Monday, February 22, 2021

One of our Charlotte Dellinger cousin in the news today with the Supreme Court verdict saying Trump has to turn over his financial records


Walter Estes Dellinger III (born May 15, 1941) is the Douglas B. Maggs Professor of Law at Duke University School of Law and head of the appellate practice at O'Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C. He also currently leads Harvard Law School's Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation Clinic. He served as the acting United States Solicitor General for the 1996-1997 Term of the Supreme Court. Prior to his appointment as acting Solicitor General, Dellinger was an Assistant Attorney General and head of the Office of Legal Counsel under President Bill Clinton. He has also appeared as a commentator on This Week, the ABC News Sunday morning program hosted by George Stephanopoulos. Dellinger is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Yale Law School.

Life and career[edit]

Dellinger was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is the father of lawyer and political candidate Hampton Dellinger. Walter Dellinger received a B.A. degree from the University of North Carolina. In 1966, he graduated from Yale Law School, and then clerked for Justice Hugo Black of the U.S. Supreme Court during the 1968 Term.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Spare a little pity for Kaopectate Ted

 What DID he scarf down at the airport?

McGehee vs. Tourgee: Reconstruction Foes--25 page draft

 It's been a year in hell--with a Stanford expert mentioning the possibility of taking out my good eye and a local doctor speculating on amputation for part or all of the leg with DVT. That's not to mention 3 weeks with a catheter and 5 months watching the Valley Fever lesion in the good eye change shape until it disappeared and not to mention genuine hallucinatory Vertigo and some bad falls. The good news was that when Amazon, the reliable friend of all shut-ins, got my comfortable soft eye patch delayed by 4 days I did not need it when it got here: massive doses of the right anti-fungal drug had begun to conquer what they had called lymphoma. Then came the slow shrinkage of the lesion over 5 months. I watched it on the walls every night--tumbling tumbleweed, long watermelon, finally down to a little hunter green finger ring that disintegrated "before my eyes." So now, I know what I want to do with all the thousands of documents I have gathered on my family after discovering that Okies who were in Indian Territory, 7,000 in one file, had astonishing stories, if you only found them. In the year of Black Lives Matter I decided the first book had to be racial and eventually narrowed it down to RACIAL ENCOUNTERS of my kinfolks beginning in the 1600s and going on up. 

Last night I finished a draft of the chapter on my cousin Montford McGehee the defender of amnesty for KKK members and a really distant cousin, Albion Tourgee, a Radical Republican Carpet-bagger Judge. Oddly, I knew A Fool's Errand and Bricks without Straw from 1962, when I read a hundred or so books the last literary histories before the New Criticism said were significant but neglected. This is an ugly chapter but truthful. McGehee was a lot like Lamar Alexander, a great gentleman who would always vote the wrong way when the issue was moral, a courtly man who would eagerly punish evil when it was not committed by someone of his own social class. This turned out to be an absolutely timely chapter as I suffered through it with real time parallels. So I have a draft to put in the RACIAL ENCOUNTERS folder. 

Now I need to write a chapter a little more cheerful. Maybe I can do the one next about the Baptist preacher who was called the vilest man in the United States merely because he joined in holy matrimony two Chinese brothers to two white North Carolina sisters. (The brothers were mistakenly identified as Siamese Twins.) Having no trace of pruriency in my imagination, I cannot imagine what aroused such denunciation of my good cousin. Maybe I will find out.

I think I have turned a corner, as they say, and will be able to walk a little more every few days without DVT sending us back to the emergency room, and be able to focus on evidence. You don't worry about mastering prose after you have been unable to write for a long time. You have to learn again. Good year coming! But what was possibly wrong about officiating at a double wedding?

Friday, February 19, 2021


 You have brought out the best in humorists all over the World. You have inspired solemn reporters to high hilarity. I have not laughed so much--well, not since Obama was president. It is really good of you to be the world's laughingstock. We will never forget some of the funnier things reported about you this week. And we will never never forget that Texas could have had Beto.

Poor Rafael Edward Cruz--isolating for his vacationing and losing belly weight from Montezuma's Revenge

 Can that be Fake News?

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Why I am glad I am no longer in Escobas, Hebbronville, or Port Arthur, Texas--The People who Rejected Beto!



Feb. 17, 2021 at 2:05 a.m. PST

By Tuesday morning, the residents of Colorado City, Tex., were getting anxious. More than 24 hours had passed since a deadly Arctic blast knocked out power across the state, leaving them without heat or electricity in below-freezing temperatures. To make matters worse, many also lacked running water, forcing them to haul in heavy buckets of snow each time they needed to flush their toilets.

Residents turned to a community Facebook group to ask whether the small town planned to open warming shelters, while others wondered if firefighters could do their job without water. But when Colorado City’s mayor chimed in, it was to deliver a less-than-comforting message: The local government had no responsibility to help out its citizens, and only the tough would survive.

“No one owes you [or] your family anything,” Tim Boyd wrote on Tuesday in a now-deleted Facebook post, according to KTXS and KTAB/KRBC. “I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout!”

Boyd’s tirade, which also demanded that “lazy” residents find their own ways of procuring water and electricity, immediately drew backlash. Later on Tuesday, Boyd announced his resignation and admitted that he could have “used better wording.”

