Page 7


Notes from the Dry Land \(Notes from the land as seen from the highway on a West Chickens asleep aroost in their lighted pens before sunrise. A vaguely restive fog nesting in the hollows and the valleys, thickening and clinging to the dark outlines of the trees in the passing fields. First it is pallid, wispy ; in the dawn it reflects the bluish waking sky; in the chill gray incisive light of farmer’s morning it whitens again like tiding smoke. White hens frozen, motionless, beaks to the russet ground around the tin barn. The pebble riverbed dry except for a muddy still little pool. A prostrate hill in a scotch plaid of greens and russets softly woven. A field of bright yellow machine harvested grainstalks vaguely like a field of crosses for the dead. The sun’s first gentle fingering of the rioted colors of the hillside, the reds, the yellow tans, the dark oak greens, the dark browns, and the ,edgefading yellow greens of the sapling sycamores. A shiny black turkey buzzard rising slowly to a branch from a dry boulder creekbed. A family of rich red brush along the base of a ledge that divides across a field. The slate sky breaks up into puffy grey smoke clouds mixing softly, the sun brightens a weakness in the horizon, and rain appears magically on. the windshield, tiny globes half shadow, half light. There is the homelike inside clump and switch of the hind the wheel of his softblue Ford convertible with the top down and you see only his head and a part of his big fleshy whiteshirted shoulder. He sits deep in the warm red leather, and he’s surrounded by glass. The pushbutton radio in the dashboard plays dance records. The music drifts away in the sunbright still afternoon. The sun is bright on the radio aerial and on the top leaves of the big oak trees on past the car. The trees shade a smoothcut lawn, and through the lawn a wide, white-flowered walk runs Winston Bode up to the redbrick sorority house with the white columns. “Ssss … What’s she hung on!” Switching stations oneaf teranother in a hurry trying to find some more dance music or something ONEafter aNOTHer “Sssss 11 windshield wipers as the drops, larger, splash and vanish, splash and vanish, spash and vanish. It is day; there is activity. But the rain stops almost at once. The sky is greenish blue at the horizon. “Bosque County Angus Farm,” coalbiack cattle feeding on the freshened haylike grass. A clutch of, loud orange dying leaves in the green young leaves of a Spanish oak, like Mae West in a gay plume costume surrounded by well-turned, eager, but innocent young girls. The midmorning sun on the red glazed Brazos. Civilization: at Mineral Wells, Hexagon House, eight spires, and eight littler spires; located between Crazy Hotel and North Oak Baptist Church \(the one with the evaporative coolers on the outside of the stained glass winThe plains tilt and pitch like the deck of a great ocean carrier. Everywhere, mesquite; mesquite trees, mesquite bushes, mesquite dead to its roots; but everywhere mesquite. Red water in the irrigation ditches. Mesquite, black and dead, green and live, on the dry red earth. Acres of dead trees, like black stumps in an empty lake bed. A died-out cotton patch. Oval patches of Weed grass that grab and crescent on the open furrows. A red oilwell pump motionless against a golden slit of sunset under a nightcoming sky. Clear Fork of the Brazos River. And the radio is clicked off. The young Texan snaps shut his cigarette lighter with his lips tight on. his cigarette. Then with his lower jaw stuck out he draws in deep and slips lower into the red leather, blowing out smoke with his eyes half shut. He holds the cigarette in a wide soft freckled hand where he wears a spreadeagle ring from Mexico. WERE YOU WITH US the time we were down in Juarez? … Christmas eve … And now suddenly, heartily: “Hey, Billboy! Whatchaknow!” to the boy walking along the sidewalk with the girl. He looks at their backs as they pass. He thinks of something to tell Joe Farney. Then the face turns blank. A square, steakfed face, handsomely regular, with two long pale patches of red running diagonally down either cheek. His hair is wellcut, welloiled, but not quite combed. A few locks fall down in front. His white shirt is welllaundered and stiff and has a way of looking as though it were just pulled on, sleepyheadedly. The starched cuffs flare out from bigboned wrists and the front is open carelessly two buttons down. There’s a small pearly fraternity pin gleaming richly on one side of his expansive