Our Lady Of The Blues
The Heart Of The Matter
The cop had pointed down Main to the bus station and told Dewey that he didn’t want to catch him on the road again. Dewey had been stupified by the distance into Claremore. He had also been conscious that they had been no other cars on the road.
He was so turned around that, as in Berdoo, he didn’t know the right road. Actually Main was the highway but as the highway took a left as it entered town from Tulsa Dewey had put his thumb out on a street to nowhere. Fascinated by Claremore Saturday Night he didn’t even try to evaluate his situation. Perhaps his thumb went out automatically as he stood there. At any rate the kids noticed him. He smiled when a car full of girls pulled up beside him. One of those good looking Claremore chicks leaned out the window and breathed in what she thought was the most sultry of voices: ‘Hey Sailor, want a ride?’
She was sultry enough for Dewey but he knew he was being put on. The dream of what might have been charmed Dewey so much that rather than hurt her feelings he played along.
‘Sure.’ He said reaching for the door.
The girls pulled away rapidly as he knew they would. At the same time the boys who had toyed with him on the highway noticed him. The one shouted out: ‘There’s the murderer.’ Dewey thought it best to step on down to the bus station.
The bus station was also known as the Claremore Hotel. The Hotel was a big ramshackle houselike affair. The waiting room, sales office and checkin desk was like a big living room. There were some half dozen men and women sitting around. As in OK City some folks in Claremore considered the bus station and hotel a social gathering place. They must have been looking for action because none of them subseqently got on the bus.
Dewey stood silently while both sides looked each other over. Then he walked over to buy a bus ticket to St. Louis where he could have been found the next morning if you looked quick. The attendant who also owned the hotel ran a judicious eye over the Sailor.
Dewey was running on adrenalin and he had that weary look about him. His head was thick from lack of sleep.
‘I’ll take a ticket to St. Louis.’ Dewey said, incautiously opening his billfold in front of the hotelier to take out a twenty while revealing the sheaf of ten twenties.
The eyes of the hotelier lit up. Why should he not have all the money? He looked at Dewey more closely. It was apparent that Dewey had been on the road for days. The exhaustion his excitement concealed from himself plainly showed.
The hotelier put the ticket he had half withdrawn back into the drawer.
‘I’m afraid I can’t sell you a ticket. We close this window at ten o’ clock. It’s now eleven thirty.’ He said pointing to a clock on the wall over his shoulder.
‘What am I going to do? I have to keep moving. Get on that bus.’
‘Here’s an idea.’ The hotelier said more slyly than he intended. ‘This is a hotel, you know. I’ve got rooms. You look like you could use a good rest, shave and shower. A room is only five dollars. You’ve got plenty. Why not stay for the night and catch the bus in the morning. There’ll be another bus along. There always is.’
Dewey wasn’t going to lay over five minutes if he could help it besides a deja vu vision flashed through his mind of someone entering his room as he slept and stealing his money. A deja vu is merely a mental projection of an interpretation of impressions. The hotelier had merely been so obvious that Dewey’s subconscious had been able to ascertain the hotelier’s intentions and telegraph them to his conscious mind. The projection had been so strong that it created not only a deja vu but a false memory.
All his life Dewey would have a memory of the visual impression of laying asleep as a person entered his room and rifled his pockets. He could see himself the next morning complaining to the hotelier. He could see himself standing on the street without a dime in his pocket or a way home. He saw no reason to make such a false memory a reality.
The hotelier had a key in his hand pushing the registration book at Dewey while placing a pen in his hand.
‘No thanks.’ Dewey said. ‘I’ll pay the driver.’
The bus pulled in on time. Dewey stepped up; the driver asked for his ticket. Dewey explained why he didn’t have one and offered to pay cash. The driver explained that he wasn’t authorized to accept cash telling him to go back into the hotel to get a ticket. Dewey said this time that the ticket window closed at ten 0′ clock.
‘That’s news to me.’ The driver said getting out of the bus to check.
‘Hey, Bill.’ He said once inside. ‘How come this sailor doesn’t have a ticket? What’s this about closing the window at ten o’ clock?’
‘Oh, that guy, Bob. He just doesn’t have the money. He’s been hitchhiking. The State Police brought him in and told him to get on the bus and keep moving. I’d be happy to sell him a ticket. He just doesn’t have the money.’
The hotelier made a last effor to keep Dewey off the bus hoping to rent him a room.
‘He says he’ll sell you a ticket.’ Bob said getting in his bus.
‘Well, he wouldn’t and I’m not going to try again. I’ll just pay you.’
‘I’m not allowed to take cash.’ Bob said closing the door in Dewey’s face.
Dewey watched the tail lights disappear in the distance.
Bad Motorcycle With The Devil In The Seat
As Ollie said to Stan: ‘This is a fine kettle of fish you’ve got us in.’ Dewey put his hands on his hips watching the receding tail lights as he wondered what he was going to do next. Hitching was impossible while he was not going to rent a room.
The revelers of Claremore Saturday Night had all gone home with the exception of a few stragglers who gathered loosely around to watch the stange oddity of a sailor. Dewey had been pacing up and down for a half hour or so when with a roar a big customized Harley Davidson crashed down the drag, chrome forks way out in front. The rider pulled up in front of Dewey.
The rider was a big burly guy with a face that looked like Iwo Jima after the Naval bombardment. The guy must have been through a couple wars because nature never in the history of mankind had made a face that way. He had a World War II German helmet on his head while the back of his jacket proclaimed that he was one of the Screamin’ Demons.
He placed his size fourteen engineer’s boot neatly at the toe of Dewey’s shoe. If Dewey hadn’t been so groggy he might have looked frightened but his reflexes were so delayed he was cool as a summer breeze.
The biker stood surveying him for a minute or so with his mouth half open as though he were about to laugh. Finally Dewey flipped his chin up by way of acknowledgment.
‘Hi. I’m Rodeo Frank Danesworth. I heard ya was in town.’
Dewey took that to mean that someone had told Frank that there was a sailor lounging around on Main.
‘Hi. Dewey Trueman, Frank.’ Dewey shouted over the burps and blats of the motorcycle of which Frank had apparently removed the muffler. ‘Yeah. Passin’ through.’
‘Miss your bus?’ Frank asked giving the gas hand a couple of twists that created a roar that shook the ground beneath Dewey’s feet.
‘Guy in the hotel refused to sell me a ticket. Said the window was closed. Driver woudn’t take cash. Here I am.’
‘Tell ya what. If you want to ride on my hog I’ll take ya into Joplin where ya can buy a ticket. How’s that?’
A man standing in the heart of darkness with only one way out no matter how questionable ought to take the chance. Rodeo Frank had a terrifying aspect but a terrifying aspect can conceal a heart of gold. As Dewey always repeated: There’s time enough to bid the devil good morning when you meet him. He bit his lower lip as if ruminating. Which he was.
‘The bus has got over a half hour head start. Do you think you can overtake him?’
‘Put your hat in your pocket and hop on.’ Rodeo Frank replied making his hog sound like a 707 lifting off.
Dewey placed his bag between he and Frank and got into the seat behind the Screamin’ Demon.
Frank popped the clutch and with a slight rear the mean machine plunged down Main and the darkness at the edge of town.
Frank was not a cautious rider. If Dewey thought you were overdriving your headlights in a car the little headlight on the Harley was practically useless except as a signal for oncoming traffic of which there wasn’t any. Frank ran his hog up to ninety miles an hour which was the same as driving blind. Maybe Frank could see the road ahead of him but Dewey could see only where the asphalt joined the shoulder.
