New Order

American Gothic

Possibly the best cropping I have ever done (Dubuque, Iowa)

A funny thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. When I finished my grueling 10-day exile in Maine, having decided what to keep out of all my dead aunt’s possessions I had suddenly inherited, I ended up with four large boxes and one suitcase full of photos, family letters, Finnish fish knives, my father’s “baby dress” (so help me), a 150-year-old hatchet, crocheted potholders, and three boxes of .22 long rifle ammo, along with other family detritus.

What was legal to mail I took into Augusta to ship back to Taos. It was something of a milestone, because I realized I was finally done with sifting through old lady crap in search of love and treasure. (Last year there had been my mother’s TWO mobile homes in godforsaken Arizona.) As I drove the rental car much too fast along the twisting turns of Cross Hill Road anxious to be shed of all of this, I pondered how the lot of them were gone: my mother, my father, his siblings (their mothers and fathers, etc. etc.)… and a singular Appalachian-style ditty fell into my head, lifting my spirits in a wild new way:

the Farrs are dead
the Farrs are dead
stuff’s all gone
and the will’s been read
cheap as hell
I hope they’re well
devil’s gonna wish they were saved instead

The ripples are still spreading out in all directions. I look and see and nothing hurts. What was always there is still alive and throbbing. More than half a century is safe to eat!

And I am very hungry.

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John Hamilton Farr lives at 7,000 feet in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore tells it, John is “a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” This JHFARR.COM site is the master writing archive. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page. For a complete list of all John’s writing, photography, NFTs, and social media links, please visit JHFARR.ART  

  • Carolfrombatonrouge May 19, 2013, 1:14 AM

    OMG that is my dream house !!!

  • Ken Webb May 19, 2013, 3:29 PM

    The painting is in the Art Institute of Chicago. I remember pausing before it many a time in my days in Chicago in the 60’s. The house in the background wasn’t the usual clapboard construction but vertical boards stretching from roof to foundantion, laid side by side and joined with little strips. Very fancy. And then there was that faux-Gothic window (hence the name of the painting, “American Gothic”). All blooming exotically behind these two dour plainsfolk, the models for whom were Grant Wood’s sister and his dentist. The image has entered into camp art territory with the passage of time, and clearly there’s wit at work here, what with the pitchfork and all. But maybe our modern response of outright mockery just demonstrates our own shallowness and triviality. In any event I see something heroic in those faces – determination, stoicism, the ethic of toil. That they had enough left over from the grim realities of this life to create a beautiful house with a high-toned window, and to pose before it – well, I myself find it hard to adopt a tone of superiority or irony.

    Not the subject of your post, I realize, John, but it got me thinking again about the picture.

    • JHF May 19, 2013, 3:56 PM

      The figures in the photo are statues, of course. Here’s another view:




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