The Charlotte News

Monday, December 23, 1940



Site Ed. Note: A sustained chord, this day's pieces--a basso continuo...

Perhaps some felt in those days of dark December that Mr. Cash himself was indulging the 14-cent wine; perhaps some still felt so later, even as late as say 1991, maybe still do. Yet, since Mr. Cash's German-Scotch-Irish mother was a tee-totaler and he was not so rebellious as some tried to make him out to be, we doubt it--though some for their own purposes, perhaps, having been amply tipped for the venture, may feel free to disagree.

For when one reads today in December, 2003 the message conveyed by Mr. Cash two days before Christmas, 1940 in both "Little Hints" and "Full Flower", not to mention "Old Tale" and "Cotton Hunt", one can see a man obsessed not with cheap wine, but with a sustained chord of peace, of equitable treatment for his fellows-- not something, those of good will would likely agree, with which anyone should disagree or find the least bit unstable or the result of being given too much to the drinking of wine or moonshine. Or for which one should have been bound for the booby-hatch, or executed in Mexico City and sent home to his family in a little urn as surely the mercurial messenger, without whom all would be well in a peaceful world co-existing with the little Nazis...

The tale is an old one, indeed, when one reads the lines of the story out of Rochester from December, 1940: "And even the topless towers of Manhattan have no guarantee." What on earth was Cash speaking of in 1940 and why? What on earth would an earthquake have to do with all of this, here on the east coast where everyone knows earthquakes don't occur? What, the former cotton lands in and around Raleigh and Chapel Hill and Durham? What on earth did he mean by the change and readjustment which would have to come to those of the deeper South in becoming used to the scene without King Cotton? What on earth Amadeus and his delighting in the dance of the lice on the child's head of the future Queen of France? What on earth? We cannot understand this chord. Mr. Cash, no doubt, was simply too much into his wine this Christmas.

Yet, when we think on the sixty-three years of history since these editorials hit fresh print in the daily, we must pause to wonder a little about what world we have been driven to by the Nazi, both the Nazi of the 1930's and early 40's and the nazi mind which preceded in other parts of the world and that which has proceeded despite the readjustment after the Nazi was vanquished finally on a late April day in Berlin in 1945. What did we bury in our ground in the 1950's and later in those former cotton lands, with the enthusiastic notion that it was all necessary for the readjustment in an uneasily cold world inhabited by the Communist, every bit as dangerous as that of the former Nazi? And what secrecy went with it, those burials in the ground, secrecy which destroyed many of our own best citizens at times? All to provide a better standard of living for all, after all. And why does some of it seem to persist, at least in certain Administrations, even a decade and more after the Communist has been vanquished or, more appropriately, went the way of his own tyrannical self-destruction in Europe?

Do our fault planes still have buried in them yet the secret which will one day turn our spinning mass, which annually cycles between its furthest distance from the sun into darkness and that which forever nevertheless somehow gravitationally turns its whirling mass of mercurial misery and mirth back toward the light in each yearly spin, this green and blue and whitish-cotton misted ovate mass, into a cold-dark, cragged globule of molten lead and lava--one no longer spinning back to the light but rather in a dead-ball hurling, whirling itself through the universe toward some other more perfect world sought in the furthest reaches it could unsteadily reach beyond itself but never found or realized--in cold, silent testimony to its most predatory and will-oriented inhabitants' failure to see the miracle of both the light and the dark which is in each redundant cycle and discern from it the eternal mystery through faith in each repetitive dance through the unfathomable mists in which we all ride? Will they who seek only the Day of Today, and fail to learn of the Night, learn the great lesson--that it all must be passed, as we, good stewards, must in each progressive generation, to the next for those who come in what even may appear to some as the penultimate cycle, nevertheless, to learn the lesson better, both the light and the dark, and so to enjoy it as we have tried, with good will to all?