The noise was deafening. Mile after mile wore away. There were no cars on the road coming or going. After twenty minutes a huge semi passed rocking the bike while creating terror in Dewey’s heart.
Then far in the distance the glow of tail lights could be discerned.
‘We got him now.’ Rodeo Frank roared.
Frank closed with the bus rapidly. As time to pass it approached the lights of sixteen wheeler came towards them in the other lane. Dewey thought that Frank would slow down until the semi passed but Frank hadn’t earned that face by backing down.
He goosed that hog up to a hundred. He started around the bus just as the semi closed with it. Eyes wide in terror Dewey made the mistake of shifting in his seat. That loosened the tails of his raincoat allowing the wind to enter pulling the skirts loose where they streamed out behind him snapping in the wind.
The enraged truck driver let loose with a deafening blast of his air horn as the din of the bike reverberated off the sides of the bus and semi. In a space no more than five feet wide Rodeo Frank Danesworth let out an exultant scream of ‘yahoo’ which flew back past Dewey’s ears. Dewey was just screaming in terror which fortunately did not carry forward over the speed and din of the three vehicles.
An angry Bob driving the bus looked down to recognize Dewey as the bike sped past rapidly disappearing in the black of the night covering Joplin.
Frank wheeled through the parking lot of the station stopping smartly in the front door. I don’t mean in front of the door; I mean half in and half out.
‘How was the ride?’ Frank shouted as Dewey tremblingly climbed off, carefully trying to sense whether his pants were loaded or not.
‘That was terrific Frank. You’re quite a rider. How much do I owe you?’ Dewey asked politely knowing or at least hoping Rodeo Frank wouldn’t want anything.
‘Hey, I was glad to do it, pardner. I was in the service myself. Korea ’52. Good luck Buddy.’ Frank said revving the bike wildly making the whole building shake as he backed his bike out.
‘Korea ’52. Must have been where he got that face.’ Dewey thought as all eyes were riveted on him as he walked to the ticket counter.
The Joplin station was never empty. Joplin was a major crossroads; buses came in all night long. The cons were thinned out but they sat and waited.
One nudged the other: ‘See that guy? Remember him?’
‘No. Who is he?’
‘Came through here summer last year. He was real rude to some nice guys. We should fix him.’
‘Think we oughta? Know who that guy on the Harley was?’
‘That was Rodeo Frank Danesworth. He’s with the Sccreamin’ Demons. If this guy is a friend of Rodeo Frank’s I’m not messin’ with him.’
‘I’ll find out how well he knows him; might be a chance acquaintance.’
Dewey was sitting on a bench reliving the passage between the bus and the Semi when the con approached him.
Dewey recognized him from last summer too. Not in the mood to talk Dewey replied in a curt manner that seemed as tough as Rodeo Frank looked: ‘Back off.’
Thinking Dewey was maybe that tough through his association with Frank the country con backed off.
While he and his friend stood a ways off studying Dewey Bob wheeled his big Grey Dog into the station.
Heaving a sigh of relief Dewey climbed aboard.
‘Say, ain’t you the guy on that motorcycle that come near to scaring me to death back there?’
‘I don’t know.’ Dewey said trying to evade the issue.
‘There was only one bike out there from Claremore to here.’
‘Must have been us then. We were out out there. Me and ol’ Rodeo Frank Danesworth.’
‘He’s one of those Screamin’ Demons, ain’t he?’
‘If you can believe the logo on the back of his jacket. I’m not one of them. The guy was decent enough to get me to Joplin which is what you should have done in the first place.’
‘Didn’t have a ticket.’
‘Well I do now so I’m going to sit down.’
Dewey found an empty bench halfway back sliding into the window seat where he propped himself up to sleep into St. Louis.
No sooner had he dozed off than he was awakened by a hot weight pressing against his left shoulder. Opening his weary eyes he looked to determine the cause. He found himself looking into a pair of bulging eyes. He knew what they meant.
Gathering his failing wits about him Dewey pushed the man back.
‘Get over in your half.’
‘My name’s Lyle. I need some companionship.’
‘Not in my seat you don’t. Get away from me.’
‘You don’t understand.’
‘That’s what you think.’
‘No you don’t. See, I work in a top secret government project. I spend three weeks at a time in rooms seven levels underground. I work all alone one hundred feet below the surface. I never see the sun. I don’t have any companions. Every third week I get out and then I just have to have some companionship. This isn’t just for tonight. I have a whole week off.’
‘They don’t have any buildings seven levels underground in Joplin. There isn’t even any government in Joplin.’
‘You don’t know. I do. There are dozens of super secret installations all across the country. I should know. I work in one, don’t I?’
‘I don’t care if there’s a super secret installation every square mile. Get back in your seat.’ Dewey said giving Lyle another shove.
But Lyle needed companionship and was not to be so easily dissuaded. He continued to pester Dewey until raising his voice in exasperation Dewey disturbed the other passengers. they complained to Bob.
Bob stopped the bus. He walked back authoritatively to Dewey’s seat and said: ‘Oh, you again.’
‘Why me again? This guy won’t stay in his seat. He wants mine. Make him move.’
‘I’ll tell you what, Sailor. Why don’t you move? Here, come sit in this seat behind me or get off the bus.’
Dewey didn’t want to do it but to resist the injustice meant that he would be thrown off the bus. The lesser of the two evils was to accept the seat behind the driver. He got up and moved.
He now sat next to a little old lady who eyed him suspiciously. Dewey felt the futility of trying to explain so he just shut up.
There was a faint glow on the horizon. He asked Bob how far to St. Louis. Told it was about sixty miles he sat glumly having been forced to give up his sleep. Rosy fingered Dawn illuminated St. Louis as the bus headed for the terminal.
THE OTHER SIDE OF BIG RIVER
East St. Louis Toodle-pp
Dewey stumbled down out of the bus glad for the opportunity to leave Lyle behind him. Having put off his weariness for three days he was not conscious that he had been up that long. The trip had become a mania. He should have taken the bus directly to the Valley but the notion of hitchin’ had become an idee fixe. He couldn’t shake it. His judgment had become a little cloudy and confused.
Oklahoma would be the last State that would provide reasonable weather. The route up through Missouri had been the transition into the cold of winter. Northern Illinois, Indiana and Michigan were in the grip of a cold front of which Dewey had no knowledge because he hadn’t the foresight or interest to buy a paper and find out. It couldn’t have mattered; facts couldn’t have influenced his fantasy anyway.
Stuck in the bus station in St. Louis he didn’t know how to get to the highway anymore so he determined to buy a ticket to East St. Louis across the Mississippi to begin fresh from there.
Dewey did not know that East St. Louis was a completely Black town- Little Africa. Nor would the racial ethos of the nation allow the information to be published warning Whites for fear of antogonizing Blacks. The Urban Aristocracy like to condemn Southern Whites as bigots. They pretend that the North welcomes Blacks. In fact when Blacks fled the South in numbers during and after the Great War their entry into the North had been deeply resented and stoutly resisted.
While the North had no experience in disciplining Blacks they nevertheless tightly restricted Black residence to a certain area which they were only allowed to leave for certain purposes. This caused a great deal of resentment among the Blacks which resulted in several extensive and bloody race riots in the years around 1920 You can read that ‘Race War.’
One of the worst had been in East St. Louis where it became celebrated in song: The East St. Louis Toodle-oo. As a result the Blacks won the town. Thus Dewey was preparing to get off the bus in what was in fact a Negro city state. In the era of integration no Whites were allowed, day or night. Whites were not only expected to get out of town by sundown, there was no excuse for them to be there during the day.
Naturally in the American way this fact was not acknowledged in public nor spoken of openly as that would have been ‘racism.’
