“Everything You’ve Heard About Uncle Remus Is Wrong”

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here in this forum or not, but I suffered a textbook case of near-fatal food poisoning in Boston, thanks to an unhealthy steelhead trout so ripe with neurotoxins that if the DMV learns about the experience, I will probably lose my driver’s license. Upon hearing about this misfortune, the nice people who nearly killed me served me this fish mailed me a $100 gift card for my troubles. For three months, the gift card remained on my desk next to other important things, like expired coupons and a funny picture that I found on the shelf at the thrift store. (I didn’t buy the picture. It wasn’t for sale. It was likely discarded from somebody’s wallet. So, yes, technically, I stole it.)

So the gift card mocked and taunted me for more than 90 days. And then I decided enough was enough and it was time to cash in. We went to Atlanta Saturday to eat $100 worth of seafood. The food was incredible, service was extraordinary, forgiveness was palpable, and perhaps of greater importance, I am alive to tell you this riveting tale. But this is not a fish tale, nor is it about the restaurant, nor is it about redemption.

Considering the seafood lunch might be my last on this earth, I wanted at least one good experience from the day. Before eating, then, we stopped in Atlanta’s West End at the Wren’s Nest, home of Joel Chandler Harris, creator of Uncle Remus.

The Wren’s Nest is one of those large rambling houses that makes you do ugly things, like covet.

"Buy me this house," I said.

Now, a museum tour isn’t a museum tour unless you have at least one blowhard in your group. These are especially prevalent on school field trips, but know that they worm their way into the general public, too. Our blowhard was a gentleman in a mock turtleneck who insisted on sharing with the group his theories about why Song of the South is not available on home video (he blames Bill Cosby and/or Michael Jackson for gobbling up the rights), while his friend? wife? twin sister? raised her hand and inquired about the height of the ceilings. Sometimes, people just want to talk. Even when they have nothing to say. (Good people like us had the decency to whisper quietly as we argued about how the Roosevelt presidents were related, and nobody had to know. That’s a sign of good raisin’ right there.)

The point of visiting the Wren’s Nest–or any house museum, really–is to shut up and listen so that you can better understand its importance and not announce to the world what a blowhard you are. Our guide was Jeri (read about her here by scrolling halfway down the page). She is as gracious and knowledgeable as any docent you will find.

The newsprint guide to Harris and his Wren's Nest should be required reading.

If we could have gotten away with it, we would have put this display in the back of our car and brought it home to our porch.

Titled “Everything You’ve Heard About Uncle Remus Is Wrong,” the newsprint guide (pictured above) to the Wren’s Nest explores Harris’s legacy and methodically and gracefully shuts down any suspicion of his motives. An excerpt:

“By faithfully recording the tales in their original dialect, [Harris] introduced America and the world to a rich tapestry of folklore passed down through generations of enslaved Americans [. . .] Here at the Wren’s Nest, the place Harris called home for so many years, we’re interested in telling the whole story about Joel Chandler Harris. We believe he deserves a fair shake. His story may be just as important as those he recorded so long ago.”

If you can’t visit the Wren’s Nest personally (it would be a shame not to, really), at least treat yourself to a virtual visit here.