In association with the House of Books, Houston Buy All Your Books Through The Observer PROMPT DELIVERY Regular Retail Prices No Mail Charges Current Affairs EINSTEIN ON PEACE edited by Otto Nathan and Heinz Nor den with a preface by Bertrand Russell. From the preface: Ein stein was not only the ablest man of science of his genera tion, he was also a wise man, which is something different. If statesmen had listened to him, the course of human events would have been less disastrous than it , has. been.” Simon & Schuster $8.50 Send your order for ANY book to DEPT. B, Texas Observer, 504 West 24th St., Austin, Texas. Chopping Wood CHARLOTTE, N.C. I never drive across Cleveland County, North Carolina, without recalling that Wilbur J. Cash spent much of his too-brief life there, writing the rich pages of The Mind of The South in a small rented room behind the post office in Boiling Springs. Cleveland County laims few other distinctions, but Cash suffices. The turn of the year marks the 20th anniversary of his one book, and with every year the compass of its admirers grows and claims a new journalist, a new historian, a new layman among them. If Cash’s ghost still broods over its gently rolling, open, lonely hillsides, that is enough. I REMEMBER driving along I there, some two years ago, through a softly-falling drizzle. The rain made the pastures grey and the pines black, and I drove by an isolated country graveyard when an unpretentious coffin was being let down into the red clay. Caught by the tableau, I braked the car and watched this ultimate ritual. Cash was on my mind, and I wondered if he, a tireless, selfrapt walker, had not happened s by the same scene sometime in the mid-Thirties, when his powers stood at their height, and hastened home to write his saga of the country cracker going to town on Saturday night, or perhaps a newspaper editorial for the bottom of the column that would bind up all its pathos and sad dignity. Fanciful imaginings. But I am trying to say that in Cleveland County, North Carolina, all the elements of the southern drama Cash chronicled came together. There was the blackith down-country soil where cotton flourishes, and the hard red upland clay, where it must struggle against the weeds. There, in the little towns, stand the ugly textile mills, boxed in Victorian redbrick. Occasionally, on a hillside, one glimpses a “big house,” weathering gray; and on the next, the newer palace of a textile boss. In the towns, too, you can see the cold eyed, narrow brovied, pathetic man who exchanged the back-breaking day in the field for a big room of whirring looms and choking lint. And to be sure, somewhere in a rented room there is a young man who has been at Chapel Hill, or Wake Forest, where Cash went, husbanding his new-found booklearning and insights jealously, at one and the same time regretting the fall of that old farmhouse and fiercely venting his rationalism on the oddities of a slow-changing region. Fearful, if the truth were known, that these new eyes in the mind may slowly close in the unanalytic soulfulness of the Place. I am not suggesting that the southern drama is joyless, or that Cash did not glimpse its occasional. hilarities. But he was first of all a brooding man, and his historical imagination was firmly controlled by a deep tragic sense. He found “sultry reverie” the mood of southern land, but underlying it, there is always that other mood: “There are days when the booming of the wind in the pines is like the audible rushing of time when the sad knowledge of the grave stirs in the subconscious and bends the spirit to melancholy; days when the questions that have no answers insinuate themselves into the minds of the least analytical of men . . .” Who, then, was W. J. Cash whose one book has drawn so much posthumous acclaim? CNIARLOTTE, where Cash wrote ti editorials for The News for many years, is full of -Cash lore, most of it hearsay quality but spellbinding. His contemporaries here, admittedly benefiting by hindsight, acknowledge his brilliance, but Cash was startlingly eccentric for a conformist town. He was a mysterious out-of-kilter fellow, maniac-depressive in company, soliloquizing for hours one day, stone-silent the next. He was a low-‘temperature fellow most of the time, who never looked at a clock, was called “Sleepy” by his intimates, a heavy drinker whose most memorable editorials, it is said, were written against the thumping tempo of a hangover. Most of the time he was at The Newsduring the ThirtiesAdolf Hitler was