniffed, but all scent was distant, locked beneath the ice. For a moment, he held a dim, darting memory of warmer, less hungry days. But memory left him. J.Pea snorted then lapped at the ground. It gave up nothing. Suddenly–his feral eyes shifted–in a flash, he loped up the snowbank, bounding into piney woods.

Within the trees, all became darkling and crystalline. Little stirred, not leaf or feather or ferret, nothing dared to stir here. He prowled through hushed timber and the timber stood hushed because of him. He sensed this. He knew it without question, without knowing he knew. He was life. Yes. He was life itself. Around him and above, a thousand tiny souls quivered in their hovels or held a communal breath, not daring to move or twitter on their frozen branches, suddenly aware of life. He was life and life was a cold traveler through these snowbound hills, forever ravening and crafty.

J.Pea panted then dipped his grizzled snout, burrowing the length of his grey body under a dead clot of crabapple boughs, his long tail flicking and breaking icicles as he pushed deeper into the thicket. He made a hidden dugout for himself. The icicles broke like tinkling bells, his muscles coiled. Here he crouched on four paws. Only his ears would twitch, each tufted point pivoting silently at any hint of movement in the forest. He would watch and wait his turn.

Fortune was with him. J.Pea’s belly did not wait long.

A crystal branch cracked–

–and he heard it: his ear tuft pitched toward the sound, aching for another signal. Was it an oak straining under the weight of winter? No, he heard another crackle, and another as the spoor flexed his nostrils.

There. It was there. A scroungy monkrat. The monkrat came snarfing around a dim tangle of rootwork, off to J.Pea’s right. The monkrat twitched its whiskers and ruffled up zagging troughs of snow as it came.

J.Pea twitched his whiskers as well. His eyes slit.

But he let it come. Closer. The monkrat was upwind, unaware of J.Pea’s golden-eyed gaze behind his clot of branches. The slobbery little creature looked and darted, snarfed and foraged the snow, coming abreast of the thicket before J.Pea went eyes wide.

J.Pea sprang. Quickly, it was over. A plea piped from the tiny throat as J.Pea’s jaws crushed the monkrat, piercing its windpipe and quealching its pleas forever. Blood sprayed the icy crust beneath the pines, the warm red flow refreshing and vital as it stained J.Pea’s fangs, as he thrashed and tore at the flinching carcass.

J.Pea settled for a moment, hunkered beneath the pine canopy, the monkrat lifeless and secure in his great downy-grey paws. J.Pea began devouring fur and flesh. The cold stinging air mingled with the raw blood in his nose. He had barely eaten the monkrat’s haunch when he heard voices. Voices of men.

His head thrust out–alert as his blooded muzzle whipped around, eyes hot in the direction of the breaking forest. They drew near, approaching, footfalls crunching the snow. They whispered back and forth, but their man sounds boomed fearsome in J.Pea’s ears.

“Tole her that kitty would take ther train ter Memphis if she didn’t watch out…”

“Hesh er ye’ll skeer the sidemeat…”

Their man-jibber meant nothing to J.Pea as he leapt up–monkrat clenched in his bloody teeth, an icy gust knifing through the needles–their sounds were worthless. They were nothing but life to him.

J.Pea whirled, dashing off with his kill, away from the intruders. He would return to his rock den and fill his belly there, away from the awful spoor of men. Their voices fell far behind him. Soon they would find his dark stain.

He left the treeline then made a fast track down a craggy ridge, galloping boldly through the snow. Hot slobber flushed from his nostrils as he ran, the bone and gristle of the monkrat locked in his fevered bite. He rounded a granite knob, within site of his burrow–and the big man stood there, surprised. The big man wore fur himself, bear fur, and he carried the fire stick.

J.Pea froze, spraddle-legged in the white flurry. The big man bit down, smelling of fear, of life.

“Gawdamighty,” it hissed.

J.Pea dropped the monkrat then backed away, grrrrrrowling, golden eyes flashing. He snarled at the intruder, snapped and snarled with his blood-dripping fangs.

The big man raised the fire stick and the stick exploded at J.Pea. KA BOOOOOOOOM!

J.Pea felt his chest erupt, saw the white snowpack splatter red with flecks of grey fur–

–and the rifle’s report snatched J.Pea from his caintrip.

The shot echoed through the hills as J.Pea noticed himself leaning against the ancient gatepost at the foot of Riddle Top. The axe was still in his hand, but his chestnut sack lay dropped in the snow. It took him a spell to recover his senses. His mouth was dry. His jaws ached.

