Feechie of the Week: Cobra Pit Custodian

Author’s note: Yes, more video. I’m up to my elbows in this Flannery O’Connor biography and so don’t have time to compose the thoughtful analyses and soul-baring anecdotes you’ve come to expect at Jonathan-Rogers.com. Sorry about that. But I suspect a video of a guy handling cobras is more interesting anyway.
Perhaps it’s the warming weather, but there’s been an encouraging uptick in feechiefied behavior recently. In the previous post, a young man in Florida narrowly escaped an alligator attack thanks to his baggy pants. It wasn’t enough to earn him the honor of Feechie of the Week, but it was a step in the right direction.

Earlier this week I heard about an incident in Memphis in which a policeman got bitten when he confronted a woman in a city park about not picking up after her pit bull. It was the woman who bit him. The pit bull behaved himself. When I heard that story I thought, “Maybe there’s hope that the Feechie of the Week could return.”

Then reader Kenny Clark sent me the video below. It is truly a display of feechie sangfroid:

Thanks, Kenny. And congratulations to the Cobra Pit Custodian, our Feechie of the Week.

World According to Narnia Now Available (Limited Quantity)

The World According to Narnia, my 2005 examination of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, is out of print, but I recently found twenty or so copies that I am making available here on the website. Like all the books sold here, these will be signed by the author–which is to say, me.
You may remember that I published the Voyage of the Dawn Treader chapter here on the blog a few months ago in a five-part series. You can read that excerpt by clicking here.

The World According to Narnia was well-received by critics, including this one from Booklist:

Rogers, the author of the Wilderking fantasy series, takes a serious look at C. S. Lewis’ Narnia novels, teasing out the Christian theology through close textual analysis of each book in turn. In an engaging style, Rogers simply and swiftly retells each story and highlights where the novels speak to the message of the Gospels. He argues convincingly that imagination combined with faith drives the Narnia chronicles, giving substance to our “yearning for something beyond ourselves.” He also notes that it is a delicious irony that Lewis “so carefully constructs a world of metaphor in order to insist that the God of the Bibles is not mere metaphor.” With a live-action film version of the novels soon to debut, the land of Narnia will once again be in the spotlight; those needing a travel guide to Lewis’ world could do no better than this eminently readable combination of literary criticism and religious scholarship.

Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Here, again, is that link to the store, where you can get signed copies of The World According to Narnia (and the rest of my books too).

Audience Participation Friday: April Fools!


If you’ve read The Charlatan’s Boy, you’ll remember Floyd and Grady’s roaring machine. It was inspired by something that happened in my father’s boyhood. Some old boy stretched a cowhide across the bottom of a nail keg and punched a hole in the cowhide. When he pulled a rosined string through the hole, the keg served as a resonance chamber to amplify the vibrations into a very loud moaning, roaring, growling sound. By night the fellow carried his device into Gum Swamp and roared away. Apparently he had no reason other than the pleasure of hearing people speculate as to what the mysterious sounds coming out of the swamp might be.

A couple of bloggers discussing The Charlatan’s Boy mentioned that they, too, had heard of people in other places who had done the same trick. There was a roaring machine operator in Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp, for instance. Apparently that trickster, like the one in Gum Swamp, had no good reason for his hoax other than the simple fact that he thought it would be funny.

It’s April Fools’ Day–a day people go to a lot of trouble to perpetrate tricks and hoaxes simply for the fun of it. What are your favorite April Fools’ Day tricks and hoaxes?

April Fool’s Day

pond

pond

On April Fools’ Day my grandmother and her sisters packed their lunch pails like any other school day. Their mother walked them to the dirt road and kissed them goodbye, but instead of turning left to walk toward school, the girls turned right toward the train tracks. They walked up the tracks a piece until they got to a little marshy pond, a favorite spot of theirs. They lay beside the pond in their school dresses and watched the clouds drift by and giggled at the thought of their classmates sitting at their desks that bright spring morning. They pulled out their lunches and ate them. It was only nine in the morning, but they felt like eating, and it was April Fools’ Day, and who was going to stop them?
They caught some bugs and picked some wildflowers and got mud on their dresses, and then decided to catch the last half of the school day. So they walked back down the train tracks and up the dirt road toward the school. When they passed the house, their mother waved at them from the porch.

When they got to school the teacher said, “Where have you girls been?”

“At the marshy pond,” they said, “beside the railroad tracks.”

“And why were you at the marshy pond?” the teacher asked.

“It’s April Fools’ Day.”

The teacher made the girls stay in from recess for a couple of weeks–a punishment they willingly accepted. From what I understand, this happened more than once. Apparently it was sort of a Dowdy family tradition, to act the fool on April Fools’ Day, and to receive the punishment for that foolishness without complaint or rancor.

I love that picture of my great-grandmother waving to the little truants as they pass back by. Having given them room to try out a little harmless foolishness, she waves them on toward its logical outcome, not intervening on either end, but rather letting her daughters experience the truth that wisdom and foolishness are a matter of choice, and that choices have consequences.

In Case You Didn’t Get Enough: The Clerihew Zone

A couple of weeks ago, a fellow named Bill Naquin wrote in to tell me about a Facebook page with which he is connected: The Clerihew Zone.
A recently concluded contest regarding place names included this clerihew which I reproduce here because it’s funny, not because I endorse its view on Florida and California:

Florida
Is Horrida
Than California.
Don’t say I didn’t warnia.

