Thursday, May 07, 2009

A stone marker

Last week I told you about Dr. Robert Drake, the UT English professor that made such an impression a decade ago.

Have to share an unexpected -- and poignant -- moment that happened earlier this week.

Dr. Drake has stayed on my mind, so I began looking for someone who could talk about him. A colleague. Another former student. A friend.

I have no idea what happened to the others in that Southern Lit class. I asked the English Department head, Chuck Maland, whether he knew of anyone. He suggested a professor emeritus, Allison Ensor.

That night I remembered the Robert Drake reader sitting on my bookshelf. Something clicked that two of his grad students edited the book.

And, sure enough, Randy Hendricks is still teaching at the same Georgia college at which he worked when the book was published. I sent him a note. He responded the next morning.

Later in the day came a second e-mail from the other editor of the book. He teaches up north. Both shared special memories, moments, the time Dr. Drake shot down James Perkins during a seminar, saying "So what?" to his argument.

Perkins told me that he noticed while visiting Drake's hometown Ripley, Tenn., a few years ago that his grave contained no stone marker. He arranged to have one placed there.

I am glad.

Dr. Drake deserves more, though. If nothing else than for his genteel, wonderfully anachronistic, conversational prose. More so, for the lives he touched, the careers he influenced, the work he encouraged.

This afternoon, I tracked down the literary journal that devoted several pages to him in the spring of 1992. It is on its way from Mississippi State.

It feels good. His life's work is still with me. And, therefore, so is he.

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