In Robert Altman's seminal film, Nashville, a third-party candidate named Hal Philip Walker is running for president on a ticket known as The Replacement Party. "I'm for doing some replacing," he says of the bureaucracy in Washington.

Hal Philip Walker's speech runs throughout the film, piped through the megaphones on a roving minibus plastered with Walker's name. Because the speech is interrupted by the action of the movie, a few passages of it have been lost in the editing process.
I'm traveling to Memphis tomorrow, and then to Nashville, so I figured it might be a good time to revisit some of the Walker speech that didn't make the final cut:
"My grandfather had an expression. 'All talk and no do.' And I remember a story about his younger days when he had taken a farm with buildings so run-down a rat was afraid to spend the night in the barn. And the land so poor it wouldn't sprout whipperwill peas. And mostly with his own bare hands he made that farm into a near-showplace. Then one day the preacher came by to admire all the improvements, and he said, 'Isn't it wonderful what God and man working together can do?' And my grandfather smiled and said, 'That's right, Reverend. But you should have seen this place when the Lord was working it by himself!'"
In this political season, it's perhaps good to think of the idea of "replacing."
Also, it doesn't hurt to think of the kind of illustrative story that reminds us, we can't simply sit back and think that things will be taken care of. We have to take action. We have to make the changes that are necessary. God ain't going to do it for us.

Originally Published: May 8th, 2008

Born in Albany, Georgia, D. A. Powell earned an MA at Sonoma State University and an MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His first three collections of poetry, Tea, (1998), Lunch (2000), and Cocktails (2004), are considered by some to be a trilogy on the AIDS epidemic. Lunch was a...

  1. May 8, 2008

    Are you doing a reading in Nashville?

  2. May 8, 2008
     Emily Warn

    Welcome to Harriet, Doug!
    What the heck are whipperwill peas?

  3. May 8, 2008
     Don Share

    Welcome, Doug, and say hello to my hometown!
    Emily, them peas might be better known as "whippoorwill peas."

  4. May 8, 2008
     Francisco Aragón

    hi Doug:
    I look forward to reading your contributions here.