The Charlotte News

Tuesday, December 12, 1939


Site Ed. Note: The piece this date from Mr. Broun may be an entrance to what it is like to be dying, at least of pneumonia. Or, it may be a simple epiphany which happened to precede by a week or so his death of same. The epiphany perhaps being that, after a certain period of life, and the viewing of the many wars between man, both those near and afar, foreign and domestic, today and yesterday, one grows weary, even disgusted with all of the war. And so, one tries to regain the magic which once was youth, that state where war was a thing which one merely blithely accepted as something by which many of the adults gain their fodder for each day that passes in warfare. It would be awfully boring on tv or radio or in the newspaper, after all, not to have some war, big or small, on which to cogitate each day, now wouldn't it? So, perhaps Mr. Broun found the perfect anodyne--find that vicarious thrill of rooting for one side or the other by rooting for the violence of nature itself, the wind versus the trees swaying in the breeze in his own backyard. That's a war, after all, in which everyone may join and pretty much be on the same side.

Not too long ago we had a funny experience. April it was. A freakish whirlwind came through our yard and uprooted a tall pine. The pine fell into the parking zone, missing our vehicle by inches--a foot here, a degree there, and boom, bam, boom, 'twould no more vehicle have been. We had parked it oddly for odd reasons--just something said to us that this was the way to do it and so, being of age, we obeyed.

Once, in 1970, we were piloting our little blue vehicle home from the shop, just after Christmas. Just afore Christmas, it had thrown its piston through the top of the combustion chamber--bam. All in a blink.

We had been to see the Big Four play in Greentown. There were devils, and wolves, and demons and lots of blue heels. It was scary. Screaming and yelling and vicious insults being hurled back and forth, back and forth.

But the blue heels must have won, for we were in a good mood afterwards.

Then, bam, coming down the hill toward the lake, we were stopped abruptly on a winter's evening; chilly, too, it was, though not snowy.

So, being without a horse, we caught a ride with a samaritan, a folksy samaritan, who had, cavalierly, come down the fast road on the wrong side to pick us up. That gave us pause, as you might imagine, to consider whether it was august such that we ought accept the eleemosynary gesture which this, the samaritan, had offered, and by it permit his gesture to carry us very far. But, what were we to do, freeze to death? So, we obliged and accepted his turn, though endorsed to us in a most unconventional manner, being positioned, as he was, at the wrong side of the fast road, as might a Britisher, foreign to the locale, unacquainted with the correct customs of the roadway--which, we hasten to add, he was not, British, that is, though foreign might well describe his state at the time. He said he hailed from Virginia. We had no reason to doubt it.

So, we caught the samaritan's ride, a whirlwind it was. Somehow, we avoided uprooting any trees though, as we rooted the whole way for the samaritan to ride safely, on this very cold night in December.

He wanted to know all the hot spots in town, wherein he might find the strength garnered from devils and demons and wolves, and other sordid fiends. Well, we didn't know of such things and so we told him so, being still in the place of daily learning, after all. He thought that very humorous, a kind of tangy spooneristic, demonic sort of sound, not really laughter in its usual sense but only something nearly approximating it, having then issued from him in guttural tones befitting a samaritan as if he wore a diadem, which gave him license to do all which his mind conceived--after which his questioning ceased.

So, he dropped us by the place where there was a telephone from which we could place a telephone call--not very far from the drive-in picture locale in which we had seen many moving pictures in the nighttime, ones of varying quality and content, some in black and white, others in technicolor.

And, while we waited there for the tow truck, the man at the desk informed us that he was glad we were not one of them.

We did not exactly know what he meant. We inquired, "What, sir, do you mean?"

Upon our inquiry, he retorted, "You know, them--jiggerboos!"

"Oh," we replied, "them."

"Come in here all the time wanting to use my phone."

We were too faint of heart to ask him to whom they might be calling and on what subject they might be of wont to discuss in his little inn of proprietary sanctitude.

We, being inclined to more propitiatory sanctuary, wished quickly for departure, lest he might decide eventually that we were in fact them, in which case we felt it likely that we would be evacuated instanter into the frothy, embittering tomb which was imparted to the marrow by the hoarfrost of that December night.

Mercifully, none too soon, the wrecker came upon the clearing and transported our blue vehicle to the shop.

Thus came the homeward journey after its piston was repaired, shortly after Christmas next.

The journey wasn't far, really, just across town, a few miles. But, our mama, being ever watchful for danger, insisted that we follow the route away from the fast road. We would take the slow path homeward. (We had informed our mama of the journey to the garage, of course, and in some detail.)

"Oh, mother," we protested. "Why should we not proceed along the fast road, rather than the old folks' road? We've much to do and so little time in which to do it."

