• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Whenever you search in PBworks or on the Web, Dokkio Sidebar (from the makers of PBworks) will run the same search in your Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Gmail, Slack, and browsed web pages. Now you can find what you're looking for wherever it lives. Try Dokkio Sidebar for free.



Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 1 month ago

Much in Little on Goose and Nameless Creeks ~ By Jack Higgs


Image copyright Fred First “Where does this road go” asks the title of the introduction to Slow Road Home. It is also, of course, the legendary question often asked of country people by lost travelers from urban centers. The favorite reply by bemused farmers over the years is probably this: “Well no matter where you’re headed you can’t get there from here.” Fred First, posing this question in this utterly remarkable book of travel, offers a different response. “It goes nowhere and everywhere.” Traveling of some sort seems essential to cultivating a sense of place. Fred First has traveled a lot along the banks of Nameless and Goose Creeks on his farm in Floyd County, Virginia, taking note of the endless miracles in the natural world.


From the beginning, the move by Fred and wife Ann from Birmingham, Alabama to the Ridges of Appalachia is a journey of pilgrims seeking knowledge and meaning rather than a mission of true believers of one kind or another who already have all the answers. With open minds and hearts, before the immensity of nature and a willingness to change, what they learn and experience in life close to and directly off of the earth constitutes nothing less than a book of wonders. It is a picture of the natural world that is not only stranger than we think but stranger than we can imagine.


The purpose of all art is to make us see, but Fred does more than that: he also makes us listen and hear, scent and smell, touch and feel, and taste while eating. Here is more proof, if any were ever needed, that all good writing begins with the senses before exciting feelings of awe, mystery and reverence of powers unspeakable all around us.


Much in little: this is modus operandi of Fred First. Like Emily Dickinson, he notices “smallest things,” things overlooked before, finds them italicized as it were, and makes them part of his memory, his diary, and now this book, vibrant with the rich sense of living things on the pages within it. Everything he sees is connected, barely visible and maybe even invisible, but clearly a part of the web of being running trough space and time.


Tens of millions of years ago, according to Nigel Calder in Restless Earth, dinosaurs walked from Poland to Alabama by way of Ireland and New York. In Slow Road Home: a blue ridge book of days, Fred First reverses part of that journey, heading north from Birmingham and stopping in Floyd County, discovering the composition of organic life, the rhythms of seasons, and a kinship with everything that is, has been, or will be. I have never read a book quite like it. In River of Earth by James Still the mountain preacher opens the Bible and places his finger at random upon the pages, locating a passage which says that the hills of ancient days go hopping and a skipping like sheep. If one were to place a finger in Slow Road Home, it would more than likely land on a memorable metaphor linking in mystery and awe the visible world to the great spirit that animates it.

Robert "Jack" Higgs, Professor Emeritus, East Tennessee State University, editor of Appalachia Inside Out, Volumes I and II

Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.