Once, on one day, we had occasion to see the firm earth turn to sandy mush in an instant beneath our feet, just above such a fault plane. We had just wheeled along a concrete skyway--a thing ultimately inspired by the Nazi--and were somehow set by some seeming discerning fate to take one direction to the left on the clear way, rather than sitting, ever sitting, in the lane to the right, the one stuck between the bases, and which would but a few minutes later be crushed by Nature's most unfaltering slip-felling blow, down to the ground in a mass of Portland dust and unburied, demortared stone and burning rubber and jagged steel, that which had been unearthly strong and straight and capable of carrying great hefty loads of perfectly molded, curved lines of Detroit and Stuttgart, Stockholm and Tokyo, Milan and Turin, all riding the fully rounded, deep treaded mass grasping warm hard surfaces only moments before in what had seemed a good year until then. And, when we found the close way cut off by sheered rivets of the silver bridge on the road on which we had come, we then went up top to one of the highest knobs of the City to find our way back home yet another way, and there saw the sunset clouds of smoke and fiery orange pyres burning the earth-filled Panama part on the horizon to the right. So we took the straight road down, the one unpopulated in the center of the frame, the one next to the backed-up right, all set before us as if out of Brady's silver ghostly slides of old. And we crossed the orange bridge, called "Golden", effortlessly then on to Richmond and to the freedom of the next day set to go 'round again. Not all would have the same fate that day in that locality. Not all. But those who stayed still there still talk to us, yet--for we were spared, without rhyme or reason. Just as they talk always to the spared who will listen. And they tell us things of life and death, tomorrow and yesterday, that is, when we listen. For otherwise, what purpose was there to their sitting in the right lane still, between the bases, while we passed by to the left unfettered by those ahead, crashing, ever crashing, onward, homeward, and so to be granted pass across the bridge and to the freedom of the next attempt at day? The concrete skyway, the one inspired by the Nazi, fell that autumn afternoon, a testimony to man's unstable building of unstable things in an unstable world--one which only seems tough and firm beneath our feet as we stride unthinkingly upon it as each day turns away to night--until it moves and turns suddenly to mush somewhere down deep, way down where we can't see the molten stuff flying ever upward toward us. And some survive the day and some do not--without any apparent rhyme or reason. But yet, even those who didnít survive the day still talk to us.

Ah well, what us worry of the night? The Day belongs to us.

For more on Pastor Niemoeller, as commented upon in "Old Tale", see "Ingenuous Hermann", March 15, 1938.

God rest ye, merry gentlemen and the night and in the day.

14-Cent Wine

A Cheap and Handy Beverage On Which To Get Drunk

Tom Fesperman's 14-cent-wine story in Sunday's News, despite the entertaining way in which it was written, was primarily a sociological study. It showed that a law passed by the Legislature to encourage the drinking of a lighter alcoholic beverage as a substitute for the harder, headachy stuff had actually worked out so that the substitute was proving a menace in its own right.

One reason is the cheapness of the drink--14 cents a half-pint, 24 cents a pint, with a penny tax more in each case. Another is the ease with which it may be bought. Any cafe, piccolo joint or grocery store may sell it.

What it comes down to is a cheap and handy means of getting drunk, drunk on the vilest concoction, raw and sweetish. A pint of wine of about 40 proof is nearly equivalent to a half pint of whiskey, and a half pint of whiskey is a load, messires, especially when gulped down a-purpose.

It's too bad, for wine was meant to be a factor for temperance. But it looks as though there is no help for this intolerable misuse of it, save for the Legislature to reverse itself and classify fortified wines along with Red-Eye, forbidding the sale of it except in ABC stores and then only at such prices and of such quality as to sharply curtail its use.

Little Hints

That Not Even Our Part Of the World Is Quite Safe

At Rochester, N. Y., a mechanic turned the wrong valve and unfiltered water from the river poured into the city reservoirs in great quantities before the error was discovered and rectified. Result is that the health department there reports that water is highly contaminated with the typhoid bacillus and thousands of people are having to submit to the unpleasant business of being inoculated against the disease.

It sort of gives you the shivers to think about it. An epidemic was headed off that time--probably. But it might not have been, and the whole city might have suffered a dreadful scourge.

In the whole east from New Jersey to Montreal, meanwhile, the earth was quivering. Likely, not heavily as it did in Rumania recently. But below the surface a fault plane was slipping--a fault plane running through the whole east. It wasn't likely to slip very dangerously, for those who had studied it. But possibly it might. An earthquake is always at least as ultimately unpredictable as a wild horse or a woman. And even the topless towers of Manhattan have no guarantee.