chest. The circles under his steady bluish eyes are becoming dark grooves. “Well, hell, why don’t she come on!” He switches the cigarette to the other hand and pushes a button and the canvas top at the back rises quickly, obediently, then swings surely and steadily over the back seat with the two glistening body dents, and then over the front seat where the young Texan, looking ahead, waits for it to come to rest at his fingertips. the top stops with a quiet snap and he is sheltered from the hot Texas sun. West Texas from a Car’ Series of Impressions Salt Fork of the Brazos River. “Roby, the Crossroads of Opportunity.” U. S. 180 and Texas 70 cross here. There are cafes. At twilight a spine of white lights on the open hilly plain coiled at the base and rising like a snake charmed, bright, naked, violative of the coming night … LONG CHAINS of oil tanks waiting on the rails on the plain, Warren Sunray Warrengas Skelgas; still, patient. it . . . neeeh-ver thought, I’d l0000-se your love ….’ … as we say out here on the South Plains” the announcer says. The long open plain joining the distant plateaus. Stripped red foothills against a long range, the brush on its side like algae, under a purple storm sky, across the scooped out plain. Double Mountain Fork of Brazos River. “Justiceburg. Flats Fixed.” Rain, like an. afterthought, blotting into the dry land. The road winding through some rustcolored mounds of eroding gray rock that falls free in large shellshaped boulders. The rain falls in waveblown breath on the roof, the mesquite flags softly against the wet gray sky. It is almost like night. A great hulking carrier zooms around the curve in a cloud of angry spray. The rain is louder, and for the first time lightning, and now thunder. A yellow fire burns across the road through the rain near three tin tanks on the red and green plain. “Love me tender, love me true … And I always will …” Through the rain the flare fires burn bright and dancing orange. The rain-out russet hills. The thick green brush down both steep sides of the deep slit in the soft bare earth. The undulating oil pump arm against the clearing blue and white horizon. Short, stubby cotton plants in the fields. In Slaton, parked, a doublelong flatbed truck loaded with two and a half rows of baled cotton. A thousand bales upended on the plain, bordered by an occasional red barrel …. THE SIGN LITTER on the roads entering every major town, tires, furniture, hotels, motels, chinese food, chicken, lumber, uphostering, insuranceso is Lubbock announced. S JESUS A V E S is written on the cross on the top of the building. “Faith Teinple.” On the movie style marquee in the mobile red letters of that trade it says: “Visit the Temple.” Three teenagers abreast over two lanes on motorcycles, each in blue jeans and black leather jackets and goggles, moving stillbodied down the two lanes. REVIVAL! A clock, it is 6 ‘oclock; beneath it, in red neon letters: TAKE TIME TO PRAY At a Texaco station a thin farmer, scholarly, with glasses, pulling on a pipe, said, “… those Mexicans … “They turn in a sack a thousand pounds, it’s got 700 pounds a cotton in it. Rocks, they’ll do anything.” “Man I tried to pick cotton. I got 300 pounds and almost killed myself doing it.” “Why man you can jus’ fool around out there an pick three hundred. I picked a thousand pounds in a day, when I uz fourteen … Those Mexicans, they want the price to go up every Monday mornin’ I don’t fool with ’em, They want you to move outa your house and let them in an’ you go out in the little ol’ house you got out there for ’em. I don’t fool with ’em. “I can save four thousand dollars a hundred bales with the picker. I’ve already run seventytwo bales with it. You figger thirty five to forty dollars a bale to pull it. My machine cost me six hundred, and the butane, it comes to about two an’ a half a day. It can pick twenty thirty bales a day. “I can pay for it in two days.” THE PLAINS in low growing cotton around Lubbock, cotton watered by wells sucking up the water from the sinking table underground. Cotton on nature’s credit. The great white banded-cone elevators in majestic domination of Plainview’s plain view. Then again spotty crops, sorghum grains and wheat; waste fields, and thirsty land. A brown field overgrown in bush. An implanted field. Another. A bright yellow brown grass cover, burned to its base. Miles and miles of dried out land. Amarillo, where the college boys drive for their liquor. On a corner, across from two liquor stores, a red brick