Tag Archives: Piggott Arkansas

Momma was a Mann

It’s not unusual to hear that line when you attend a Mann family reunion. After all, the married females who were born Mann change their last name and so when their descendants attend the reunion, everyone wants to know where in the tree they fit in. Mom and Dad work hard on making family tree charts and it’s very interesting to look at all the branches on the tree (ie., the cousins). Our reunions have been the descendants of John Wesley Mann, who was my gggrandfather (John Wesley->Robert Earl->Walden Bill->Billy Richard->me!).

I’ve always gotten a lot of mileage out of my last name. I mean, kids always poke fun of names (as well as a lot of other things) and it was always something that I just embraced. It isn’t unusual that I’ve heard “What’s up, Man? Get it? Mann.” It’s one of those things I’ve heard so much it’s always funnier to the speaker than to me. My first name has also been the source of my fun-poking. I’ve heard the theme song to Rawhide all my life, but the best one was probably when my gradeschool pal Kendall Jones sang the Rolo theme song for me. My nickname in that group of friends was, of course, “Rolo.”

When I got married and started to contemplate names for my kids, I wanted to embrace the name and make it work for my kids. We opted to be surprised at the sex of our first baby so we had to come up with names for both male and female. For a girl, I tried to convince BJ to go with WonderWo. You see? WonderWo Mann?

Yeah, it was a bit of a stretch and Brittany tells us that she is thankful today NOT to be named that.

When Brett was born, we knew his sex before he arrived. It was a lot easier, I thought, to come up with a name that worked for a boy. So I pushed pretty hard. I thought “Batt Mann” or “Spyder Mann” would make great names for a kid! Can’t you just see it now when he’s in 7th grade; “Mrs. Johnson, can you send Batt Mann to the office?” How cool would that have been? When I tell Brett this, he doesn’t get all gung-ho about it, but he’s not as vocally opposed to it as Brittany is to WonderWo.

So the Mann reunion was a fun time and we got to meet and chat with many cousins; some we’ve never met before and some we see only every reunion. And for those whose last name is not Mann, they often say “Momma was a Mann,” which is kinda funny…yes, even to us.

While I’m trying to talk Dad into backing up one more generation to John Wesley’s father, we haven’t done that yet. We did, however, have a cemetery dedication for William Montgomery Mann, a private in Co. E, 5th Arkansas Infantry CSA. My dad worked hard to get this done, and I was very happy to see it done. It’s something I’ve wanted since around 1987, when I first joined the SCV (Sons of Confederate Veterans). Here’s a link to a video I made of the service if you’re interested.

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Hemingway in the Spring

Longtime visitors here will recall my association with the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center located in Piggott, Arkansas. The Pfeiffer home is where Hemingway lived for a short time while married to Pauline Pfeiffer and where he wrote parts of A Farewell to Arms. I have a great affection for the place not just because they invite me there, but because it’s in Piggott, my second home of sorts.

The museum holds three annual retreats. Writing retreats are different from writing conferences in that the object for the writers (most of them) is to get away and just write. At a conference, the writers play more of a student role and sit in on lectures and presentations. While there are fun writing exercises for the writers at the HPMEC retreats, the goal is to WRITE! My function as mentor is to lead them in the short exercises, provide feedback and comments to them on their writing, and to generally encourage them to get’er done! I very much enjoy reading the work and offering the encouraging feedback. Writing is work, yes, but it should also be fun!

HemingwaySpring2014 copy*Pictured: Bethany Mallett Stephens, Linda Wyss, Anne Winchester, Barbara Taylor, me (in all my bearded glory!), Susan Hemingway, Ethan Baker, Doug Hemingway, Fay Guin. Yes, we did have a couple who shared Ernie’s last name and Doug even looked the part of Ernest!

I’m not sure exactly when the retreats started, probably 2002, because 2008 was the 6th Annual. Initially they were weeklong summer retreats led by Dr. Rob Lamm from Arkansas State University. I learned about the retreat when I was editor of The Piggott Times in 2007. The very next year, 2008, one of the mentors couldn’t make it and they asked me to step in to to help out, which I gladly did!! The retreats had become so popular that they decided to begin an annual Fall retreat and I was asked to lead the first one. It was an abbreviated version (three days), but was no less packed with writing! In April of 2011, I was then asked to lead the first ever Spring retreat, a near-mirror image of the Fall version (meaning, it’s just a little shorter).

During my association there, I’ve worked with three different directors, but it’s a testament to them and the staff there—who are fantastic!—that the retreats continue to grow and flourish. Last week, five of the nine retreating writers had never been to any of the retreats before (and I specifically mean the HPMEC retreats, not retreats in general…because I don’t know the answer to that).

Writers come from all over, but mostly from the Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee area. I understand there was a New York writer there this past fall.

If you’re a writer and you’ve never been to a retreat, the Hemingway Writers Retreats are excellent ones to attend. They’d take great care of you and you can write where Hemingway did—maybe even channel some Hemingway in your writing.

