Excerpts from the work of James E. Churches, founder of The Written Life

From the award-winning novel, Pirates of the Potomac:

CALL ME ISHCABIBBLE. I tossed the name off as an alias when I entered the big South Texas Pigeon Shoot on August the 3rd, 1882, four months to the day after my so-called death. Ishcabibble won the contest by hitting forty-eight out of fifty live pigeons released at thirty yards—quite a show of fire, blood and feathers. He became an instant celebrity in Galveston. There was not a saloon along the dock where he could pay for a drink.

Not very smart you say? A wanted man getting himself famous when he was supposed to be laying low? Enough of that, Frank. I don’t need your bossy, big brother scolding after all I been through. Besides, I can’t help it. Fame’s a bloodhound on me, Frank. You know that. Anyhow, I survived, else you wouldn’t be sitting there right now, reading these words. So just sit back and listen to the tale of what happened to me out of that dumb name, Ishcabibble.

From the non-fiction book, Stories of Men, Meaning and Prayer, with Jeffrey Duvall:

Yes, take a risk. Leap into the unknown. I heard a story from a storyteller that illustrates this idea. He spoke of a man teaching rock climbing to a small group of adults. He was exhibiting techniques against a rock face, and had reached the top of a seventy-five-foot escarpment, free-climbing with no ropes. In that instant, he slipped. Instead of falling he pushed himself away from the rock wall. Within seconds he found himself crashing through the branches of a tree.

He hit the ground conscious, with only minor injuries. He looked at himself, as if to ask what life he had fallen into. The gaping mouths of his students expressed the same wonder. Was it faith that inspired him to leap, somehow knowing or remembering the tree was there? Perhaps it is true that living out of faith requires more than a little foolishness.

From his novel, The Pelican Farmer’s Almanack:

A block down the cracked pavement faded to dirt. Broken tree branches littered the road. Selene could remember the ravenous thunderstorms that raged through back then. The lots grew in size to more than an acre. On the end, to her right, stood the single story, white clapboard house that had somehow provided shelter to six foster children. Selene looked into the dusty pasture out back defined by a flimsy barbed wire and holding a single brindle mule, sleeping with it’s right rear leg lifted.

The front porch rail had been partially repaired and the raw, unpainted lumber splintered and cracked and almost seemed to groan. The glass cover of the porch light had broken. A single, clear, incandescent bulb provided light. From behind the drawn curtains she could make out the flashing light of a television, and further in, the white light of a kitchen florescent. Selene approached the open front door on complaining steps, which attracted a broad-backed, silver mutt who waddled to the screen door and barked low and raspy.

A wide woman in a thin cotton dress hobbled from the kitchen to the door and squint scowled through the screen. “Sign says no solicitors,” she said in an unfriendly bark, pointing to the square of less faded wall where the sign used to be. Selene looked up and could picture the sign that used to hang there.

“Emma, it’s me. Me, you know. You were—we were—I was, was, your, uh, your daughter—for a couple of years anyway.”

From the biography, The Brothers Robinson, a Story of Milk and Honey:

We find a solitary man, tall upon a treeless plateau above the South Platte River, west of the frontier town of Denver. He whistles commands to his cattle dog, moving a herd of black-and-white, Holstein diary cows to fresh pasture. The morning sun illuminates a powder of snow on the Table Mountains of Golden, and Lookout Mountain, frosted white, majestic, free of the television and radio towers that would one day mar its ridgeline.

The cattle low, their breath mists the cool autumn air, and they settle in for a good morning graze after their sunrise milking. Their tongues wrap the moist green grass and pull it to their mouths for a bite. At this stage they aren’t chewing, just ripping and swallowing, filling their first stomachs for later cud chewing as the day warms up. Barred Plymouth Rock chickens scratch and peck in the yard around the two-story red brick farmhouse.

This solitary man pulls on his long beard and looks upon this scene, so wonderful and unexpected. He is now known as Louis Robinson, an American farmer, who had not more than a few years before been a dairyman in Lithuania, the Ukraine, or Russia, by the name of Labisch Rabinovich. He had been forced to flee the old country, had sailed to America, and as luck would have it, came into two squares of grazing land on the high plains of Colorado. He fills the bowl of his clay pipe with tobacco and lights it with a wooden match.

From the memoir, Sacred Bullets, with Ron Hoffman:

Part of my personal mending—and it’s a work in progress—is to change the way I do my work. I have a tendency to overbook myself. I sometimes think I’m the only one, remember, “You’re the one,” right? and I try to do it all myself. I act as if only I can return the calls. Only I can meet with the families. It’s not healthy, nor is it sustainable.

A colleague was out with me shadowing my workday and commented that my car insurance company had better not find out what goes on in the cab of that car. He said my insurance rate would double, at least. Okay. Fair enough. I will admit to some extreme multi-tasking while I drive from home to home.

I’ll have case files on the dashboard, various notes to myself among them, a few odd scraps of paper in the backseat, a sticky note in the vicinity of the gearshift, and of course my cell phone plugged into the charger. I do have a desk, though, which is good. It’s my steering wheel. I can scrawl notes from a phone conversation onto a case file while driving 60 mph down Highway 93, put an incoming call on hold, and avoid a driver who didn’t see me in his blind spot.

Look, ma, no hands. It’s not dangerous, really, is it?

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