America conceals this sort of secret well. Dewey was unaware of what he was doing.
‘I’ll take a ticket to East St. Louis.’ He announced to the woman in the ticket booth. She evinced some surprise at this destination.
‘Do you know where you’re going?’ She asked, taking his uniform into consideration.
Dewey merely thought she was questioning his sense of direction.
‘Yeah, sure, of course I do. Why?’
”It’s just that not too many ‘people’…’ She meant White people. ‘…go to East St. Louis..’
‘Oh well, I’ve just got to get across the Mississippi.’ Dewey said nonchalantly.
The ticket seller began a remonstration but then thought better of it, not wanting to appear ‘racist’ and justified herself with the thought that Dewey was on the lam and had to get out of Missouri. She said no more.
Not feeling too tiptop Dewey stepped off the bus in the little East St. Louis station. The driver made an involuntary move to restrain him, throwing in arm in front of him looking at him as though he were a madman. Dewey gave him a strange look and brushed past. He was surprised to find that everyone was Black, even the ticket seller. He’d never seen a Black in that position before. He noted the looks of astonishment he received on their faces so he smiled politely but didn’t know what to make of it other than that few people got off the bus in East St. Louis.
‘Now I’ve got to find the highway.’ He grumbled to himself as wide eyes watched him leave the station while three youths got up to leave through the back.
He stepped outside to find numerous highway signs. It seemed that every highway in America converged on this station. There were several. Not having looked at a map while being very groggy Dewey had no idea which highway he needed. Just as well. He picked a number with a shield around it indicating a US route which required him to cross the street.
Dewey’s appearance on Black Main Street snapped heads around. Several pairs of Black eyes glared darts of hatred at him. They were hungry for white meat. While Dewey was studying the signs a big Black guy 6/3, 280 brushed by him forcing him from the sidewalk into the gutter. ‘Better keep movin’ White Boy. Don’t want your kind in my town. Better be gone by sundown, if you know what I mean.’ The man said with barely stifled rage and hatred that not only implied but stated danger.
All innocence, Dewey looked after the departing Black man. ‘Wow! Pretty aggressive, I’ve never heard of that before.’ Dewey said without too much concern, especially as the guy was three times his size.
Tired and turned around Dewey stuck his thumb out on a East Bound highway. The three Black youths who had circled around him from the bus station drifted up to stand uncertainly around behind him on the sidewalk eyeing him with obvious malicious intent. Dewey’s little pearl handled Japanese knife would have been no match for their shivs which they fondled in their pockets as they worked up the nerve to attack.
Dewey got lucky, very, very lucky. It was the shortest wait for a ride he ever had. As soon as the driver of the ’58 Chev saw him from a block away reading the situation very accurately he sped up then screeched to a stop in front of the sailor. Flinging the door open he shouted: ‘Get in, get in, hurry.’
Dewey was aware that he was about to become dead meat as the youths edged slowly closer as Dewey inched out to middle of the street which is where he was when the driver stopped. Dewey was not loath to leap in the car but he thought that a sudden movement would break the spell of the snake like weaving of the Blacks so he as casually as he could got in the car.
‘Push down that lock. Hurry. Don’t waste time.’ The man appeared to be terrifed reaching past Dewey to slam down the lock post. He was not a moment too soon because a black hand was already on the door handle. It was possible that they might have pulled Dewey out. The driver floored it nearly taking the Black’s hand off.
‘Are you crazy?’ The driver chastised him. ‘What in hell are you doing hitchhiking there? Did some bastard drop you off? Man, this is East St. Louis, I don’t even like to drive through it.’
‘Well.’ Dewey began mystified. “Im hitchiking home for Christmas and I just got off the bus from St. Louis. It seemed the easiest way to get across the Big River.’
‘Wow, are you ever lucky I came along at the right time.’
‘Oh yeah? Why’s that? I mean, thanks for the ride but why am I luckier than that?’
‘You really didn’t know where you were?’
‘Yah. East St. Louis.’
‘East St. Louis toodle-oo. That’s where you you were. White men don’t live long in East St. Louis. That’s a Black town. They hate White people. They kill them. Back in the twenties Blacks started to take over the town and they had one of the worst race riots the country has ever seen. Bloody fighting in the streets. Since then the Blacks have taken over and White man’s life isn’t worth a plugged nickel.’
‘Aw, they wouldn’t have killed me, would they?’ Dewey asked incredulously.
‘Listen another five minutes and those three Black guys near you would have sliced you to pieces right there on the street. Didn’t you see them? Next thing you’d be body surfing down the Mississippi to New Orleans.’
‘Wow. Driftwood on the river.’ Dewey said, thinking back to the hatred on the face of the guy who had shoved him into the gutter but still incredulous unable to believe that such a thing could be true in his own country.
‘Uh huh. Discrimination may be a terrible thing but it cuts both ways. Black guys may be charming and OK when they’re outnumbered in a White environment or one on one but a White guy in where he’s outnumbered and discrimination takes on a whole new meaning. Shoot man, you might as well have been standing in the middle of the South Side of Chicago.
Or one of those white hoboes who got in the freight car car with those eight Black guys. Ever hear of that?’
Dewey racked his nearly addled brain: ‘You mean the Scotsboro Boys?’
‘Yes. You don’t think they weren’t really guilty do you just because some Commies and Liberals decided to go to bat for them to embarrass the Southerners, do you?’
‘Jeez, I don’t know. I just thought maybe they were and maybe they weren’t.’
‘Well, think about it. You were dead meat back there among all Blacks. Now, picture a White woman and two White Boys getting into a box car and finding eight Black guys there.
I’m not saying she was a virgin but how much proof has been offered that she was a prostitute as the Commies claim. Even if she was that doesn’t make it ‘all right’ for the Black guys to rape her.
Eight guys to two with a White woman involved and hatred shooting out of the yes of both Blacks and Whites? Come on, those Black guys saw their opportunity and took it. Innocent my ass. I don’t think the first judgment was a miscarriage of justice but I think the second one was.
I mean…’ The driver couldn’t get over it. ‘…you don’t know how lucky you are that I came along at that moment.’
Dewey didn’t realize how lucky he was but he took the driver’s word for it as he watched him shiver and shake in his stead.
Dewey began to muse on this as he carried on a desultory conversation. Then looking out the window he saw a sign on the highway that read: Louisville, 160 miles. Turning to the driver he said: ‘Louisville? Louisville? Is that the same Louisville as in Kentucky?’
‘Yes, that’s where I thought you were going.’
‘Oh well, you know what? I’m going the wrong way. I’m trying to get to Michigan. I don’t mean to be a nuisance but could you stop and let me out?’
‘Oh sure.’ Said the driver who was a genuinely decent man.
Dewey hopped out crossing to the other side of the highway.
Once again he didn’t have to wait very long. A blue and yellow ’55 Buick pulled over.
‘How far you goin?’ Dewey asked as he climbed in.
‘Chicago.’ Said Black Jack David Drainsfield who was driving.
Black Jack David Came Down From The Hills
…rather drink muddy water
and sleep in a hollow log,
Than hang around Mobile
And be treated like a dirty dog.
Ain’t I A Dog?
‘Great.’ Thought Dewey. ‘I’ll ride right through East St. Louis.’
‘Hi.’ The driver said amiably almost apologetically. ‘I’m Black Jack David Drainsfield and the lady in the back seat with you is Dixie Darlin’ and this is my wife up front, Dixie Belle. We’re traveling from Mobile to Chicago and you’re welcome to ride with us.’
‘Thank you very much Black Jack Davy. I’m Dewey Trueman and I’m on my way from California to Michigan on Christmas leave. Your lift is very much appreciated.’ Dewey replied in kind amazed at the florid politeness of Drainsfield while looking curiously at the Dixie Darlin’ and the Dixie Belle.’
