Publisher’s Preface to the Second Edition of
The View from My Ridge
In 1995, my brother Hal and I had twenty-five handmade, leather-bound replicas of the original handwritten manuscript of The View from My Ridge by Charles E. Rice privately published. As it was later assigned an ISBN, technically that was the “first” edition. The handful of people who had read either the original manuscript or the leather-bound special edition were unanimous in the opinion that this was a work that should reach a wider audience.
While I agreed, I was hesitant for two primary reasons. One, such a project was neither a simple nor an inexpensive matter in the days before “print on demand.” And two, my dad had told me he did not write the manuscript for publication. But, he didn’t specifically tell me not to publish it, and before he died in 1986, he gave me responsibility for his library and his writings—a responsibility I did not take lightly then nor do I take lightly now.
As my own career in writing and publishing began to take shape, I decided to start an independent book publishing venture in 2003. The imprint was named Canopic Publishing as a nod to Canopic Jar, an arts journal that I had been publishing on and off since 1985. Choosing the debut title was easy; turning it into a book was not.
At that time the original manuscript was in my mom’s possession. She lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee and I was living in Jacksonville, Florida. Step one was to convert the handwritten pages into a word processing file. My mom was not adept at using the computer beyond sending email—but she was adept at typing and at reading my dad’s handwriting. So she typed each handwritten page into an individual email and sent them to me one by one. I then used my slightly advanced computer skills to copy and paste the text from the emails into a Word file.
I had not yet mastered book design, but my writing and book production career had put me in regular contact with folk who were quite familiar with the process. My friends Doug and Lynn Welch—collectively known as The Word Shop—took the edited word file and turned it into a PageMaker file, which I then sent a printer along with a sizable check. A few weeks later a UPS truck stopped in front of my apartment and filled my living room with boxes of softcover books. The View from My Ridge was thus published, and Canopic Publishing had become an actual entity.
The back cover text included a blurb by Will D. Campbell that turned out to be prophetic (not an uncommon occurrence for Brother Will):
Those who knew Charles Rice as friend and priest give thanks for this renewal of old times not forgotten. Those who knew him not at all will exult in the wit and wisdom of a new associate, teacher and playmate.
And that’s what happened. Initially there was a flurry of interest from the hundreds of people whose lives had been touched by my father and his work (thanks almost entirely to my mom’s tireless letter writing and phone call campaign). I have a folder of correspondence received from an amazing assortment of folks thanking me for allowing them to spend more time with their long-passed teacher and friend. That was beyond gratifying. But there was also a slowly building interest from those who had previously known “him not at all.” An excerpt from the book even made it into Writing Strategies, a college textbook by Mary Sue Koeppel.
The world of social media allowed for an even wider audience to be reached, so much so that eventually the book achieved “out of print” status. As Will had predicted, there were indeed people exulting “in the wit and wisdom of a new associate, teacher and playmate.”
Many of my dad’s closest friends have left us since that first softcover edition was published, including my mother and Will Campbell. As a result I have found myself in possession of photographs and slides from many sources that coincide with the stories in The View from My Ridge. Over the years I kept thinking that a new edition was in order, one that included photographs. But as Canopic Publishing began to grow, the resources were being devoted to the next “new” book—as Dad would have wanted. I was in a bit of a quandary.
When Dad began the handwritten version of The View from My Ridge he scrawled a simple dedication on the second page: “For my children and theirs.” That provided the final motivation. The book needed to be available for those yet to come, and preserving photos in the process would be a bonus. Unlike the first edition, the majority of the people who will read the second edition will have never seen the author strolling the earth. And so I spent a few months scanning images and redesigning the layout whenever breaks in my work schedule allowed. A true labor of love.
This edition includes only the original manuscript. The selected essays and short stories that made up the second half of the first Canopic edition have been left out in order to accentuate the author’s original focus. But a separate book of theological and ecclesiastical writings is in the works, as is a collection of personal writings. For now, please enjoy what has become the literary legacy of Charles E. Rice: The View from My Ridge.
There have been many people who have provided encouragement and support along the way. My friends Mary Ann Thompson and Janet Helwig Fortney—both of whom met the author through his writing—have been especially supportive of the book over the years, praising the work publicly and distributing copies to their family and friends. Janet also provided rare postcards to help with the illustrations for the second edition. My friend Jennifer Jackson fanned the flames of my initial impulse to update the book—she and I shared quite a bit of heritage, and she provided me with Depression-era newspaper clippings of Dad’s uncle C.L. with the Peerless baseball team (Jennifer’s father played in the same league as a member of the Standard Coosa Thatcher team.) Pati Rice provided some vital photos of Dad with his grandchildren, along with continued support for the project. Truly, there are so many others who expressed their love and appreciation for the man and his book over the years, and the few I just mentioned barely scratch the surface, but please know I send my love and thanks to each and every one.
As publisher, I would like to dedicate this edition to my aunts, Barbara Jean (Rice) Murray and Ruth (Rice) Williams, who shared the Ridge with their big brother; to my aunt Mildred Ivester-Sterchi, who grew up on the other side of the ridge; to my grandparents, William Harold and Madeline Billings Rice; to my wife Virginia for saying “do it” and offering editorial and moral support; to all of my father’s children, grandchildren, step-grandchildren—and theirs; and most of all to my mother, Joann Ivester Rice, whose life and love had a profound—if largely unmentioned—impact on the writing of this book.
And to Dad.
Philip Rice, 2017
About the Author:
Born in the John Ross House in Rossville, Georgia, Charles Rice lived most of his boyhood at the foot of Missionary Ridge on the Tennessee-Georgia state line. He served as both an ordained Methodist minister (1951-1958) and Episcopal Priest (1959-1986) during his storied career as a clergyman, theologian, writer, and teacher. His academic trail includes degrees from the University of Chattanooga, Emory University, Drew University, and the University of the South. The author of The View from My Ridge, he has had numerous essays and articles published in regional and national publications.