Sherwood Anderson: Hail

Troutdale, Virginia had gone to pot after the timber on the surrounding mountains was cut. The false-front stores, Midway Hotel, the home-grown architecture, etc., looked like good material for a woodcut.

J.J. Lankes Woodcut - Troutdale, Virginia

I found myself a comfortable telephone pole to lean against while sketching the main street. In no time all the idle boys were clustered around me. One climbed my pole the better to see the progress of my sketch. As a stranger in town with nothing more masculine to do than make pencil sketches on a sheet of paper, I was legitimate prey to make excitement for the idlers of that sleepy town. That boy right above my head made me uneasy. I felt a necessity to show that I “belonged.”

In an effort to forestall impending mischief I asked casually if any of the boys knew Mr. Anderson.

“Mr. Anderson? No. You know him, Toni?” “Naw, you, Bill?” “Naw, ain’t no Mr. Anderson around here.”

That seemed strange, for on the four-mile drive from Sherwood’s home he was hailed by every man, woman and boy who saw him. It did not make sense that he was not known. Then I recalled that they all called him Sherwood. No one had mistered him.

“Any of you know Sherwood?”

“Sure,” they exclaimed in unison. And with considerable disgust that such a stupid question should be asked of them: “Everybody knows Sherwood.”

J. J. Lankes