As can be told from their monikers the trio was having a difficult task adapting to the rigors of getting on in the world. When one’s own name seems to be be an inadequate entree into one’s world one adopts a pseudonym that one imagines adds luster to one’s person. It was on that basis that David Hirsh renamed himself Yehouda Yisraeli which might be translated something like the Quintessential Jew of Israel. The trait is quite common in Jewish circles where one finds such names as Israel Israelson. One young Jewish lady in the US in the early nineteenth century named herself Suzy American and actually functioned under that name.
Dewey too was under pressure to escape into an alternate identity but his were were all so grandiose that he lacked the chutzpah to adopt them. One which would later be used by Peter Fonda in the movie ‘Easy Rider’ was based on the comic book character Captain America. One has to credit the Rovin’ Gambler with the good sense not to fall into that trap. Even in the movie Easy Rider Fonda as Capt. America cut a laughable figure.
As it wa Dewey knew the sources of the name Black Jack David, Dixie Darlin’ and Dixie Belle so he knew immediately their psychological history. All three names came from songs. Black Jack David or Davy depending on the version was the hero of an old Scottish ballad. David comes down from the hills feelin’ so gay and merry. There, although he is a pauper who can offer his beloved nothing but a pallet on the ground, he meets, woos and wins the wife of the Lord of the Manor on nothing but his manly vigor. Dewey knew Drainsfield’s whole history in that moniker.
The two women took their pseudonyms from a hillbilly song called Dixie Darlin’: ‘She’s my Dixie Darlin’; She’s my Dixie Belle.’ So, Dewey knowing who he was with relaxed. Not of hillbilly origins himself he had an aunt who married one of the hill folks who had migrated to Michigan to work in the auto plants. That aunt had doted on Dewey so through his Uncle Paul he was acquainted with the mental rhythms of Hillbillies not to mention the fact that his early eyars had been lived with his ear glued to every Hillbilly radio station in the Midwest.
Those were a considerable number because the great Midwestern basin in the US has no mountainous obstruction for over an area of a couple thousand miles wide and a couple thousand in depth. At night signals from the super powerful Mexican stations run by Americans in such places as the legendary Del Rio, Texas that had a signal big enough to beam to Mars and maybe Jupiter came in crystal clear. The great hillbilly stations in Tennessee, Shreveport, Louisiana, Waterloo, Iowa, WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia and WCKY in Cincinatti, Ohio were all favorite stations. The CKY obviously stands for Cincinatti/Kentucky.
Dewey was with his people.
‘Comin’ up from Mobile, huh?’
‘How long have you lived down there?’
‘Only a couple years. How’d you know I wasn’t from there?’
‘Well, you call yourself Black Jack David and Davy came down from the hills feelin’ so gay and merry so I assume you’re from the hills somewhere.’
‘The Smokies. Yeah, it got too hard to make a livin’ up there so my folks moved down to Mobile trying to better themselves.’
‘How’d they do? Got a new car anyway.’
‘Tsha. No thanks to them. Got this in Chicago. Man, people in Mobile treat hill folk like dirty dogs. I wasn’t going to stand for that. Not me and not my wife and not my sister.’
‘No, sir.’ Dixie Darlin’ who playing solitaire with funny looking cards on the seat beside Dewey piped up. ‘Not no way. I’m better than them curs anyway. I’d a left without him. I ain’t no White Trash. I don’t care what they say.’
Much is made of the migration of the Southern Negro to the North but there were actually two streams of internal migration following the Drinking Gourd to ‘freedom.’ Of the two peoples the most despised were the men and women known down South as Poor White Trash.
Except for the fact that they were White the Hillbillies were as culturally different if not more so than the Blacks. Even in their home country they were an odd lot. The immigrants who accupied the hill regions of Amrica were what is known as Scotch-Irish or the Border people of England and Scotland. Rob Roy types. They were a quarrelsome, feuding, illiterate lot on their arrival on these shores. Their customs and attitudes were markedly different from the Puritans who occupied New England, the Cavaliers of Virginia and Midlands Quakers who took up a midland location in America in Pennsylvania.
Isolated in the hills their culture was reinforced by their insularity. While immigrants flowed into the midstates and the Northeast thence West to Michigan and Chicago to create the smarmy culture of the North they bypassed the Eastern mountain spine of America. Thus the Hill Folk developed in a pure unblended fashion which made them stranger than any blending immigrant group.
Not given to learning on the Border they sought little education in their hills. Thus, in addition to their singularity they became a synonym for ignorant bumptiousness. The Urban Aristocracy degraded them below the Negro in social status.
It is said that the Hatfield-McCoy feud of Kentucky gave them this obnoxious character. It may be true that the most celebrated feud in history tainted the entire people but I doubt it.
Making their living the coal mines all down the line added more to their character than the Hatfields and McCoys.
No. Immigrants slandered them more than any legendary feud.
The nature of immigration into the United States is purposely misunderstood and misrepresented by the Urban Aristocracy for their own ends. They are willing to sacrifice the hill people to their goal. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet; just hope they are not your eggs and somebody else doesn’t end up with the omelet.
Emigration is never easy whether from East Europe to West Europe of from North to South in Europe. Sicilian migrant laborers in Northern Europe during the nineteenth century were treated no differently than in the US. Eastern European migrants to West Europe were often expelled and sent back to where they came from. Such cultural clashes were unwanted by the native peoples.
Immigrants and first generation offspring made up half of the US population during 1900 to 1950. When they arrived they were often treated worse than the Negroes; certainly cruelly exploited economically. They were stripped of their language while their customs were treated contemptuously.
This was to be expected. Nowhere else in the world would they have been treated differently of perhaps as well. After all the majority prospered immediately and certainly within twenty years of their arrival. Once acclimated they were treated with a respect that would not have been accorded their social castes, which were nearly all proletarian, in their homelands.
Nevertheless, the rhetoric of the US is that of liberty here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Many of the immigrants were as well as or better educated than most Americans. It galled them for Americans to adobt superior attitudes while treating them as stupid or ignorant simply because they spoke with foreign accents.
They looked around for someone else to belittle while justifying themselves. There was always the Negro but they were unsatisfactory simply because they were Negroes. Looking further afield they found the Hillbillies who, they felt, fit their needs admirably. So they pointed the Hill people out as evidence that Americans weren’t all they were cracked up to be.
Great agitators arose. Among them was a vindictive, demented but effective person name H.L. Mencken.
Now, in 1914 the Great War came along. The War interdicted immigration more effectively than the legislation which followed the war in 1920 and 1924.
Once again the Urban Aristocracy misrepresents the unity of America during the war. It is true that Anglo-Americans had the ascendancy which allowed them to bring America in on the side of the Allies. They controlled the newspapers but opinion was more evenly divided than that. The Central Powers always counted on their people to influence American policy in ways in which they proved unable.
At the time of the war there were millions of German and Austro-Hungarian immigrants in the United States. In addition the Irish favored the Central Powers because both peoples were fighting the English. The Jews favored the Central Powers over the Allies because the Powers were fighting the Jews’ arch enemy the Russians. The Jews did not become pro-Ally until after the Bolshevik Revolution at which point they rushed millions of dolars in loans in aid of what they believed was their cause.
All of these peoples acted as foreign nationals and not as American citizens.
The people of the Central Powers who had emigrated to the United States were treated as disloyal citizens. All things German were castigated. Germans were treated in a manner that made the treatment of the Japanese in World War II look mild.
