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‘A Picture of Tula’ by Shane Brown


I think I’m gonna write a story about this picture.

This picture, in my opinion, should be in a magazine somewhere, stamped by a professional photographer from New York who goes on these wonderful weekend getaways where they stroll ancient grounds with a camera wrapped around their neck all day as they snap different sights as sounds twist their heads and move their eyes for another shot. This picture could be in a magazine on a display rack in some Barnes & Noble stores across the country where someone could see it and say, “Wow, Mississippi is beautiful.”

But it’s not. This picture is from the back yard at our cabin in Tula.

I took this picture about four steps from the stairs on the back porch. In the picture is the dock that Dad built years ago – he spent so many hours on it. This dock is one of my favorites sights in Tula.

The new puppy, Lady, had to use the bathroom yesterday afternoon so we walked outside under the big cedar tree that towers over the dock so we wouldn’t get too wet from the rain. As she went her way, I walked over to the pond’s edge to see the rain splash the dock. I listened to the water rushing in from the hill above us. My mind began framing scenes so I knelt down and started taking pictures with my phone. I saw a picture in my mind that I wanted to capture.

I snapped different angles and heights. I even moved a couple beer cans from the dock, straightened up the chairs and removed a five gallon bucket that my kids use to catch tadpoles and crawdads with dip nets. Lady started whining to go in the house, so I put my phone up, climbed the stairs and walked inside. I know I’ll see that picture again soon.

I can sit out there on that dock and memorize sounds too. Sounds of children laughing as they fish or run above the hills and into tree stands…those sounds are always pleasant. I can hear guitars play sometimes. I can hear music dance from speakers off the porch’s walls and onto the tree tops, bounce around on the water and through the hillside. I really like it too when I hear flames from a grill just right over my shoulder sizzle steaks, burgers, chicken or pork that my brother has raised. The flame draws sounds of friends and family gathered around the kitchen pavilion’s table telling stories, laughing and visiting. I love those sounds that create my pictures of Tula.

I can also enjoy and hear the quietness of this picture; the thoughts the mind creates and the peace that eases the mind for a day or a night can be found here too. I’ve sat alone many of nights in the quietness. I don’t know if it’s being alone in silence that intrigues me or just being in Tula with friends, family.

Tula has seen so much rain here lately that the pond has been pushing to the tops of the drain pipes on the levee and over the spillway. The man on the radio today said we wouldn’t see sunshine until Tuesday. He said it over and over and again. I don’t like that kind of news while working or especially when I have my kids until Tuesday during their spring break.

I doubt the rain will stop us from being on the dock and grilling at Tula though. It hasn’t ever really stopped us. And it definitely won’t stop my thoughts and gazes of this beautiful place where my Dad would sit. I sometimes think he’s in the shack across the pond, watching us on the dock. He’s making sure that dock he built is being taken care of as well as the people that stand on it. If you visit this place, you will know what I’m talking about from your eyes, the gasp of a breath and the strength of your soul.

I was asked by a friend a few weeks ago if Austin, Texas musician Will Johnson could come by and see Tula and my brother’s farm. He has always been a big fan of my Dad and he was touring through Oxford, so I eagerly accepted. We all met up one raining Sunday morning where I showed them Billy Ray’s Farm, The Cool Pad and Tula. They thanked me and I thanked them. Will also gave me a painting he made and two CDs from his collection. I was humbled. He also sent me a text the next day after a gig in New Orleans. I think he loved Tula too:

“Shane. Thank you for the star treatment and for taking the time to show us around yesterday. Still kinda buzzing from it all. To drive those roads, stand in that writing room at the house, and finally understand the tranquility and beauty of Tula is something that will resonate with me from here on. Humbling, grounding, and inspiring. Your Dad inspired me and continues to inspire me as much as anyone. I could feel that energy, particularly in the office. Was a little consumed by it all and somewhat dizzied (in the best of ways) by the whole thing for the rest of the day. The New Orleans show felt like mere formality after such a resonant and centering experience. I’ll be in touch, send you new music as I release it, and figure some excuse to roll back through there with a 12-pack and some steaks, hopefully before too long. Thank you, Shane.”

Bring on the rain, radio man. Our “picture” will be fine…

Shane Brown

Shane Brown is a HottyToddy.com contributor and the son of noted author Larry Brown. Shane is an Oxford native with Yocona and Tula roots. Shane is a graduate of Mississippi State University. He has two children — Maddux, age 9, and Rilee, age 7 — and makes his home at “A Place Called Tula.” He can be reached at msushanebrown@yahoo.com.

Copyright Shane Brown, 2015.

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