“Shiloh” by Ron Rash – A Recommended Story

Sounds eight months unheard – the chatter of boomers, a raven’s caw – he heard now. Yellow ladyslippers Emma used for tonics flowered on the trace edge. A chestnut three men couldn’t link arms around curved the path. Everything heard and everything seen was a piece of himself restored. He thought of the soldier in the peach tree. It had been as if the man was trying to climb out of hell itself. And now I have, Benjamin thought. A whole mountain range stood between him and the horror and meanness.

For Week 6 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project, I had read Ron Rash’s “Into the Gorge”. As a result, Jay at Bibliophilopolis (who hosts Deal Me In) recommended Rash’s story “Shiloh” from the collection Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories. You can read his post about “Shiloh” and the rest of the collection here.

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As Jay points out, something about “Shiloh” resembles Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge”. A soldier during the Civil War heads back home with a major head wound making the reader wonder how he is able to make the long journey. Similar to “Owl Creek”, “Shiloh” has a twist at the end but it’s not the same twist as Bierce’s story.

I always enjoy a good surprise ending and it’s no different with Rash’s story but it’s also impressive that the story’s ending simply reinforces the entire story’s theme of homecoming and death being intertwined. A theme that was also prevalent in “Into the Gorge” although I would have to say that “Shiloh” is the more powerful development of this theme. And the decision that the soldier makes in the final paragraph blew me away more than the twist.

It seems as though many of the stories I’m reading lately remind me of pop songs. This story reminds me of one of U2’s early songs “A Sort of Homecoming” Check out the lyrics below from www.U2.com:

And you know it’s time to go
Through the sleet and driving snow
Across the fields of mourning to a light that’s in the distance.

And you hunger for the time
Time to heal, ‘desire’ time
And your earth moves beneath your own dream landscape.

On borderland we run.
I’ll be there, I’ll be there tonight
A high-road, a high-road out from here.

The city walls are all come down
The dust a smoke screen all around
See faces ploughed like fields that once
Gave no resistance.

And we live by the side of the road
On the side of a hill as the valleys explode
Dislocated, suffocated
The land grows weary of it’s own.

O com-away, o com-away, o-com, o com-away, I say I
O com-away, o com-away, o-com, o com-away, I say I

Oh, oh on borderland we run
And still we run, we run and don’t look back
I’ll be there, I’ll be there
Tonight, tonight

I’ll be there tonight, I believe
I’ll be there so high
I’ll be there tonight, tonight.

Oh com-away, I say, o com-away, I say.

The wind will crack in winter time
This bomb-blast lightning waltz.
No spoken words, just a scream
Tonight we’ll build a bridge across the sea and land
See the sky, the burning rain
She will die and live again tonight.

And your heart beats so slow
Through the rain and fallen snow
Across the fields of mourning to a light that’s in the distance.
Oh, don’t sorrow, no don’t weep
For tonight at last I am coming home.
I am coming home.

And Shiloh also seems to be a popular title. Bobbie Ann Mason’s story of the same name is on my 2017 Deal Me In list. I’m now very interested to read it and compare it to Rash’s story. In addition, when my kids were younger, we enjoyed a series of stories about a dog named Shiloh. The first in the series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, called Shiloh, won the Newbery Medal.

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9 responses to ““Shiloh” by Ron Rash – A Recommended Story

  1. Those are great lyrics, and that’s an interesting take regarding the “relationship” between death and homecoming. I admit I didn’t think of that while reading.

    You’re right about Shiloh being more common that one might think. Do you remember Jim Wheat from your time at UFB? He actually ended up marrying someone named… Shiloh(!)

    I hope you enjoy the other stories in Something Rich and Strange.

    • Yeah, I remember Jim Wheat. I don’t think he was married when I was there but his wife’s name is interesting.

      I’ve always imagined A Sort of Homecoming being about a soldier returning from war. The “sort of” makes me think either home or the soldier or both are not the same as prior to leaving.

    • I have it from my library, too and I’ve only read this one and “Into the Gorge”. “Shiloh” is the better of the two, but I’ve liked both of them and want to read more. I have The Cove, too. But I’m too into another non-fiction book about Hemingway.

      • I’m reading The Lord of the Rings, the novelization of Rogue One, and Montana Rides! by Max Brand right now, and I have five books from the library waiting for me to finish one of those off so I can start another. This week was not great for reading time, but I’m hoping next week will be better!

        What book about Hemingway are you reading?

      • I’m reading “Everybody Behaves Badly” by Leslie M. M. Blume. It came out last year. It’s specifically about his writing “The Sun Also Rises”. I’m only 2 chapters into it but it’s interesting.

  2. Pingback: Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories by Ron Rash (Part 3) | Mirror with Clouds

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