I Do My First Book Signing (And People Actually Show Up…)

I thought I’d share a few photos from the book signing events in Butler following the release of my book, Around Butler. We started with an hour at Southside Cafe, did an hour from 11:30 to 12:30 at the county courthouse on the Butler square, and finished up from 5:00 to 6:00 at the Inn Cafe/Majestic Cellars in the old Pennell Hotel building.


Lucille Lindsay, a long-time family friend, provided some of my best images, and was kind enough to share her memories of her father, Earl Erickson, and his adventures on one of Bates County’s century farms and in the service during WWII.

The photos themselves are courtesy of my mom, Pam Woods, who came with me to Missouri for the signing (which I thought was appropriate, since it is through her family that I’m connected to the area). She came with a digital camera and strict instructions from my dad, apparently, to take a picture every time anyone came within ten feet of me. To those family members and friends who may, at some future date, be subjected to the slide show: my sincerest apologies…


Sheila was in school with my mother back in the day, or so everyone says. Mom’s been trying to place her ever since.

My great-great-grandfather, Balthasar (pronounced Bal-THAY-zer) Durst came over from Alsace in 1854, and arrived in Bates County sometime in the late 1850s. This is quite significant because, due to the eviction of the county’s citizens during the Civil War and the systematic destruction by fire of what they left behind, there aren’t many families accounted for today in  Bates County who were there before the war. In an ironic twist, I did not discover this connection until after the book went to print, having missed it completely during eight months of exhaustive research. As they say, if it had been a snake…


My left side salutes you…

Honorable mention to the one important person who didn’t end up in a photograph: my college roommate Cal Ingram. He was kind enough to drive all the way up from Springfield to attend the signing at the courthouse. How, my friend, you escaped my mother’s trigger-happy eye, I will never know. Ninja skills, I suppose. Or perhaps it was the curse of the Rasta-demon, plaguing you still…


With co-author Brian Phillips at the Inn Cafe. He tried valiantly not to end up in any of Mom’s shots. And failed.


This lovely woman’s claim to fame is a distant relation to Il Duce himself, Mr. Benito Mussolini. I suppose it’s true what they say: you can’t choose your family…


As the day progresses, my signature begins more and more to resemble the results of a minor brain seizure. To all those seeking to forge my John Hancock: grab a pen and stick your finger into an electric socket…

Believe me, I do not indulge in false modesty when I say how genuinely surprised I was that anyone actually came to these events (and that those who did showed no signs of concealing torches or pitchforks about their persons). Let me leave you with this thought: We all have dreams, and in many cases we assume that’s all they will ever be. But I have sat on the other side of that rainbow, and it is real. And if I can do it, so can you.

Good night, and good luck…

I Walk In Silence

I walk in silence through streets of myself,
Speaking in voices that are not mine,
Hearing with ears that do not define the line between
Oneself and one other. Seeing through eyes
That belong to another and yet
Are my own.

Is this a sign of things to come?
Do I hear the beat of a drum
Coursing through veins a world away,
Still anticipating words that I say?

I open the door and step into the fray.

Do Not Touch

Some things, behind the glass, are made
To be seen; touching may
Shatter, soil, or stain the illusion of
Real. Point and stare;
The invisible barrier between
A wall, crowding out comprehension.
Connection disconnected; closeness outdistanced by distance
Enforced. A wolf
In experience’s clothing.

Gospel Lies

The gospel lies in the eyes
Of the broken, begging in the street,
Neighbor shunning neighbor,
Haughtiness before humiliation:
“There but for grace go I,” they sigh,
And pass quickly by.

The gospel lies in the cries
Of the starving infant in the night
Amidst the fright and the pain
Of revolutionary change in which
He plays no part
But beating heart.

The gospel lies when reason flies
At the sound of onionskin rustling;
As bended knees drown out the pleas
Of the least of these,
And the man behind the curtain whispers
Sweet nothings masquerading as
Something real
While reality stands helpless
At the door…