Thursday, January 30, 2020

Skillet bread with Rosemary (cut during daylight now)--Incredibly easy, Incredibly good

Listening to Shakespeare during exercises in the middle of the night in January

Listening, not watching, even when I am playing a movie.
King John
Measure for Measure
Troilus and Cressida
King Lear--the Hopkins one
Macbeth Fassbender
Macbeth Scofield --almost all--still need to get Birnam Wood in motion.

I bought my last car in 2007.
I listened to my last full Troilus and Cressida in 2020. When the public domain audios are bad they are really bad.
It would be great to have another (good) audio of King John.
I could get the Helen Mirren Cymbeline. I have not seen it in a few years. Nothing more consoling than Act 5 over and over.
The available movie of Measure for Measure is not watchable again--director did not understand it.
I have not explored very far and have not paid any extra so far.

P.S. The 1951 Oregon Measure for Measure is much much better than the LibriVox--will go on to it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Packing, I am profoundly moved by seeing praise of my 1984 FT&VI in Jerry W. Ward, Jr.'s THE KATRINA PAPERS: A JOURNAL OF TRAUMA AND RECOVERY

You never know under what circumstances you will find a brother-in-thought

Sunday, December 18, 2011

            In 2007 while inching along a friend’s bookshelves in Manhattan I realized that my Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons had not, after all, been totally destroyed and forgotten. The general trashing was still vivid in my memory. Most of the reviewers quite rabidly tried to kill it--either to protect the New Criticism (at that late date) or to defend the not-yet discredited Greg-Bowers editorial theory and practice. In the Sewanee Review the critic (Gary Davenport) pretty much said if I were right Western Civilization would crumble, since it is built on belief in the Word. I was going straight to Hell. Before and after 1984 several of my articles were suppressed after being accepted although all of them got into print eventually (one after 20 years, in which editor after editor cringed in fear of Fredson Bowers). I have bought an IRIS scanner and hope to post at least one suppressed article on this blog.
            After 1985 I had to make a new career as a biographer—not the worst of fates, it began to seem. Remembering the comments I had seen in my friend’s books, in mid-July 2008 I glanced at Amazon's new list of anyone's books that cite references by relevance or date, in my case mainly books where the authors cite an edition of Melville I have edited, that sort of casual thing. You could, at least for some months longer, see from the listings on Amazon if anything of substance had been said about the book. I ended up spending several hours on the Amazon list for Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons, then I went down Google Books listings for it. I was astounded at what has been said in the years after the reviews were all in. Now, a quarter century later, the reputation of Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons is high, except with people who had committed themselves to praise of one seriously flawed text or another, and their loyal students.
            What's most interesting is that an astonishing range of scholars--editors of the Bible! Classicists! Medievalists! Shakespearians! Musicologists! "Conservationists"! Students of the Modern British Novel—have earnestly applied Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons to problems they were grappling with. And in 2010 my 1981 ground-breaking preview of FT&VI, “The ‘New Scholarship’: Textual Evidence and its Implications for Criticism, Literary Theory, and Aesthetics,” was reprinted as the lead article in Ecdotica 6, Anglo-American Scholarly Editing, 1980-2005. I prepared this list in the hope that Northwestern would use it in an advertisement, a “Quarterly Report”—FT&VI, a quarter century later. That did not happen, but never mind--I’m glad to have lived long enough to see the book being used! And I am particularly moved and honored by what Jerry W. Ward, Jr., said about it in the 2008 The Katrina Papers.

Not the very best thing to do with blueberries, but fast and easy for a pre-MRI breakfast

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Hayford on Parker's Introduction to the Sendak-Parker PIERRE--Parting with treasures

A few times I have to make a photograph of something that was precious to me and now is going out my hands forever.

Finished listening to Fassbender MACBETH (not seeing it) while exercising.

No porter scene.
Director was left short of lines so he dragged out the last 15 minutes into 48.
Soundtrack is credited to Heathrow Airport ambient noises, constant annoyance and distraction.
Fassbender sounded good all the way.

Up to Box 48--standing by open door sorting offprints--HM or not

And seeing things I had forgotten. Who knew I had written this little forward to Lea Newman's book?

Saturday, January 25, 2020

I am old but I was in TB wards and was a railroad telegrapher in the 1950s

I just saw this in "New Age Melville" by Fred W. Robbins

Carl Rollyson on another biographer--Lives of Plath "cumulative and incremental"--and the Shame of Melville biography

Praising my competitor: Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath

by Heather Clark

Heather Clark is coming out with a HUGE new biography of Sylvia Plath. She even delayed publication to include material from the Harriet Rosenstein papers recently sold to Emory.  For those of you who don’t know, Rosenstein began a biography she never completed, assembling an indispensable trove of documents and interviews that will make Clark’s biography a must read.  So where does that leave me?  Fortunately, I was able to access some of Rosenstein’s material before it was sold to Emory, and I was the first to get access to the papers of Plath’s therapist.  Also, The Last Days of Sylvia Plath, focuses on the last seven months of her life, going back and forth between various details and perspectives—something like a slice of life biography.  All this is to say that the work of biography is never done. Each biography, if it is any good, has to be shaped as a story, and all stories leave something out that someone else will put back in or see a new way of presenting in yet another biography.  The words that always come to mind when I think of biography are cumulative and incremental.  Biography is like a building constantly under construction and yet livable during each phase of the construction and re-construction. 