J.Pea took deep, bracing breaths of the mountain air, as he had learned to do when a caintrip shook him seriously. His grandmammer had warned him, told him that these caintrips were not entirely harmless. He had to be careful. He could not control their coming. So he had to keep his wits. J.Pea finally realized he was standing on the outer flank of a ruined homestead, a place long gone. And suddenly this snowbound afternoon seemed glum and forbidden to him.

He bent for his sack and a blooddrop fell upon the snow, spreading like a great ruby snowflake. J.Pea touched his upper lip. His tooth was dripping blood. He took a clump of snow and held it to his tooth until the bloodflow was stanched, then he cleaned his face with several handfuls of the chilling crush.

J.Pea picked up the gunny sack and shouldered the axe. The Shea clan’s yule burning and tree wassail awaited him this night. He could already hear their sweet voices singing to the trees, calling him back. He heard no more gunshots, but the huge pawprints he had detected in the snow around the homestead were still vexing him, nagging at him as he pulled the heavy wool coat tighter against the wind’s bristles. Then he heard himself singing.

Ooooh that monkrat he cry poorly,
Ooooh that monkrat, don’t he moan?

J.Pea Shea turned down his earflaps, his nose and cheeks were plum as he trudged back through the snowdrifts toward Coffin Holler where a feast awaited. Life had hushed him today and he wanted to go home.



from Wicked Temper (The Bright Darkling Boogies)
by Randy Thornhorn

© Randy Thornhorn

Ͽ- Ʈеӏӏеґ Ό`ŧħе Ʈąӏе -Ͼ

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The Thornhorn Heart Logo

A good friend of the forum asked me the meaning of my logo. “It’s shaped like a guitar pick and has a crescent moon on it,” she said.

Yes, that’s what it is alright. Not much more to be said. It represents me well, I think. That, and the fact that the guitar pick also evokes a heart. And it’s rendered in wood grain, organic. I also live in a place called Serenity Circle. That suits me too. Now, more than ever. The woods on this hill are deep, serene, they whisper at night and sing in the morning. The lake is down the hill from the back porch of this home. There, Our Lady Of The Waters awaits, coming soft and gentle in the night, rising, ever rising from her swelling depths, risen with new yearning beneath the crescent moon.

Can I have an Amen !?


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Banner on Bluegrass Today…


Thank you, Del McCoury Band for firing up Iron City in Birmingham the night this book went to print.


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To pass through the wood and thistle, even fear must be forgiven…

The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is really fear. ~ Gandhi

uturn on dirt road

Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The Courage to change the things I can,
And the Wisdom to know the difference.

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Claud took the albino toad off her tongue.

She plopped the toad in a moonlit glass. Her tiny toadlet glowed pink and white, twice it sprang in the milky puddle before settling on the stone at the bottom of the glass. Claude puckered, squeaked her chair forward a notch and pondered the fruits of sleep, eternal sleep and life everlasting. Kasper John was already snoring across the room.

When Claud Turlow slept, she slept in the hooky slew betwixt Choat’s Peak and Old Riddle Top. Most nights she slept sitting up since her legs had been sawed off. It was a sight easier than putting herself to bed, though some nights it would be warmer under her dead mama’s patchwork. She could always ask little brother to help her from the chair–Kasper John was only forty-seven and his back hadn’t quit on him yet. But she liked it here by the window where she could tune in the stars and the lovely voices from beyond. Needed her voices, she did. You know the kind.

Not that she slept much these days. Her sleep was often disturbed. There were too many intrusions.

Sometimes her toes felt a tickle and she went to scratch them that weren’t there. They still fooled her, every time. It had been almost a dozen years since the sugar diabetes got into her chunky legs, since dead Doc Sax took them off on that kitchen table over there. But sometimes she’d swear her legs hurt just as bad as ever. There was no justice in it. She could not walk, but wherever her toe-bones were, wiggling without her tonight, they could still riddle Miss Claud with a blue-edged pain and even bluer old blues for to trouble her sleep.

This could not be said of Kasper John Turlow. You could not trouble him. Who would dare? Who would want to trip his slow, rattled breath over there, in the darkness? Yes. Brother always slept the night.

And wouldn’t he get up dull in the morning when she scraped the skillet onto the woodstove? And wouldn’t he sit at that butcher’s table through breakfast, barely awake and muttering in one long drone about how tired a body felt? Then her brother would spend tomorrow yawning around the place, barely awake as usual and never quite figuring out why.

It seemed to Claud that long, tall Kasper John had never really wakened since they were babies. Not like her own keen yet wasting life at all. Kasper John had been stuck here forever betwixt Choat’s Peak and Old Riddle Top, just as she had. But Kasper John was steady, forever steady, if your idea of steady was a flat rock with no expression and no plans to speak of. He even looked much the same to her, though Claud knew his face must have seasoned over the years. But then, Johnny was pretty old from the get go.

