Posts Tagged ‘WPA’

The Parkway Cometh

June 22, 2019

In 1937, the following scene probably happened somewhere near where we live in the Blue Ridge, North Carolina:

“What does it say?”

Jake handed the letter to his father. “There’s a lot of gobble-dy-gook there, Pa, but it says the land stopped bein’ ours when they posted it down at the courthouse.”

“Posted what?”

“The map of all the land they need to take.”

Jeremiah turned around slightly. Casting an eye on his nearby rocker, he carefully took aim and seated himself. Looking up again at his boy, “Well they ain’t paid us for it yit.”

“That needs to be decided yet, Pa.” Jake shook his head slowly. “It’s lookin’ like this is gonna drag on fer awhile.”

“We told that inspector fella we’d take forty.”

“It ain’t that simple, Pa. Them lawyers down in Raleigh gonna pay us whatever they say it’s worth.”

“Damn, son! What is this? Damn communists!”

Jake set the letter down on the side-cabinet. He had managed to glance through it and get the gist. “Shit, pa, it ain’t that bad. They’re just tryin’ to build that road real nice and scenic so’s people’ll come drivin’ up here and spend their money.”

“Well I guess that’s all well ‘n good, son. But I ain’t been down to the courthouse to see what they posted. Don’t seem right that we ain’t got payment, and we don’t even know how much we’re gonna git!”

“It’ll all work out, Pa. At least they’re only takin’ one side of our land. Watsons and Purlears got their places split up. And from what I’ve heard from Miller up in Ashe, them that got their land split up won’t be able to even drive from one side t’other. So be thankful for what you got. Ain’t  that what the Book says?” Jake looked his father in the eye. “Be thankful we’ll still be able to drive the tractor from one side all the way across the field to the other side.”

“Yeah, what’s left of it,” Jeremiah mumbled as he commenced to rocking. He looked out the window, through the porch at the front yard. “Hell, I don’t know what this world’s coming to.

Jake was reading another letter, silently. His attention riveted there, he said nothing, just nodded his head, looking down at the script on a letter from his aunt Polly in Foscoe.

“New Deal, I guess,” his father continued while Jake folded Polly’s letter and picked up another piece of mail.

“Yeah, Pa, I reckon it’s the New Deal. Did Sally say what time they’d be back?

“’bout four, I think she said.”

Pa had been pondering. “Son, did you know they posted that map at the courthouse?

Jake sighed. “Yeah, Pa, I knew about it. I went and looked at it on Friday when I was in town. Roby Watson told me about it while I was in Goodnight’s pickin’ up feed.”

“I guess you didn’t wanna tell me, huh?”

“Nah, pa, I just forgot about it.” Jake sat down in his easy chair. Now he was reading something else.

“You forgot about it.”

“Yeah, Pa.” Jake nodded his head slowly, preoccupied with his bank statement.

Jeremiah was rocking steadily now, as if he were relaxed and maybe resigning himself to whatever it was that was about to happen that would change the shape of the 67 acres he had inherited from his father back in 1910. “Seems a little strange to me, boy, you could forget about something as important as losing a quarter of our land.” No judgement in his voice. Just sayin’. Pa had calmed down from his earlier rant.

“I mean,” Jake looked up at his father again, smiling slightly. “I mean, I didn’t forget about it; I just forgot to tell you about it.”

“Uh huh.”

Jake’s expression morphed slowly  from concentration in his letter-reading, to a mild amusement. “Shootfire, Pa, there’s somethin’ else I forgot to tell you.

“Oh yeah?” His father allowed a mild chuckle. Mr. Roosevelt gonna bring us a hog or two as a consolation prize?

“Actually, it is kinda like that . . . maybe a peace offering. Uncle Skip told Roby he’d give me a job running one of them road graders.”

“On the new road?” Jeremiah’s voice acquired an even more amused tone.

“Yep.”

Jake’s father laughed. “Well, ain’t that a cat’s whisker! I seen it all now. The Parkway giveth and the Parkway taketh away,” he declared, playing upon some ancient proverb. Now he set the rocker into a steady pace. “And when’s that gonna start?”

“Coupla weeks, or something like that,” Jake replied. “They gotta finish that little bit of blasting over there near the highway. Then, Skip says, they’ll pretty much be ready to grade from Deep Gap all the way to Aho.”

“Well, I guess that’s good news for Uncle Sam, but it’ll blast the hell out of our peace and quiet around here with all that machinery and whatnot takin’ over this country.”

“Not takin’ over, Pa, just makin’ it easy for folks to come up here and spend money, after they lay the asphalt to it.”

“I reckon it will be easier for them rich folks down the mountain to come up here and ride around in their Cadillacs, like over in Blowin’ Rock.”

