The Charlotte News

Monday, August 7, 1939


Site Ed. Note: We thought we would provide you with a little 1939 summer color from a regular on the News editorial page, syndicated humorist and later war correspondent, Ernie Pyle. Mr. Pyle's unadorned stories of personal observation as to both events and the day to day travails of the field soldier became legendary both with the morale of the soldiers themselves and the folks back home. His writing earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1944, before his death to Japanese machine gun fire on Ie Shima April 18, 1945, a mere three and a half months to war's end in the Pacific.

In his last never-finished piece found in his pocket at his death, he rejoices reservedly at the news of the end of the European war which he had covered for two and a half years, before coming to the Pacific theater seven months earlier. At the end, he waxed philosophic and elegiac on the staring memories of death:

...But there are many of the living who have had burned into their brains forever the unnatural sight of cold dead men scattered over the hillsides and in the ditches along the high rows of hedge throughout the world.

Dead men by mass production--in one country after another--month after month and year after year. Dead men in winter and dead men in summer.

Dead men in such familiar promiscuity that they become monotonous.

Dead men in such monstrous infinity that you come almost to hate them.

These are the things that you at home need not even try to understand. To you at home they are columns of figures, or he is a near one who went away and just didn't come back. You didn't see him lying so grotesque and pasty beside the gravel road in France.

We saw him, saw him by the multiple thousands. That's the difference.

Cuckoo River

By Ernie Pyle

Kayenta, Ariz.--One of the most astonishing sites in this astonishing country down here is what they term the "Goose Necks of the San Juan."

That isn't a very good term, for the thing resembles a goose's neck about as much as mine does. Which probably isn't a subject we should get into.

This thing is a sort of a drunken edition of the Grand Canyon. I should show you better by drawing a picture, if I only had a pencil.

At any rate, in this one place near Mexican Hat and San Juan River travels six whole miles just to advance one mile. It loops back and forth, as evenly as though the loops had been made by machine.

You can stand at the lookout point to look down, and right there in front of you, you can see the river flowing toward you twice, and away from you twice. The Canyon at this point is a quarter mile down.

They tell a story about an old Mormon who came down and looked at it. Although the Mormons are intensely religious, a favorite old-time expression is "My Hell!"

So this old Mormon rode up to the lookout point, and stood there gazing awhile, and then he said "My Hell! Where did all them rivers come from?"


Another weird phenomenon at Mexican Hat is none other than Mexican Hat, if you can figure that one out. Maybe I'd better help you.

The settlement of Mexican Hat got its name from a queer rock formation just a couple miles away. It is a huge flat rock, unbelievably balanced on a pedestal, on top of a great cone-shaped butte. Silhouetted against the sky, it looks exactly like a Mexican's big hat upside-down. How it balances there without falling off is more than I can tell you.

You can see it plainly from the road, and for miles around. You'd guess that it might be ten feet across the brim. Actually it is 70 feet, and you can build a house up there. In case you'd like to build, just dial "0" on your telephone and I'll send a man right out.

All through this country, the white men roll their cigarettes. But not out of flake tobacco in sacks, as cowboys do. Out of pipe tobacco, in cans. I couldn't find out why.


In Monticello I bought a plain blue workshirt for 89 cents. It was a little too big, so one night we decided to shrink it.

My friend had to wash out his shirt, so he volunteered to do mine too. He dipped them good, wrung them out, and then hung them on a chair out on the porch.

He was up long ahead of me next morning. When I got up I walked around the bed, and almost jumped out of my skin at what I saw. For standing there on the floor, standing right straight up all by itself, was my shirt. It was as hard as a board, and full of a million wrinkes, like a mummy. It really looked like some animated thing that had died.

We don't know yet what made the shirt turn to stiff. My friend thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen. He had written a note, and pinned it to the shirt. The note said:

"This shirt is the product of the Shaffer New Shirt Softening Process--Let Us Soften Your New Shirts--The SNSSP."

I think I'll have to throw it away. The shirt, not the note.

Just after you leave Bluff, Utah, there is a big white and black sign of the Utah State Road Commission, with this heartening message on it:

"Fifty-one miles of narrow road, steep grades and unbridged washes. Dangerous when in Flood. Be Carefull."

It scares you so badly you can even excuse their poor spelling.

Forty of Mr. Pyle's columns are available at the University of Indiana School of Journalism.

L. C. D.

34 Gozinto $522,440,402 Some 15,000,000 Times

When Congress authorizes an expenditure, it doesn't necessarily mean that the money will be spent as soon as some executive department can put an order in. Rearmament, for instance. Congress appropriates so many hundred millions for so many airplanes or battleships.

They all can be built within the next fiscal year, and so the more than $13,000,000,000 of appropriations the Congress authorized this session will not be fully expended until the next two or three years.

Matter of fact, sums in the multiple billions are incomprehensible, anyhow. They defy the imagination, like infinity and what's-up-yonder and where-you-came-from. The only way for an ordinary citizen to take in this fiscal extravaganza called the New Deal is to break years and billions down into familiar terms, such as days and millions.

Since this fiscal year began on July 1, until the latest report of the Treasury for August 3, 34 days (counting Sundays and holidays too) had elapsed. In those 34 days the Government had spent $910,530, 921. That is $522,440,402 more than it took in. Or $15,000,000 a day more than it took in.

