The other day I was speaking to a newcomer to Hattiesburg. He commented on the pollen that rolls like yellow clouds across our roads in springtime. He had never seen anything like it. I took the opportunity to roll out my primer-sales pitch for our area.
Hattiesburg and the Piney Woods region were the last patch of soil settled east of the Mississippi River. Our forefathers came to this pine-clotted area, hatchet in hand, and fought ticks, horseflies, panthers, rabid raccoons, malaria, encephalitis, Lyme disease and a few dozen other insect-borne ailments along the way.
Author’s Note: Ten years ago I released the second in a three-book deal with Hyperion. All of the essays (mostly true) were about parties and the way people entertained when I grew up in Hattiesburg. My editor asked me to explain to readers from New York to California what parties were like when I was growing up and what they are like now in my part of the world. The following is the opening piece for that book (all true) that has never been published in any other media.
When Signature Magazine publisher David Gustafson asked me to contribute a monthly column to these pages my initial, knee-jerk responses were (choose two): “I’m too busy. I don’t have time. Four columns per month in other publications is already more than people want to hear from me. The well of creativity might run dry. I’m too busy. I’m overexposed already. No one is interested. After 10 books and 17 years of weekly columns, do I really have anything left to say? I don’t have time.”