BlueRdgView

Yep. Coulda happened. . . maybe, maybe not. Long time ago . . . but we haven’t  yet totally obliterated our consciousness of the past with our contemporary obsession in social media and and political side-show antics. Not yet.

Blue 

Advertisements

Hey you unemployed, you shovel-ready?

June 5, 2015

Pat and I have been watching, on Amazon, Ken Burns’ documentary series about the Roosevelts (Teddy and Franklin and Eleanor and all them others in between). This morning I find myself wanting to share some thoughts about President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=ken+burns+roosevelt

FDR was a man for his time. He was, as we readers of the Bible like to say, a person who had been born “for such a time as this.”

“This” time being that time– the time that he was born into, and destined to have a great impact on: the 1930s.

Through the long course of Ken Burns’ biographical film-depiction of FDR, any viewer can ascertain many attributes of true leadership that Mr. Roosevelt manifested in his personality.

Most notable among those attributes is a thoroughly positive attitude: We can do this, he exuded, and we can do it with great joy and a good attitude. Watching the old newsreel clips of FDR I am reminded, strangely enough, of another great President, Ronald Reagan, who possessed a similarly positive outlook on life. Mr. Roosevelt’s jovial optimism also reminds me of the first pastor I ever had after becoming a Christian at age 27. That was a fellow named Tom Gable, about 35 years ago.

But Mr. Roosevelt’s unique leadership was not an attribute that was easily acquired. His gift of joyful positivism was shaped by God, through the terrible crucible of suffering. It was thereby crafted into a finely-honed treasure. His crucible of suffering was a disease: polio.

We all have, as we Christians say, our “cross to bear.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “cross” was a dreaded, debilitating disease.

I daresay if Mr. Roosevelt had had no such impediment– with as much class privilege and intelligence as he had going for him– he would have been as arrogant as the day is long, and his great leadership skills would never have been manifested in any truly effective way.

Just sayin’. No way to prove such a statement.

Smiling and displaying great confidence has a lot to do with this. Confidence in himself, of course, but more importantly, confidence in us.

Now I know that among my circle of friends, most of whom are conservative southerners generally espousing Republican principles, to admire Mr. Roosevelt, especially in a public way, is anathema, because he was, you know, the guy who got us going down the terrible road of socialism that eventually led to LBJ and Obama and our current entitlement-driven welfare state and so forth and so on.

But here’s the thought I want to explore on this beautiful Friday morning in June, 2015: Sure, Mr. Roosevelt was perhaps, a “socialist” by some definitions, but look what stupendous works got done  in the 1930s under his leadership: dams, rural electrification projects, conservation projects, millions of trees planted, post offices all over the country with artistic murals, bridges, roads. And in my neck of the woods here in North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway was built. Fifty years after that project, I worked on its final phase. I got hired in 1981 as a steel-tieing rodbuster. This was a job I took on– liberal arts college graduate that I am– for a few years, to feed my wife and young’uns back in the early days of our marriage, in order to complete the Parkway’s missing link, the Linn Cove Viaduct–the section that was never finished back in the ’30s–because it was in the shadow of rough, rocky Appalachian terrain, a mountain that we call, around here, Grandfather.

So there we were last night watching Ken Burns’ masterful documentary-style story-tellin’ about Roosevelt and the WPA, CCC, NRA, etc. And we see all those workin’ folks on them grainy old blackn’white newsreels. The workers were performing great feats of mastery over nature, staying busy and out of trouble, getting significant legacy edifices erected, while our great capital-breathing nation recovered from a blown-up 1920s Wall Street bubble. Sound familiar?

But here’s the thing. If you’ll look at all them old and young codgers on them newsreels back in the day, you can discern that they knew how to work.

“Shovel ready” is what I’m talking about. Literally, men– and many a woman too–knew how to use shovels back then. They knew how to do physical work, in order to construct all them great projects and assure future wilderness and national parks and so on and so forth, and in so doing, implant within our national heritage many great infrastructure and/or numerous national treasure wonders that are still with us today.

But here’s the rub. I don’t think folks these days are like those crusty Americans from back in the day. There’s no way we can do what they did.

That was then and this is now.

Back in the day, during the ’30s, fellas were just three steps off the farm anyway, and they knew how to really use a shovel. Workers these days are more likely to be texting or checking email on their mobile device while leaning on the shovel, and so I don’t see us really able to dig our way out of this hole we’re in.

So if there were a Roosevelt kind of person around today to lead us out of this mess, God only knows who it would be. I certainly see anyone like that on the horizon.

Mobile-device-ready doesn’t exactly carry the same weight as shovel-ready. Nevertheless. . .take a look around at America. While we are trying to find make-work for folks, what needs doin’?

 

Glass Chimera