Site Ed. Note: Whether this one is by Cash is a toss-up. The style resembles his, but the punctuation, his having always been within the quotation marks of phrases, names, or individual words, is different. Just which, incidentally, is "correct", this 'un we use or that "style," is of little consequence nor long remembered, but we like the logical form to distinguish quotations which contain within the quoted matter the aboriginal punctuation from that where it is added to the quotation by the quoter, even if it doesn't look quite as pretty maybe, all hung out to dry like that beyond the "hash marks", not safely insular from the cruel, encroaching new world of next-sentence or clause, phrasal or phrasial intrusion. So there. Have it as you wish. We won't lose any sleep over it. regardless,

Dog Star*

That Old Sirius Cooks Up Extravagant Charges

The bad temper on display in the closing session of Congress had probably better be charged off to the score of ragged nerves on account of the heat and exhaustion. Else it would be nearly as ominous as one Senator made it out to be. For democracy is essentially a process of compromise in reasonable temper.

Senator Pepper began the immediate fracas with his charges that the Anti-New Deal Senators were "renegades" who had been bought by the National Manufacturers Association, the National Chamber of Commerce, etc., etc., etc. But that itself was a reply in-kind to the charge which the Anti-New Dealers have constantly made on the floor of the Senate during the session, that the New Dealers have "sold out" to the Reds, or at least the Pinks.

All this adds up to a loss of perspective, which would, as we say, be ominous if it were not for the probability that by Fall the boys will have grown less jittery. There has been too much partisanship and personal rancor on one side and blind loyalty on the other in this session of Congress. The bad judgment and bad temper do not add up to lack of integrity or "sell outs."

There's plenty of room for honest difference of opinion in the dispute which has been waging. Naturally enough, men of conservative opinion line themselves up with conservative forces in general, and naturally enough men of liberal or radical opinion line themselves up with forces of their own type. Naturally, too, both play to those forces for all the political advantage they can get out of it.

But that is a very different thing from saying that they have been "bought". Indeed, to say that any considerable number of the Senators had been or could be "bought" would be to say that there is no longer any question of "saving democracy": democracy would already have failed if that were so.

In Red Mexico

Boss Cardenas' Proposal Sounds Like U.S. Law

Mr. Donald Richberg, another Brain Truster whom business easily proselyted from the New Deal, isn't getting anywhere in his long negotiations with the Mexican Government on behalf of the owners of oil companies whose properties were expropriated.

Boss Cardenas' latest proposals are in substance, that the companies be permitted to come back and operate their wells with the "collaboration" of the Mexican authorities, wage-scales and salaries to be "adequate," the Government to get its cut in the form of tax revenue, the companies to get a "fair return" that the Government itself will fix, and the properties to revert to the State at the end of something like 50 years.

Mr. Richberg, speaking for his principals, isn't interested. We don't blame him.

Yet, it is worth noting how similar Mexico's proposition is to United States law governing the operation of hydro-electric plants under Federal license. The Federal Power Commission is authorized to lay down the rules under which the company must do business. After 20 years the commission fixes rates and assumes entire authority over the licensee's finances, meanwhile charging an annual fee to cover the cost of administration.

And after 50 years the FPC may take over the property by paying a net-investment price that it can have pretty largely thanks to its own satisfaction by means of its control over amortization and finances.

In A Walk

Charlotte Wins A Title With Plenty To Spare

Ten murders in July. Such is Charlotte's record.

So far as we recall, it is an all-time high even for a town which back in 1936 chalked up 54 murders in a year. And, though we haven't checked the latest figures, you may write it right down in your hat that it entitles the town to the proud boast of being in that month of July the most murderous town in the United States--in the world for that matter, since the United States in general far outstrips all other contenders.

Consider. If bad, wicked old Chicago had performed at the same rate, she would have had 350 murders in July! For she has at least 35 times the population of Charlotte. And that lurid old town on the Hudson would have had 700 in the month.

Actually Chicago averages about 160 a year. New York about 300.

More than that, we have clearly and deftly taken the crown away from Atlanta, the only serious contender we have had for years. We already had in the first six months. And we bet you that Atlanta didn't count ten in July.

They were all Negroes, of course, these victims and killers. And so it doesn't matter? And that explains it? Just some bad Negroes acting like bad Negroes? Maybe. But it doesn't explain to us how other Southern towns, with a far greater proportion of Negroes, universally have a lower rate than Charlotte--why Columbia, for instance, has one which is only one-fourth as great as ours, why even wicked Memphis kills only half so easily as we.

Much Alive

A Lynching Turns Out To Be Non-Existent

Along back in the early days of July, we got a communication from Jessie Daniel Ames, Secretary of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, in which, cannily confessing she didn't have absolute proof, she expressed some suspicions that the "statistical agencies which give out the number of lynchings annually and semi-annually" weren't always as careful about their facts as they might be.

For one thing, they were inclined to include the "violent death of the Negro at the hands of one white man as a lynching." Thus, of the four "lynchings" reported by Tuskegee Institute for the first six months of 1939, one had certainly been committed by one man, another by a gang of three or four men, and in a third the evidence seemed to suggest murder more than lynching.

But if the lady was in doubt then, she hasn't remained that way. As a result of investigation instigated by her, one of the four "lynchings" has turned out to be totally non-existent. Charlie Williams, 33-year-old Negro, reported by Tuskegee as having been lynched at Woodcliff, Ga., on March 11, has been found alive, working in a fertilizer plant at Savannah and cheerfully contemptuous of the report that he had been lynched!

We have no disposition to blame Tuskegee unduly. It took the story of the lynching from a Negro newspaper, of course assumed its good faith and authenticity. Nevertheless, more care should be exercised to keep the record straight. It helps nothing to confuse terms and make the South's lynching record worse than it actually is.


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