Notes from Brother to a Dragonfly

Brother to a Dragonfly was written by Will Campbell, a good-ole-boy Southern Lefty who became kind of a one-hit wonder in the 70s. I found a few digital notes I made upon reading his hit book:

  • Lonesome is when somebody isn’t there and you know they’ll be back after a while. Being lonely is when you don’t have anyone to be lonesome for.
  • ‘I do not recall our being unhappy as children. And I do not recall our being happy. A family of six, living on a small cotton farm during the depression, growing no more than five or six bales of cotton a year which sold for a few cents a pound, did not think in those terms. Even married couples did not think in those terms. Happiness was not something promised. Happiness was not part of the contract. If it came, we experienced it without naming it. If it didn’t, we couldn’t complain, not aware we were due it or that it even existed. No one ever said `I’m not happy living with you so I’m leaving.”
  • ‘Our daddy was nicknamed Preacher’ and called little else by his neighbors and brothers and older nephews who were near his own age. The name went back to a time shortly after he was married. He came from the field one day and said that he was going to become a preacher. But he finished no more than the sixth grade of school and already the public relations of Fulltime Christian Service’ was beginning to lean heavily on the academy. Already, even in rural Mississippi in 1918, the notion was getting around that the Jesus story was so complicated that only the learned could convey it. So Daddy did not become a preacher, but he was called `Preacher’ by his friends and neighbors. And still is.’
  • Trying to reason with an institution is like pissing on a turtle.
  • In ten words or less, the Christian Faith is ‘We’re all bastards but God loves us anyway.’

Will D. Campbell, Brother to a Dragonfly, 1977.

I’m a bit surprised that I didn’t capture one more, though perhaps it came from an article in Sojourners or something instead of from Brother to a Dragonfly.

Someone — I think it was his Daddy “Preacher” — somehow was able to minister to, and command the respect of, both poor blacks and Klansmen.

Someone asked “How do you manage that, Preacher?”, and he shot back “By emptying the bedpans of their sick!”

My main blog is the Tipsy Teetotaler,