But she insisted in a most unusually persistent manner. "No, son, let us go on the slow path today until you have tested your vehicle."

"But, it is fixed, mother. What more would you have?"

Finally, though we were prone to our own independent will much of the time in these days, we gave in to her insistent tone. We followed the slow path; according to her instructions, through our old village we were to go, to get home, rather than via the fast road, which would have bypassed all that scenery, to get there, home, that is.

Well, as we were going along on the road, the slow path, with our mama following in the vehicle behind, her new vehicle, we noticed that the vehicle in which we were posited felt most peculiar, like a boat upon the sea, swaying this way and that, undulating up and down, most peculiarly. Most very peculiarly.

We slowed down to a pace not to our usual liking. Very, very slow.

This was on the street they call Coliseum.

Then, upon our arrival at the intersection, at the end of Coliseum, we turned right, onto Robin Hood.

Then quickly, as we reached the crossroads, a very gray crossroads, across onrushing traffic into Avalon did we turn left, right into our old village.

Just having made this left turn, the right front wheel came off the vehicle. We were most surprised by this turn of events.

We exited the vehicle, having just come through and cleared by a few feet the busy intersection before the misadventure had occurred, and walked around the front of the vehicle to view what had happened to the vehicle. The wheel had separated itself from the hub of the vehicle, that is to say, the hub being still bolted to the drum, attached by its pin to the axle, but the rim of the wheel, normally molded tight to the hub, being now in a state completely separated and torn away from its inner casting.

"Oh my," we exclaimed. "Look at that, would you."

We did not say it then, but we did think it: mama must be from some distant place to have known that afore it happened and to have been sufficiently perspicacious to have directed us unusually persistently upon the slow path as opposed to the fast one, that day, until we had tested our vehicle after its passage through the shop. Must be, somehow.

About four months afterward, in the morning, we were piloting our vehicle, this time with no one following, it now having a new right wheel, to the place of daily learning. We were wont always to get to this place right on time, so as to be not tardy, not a minute too soon, not a minute too late.

But this day, we experienced yet again, as we came down the hill on the road they call Stratford, that same undulating, river-like ride.

"Oh, no. Avaunt thee, fitch, the kitsch-wheeled onion fries," we thought to ourselves. "Not again this mischance. We shall, mayhap, be late and suffer then terrible demerits from our credit."

But, nevertheless, again, having the perspicacity now, accumulated from recent prior experience fresh within our heads, and hearing the words whispered yet again from our mama, we slowed down, and, despite that we would likely become late, nurturing our normal sway to go forthwith in celerity, rather than becoming oh so very late, we came to proceed very, very, very slowly now.

Sure enough, just as we rounded the corner, within one block of the place of daily learning, right in front of the church, the left wheel broke off the hub, same mode of rip as before, different wheel.

"Oh my," we exclaimed. "Look at that, same as before, different wheel."

"But, at least we got to the place of daily learning," we mused to ourselves contemplatively.

So we left our vehicle until the end of the day and changed the wheel to the spare and proceeded home to tell our mama of our further adventure with the wheels.

Later on, our mama confided that she seemed to recall that the vehicle, which used to be her own, had been recalled at some time much earlier by the automobile manufacturer, that being the one then headed up by Mr. Romney, for weak wheels. We were glad that our mama remembered that.

This was truly a rambling and American experience, to be sure. And we were most glad we listened to our mama and proceeded through it slowly. Else, we might not be able this evening to relate to you in this fashion.

We have always thought though that perhaps the engine drop onto the axle from the hoist, after the chains broke, at the shop, of which they didn't bother to inform us, of which they maintained instead surreptitiously at the garage, probably contributed something to the fact that each wheel separately, in seriatim, appearing at first to be quite independent of anything but pure fate, broke from inner hub, four months apart, in that curious manner, that is each wheel coming off each of the opposing hubs, as before the engine was repaired, this had never occurred before with this vehicle.

But maybe that was because we were one of them.

Who knows?

Jessie Daniel Ames, referenced in "Point Proved", wrote Cash several letters over time praising The Mind of the South, as well as his dedicated editorializing against lynching through the years. For an expanded view of his "best people" theory, see "North Carolina Faces Facts", August 29, 1935, from the Baltimore Evening Sun.

Also, Mr. Eure served longer in office than any other functionary in the history of the republic. (We just thought we would pass on that bit of arcanum.)

Well, sock it to 'em, old Zephyrus.

Joshua Obeys

By Heywood Broun

I've been reading Conrad lately. While he was still alive much of his appeal escaped me. Now I know I was all wrong. The short novels, or long short stories as you will, are things to sit up with during white nights when sleep eludes you. And if it doesn't catch up from midnight until train time you are still a winner.