This is not true of Melville biography. I won't discuss the earlier phases here, other than to say that the silver platter theory of biography did not work. Jay Leyda gave Leon Howard all of the 1951 MELVILLE LOG but Leon brought his own convictions to the job. Anyhow, it turned out once new troves were discovered, some of the greatest riches were not on the silver platter. Very oddly, the least documentary of the recent biographies, that of Newton Arvin, has been by far the most influential on later writers such as John Updike and Andrew Delbanco. And the 2002 lies about my second volume, Richard Brodhead and Delbanco and Elizabeth Schultz saying I had made up Melville's POEMS and THE ISLE OF THE CROSS too, have persisted into the present, John Bryant in 2019 insisting that these [unnamed] critics were "fair enough" in saying that I lacked documentary evidence. So much for Melville's 12-point memo to his brother Allan on the publication of his POEMS! So much for at least two publishers' rejections of the volume! I tell you, it is horrible to be lied about in the New York TIMES and the NEW REPUBLIC, and it is painful to be treated badly in the Melville magazine LEVIATHAN. I understood how things were going in the 1990 Melville Society Meeting when the audience and some on the dais (Wai Chi Dimock and Bryant were there with Harrison Hayford and me) approved the satanic red-bearded stranger who kept shouting from the doorway, THE FACTS DON'T MATTER--THE FACTS DON'T MATTER. Look at the dozens of errors Bryant published in EVER MOVING DAWN (1997), his annotations to my 1991 speech at Pittsfield--grotesque blunders in Melville's biography, any Aunt Mary interchangeable with another Aunt Mary. The facts have not mattered often enough to the editors of LEVIATHAN, although there is a promising change of editorship just now. Good for Carl and Plath biography!

Middle aged people becoming champion high jumpers as they went sideways up the dunes

Most people kept their shoes dry if they had shoes on

Thursday, January 23, 2020

"Goddamn Okies" and the Loss and Retrieval of Historical Memory

Copyright 2019 Hershel Parker

 “Goddamn Okies” and the Loss and Retrieval of Historical Memory

Hershel Parker

              In the mid-1930s, journalists did not know where the refugees or migrants streaming into California were coming from. From the “Dust Bowl,” said many, not realizing that the true Dust Bowl was pretty much restricted to the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma and the adjacent areas in those states and to northeast New Mexico, southeast Colorado, and southwest Kansas. Journalists did not know, either, that far from everyone who left the Dust Bowl actually went to California. On 14 July 1937 the San Bernardino County Sun under the headline “70,000 ‘Dust Bowl’ Refugees Homeless in San Joaquin Valley” identified the newcomers as from Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, but although Arkansas had suffered drought it was not in the Dust Bowl. On 25 July 1937 the Fresno Bee reported concern about “the influx of middle westerners and dust bowl refugees”—maybe 1,000,000 of them, but did not particularize “middle westerners.” The Burlingame Times on 28 July 1937 under the heading “Cotton Crop Here Lure To Dust Bowl Refugees” declared that “many thousands of southern farmers and refugees from the midwestern ‘dust bowl’ have invaded the San Joaquin valley.” Again, “southern” and “midwestern ‘dust bowl’” were not further specified. An article by Sam Jackson in the Charleston (SC) News and Courier on 8 August 1937 said that officials were surprised that “migration from the western dust bowl has increased in 1937”—an estimated influx of 100,000 as compared to 84,000 in 1936; “western dust bowl” was not further located.  The Santa Cruz Sentinel on 8 April 1938 announced that “Dust Bowl Migrants Are Roaming State for Work” and went on to specify that the migrants had been “cut loose from their farms in Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas by disaster and mechanization of farming.” The El Paso Herald-Post on 28 July 1938 (“Dust Bowl Migrants Squat On California in Squalor”) quoted migrants’ explanations for why they had left their homes: they were not able to make a living on a farm, they staying on a farm till the dust drove them out, they stayed till the drought ran them out. The reporter continued: “These are typical answers as the inquiring visitor makes the rounds of California’s squatter tent and shack towns, inhabited by one-time share croppers, tenant farmers, independent farmers, casual[tie]s of depression in towns—nomads who have migrated here from Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arizona and elsewhere in search of work and mild winters.”

