‘Stay with the River’


From “Bang the Drum Slowly,” by Mark Harris.

One thing he knew was north from south and east from west, which I myself barely ever know outside a ball park. We drove without a map, nights as well as days when we felt like driving nights, probably not going by the fastest roads but anyhow going mostly south and east. “Stay with the river,” he said.

“What river?” I said. “I cannot even see the river.”

“You are with it,” he said, and I guess we must of been. He traveled according to rivers. He never knew their name, but he knew which way they went by the way they flowed, and he knew how they flowed even if they weren’t flowing, if you know what I mean, even if they were froze, which they were for a ways, knowing by the way the bank was cut or the ice piled or the clutter tossed up along the sides when we ever got close enough to see the sides, which we sometimes did because he liked to stop by the river and urinate in it. He would rather urinate in the river than in a gas station. Once a couple years ago I caught him urinating in the washbowl in the hotel in Cleveland. I bawled the daylight out of him. “I wash it out,” he said. Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. For a long time I kept an eye on him.

Moving south he noticed cows out of doors. “We are moving south all right,” he said, “because they keep their cows out of doors down here.” He knew what kind they were, milk or meat, and what was probably planted in the fields, corn or wheat or what, and if birds were winter birds or the first birds of spring coming home. He knew we were south by the way they done chicken. “We ain’t real south,” he said, “but we are getting there. I can taste it.”

Fall Classic: ‘The Southpaw’


“I have seen many a pitcher, but there’s few that throw as beautiful as Pop. He would bring his arm around twice and then lean back on 1 leg with his right leg way up in the air, and he would let that left hand come back until it almost touched the ground behind, and he looked like he was standing on 1 leg and 1 arm and the other 2 was in the air, and then that arm would come around and that other leg would settle down toward the earth, and right in about there there was the least part of a second when his uniform was all tight on him, stretched out tight across his whole body, and then he would let fly, and that little white ball would start on its way down the line toward Tom Swallow, and Pop’s uniform would get all a-rumple again, and just like it was some kind of a magic machine, the split-second when the uniform would rumple up there would be the smack of the ball in Tom’s mitt, and you realized that ball had went 60 feet 6 inches in less than a second, and you knowed that you seen not only Pop but also a mighty and powerful machine, and what he done looked so easy you thought you could do it yourself because he done it so effortless, and it was beautiful and amazing, and it made you proud.”

–Mark Harris, “The Southpaw,” 1953.