come and sit by my side if u love me

do not hasten to bid me adieu

but remember the Red River Valley

and the cowboy who loved you so true

Image

they left Oklahoma with all the rest of the great unwashed...in the 30's...at the height of the great depression...they would soon gain three names to call their own

dustbowlers white trash and Okies...my grandmother had never picked a bole of cotton in her life..she was well married to a man 10 years her senior who owned a construction company

he'd built her a beautiful home...when he married her at 12 in Durant Oklahoma

she bore 12 children for him...3 sets of twins...one set stillborn due to the Spanish Flu epidemic...one set that were so small she slept them in a shoebox near the wood stove and covered them with olive oil everyday...they lived 6 months

when the dust came they could live no longer wee small things

the dust didn't stay outside..it found it's way into every crevasse nook and cranny...and smother them as surely as may have happened if she'd put a hand over their faces

when her husband left to travel 100 miles to get a new contract...he was wished well by the whole family waving on the platform as the train pulled away...he never returned

it was a long time before my grandmother accepted he'd deserted his large family because he couldn't support them anymore

and it wasn't long before that family was living in a tent on other peoples farms and my grandmother was wearing white cotton gloves to try and save her hands from the stickers on the cotton she picked...and the wild blackberries she fed her children day after day

and on foot they moved constantly West...thru Oklahoma...then Texas...then New Mexico

some were lost along the way...i had a 12 year old Aunt Nellie who was so hungry she ate some cheese that was out at a general store they'd gone into...to die quickly because it was laced with cyanide

in New Mexico my mother at 13 was married quickly to a 70 year old man to save her from being taken by the state

my grandmother who was 35 married a 20 year old man who drove the whole family to California...then turned around and went home

my mother had a 3rd grade education..and sent me letters that started 'Deariest Nan"...with every other word misspelled

i didn't know all the hardships they had suffered..had no compassion for their plight...i was out of the home and in an orphanage by the time i was 10

and in my 20's i was fortunate enough to see John Steinbeck's "Grape of Wrath" on TV late one nite when i was working

i was in shock after it was over...and cried off and on for the rest of the nite

it took me 2 days to regain any composure..and then i went and saw my mother and grandmother who were living together at the time

and i apologised profusely for my arrogance and hard heartedness about the kind of people i had perceived them to be...they forgave me ...because that's what family do...but i was ashamed for a long time after that

and understood their clannishness..suspicion of officials...and fear of authorities in general...every direction they looked for help had failed them...they may have had trust at one time...but it was during that time just plain scared out of them

More like this:

Comments

nan shartel Nov. 3, 2009 @ 10:48 p.m.

not quite the anticipated scare..but scary none the less

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PistolPete Nov. 3, 2009 @ 10:51 p.m.

I just watched a documentary on the Dust Bowl days on the History Channel.

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nan shartel Nov. 3, 2009 @ 11:08 p.m.

it was a sad time Pete...i just watched "Grapes of Wrath" again tonite on TCM

usually the History Channel shows those programs over so i'll try to catch it

i guess I'm still amazed that i came so far from my flatly acculturated family...whose thoughts were formed by their Great Depression Dust Bowl experiences..never to fully recover from them

if i hadn't been removed from the home at such a young age i may well may have been stuck in the phenomena too

life eh...i know u understand homey

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CuddleFish Nov. 3, 2009 @ 11:36 p.m.

Wonderful retelling of your history, nan, thank you for sharing it. It is a ghost story.

(((nan)))

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SDaniels Nov. 4, 2009 @ 5:14 a.m.

Thank you dear nan, for this very touching and beautiful, personal yet historical ghost story. I agree that the film was well done, and hope that someday you can bring yourself to read the book too--it is amazing. Here is a link to the full text of Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, if you want to read it online:

http://www.archive.org/stream/grapesofwrath030650mbp/grapesofwrath030650mbp_djvu.txt

...from which I chose the last passage--also the last scene of the film. How metaphorical of the bounty of hope for the future in a woman's body, and of the care we extend to strangers in need, as Rose of Sharon, who has lost her baby, is yet able to feed a starving man with her own body:

"She moved slowly to the corner and stood looking down at the wasted face, into the wide, frightened eyes. Then slowly she lay down beside him. He shook his head slowly from side to side. Rose of Sharon loosened one side of the blanket and bared her breast. "You got to," she said. She squirmed closer and pulled his head close. "There!" she said. "There." Her hand moved behind his head and sup- ported it. Her fingers moved gently in his hair. She looked up and across the barn, and her lips came together and smiled mysteriously."

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SDaniels Nov. 4, 2009 @ 5:21 a.m.

PS: Nan--I was a ward of the court from age 14 to 17 and can relate to that particular kind of homelessness. I went on through sheer determination to get through school and make a life for myself, and it looks like you have done the same--and yet more, because you have become a gifted poet of incisive wit and breathtaking image--you have achieved what a tired and cynical English teacher like myself might not have thought possible--you make casual spelling errors totally irrelevant in the face of your mastery over words and evocation of feeling.

