rid ?*ifk laket Igo well-off whites abandon the poor whites to work out their uncontested, crippling hates of the Negroes as best they canor cannot? A light sprinkle from the sky of arched blue, sunlit white, and light-textured gray. The sharp scent of wet pine. At the base of a stately pine grove that makes them diminutive, a family of six whites has a picnic supper, careless of the cooling drops from the violent looking, but quite benign sky. Now the shadows of the pines, oaks, willows, and sweetgum, but mostly of the pines, fall long across the sweetly rolling highway, and flick over the car’s hood and dashboard quick as wisps, yellow light falling backward. Tatum: “Fishing Tackels.” I could not find the house of a white who once killed a Negro. A white boy in his teens, swinging high on the porch swing, his bare feet drawn up beside him. Another white youth, maybe 18, lank, shinnied up a pole to the roof of a little highway grocery, hanging there, arms dangling \(“like a monkey” they got to do in a little town but chase girls and lord it over the “niggers.” I wonder, too, about the Tatum Methodist Church. A fine looking building. Crossing the milky-green Sabine River, snags poking up above its stilly surface; the rising trine of the crickets strangely arresting my flight through the wide, lush, overhead bottomso that I sense it still and hot in the darkI think, with Tatum so near, of Emmitt Till. And immediatelyjust before the turnoff that leads to Roseborough Springsa white boy, about the age of my own,, with an inverted bowl of auburn hair, as he gets out of a car by the road with a milk jug in his hand, sees my car coming and waves madly at me with his other hand, that he has a paper in. I wave back to him. And then walking toward Marshall the same other side of the road, a scarecrow figure of a Negro man \(30? 60? who can ragged at the sleeves, worn at the elbows. All this I see so quickly, in visually lucid instants, as the evening sun burns gold, a disc of radiance at the horizon, appearing and reappearing when the trees clear. In the valleys of the trees the colors murmur. Elysian Fields. At the entrance to the post office-store, a sign on a blackboard says, “For Sale, 1 Mule, $85.00. As is where is. Call Jack Ware. Worth $100.00 if you have high fences.” Two Negro women stand at the counter, buying their staples from the white storelady. “Get your coal oil?” one of the Negroes asks the other. On the dark shelves the flour and beans lie in large sacks. And how about some Mild Scotch Red Rose Snuff? Or a Pepsi Cola. . . . As I leave I see on the other side of the entrance an announcement, “Female workers, 18-40, Texas Employment Com mission, Marshall,” and a tatterdemalion Negro man goes in. Carthage: “Turner Laundry. Colored Only.” A boy sells muscadine grapes in silver buckets on the grass beneath a tree. “Plain and fancy sewing.” In one of the stores, a toothless old geezer, half drunk, asks the waitress where her boy friend is. Gone to Beaumont, she says. The geezer giggles and joshes her, “You can’t tell what he’s up to! He might be with a nigger woman. Huh? He might be with a nigger woman !” “He might be,” she says. “Sometimes he’s lotsa places I don’t want him to be.” A watermelon stand, cool, enclosed by vine-covered lattices. The proprietor and a friend discuss what they’ve heard about the Negro who was shot and killed by a deputy. A rumor he had slapped a white woman in a store. As I leave the proprietor calls to me, almost too late: “Come back and see us, neighbor.” JEFFERSON is the Old South in formaldehyde. The town flourished as a port on the bayou until the bayou became unnavigable, just after the shipping interests of the town had snubbed the railroad baron, Jay Gould. Therefore the town died and has not had pressures on its people and its property to change with the times. It has become an authentic mausoleum of the Old South. Consider the Excelsior. Here stayed Gould, Vanderbilt, Grant. Here are preserved their environments when they were here. The long’ porticoes, the black-painted iron grillwork, the unreadable grandfather clock, the columns, the large courtyard of red-brick walls and dripping iron fountain, its column supported by naiads, all painted black; the dainty iron garden seats, perched on their tip-toes like young girls. In my room, the bed with the high carved headboard; the antique chairs, upholstered in puffy claret velvet; the marble-topped table, its iron legs crossed at their knees; the great windows, their sills almost to the floor, opening onto the rambling second-story porch, slanting toward the courtyard below for drainage of the rainwater; and on the sidetable beside me, the little bric-a-brac of the genteel traditiOn, a small plaster bust labeled “Mozart,” a Strauss medallion; nearby, crystal candlesticks, and a coal-oil lamp; a violin shell, fixed to the wall. All the skin-thin gentility and sentimentality not only of the Old South, but also of the ladies, oh, the white ladies of the garden club who re stored this place two years ago, and who gather now in the resonant lobby to plan their next social, choosing between having everyone bring in a covered dish, or having just punch and cookies, to avoid too much expense. The lady who took me to the museum of the town : “The Southerner was never noted for his foresight, you know. So we wouldn’t give Gould the right of way. It was a case of Greek meeting Greek. He thought he was big stuff, but he wasn’t to us.” In the museum, \(plows, dresses, carved wooden house joints, doctor’s bags and pill rollers, armoires, horseshoes, square nails, original barb wire, 36-star U.S. flags, an iron piece stamped “1774” on the bottom, saddle maker’s bench, broad-ax, and on and on showed me a presidential pardon from Andrew Johnson. What had the miscreant done? With a laugh she said, “He held a position in the Confederacy. That was some crime.” The tour of the Excelsior was conducted by a gentle-speaking competent Southern lady. The garden clubbers had exhumed the furniture from the rooms where it had been buried and put it back to practical use in rooms the tourists may now for a fee defile. They abound in bedsteads of circassian walnut, and four-posters with majestic canopies; tables and chairs and secretaries elaborately carved by master craftsmen in fruits, birds, and even chickens; fine chandeliers of sparkling glass; richly colored lusters. In the grand ballroom of pressed tin, there is a French fireplace of alabaster and marble. Gracious living in the tradition of superiority, embodied in an oval mirror for the upper body and, underneath a marble primping board, “a petticoat mirror, where the slaves could kneel down and adjust the lady’s petticoats, if they were showing.” Gentility on display for the tourist trade. Festive occasions, and seated meals in the ballroom; “parties in the courtyard in the spring and fall, when the weather’s mild.” On a good day the garden ladies get into their bluejeans and put the courtyard in order, “except for the actual mowing of the grass.” THERE IS FERMENT among the East Texas churches. These are religious people, in the main ; one can know that when integration becomes a live issue in the churches, it is a live issue. I heard in Texarkana that the Baptist Chutch in Gladewater had had a vote on integration and voted no. That the same thing had happened in a town near Texarkana. This morning I stopped for breakfast at “Home Cooked Meals” in Kennard, between Nacogdoches and Crockett, and was immediately involved, by proximity, in a highly upset discussion going on at any back, in the next booth, between two men’s voices. “All right, then for you there are only eight commandments, not ten, is that it?” the first voice saida strident, assertive’ voice, quivering the way one’s own does when one feels affronted and decides to October 4, 1963 9
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