Saturday, November 26, 2011
ORNERY PEOPLE--"What is a Depression Okie?"
ORNERY PEOPLE is still in the planning stage but it is becoming clear that I can write it as a prequel to GRAPES OF WRATH.
We know what California thought of Okies in the 1930s, when the word was invented (wasn't it?) as a term of derogation. We know what prejudice Oklahomans suffered in later decades, up to the present. What we don't have, to my knowledge, is a book that answers the question "What is a Depression Okie?" in historical terms, what is the background in this continent of a representative Depression Okie?
Using Internet resources, primarily, I will tell stories about people I never knew about until I began looking for them online in 2002. Some of the stories start in the 1600s and all of them start Pre-Revolution, for a typical Okie is not a newcomer to this continent. I even have Dawes Commission testimony from part Indian cousins and a WPA interview with a part Indian cousin.
I am having trouble with a few families where I hit the genealogist's brick wall (for the Parkers, in 1818 Alabama) and having trouble with other families, like the SC and Mississippi Stewarts whose names I know but about whom I know almost nothing except a bit about some property they owned. No stories! Nothing like Aunt Kate Richardson's killing a Yankee who put his head in her apple barrel.
The broad historical themes of the book are emerging. One obvious one will be the dispersal of families after the Revolution and the strange gathering-in of families through the Internet.