          “Okies” had been the innocuous nickname of the Norman football team and had been current in jocular use for themselves among other Oklahomans. The term darkened as the migrants began to be identified as coming mainly from Oklahoma. On 8 August 1837 the Charleston News and Courier printed this caption to a grim illustration: “Crowding of families in ‘jungle’ tents, like this one in ‘Little Oklahoma’ near Tulare, Calif., makes authorities fearful of the health and morals of dust bowl fugitives.” The accompanying text offered a definition: “the ‘Okies,’ as the refugees are called (from Oklahoma), occupy forest service camp grounds,” but the “overflow goes into ‘jungles’ of tents and shabby shacks which authorities view as breeding places of disease, crime, immorality and general misery.” On 9 August 1938 the Riverside Daily Press printed an optimistic article, “Flow of Indigents to State Slowing Down”: “‘Okies’ from Oklahoma, and ‘Arkies’ from Arkansas are few and far between,” reported Robert Campbell,” an officer at a state plant quarantine border station in Blythe. More realistically, in a lecture reported in the Santa Cruz Sentinel for 25 August 1938, Frank Emery Cox declared, “Tobacco Road has really come to California and for the first time in history, this state has rural slums and unlike the tenements of the large cities, they are populated by ‘poor white trash’ from other states. Approximately 60 per cent of these migrants arrived from six states of the south and southwest. Oklahoma contributed almost 26 per cent, or one out of every four.” On 26 October 1938 the New Orleans Times-Picayune showed that the terms “Arkies” and “Okies” had spread across the country: “Not since the gold rush of ’49 has there been such a migration to California. So many have flocked there from Arkansas and Oklahoma they are called Arkies and Okies.” A 19 November 1938 article in the Oakland Tribune, “Bankers Would Colonize Dust Bowl Migrants on California Farms,” repeated this terminology while attaching it to a more general geographical area than Oklahoma and Arkansas: “Middle Westerners--known in California as Oakies [sic] and Arkies—trailed into the State, their meagre belongings piled high on ancient automobiles.” The financial theorist Roger W. Babson in the Brownsville Heraldo of 3 September 1939 used “Okie” to be inclusive—“During the past few years, thousands of ‘Okies’ (refugees from the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma and Colorado), the unemployed, the footlo[o]se, and the half-baked from all states have drifted to Southern California where it is warm and sunny the year round.” On 25 October 1939 the Charleston (SC) Evening Post, influenced by John Steinbeck, whose The Grapes of Wrath had been a sensation starting in April, used “Okies” as an inclusive term for all the migrants: “the thousands of ‘Okies,’ dust-bowl refugees from Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas, and thousands of Mexicans from southern California, sat on their heels while the sun dried out fields dampened by yesterday’s rain. Many of these are types portrayed by characters in John Steinbeck’s controversial novel ‘The Grapes of Wrath.’” The refugees from Oklahoma in fact constituted only [xxxxCheck]% of the 1930s migrants to California, but even before The Grapes of Wrath was published the two terms “Okies” and “Arkies” covered most of the migrants except when “Okies” was the catch-all term for all the migrants.  On 21 December 1939, far into the reception of The Grapes of Wrath, the Abilene Reporter-News printed a new scare headline—“NEGROES COMING!” A Stanford professor had said that “a great migration of negroes from the cotton lands of the South to California is only a matter of time. When it comes, he added, the recent migration of white victims of the dustbowl—the Okies and the Arkies—will seem trifling by comparison.” (In the 1850s Oregon had tried to exclude all negroes from the state. Now, as it turned out, negroes came, and sometimes together with whites on Kaiser trains which brought workers to wartime shipyards—but in disproportion; the Portland Oregonian on 3 October 1942 said 84 negroes had arrived out of 1160 men. I rode west on a mixed Kaiser-military train.)


          The Daily News in the Texas panhandle town of Pampa (right in the middle of the Dust Bowl) on 9 August 1939 printed three associated articles on The Grapes of Wrath, which had been a sensation since its publication in April.  The overall headline was “The R[oving] R[eporter] Probes ‘Okie’ Rumpus And Presents Two Book Reviews.” The Reporter, fresh from an exploratory trip to California, issued this call: “All right, Okies, let’s have your attention for a little while—that’s what they call you Oklahomans in some places out in California, and they don’t smile particularly when they say it, and you don’t smile either. You may not even be from Oklahoma. You may be from Texas, or Arkansas, or even from Kansas, but you’re an Okie to a certain type of Californian, and he hasn’t got much use for you if you are living from hand to mouth as some 300,000 Okies are doing right now in the San Joaquin, the Santa Clara and in other productive valleys.” In the heart of Steinbeck country the reporter had experienced a striking encounter: “Many of the migrants resent being called ‘Okies.’ In a Salinas cafe, we met a tall, strong, handsome young fellow, Tony Dehls, who by the way used to work at the Courthouse cafe in Pampa. Tony is a native of Arkansas. He said that he had been thrown in jail seven times as a result of fights with persons who had called him ‘Okie and didn’t smile.’” American men and many boys still read Owen Wister’s The Virginian, and many of those who hadn’t read the book knew the 1929 movie in which Gary Cooper (you can call up a clip in a moment now) says, “You wanta call me that, SMILE.”