For Claud, creeping closer to sixty years of life meant too much had changed for her to ever sleep easy. More years meant more bad memories, unpleasant dreams. She heard Kaspar John murmur, looked over to see his bones ripple on the bunk. She was trying not to dwell on the lost pieces of herself, misplaced heartsongs that little brother would know piddling about.

Once, it seemed, Claud Turlow had been fair and full of promise. Tonight she was just cranky. Tonight she might scare the chickens. And she wanted a sweet, gooey tarbaby from the cookie box no matter what Nursy Jane had said. Sweet dead Nursy Jane. Sweet dead Sisilse Bane. Oh, all those sweet dead children. How could Claud be left here, just being? Asking for good fortune from a white toad on a stone, alive like this, while so many sweet ones perish? Once, she dreamt ballerina dreams and fancied herself as a dancer, until her dead mama filled her with enough lard and molasses cookiess to change everybody’s mind.

Sometimes, in Claude’s mind, she was still a dancer. But tonight she looked down at the stumps beneath her paisley robe and did not see what difference another tarbaby or two could make. Claud did not figure she was long for this world with or without. Still, a trip to the cookie box meant rumbling past Kasper John’s cot. She did not want to risk waking brother. No, that would not do.

The mountains whispered, the spreading elm fluttered outside her window. Her puffy finger hooked aside the curtain so she could peer outside. Nothing else moved out there, except the watery slew, as if no night creature could bother with this night. No death peddlers. No love. No hope. Nothing she could be sure of, other than brother. Only wind milling in the marsh grass.

These were the empty nights she fretted most. One of Kasper John’s nights, she feared. She thought about the tarbaby a moment and reached a proper decision. She would just sit here. She would just sit and think about it for a spell. The tarbaby would wait.

But Kasper John, he would not wait. Not much longer. The moon crept higher over their private slew where the flash floods ran in spring but never after solstice, where the dark road below their yard lay in deep doldrum, and somehow in his sleep Kaspar John felt it. The deprived nothingness of this night. Claude knew he felt it. These were the signs she knew too well. They inflicted strange dread upon her. Soon he would go out that door and walk. Wouldn’t he?

She wondered where he might go and who he would visit there. Once or twice in the last few years she had caught him muttering to somebody outside. Always just outside the door, always far enough gone she couldn’t quite make out his words. Maybe he was visiting strangers on the porch, maybe down by the road. She could never tell.

He began his travels as a very young man, just before his high voice dropped into the bass fiddle it was today. Yet, for the longest time their mama, the Widow Turlow, never knew–and when she did finally suspect then saw her suppositions turn real, their mother was still afraid to ask. Claud was keen all along, almost from the very beginning. She and Kaspar John slept side by side for so many years that Claud sensed her little brother’s stirrings even after he had moved to another cot. But her mama hated the unfamiliar thing, and feared more than she hated. From the day her beloved husband died of yellow jaundice, fear had been a cramped hand on the tiller of their long dead mother’s life. Claud was already Claud by then (never Claudine), the oldest child, old beyond her nine and a half years. And Claud could hardly remember the man. Baby Kasper John Turlow was still sucking his fingers in the crib, just drawing new breath from this world as their sire breathed his last.

And from that last breath onward, fear began killing her dead mama in slow degrees. Geese flew honking threw the hills, ruddy ducks splashed down out there then moved on with the seasons. But not the Widow Turlow.

Mama rarely left the slew in ensuing years. She did not want or choose to visit folks. When push came to shove, she would let one of her two children go down to the store in Cayuga Ridge for some necessary item, usually Claud since she was the eldest by almost a decade and the one with the most gumption. No, Claud’s dead mama did not risk much after her husband abandoned her for the grave. The Widow Turlow clung to what little she had. She fed sweets and gravy to her only daughter to tamp down her spirit, keeping her girl here where she belonged with the shadow woman that bore her, and she fed ridicule to her shy boy so he would never grow into a man, so he would never leave her like a man was meant to do.

Her mama gave what schooling she had to Claud and, later, Claud passed it on to little Kasper John who did not stay little for long. He grew tall, and when the occasional crusty uncle would come down the slew to check on them, or in the brittle cold months when hunters would sometimes pass near their place, building cook fires and brewing coffee, Kasper John came out of the shadows. On those days, Kasper John was forever hanging close to the older men, trying to soak up what he could, longing to match them in the endless drawl of highflown tales and sage observances. He liked the way they laughed though he never laughed himself. Sometimes, when they were friendly enough and didn’t scare mama too much, she would let them camp by the road most of an afternoon with a dancing fire and their kill hanging from the redbud tree. Kasper John could not be lured away from their circle on those days until the kill was skinned and parceled out, until the last wager had been settled, until the men all went home.

