A Lyrical Letter About Recent Travels, from Cormac McCarthy to a Friend in 1968Cormac McCarthy. Typed Letter Signed, "Charlie," one page, November 6, 1968, plain paper watermarked "Hammermill Bond", 8.5 x 11 inches, to Bill Kidwell. McCarthy's closing in his own hand reads, "Best to both / of ye'ns / Charlie." With the transmittal envelope typed by McCarthy, with his return address as "C McCarthy / Rockford, Tenn. 37853." In this letter, McCarthy thanks his good friend, Bill Kidwell for some paintings the latter had sent. He then describes recent travels in Washington, D. C. and North Carolina. McCarthy writes: "We came on down the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Hatteras and Ocracoke, slept on the beach in big down sleeping bags, driftwood fire, enormous stars, and the sea pounding at our feet. A very groovy scene. The next night we spent in jail. Got stopped for speeding in Goldsboro N. C. and didn't have enough money to pay the fine. So we stayed the night while waiting for Western Union to open to get some bread." Later, McCarthy writes, "Glad that you got the book and that you liked it." This phrase must refer to either The Orchard Keeper or The Outer Dark, the latter of which had been published the year of this letter's writing. Two horizontal mailing folds. Small tobacco burn to the envelope. Two faint brown spots to the verso. Very fine. A wonderful and early personal correspondence from one of modern literature's towering figures.
Bill Kidwell met Cormac McCarthy in 1963 in Knoxville while on vacation from Lockheed Aircraft, Burbank. They next met in Atlanta in 1964 at a mutual friend's residence. In 1969, the two men lived next door to each other in Rockford, TN, and in 1970 they lived near each other in Louisville. Between 1969 and 1973, Kidwell and McCarthy were in touch frequently, and in 1972 they collaborated on two mosaic sidewalks in downtown Maryville, TN, which Kidwell designed and McCarthy engineered. The two men did all the labor for the HUD project. Kidwell moved to Williamson County near Nashville to a community named Fernvale in 1973 and began building custom homes from recycled materials, mostly timber framed buildings. MCarthy called one day in 1978 and asked to come stay with Kidwell. Kidwell gave McCarthy a job and an old Dodge pickup to drive. At this time, McCarthy built some additions and one beautiful chimney of limestone and white mortar for a client, work which Mr. Kidwell found impeccable. Also at this time, McCarthy worked with men who would go on to inspire the characters in his work, The Stonemason. They all worked together on a large addition to house a duck decoy collection for a client in Nashville. McCarthy designed the room as well as supervised its construction. McCarthy left Nashville in 1979 for Tucson, Arizona and then to El Paso, Texas, where he lived on Coffin Avenue, an appropriate street name for the writing of Blood Meridian.
In a personal letter to Heritage explaining his friendship with McCarthy, Kidwell wrote: "One of the things he [McCarthy] told me years ago was that when he was in New Orleans writing The Orchard Keeper, he used a wooden crate for a desk and on the crate was the inscription, "World Renowned." He made up his mind that that description would apply to him one day. And it did. I owe him so much. He introduced me to books I would never have read and enlightened me in so many ways during our times together. He was and still is the most intelligent person I've ever met."
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