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Two Poems by Amy Susan Wilson

In Arts & Letters, Humanities, Poetry on July 12, 2021 at 10:14 am

Amy Susan Wilson is the founder and editor-in-chief of Red Dirt Press ( She is an Oklahoma native and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University. A Pushcart nominee, her work has appeared in numerous publications, and she is the author of Fetish and Other Stories (Balkan Books) which was named December 2015 Read of the Month, Southern Literary Review. Her fiction and nonfiction currently chronicle the rural South in the Covid era and the 1980s punk era. (

The Retarded Boy

lived in a barn

his Daddy a DOC guard

women’s penitentiary.

Like those pictures

of Jews, Auschwitz,

the DHS worker said

when she found him


hunkered over

his own skin and bone.

A salt block

for cows

bucket for water

shoved in a 4X4 space

that was caged

as if for chickens

not human boy. Four locks:

two key two combination.

Dark as night all day.

His mama snuck him beets

carrots, Payday candy bars.


When the State came

he learned his name

age fourteen: Cameron.

Elk River Residential Home

tan linoleum floor,

central heat and air

a place where he learns

to eat with a spoon,

always has tube socks

orange Jell-O galore.

Twin bed

white sheets


his Daddy, brother Wilfred

chase him in dreams

lock him back in the barn cage

his mama sneaking

cabbage, M & M’s

green ones.

May 1981

Dwayne Worley

struck by lightening

fishing at Lake Okataloa

in his cousin’s canoe.

His body never found.

Gators dumped

from Lincoln County

when they got too big

for baby pools and bath tubs.

Mrs. Stokely

Okataloa High School

physics, trig and calculus teacher

face frozen in not a frown

nor smile

not mean nor kind

giving out awards

in the new auditorium.


she announced

his name

Best mathematics student,

Young Scientist Award,

scholarship to M.I.T.

Voice cracking

a sniffle

glazed eyes

she called allergies

and apologized

as if the weight

of grief

could cause the dead

to rise.

Allen Mendenhall Interviews Judge Eleni M. Roumel on “Success Stories”

In Civics, Law on July 9, 2021 at 8:40 am

Allen Mendenhall Interviews Candace Cox Wheeler

In Humanities, Novels, Southern Literary Review on June 3, 2021 at 6:50 am

Allen Mendenhall Interviews Alabama State Treasurer John McMillan

In Success Stories on May 26, 2021 at 6:35 am

Is Intellectualism Gone?

In Academia, American History, Arts & Letters, Books, higher education, Humanities, Liberalism, Literary Theory & Criticism, Philosophy, Western Philosophy on May 5, 2021 at 6:45 am

Three (More) Poems by Bruce Craven

In America, Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Humanities, Poetry, Writing on April 29, 2021 at 10:09 am

Bruce Craven is a member of the Columbia Business School Executive Education faculty in New York City. In addition to directing and teaching in a variety of executive programs, he teaches graduate business students his popular elective Leadership Through Fiction.  His book Win or Die: Leadership Secrets from Game of Thrones, was published in March 2019 by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press.  The book is currently being translated into Russian and Turkish. He wrote the novel Fast Sofa (1993) which was published in Japanese and German. He also co-wrote the script for the film adaptation, starring Jennifer Tilly, Jake Busey and Crispin Glover. His collection of poetry, Buena Suerte in Red Glitter was published by Red Dirt Press. He lives with his wife and two sons in the Coachella Valley in California.

Bee Spears Talks Illicit Substances

No snow, no show.Seventies slang, but in ’69, rural

Tennessee was all about speed, weed, booze. “Peyton Place.

that’s what happens with whiskey & amphetamines.” Mural

of venues as the band burned miles. Spears, the bassist,

said the Ridgetop place was “wild as hell.” Mailbox read:

Willie Nelson and Many Others.” It was a commune,

before the honky-tonks heard the term hippy said

about locals. Bee learned to play the tunes

on a steep curve: twenty-eight gigs, twenty-eight nights.

“I snapped real quick that Willie plays bass lines

on his guitar.” Bee backed him low. Lucky Strikes

were still Will’s three-pack habit, and now weed. Nine-

teen, Bee was hired delivering mota to the band.

Then coke hit. Will: “You’re wired, you’re fired.” Shotgun’s drug stand.