The War ended. H.L. Mencken was a German who deeply resented the way he and other Germans had been treated during the War. Muzzled by wartime censors, when the struggle was over he went on a psychological rampage, castigating America, Americans, the Anglo-Saxon race and all it’s ideals.
Allied with a journalist of the Jews, George Jean Nathan, he created the then influential magazine, The American Mercury. The alliance with the Jews was important. In the pre-Hitler days the Jews proudly carried the banner of German culture as well as their own. They had hailed the German victory in Russia as one of their own.
Mencken himself adopted and popularized many Yiddish words and phrases which were in fact neologisms to his goyish readers. Yiddish was still thought of by the Jews as their native language. It was only after the Second World War that the use of Yiddish atrophied to the point of uselessness. In Russia the Jews were plumping for an autonomous Jewish people with Yiddish being one of the official languages of Russia.
In the wild enthusiasm of the Bolshevik victory the introduction of Yiddish phrases was probably thought of as an opening salvo for the creation of an autonomous Jewish people in the United States with Yiddish as a second official language. Never forget that the Jewish Cultrual Revolution was to last from 1913 to 1928.
By the use of Mencken it was thus that the Jewish counter-culture might begin to flow into the dominant culture to subvert thought toward the idea of an autonomous Jewish people.
Mencken’s attacks on the Hill folk, Anglo-Saxonism and the Boobocracy of America as he termed it had the effect of dividing the Urban Aristocracy from a major constituent and pitting it against it. Divide and rule.
This attitude was abetted by the formation of the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith in 1913, which was the opening year of the Jewish Revolution. The ADL began immediately to attack it’s list of ‘known’ anti-Semites which further divided ‘good’ goys from ‘bad goys.’ In an effort to show that they were not prejudiced against Jews the ‘good’ goys turned viciously on their own people and against their own best interests. Always ask this question: Is it good for the Jews?
The crowning blow against the Hill People was delivered in 1932 by a semi-literate Communist by the name of Erskine Caldwell. Caldwell comes across in his writing as a vicious bigot. Tobacco Road, his most famous and infuential novel, appeared in ’32 followed by God’s Little Acre in 1933. Both books sold in unprecedented millions in the heart of the Depression penetrating so deeply into the consciousness of America that for decades there was no one who had not heard of Tobacco Road and believed in its excistence.
In the Communist manner it was Caldwell’s intent to demean the Hillbilly below the status of the Negro in which he succeeded. This would not be the last time that the elevation of the Negro would be attempted by lowering the status of the Whites.
In an introduction to the novels written in the latter years of the twentieth century a Negro writer describes the pride of place he felt when after reading the two tracts he realized or hoped he would never sink as low as Hillbillies.
The fear of Tobacco Road plagued White youth for at least two generations to be later replaced by the image of Archie Bunker of TV fame who was created by a Jewish writer. It was no coincidence that one of the early anthems of the Folk Rock era was a song called Tobacco Road. In it the writer notes that he is not going back to the Tobacco Road he has escaped.
Thus by the late forties Hillbillies had been thoroughly ‘niggerized’ taking their place on the bottom rung of the ‘minority’ ladder below the Negroes. It no longer mattered what they might believe individually as a whole ethos had been projected on them by the Urban Aristocracy and the Negroes.
In the post war years this vision of Hillbillies as a quaint stone age people was furthered by such comic strips as Snuffy Smith and the tremendously influential ‘L’il Abner’ by the Jewish writer, Al Capp.
Although convicted of child molestation at the end of his career destroying a fine reputation Capp was revered in the forties and fifties by an audience that did not reflect on what he was up to. Capp was able to infuence fashion and change American social mores. Girls and women embraced the styles of his heroine, Daisy May, down to the off shoulder blouse and cut off jeans. He called the name of this hillbilly haven he invented, what else?, Dog Patch. Following some of these themes through can be an amazing experience. One of the customs of Dogpatch was the tradition of women asking men out. The custom was strictly forbidden in real life. His character who did this was called Sadie Hawkins. By mid decade in the fifties every school in America was holding Sadie Hawkin’s days where the girls could ask the boys for a date.
Capp’s influence peaked in the sixties when Dogpatch moved to Hollywood in the TV series ‘Beverly Hillbillies.’ After that the hills were filled with Urban Cowboys while Archie Bunker replaced the Beverly Hillbillies. Same tune, different words.
Capp’s efforts in the forties were seconded by several Jewish film writers among whom was the semi-literate Red, Lester Cole. He keenly felt the ridicule immigrants endured before 1920 so he wrote scripts where he invented an ignorant Hill dialect that assuaged his tortured feelings although it made him a bigot.
Thus having fled his Dogpatch for Mobile, Black Jack David Drainsfield was treated like a dirty dog by the Southern Aristocracy in that Dixie metropolis. Unable to endure such treatment he did what all self-respecting Whites and Blacks did. He headed up North to ‘freedom.’
He found the same reception up river as did the Negroes. He was ridiculed and despised as a sub-human. Like the Blacks he was driven mad by this savage treament. He was young so he had the strength to resist but at the stage of entering life he was driven from pillar to post. Caught in an existence from which the only escape was transformation he was at a stage of indecision. Unable to assimilate easily into the smarmy culture of Chicago he sought refuge from time to time by returning to Mobile. Once there he realized the impossibility of enduring life as a dirty dog from Dogpatch so he returned to Chicago which he was doing now.
Like the Black Folk of Richard Wright’s novels he asked repeatedly: ‘Are we just dogs to be treated so?’
Well, Al Capp thought so or he wouldn’t have named his Hillbilly Nirvana Dogpatch. The Urban Aristocracy thought so or they wouldn’t have projected the character of Dogpatch on them.
Thus from H.L. Mencken through Erskine Caldwell to Al Capp the true source of the Hillbilly character is derived.
Drainsfield like all people who fled this character to be derided, which he certainly was, both in Mobile and Chicago, was at great pains to establish his integrity. It was not his intention to travel through East St. Louis up 66 but to take an alternate route up the Indiana line.
He was extremely fearful that Dewey might distrust him so he went to great lengths to assure Dewey that his route was a better way to Chicago.
‘This is just as good a road but it saves a lot of miles. We bypass East St. Louis which is the last place in the world I’d want to break down. It is still the road to Chicago so don’t worry that we’re taking you somewhere else.’
‘It’s alright Black Jack. I can read the signs on the highway. Don’t worry.’
Now heading up the Indiana line they all settled back for the long haul to Chicago. Pleased with the nice hop Dewey had again reconciled himself to hitchhiking. He turned his attention to the Dixie Darlin’ who, as she played her game of solitaire quietly sang the lyrics of an old Hawkshaw Hawkins’ tune:
Don’t want no warmed over kisses
Or yesterday’s sighs;
I want everything fresh
Even brand new lies.
If you don’t have what I want
Another boy may,
If it ain’t on the menu
There’s another cafe.
Hawkshaw Hawkings had already been all but forgotten so Dewey was pleasantly surprised to hear one of his favorites.
‘Oh wow. You know Hawkshaw Hawkins?’
‘Of course. I know everybody in both kinds of music. I like them all. Every one. Do you know Cowboys Copas? And Floyd Tillman? And Ernest Tubb? and Ferlin Husky? And Rex Allen? And Montana Slim? They’re all Western singers. Do you know them?’
‘Oh yes. I do.’ Dewey replied.
‘How do you? You don’t talk like us; you talk real Yankee like.’
‘Uh, I am from Michigan which is why I talk Yankee but some of my family were hillbillies from Kentucky and I’ve listened to hillbilly music all my life.’
