Hale County, part of the Black Belt.
Greensboro – Catfish Capital of Alabama.
We began the morning with Lucy reading to us some James Agee/Walker Evans’ NOW LET US PRAISE FAMOUS MEN stories as we drove to Hale County Library in Greensboro, Alabama just southwest of Tuscaloosa and Moundville.
JAMES AGEE/WALKER EVANS LINKS
The librarian, Carolyn Hemstreet, greeted us at the door and helped us carry our many art supplies, books, pictures etc into the little library on Main Street. The kids started showing up fast, and we began this workshop with stories of friendship and saying good-bye. (I’ve lived in 12 states, so I had to learn to say good-bye at a very early age.) But we talked about how Kathryn and Charlie met at 82 and 49 and became best friends, and how friendship can happen at any age if you’re lucky enough. The kids were so great and such good listeners, asking questions too.
Then Lucy talked about how she decided to illustrate the book which was by finding scraps of material, pine needles, buttons, sticks, a burlap sack from a bag of rice, and we showed the children some of her original art, which they matched up with the pictures in the book along with the book dummy she made when we were first starting out last summer.
Then we talked about gardens and trees and of all the trees we love – pecan, maple, oak, peach, orange, magnolia, palm, crepe myrtle, and so many others. Then kids began to make trees only this time we also talked about “drawing hearts too” and one girl, Hannah, drew a tree in the shape of a heart with the branches as the different ventricles. She wrote about what scared her (spiders), what excited her (family game night), what made her sad (dead animals on the side of the road) and what made her happy (visiting Alabama to see her Aunt Peggy.)
The kids just took off and began creating trees and stories. One boy, Curtis, said, “This man is hot and he is going to pick an apple off his apple tree because it’s a hot day, and he’s really thirsty.” His tree was of his family roots. It was really special listening to the kids describe their trees and families. Kids hung tire swings and wooden swings made of popsicle sticks from their trees and lots of buttons for fruit.
And Norah made friends with two sisters, Belle and Vivian, and the librarian said, “Look, they’re kindred spirits, aren’t they?” Long after the workshop ended the three were still talking. Vivian and Belle both drew pictures of their farm and the trees on the farm.
After the workshop, we headed to PIE LAB for some amazing pies and barbecue, and a whole blueberry crunch pie found its way home with us.
At the counter at PIE LAB, a man said to me, “You’re famous.”
I said, “Not me.”
He said, “Yeah, you were on the cover of the newspaper today. Our Greensboro paper.”
I told him I hadn’t seen it yet, and he asked, “Are y’all fixing to eat lunch? I’ll go get you one.” And sure enough, he showed back up with the newspaper, and then we were.
Lucy said, “Slow news day,” but it was really fun to see our workshop announced on the front page, and 15 kids came to get summer reading started.
Anyway, PIE LAB is fantastic!
Afterwards, we drove to the Rural Studio of Auburn in Newbern, Alabama also in the Black Belt, where architectural students from Auburn build homes in the community out of recycled materials. Lucy and Norah both loved it! Danielle, in the office, gave us a tour of the grounds. Here is a link to the Rural Studio. I could have spent all day going around looking at the houses and park structures the students build, including a fire station in town too. It’s a whole different part of the South seeing a place like the Rural Studio.
Finally, we ended the day driving up one of the roads to where James Agee and Walker Evans spent time with the families in NOW LET US PRAISE FAMOUS MEN. (Carolyn, the librarian, said, “The book is only one small part of the story of Hale County. This was a very literary and cultured and somewhat affluent community, and a lot of people were not really very happy with the book.”) Anyway, as we headed up the winding road that grew more narrow, Lucy and Norah both agreed it was a road like in the film, SPIRITED AWAY (and I might add A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND too) because of the way the road changed from paved to red dirt and snaked up into the hills.
We didn’t stay too long.
But it was a lovely day of storytelling in Alabama, and oh! I almost forgot! At library, at the end of the workshop, a lady named, Peggy, who knew Kathryn, taught us to play hair combs, and I played “Amazing Grace” and “Jingle Bells” with Curtis. We’re still getting the hang of it.
Olive found her bone, which made her very happy in the midst of the kids at the library.
Here are some pictures. Thank you Hale County Library! 🙂