By favorite stage management I had hit on Youth. It wasn't altogether a coincidence. I just washed down my birthday, and I was endeavoring to console myself by saying, "Oh, 51 isn't so old. Think of Rockefeller and John Nance Garner."


And so I took up Youth. You may remember that it blows like the devel all through this truncated narrative. Masts come down on every other page, and the sailors are constantly at the pumps to keep the ocean in the estate of transient. And while this was going on somewhere west of Singapore the local weather in Connecticut was putting on quite a show entirely on its own.

I've had two hurricanes on my hands, one in Florida and the other back home in Stamford. They do not amuse me. After gales of such dimensions I come up with hangovers, since there is nothing to match rye in tempering the wind for the frightened lamb.

But the orchestration which Long Island Sound provided for Conrad's narrative was all to the good. When the gale got up to the pace of 60 miles an hour it made a somewhat fearsome whistling echo. But every time the roof groaned as if it were minded to sail away to the frog pond I would look back to the Conrad text again and comfort myself with the thought that I was far better off than the sailors on such a night. If the roof cared to go stepping I was under no obligation to keep it company.


And in spite of the boisterousness of the breeze the stars were snapping in every corner of the sky. Planets, either in constellation or retail, always touch and stimulate my better nature. I'm pretty sore at some guy, and I say to myself, "There's a creep if I ever saw one." But then I remember how many light-years must roll around before the beam from the nearest star will put a twinkle on the lake behind the kitchen porch. "Be your cosmic age," I interject into the debate. "He's not a good guy--granted--but what will it matter in a hundred years, a day, a week, or one hour and five minutes from now just what he says? Let them bury their own dead and go about your business."

The slashing, driving, clear-skied wind was pertinent to the problem. Dead leaves were going down the drains and out into silver obscurity. Such wasps and hornets as had attempted to linger on a little by seeking the warmth of a window pane were scattered like the plagues of Pharaoh. It should have been New Year's Eve instead of the minor celebration, known to only three or four as yet, called Broun's birthday.


The gale was sweeping out the dead, the tired and all animate and inanimate things which had outstayed their welcome. Off into the night went the shams and the fakes and pussyfooters. The pressure was on. It was no night on which to make even the most slight obeisance in the House of Rimmon. Whoever bent, however fractionally, toward a shoe polish sandwich ran the risk that the wind would seize the seat of his pants and lift him off the yacht.

So at last I put down Youth in spite of its eloquence about green seas and cleansing gales. The local performance was enough to move an auditor to admiration.

I opened the door and watched two big maples bend and squirm. And though they are my trees, it was the wind for which I rooted. "Sock 'em again!" I shouted to the gale. "Make 'em take it and like it. They'll like it down there. Make 'em get their noses in it. Make 'em stand up and fight."

And I felt like Joshua of old, because the wind obeyed me.


Pete Murphy Vs. Thad Eure For A Good Job In Raleigh

About as meaningless as an Atlantic City bathing beauty contest, about as profitable to the winner, and about as noisy all around is the quadrennial campaign in North Carolina for Secretary of State. The job, despite the duty of policing stock issues, added in 1937, is a sinecure which now pays six thousand smackers a year and affords the incumbent plenty of time and some patronage with which to keep his fences in repair so that he may resist efforts to unseat him.

That largely explains why there have been since the turn of the century, only five Secretaries of State in North Carolina, one or two of whom have died in office.

Next year's primary is going to be no exception. Secretary Thad Eure, who has not yet announced but who has been running for re-election since the days he was sworn in, is to have the competition of Salisbury's Walter (Pete) Murphy, a fine old gentleman of polish, rugged convictions and fond memories.

The result of this race looms largest, in all probability, to the two entrants. To the state at-large it is of the same relative significance, we say, as a popularity contest.

They Called It*

Proof Of This Prophecy Lies In Four Years' Experience

If anybody ever was entitled to say "I told you so," it is the Automobile Manufacturers Association. After that recent Chrysler strike of 50 odd days and the persistent trouble General Motors and other car- and accessory-makers have had, first with UAW-AFL and latterly with UAW-CIO, the manufacturers have every right to set themselves up as prophets of the first order.

They may not realize it, for it was only by chance in thinning out a crowded file that we ourselves came across a folder dated April 1935 entitled, "A Menace to the Automobile Business and to All Industry and Trade."

The "menace" was, of course, the much-discussed Wagner Labor Relations Bill, otherwise known as the Wagner Unions Bill, whose preamble set forth its lofty purpose as that of diminishing "the causes of labor disputes burdening or obstructing interstate or foreign commerce" (that last was for the benefit of the Supreme Court).

