Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Most They Ever Had by Rick Bragg

Oh boy, does Rick Bragg have a colloquial and Whitmanesque way with words! The Most They Ever Had (MacAdam/Cage, 2009) is an oral history/meditation on the lives of those who worked in the Alabama cotton mills, a way of life fast disappearing due to the vagaries of our global economy. Bragg does a real service by capturing the stories of these proud workers, so many dying early due to the lung diseases so common among "lintheads." A few generations ago when cotton began to be harvested by machines, former cotton pickers marched into the cotton mills where they worked their fingers to the bone for pennies. Often they owed money to the company store for food. People did what they had to do to get by, picking up coal from the railroad tracks, eating frogs and weeds. I found myself thinking that this book should be mandatory reading for all Americans, perhaps most especially politicians.
The Most They Ever Had (not much) sings of red dirt and Johnson grass, front porches, baseball, hunger, want and pure despair. Taking the music analogy a little further, this literary treasure of a book is bluegrass, the blues and country music all rolled into one big elegiac hymn. The loud machines that ruled the mill workers' lives are silent now, the buildings in ruins. Bragg captures a lost era just in time; most of the people profiled are near the end of their lives. He worried that no one would want to read this. A friend told him not to worry, saying "Well, it ain't a damn barn dance, is it? It's an American tragedy." I am so deeply touched and humbled by what I read here. Thank you, Rick Bragg. Come to think of it, I feel the same way about every book he has written.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Garden Shots, Spring 2013

That teeny tiny green dot is a newborn lemon! Last year this tree was attacked by leaf miners and lost all its blossoms, so we are overjoyed to get off to a better start this year.

This telephone pole in the corner of the yard used to be covered by an overgrown bush. When we tore out the bush, I felt called to decorate the pole. Now our eyes take in the metal flowers more than the pole.

Herbs including parsley, basil, sage and sorrel.

Belinda's Dream, a rose I prize for its fragrance.

Mostly succulents, in one corner of the patio.

Potted plants everywhere! I have more plants than sense. Every year I say I am going to cut back, but inevitably buy, receive, repot or propogate more.

This spring has been cool for Houston. I had to replant my zinnia seeds in the front yard after a run of cold days because I think the temperature change zapped their germination process. My sunflowers are tiny sprouts. I have trouble with critters eating the young sunflowers, and so have begun planting them in peat pots for a better start. We have about 4 varieties of tomatoes started, among them, as usual the dependable Juliet variety. I wish I had room for more vegetables, but my experiments with flowers tend to fill up most of the space, not to mention the weeds, especially clover. And everyday I find new acorn sprouots to pull up since the oaks produced a bumper crop in reaction to the drought of 2011. They were even sprouting on our roof in tiny amounts of fallen leaves and blown pollen gathered in gables, etc. I love climbing up on the roof, not so much for the required maintenance, but for the views. I imagine one of these years I am going to have to stop doing that and hire help. But for the time being, yard work of all kinds is part of my exercise routine and I am happy to putter away in the everchanging landscapes there.