          In The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck has a man at the Colorado River explain: "Well, Okie use'ta mean you was from Oklahoma. Now it means you're a dirty son-of-a-bitch. Okie means you're scum. Don't mean nothing itself, it's the way they say it." Until Steinbeck peppered the latter half of his book with “goddamn Okies” no one had characterized the refugees or migrants to California this way in print, and after The Grapes of Wrath it would be impossible for anyone to separate out the states from which refugees poured into California in the 1930s. Into his frequently repeated words “goddamn Okie” Steinbeck focused all the currents of contempt and hatred swirling in the 1930s. By making the man declare that the old descriptive meaning had been replaced, Steinbeck fixed “Okie” as the new inclusive term for the scum invading California. As much as he sympathized with his Joads, Steinbeck more than anyone else established “Okies” as a hate term. Born near Comanche, Oklahoma (and carried right away to the Rio Grande for five years), my mother born in Guymon, Oklahoma Territory and my father born in Wister, Indian Territory. (In 1952 when I was an apprentice telegrapher on the AT&SF Railroad in Red Rock, Oklahoma, oversupplies of tickets to IT and OT destinations were hanging on big sturdy hooks, still valid.) I am an authority on this hate term. It persists in American universities with ludicrous malice, as when a self-promoting writer on Melville regularly identifies me as, “Hershel Parker, who hails from Oklahoma.” It took an hour’s talk with Ken Kesey in the 1970s to begin to rid me of the shame I had internalized and start me toward writing about who the white (or mainly white) Indian Territory settlers were and how they got there. (I do not treat the later land-rush arrivals, who had very different histories.)

          Even before it was clear how pernicious the label “Okie” would become, anyone who knew Oklahoma recognized that Steinbeck had never been there and had no idea of its geographical or historical features. Any Oklahoman knew that Sallisaw was not in the dust bowl, although, to be fair to Steinbeck, it did not wholly escape the dust--which at times covered desks as far away as Washington, D. C.  On 6 July 1933 the Sallisaw local paper, the Democrat-American, declared that Sallisaw three days earlier had experienced a dust storm “very much like the sand storms of western Oklahoma. The winds came from the northeast blowing clouds of sand before it and breaking limbs from trees and overturning outbuildings.” The Miami (Oklahoma) News Record reported historic rainfalls in eastern Oklahoma on 21 March 1935, an inch and a half in Sallisaw. On the same day, a dust storm was so bad that the Ada News reported that a Kansas boy choked to death, and Guymon citizens could not find their way in the storm which was “the worst in memory.” The dust was so bad in parts of eastern Oklahoma “a trace of rain fell, creating a ‘mudfall.’” The Miami News Record on 27 March 1935 reported a 40 degree drop of temperature in parts of the state and new waves of silt in central towns (Enid had a “heavy dust storm”) and eastern towns (in Tulsa visibility was two miles and dust increasing).  At that time there was no dust yet in Sallisaw.  Throughout the 1930s you could, with normal luck, grow gardens and some crops in Sallisaw.

          Steinbeck knew the California migrant camps from his own investigations and from the massive documentation provided him by Tom Collins (the Tom of the dedication of Grapes of Wrath), but his dead flat Sallisaw in Sequoyah County was a joke to those who knew the Ozarks, the Ouachita’s, the San Bois and other mountain ranges in eastern Oklahoma. The Oklahoman, as quoted in the 23 October 1939 Pampa News (a town that knew the worst of the dust bowl), sneered at the idea of film crews coming to Sallisaw: “The Sallisaw angle is a bit strange, for Steinbeck was ostensibly writing about Okies from the dust bowl, not from the limestone cliffs and perch pools of Big Lee creek.” According to the Oakland Tribune on 19 August 1939 (quoting the Oklahoman), “a screen army” scouting for locations in Oklahoma for “‘dust bowl’ scenes” had their jobs cut out for them: “Fiction being fiction, it was not necessary for Steinbeck to visit Oklahoma in order to compose the year’s fictional masterpiece. His imagination could plant drainage ditches and rail fences wherever the necessities of the narrative demanded.” The film crew “had better bring along a fair assignment of ditches and fence rails when they come to shoot the Oklahoma ‘dust bowl.’”  I suspect that Steinbeck chose Sallisaw so he could have Ma Joad be acquainted with the mother of Pretty Boy Floyd and Floyd himself, who in 1934 with national publicity had been shipped in a rough pine box to Sallisaw for burial a few miles away, in Akins.

          Writers in newspapers and books did not print interviews with refugees about their ancestry, but with some frequency they pointed out that these were, for the most part, native white Americans. Journalists needed to emphasize this, once they began to realize it, because everyone knew that California agri-business had exploited a succession of darker races and was slow to adapt a crucial difference about the new influx. Carey McWilliams in Factories in the Field, which appeared August 1939, four months after The Grapes of Wrath, traced the way the great landowners in California had successively exploited “coolie and peon labor”--the Chinese, the Japanese, the Filipinos, and Mexicans. The new 1930s migrants were mainly white, a change commencing “about 1933, at the bottom of the depression.” Still, people did not focus on what was happening until “it was suddenly realized in 1937 that the bulk of the State’s migratory workers were white Americans and that the foreign racial groups were no longer a dominant factor.” One of the first and most eloquent writers on the topic was Robert Hardie. On 14 November 1937 the Fresno Bee The Republican quoted Hardie, the director of a federal camp for migratory leaders in the Wasco-Shafter district, as praising the “harvest workers of Kern County for being “in the main a healthy, industrious lot, good natured and gregarious, fond of music and dancing, highly appreciative of the simple pleasures their lives afford and possessed of a simple faith in the Deity.” “Most Are Natives,” says a subhead: “They are 98 per cent native white American people who mostly hail from Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Arizona.” Hardie had gone farther: “They are of good pioneer stock, descendants of the Scotch, Irish and English settlers who followed such men as Daniel Boone through the Cumberland Gap and settled the hill country of Kentucky and Tennessee and later the Cherokee territory.” He continued: “it is only by the barest economic accident that they go hungry and unemployed.”

