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James (1903 – 1955) was about 20 years old in this photo.

My Dad, the Writer

This site is about my dad and his work as a writer. James Plimell Webb was his name. Plimell was his maternal grandfather’s family name.

Dad was born in 1903 and grew up in the village of Science Hill in south-central Kentucky. He never strayed far from Kentucky. He traveled to New York once to meet with his publisher and then took the train home the next day. The city wasn’t his cup of tea.

Even though he wrote more than 50 stories set in the wild west, he never crossed the Mississippi. The winning of the West fascinated him as it did most of Americans. Although he made a mark in the western pulp market, I think of him as a Kentucky writer. He had an ear for the idioms of the back country and an interest in people. His more serious work had home-grown roots.

I have been scanning his published work and boxes of his papers. This site is my way of telling you about my dad and his time and of sharing some of his stories with you.

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TOM FOLKMAN

Tom Folkman, grown religious, took the faith
His fathers knew and lived by through the ages
When men believed in witch and elf and wraith,
Both fools and sages.

As they believed it then, Tom Folkman thought
He could believe it now, if he were daring;
He studied Scripture daily while he sought
to find his bearing.

It seemed to him that he must follow in
The footsteps of the Master if he wanted
To win the gates of Heaven safe from sin,
With soul undaunted.

He wished to be baptized as Jesus was,
And heard from preachers this was sorely needed;
To be baptized the wrong way broke the laws,
Left prayer unheeded.

The choice of church to join was worth much care:
One sect was right, the others but a prison;
Choose wrongly, and he’d fail to dwell Up There
With Christ arisen.

His heart was set upon an unmarred soul,
On an eternal life, by emulation
Of Moses, Christ and all the saintly roll
Of Heaven’s nation.

He found a text which seemed to indicate
How Jesus had been baptized in the river;
He found the sect which seemed the one True Gate,
The soul’s Life-giver.

He put aside all greed and filled his heart
With love, his mind with lore and old tradition;
To do all things as saints did was his art,
His one ambition.

He trod for years in footsteps of the saints,
Ate locusts and wild honey, wore hair clothing,
And looked on heresy and worldly taints
With pain and loathing.

In lonely hours he set to work with books
To make complete his meagre education,
And spent much time in unfrequented nooks.
In meditation.

He read old manuscripts and ancient lore,
Wrote elder English with a fine full flourish,
And let the thought of Heaven’s open door
His good soul nourish.

But when his days were spent and death was near,
He learned a truth which left his soul unsettled:
One saintly practice he had not held dear,
And he was nettled.

Late scholarship (Will ignorance excuse?)
His hope of Heaven’s ageless life had stolen —

He learned, too late, that Moses did not use
The semicolon.

James P. Webb