The Shot

A Literary Honor for a Legend’s Lyrics

Willie Nelson joins an exclusive club, and more news from around the South

Is it spring yet? No really, is it spring yet? After two Southern snow storms and one cold winter, the answer can’t come soon enough. But worry not—we’ll all get an answer this Friday on Groundhog Day when several Southern groundhogs—we’re not willing to outsource this one to Punxsutawney Phil—will tell us themselves. Until then, we’ve got the latest on what’s happening around the South:

Willie, Man of Letters

Photo: James Minchin

Willie Nelson.

We all know Willie Nelson as a legendary singer-songwriter and the one of the best good-guy-outlaws there ever was. He’s won Grammys, CMAs, and even a few suspended sentences with his songs. But it’s time to add an even more illustrious honor: induction into the Texas Institute of Letters, the state’s invitation-only honor society to celebrate Lone Star literature. Membership in the prestigious organization is based on “literary accomplishments” and usually goes to winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Academy Award, Tony Award, or MacArthur “Genius” grants. But in naming the Abbott, Texas, native as the first songwriter it’s ever honored, the Institute kept the announcement short and sweet: “He’s Willie. Do we need to say anything else?” Nope.

Fine Art in Arkansas

Photo: Tara Donne

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

If you are anywhere close to Bentonville, Arkansas, this spring, consider a visit to the city’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art for one of the most extensive exhibitions of black contemporary art in the country. The museum’s “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” exhibit was developed by the Tate Modern in London and debuted there in 2017. It makes its first American stop in Bentonville, beginning this week through April 23, and will then move to the Brooklyn Museum in the fall. The collection will showcase the work of 60 African-American artists, including painters, sculptors, photographers, and street artists, and includes extensive symposia and conversations about the artists’ influences and impact. And for those who can’t be there in person, several of the programs will be live-streamed to make sure the lessons of the art don’t stop at the museum’s walls.

Mardi Gross

When cities clean out their storm drains, workers typically pull out leaves, sticks, and some road debris. But when New Orleans does it, the result has been like reading texts from a night gone bad. First there were the “grease globs,” grey sludge from Bourbon Street restaurants’ overflowing deep fryers. Last week, the city announced it had hauled out 7.2 million pounds of trash from the city’s catch basins, including 93,000 pounds(!) of wayward Mardi Gras beads, baubles from past celebrations that have washed down the drains. For anyone headed to the parade route this year, we’ve found a handy guide to recycling your beads when the party’s over. And if you can’t be bothered to reuse your beads, at least make sure what happens in New Orleans stays above ground in New Orleans. Those storm drains can only handle so many bad decisions.

Parting Shots

This week, the team at The Shot is: Reading the Alabama reporter’s incredible account of discovering what could be wreckage of the last known American slave ship, which sank alongside an island in the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta, a few miles north of Mobile more than 150 years ago. … Making a note of’s definitive ranking of 18 drive-thru sweet teas, for the moment we need a dose on the road.  … Celebrating National Bird Feeding Month with a new See Rock City birdfeeder or birdhouse—classic, iconic, and ideal for the tufted titmouse and the Carolina chickadee in your life. … And finally, we’re realizing that times they are a-changin’ at KFC. Not only is Colonel Sanders a hen (Reba!), she’s selling their new “Smoky Mountain BBQ Chicken.” We’re pro-Reba, but the jury is out on the BBQ, KFC.

Until next week, friends …