Sep 132013
 

Editor’s note: This is part three of an intermittently serialized memoir by Ed McClanahan that takes as its working title “Hatchling of the Chickasaw: A Kentucky waterways story.” Parts one and two can be found here and here.

By Ed McClanahan

1890s-vintage formal studio photograph of the Johnsville McClanahans, featuring Claude with his identical twin Clifford--two dashing young blades as alike as department store mannequins. Photo courtesy Ed McClanahan collection.

1890s-vintage formal studio photograph of the Johnsville McClanahans, featuring Claude with his identical twin Clifford–two dashing young blades as alike as department store mannequins. Photo courtesy Ed McClanahan collection.

My father’s mother, Stella Yelton McClanahan, lived to be 92, and I came to know her very well, and to love her very much; my father’s father, Claude McClanahan, died before I was two years old. Both the Yeltons and the McClanahans had been landowners and tobacco farmers in Bracken County, near the tiny community of Johnsville, for generations, and both families, I believe, eventually went into local commerce. “In 1884,” according to a local history, “Johnsville had a hotel, a tobacco warehouse, two wagon and blacksmith shops, a dry goods store, a general merchandise store, a doctor, a justice of the peace, and a constable.” My great grandfather Jonce Yelton and his business partner John Jackson (hence “Johnsville”) were proprietors of the general store and post office, and I have reason to suppose (see below) that the McClanahans had gone into the dry goods line, just down (or up, or across) the road from the two “Johns’” General Merchandise & US Post Office.

I don’t know much about my grandfather Claude, but I do have an 1890s-vintage formal studio photograph of the Johnsville McClanahans, featuring Claude with his identical twin Clifford—two dashing young blades as alike as department store mannequins, in matching cutaway coats and waistcoats and high, starched collars, handsome fellows with duplicate dark, upturned mustachios and longish sideburns and black hair parted precisely in the middle. Continue reading »

Jun 282012
 

A Kentucky waterways story

By Ed McClanahan

A few months ago, Danny Mayer, the editor of the highly respectable rag you hold in your hand at this moment, told me he’d heard that back in the late 1950s, my friend Wendell Berry and I took a little three-day canoe trip down the Kentucky River, and asked if I’d be interested in writing a piece recollecting the experience for North of Center’s ongoing series about Kentucky waterways.

Wendell and Ed. Photo courtesy of Ed McClanahan.

Yeah, sure, sez I, and blithely promised him I’d produce 1500 words for the July issue.

So the deadline is coming down, and I’ve got the 1500 words, all right, but somehow I haven’t even got around to mentioning my trip with Wendell yet. (Our canoe itself does make a cameo appearance, although Wendell is nowhere in sight.) What I’ve found myself writing instead is a far more ambitious undertaking, a meditation about my father and me, the surface of which is barely scratched by my measly 1500-word opening salvo. Clearly, this story wants to become a much more expansive piece of writing, and therefore I’m obliged to do my best to make that happen.

My and Wendell’s canoe trip will still be in it, though, and because my dad eventually became a sort of mini-mogul in the river transportation business, it’s still a Kentucky waterways story too—just not exactly the one I intended to tell.

Anyhow, here’s what I’ve got so far: Continue reading »

Jun 062012
 

On June 1, Lexington author Ed McClanahan (The Natural Man, Famous People I Have Known, I Just Hitched In from the Coast, and other books) launched a 30-day Kickstarter campaign to fund the production and publication of spoken-word recordings of his readings of several of his favorite stories. As with all Kickstarter projects, your support comes with good swag: from current and rare first editions of his books, to O’Rounds at Lynagh’s, brunch at Alfalfas, and a day-trip to Maysville.

The following, an excerpt from McClanahan’s introductory Kickstarter sales pitch, is a description of one of the recording projects he hopes to fund:

The second [project is] a multi-disc reading of all three stories in A Congress of Wonders (Counterpoint 1996), the book I want to be represented by when I stand before that great literary panel in the sky. “Juanita and the Frog Prince,” “The Congress of Wonders,” and my personal all-time favorite, the novella “Finch’s Song: A Schoolbus Tragedy”—incorporate all manner of improbable stuff, from witchcraft to clairvoyance to metempsychosis (the transmigration of souls) to spontaneous combustion to a guy with two noses to ascension unto heaven on the wings of a million tiny birds. “Artfully told,” said Publishers Weekly, “these droll, neo-gothic fairy tales are richly embroidered with threads of alchemy—and love.”

For more info, visit his kickstarter page.