          What Hardie said of the settlers who had gone with or followed Daniel Boone west did not apply to the Sooners and Boomers who had arrived in northern Oklahoma in the late 19th century land rushes. Other than not realizing that “Irish” really meant “Scotch,” what he said applied to the children and grandchildren of the whites (often part Indian) who had come earlier into the Choctaw Nation and the Cherokee Nation. Even Steinbeck, who had not done rudimentary research on the terrain of Oklahoma, had some sense of the background of a typical eastern Oklahoma family like the Joads.  He dropped in names of famous Kentucky-West Virginia feuding families, “ol Turnbull” saying he had Hatfield blood and threatening to shoot Tom Joad when he got out of prison, and Grampa Joad sending word to Turnbull, “‘Don’t mess around with no Joad. Maybe I got McCoy blood for all I know.’” One of the migrants tells a generic Indian-fighting story (“I was a recruit against Geronimo”). At one point the generalized voice of a representative migrant (not one of the Joads) says “We ain’t foreign. Seven generations back Americans, and beyond that Irish, Scotch, English, German. One of our folks in the Revolution, an’ they was lots of our folks in the Civil War—both sides. Americans.” Not until much later is there a specific detail about the ancestry of the Joad family. In her relief at being in a camp where she can have a bath, Ma praises God that “we come home to our own people.” She continues: “We’re Joads. We don’t look up to nobody. Grampa’s grampa, he fit in the Revolution.” Steinbeck had learned or guessed from the labor camps that some Okies knew something about their own history--“Seven generations back Americans.” In historical fact, however, any such family would have had far more than one ancestor and other kinsmen in the Revolution.

          Long before Steinbeck became interested in the plight of the migrant workers in California, the Bavarian immigrant Oscar Ameringer, soon after Oklahoma statehood, had seen that “comparison could not be thought of,” because the living standard of the local farmers “was so far below that of the sweatshop workers of the New York east side before the Amalgamated Clothing Workers and International Ladies’ Garment Workers Unions had mopped up that human cesspool.” Ameringer went on with the best description that had been made of the ancestry the people of eastern Oklahoma, the part which had been “almost exclusively populated by people from the Old South”:

They were Americans almost to a man. Their forefathers had been starved, driven, shipped and sold over here long before and shortly after the Revolution. They were Scotch, Irish, Scotch-Irish and English with only a few exceptions. They were more American than the population of any present-day New England town. They were Washington’s ragged, starving, shivering army at Valley Forge, pushed ever westward by beneficiaries of the Revolution. Pushed out of Tidewater Virginia, and out of the fertile Piedmont, and the river valleys of the Central Atlantic states, into the hills and mountains of the South Central States. They had followed on the heels of the Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks and Seminoles, like the stragglers of routed armies. Always hoping that somewhere in their America there would be a piece of dirt for them.

The “Irish” were in fact mainly Scotch, and he ought to have added the Pennsylvanian Dutch (Deutsch), the Germans who went down the Great Wagon Road in the three decades before the Revolution. Nor did Ameringer point out that many of the 1930s Oklahomans had not merely followed on the heels of Indians but were blood-kin to many Indians whose people had been removed from the Old South.

          Ameringer continued with his vision of the southern whites who could not legally buy the land but who had settled “in the hills of the Indian Territory, tenants of white land hogs, Indians, squaw men and Afro-American freedmen.” He pointed to “the interesting spectacle of white, native, Protestant Americans working as the land slaves, tenants and share croppers of the aboriginal Indian.” As the White Father in Washington acted his part with his promises, “squaw men, usurers, land sharks, and Eastern insurance companies had come into possession” of the Indians’ inheritance, which was “to have been his ‘as long as water flows.’” The “position of the tenants and share croppers hit rock-bottom. So at last they pulled out onto Highway Sixty-Six on their final journey to Gethsemane.” He summed up: “burned out and tractored out, they pulled up stakes for the last time until they landed in ramshackle trucks and tin lizzies in California, as ragged, hungry and shivering as their ancestors at Valley Forge.” If You Don’t Weaken was all but completed by 1939 (Carl Sandburg’s Foreword was dated March 1940), but Ameringer was able to interpolate two references to The Grapes of Wrath. His book was published before the surviving Okies in California were helped by the xxx and the xxx and rescued by War Work.