And this made his dead mama very nervous. And her nervous conniptions worsened with each passing year. Widow Turlow cast lizard guts and prayer bones upon the hearth, studying the patterns within the muck, looking for an answer. In time, she shunned any and all passersby, forcing the same upon her children. The world out there could not be allowed to spirit her children away. For them, outside friends and affairs of the heart remained out of the question.

But Claud loved sad Kasper John. She had loved him dearly, had she not? Surely this was true, for there was a tiny grave up in the chinquapin wood, was there not? Or did she just wish it had been?

“Where you beendagomomo…”

Claud heard his voice.

She looked over from the window.

He had said something. He called out. It sounded like he was hailing some familiar soul, but the name was too slurred to understand.

Claud bristled. She still bristled after all these ages of his coming and going. She could just barely make out Kasper John’s form in the shadowed corner of the room.

Kasper John sat up in bed. He sat up and Claud was breathless. It would do no good to question him, she knew that. He was asleep. He would sleep through the night.

Kasper John got dressed slowly, as was his custom, he dressed himself with care. Frozen in her moonlit chair, she watched him do it. He put on his dark trousers, his white cotton shirt, and he laced his boots with a sense of purpose Claude longed to possess. His eyes were open, his face faceless. Tucking and folding, he made his neat little bed. Then Kasper John shuttled softly across the boards, reached up, and took his tobacco and papers from the fireplace mantle. Every step was like a clock wound inside him, slow-ticking and taut in this silent room they had forever shared. As he turned for the door another voice broke the silence.

“Kasper John?” she pled.

Claud could not help herself. She often could not keep from calling, reaching out to him. How many nights, how many nights, how many nights?

He did not hear her of course. He was asleep. As asleep as she was awake and watching.

“Kasper John.”

Kasper John was elsewhere. He pocketed tobacco and papers as he moved toward the door. He opened it and went out. He was careful to shut his room and latch it, matter-of-fact as a man leaving home to go vote.

He might be back in half an hour. He often was. Looking just the same, undressing as he had dressed, and waking in the morning without remembrance. She was sure of that much. There would be no remembrance on Kasper John’s part. Or, he might be hours gone, hours lost before returning to his bed.

Long after she heard his footfalls leave the porch, generations after she heard the gravel shuffle up the road into dark nothing–into the flux of water and leaf–Claud still sat puckered by the window. The moonglow evaporated from her toadlet in the glass. The tarbaby, too, meant dark nothing to her now.

She dreamt awake. She dreamt she might roll across the room and take her dead mama’s conjure book from under the bed, then find the proper page so she could go with Kasper John, so she could skip alongside his long legs wherever he went. She would know not where or care. The dance was all that mattered. No matter where brother went, she would go tripping and waltzing, to wherever, to whoever brother saw fit.


© Randy Thornhorn

Ͽ- Ʈеӏӏеґ Ό`ŧħе Ʈąӏе -Ͼ

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Rosanne Cash’s Ten Best Southern Road Songs


Welp, what do you think of this rundown of road tunes, folks? Let thy voice be heard!

From Esquire:

It seemed fitting to ask Rosanne Cash to compile a soundtrack to U.S. Route 61 — the 1,400-mile stretch of highway that runs from Louisiana to Minnesota. And while the songs she chose may share a sense of place, they offer dramatically diverse perspectives — covering not just the good, bad, and the ugly of Southern life and histroy, but also the mystery and mythology of the Delta and its music. These are the songs, she says, that without which she couldn't have made The River & the Thread.

Songs include:

Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan)
Cross Road Blues (Robert Johnson)
Ode To Billie Joe (Bobbie Gentry)
Big River (Johnny Cash)
This May Be The Last Time (The Staple Singers)
Natchez Burning (Howlin’ Wolf)
Games People Play (Joe South)
Take Me To The River (Al Green)
Polk Salad Annie (Tony Joe White)
Louisiana 1927 (Randy Newman)

Read more: Rosanne Cash: The 10 Best Road Trip Songs – Esquire
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= Thornhorn’s Lady High Lonesome Low Country Blog =

Here Ye, Here Ye, all you poor benighted muckers! Forthwith and forevermore this forum is ensconced and ordained under its new official title: Thornhorn’s Lady High Lonesome Low Country Blog

This evolution pretty much embraces and encompasses all primary topics of consideration herein, including wildwood artistic expression (high and low), the exotica of the South (high and low), Dixiefried culture, and matters of the searching heart and hungry soul.

Welcome one, welcome all. Be well and let be. And no spitting on the floor.

I have it on good authority that Our Lady Of The Waters is a vessel of divine deliverance.


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