Raye Hendrix


My Grandma got married and divorced and married again and divorced again and the third time she married Grandpa George, who was the Mayor of Dollywood. He had a big bushy beard and red chipmunk cheeks. He wore colorful vests covered in buttons and a top hat covered in pins. Grandpa George was like a cartoon character, always smiling. The Mayor of Dollywood could never be sad, it was impossible. Whenever Dolly Parton visited her park Grandpa George drove her around in a beautiful classic car with red velvet seats. She sat on the back seat in gorgeous sequined gowns and smiled her big red smile and waved like a pageant queen. She was my first real crush, so I asked Grandpa George if we could meet her. We never got to meet her. Dolly was a very busy woman, singing and saving America (etc.), but he did get us an autograph and tickets to Dolly’s Stampede. At the Stampede we watched a chicken footrace, white horses jumping through rings of fire, fireworks inside. It was like magic or a miracle, and Dolly was our God, creator of it all, and it was good. The Stampede served dinner with no utensils, Like the days of old, they said. I was pretty sure they had forks back then but we got a whole chicken and ate with our hands, mopped the grease up with biscuits, drank a gallon of sweet tea. It was a sacrament. Grandpa George told me his hat was tall for the same reason Dolly’s hair was: to be closer to Heaven. I think he kept all his sadness in his hat. Eight months after the wedding my Grandma and Grandpa George divorced and I never saw him again, but I thought about him a lot, so I Googled him to see what he was up to. He stopped being the Mayor of Dollywood and started hosting a radio show, which is pretty cool for someone his age. But that was years and years ago. Hell, he’s probably dead now. He was much older than Dolly. I hope she went to his funeral and sang a beautiful sad song. I hope they buried him in his stupid vest. But not his stupid hat. He never took that thing off.

Raye Hendrix is a writer and photographer from Alabama. Her debut poetry collection, What Good Is Heaven, is forthcoming from Texas Review Press in their Southern Poetry Breakthrough Series (2024). Also the author of two chapbooks, Raye is the winner of the Keene Prize for Literature (2019) and the Patricia Aakhus Award (Southern Indiana Review, 2018). Their work appears in American Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, Hayden's Ferry Review, 32 Poems, North American Review, Poet Lore, and others. Raye is a PhD candidate at the University of Oregon and an editor at Press Pause Press and DIS/CONNECT: A Disability Literature Column (Anomalous Press). Find out more at rayehendrix.com.