The Charlotte News

Wednesday, November 3, 1937


Site Ed. Note: One might think, staring through the strumpeted barrel of Time, that the segregationist forces, those who gained political power through the white citizens’ councils in the Deep South in the fifties and sixties, studied carefully the High Sheriff of Hazard and his boys of Harlan County to come by their methodology—or that the High Sheriff, in turn, had made a great study of Hitler and Mussolini and their boys to come by his methodology, who in turn had studied Thomas Dixon and his boys to come by their methodology, who had studied Nathan Bedford Forrest and his boys and the riders of the past on down the line, back to the caves…

And, in reading "They Shot Back", one might think that someone was reading that among the Joint Chiefs in September and early October, 1962. Just who, we couldn’t say.

Do you see—how the South and a good part of the rest of the country came to ride the Tiger in the 1960’s?

Do you see?

He took up his brush and went tranquilly to work. Ben Rogers hove in sight presently--the very boy, of all boys, whose ridicule he had been dreading. Ben's gait was the hop-skip-and-jump--proof enough that his heart was light and his anticipations high. He was eating an apple, and giving a long, melodious whoop, at intervals, followed by a deep-toned ding-dong-dong, ding-dong-dong, for he was personating a steamboat. As he drew near, he slackened speed, took the middle of the street, leaned far over to star-board and rounded to ponderously and with laborious pomp and circumstance--for he was personating the Big Missouri, and considered himself to be drawing nine feet of water. He was boat and captain and engine-bells combined, so he had to imagine himself standing on his own hurricane-deck giving the orders and executing them:

"Stop her, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling!" The headway ran almost out, and he drew up slowly toward the sidewalk.

"Ship up to back! Ting-a-ling-ling!" His arms straightened and stiffened down his sides.

"Set her back on the stabboard! Ting-a-ling-ling! Chow! ch-chow-wow! Chow!" His right hand, meantime, describing stately circles--for it was representing a forty-foot wheel.

"Let her go back on the labboard! Ting-a-ling-ling! Chow-ch-chow-chow!" The left hand began to describe circles.

"Stop the stabboard! Ting-a-ling-ling! Stop the labboard! Come ahead on the stabboard! Stop her! Let your outside turn over slow! Ting-a-ling-ling! Chow-ow-ow! Get out that head-line! Lively now! Come--out with your spring-line--what're you about there! Take a turn round that stump with the bight of it! Stand by that stage, now--let her go! Done with the engines, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling! Sh't! s'h't! sh't!" (trying the gauge-cocks).

Tom went on whitewashing--paid no attention to the steamboat. Ben stared a moment and then said: "Hi- yi ! You're up a stump, ain't you!"

No answer. Tom surveyed his last touch with the eye of an artist, then he gave his brush another gentle sweep and surveyed the result, as before. Ben ranged up alongside of him. Tom's mouth watered for the apple, but he stuck to his work. Ben said:

"Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?"

Tom wheeled suddenly and said:

"Why, it's you, Ben! I warn't noticing."

"Say--I'm going in a-swimming, I am. Don't you wish you could? But of course you'd druther work--wouldn't you? Course you would!"

Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:

"What do you call work?"

"Why, ain't that work?"

Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:

"Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain't. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer."

"Oh come, now, you don't mean to let on that you like it?"

The brush continued to move.

"Like it? Well, I don't see why I oughtn't to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?"

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth--stepped back to note the effect--added a touch here and there--criticised the effect again--Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:

"Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little."

Tom considered, was about to consent; but he altered his mind:

"No--no--I reckon it wouldn't hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly's awful particular about this fence--right here on the street, you know--but if it was the back fence I wouldn't mind and she wouldn't. Yes, she's awful particular about this fence; it's got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain't one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it's got to be done."

"No--is that so? Oh come, now--lemme just try. Only just a little--I'd let you, if you was me, Tom."

"Ben, I'd like to, honest injun; but Aunt Polly--well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn't let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn't let Sid. Now don't you see how I'm fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it--"

"Oh, shucks, I'll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say--I'll give you the core of my apple."