Dred Scott

Part One:  SCOTUS & Freedom

Fred Douglass voted for a Republican,

John C. Fremont. His vote supported more

pragmatic views, like free soilism. Veteran

of the battle for freedom, Douglass knew war

might happen, also knew the Radical 

Abolitionist Party’s overly firm stance,

while right, could lose the 1856 Electoral

College struggle. He thought Fremont’s chance

against Buchanan, the Democrat, Slave

Power fan, might prevail. Fremont lost. Hope

cratered when the Supreme Court gave Dred Scott

and all black Americans up. The scope

of Chief Justice Taney’s ruling was clear:

blacks were inferior. Their future? Fear. 

Christian Property

Part Two — The Shape of a Heart

“My poor mother,” Douglass wrote, like many

other slave women: she had children,

but no family. She could be lawfully

sold off or raped, and not live within

a distance to visit or protect,

teach or love the child she created. Legal

sales could steal a husband. Owners select

to beat and abuse her. The child? Her meager

hope might be to walk all night once a year

and surprise her son with a small sweet cake.

Harriet dying at Holm Hill, the sheer

suffering to Fred. No chance to make

his way to visit. “No striking words of

hers treasured up.” He ached for her love.

Woke but Broke: How US Colleges Are Pricing Students, Themselves Out of Business

In Academia, higher education, university on April 28, 2021 at 6:45 am

This piece originally appeared here in The Daily Signal.

Whether their leaders realize or admit it or not, American colleges and universities are on the verge of a crisis. And it’s a crisis, by and large, of their own making.

The National Association of Scholars last month published a report by Neetu Arnold, “Priced Out: What College Costs America,” which finds, among other things, that an undergraduate degree is now prohibitively expensive for many Americans, who have turned to the federal government to subsidize their education.

“The average price of college,” writes Arnold, “has more than doubled since 1980.” She adds that “[n]early 44 million Americans now owe more than $1.5 trillion in student debt.”

That’s a lot of money.

Several factors have contributed to widespread tuition hikes, including university expenditures that, Arnold suggests, aren’t directly related to students or education, but rather primarily to professional administration—that is, to the hiring of more deans and directors and officers to comply with the growing number of federal regulations and accreditation reporting requirements.

That’s just part of the story. The trend of profligate university spending goes back several decades.

After World War II, politicians adopted popular slogans and mantras regarding the necessity of college for all Americans, Arnold explains. The idea, however quixotic, that every citizen deserves a college degree has propelled government spending and set public policy priorities since at least the Truman administration.

The “college for all” narrative motivated passage of the GI Bill, the National Defense Education Act, and the Higher Education Act, which, although designed to make college more accessible, inadvertently drove up the price tag for a university degree.

The ready availability of federal student loans has enriched universities and their administrators on the backs of students, Arnold says. Meanwhile, the quality of education has diminished, and the students are therefore unprepared, or underprepared, for the job market.

Administrators also have reallocated time and resources toward student comforts and amenities, rather than educational rigor and intellectual diversity. However, education, according to Arnold, is “meant to elevate the mind by introducing students to new perspectives and unfamiliar ideas.”

Colleges have become so expensive, she says, in part because they depend on federal money and aid that come with regulatory strings attached. The more government bureaucracy and red tape a university must manage, the more it will spend on compliance officers and offices.

Add to government data tracking and retention of the many reporting requirements of accreditors, and the costs of university administration rise even higher.

Encouraged to take out a massive loan for education that they cannot afford, students burdened by debt delay marriage, family, career, and homeownership to the detriment of society writ large.

We are entering a period in which Americans who still have student loan debt have children enrolling in college and taking on student loan debt.

Arnold says that “universities raise their prices knowing that students will take out loans to pay for the increased price,” adding that students “will bear the consequences for their own bad judgment, but the university will escape scot-free with the borrowed tuition money.”

But what if universities had “skin in the game”?

That question underlies “income share agreements” by which universities subsidize a student’s tuition in exchange for a portion of the student’s future earnings. Such an arrangement demonstrates that the university is truly invested in the student’s future and not just interested in the student’s tuition.

As American colleges and universities have grown increasingly radical and progressive in their political messaging and orientation, they have financially exploited the very groups—the poor, ethnic minorities, and first-generation college students—that the left purports to champion.

“Universities allocate substantial financial resources to fund social justice activities—and even just to provide salaries for social justice administrators,” Arnold writes.

But these costs fall upon young students.

