Monthly Archives: October 2020

Revenge of the Herd

The cattle were lowing in the valley below
dark water was rising, they’d nowhere to go
On the wind did their song fly
of hardship and woe
but no ears did hear it
in the valley below

But the cattle weren’t fearful
The cattle weren’t weak
Together they swam
through the storms raging peak

One by one they did climb
back onto dry land
and set out for revenge
on the lazy cowhand

They found him sleeping
wrapped in his poncho
head swaddled in dreams
Came they creeping on hooves
wading up through the stream

He woke as a bull’s steamy breath
crossed his cheek
A herd set for murder
He dove for the creek

The ranch hand now gone
there was nothing to stop
the herd from marching
to finish the job

As the sun slowly rose
on the grand hacienda
The cattle were charging
in triumphant splendor


Monday, October 5, was the birthday of Stetson Kennedy. I thought to honor him by rushing over here and sharing my appreciation, but then I realized absent from social media there is less urgency to get my thoughts and opinions out there. Before I get into the life and work of Stetson Kennedy, let’s check in about the exodus. Melissa asked me how it felt to be off of social media. The overwhelming emotion is relief, like exiting Interstate 65 between Montgomery and Birmingham and just taking U.S. 31 up to Pea Ridge and enjoying the slower pace. My days are longer, and a single thread of thought can develop and grow throughout the day. The books on the shelf are no longer anachronistic decor, but voices whispering to me from faraway places and moments in time. Their pages do not blink with advertising or the knee-jerk opinions of unqualified dolts and bores. “HOLDEN NEEDS TO STOP WHINING AND GET BACK IN SCHOOL, ANNOYING, DO NOT RECOMMEND.”

So if you are wondering what it might feel like, there is nothing to fear. You will feel like yourself, except more so.

Now, William Stetson Kennedy. I searched my site for references to him, and he has a feature in the Clydesdale Hall of Fame, and some cameos in other posts. As a writer he is able, striving for clarity and function over literary device. A social activist born during the first world war, he died mere months before American troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011. I met him just a month before he died.

He was 95 years-old, and the feature act of an art show titled The American Dream. He was gracious with his time, and at least two-hundred of us clustered around him sitting on the floor, or craning our necks to see. A month later, he died.

His books, The Klan Unmasked, and Southern Exposure, are seminal works of the Civil Rights movement of the 20th century. Do they matter now?

As a white man, looking to not make matters worse, or enjoy the mantle of privilege without the responsibility to use it subversively, Stetson is a role model. There are many, many others. James Reeb, John Brown, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and Charles Moore. They all died for the cause of racial equality. Martyrdom is not a requirement though, to apply one’s white skin to the purpose of liberating darker skin. Senator Doug Jones, from Alabama, who sent murderers Thomas Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry to prison for the rest of their lives for the murder of children at the 16th Ave. Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL is a living example.

It’s great to admire Medgar Evers, Nelson Mandela, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. I consider it my personal responsibility to defend Rev. Al Sharpton from his moronic detractors, teeth full of bread, necks shiny from grease, as their spittle-soaked recitation of stereotypes and urban legend land on screen or pavement.

Those leaders are not our role models though, as honkies and cracker-ass-crackers. We have plenty of examples who look just like us, and we would do best to learn their stories, and aspire to their ranks.



I asked Melissa to hold my hand while I did it because it feels like a betrayal. The greatest fun that Facebook offered was documenting ourselves being happy together, mostly with food, drink, and animals. We recorded countless road trips to Pea Ridge, AL, Savannah, GA, back home to Walker County, and stopovers in Birmingham. That photo of a black and white striped King snake in Joshua Tree and the fantastical landscape of Noah Purifoy’s outdoor museum, I can close my eyes and see them. It is odd though. A thousand or more photographs, but none to hang on the wall, or tuck into a wallet. They are just out there, owned by a corporation, and indiscriminately cluttered with photographs that are without purpose or meaning. Of course she still has all of these memories online, and she is the better photographer because I will readily admit as she puts it, I never “wipe off the hole.” I downloaded the entire contents of my recorded life on Facebook, but the message said it could take a while to get me the file, and ultimately I did not wait for it.

We held hands and I clicked, “delete my account.” The irony is that even still, it is not gone. I am granted 30 days to reconsider, whether I need it or not. I can return without consequence at any time during that period. It doesn’t matter. It’s over.

In these last 48 hours on social media, I really lived it up. There was no time to say proper goodbyes to so many people I value, some whom I may truly lose forever. In that way it is like a death, and like death, it must be accepted.

I tried to listen to the chorus of my better angels, but I put my fingers in my ears to tell someone that reading his political thoughts was like watching a dog eat its own poop. That felt great, probably like that sweet, hot toke on the meth pipe feels great. The comedown is a real son of a bitch, but the ride up is worth it for a while.

Anyway, I do not intend to write about social media ad nauseum. Quite the opposite, I want to gently close that book and put it on the shelf. It is too soon, and I am too close to it to understand what I have done, and what will be different. Time is sometimes called the 4th dimension, and that is the one that grants the best perspective. We shall see.