It would do no such thing, the automobile industry manufacturers cried. To the contrary,

Instead of promoting industrial peace, it would provoke and invite industrial strife;

Instead of clarifying the industrial atmosphere, it would still further confuse it;

Instead of encouraging employers and employees to settle their affairs amicably, it would drive them farther apart;

Instead of furthering the interests of American labor as a whole, it appears to be really in the interest of only a small minority of workers represented by professional labor leaders, who apparently seek legislative sanction of their efforts to dominate all American labor.

And then this 1935 folder went on to say, furiously and in black caps,


They called it.

Point Proved

Lynching Is Prevented When Leaders Want It That Way

Writing in the Survey Graphic, Lewis T. Nordyke, in an article devoted to the work of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, tells an interesting story of Mrs. F. M. Mullino, a member of the association who lives in Montezuma, Ga.

Christmas Day 1934, Mrs. Jessie Daniel Ames, secretary of the association, was getting ready for holiday festivities. An Associated Press reporter informed her by telephone that a Negro had killed an officer in Schley County and a mob was forming. She discovered that the association had no members in that county, called Mrs. Mullino in Macon County, which adjoins Schley. Mrs. Mullino called the sheriff of Schley and urged him to take steps to halt the lynching, called prominent citizens of Schley and asked them to do the same. Then the manhunt crossed over into Macon and again Mrs. Mullino called a sheriff and prominent citizens. There was no lynching.

"Had Mrs. Mullino gone to the mob and pleaded... she would have been taunted," says the article. "She knew that. She knew, too, that a sheriff... couldn't afford to take any chances after dozens of influential voters had demanded that every possible precaution be taken..."

It perfectly bears out what we have often argued in these columns. Wherever lynching takes place, it is because the "best people" do not take the trouble to oppose it actively, or are even in favor of it. Police officers everywhere enforce laws which they think the leaders in their community want enforced. And that is particularly true in the close-knit and homogeneous South.

Doc's Back*

And We Use Him As A Symbol Of The Political Spoils System

The news that R. F. ("Doc") Holland has pulled down another plum from Uncle Sam's lush tree gives us an excuse to review a career that shows vividly what's wrong, in part, with U.S. democracy. That's patronage: the spoils system.

Doc Holland, now, is not a bad fellow. He's friendly and courteous and voluble (once he used 284 words divided into just two sentences merely to disclaim any interest in a municipal campaign). Nevertheless, Doc as a protege of Bob Reynolds, and Bob as a sponsor of Doc, illustrate two of the things most wrong with our system of government.

He earned his reward as Mecklenburg manager for Bob back in the Morrison-Reynolds Senatorial primary in 1931. Not long afterwards, the word from Washington was that the pay-off would be for Doc to be made Prohibition Law Administrator for the Western District of North Carolina, but that appointment never came off. Instead, Doc received temporary employment as assistant supervisor in the Charlotte district of the Federal Business Census.

When that expired, Senator Reynolds sought to find another job for his county agent, this time as district supervisor of the 1935 Federal Agricultural Census. Buncombe's Zeb Weaver broke that up by flatly refusing to let the appointment go through.

Doc Holland was soon back on the Federal payroll, however, in the capacity of assistant district administrator of WPA. (Always, it will be noted, an assistant. This may be because the Government, which complacently tolerates the practice of paying for political services out of the Treasury, has to select competent, experienced head men to see that the work is done.)

In any case, Doc is back on the rolls again, or will be if he can pass the examinations, as assistant supervisor for the Federal Census in the Western North Carolina area. He is still collecting for services rendered to Bob Reynolds eight years ago. And collecting, mind you, not out of Bob's pocket but out of the Federal service.


Signor Mussolini Comes In For Our Praise

Signor Mussolini, among other things, is on his way to winning approval in the democratic countries.

It was just the other day when he was being lumped with Adolf Hitler. Indeed, Fascism was the name under which Nazism was by ordinary arranged. Those were Italian planes which were most predominant in Spain, weren't they? It was Italian planes which had mainly bombed the road from Almeria, wasn't it?

But the Signor has increasingly been coming into favor during the last few months. It has been all too plain that his allegiance to the Axis was only a paper allegiance, and that if he ever fought he would fight on the same side which he advocated in the last war--that of the Allies.

And now--now he has not only sent fifty planes to Finland but also he has sent fifty Italian pilots along to fly them. The flyers, of course, are even more valuable to the Finns than the planes themselves.

It seems strange for us to be applauding Signor Mussolini. But that is exactly the position we find ourselves in now.

Framed Edition
[Return to Links-Page by Subject] [Return to Links-Page by Date] [Return to News--Framed Edition]
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.