‘You mean Country music, don’t you?’ Darlin’ had already been taught to be ashamed of her origins. The term Hillbilly came across to her like ‘nigger’ would to a Black. In fact Hillbilly was used by the Aristocracy in exactly the same derogatory sense as nigger but acceptable to them because Hillbillies were White hence they could be defamed at will. There was no Hillbilly Anti-defamation League.
‘No, Dixie Darlin’, I mean hillbilly as in the Carter Family, Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff. I mean Hillbilly as in American music expressing American ideals and not this smarmy immigrant Tin Pan Alley garbage. I have my Hillbilly roots and I’m not ashamed of them, nor should you be.’
‘Well, we get treated real bad because we’re from the mountains both in Mobile and Chicago. Why’s that? We didn’t do nothin’ to nobody no time.”
‘That is no reflection on yourselves; merely the ranting of narrow, bigoted persons who are beneath your dignity to recognize although you still have to deal with them. Just stand up for your rights and turn their own evil back on them. They are low, not you.
Just a second Darlin’, you said you like both kinds of music. Do you mean Tin Pan Alley and Hillbilly or what?’
‘No. I mean both Country and Western. I will not use the word Hillbilly and I would appreciate it if you didn’t too.’
‘No. That’s all right Darlin;.’ Black Jack David said. ‘I think he’s one of us.’
Dewey had never considered Country and Western as separate but he now stood corrected. The corpus of these singers formed a large part of the ephemeara of Dewey’s intellect. Ephemera are the most important part of one’s identity. Songs, movies, radio shows, ads, newspapers and magazine articles that are forgotten by history almost as soon as they are voiced but are carried in the memories of individutals throughout their lives is the stuff of the personality.
With the exception of Ferlin Husky one of the Bakersfield hillbillies and not a Western singer who was contemporary, the rest of her list of favorites were all of the late forties and early fifties and now all but forgotten.
As ephemeral as they were to society at large they formed a great deal of Dewey’s outlook on the world. He knew dozens of songs by them.
‘I really liked ‘Signed Sealed And Delivered’ by Hawkshaw Hawkins.’ He said knowingly, meaning to impress Darlin’ with his encyclopedic knowledge.
‘That was by Cowboy Copas.’ She corrected. ‘You can’t fool me. I know just about everything there is to know about music.’
Dewey nearly took her correction as a reproof since he was rather vain about his knowledge of music. Instead he chose to deflect the conversation.
‘Well, all those are good but really old. Do you like anybody new like Elvis Presley?’
‘I liked Elvis when he was a hill…Country singer. After he went mainstream he changed and this Army Elvis is something else again.’
‘Yeah, but Elvis is a hero. Before Elvis there was nothing and now there’s a chance for everyone. You know how they say that Elvis sings like a Black guy? Does he sound that way to you? I don’t get it.’
‘Me and Belle saw Elvis at the fairgrounds in 1955 before ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ came out. I didn’t think there was anything Black about him at all. Wouldn’t have liked him if there was. Sounded a lot like Bill Monroe to me.’
What in musicology are known as the Sun Years was the decisive period in post 1950 music. Sun was a record label formed by a man named Sam Phillips. Originally Phillips scouted out Black singers and either sold the masters or issued the songs on Sun Records. The Black artists were a small and not very lucrative market in the early fifties. Phillips is reported to have always said that if he could find a White man who could sing Black he would make a million dollars.
Presley according to Phillips was the genuine article. He sold his contract to RCA for $37,000.’
Society with its guilt complex about Negroes has accepted the judgment that Presley sang like a Black man without question or reservation. I, as the author, was a teenage bronkin’ buck in 1954, ’55 and ’56 and to this day I cannot fathom what Phillips might have meant.
Black men sang in a variety of styles none of which Presley sounded like. Black styles ranged from Billy Daniels, the Ink Spots, Louis Jordan, James Brown, Hank Ballard and Little Richard to name only a few. Presley’s style bore no resemblance to any of those. In fact any White man copying them would have sounded so ludicrous he would have been laughed off the stage.
Phillips himself discarded his Black stable as soon as Presley attracted a stable of White hillbilly artists. None of Phillips White artists sounded remotely Black from Elvis to Johnny Cash to Roy Orbison. They were all hillbillies and the music they created was immediately known as Rockabilly which to my mind says all. The same people that hated Hillbilly hated Rockabilly as well.
Actually Darlin’ was correct. The early Presley Sun recordings all sound like jumped up Bluegrass a la Bill Monroe. The flip side of Elvis’ first ’45 was even Monroe’s Blue Moon Of Kentucky which begins in the traditional style that Presley interrupts with the statement: ‘Hold it man, that don’t move me.’ Then they jump it and do the song Rockabilly fashion.
Nor did Phillips’ Sun label have much impact in the ’50s. The affection for the music and style is a latter day romantic movement. At the time I was the only person I knew who had the records and one of the very few who had heard of them.
I had no affinity for Black music. I probably would have rejected Elvis if he had sounded Black. The record store used to order Sun releases for me. If a release was by a Black artist I gave it back; if Rockabilly I bought it.
It was not that I was prejudiced against Blacks but their music didn’t ‘move me’ and that includes that sacred cow ‘gospel music.’ The stuff was far too ethnic to appeal to White ears. Only in the late ’50s when the Black edge was taken off Negro singers could Whites tolerate the stuff- except for Little Richard and Fats Domino of course.
Whatever you may think of Berry Gordy he and his Motown label really put the Black singer into White ears.
The basis of Phillips’ statement remains a mystery to me. Like most Americans he probably deluded himself that he respected Black culture while he actually rejected it.
Black Jack David whose real name was Derek had been intrigued with Dewey’s identification of himself with Hillbillies. He relaxed a little and began to converse with Dewey person to person instead of across a great divide.
‘They sure make it hard on us in Chicago though. Almost as bad as in Mobile but different. They laugh at us for our music which is real American but they claim to really like Negro music which just sounds noisy and illiterate to me. You have to be dumb to sing the blues. Like the Carter’s say: Stay on the sunny side of the street.’
Dewey was still ignorant about the Blues and didn’t know a lot about the sunny side of the street either. He had heard a fair amount but he couldn’t identiy the structure of the Blues. The stuff just dounded like a lot of repetitious moaning to him.
It was a phenomenon that White Folk in general professed a high regard for Black music, although they didn’t buy much of it, while they shunned Southern White Music like the plague.
White Southern singers were basic folks without a lot superfluous education but there was still a higher level of musicianship than with Blacks while their lyrics were, how shall we say, less earthy than those of the Blacks. No White person would have been allowed to write much less sing a song in mixed company called ‘Drop Down Mama.’ Yet White people would listen to a Black man sing the sexually explicit lyrics and ooh an aah at the sensual freedom of Black Folk.
Well, you know, what was a wide awake guy to do but shake his head and wonder.
Just as Sun was establishing Rockabilly music out of Memphis by the early and mid-fifties the corpus of songs and the stable of Blues performers that would carry through the century had already been defined and recorded by Marshall Chess of Chess/Checker records in Chicago. The most influential of the early rock n’ rollers, Chuck Berry, also came from Chess. Marshall Chess seemed to know a lot more about Black music than Sam Phillips.
Elvis Presley kind of steamrollered Chuck Berry when he broke with Heartbreak Hotel but Berry established the archetype of Rock n’ Roll music in ’55 with his hit Maybelline.
Thus by the late fifties both streams of migration from the South were entrenched in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and points North.
Black Jack and Dixie Belle had met and married in Mobile leaving for Chicago for the first time shortly thereafter. They migrated for the same reason their Black counterparts did. Not considered ‘niggers’ they were deemed ‘Poor White Trash.’