building, next door to a garage: ” IF YOU ARE HUNGRY DO NOT BEG OR STEAL COME EAT WITH US Free meals 8 to 9, 1 to 2, after services; free clothes 1 to 2 only. And 8 p.m. services. Through the window benches, and an old man seated on one of them. A door in the back wall signed, “Prayer Room.” In the window an old drawing: THE SETTING SUN, by Osamu Dazai, translated by Donald In this, his only novel, Osamu Dazai is preoccupied with the changing values of civilization brought on by the second world war. The family of which he writes, a mother and her adult son and daughter, are aristocrats by birth, and are suffering now not only because the aristocracy is impoverished and declining, but also because there is no safety and meaning in their long established morality. Each figure searches for a new meaning to his own life in his own way. However, Dazai’s anguish is by no means a local problem. Characters such as Kazuku, the daughter, have been appearing often in the works of many western writers, ‘particularly Mauriac. The fairly inconspicuous p e r s o n, whose life is not destined to any historical greatness, is doomed to loneliness due to his sensitivity to . himself and his inability to see himself in the big picture. His life becomes extremely narrow and introverted, and the result appehrs to be that hiS only satisfaction is derived from gloom or tragedy as a relief to boredom. Naoji, the brother, could well represent the author’s tact. Osamu Dazai attempted suicide years before he threw himself once and for all into the Tamagawa Reservoir, and one feels he never quite decided whether suicide was a proper ending for a dissolute person or not. Perhaps he simply had to try it, just as he must have tried every other indulgence in order to see if there was any ex “A Sample Room and Its Samples,” a bartender inviting you in, my jolly friend, to see his Exhibit Room: “Genuine Specialties, Made on the Premises,” a tramp; a convict in his stripes, sitting dejected; a madman, his pupils contracted; an “IDIOT CHILD”; a frowsy woman. in 1890 clothes, alone unlabeled. FAITH CITY MISSION GOD IS LOVE On the outside wall in huge script: For the wages of sin is death; BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23. A sign: “BEHOLD! THIS IS THE DAY OF SALVATION!” The road at night again. A cafe. “Green Door, Green Door, What’s that secret you’re keeping? …” Lights on a strip pole flash up and down, frantically, flashing on the black top of the hardtop convertible next you, flashing to the music …. THE COOL ORANGE SUN ascending over the lip of the horizon and stepping up on a dark ledge in the swept morning sky over the green cotton plain. Khaki wrapped cotton bales standing on end in rows in a field like hard jawed soldiers on review. Mesquite flats, miles and miles of it. A cow here and there, occasionally a herd. Across the plain southeast of Midland, a spreading cluster of oil tanks, like a stand of silver compacts. Withered plants on the grassless gravel earth. Beyond gardenless Garden City, the mesquite takes color again, but only the mesquite, except for a little grass. Then climb again into the hazed wastes. Sterling City, warm and bright under the sun, with a courthouse and wide sunbleached streets. Water Valley, with no water in its valley. RONNIE DUGGER treme which could completely dissolve a person’s morals or destroy his natural instincts. Although he begs you,to accept and praise his self-destruction as a purposeful conclusion, he never quite stops looking back longingly as he steps toward the edge of the Reservoir until there is no earth under his foot. Dazai draws his lonely narrative with a clean, black, single line. Therefore, the book is distinctly Oriental in style, while the situations a n d problems a r e wholly western. \(The numerous references to a higher being never admit to any religion other than erful dramatically, and the prose is really beautiful. Here is a bit of Kazuku’s thinking. “I must go on living. And. though it may be childish of me, I can’t go on in simple compliance. From now on I must struggle with the world. I thought that Mother might well be the last of those who can end their lives beautifully and sadly, struggling with no one, neither hating nor betraying anyone. In the world to come there will be no room for such people. The dying are beautiful, but to live, to survive those things somehow seem hideous and contaminated with blood. I curled myself on the floor and tried to twist my body into the posture, as I remembered