          Many of the dispersed Okies, I know from my own experience, did not have the knowledge of their own history which Ameringer did, or even the limited knowledge that Steinbeck gave the Joads.  Three removes are as good as a fire, Franklin said.  I realized, eventually, that successive migrations were a big part in reducing the number and detail of stories any family knew. Many stories may have accompanied the first settlers from across the ocean. Families who arrived in Pennsylvania could leave some members there while part of the family united with connections for the trek down the Great Wagon Road to North Carolina, and hold together there during the Revolution.  Some of the Scotch came together or got in touch with family once they were here, and in my family kept together by marrying cousins. After the Revolution all families dispersed still faster. After 1800 sons from the Carolinas angling up across Tennessee on the Nashville-Saline Trail to pioneer on the Mississippi banks of Illinois. Sons in every generation headed west into Tennessee or Mississippi, or even Alabama, even before that area was opened for white settlement after the War of 1812.  Dispersal was cause enough for loss of connections, given the difficulties of traveling and communicating, but family lives and family history were obliterated for many by the catastrophe of the Civil War.  Illiterate people seldom found someone to write home for them, even if they were sure where home was. Ground down since the Civil War, many people simply did not have time for happy storytelling. It was no wonder that many of the Okies in what had been the Choctaw Nation and the Cherokee Nation in eastern Indian Territory, especially, had become a people without even as much family memory as Steinbeck gave the Joads.

          There were exceptions. James Webb in Born Fighting recognizes the forces that crushed family member, but he was lucky enough, despite all hardships, to witness and cherish the times on porches and firesides when kinfolk gathered and told stories:

I thirsted to hear these kin-people talk. I could sit entranced through magic hours in the stark kitchens and quiet, dusky living rooms of those who were willing to reach back like those ancient tribal elders and help me understand that my life is in some sense a continuum that began before I was born, and will carry me with it long after I am gone. Their revelations came in dribbles, sometimes coaxed and at others dropped casually into a conversation like a sly but knowing confession. The tough, enduring men and women who went through this cauldron did not speak openly or even willingly with each other about the bad times when I was growing up. It seems an unspoken axiom that people who have really had it hard are the last ones to sit around and reminisce about how hard they really had it. In fact, I know there are some who will not be happy that I’ve touched on those days here, however lightly. And I have lightly trod, for they did indeed live hard.

Webb was part of “the near-biblical storytelling tradition of the culture of the Scots who came from Ireland.” In that tradition, the “personal becomes history, and history becomes personal,” he said.

          Webb, almost miraculously, saw the “well-worn pages of family Bibles, some of those books carried from Ulster into the wilderness and treasured through the centuries, births and marriages and deaths entered carefully as the book itself was passed down over the generations into the present day.”  We know from Revolutionary pension applications that family Bibles with their records of marriages and births were often destroyed by fires (more common than now) or, as the family dispersed, left in the possession of the oldest son or at least a member of the family who could read and write. Webb saw “faded letters sent from faraway relatives recalling places and events, pooling information that might reconstruct a family’s journey.” The great historian has his maternal grandmother, a literate woman, when he was twelve “finally wrote out an amazingly accurate eleven-page summary of her family’s movement from Virginia through Tennessee, then down the Mississippi and finally into Arkansas, replete with the dates of births and deaths, marriages, and military enlistments.” She “had been carrying all of this in her head, passed down from mother to daughter through each generation in singsong verses on the narrow front porch of some latest cabin as the hot summer sun gave way to a sultry, bug-filled evening, or huddled next to the fireplace before there ever was such a thing as radio to fill the boredom of a winter night.” Webb’s father once sent him a “History of the House of Ochiltree” published by a local printer in a small Kansas town, tracing some of the family: “The book was never intended to be great literature, but like so many similar works of family genealogy, it was a means of capturing vital family information before it became lost in the frenzy of America’s obsession with the future rather than the past.” For all his sense of how precarious family history was, Webb was a lucky man.

          Many of the Okies, particularly those who had been impoverished ever since the Civil War and who were suffering more than ever in the Depression, had no leisure, ever, to hear stories or tell stories. People worked too hard during the daylight hours and had no strength for sitting telling stories. My mother had no idea that her grandfather, John Andrew Jackson Costner, had been a Confederate soldier. She had no idea when the Costners had arrived on this continent and whether it was to the colonies or the United States. One great-aunt told me that her grandmother was a Chockie (Choctaw) who smoked a clay pipe and pinched children. My mother knew that her Mississippi grandfather Bell liked to say, inexplicably, that he was Scotch-Irish and Damn Yankee. My father knew that his grandfather Parker had run deadfalls in the Mississippi snow, carrying a heated rock in a two sack and throwing it down to warm his feet on while he checked the trap. There were comments on the Dust Bowl, when they were in the very worst places, but no one told stories.

          Starting in 2002, knowing only those tiny anecdotes, I have compiled in chronological order, starting in the 1600s, vivid, detailed glimpses of some of my American ancestors who I had thought would have left almost no written record.  As of September 2019, I have a massive file called ORNERY PEOPLE (a title now too defensive to keep) and a shorter, more than 4,000 documents in a file called GLIMPSES--page or so looks at kinfolks at revealing--indeed, fascinating--moments in their lives and (often) of American history, usually in some of their own words (even from the 1600s and 1700s). I have found these in a great array of sources such as history books; exploration books; wills; land transfers; county records; early military records (beginning with the French and Indian War and Lord Dunmore’s War); then many dozens of Revolutionary pension applications from aged patriots; military records for all later wars; other governmental records; a few family letters in county libraries and many in college or university collections; a Mexican captivity book written by a Texas Bell cousin; dozens of affidavits from relatives in the archives of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; hundreds of censuses; many hundreds, perhaps 2,000 or 3,000, of articles from newspapers in four centuries, starting before the Revolution; WPA interviews; hundreds of Fold3 items; and hundreds of Find-A-Grave photographs of tombstones and other information. This is a unique genealogical and historical project because I bring to it all I have learned about historical research in a scholarly career spanning more than half a century. The idea behind the study is that any Depression Okie, anyone whose family had been in eastern Oklahoma since the mid-19th century, can now (like all my neighbors in the 1940s, such as the Heflins and the Kuykendals) do something comparable. With the Internet anyone can retrieve lost family stories and establish new historical memories in the context of successive episodes of American history. I and others like me can understand just who the Joads would have been, the history they would have had, whether they knew it or not.