Black Jack didn’t want to remain poor, he didn’t object to being called White but he definitely hated the trash part. He was no fool. He could see at a glance that he was as good or better than the so-called Urban or Southern Aristocracies but he also realized that he would never be able to escape the stigma of Poor White Trash. Skin color isn’t the only stigma.
He couldn’t go back to the hills so the only escape was North. Blackjack, Dixie Belle and Dixie Darlin’ followed the drinkin’ gourd ending up on the South Side of Chicago across the street from the Black South Side.
The change was momentous; as much a cultural shock as that of Country Blacks seeing the big city for the first time. The Hillbillies ‘pure’ English ways clashed with the smarmy hybrid immigrant culture that had developed in Chicago. They were almost as obvious as the Black Folk.
A comparable situation would be the invasion of Los Angleles by the Arkies and Okies of the 30s.
Twenty years after, a term of opprobrium in LA was to call someone an Okie even as his culture was transforming LA. Fifty years later a Mafioso bigot by the name of Quentin Tarentino would portray the type negatively in his movie ‘Pulp Fiction.’ Actually he made fun of Anglo-Saxons in all his movies.
Still, the only reason that LA had a Country music scene is because there were so many Okies in the Basin; there and in the Bakersfield/Fresno area. The Okies still stuck out in LA like Blacks and were treated the same or worse.
Black Jack David, then still know as Derek, felt himself in a desperate situation. He knew his own worth. He was sure of his value as a human being; he wasn’t about to stay and be treated like a dirty dog. Everywhere he turned he was derided. He had little formal education. His manners, while not worse than, were not the manners of immigrant Chicago.
He was laughed at and derided as though he had been a Negro. Not naturally offended by Blackness he nevertheless developed a resentment towards them or, rather, passed the resentment he felt at his treatment to them. The Blacks considered him as though emigrants from Tobacco Road feeling free to despise him.
Needing to escape the Chicago environment from time to time he made frequent trips to Mobile. As a mirror decoration instead of a pair of fuzzy dice or a garter he had an upside down cross.
‘Uh, I notice your cross is upside down.’ Dewey stated. ‘Why? did you get it cheaper because they put the hole in wrong end?’
The Dixie Belle turned in her seat to smile at Dewey: ‘My husband is a fully ordained minister in the Church of the Second Coming of The Golden Dawn.’
There was a mouthful of religion. It shut Dewey up. He turned to look out the window at the racing landscape.
This Land Is Your Land
They were moving rapidly into the grip of the Northern cold front. The softer features of the barren prairie landscape were being turned into cold hard features by the frost. What should have been land promising of the rebirth of vernal pleasures looked merely like an industrial resource waiting once again to be exploited.
Americans had no love of their environment; even on a scientific level ecology had no meaning for them. They had always come to rape the land converting it into a dollar value that could either be taken back to Europe or, if necessary, lavished on a home establishment.
Initially the ability to rape had been severely inhibited by the limits of ‘human resources.’ The phrase is another attempt to substitute money for people. But as technology improved in the nineteenth century the ability to rip the land asunder to ‘develop’ the country increased. Alfred Nobel, the man in whose honor all those grandiose prizes are awarded, provided the penultimate means of maiming the environment when he invented TNT or dynamite as it is otherwise known.
This enabled man to blast into the solid rock at Cripple Creek in pursuit of a handful of yellow dust or open the rich coal seams across this continent of ‘unlimited’ resources.
Nobel might justly be characterized as a demon but the devil arrived in the disguise of a man called LeTourneau.
Like so many monsters LeTourneau was a smallish man given to a certain amount of flab but the man’s imagination was of gigantic diabolical proportions.
Small himself his diseased imagination caused him to create earth moving machines of what might be called indescribable dimensions if they hadn’t been hatched on a drawing board. Still the behemoths stagger the mind.
Rather than tunnel into the earth, a concept known as ‘strip mining’ was devised and employed a few miles away in the coal fields of Southern Illinois. Huge shovels bigger than the biggest building of ninety percent of American towns with a shovel capacity of 100-150 tons were built. Le Tourneau chipped in his two tons worth by building gigantic trucks capable of transporting a shovelful. Then raised their load capacity to two hundred and three hundred tons. Three hundred and sixty ton trucks are said to be on the horizon.
Thus the ‘overburden’ could be scooped off and dumped somewhere else. The ‘money’ hidden beneath the earth could easily be gotten. The ‘resource’ could be consumed in a trice. Having gotten the money out the operators left a huge gaping scar on the landscape on one hand and vast mounds of debris on the other. The money had been gotten, the land was now worthless.
There was no thought of even attempting to repair the damage. There was no concern for the beauty of the landscape or the quality of life for the remaining ‘human resource.’
As bad as that was let us follow Mr. LeTourneau’s creation to the twenty-first century. By this time his trucks are bigger than most houses being twenty-seven feet wide and twice and long. the trucks themselves are three stories tall while appearing as toys beside the monster shovels.
Now, there was still a lot of coal in the Appalachian seams but the operators said it couldn’t be economically ‘recovered’ by conventional methods. As always the environment meant nothing, or less than nothing, to Americans. This means you and not just a class of evil exploiters. You would have done the same.
Combining the contributions to human happiness of both Nobel and LeTourneau the operators came up with a simple solution. They merely planted enough dynamite to blow the mountain tops off several miles at a time. As they had to have someplace to dump the ‘overburden’ they moved the ‘human resources’, the descendants of the Hatfields and McCoys , out of their ancient homes in the valleys or hollers or bottoms, and using Mr. LeTourneau’s magnificent machines they dumped the mountain tops down into the valleys. And they did this with their eyes wide open.
The child is father to the man. The mines of Illinois were a concept in embryo which Dewey recognized but his mind could not conceive the horrible denouement which insanity would perpetrate.
The premonition apparent in his mind he heaved a sigh turning back to Dixie Belle and her pride in her husband who was a fully ordained minister in the Church Of The Second Coming Of The Golden Dawn.
Black Jack David In Chicago
‘When was the First Coming Of The Golden Dawn?’ Dewey asked.
‘You’ve never heard of Aleister Crowley?’ Belle asked.
‘No.’ Dewey said flatly.
‘Well, my husband knows all about him.’ Belle said. ‘This is my man, Black Jack David.’ She added superfluously but with infinite pride.
Dewey had never heard of Aleister Crowley. Since neither David nor Dixie Belle was going to mention him again contrary to Dewey’s expectations suffice it to say that he was a psychotic drug addicted sex therapist cum magician of a Theosophic stamp although the Theosophists rejected him.
In the last quarter of the nineteenth century a guy named MacGregor Mathers started a group called the Golden Dawn in England. The Irish poet, W.B. Yeats, who wrote a poem called ‘The Second Coming’, was its most famous member. We may presume that Black Jack combined the poem with the sect to come up with his own variation. Obviously he fully ordained himself.
Crowley became a member of the original Golden Dawn and managed to steal their Arcana thereby appropriating the sect to himself. The original followers went their separate ways. Crowley turned the sect into a sex and drug cult whose motto, like that of the Abbey of Thelema was: Do What Thou Wilt.
Crowley and the sect underwent vicissitudes. Crowley died in 1947. The sect ended up, as things of this nature will, in LA. In fact, their publishing house was located in Barstow. The house Dewey had been taken to in Pasadena, in the story he related to the Darrels, had actually been a coven of the Golden Dawn.
Black Jack David was unaffiliated with any other known group. He and the Dixies were the entire congregation of the Second Coming Of The Golden Dawn. Black Jack David like Napoleon had ordained himself. They did have a couple of almost converts in Chicago. Always a believer in omens Black Jack had immediately recognized Dewey as the lieutenant he needed, miraculously provided by God.
