Posted tagged ‘About Place Journal’

Friday Feature ~ “Open Country: an allegory”

February 17, 2023

“Open Country” is one of my stories that I can directly attribute to having a little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks. It appeared in Volume II, Issue I of About Place Journal, in May of 2013. This was their “Trees” themed issue. It was my 17th published short story, and I felt I was really on my way.

Clearing cedars is something I do a lot of at my little cabin. The problem with them is that with their oily needles, they can burn hot and transfer a ground fire into the tree tops, which is something I don’t want around my cabin. So whenever I take myself into the forest, I also take a pair of loppers to liberate any small cedars I find from their earthly toil. It’s an endless task, and if I clear one area this year, it will have new cedars growing in it next year. But everyone needs a hobby, right?

I call it an allegory, and I don’t think it’s too hard to see what the cedars in the story can represent to an insightful reader. In just three years, current events showed that the main character’s aversions were commonplace and running rampant throughout the population.

About Place Journal is a publication of The Black Earth Institute, which is an effort by artists and scholars to create a more ethical world.

Friday Feature ~ Open Country: an allegory

October 21, 2022

This story appeared in the May 2013 issue of the online magazine About Place Journal. Here is a link to the story.

This story is about as close as I’ve ever come to making a political statement with my fiction. The allegory the title refers to is pretty obvious when you read the story. A man with a cabin in the forest wants to be surrounded by only white oaks. The red and black oaks can go find someplace else to grow. But most of all he hates the cedars, which are swarming into his woods, unchecked, and rapidly reproducing. It’s not the forest he remembers from his youth, and he’s cranky about that.

It’s set in a forest much like the one of One-Match Fire, but it’s not part of that universe. I always thought I would have another story suited for About Place Journal, but so far it hasn’t come to me.

“Open Country: an allegory” is now published

May 7, 2013

This is another of my stories that snuck into publication sooner than I expected. “Open Country: an allegory” popped up yesterday at About Place Journal. They had told me that they would send me an official email with all kinds of legalese in it before the story appeared. But they didn’t, and it did.

So take your fine self over there if you’re so inclined and give the story a read. Then let me know what you think.

“Open Country: an allegory”

April 15, 2013

So I spent Sunday at my cabin in the Ozark woods. My wife and I planted forty trees (most will die, alas), I threw a lot of rocks in a hole that is threatening to wash out my spillway, I cleaned the flotsam from my dam overflow drain, I fed the birds, I discovered that a goose is now nesting on small island in my pond (nice!), I spent some precious time in a comfy chair on a shady porch overlooking a sparkling lake, and I liberated a few cedars from their earthly toil.

Then I came home and found an email waiting for me from About Place Journal. They said that they love my submission of “Open Country: an allegory” and intend to publish it in their next issue. Nice way to end a weekend, but I immediately re-read my story because I’m always surprised when someone actually likes my stuff.

A lot of people worry that a writer will use them as a character in their stories. In this case, I worry that people will think the character in my story is me. True, there are many parallels. My character has a small cabin in the Ozark forest, and I have a small cabin in the Ozark forest. My character likes to drink too much beer around a campfire and get talkative. I like to drink too much beer around a campfire and get talkative. My character worries about forest fires burning down his precious cabin. I worry about forest fires burning down my precious cabin. My character cuts down cedar trees to help prevent fires from spreading. I cut down cedar trees to prevent fires from spreading.

But the subtitle of my story is “an allegory” and it’s pretty blatantly the case. I think from the opening line even the dullest reader can figure out what I’m doing. I had fun writing this in part because I had very clear direction from my theme and in part because I could draw so much experience from my own life. But I am not this man. What the allegory is standing in place of is not a value I hold. Yet I found it so perfect for my nefarious purpose and so tangible in my experience that I had to go with it. (When the piece goes online I’ll post a link and you can see if this paragraph makes any sense at all.)

I’ve flirted with this idea for a long time, and I had even considered it as background for one of the characters in my Fathers and Sons stories, but I dropped that idea early on. I wouldn’t want to write a sustained character who is like this guy. The story itself, once I started the actual work on it, came together quickly (unlike many of my stories that can take years to “finish”). It relies a great deal on dialog, which I don’t consider to be one of my strengths (assuming I have any strengths, of course). But I must have done something right because the editors liked it.

I had submitted my story to this magazine because they had made a call for stories about trees, (thank you Duotrope’s Digest) and as the allegory, cedar trees are central to the story. I figured my nefarious purpose would quickly disqualify the story, and I was already looking around for other possible markets for it (dealing in social justice). In fact, I was about ready to start resubmitting it around, but my busy weekend got in the way. And then the email arrived.

So I’m doing cartwheels down the hallways of my mind right now. Thanks for your understanding.