Johnny Cash Understood A Life’s Work

Johnny Cash working
Johnny Cash working

What’s the filmmaker reading? Cash, by Johnny Cash, his second autobiography. Here’s a passage where he writes about his grandfather, John L. Rivers. It seemed relevant to this here blog so I thought I’d share it.

… Long after Grandfather Rivers died, I went back to Chesterfield County, South Carolina, where he was born and raised. Though I really didn’t expect to find any trace of him, when I walked in the office of the Rivers Cotton Gin and asked, “Is anyone here any relation to John L. Rivers, who migrated to Arkansas when he was a young man?” everyone there answered, “We all are.” Then they sent me down the road to the local genealogist, Edgar Rivers, and Edgar sat me down on his back porch and told me a story. Several years after he’d been settled in Arkansas, Grandfather Rivers got a letter from back home telling him that the farms in Chesterfield County had been stricken by a blight and the farmers had no seed corn for next year’s crop. If he had any extra, could he get it to them somehow?

He could. He scraped together all the seed corn he could spare, hitched up his wagon, made the trip from southwest Arkansas to South Carolina — a brutally long, hard journey in those days — and delivered the seed in time for spring planting. The farmers of Chesterfield County had had a successful crop that year.

Edgar went into his kitchen when he’d finished the story and came back out onto the porch with a fresh ear of corn in his hand. He’d just picked it that morning, he said, the first corn of the year from his garden. He shucked it and showed it to me. It looked good: a big, long, healthy ear, bright yellow.

“That’s John L. Rivers Yellow” he said, “the same corn your granddaddy brought from Arkansas. We still eat it today.”

That was a good moment.

Thank you, Johnny Cash, for the great story. And yeah, thanks for the great music, too.

Here’s Sunday Morning Coming Down, written by Kris Kristofferson, immortalized by Mr. Cash.


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What’s A Life’s Work about? It’s a documentary about people engaged in projects they won’t see completed in their lifetimes. You can find out more on this page.

We recently ran a crowdfunding campaign and raised enough to pay an animator and license half of the archival footage the film requires. We need just a bit more to pay for licensing the other half of the archival footage, sound mixing, color correction, E&O insurance and a bunch of smaller things. When that’s done, the film is done! It’s really very VERY close!

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