Black Jack’s program didn’t make much sense. It was a crude amalgam of Protestant Christianity, the Golden Dawn and general Rosicrucian Theosophy. Black Jack had picked up most of it on the streets but he had done some desultory unsystematic reading. The principal incredient of his system was the ‘magick’ Black Jack thought he needed to save his life. He too was looking for a miracle.
As all these things are, the Second Coming was merely a projection of the psychological needs of Derek Drainsfield. He felt completely rejected and scorned. He sought salvation. More than that he had what it took to create it.
‘Why is the cross upside down?’ David asked rhetorically finally getting around to Dewey’s question. He eyed Dewey anxiously as he wanted to make a good impression on the disciple the Lord had provided. ‘Well, I’ll tell you.’
‘Uh huh.’ Dewey said with weary expectancy.
‘Justice and decency are overturned in this world. The Christ has been displaced in this orb of despair by evil, vile and materialististic men. That cross will remain upside down until those men are defeated and the Rose of Sharon is restored to its rightful place.’
Dewey was suitably impressed. The explanation was better than he had expected. ‘What kind of magic do you have to do that?’ He asked facetiously.
‘The right kind.’ Black Jack triumphed. ‘Did your magick have a K at the end?’
Dewey paused for a moment to seek Black Jack’s direction.
‘I spell it M A G I C.’
‘Aha. The wrong kind of magick. Add a K to that and you’ve got the right kind of magick.’
Dewey was baffled. Black Jack was retailing Crowley’s self-help system contained in a book called: ‘Magick: Theory and Practice’ or, in other words, how to become what you would like to be as an act of will. Magic is important to Christian and Theosophic systems but is discredited by materialist and scientific approaches. Hence Crowley put a K at the end of magic in the hopes of making the notion credible.
‘Oh. the only kind of magic I know of that will achieve what you want is the A-Bomb and then only because it wipes everyone, evil or not.’
‘How did you know about that?’ Black Jack asked startled as though Dewey had divined the secret.
‘How do I know about the A-Bomb?’ Dewey asked equally incredulously.
‘Yes. It’s in Chicago you know.’
‘I know the atomic pile was in Chicago but how is the A-Bomb in Chicago?’
‘The missing one.’ Black Jack pressed on assuming Dewey knew what he was talking about. ‘It’s somewhere in the nigger district on the South Side.’
‘What missing one?’
‘The one that disappeared from the stockpile a few years ago. It’s in Chicago, I know.’
‘An A-Bomb disappeared? How’s that?’
‘A patriot named James Burnham published a book in 1954 called ‘The Web Of Subversion’ in which he says that an A-Bomb has been stolen from the stockpile. He thinks that it’s in private hands somewhere in America. I’ve got it figured out where.’
‘There’s a missing A-Bomb? Why do you think it’s on the Black South Side?’
‘Where else would it be? Chicago’s the center of the country.’
Dewey was stopped.
‘Well, OK, but why in Darktown?’
‘Well, come on. Where’s the last place in Chicago you would look for it?’
‘Uh. I’m not too familiar with Chicago.’
‘Well, that’s it. It’s in the basement of some building right in the heart of Niggerville.’
‘In that case you can be sure I’m not going to look for it.’ Dewey said laughing.
‘Black Jack’s not afraid. He goes in there lots.’ Belle reproved.
‘Why not? We’ll need it.’ Black Jack said excitedly thinking that he’d already recruited Dewey.
‘Need it for what?’
‘I thought you understood. It’s the magick we need to turn the cross around. You said it. First we get the bomb and then we send a note to the President and the Mayor and the Chief of Police telling them that we are holding Chicago as hostage. Unless all our ransom is met we’ll destroy Chicago.’
‘What’s the ransom?’ Dewey asked curiously.
‘We want all the malefactors of great wealth and men of evil disposition delivered unto us. Then we’ll execute them and save the world. Then the cross will be upright again.’
Dewey saw that he was in the presence of the ultimate do-gooder. Was it the boldness of the plan or the absurdity of the premiss that took his breath away?
‘Personally I hope the bomb goes off and kills everyone of those of those niggers.’ Suddenly burst from Darlin’ who had been playing quietly with her deck of ‘funny looking’ Tarot cards.
‘I swear I’m going to carry a gun and the next nigger that lays a hand on me is going to get his head blowed off.’
‘Amen.’ Dixie Belle intoned.
‘Something’s got to be done about that too.’ Added Black Jack David. ‘Don’t you think so.’ He aggressively asked Dewey.
Dewey didn’t know what to reply. The great sweep of Black rebellion was moving across America. Freedom Riders were active in the South. Pent up hatreds were erupting in the North and West. In less than ten years cities from California to New Jersey would go up in flames as Blacks revolted against their situation. Americans minimized the destruction because it happened here but the hundreds of square miles that were burnt over was topped only by the destruction in bombed over German of World War II.
True the Blacks fired their own neighborhoods but Dewey would be able to understand that. After all, if you can’t get away from what is hateful to you it has to be destroyed. As Dewey knew in his case; to heal oneself psychologically the old self has to be destroyed in order to replace it with the new. Black frustration, the revolt of the dogs in their kennel, the desire to bit their leash in two, was comprehensible to Dewey.
The period was one of great transition for Black people as well as America. If the history of the Blacks can be divided into three periods: The Slavery Period, the Jim Crow Period and the Self-Awareness Period, then the Blacks were transiting from the Jim Crow Period to that of Self-Awareness. the transition was fraught with great danger.
The musical transition was from Rhythm and Blues to Soul music. (Do you like soul music? No? Well, then do the Trouser Press, baby.) In progressing from R&B to Soul music the Blacks acted out the central problem of their existence. They had a hole in their soul. Not a criticism, not their fault, just a fact; they had and have a damaged psyche. It’s bad too. We always complain about what hurts us the most. Furthermore the hole can be accurately identified and described.
The man who put his finger on it was the old vaudevillian by the name of Bert Williams. Bert performed in the years around the beginning of the twentieth century. Thus he was the legatee of the Reconstruction Era. History may be abstract but those who suffer through it have to deal with painful psychological realities. Life may be a cosmic joke but it is not funny to be the butt of it.
Bert Williams was a very perceptive guy and an excellent poet in the popular style. He embodied the Black dilemma in a Coon Tune that is still sung today titled ‘Nobody.’ I will reproduce the lyrics in full in a moment but first let’s discuss the evolution of the Black pysche as evidenced in its musical stages.
One of the most wonderful descriptions of the development in American of William’s period is the Irishman Mark Sullivan’s truly magnificent six volume social history titled ‘Our Times.’
Sullivan was an especially acute observer of musical trends. He says more about Black culture and history in a few pages than most authors get into multi-volumes. As well as being concise he is perceptive and accurate.
He was quick to understand that a change in a people’s music represents a change in their psychical attitude; something that Goldwater reactionaries should have picked up on in relation to their White offspring. Thus one can accturately trace the psychological history of America, also know as the Land of the Thousand Dances, by understanding its popular music. If you follow the bouncing ball and don’t get hung up on your preconceptions you won’t have any trouble.
thus as Black music developed after emancipation a first phase was the era of Darky Songs when Blacks were fresh from the Plantation. That’s what the White Stephen Foster built his reputation on. This was followed by the era of Coon Tunes. There is a different psychology in each. The permutations of Ragtime and Jazz came through the twenties and thirties followed back out into the Urban Blues, Doo-Wop and the Rhythm and Blues of the forties and fifties. R&B merged into Sould and Soul disappeared into Rap. Each musical expression represents a distinct psychological reaction. Blacks substituted the term Soul for Psyche.