There’s more where that came from. So if you didn’t get a belly full of clerihews a couple of weeks ago, check out the Clerihew Zone. (Most of the clerihews, by the way, are under the “Discussion” tab.)

The Artist and His Country

nursingsow

nursingsow

When my dad was in eighth grade, there was an art contest at his school. The winning picture would be displayed in the state Capitol in Atlanta. It was only 137 miles from Chester, Georgia to Atlanta, but it was a lot further than that. I don’t imagine very many of the students at Chester School had ever been to Atlanta; my father hadn’t.
Knowing what was at stake, the students worked hard to make their pictures as spectacular as possible. They drew tornados carrying people off. Car crashes. Earthquakes. Pretty dramatic stuff. My dad, on the other hand, drew something he saw every day: an old sow nursing her piglets.

My father’s picture carried the day. The sow and her pigs may not have had the panache of a hurricane scene, but what it lacked in glamor it gained, I suppose, in realism.  The picture was hung on the walls of the Georgia Capitol, and the eighth grade of Chester School piled in a bus and drove to Atlanta to see it. They rode a streetcar too–not anyplace in particular, from what I understand, but just for the sake of experiencing city life. Mr. Ivey, the local bus driver, was passed over for a driver who had more experience on paved roads. “Also, Mr. Ivey was inclined to put boys off the bus if they got to fighting,” my father said. “I think there was concern that somebody might get put off in the middle of Atlanta if Mr. Ivey drove.”

I’ve known that story all my life. I knew it long before I ever heard the advice, “Write what you know.” Every time I hear that adage, I think about the old sow hanging in the high-domed Capitol, smiling her satisfied, piggy smile.

In an essay called “The Fiction Writer and His Country,” Flannery O’Connor put it this way: “The writer can choose what he writes about, but he cannot choose what he can make live.” A tornado would seem a more lively subject than a nursing sow, but only if you can make it live.  If you’re an artist, you do well to ask yourself: what can you make live?

Audience Participation Friday: Texting the Classics


Before the telegraph was invented, news couldn’t travel any faster than a horse. The slow movement of information had huge historical consequences. The Battle of New Orleans, for instance, was fought three weeks after the Treaty of Ghent–which “ended” the War of 1812. If somebody in Ghent had had a cell phone, there would have been no Battle of New Orleans; Andrew Jackson would have had to figure out some other way to become a national hero and rise to the Presidency.

The slow movement of information had huge impacts on storytelling as well. Think how many of the classic stories would simply evaporate in the age of cell phones. The tragic miscommunication at the end of Romeo and Juliet would have never happened if the star-crossed lovers could have just texted one another. If A Midsummer Night’s Dream was happening today, Hermia would just call Lysander and say, “Looks like we got separated. Meet me at the big tree that looks like it has a face.” End of problem. End of play.

It’s jarring even to watch a movie set in the mid-nineties, which seems pretty modern, except that people are always looking for pay phones and checking their home answering machines.

Your assignment for Audience Participation Friday: Choose a story from the pre-cell phone/texting/Facebook/Twitter/GPS era and give the characters smart phones. Then tell us what happens.

Bonus Apocryphal Story: One of my boys told me about a friend of a friend (urban legend red flag–I know) whose mother thought LOL stood for Lots of Love. This person got a text from his mother that said, “Your grandmother just died. LOL.”

A Tricycle, a Leg Trap

tricycle

My friend Hilton grew up poor in South Alabama. He and his older brother didn’t have a lot of toys, but they did have one tricycle to share between them. Only Hilton’s brother wasn’t much of a sharer. He rarely gave five-year-old Hilton a turn, and when Hilton did get on the tricycle, his brother was likely as not to knock him off and ride it himself. Which made it hard to relax and enjoy any tricycle time he got. One day the two boys were playing at a creek not too far from the house when the older brother stepped on a leg trap–picture a snap-jawed bear trap from the cartoons, but smaller and without the teeth. Still plenty painful, though, on a little boy’s bare foot. The older brother howled in agony while Hilton sweated and grunted, trying to open the jaws of the trap enough to free the foot. But he was only five. He couldn’t do it. The two boys together, in fact, couldn’t open the trap. “Go get mama!” the brother bawled. “Get her quick!”

legtrap

So Hilton lit out for the house, as fast as his little legs could carry him. He pushed through palmetto of the creek bottom and onto the sandy road, his brother’s howls ringing in his ears. “Got to get Mama,” he said to himself as he ran. “Mama can fix it.” He turned up the long drive that led to the house and kept running. He could feel a little stitch in his side and he couldn’t hear his brother’s howls so clearly now but he kept running. “Got to get Mama,” he said. “She can fix it.”

The house had just come into view when Hilton pulled up short. There, under the shade tree, sat the tricycle, unattended. There was no older brother. Nor was there any danger of anybody sneaking up from behind and knocking him off. For the first time in his life, the opportunity for a leisurely ride on the tricycle presented itself. So he hopped on. “I rode it three times around the house before I went in and got Mama,” he said. “Each time I came around the front, I could just hear my brother yelling down at the creek.”

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