Writing Life

John Graves might have published more books if he hadn’t spent so much time carpentering and raising goats. The bard of Glen Rose’s legacy is written in stones as well as words.
Graves, photographed at Hard Scrabble on May 31, 2010.
Photograph by Matt Rainwaters

Pissing off the porch seemed like the perfect metaphor for his chosen profession until one night last January, when John Graves was heading outside to relieve himself and fell down the stairs. His longtime friend Bill Wittliff had warned him this might happen. No bones were broken, but there resulted some impressive damage to his internals and his sense of dignity. After three trips to the hospital and a surgery to repair his prostate, he was still hobbling about on his cane four months later when I visited him at his home outside Glen Rose, southwest of Fort Worth, on the spread he calls Hard Scrabble.

He’s back there, working,” said his wife, Jane, as she opened the kitchen door for me, and the way she tweaked the word “working” carried with it the question, What else would you expect? She pointed to a door at the back—or was it the front?—of the house. It’s hard to get a fix on the Graves homestead, which appears to have three or maybe four front doors and I don’t know how many porches. The house rambles topsy-turvy on so many levels and in so many directions that you’re never sure whether to step up or down. The word that springs

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