          Ameringer concluded his look at the ancestry of Okies with this paean: “I wish someone would look up the names on the roster of Washington’s army at Valley Forge and trace the bloody footprints of their descendants across the North American continent until they were washed up and washed out on the shore of the Pacific. What an all-American Odyssey it would make! And what a great history of the Rise and Fall of American Civilization.” Writing with intimate knowledge of how people were still suffering from the Great Depression, Ameringer saw the American experiment as a rise and fall. During the most corrupt Presidency in American history, it is hard to refute Ameringer. Nevertheless, there is personal triumph in discovering your family’s place in American history, in retrieving, piece by piece, your family history in relation to the great sweep of the history of the South. Scratch the ancestral records of any mainly white Indian Territory Okie and you recapitulate stories of colonization in the mid-Atlantic and the South and the thrusts westward. In retrieving my own representative family history, I contribute to what Ameringer wanted to see, an All-American Odyssey.

Private beach at 745 am from a mile north

Monday, January 20, 2020

In 1990 the Melville Society decided THE FACTS DON'T MATTER. Now Trump's defenders have decided THE FACTS DON'T MATTER

Trump's lawyers have decided not to contest the fact uncovered by the House. They are simply arguing now that THE FACTS DON'T MATTER. Never let it be said that politicians are faster and smarter than academics.
This is what I am alluding to:

       In July 1990 in American Literary Scholarship (55) Brian Higgins printed my warning that Neal Tolchin’s transcriptions from family letters in Mourning, Gender, and Creativity in the Art of Herman Melville were not to be trusted, specifying a particularly disastrous misreading of a letter Melville’s mother wrote in February 1846. In December 1990 the Melville Society meeting was packed with new New Historicists, second-generation New Leftists (who had fervor but less purpose than the first), and a large group of second- and third-generation New Critics who had never done archival research and had certainly not been taught to do responsible research. Sitting up front with Harrison Hayford, John Bryant, and Wai-Chee Dimock, I misread the atmosphere in the room as one of free-floating political correctness, not sharply focused, but the mood of the audience was hostile from the start. When Wai-chee Dimock resurrected Lewis Mumford’s long-refuted claim that Hawthorne had based Ethan Brand on Melville (before he met him or  read anything but Typee), Hayford mildly reproved her, saying that if she thought it was acceptable to bring forth the Ethan Brand claim as a serious possibility, she was using a different standard for evidence than he used. At that, there was a subterranean murmur of anger in the audience like the incipient rebellion in Billy Budd, the mood hardening into fury that anyone’s idea could be considered invalid on grounds of biographical evidence. In the new post-scholarly climate to point out errors was to violate the playground rules: one should always enhance one’s playmate’s self-esteem. The audience was further incited by a man standing at the open door,  a satanic red-bearded stranger (more mildly described by Robert K. Wallace in Melville and Turner (611) as “the petulant stranger in the doorway”). The satanic onlooker  kept crying out, with regard to Melville and history, ‘THE FACTS DON’T MATTER.’”  ‘THE FACTS DON’T MATTER.’” ‘THE FACTS DON’T MATTER.’”  ‘THE FACTS DON’T MATTER.’” Accepting reality, I never attended another Melville Society meeting in the United States.     

Nightmare after being up watching LEAR. Susan Collins and Moscow Mitch stricken with Boils, and then

I awoke as other Senators were being stricken.  I realized very fast that this was not real and that there would probably be no divine punishment. Collins? Because she talks a good talk always but votes for the evil side, surprise surprise..

Women are up the Hill--these guys blocking my way

Another screenshot

LITERARY MASTERPIECES 2010 ON AMAZON PRIME: Called back up on the Intercom--"It's you, very young"

Well, not very young. I had not even put the television interview on my Vita till today. One reason was that I was in severe pain from a torn rotator cuff and had been awaiting surgery for weeks, the insurance demanding a wait before taking an expensive test to show if I was hurting or not. I was leaned over to the left holding my arm against a support. Severe pain = agony.
The crew came on 16 February 1996. "Incredible pile of equipment--cords, windows taped up, --amazing coils and clutter." Steve "sat in corridor by our walk-in closets, behind curtains & screens. Think he was very interested in the crew's authority. Har went out & shoveled" [the 110 foot driveway] during some of it [so crew could get out and not be stranded and have to be bedded and fed].
Reuben filmed "Whiteness of the Whale" in our back yard."
12 inches of snow by nightfall. TV crew of 10.
"I had made great bread Beard's buttermilk recipe plus half a red onion & 2 cloves garlic & black pepper--rolls. Har's pea soup & rolls I made last night (plain) & Irish soda bread."

