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Saturday, December 11, 2010


caterpillar in the window

Just now off the phone talking with my friend Pat, who lives "upstate" New York near the Massachusetts border. Where she lives is rural with gravel roads, one stoplight in the town, no fast foods outlets, country town, Hillsdale. They are getting from NYC a tsunami of the rich with second houses, places way up in the millions, like we are getting from Charlotte, Raleigh and Florida. They are now overrun with people who believe they own everyone else because they have more money than anybody. They want something "to do" in the town for a shopping respite from watching television in their vacation homes. Everything she told me about what has happened to the community as a result---no more community---was familiar. The people who live there can't afford their taxes now that the land value has gone sky high because some Hollywood hotdog built a $13million house. Squeezing out the people whose land has been their home for generations. To everything she was saying, I was saying, 'Yep, it's the same thing here.'

I've recently finished a book about the Comanche Indians of the west Texas, Oklahoma plains, their ways of living, the first Indians to use horses after the conquistadors brought them from Spain and wished they hadn't even brought themselves. About the time the first white family took up outside the protection of the trees of eastern Texas, the Comanches raided, killed some, took some, took the horses, making off with a white girl they adopted into the tribe and she became one of them. By her Comanche husband she had a boy, Quanah, who became known as Quanah Parker, as his mother's family name was Parker. While Quanah is growing up, the white menace came in with genocide in mind and succeeded. It was a white tide that pushed the Indians out of the way, killing them with guns and disease, wiping out nearly the entire population of the North American continent. It was a constant squeezing them out of existence. For the last century the heirs of the unfortunate Indians that survived are kept in concentration camps called reservations policed by the FBI. They are still the enemy in the mind of the American government. Ask Leonard Peltier.

Reading that period of time, the last half of the 19th century, the steady reduction of the Comanche population, especially after the massacre of all the buffalo. Half a dozen years ago, or thereabout, April Holcomb Joines wrote a long letter to the editor in the Alleghany News likening how mountain people are being squeezed out of their county, losing control of their county, by the white tide of suburbanites fleeing the darker element in the cities. This is not a judgment of the people themselves, but seeing a pattern in the process. More advanced technology, like the Colt .45, pushed the Indians off their homeland of a long string of generations. The mountain people are being pushed off the mountain by needing the money, unable to make enough to pay property taxes, forced by necessity to shop at Walmart for everything. Since 1980 grocery prices have tripled, gas has tripled, everything else has too, like property taxes, and the working man's pay has stayed the same.

The progression of pushing mountain people off their mountains has one possible end. The mountain people that remain will be the ones that mow lawns and do service work for the rich, people who can't afford to own property working for minimum wage or slightly more, renting lots in trailer parks. What's left of the mountain people will be concentrated in trailer parks full of poverty and all that goes with it; fights, drugs, killings, the people always in court. Higher technology killed the Indians; money is killing the mountain people. Like the Indians had no defense against the white tide, the mountain people have no defense against the exurbanite tide.
I don't mean that's the only possible end, because I don't know. But if things continue as they have been the last 30 years, it will. And it's not going to change except in progress along that line. I sometimes think only a really serious Depression can save the mountains for the mountain people. I like to think my projection could not be the case, though the Indians liked to think their extermination would come to an end before they were all gone. Some of them made it. I am glad that I will be going out with the very last generation of the old-time mountain people, the people who are the last hairs on the tip of the tail of mountain culture, glad that I won't have to live long enough to see mountain culture replaced by suburban television culture.


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