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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Remembering Earl Hamner Jr.

It's been a busy news week, but one bit of news almost slipped by. My brother Paul just texted it to me.
Here is the full story in USA Today: Earl Hamner Jr. creator of 'Waltons,' dies .

I have written of this author here at POI on more than one occasion. Two years ago, I spoke of his voice:
"One of my favorite author-narrators is Earl Hamner Jr., best known for his television show, "The Waltons," which aired through the Seventies. By "author-narrator" I mean a writer whose own voice is inseparable from the tone and rhythm his words pull from the page. If you remember the show or have watched its re-runs, you've heard Earl's voice toward the end of the show as the exterior of the two-story clap-board house is show (just before all the sibling "good-nights" and a soft harmonica chord sighed into the night). You can also hear his voice at this link as Hamner's reads the opening of The Homecomingwhich was the basis for The Waltons. The story is about a blizzard that almost kept the father of the family from getting home in time for Christmas."
There is, however, a little-known recitation of Hamner's that became a favorite of mine back in the mid-70's. A college friend had "The Walton's Christmas" album, and I listened to it over and over. I even made a cassette tape of the particular reading I share below. There was a time I had it memorized to perform "in old-man character" in a Christmas program. Because of that the rhythms and imagery have never left me. I lost the cassette decades ago, but through the wonder of YouTube, I found it today.

Toward the end of the recording below, Hamner's prose becomes poetry. In those final lines about the seasons, you'll hear the first time I had ever heard the word "russet" used as a color. (I had only thought of it as a type of potato.) But Hamner combines it the phrase "the russet and gold of autumn." It is a line I often say when I see those colors in October. Decades later, I used the Hamner's "russet" color myself in "A Melancholy Splendor." 
Please take a few minutes to listen to this video. You'll hear Hamner's voice at the beginning, and you'll hear his heart in the tired, gentle voice of Grandpa Walton who was roughly the age of Hamner at his passing. 

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