be in the country) made up for anythingrnthat was lacking in the town: picturesquernswamps, meandering creeks and rivers,rnhundreds of httle lakes; stands of newrnpine with meadows wandering in andrnout of them; sugar maple, oak, tamarack,rnand white birch trees; deer, beaver, porcupine,rnherons, Canadian geese. It wasrna sportsman’s paradise, a nature-lover’srnheaven.rnYet to me, Mecosta was a bit flat. Thernroads, too, were strange —all straightrnlines intersected at regular intervals byrnother straight lines, much like a checkerboard.rnOnce, when I told Dr. Kirk that Irnwas homesick for hills and windingrnroads, he said, “That can be remedied.rnLet’s go for a drive.” With me at thernwheel (for he did not drive), we headedrnfor a district called Canadian Lakes, onlyrnabout 15 minutes from Mecosta. There,rnwe traveled plenty of winding roads,rncurving over and around the small hills.rnWhat the good doctor ordered was justrnwhat I needed. I thought at the timernhow wonderful it would be if I couldrnshow Dr. Kirk some of my old stompingrngrounds in western North Carolina:rnDobson’s Knob, Mt. Mitchell, BrownrnMountain, Linville Gorge, Lake James,rnHarper’s Creek, and some of the otherrnbeautiful spots in the region. Later, I didrnjust this when Dr. Kirk lectured at arnsmall college in the western part of myrnhome state.rnI was pleasantiy surprised by the picturesquernbeauty of central Michigan,rnand I was also surprised by what I foundrnat Piet)’ Llill. Who would expect to encoimterrnsuch a place in the middle of arnvillage in the middle of rural Michigan?rnLike the lord and lady of a small feudalrnkingdom, Russell and Annette Kirk presidedrnover a large three-story Italianaternhouse, three writers’ cottages for guestsrnand scholars (the Jewell log cabin, thernCalafia House, and the Wilbur House),rnand a private library in a former toy factoryrncontaining over 10,000 books and arnconsiderable periodical collection. Inrnthis isolated village, I did not expect tornmeet such an array of people: poets, fictionrnwriters, publishers, editors, journalists,rnartists, professors, clergymen, philanthropists,rnstudents, politicians, scholarsrn(some of these were, as Dr. Kirk wouldrnsay. Refugees from Progress), and Ethiopian,rnVietnamese, Polish, and Yugoslavianrnfamilies (Refugees from Giant Ideology,rnas Dr. Kirk put it). In short, peoplernfrom all over the world involved in allrnsorts of interesting educational, artistic.rnreligious, and political affairs flocked tornPiety Hill and were graciously receivedrnby the Kirks. It was not unusual for themrnto entertain as many as 20 to 30 people atrnone time under their several roofs and atrnthe long table in their dining room.rnI soon learned that, while one mightrnbe geographically out of the way in thisrnsmall Michigan village, he coidd stillrnhave his finger on the pulse of the nation.rnThrough books, newspapers, periodicals,rnand visitors (many from foreign lands), itrnwas possible to measure the health andrnsickness of American culture and politics.rnI might add that Piety Hill residentsrnkept in touch with local, state, regional,rnnational, and international affairs withoutrnresorting to radio or TV.rnMy stay at Piet)’ Hill, which Dr. Kirkrnoccasionally called the Russell Kirk Collegernof Mystical Knowledge, was enrichedrnby contact with noted scholars,rnpoets, and teachers: Louis Filler, AnthonyrnKerrigan, Marion Moirtgomery, PaulrnRoche, Thomas Howard, John Lukacs,rnCleanth Brooks, David Bovenizer, Fr.rnIan Boyd, John and Russell Hittinger,rnGregory Wolfe, and Andrew Lytic werernsome of the people I met or renewed acquaintancesrnwith at Piety Hill. Thesernand many others, some of them influencedrnand directed by Dr. Kirk, haverncontributed substantially to scholarship,rnpedagogy, and the liberal arts.rnWhile working on irry Hawthornernstudies, I managed to carry on a fairrnamoimt of “extracurricular” reading: allrnof Dr. Kirk’s fiction, many of his non-fictionrnworks, some of the fiction of Planner)’rnO’Connor and Joseph Conrad, andrnvarious items from the works of G.K.rnChesterton, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, BasilrnWilley, and Paul Elmer More. I alsornkept my eye on about six serious periodicals.rnThe pace of life at Piety Hill wasrnsuch that one could engage in seriousrnreading, keep up wifli his studies and duties,rnconverse at leisure with the variousrndenizens of Piety Hill, and go on occasionalrncanoe trips, country drives, orrnrambles (on foot or skis, depending onrnthe season). The Kirks knew, as the titiernof one of Josef Pieper’s books proclaims,rnthat leisure is the basis of culture. In subsequentrnyears, as a doctoral candidate inrnEnglish at the University of Georgia andrnan English professor at Hillsdale Gollegern(times when leisure was an unobtainablernluxur)’), I have looked back with longingrnat those two years of study, reflection,rnleisure, and recreation at Piety Hill.rnThe summer of 1982, just before I leftrnMecosta to teach English at the WebbrnSchool in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, I metrntwo “Fugitives from Progress” whornchanged the course of my life forever.rnMarion Montgomery (author of thernthree-volume work The Prophetic Poetrnand the Spirit of the Age and other studies)rnwas the guest lecturer at a PietyrnHill/ISI seminar. I was so taken with therndepth and range of his critique of modernismrnthat I later determined to studyrnwith him at the University of Georgia.rnFollowing graduation from Kirk’s “Collegernof Mystical Knowledge” and a yearrnof teaching at the Webb School, I movedrnto Athens, Georgia. There, after six andrna half years of literary labor (teaching, researching,rnand writing), I completed thernPh.D., producing a dissertation imderrnMr. Montgomery’s guidance on “DonaldrnDavidson’s Agrarian ‘Creed of Memory.'”rnGiven the character and provincialismrnof studies in our universitiesrntoday (provincialisirr in time, as AllenrnTate has characterized the modernrnmind) and the vogue of faddish butrnmorally, spiritually, and socially dangerousrnideologies in academia, one couldrndo worse than study literature with RussellrnKirk and Marion Montgomery.rnThe other noteworthy person I met atrnthis Piety Hill/ISI seminar was LindyrnEllingwood, then a research assistant forrnThe Rockford Institute. Now she hasrnbeen my wife for 12 years. We are notrnthe only couple who first met at PietyrnHill. As a friend of mine who knew thernKirks wrote when he heard of our engagement:rn”If marriages cannot be madernin heaven, then Piety Hill is about asrnclose as we can come in this sublunaryrnworld.”rnIn innumerable ways Dr. Kirk, Annette,rnand the people who were drawn byrnthem to Piet)’ Hill have influenced myrnlife, and not mine alone. Himdreds ofrnpeople have been served and directed byrnRussell and Annette, and thousands havernbeen instructed and inspired by Dr.rnKirk’s many literary endeavors. PietyrnHill is aptly named. Reverence for order,rnbeauty, craftsmanship, nature, worthwhilerntraditions, God — reverence forrnthese things characterizes the place.rnHigh on the wall in the Kirks’ kitchenrnhangs a wooden plaque on which isrncarved a hand planting acorns andrnseedlings. A few of Dr. Kirk’s assistantsrnand two of the regulars in the Kirk household,rnKelly Kielce and Gracia Virgo, presentedrnthis plaque to him at Christmasrn1981. An inscription encircles the carv-rnAPRIL 1999/37rnrnrn