Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Food for Thought

Saturday I drove out my favorite road west of town,
and took a side road off the main one.
I came to the above house.
There is a barn to the right and below it.
"Keep out!" signs are posted in several places and the gate was chained and locked.

Note the steps. Good stone was used and have survived the test of time.

I always wonder about places like this.
How did it become abandoned?
Why did no one sell it?
It seems a shame that there are no animals grazing in a pasture that looks good.

I did notice a hay bale across the road on another bit of land.
There was another barn there and an ice house built into the hillside.
These too had "No Trespassing" signs on them.
I stayed on the road.

This brought to mind a book I had recently read: Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck.
The junior boys had complained so much of having to read it their sophomore year
that I never picked it up to read myself.

But I left the school building for summer
with a copy of Grapes of Wrath in my hand.
I loved it!
I could see why the boys who hated to read
also hated this book,
but to someone who enjoys an excellent writing style,
this is wonderful and it has a lot of lessons and food for thought.

Some points from it:
"If a bank or finance company owned the land, the owner man said,
The Bank ---or the Company---needs--insist--must have--as though
'it' were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them.. . .
The bank--the monster has to have profits all the time.  It can't wait. It'll die.
No, taxes go on.  When the monster stops growing, it dies. It can't stay one size."
(This was the argument given the families forced off their land in the Dust Bowl.)
When argued with by the men whose land ownership went back generations,
the 'owner men' replied,
". . . The bank is something more than men, I tell you.  It's the monster.
Men made it, but they can't control it."

"The tractors came over the roads and into the fields, great crawlers moving like insects,
having the incredible strength of insects. . .
"Well, what you doing this kind of work for--against your own people?'
( farmer to the guy driving the tractor)

The driver, "Three dollars a day. . .I got a wife and kids.  We got to eat.
Three dollars a day and it comes every day."

The farmer, "But for your three dollars a day fifteen or twenty families can't eat at all.
Nearly a hundred people have to go out and wonder on the roads . . ."

The driver,"Can't think of that.  Got to think of my own kids. . . you better get out soon.
I'm going through the dooryard after dinner."

Farmer, "You filled in the well this morning."

Driver, "I know. Had to keep the line straight. . . I got orders wherever there's a family
not moved out---if I have an accident--you know, get too close and cave the house
in a little---well, I might get a couple of dollars.  And my youngest kid never had
no shoes yet."

So the Joad family loads up a Hudson cut and made into a truck and head to California.
One thing Steinbeck consistently points out is how families helped one another survive.

A former preacher goes with them and he's always thinking.
He ends up being a part of a rebellion.
One of the Joads ends up an outlaw and he goes off on his own
with the preacher's philosophy leading him.

"Two are better than one. . . For if they fall, the one will lif' up his fellow,
but woe to the him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to help him up. ..
Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him,
and a three-fold cord is not quickly broken."

When Tom was telling his mom, she asked if it was scripture and he told her
"Casey said it was.  Called it the Preacher."

Tom goes on to tell his mother,
. . .Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there.
Wherever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there.
I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad an' --I'll be in the way kids laugh
when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. . ."

I then read the second book in The Hunger Games series: Catching Fire.

Something really stood out to me about both books:

It was when the children ended up hungry or hurt that the adults finally made a move.
It was one thing to torture or starve an adult, but when you went after his/her kid,
he/she drew the line.

It's the kids starving that finally riles the men up in Grapes of Wrath.
It's for Prim that Katniss volunteers for the Hunger Games. She replaces her little sister.
And it's 12-year-old Rue's death and Katniss's attempt to save her
that reaches out to people in all the districts.
The people in Rue's District 11, though very poor,
go ahead and give to Katniss the bread that was supposed to be for Rue.
They could have saved their money, because Rue was dead. 
But it was Katniss' care and concern for Rue that struck a nerve in them.

We as adults can tolerate a lot, but don't mess with our kids.
I wonder if it was when men's young sons, barely 15 or 16
started getting hurt and killed in mine accidents
that the unions were finally successfully started.

We teachers take a lot of crud these days,
and we'll still willingly take a cut in pay
to keep our school district solvent.
We'll even take a change in health care
as long as it does not endanger the care for our kids.
However, when we can no longer afford to get them good health care,
then we take a stand.

(I am fortunate that our union and the school board have reached agreements
in the past.  But I do know of a local school district where this has become a huge problem.
Ironically when I made a list of five school districts to apply at
that school district was the fifth.)

School funding in Ohio is broken and has been ruled unconstitutional
by the Ohio Supreme Court three times.
Yet our governors and state legislators do not change it.
They call for more tests and more accountability for teachers.
When are we going to hold them accountable?
I guess more important is how?

I think the health insurance companies have become the monsters.
I'm not getting into the 'Obamacare' controversy;
I just see a correlation between the bank monsters in the book
and the health insurance companies.

And of course we all know the foreclosure horror stories
in this country.

So, just food for thought.
BTW I recommend both Grapes of Wrath and The Hunger Games series of three.
(However I have not yet read the third book.)


  1. I like seeing these old buildings, but find them sad at the same time.
    I remember studying The Grapes of Wrath in high school and loving it! I have always liked reading though.
    I agree with you on Insurance - it's a frustrating affair!

  2. Always the battle within the human heart.

  3. Half the houses in this village are abandoned, and have been for years, but the owners won't sell. it makes no sense.

  4. I always wonder about abandoned houses....wonder about the lives of the people who once lived there" too Beth.
    I love the "The Grapes of Wrath" - such writing.

  5. Hi Beth, Very thoughtful post... I agree: Don't mess with my kids!!!!! We adults can put up with lots of 'stuff' in life---but we don't EVER want someone to hurt or take advantage of our children....

    I agree that our country needs to do SOMETHING with our healthcare.. BUT--Obamacare is NOT it. We can do better than that I HOPE...

    Don't get me started about UNIONS... They have done some good--but the bad they have done overall in our country is what has caused so many problems with the economy. BUT--there are LOTS of problems... Our country is just in a mess now... Scares me!


  6. Sad to see the old house and land go to
    waste. I can't imagine our grandchildren being able to afford a mortgage in the future even if they saved every penny. Life has certainly changed since the economic crash.
    On a different subject that you touched upon - I remember teaching extracts of Grapes of Wrath with a boy student (school refuser). One-to-one teaching with the Home Education Service got him
    motivated. We also watched the old
    movie of the novel.

  7. I will take your recommendations and read both. I should have already read Grapes of Wrath... shame on me for not!

    I often wonder about the stories of abandoned houses as well. Were they once the hub of a happy bustling family? Someone's pride and joy? What happened? On a related note, I just got back from Memphis and went by the house I grew up in... the current owners have cut down all of the trees - the pine trees on the side that we planted when they were about 10" tall and grew to over 40 feet... the poplar tulip in the front yard I used to climb... The house itself looks horrible. I remembered how much pride my parents took to keep it nice. Like the abandoned houses, it is heartbreaking.

  8. I'm impressed with your reading. I've never read Steinbeck. Or Hemmingway. Why? B/c they are depressing. They and some of the authors were so filled with intensity and sorrow for the social and cultural phase of life. Reality is sometimes just too much for me. Life was, reading/movies, etc. had to be "happier" for me.

    Again, I'm really impressed with your heartfilled ability to deal with them.

    For ages, my favorite author was Thomas Costain. History, reality, and, often, positive results. And his historical English textbooks. You might like some of his. We have plenty... Dave has become a fan since we married. If you're ever interested, I can suggest one or two that you might enjoy.

    Bless the work of your hands [and eyes].


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