"Well, here-- No, Ben, now don't. I'm afeard--"

"I'll give you all of it!"

Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash. By the time Ben was fagged out, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite, in good repair; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in for a dead rat and a string to swing it with--and so on, and so on, hour after hour. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had besides the things before mentioned, twelve marbles, part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn't unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar--but no dog--the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash.

He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while--plenty of company--and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn't run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.

For the Winter Days

The peace conference of the sovereign powers, AFL and CIO, having gone the way of all diplomatic sessions in our time, we can at least look forward to some capital exhibitions in name-tossing and malediction with which to while away the dull winter hours now almost upon us.

For instance, take some remarks in an editorial contained in the current issue of United Mine Workers' Journal, John L. Lewis's own organ. Says the editorial:

John P. (for Pinhead) Frey is now the general manager... of the AFL. William Green, the nominal head of the Federation, is merely a stool pigeon for Frey.

Pinhead and stool pigeon. No, it is improbable that John L. himself wrote down those. They lack his verve and virility, his acquaintance with the classics, his power to fetch the blood. Some understrapper was charged with their production, undoubtedly. But all the same they augur good things to come. They suggest that John L. is probably deep in the throes of composition, and that the understrapper was merely sent forth as a sort of stop-gap John the Baptist. The real John is probably in the bull pen warming up.

Brave Words

We like the way this new Federal housing fellow talks--the one who's going to administer the Wagner-Steagall Act. Secretary Ickes, himself the administrator of a vast public works program without limits as to what might be spent, is frankly skeptical that the latest slum clearance undertaking is going to get anywhere in the face of the restriction on costs to $1,250 a room ($1,000 in smaller cities), but the new fellow, Nathan Straus by name, retorts:

"I built my own project, Hillside Homes in the Bronx, for $1,045 a room. Why shouldn't I be able to do it at $1,250?"

And why not? The average home builder could do it, with hundreds of dollars to spare. A private corporation could do it and not be cramped. The government, with its quantity purchasing power and its large staffs of architects and engineers and lawyers and its non-profit-making basis of operations, ought to have plenty of leeway.

But, also, that isn't the way it works, and the explanation isn't hard to find. The government spends other people's money. It can't be bothered with cutting corners or driving bargains, and besides, there is the political take. The politicians have to get theirs in one form or another, even if it's just a job for a constituent with the housing authority.

At that, we like the confident way Administrator Straus goes about his assignment. It will be interesting to see if he can keep the political incubus from crushing his spirit.

Site Ed. Note: For another mention of Nathan Straus, upon his visit to review Charlotte's slums, see "Weather Notes", January 24, 1940.

How Now, Ruby?

Yesterday they held an election in Harlan County, Kentucky, and to halt the high sheriff and his deputies from the systematic terrorizing of voters at the polls, militia and State police had to be ordered in and the sheriff and three of the deputies thrown into jail.

The name of the sheriff is Thomas R. Middleton, and the name of one of the deputies is Ben Unthank. Thomas R. Middleton is the man about whom the Senate Committee which investigated Harlan last April and May uncovered the following facts: that before he became Sheriff of Harlan he had served five months in jail for bootlegging and was [indiscernible word] that he got the job through the influence of the Coal Operators' County Association, that he hired 279 deputies of whom all but fourteen were paid by the Coal Operators' County Association, that he used these deputies for the suppression of unionism in Harlan by the abolition of all civil rights, wholesale assault, dynamiting, terrorism, and--murder, and that at the end of two years of this his bank account had grown up to $104,000. And Ben Unthank? Ben Unthank is the deputy who was definitely pointed out by many witnesses as the chief go-between in Harlan's most notorious assaults, dynamitings, and murders--and who was shown to have been paid $8,000 by the Coal Operators' County Association in a single year for "expenses."

And Sheriff Thomas R. Middleton and Ben Unthank are also the men whom Governor Ruby Laffoon of Kentucky declined to remove from office, because, forsooth, he said, he could find no ground for it.