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In the Spirit of Thankfulness part 2

My thankful missive was longer than I expected, so here is the second—but no less important—half of the 30 days of thankfulness. I’m thankful for…

14 my sister. Even though I was pretty mean to her when we were kids, I’m thankful to have a beautiful and smart sister who loves me despite that fact. How the heck SHE ended up a computer geek is beyond me. I’m pretty sure she did it just to SPITE me. 😉 (she gets to head this week because she just had a birthday and STILL hasn’t caught me! Happy birthday, sis!)

13 the year and a half I got to live in Piggott. Piggott is that place that’s always been a home away from home for me. I’m kin to about 1/3 of the people there simply because my family has been in that are for 150+ years. Though the job situation (meaning mostly—the boss) was less than desirable, I’m glad to have gotten the chance to live and work there for a brief time. What made it even better was that most of the residents seemed to appreciate the work I did there AND seemed to enjoy my writing. I’ll never forget the first words from Mayor Gerald Morris when I told him who my family was (he knew them all): “Welcome home.”

12 good bosses. Having a bad boss (see #13) reminds you to be thankful for the good bosses you have (BJ can attest to that also!), and I’ve had some good ones in my time. I’ll mention by name: Noelani Cornell (my current boss at Full Sail University), Chris Ulm (the EIC during my time at Malibu), and the late Dr. Bill Foster (Department Chair at UNA where I taught).

11 Malibu Comics. Yeah, I know the company is long dead (shut down in 96), but it—and the people associated with it—hold a very dear place in my heart. Like some of the other entries here, there are far too many people to name. But I always think of Malibu as the four principle partners: Scott Rosenberg, Chris Ulm, Dave Olbrich, and Tom Mason. These guys took in the young writer from Mississippi and quickly made me a part of the family. I’m also forever grateful to Tom—I’m sure he knows—for opening up his home to me and BJ after the ’94 Northridge earthquake made us homeless.

10 my beloved Southland. I know that about half of you won’t get it, but MY country is the South not the USA, which forces our relationship at the end of a gun barrel (or a drone, these days). And for those one or two idjits who stop by here because google led you to the word “southland,” the whole Dixie thing is not about race for most (yes, there are some idiots of all creeds and colors and yes, states)…but I once tried to explain it all by saying I’ve got a lot more in common with the black guy who lives on the street in front of me than the white guy who lives up north. Truth!

9 little league organizations (all of them, not any one in particular). My dad coached me for several years when I was in high school and it was one of those things that helped bring us together when I was such a rotten teen. It gave us some common ground stuff to talk about…and it didn’t hurt that he was a darn good coach—we went 25-0 when I was a senior. I’ve been able to coach both of my kids for a number of years and I love that part about coaching … I really missed it last year and that’s probably what put it on my mind to make me so thankful.

8 my friends in law enforcement. Like the other entries, there’s too many to name—but I’ll still shout out to a couple for ridealongs and other such cool info I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else: Bobby Joe Killen and Dave Cullison!

7 my writing skills. You’re welcome to laugh—and that won’t offend me…but at whatever level I have them, I’m thankful for them. Like any writer, I hope my writing brings joy and pleasure to others…but it really is something I very much enjoy and I’m thankful for whatever skills I may have.

6 my students (most of them—ha). I’ve often said that teaching is a lot like editing: a very thankless job. An editor is (in general) good if they are “invisible” to the projects they work on, bringing out the best in the creators they’re working with, allowing them to shine. It’s an awesome feeling when a student drops you a private message or publicly thanks you for instruction/advice/encouragement.

5 my extended family. They’re a bunch of nuts, but they’re mine. (see the facebook entry#23 as a sidenote for this one, too)

4 my earthquake desk. BJ hates it. I bought it for $25 back around 1988. My dad knew this place (I don’t remember how) and we picked up this huge metal desk. It’s HEAVY. I started calling it earthquake desk in California because if the big one came (again), we could just jump under it and we’d be okay. The thing is STURDY. Every time we move BJ tries to talk me into getting rid of it and getting something “nicer.” You watch—she’ll do it again once we sell this house!

3 Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. No, I’m not going to get into the debate as to who did what. But they were an amazing team and helped me develop a love for reading when I was but a wee lad.

2 YOU, dear reader. You continue to visit my blog and read my ramblings when I know that is exactly what they are. Many of you offer you own comments and much encouragement…and you are highly treasured by me!

1 my salvation. Okay, yeah, I DID intentionally leave this one for the #1 spot (and because the first of November also happens to be my birthday!) I’m thankful that a loving God forgives me of the sins I commit daily (oh-stop! Y’ain’t so perfect yerself) and that I live in a country that I’m free to express that (mostly).

So there…if you read this far, thanks for hanging with me. Lots to be thankful for…I could probably go on, but I won’t. THANKFULLY for you, November only has 30 days!

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