building his thousandyear midi in Germany. Cash was obsessed with an, as it proved, prophetic hatred of Hitler. Again and again, he sounded powerful alarms against appeasement in Westminster and isolationism in Washington in the editorials of a provincial southern newspaper. -One even came into the hands of Winston Churchill, who was then speaking from the same viewpoint as a back-bencher in Parliament. Then., one day in 1938, everyone gathered anxiously around the wire machine in The News’ newsroom, which was slowly tapping out an urgent European bulletin. Hitler had invaded Austria. Cash fell down in a frothing epileptic fit. IT WAS ONLY some months later that Alfred A. Knopf published “The Mind of The South.” Cash took his prizes and his new acclaim and left, in the. summer of 1941, for Mexico to study for a year and write. There, one night, he hanged himself. Some rumors have held that German agents did it and rigged it to look like suicide, but this strikes me as considerably more fanciful than the also-unconfirmed rumor that an autopsy revealed an advanced brain tumor. If so, he had kept his growing apprehensions sec r et from his closest friends, who were never really intimate. The book? Well, except for a -tew who remembered The Mind of The South but was all but out of sight for a decade. It was only when Anchor Books reprinted it in a cheap paperback that its renaissance began. Still, those who know the book are fervent about it, envy it, quote it, re-read’ it; historians are amazed with its brilliance, and members of the growing Cash cult are fascinated with its origins, here in the clay fields and mill towns. But of the book’s substance, one must say its direct influence on the southern mind is, for several reasons, obscure. Open testimonies are few, though it was interesting that Judge J. Waites Waring, the Charleston aristocrat who made himself an exile in his own city when he struck down, from a seat on the 4th Circuit Court, the laws South Carolina devised to keep white primaries after the Supreme Court gunned them in the Texas cases, acknowledges a debt to Cash. But testimonies like Judge THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 6 Jan. 21, 1961 Waring’s * are rare, save from newspapermen, many of whom are votaries without betraying any signs that all of Cash’s subleties got across. POSSIBLY, it would be wrong to See The Mind of The South as a sort of catalyst by which the mind of a whole region was turned inward on itself, or as the creator of the analytical temper. Perhaps it has been, in scattered instances. But analysis, though not triumphant, was never absent from the southern mind, or a thread of it, at allnever since the College of William & Mary in Virginia nursed Jefferson and Marshall, who would be fountainheads of national philoosphywhether republic-democratic or federalist. Think, too, of the tragic figure of Calhoun, whose mind was brilliant, tough, and asterful of politics, yet was so unsensitive to the farces of its time as to touch insanity. And as Cash himself acknowledged, much of the analytical temper that flourished in the Thirties, if new, owed itself to the work of sociologists like Howard Odum and his associates. Maybe it was a new thing for southerners to analyze themselves, sociologically, and to probe critically for the forces that had seemed to petrify their region; but Cash did not create the temper. He was its chronicler. Cash, it seems, could not really choose between his hatred of the corrupting elements of the Old Southits pride and vanity, its violence, its false romance, its often cruel puritanism, its religiosityand a certain fear of many elements the New South offered “economic man,” commercialism, babbitry, callousness. Cash puts himself into the southern mind. But his treatment of cause and effect is so complex, so gin gerly, so antenna-sensitive, as to leave him very tentative about many judgments.’ He doubtless saw, for it is a matter of revelation, that the southern intellect can at best co-exist with, but can’t erase, the romance, the myth, the soulfulness, the Sir Walter Scott-,bred stylized chivalry. But when Cash did aim to destroy he destroyed utterly, unanswerably. He laid waste to the cavalier myth \(except for the handful of “Virginians” of the cal southern planter or farmer not as the vagrant son of an English lord, driven to the new world by primogenture, but as an entirely self-made man, who hews his way from the river swamp to the manor on the hill, and hails the toiler in the cabin down the river as his cousin. Cash probed with equal fury the constricting, demeaning, narrowing power of southern puritanism which co-existed so strangely with the sensuality, the Love of frolic, the violence, and sometimes fed them. He dissected the gospeleering religiosity that still, today, makes the region a “bible belt” to the world. DID .CASH’S BOOK, whatever its future is to be, change the South’s mind? I doubt it. After all, Wilbur Cash was a hater of messiahs. He did not claim for himself or his book an evangelical mission. The reader of “The Mind of The South” will rather find himself led along by a deeply contemplative, tentative guide, tender to his sensibilities, making distinctions too subtle for a manifesto. But yetand better still subtle enough for the great tradition of literary history. ED YODER AUSTIN E He wanted to go horse-. back riding Saturday morning, but I had to go to do some work; he cried bitterly. I thought, perhaps I have lapsed back into neglecting him again; and so at noon, Jean, Celia, Sarah Payne, and he brought out a picnic lunch, and he went fishing down the hill.. After a while the females left, and he and I remained here together. He read comic books awhile, understanding that I was supposed to be working; I lay down a while; we decided to chop some wood. He wanted to chap down trees. I told him if they were dead we could, but not if they were alive, and anyway it was better to look for logs lying on the ground. As we set out he said, “You be the log-looker, and I’ll be the treelooker.” Soon the tree-looker saw off to the right of the trail a huge dead oak standing against the grey sky above the cedars. Large limbs had fallen from it, and we set about our work, building a wood pile. He chopped a little with the double-bladed axe, but he is only eight; he just lifted it up a little higher than his tow head, and dropped it on the logs. Occasionally he got a chip and would call out, “That was a good chip!” He took to throwing the logs to the pile, and said, “You’re the woodchopper, and I’m the woodthrower.” There was a cedar tree, about eight inches around at the base and perhaps fifteen feet tall, which someone had chopped on and then stopped, not going far enough to take the wood, but far enough to kill it. It had toppled to the side across a branch of the oak we were chopping under. It was softened at the base, so I told Gary. to see if he could pull it up. Tugging and grunting, the long thin trunk waggling above him, he got it up, and was proud and amused to have pulled up a tree. We built up a pretty good pile, and then in stages we carried it back to the woodshed. The last trip for the kindling I haunched down to load him up, and he said, “I sure am glad I was born!” I looked up at him; he was not smiling, but thinking, and feeling the fresh air, the satisfactions of wood-chopping, the possibilities of this cold , winter day. “What made you think of that?” I asked; for I was amazed, and happy for him. “Oh, I don’t know; I’m just glad I was born,” he said. “And I’m glad you were born to be my daddy.” “I’m glad, too,” I said. We carried up the last armsful. He built up the fire inside a little. He wanted to watch the popcorn pop but did not find attractive the prospect of his picking it “BOW” WILLIAMS When Your Home Policy Expires, Check With Us About Special Savings On Our Homeowners’ Policy GReenwood 2-0545 624 NORTH LAMAR, AUSTIN Let’s Abolish the Poll Tax! MARTIN ELFANT Sun Life of Canada Houston, Texas CA 4-0686 up off the kitchen floor, so he agreed to our making it in the usual way. We poured melted butter over it and had our tea hot with it on a card table in front of the fire. Not that I had said anything to make me think it: I had been talking to him awhile in an automatic way, as one does to a child. “I’ll stop treating him as a little boy now,” I thought. We decided to plant a worm garden, and taking the fire-place shovel outside to a place of exposed earth, dug it up and poured the worms he had not used in with the others we had turned up and bisected in the digging. Inside again I thought we might save a little more money by seining for our minnows, with the seine on the porch, down in the shallows where we swam in the summer, but if we took bass, I told him, it would be illegal to keep them. Why? Because there is no sport in it, and a few would seine all the fish, leaving none for the others. “We could keep a few,” he said. “Enough to eat, perhaps,” I said. “No more.”
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