Site Ed. Note: Ruby Laffoon had been Governor between 1931 and 1935; the current Governor was Happy Chandler. (Wax on that awhile.)

R U 2 d'ell aware?

He Couldn't Lose

Last night when it was established that La Guardia had won the Mayoralty of New York, the President of the United States called up to congratulate him. What he said we don't positively know, but it probably ran like this: "Fine and dandy, Fiorello. I'm tickled pink you did it. Of course, I had to play along with the Democrats more or less. But all the while I really wanted you to do it, since both of us stand for Ideals and Clean Government. Great going, boy!"

The President, you comprehend, could talk that way because the President had "refused to intervene in the New York municipal election." Refused to intervene, that is, personally. His good man Friday, Jim Farley, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Bob Wagner, keystone of the New Deal in the Senate, had intervened, indeed, and not unobtrusively. They had gone so far as to tell the New York electorate that the contest was essentially one between the New Deal and reaction, that if the Tammany-backed Mahoney was defeated and La Guardia elected, the Democratic Party, and with it the New Deal, would be greatly weakened the country over.

In the face of this, the President called up the triumphant La Guardia, that arch threat to the New Deal, and said, Nice going, Fiorello. Down in my heart I wanted you to win... What masterful strategy this was and what a hedge the President had against any eventuality! If the Tiger and the spoils system and corruption had come out on top, hadn't he allowed his right hand men to come over and work zealously for that very conclusion? And since Ideals and Clean Government prevailed, weren't they identical with the names of the New Deal which is incarnated in the person of the President himself? Do you see?

They Shot Back

Monday at Shanghai the British shot back. Early the week before a British soldier had been killed by Japanese bullets, three others wounded. Then last Friday, three more were killed by Japanese bullets. So Monday--when Japanese bullets began once more to whiz into the British section of the International Settlement front, the Tommies loosed four volleys from their rifles. That settled that for the time.

Maybe that is what is really needed in the whole international set-up, not war but a little bit of shooting back by way of warning. Surely conferences and promises have been tried to the point where the world is almost sick of the mere mention of the words. Over and over again, it has been demonstrated that Mussolini is an unmitigated liar--that when he gives his solemn word to abandon murder and piracy as the primary base of his policy, he simply goes in for bigger and better murders and piracies. (It was shown all over again this week in the bombing of the British freighter by an Italian plane.) The same holds for Hitler. And as for the Japs, they politely laugh in the world's face.

Yet what lies behind all this is simply the belief on the part of these powers that Britain and France are so determined not to have war that they will stand for anything rather than risk war--that it is possible literally to get away with murder. In reality, however, none of the three uppity nations nor all of them together can afford actually to force a war, for, win or lose, it means their ruin as certainly as it means ruin for the democratic powers. And so--maybe a little shooting back, by way of notice that, if it must be, force will be answered with force, would be the very healthiest thing that can happen.

Site Ed. Note: For Cash’s earlier observations, written for the book-page, on the Shanghai incident, beginning in mid-August, 1937 and continuing in siege for three months, see "Who Shoulders These Crimes?", August 29, 1937, (its accompanying note having been written in early 1999). This battle would develop into the full-scale Sino-Japanese War, the ultimate quest for continued resources with which to fight it, as well as generally Japan's warlords' grand scheme to realize the vaunted Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, having led to the attack on Pearl Harbor, to get the United States out of the way for the ultimate drive south into Malaysia and the Dutch East Indies and their rich resources, primarily rubber, tin, oil, tungsten, mercury, all necessary ingredients to sustain and run the war machine, all resources on which Japan, and Germany, were beginning to run low by fall, 1941, as the late quarantine and Britain's naval blockade of Germany, combined with lend-lease by the U.S. to Britain, to enable a strengthened, waged fight to place pressure on Hitler from the west, as well as Hitler's own June 22 move into Russia to the east having stalled from both a fierce defensive blow and the early winter weather of October, had begun to have their impact.

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