“Priced Out” proffers several fixes and corrections to the current system, including consolidating duplicate administrative offices and roles, facilitating information transparency regarding federal grants and aid earlier in the college admission process, creating vocational curricular tracks staffed by practitioners, and holding institutions financially responsible for debt incurred by students who do not graduate.

Yet more reform is needed. Arnold’s alarming and comprehensive report is just one small step in a positive direction. Universities that take Arnold’s criticisms to heart and adjust accordingly will likely outperform their competitors in the long run.

Given birthrate declines, diminishing international enrollment, and a growing belief among young Americans that a college degree is no longer worth the price, universities must change.

Elite colleges (e.g., those in the Ivy League), colleges with large endowments, and state flagship institutions will probably weather the storm, as it were, but small liberal arts schools are particularly vulnerable in this climate.

Universities that fail or refuse to adapt and evolve could face a grim future—or, worse, no future at all.

“Dear Neighbor,” by Amy Susan Wilson

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2021 at 6:45 am

Amy Susan Wilson’s publications include Fetish and Other Stories (Balkan Books) and her stories and poems have appeared in numerous publications. Her fiction currently chronicles the rural South in the Covid era. She resides in Oklahoma. (

May 9, 2020

Dear Neighbor:

We have become aware that two raccoons are living as pets at your domicile, 1214 Maple Street, caddy corner to Dill Street with the big new streetlight teenagers knock out with rocks and whatnot.

In our Covid-Gone-To-Heck era, tweens, teens alike are getting into trouble as they are bored with the online schooling and yet, keeping raccoons as pets lacks causation.  I understand youth being a little rambunctious if not downright spunky, leading to destruction of lights and such—but we cannot accept raccoon-pets as any cause-effect even in these dark times.  In short, why you insist raccoons are pets is beyond us.

For the health and good of the neighborhood and our addition, Park Lawn, we must demand removal of the raccoons from your property.

Walking raccoons on pink leashes with sparkly, fake diamonds from Maple to Emmet Avenue and looping to Ashford Street and on down the sidewalk to Broadway does NOT make them pets. Or outfitting them in pink-purple-y dog sweaters. Finding them under your carport eating birdseed out of a ripped sack propped next to a wheelbarrow is a sympathy-moment I realize, but not grounds for turning wild creatures into domesticated pets; in short, these are not wiener dogs or shih-tzus.

I know they were babies when you found them. Cute and cuddly now, as one year old toddlers, raccoons grow big claws that can shovel your eyeball out in one swipe! Or that of the retarded boy down the street who is also an autism-ADHD child and whatnot.

Okataloa City Ordinance Section 12 4.b. states: Undomesticated and/or livestock animals are not to be housed within city limits….

This is found online, for citizen convenience, Animal Control Section of City Government website. (See: www.cityofokataloa./ord/animalcontrol).

Certainly, we are not saying you cannot have pets. As Christians, we value the animals that the Lord made for us to enjoy as companions. Take for instance, parakeets, dogs of non-violent nature such as the Labradoodle, hamsters, goldfish, and the like.

Acting in Christian compassion, a four-day grace period is given so you may have requisite time to release said raccoons into the woods by Lake Okataloa (the most appropriate habitat). Upon passing of four days, Okataloa Animal Control will be dispatched to your property.

We pray you do the right thing in the allotted timeframe extended to you.


The Neighbors

May 13, 2020

Dear Neighbor (Mr. Finney),

When I took the pie to your home and rang your doorbell, it was a peace offering and gesture of good will. Yet, your plumpish kitten, Mischief, skipped in front of my feet jet-pilot fast so I tripped and the lemon meringue upshot onto your chin, Hawaiian shirt collar.  I plunked down on your front porch and a mountain-sized knot developed on my keister cheek, left side. Of course, I am not suing though it could be perceived of as a tort claim. My not major yet moderate injury was bluish-purple for six days; I walked with a limp, even while consuming the maximum doses of Extra Strength Tylenol.

You denied writing me the letter before the pie flipped into your face, but I recall from our block parties, pre-pandemic, you routinely said, “and whatnot.” As a retired educator of twenty-nine years, having served the Okataloa School District as Senior Horizons Coordinator and prior, as a Language Arts educator both at the middle school and Okataloa Adult Education Center, I do pick up on diction quite well.

I had hoped to reach a compromise regarding the raccoon issue.

While the City of Okataloa ordinance states: “… livestock may not be housed within city limits…” you remain silent on the matter of the Pitts family having a chicken coop in their backyard.

