Leesa Cross-Smith has been a finalist for both the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the Iowa Short Fiction Award. She is the author of Every Kiss a War and the forthcoming novel Whiskey & Ribbons. She lives and writes in Kentucky.
An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.
I quickly identified a mockingbird in the branches above us. And it was close, low, singing and calling its tiny bird heart out. I was instantly de-stressed, instantly at ease and felt blessed to be standing so close to the mockingbird at that moment because the song, the calls, the beauty felt like secrets, gifts I shouldn’t ignore.
Take Sturgill Simpson. Sturgill (can I call you Sturgill?) is a Kentucky rascal, born in the heart of the Appalachian mountains. Jackson—population around twenty-one hundred. He comes from a family of coal miners. He was in the Navy. He worked on the railroad and played music and sang, and his wife reassured him he was good and should keep doing it. Sturgill Simpson’s first album, High Top Mountain, was self-funded, self-released in 2013, and the first track is “Life Ain’t Fair and the World Is Mean.” In 2017, Sturgill’s first major-label album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, won the Grammy for Best Country Album and was nominated for Album of the Year while being largely ignored by country radio and the country music awards.