Saturday, February 13, 2021

NBC5 Reuters photo of pile up in Texas. Not to be frivolous, but there was a similar smash up of Republicans in the Capitol today, Morality all crushed out of Senators


In RACIAL ENCOUNTERS I am finishing a chapter on ALBION TOURGEE and my cousin MONTFORD MCGEHEE on the KKK and the push for Amnesty

 It is astounding how similar the events of 1870 are to those of 2021. You have educated men like my cousin (who actually went to Harvard after graduating from the new university of NC), elegant men, men of worth, a gentleman, a man with an encyclopedic mind, they said (who had owned 35 slaves in 1860) pushing for amnesty to KKK members (and at last agreeing to some exceptions like rape and murder, everyone knowing exceptions would not be enforced). My gentlemanly cousin--I thought of him when Lamar Alexander retired after damning his reputation in history. Here is Radical Republican judge Albion Tourgee (who later wrote A FOOL'S ERRAND) informing his friend the U S Senator Abbott about the slaughter of NC state senator John W. Stephens and realizing what might be in store for himself:


Want to name your own Constitutional scarecrow? "You can't impeach a former president!"

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Resting half an hour and getting very angry with Harvey Weinstein for what he did to Ashley Judd

I have learned these last months to ff movies, to fast-forward first few minutes, pause around 40-50 minutes, and ff to 120 or so minutes, depending on length. Most movies don't deserve better, and you can see right away if a movie is good enough really to watch in full.

I just rested after a trying few hours on Reconstruction (so similar to what is going on in the Capitol today) and ff'd through a 1990 movie with Ashley Judd.

Harvey Weinstein deserves the sort of punishment the KKK inflicted on innocent victims in what I am working with.

Ashley Judd was so young, fresh, beautiful, vibrant that she is a joy to watch. Harvey Weinstein deprived us of the movies she could have made. Now, she is probably great looking in her 50s. After all, her mother pulled that off. But being great looking in your 50s is not like being healthy and active and making your mark when you are in your 30s and 40s. Damn you, Harvey Weinstein.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

What does "WOKE" mean? It can't mean "self-righteous" can it? Is anyone allowed to say "self-righteous" any more?

  "prominent [French] intellectuals have banded together against what they regard as contamination by the out-of-control woke leftism of American campuses and its attendant cancel culture."

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Caregiver's start on breakfast organization


Looking before? How much "before" might there be? My great 2020 line: "I want to keep this."

 This morning I threw caution to the winds, insofar as torn rotator cuffs allow, and ordered a dozen cotton handkerchiefs from Amazon. Then I doubled the order. So what if I leave a drawer with more handkerchiefs than I absolutely need? I think often of the funniest thing I said in 2020, "I want to keep this." What it was I have forgotten, but it was something very complimentary and unexpected and I wanted to save it where I could retrieve it. Then I laughed and laughed because I had just been told that I was going to go completely blind and might have to undergo enucleanation of the right eye before dying of Lymphoma. Yet here I was acting (for the moment) as if there stretched an indefinite future ahead. It's confidence in the indefinite future that drove my extravagant order of 24 handkerchiefs this morning.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Re-posting my chapter on Steinbeck and the real history of Eastern Indian Territory Okies


"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.

My Amazon post on Parini's book about his roadtrip with Borges

Reviewed in the United States on February 6, 2021
Andrea on 5 September 2020 in a review here stated that this is a work of fiction, not a memoir. Her account is documented in the 29 January 2021 LONDON TLS by David Gallagher, the Chilean ambassador in London. He is offended particularly by claims that this book is a "memoir" and not a novel, for he is sure that some of the events described never took place, although he grants this: "My best guess is that Parini briefly met Borges with [Alastair] Reid and, looking back on the encounter, thought of writing a 'what if' book.'" It appears that there may be no evidence even of a brief meeting between Borges and Parini. Now, Parini himself gives hints that many episodes described in this book may not have happened. He just does not declare that NO episode involving him and Borges ever happened. Gallagher is outraged that the book has been taken "at face value" in the United States as memoir. "This is a memoir about writers," says Michael Greenberg in the New York TIMES. Greenberg seems to have been thoroughly suckered by Parini. Other reviewers will be chagrined to learn they had been tricked. Gallagher is disdainful: "for those of us who admire Borges, the use Parini makes of him is pretentious and silly. The Borges he describes is a shoddy parody of the original." The photograph at the top of this item indicates that Parini is not using "memoir" so much as "Encounter." It might have been honest to call this a fantasy--to call it just what Gallagher mentions without actually suggesting it: "a 'what if' book"--the sort of thing any of us could imagine. For example, I drove up to St. Joe's in Greenville many times three and a half decades ago (I really did), so I will tell you about rafting on the Brandywine with the Bidens. Anyone can play, but it seems "cynical," as Gallagher says,  to trick people. Truth in packaging, please!

Just noticed 2010 article about Parini's book sort of on Melville--me on record as prudish


Christopher Benfey ... said plenty of scholars get bummed out by talk of Melville's sexuality.

"I’ve been to academic conferences when Melville scholars almost came to blows with one another," Benfey said. "To have our national writer, the writer of the great American novel, be a gay or bisexual man is something that some scholars still find difficult to accept.”

Life-long Melville biographer Hershel Parker is one of them. "The problem, Andrea, for me is, I was raised as a prude,” he confessed to me on the phone from his home in California. “I’ve never told a dirty joke in my life, I’ve never bragged about a sexual conquest, and I find it very hard to think about how Melville talked with other men about sexual matters, and I work at it because we’ve got a certain amount of evidence.”

Melville's homoerotic impulses have been established in the academy, Parker conferred, but whether he acted on those impulses is up for debate. And he says it’s highly unlikely that Hawthorne had reciprocal feelings for Melville. Parker calls Parini’s novel “a fantasy” — and Parini buys that. In his own defense he said, "I hope my novel is a version of what might've happened."

The biographer and the novelist can agree on one more thing: they both hope this new book will stimulate interest in Melville. And that’s Parini’s motivation. "I'm hoping my novel will actually be a huge entertainment for readers, and that it will draw them toward the life of Herman Melville," he said, "and if they read my book, then move on to 'Moby Dick' and 'Billy Budd,' my work will have been accomplished