So last night I came up to see what I looked like in 1996 and saw that I was not very young, really. I went back down to work on packing books for the Berkshire Athenaeum but she listed momentary appearances at 12.30 22.02 24.57 34.07 and maybe 47.30 (maybe just voice--I am sure I heard the much loved Joyce Kennedy's voice about the NYC harbor before or after one of my moments).
Strange that I did not list it on the Vita. Did we ever see it?

The star was the Harris Tweed jacket that we bought off the rack at The High and the Mighty in Edinburgh.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The birders are all photographing one-legged sandpipers

I explained to them that Van deDoren used to have an alligator on his houseboat in the estuary.

Well, I am already retired so I can't quit my job but now I am RICH RICH RICH


I am Agent Frederick Janssen,an INTERPOL Special Agent and this is to inform you that I was sent to secure the release of your fund which has now been credited into an ATM Card by the issuing bank. This decision was taken to assist you secure your fund safely and prevent you from dealing with internet scammers who may claim to be in possesion of your money.
The bank has now handed over your package to Topchrono Courier and you have to send them details now for the delivery;

Your Full names...................
Telephone number..................
Contact email;


Agent Frederick Janssen

A Tongue in Cheek Moment in 1981

2 copies because one may be better than the other.--And found a typed version

How to get to the last house in SE Pennsylvania

I have more than 40 boxes packed and now am having to decide on some items page by page. And I am finding curiosities.

Being ungrateful for free audio of King John, but the Librivox production really is pathetic

The idea of having a piping child or maybe sick woman reading the Bastard is demeaning to the project. What you need, I keep saying, is a voice that seems to be that of a well-muscled intellectual actor who a little later can play Hotspur convincingly. Middle of the night is not the best time to see if there is another "free" audio of the play. Why would I expect Shakespeare audios to be free of deceitful scams? Try Romeo and Juliet for free and then (oh my) pay for Two Noble Kinsmen. Now, the Librivox production of Macbeth, which I just sampled, starts very well indeed. Be grateful, geezer. In 1958 I had to read King John aloud by myself to get a recording to go to sleep by after working 8 pm till 4 am. But that squeaky Librivox Bastard!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Comical--Bird Watching Weekend and Bars full of Birdwatchers

Bird Watchers Huddled on Beach or clustered in the Parking Lot--spotting Sandpipers and Gulls

Now, there was a strong northeast wind, granted, but the trepid birdwatchers seemed to be huddling in two camps for warmth, not birdwatching. At least they were not smoking.

Jon Batiste episode: No, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., it was not Willa METT, it was Will AM et

In chapters of ORNERY PEOPLE I've been writing about the Kaiser trains of 1942, mixed trains mainly from the South, military men and civilians, white and black families. I've written about the 1850s attempt to ban all blacks from Oregon and the racism that flourished for a century and how white Southerners reacted to wartime integration. I've told about three neighborhood boys who dug a little cave into the soft berm by the Columbia River (I remember it as about 15 feet high) only to have it collapse and kill one of them. I remember a survivor as looking greenish in the face. I think it is a real memory, not a later recasting. Maybe oxygen had been cut off a while before he was pulled out. From East Vanport Jantzen Beach in Vancouver was an easy walk across the bridge. Larry King has been almost everywhere and knows everyone but he slaughtered the pronunciation of Atascadero. "At a SHAD ar row." In the Jon Batiste episode, Gates intones "Willa METT." No. And don't even try Multnomah, Skip. So when Gates first said Oregon, I said, "Kaiser train, Vanport," as it proved to be. So in May 1948 it was all washed away, Vanport and East Vanport and a lot more, and Jon had never heard of Vanport.

Friday, January 17, 2020

1998 horror--why everyone hates bureaucrats and why there should be term limits even to bureaucrats who have not been caught committing felonies

From a letter to Johns Hopkins in September 1998. This experience with a bureaucrat in San Luis Obispo gave me a moment of terror: I had quit my job expecting to retire and draw Social Security and this woman with great delight declared she would deny me my pension. Bureaucrats should not serve more than three or four years because many of them decide the money they administer is theirs and because so many actually find ways of making some of it theirs. My chest aches even now reading this letter again.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

No jolly playmates on the beach, but far north a surf sailor

And I could see from the house later a fellow surf sailing straight down from here, one blown far out by the Southeast wind. With binoculars I could see the colors, 3 colors on each sail, one bluish one greenish.  You could see cross currents--not a good spot to have trouble in. These guys are incredibly brave.

Raining hard now. At noon fierce SE wind sandblasting the solitary beachbum

No jolly playmates. No dour playmates. Did not wear sand goggles so left beach at Duck Creek and went through the dunes to the entrance to the Cloisters and then up through the Trees

to the end of Highway 41 and over the dunes to the beach. Going north the wind was whipping sand to my right side as hard as I have felt it. I will never understand why the beach is deserted at such wild times. I have to learn to use video because I could not capture the motion of the sand