Brava to you, and strong women like you! :)

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nan shartel Nov. 4, 2009 @ 11:53 a.m.

i think how ghostly it was every time i look at the photographs of the Great Depression portraits in Black and White by Walker Evans....all of my relatives on my mothers side of the family would have fit in perfectly with them...

the rotting teeth..slack faces..sunken eyes...long hard tendon and veins winding down their arms and legs like the Red River itself

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nan shartel Nov. 4, 2009 @ 12:06 p.m.

SDaniels...u r my heroine here today homey...and not for eating vegispam either

Blessings sister under the skin...and how the hell long r u gonna keep those pants honey!!

and no i never read the book...and now i must...and i've read so much Steinbeck too

when i was a new mom in San Francisco with my first i nursed a black child who was allegic to all formulas tried...we stay in the hospital from 10days to two weeks in those days...then i pumped for the La Leche League for ten month for that baby

it was the 50's...and no one breast fed in the 50's except Blacks and Latinos...and young women whose mothers were OKIES

i will get the book and read it

and thx for the quote to get me there..i hold u in the highest esteem English teacher

and u can write u crazy woman...just reread what u wrote me homey

and do it

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SDaniels Nov. 4, 2009 @ 1:02 p.m.

re: #9: "the rotting teeth..slack faces..sunken eyes...long hard tendon and veins winding down their arms and legs like the Red River itself"

Oh--I think we have another poet in our midst! Just lovely, Cuddles :)

La Leche League! I love that name. So wonderful that one mother's milk can feed another's child--or someone grown, as we see with Rose of Sharon.

Nan, I mean what I say about your writing. It is often fresh (in more than one sense! ;), and startles at frequent turns--seemingly effortless. It is obvious in your prose that you deal in this sharp holding, this crystallization of images that show you to be very much the poet. I'm a fan, and look forward to more of your serious work--toss us a few more poems now and then, eh?

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CuddleFish Nov. 4, 2009 @ 1:27 p.m.

Um, SD, I didn't write that section, darn it! :)

I agree, nan is a virtuouso poetess! xxxxx

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antigeekess Nov. 4, 2009 @ 5:28 p.m.

Thanks for the scary story, nan. Those were indeed horrible times. My adoptive parents were Depression-era people from enormous farm families. My adoptive "mother" used to talk about how they picked cotton from the time they were old enough to walk, and how their fingers and hands were always cracked, cut, and bleeding.

She said they actually wore burlap sacks, sometimes. Starving, always starving. The objective of getting married was to get out of the house, and get something to eat! I know that she and my aunt had a "race" to see who could get up to 100 pounds first. That was their goal.

My paternal grandfather was another one of those guys who fathered a dozen children, then hit the road.

From Walker Evans:

http://www.clintonfein.com/images/pieces/trodd-walker-evans-01.jpg

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pnp/cph/3b40000/3b41000/3b41800/3b41800r.jpg

http://www.photography-collection.com/uploaded_images/06_Evans_300dpi_a-774993.jpg

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nan shartel Nov. 6, 2009 @ 1:12 p.m.

antiG...California and even Oregon was once again populated by these relatives of ours...most of what i knew of them as a child was real kisses on the mouth and hands that strayed down thru tangled curls to gently remove them...no comb seemed to be about

is there anything better the buttermilk baking powder biscuits with butter and just plain old granulated sugar sprinkled on top

we slept in my grams bed...gram and i at the top...my mum and sis at the bottom...talking the nite away since there was just no time to do so during the hectic busy work of the day

kittens born in our nap sack...my sisters and mine...when we visited great grandparent in Texas at 4 and 2...so sick from Greyhound bus fumes...rolling stomach quickly unimportant when tiny eyeless fuzziness was picked up and kissed soundly by every one man woman and child in the room

lovin peeps those farm folk...still close to the important things...like birth...even if only a cat did it...and extra servings of cream for her (momcat)too...less for the coffee...chicory actually

only nice non fearful memories for a little girl

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nan shartel Nov. 6, 2009 @ 1:18 p.m.

Cuddles...the reason i so like and respect ur writing about the immigrant women u write about in ur blog is because change the names from Carmelita to Pearl and we're speaking of the same woman

pale or Olive skinned...she is one and the same

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SDaniels Nov. 6, 2009 @ 1:20 p.m.

Beautiful, just beautiful, nan. I am stroking Mica (always sacked in front of the monitor here) as I read your words, and see a small smile curling his tiny lips--that you all found time to reverence life and birth of these creatures, at such a time.

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SDaniels Nov. 6, 2009 @ 1:23 p.m.

re: #14: Those images never fail, do they AG?

"The objective of getting married was to get out of the house, and get something to eat! I know that she and my aunt had a "race" to see who could get up to 100 pounds first. That was their goal."

Hard to believe this is still going on, but it is.

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nan shartel Nov. 6, 2009 @ 1:25 p.m.

but SDaniels et all...the most amazing thing is here we are...

HERE WE ARE!!!!

so far from it now...well educated...able to use a spell check on our keyboards...hahahahahaha...or just spell well in the first place...think about Black Holes....String Theory and Genetic Engineering

when we know the most important part of their everyday was spent figuring how to get their next mouthful of nurishment

AYE PAPI!!!

how lucky we are

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SDaniels Nov. 6, 2009 @ 1:29 p.m.

I'm going to try to keep all of this in mind, no matter what transpires in life. We ARE lucky, damn lucky, nan :)

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