Running on Red Dog Road (Zondervan, 2016)


Click on the above audio to hear a reading by the author:

Running on Red Dog Road is a memoir of my childhood, mostly set in 1940s East Beckley, West Virginia. It is a living history of the Appalachia I lived and loved as a child. How it looked and sounded and tasted. How it was. I was as faithful to those places and people as memory and the passage of time would allow—to do less would be a disservice to the remarkable family and place this book is meant to honor. The stories in Running on Red Dog Road were recreated, not exactly as they were, for that clearly would not be possible, but as seen through my eyes as a child. As I wrote, I asked myself the same question over and over—what would Grandma think? I think she would be pleased. Mercy me, she’d say, here you’ve gone and set us down in a book. Yes ma’am, I’d say. I hope I have done her and all the others proud. Their influence on my life was and is immeasurable.

Begun as a legacy to my progeny, Running on Red Dog Road ended as a tribute to their forebears, the family to whom I owe everything. It is, then, a book of atonement. Resurrecting the dead, living with them, and burying them again was profoundly moving. It took me six years to complete this book, and for several of those years I wrote nothing at all—blindsided by memories that struck me dumb. They were mostly good memories, deeply rooted in family and mountains and the culture of Appalachia, so I was unprepared for the emotional physical spiritual toll this writing could and did exact—and puzzled too. After all, I come from stoic stock, not given to unseemly histrionics. I took after this kin, or so I claimed. I never cried. Not at my grandpa’s funeral, nor my grandma’s many years later. Not at my sister’s or brother’s or mother’s. So the tears that overcame me as I relived our lives on that red dog road so long ago were an enigma—that is, until I realized every family member I wrote about is dead. Except for me. And the heartbreak is they died not knowing how I felt about them. They couldn’t have. Until I began to write their stories, I didn’t know myself.


a companion book is in the works:

more Appalachian tales I meant to tell you

and another on a different subject:

a true story of my impossibly artistic
hopelessly neurotic feral rescue cat

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