Additionally, you remain silent regarding the problems that arise from those individuals who place feed bowls topped with Meow Mix for feral cats, which populate our Maple Street cul-de-sac. In fact, you adopted a one-too-many kittens, feral, and do not obtain vaccinations or flea medications or spay/neuter these felines, I hear.

To recapitulate, I was on your doorstep wishing to offer a truce and no petty tit-for-tat nonsense. I remain open to civil discussion.

Very Sincerely,

Other Neighbor

Edith Baxter

M.Ed. Literacy Studies

May 18, 2020

Dear Neighbor:

Again, we insist upon removal of the non-pets. Educator or not, this does not excuse you from your legal duty to re-house what the law refers to as “wild animals”, i.e.: undomesticated non-livestock.

We are Christians, as stated in the past correspondence, so we will extend the deadline to contact Okataloa Animal Control by six days. But this timeframe only.

We pray that you step up to the plate so this matter can be put to rest so to speak and what not.

Peace in Christ,

The Neighbors

June 3, 2020

Dear Mr. Finney,

I am unclear as to why you refer to yourself as “neighbors” when it is exclusively you who raises this “raccoon issue.” “One” is singular, hence, “neighbor.”

Yet, my primary purpose of this communication is to inform of the forthcoming article regarding Lucy and Desi. This morning, the Okataloa News Star reporter, Jan Maxwell, photographed Lucy and Desi for the Sunday edition. A full-page feature spread will run in two to three weeks. (Dicta: The sweaters are aqua and salmon, not pink and “purple-y.” You will note this in the pictures that will accompany the article).

Certainly, I was sorry to learn that an unknown person/s lit a firecracker and rammed it up the tailpipe of your 2017 Ford Taurus. As you stated in your initial letter, youth are a little if not a lot “rambunctious” due to the homeschooling during Covid. Masks also prove restrictive for us all, especially for tweens and teens.

In closing, I challenge and encourage you to move beyond this realm of critter-focus and praise God through actions that He would find pleasing, such as daily devotional reading of Ephesians.

Very Sincerely Yours,

Your Neighbor

Edith Baxter

June 16, 2020

Dear Neighbor:

I read at Doyle’s Donut Shop. Seating was limited to six only (drive-thru the preferred donut-getting method), but Doyle still had several copies of the paper for us die-hards who like coming into the shop for the honey- glazed bear claws. While Jan Maxwell thinks that raccoons trotting the neighborhood like poodles is a-okay, the boys at Doyle’s were saying a b-b shot to the raccoon rumpuses would not be a bad thing!

Yet, as a born again Christian, God does not want intentional harm to come to his creatures. No, He wants them to live their lives in their natural habitat.

We appreciate the expression of concern for the welfare of our Taurus and my person. The firecracker that popped off inside the tailpipe did no damage. Melvin at Melvin’s Transmission Shop said it was good as new. Tailpipes cost a pretty penny so a saved expense and whatnot.

While we do respect and appreciate your concern, we still must insist on removal of those raccoons.

This letter serves as final notice.

Very Sincerely Yours,

The Neighbors

July 31, 2020

Dear Mr. Finney,

My deepest sympathies. Your house burning to a crisp by unknown cause, is tragic. Suffering third degree burns to your face, chest, legs, arms and hands is beyond heart wrenching.

All church members county-wide and those of the Tri-County Synagogue are praying for you.

Daily, I drive and/or walk past the plot of land where your house stood, the Berkshire Hathaway “For Sale” sign staked in the front lawn. I hear the City of Okataloa has made an offer and if accepted will build a Community Garden with a pergola.

Certainly, it is realized that you cannot pen a letter of response; again, my condolences and heartfelt sorrow regarding the bandaging of your hands, including all digits, for the upcoming eight months.

Update: The McKinney’s have taken in Mischief and is fed Fancy Feast moist food each evening meal and receives hairball control formula dry food, Meow Mix, each morning. The McKinney’s also installed a pet door so she can hop in the garage on cold winter nights.

While small tidbits of news, I hope these words bring you comfort during this trying time.

Prayers and Blessings,

Edith Baxter

Lucy and Desi

Remarks on Neetu Arnold’s Report, “Priced Out”

In Academia, higher education on March 24, 2021 at 6:45 am

Interview with Judge Jeffrey Sutton

In Uncategorized on March 3, 2021 at 6:45 am
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