A complex and highly unstable world this which man has built, you see, even in the parts of it where a bomb or shell isn't likely to crash in on him at any moment. And an equally unstable one nature has built to begin with. If you thought about it very much, indeed, then you might well begin to go about dismayed--so dismayed that they'd probably have you ticketed for the booby hatch before long. But most of us are so made that we spend practically no time thinking about it. Which is just as well.

Full Flower

Nazi Philosophy Reaches Its Final Development

Sunday morning the Nazi bombs fell exclusively on tenement houses in London. The planes flew very low and it seems likely that the pilots reached the objective for which, by the light of flares, they were searching. Of what happened the Associated Press reported in part:

Men and women who a little while before had been singing carols and exchanging Christmas puddings and candy stood dumbly among the ruins.

"It came like a hammer blow," one man said. "My wife and I were out in the kitchen fixing some food. Inside they were singing 'God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.' and and laughing and shouting. Suddenly we heard that awful swoosh of a falling bomb. Thank God my kids are in the country with their grandmother.

"There's what's left of the party," he said with a gesture at the broken homes.

It is a sort of epitome and summation of the Nazi philosophy, the Nazi Word made flesh. And it is the ideal which will hereafter dominate the minds of men and boys if Hitler wins. To sneak out in the dark, to hunt out the homes of the poor and helpless, to murder little people as they sing of "peace on earth, good will to men"--if there be any left who still sing it--that will be the highest glory of the Christmas season in the Nazi world.

Old Tale

Which Is Recalled by Some Names in the Papers

The little boy had a very big name for so small and delicate a fellow. Johannes Chysostamus Wolfgang Theophilus--all that they had fastened upon him at his christening, apparently with the favor of the whole saints' calendar in mind. And the little girl was one day to make a famous figure in a tumbril in Paris.

But now the little boy had played very prettily on the clavichord for all the great people at the great queen's dinner. And as a reward they let him kiss the little girl who would someday be briefly Queen of France. And then to stand back of her--for he was after all only a servant like another, though he would someday compose Don Giovanni and the Requiem Mass and 600-odd other great and beautiful and delicate works--and be handed a morsel now and then.

Meanwhile he could amuse himself by counting the lice as they hopped cheerfully through the great court wig the little girl wore as befitted her station as a Princess of Austria. And the great court wigs of all the great ladies near at hand. The glare of the candelabrae excited the lice and made them merry, and you could see them plain as they ran and played. And the little boy smiled delightedly and did not think at all of the day when he would pass to his own famous but unknown grave with no mourners save a little cur dog, wet and shivering in the gray rain.

We were reminded of the old half-legendary story by seeing the name of Mozart in a church music program for Christmas. And looking further we found not only other Austrian names but those of north Germans, including George Frederick Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach, most of whom were very near to being Prussians by birth. It is a pleasant thing to observe at the season, for it means that so far at least the senseless, undifferentiating fury of the last war has not mastered us. And reminds us that there was after all another Germany than that of the Nazi monster. And that there is still another Germany, for that matter--as witness the 200,000 to 800,000 people, with Pastor Niemoeller at their head, who endure the tortures of the Nazi concentration camp rather than surrender the faith that is in them. It is for these and for all those they represent that the great German creators of beauty spoke and continue to speak.

Cotton Hunt

A Lady Takes a Journey And Finds Out Something

Louis Graves tells the story in the Chapel Hill Weekly. Miss Julia Graves was making up a package to send to some of her friends in the North, thought it would be pleasant to include a few bolls of cotton. Her Negro maid assured her that there was plenty of it out on the Raleigh Road. But when she rode out to find it, it wasn't there. It wasn't on the main road or the side roads all the way to Durham.

"I never thought I could drive 25 or 30 miles around Chapel Hill and never see a sign of cotton," said Miss Julia.

One sympathizes with Miss Julia's astonishment and her nostalgic regret. The cotton field, with the Negroes singing their sad songs, was the symbol of the old South. In the high plantation days the culture of the plant even extended into Virginia, and the Virginians could sing "Carry Me Back" without indulging too much in fiction. But the King began to move away to the southwest long ago, where they can grow it more cheaply.

And after that it began to move out of the South altogether and take refuge in foreign lands.

And so it is probably a good thing that cotton cannot be found growing between Chapel Hill and Durham. It probably means that the farmers up that way are already making a readjustment to changed conditions--which many others farther south still have to make in the end.

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