[Read ePUB] River of EarthAuthor James Still – Moncler2018.co

REREADThis is the back story to James Still s River of Earth published in 1940 Harry Caudill wrote in Night Comes to the Cumberlands, his history of the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Kentucky, that southern Appalachia had been an independent and relatively self sufficient agricultural society during most of its history However, in a period of less than two decades that society was destroyed by industrialism.As a result of the encroachment of the coal mining industry the hill families lost their farms Some farmers sold their land in order to move to the coal camps and become miners others simply abandoned their farms in order to do the same while others lost their land due to the unscrupulous practices of mine operators.The iron and steel industry boomed in the United States during the 1920s, which in turn increased the demand for coal as a key ingredient in the production of both metals During the Great Depression of the 1930s, however, the demand for iron and steel plummeted As a result, coal mining became only a seasonal activity in order to produce coal for heating purposes.Dean Cagle writes in the foreword of my edition of River of Earth that t he result was a landless, jobless, hungry, perplexed people Ruined for a way of life they could not control, they were betrayed by this new quicksilver promise that left them idle much of the year River of Earth is the story of three years in the life of such a family as seen through the eyes of a boy who is seven years old when the story begins When the book opens we find the Baldridge family living on a farm on a bald ridge that had only one tree Morning was bright and rain fresh The sharp sunlight fell slantwise upon the worn limestone earth of the hills, and our house squatted weathered and dark on the bald slope Yellow bellied sapsuckers drilled their oblong holes in the black birch by the house, now leafing from tight curled buds The conflict between agriculture and industrialism that transformed southern Appalachia also divided the Baldridge family Brack Baldridge is hard working and in many ways a good husband and father who sees no danger in industrialism He sees it as progress and, further, argues that he possesses no aptitude for farming and that he was born to be a miner His wife Alpha is in tune with the land and longs for a stable life living in one place, tilling the land, and not moving from coal camp to coal camp Forever I ve wanted to set us down in a lone spot, a place certain and enduring, with room to swing arm and elbow, a garden piece for fresh victuals, and a cow to furnish milk for the baby So many places we ve lived the far side one mine camp and next to the slag pile of another Hardburly Lizzyblue Tibbley I m longing to set me down shorely and raise my chaps proper Father s ears reddened He spoke, a grain angrily It was never meant for a body to be full content on the face of this earth Against my wont it is to be trading the camps, but it s bread I m hunting, regular bread with a mite of grease on it To make and provide, it s the only trade I know, and I work willing Just as agriculture lost its battle with coal mining, so was Apha eventually forced to surrender to Brack s wishes.Dean Cagle points out that River of Earth and The Grapes of Wrath were published within a year of each other and by the same publisher He writes that they are the only chronicles of the Depression that continues to be read to this day He says that the major difference between them is that Steinbeck s story deals with a calamity that has struck America only once in its lifetime, while Still is writing of the struggles that have plagued the mountain people since the country was settled And although the Joads travel halfway across the country and the Baldridge family moves only the few miles separating the coal camps from the farm, both books are equally an odyssey of a people in search of a promised land Still s book, however, is no polemic and is not overtly political in the manner of Steinbeck s classic, nor does he only sympathize with Alpha and farming at the expense of Brack and coal mining Even though he was a staunch environmentalist and grew up on a farm in northern Alabama and did some farming after moving to eastern Kentucky at age twenty six, he is able to see Brack s side of the issue, though it is also apparent that his true sympathies lie with Alpha The waters ran yellow, draining acid from the mines, cankering rocks in its bed The rocks were snuffy brown, eaten and crumbly There were not fishes swimming the eddies, nor striders looking at themselves in the waterglass Bare willows leaned over They threw a golden shadow over the water Still was a novelist, a poet, and a folklorist In River of Earth he used the language of a poet and the eye of a painter to create vivid word pictures of the land and its people He wrote about what he saw and about what he heard, and as one critic stated, it is obvious that he was not only an observer of life, but that he was also a listener During the short winter days the sun was feeble and pale, shining without heat Frost lay thick in the mornings, and crusts of hard earth rose in the night on little toadstools of ice Footsteps upon the ground rang metal clear, and there was a pattern of furred feet where rabbits came down out of the barren fields into the yard The following passage explains the title of the book and is also a clear demonstration of Still s knowledge of mountain speech and his ability to authentically express it I was borned in a ridgepocket I never seed the sunball withouten heisting my chin My eyes were sot upon the hills from the beginning Till I come on the Word in this Good Book, I used to think a mountain was the standingest object in the sight o God Hit says here they go skipping and hopping like sheep, a rising and a falling These hills are just dirt waves, washing through eternity My brethren, they hain t a hill standing so proud but hit ll sink to the low ground o sorrow Oh, my children, where air we going on this mighty river of earth, a borning, begetting, and a dying the living and the dead riding the waters Where air it sweeping us From Preacher Sim Mobberly s sermonStill s story could have been so dark that it would be depressing to read, but like William Gay in our own day, he created a character, Uncle Jolly, whose contagious optimism and sunny disposition never failed to lighten the mood and give the reader a break from all the gloom and despair There are also two rebellious actions by women in this male dominated world that surprised me James Still was, and still is, the greatest writer of hill culture in Kentucky Chris Offutt, author ofCountry Dark James Still, one of the greatest writers of all time, was a huge influence on my own writing and my understanding of how to be a writer Lee Smith, author of Dimestore Full review to follow. The first thing you notice about this story of the depression era in the mining towns of Eastern Kentucky is the beauty of the writing itself and the genuine flavor of the dialog James Still captures the stark, almost hopeless, situation of the families, while simultaneously showing the strength and endurance of the individuals and their connections to one another I was struck by the generous nature of the people, who scraped into their near empty larders to help one another survive their common perils.One of the themes explored here seems to be the separation of man from nature As the family is pulled from working fields on farms to living in camps and working coal mines, they seem to be separating themselves from a birthright and a bond that even they themselves do not understand The earth parted it fell back from the shovel plow it boiled over the share I walked the fresh furrow and balls of dirt welled between my toes There was a smell of old mosses, or bruised sassafras roots, of ground new turned The share rustled like drifted leaves It spoke up through the handles I felt the earth flowing, steady as time.There is also the conviction that whatever happens, however difficult or unjust, life continues Indeed, it springs up from death itself Shot so his life s blood flowed a river Yonder, up Lean Neck where the road comes off the hill and crosses the creek, years ago The spot is marked, I hear Marked peculiar A locust post was driv on the spot, and I hear it tuck root.That tree is a reminder of the spot of a death, but it is also a reminder that life, and family, continue The locust tree itself rises from a post, unintentional and improbable, but determined and strong.There is a thread of humor that runs through the novel as well that offsets the bleak conditions and reinforces the idea that even though the life is hard, the people are not necessarily unhappy They are, in fact, accepting and uncomplaining strong and rugged, even the children.After several unsatisfying reads, it was a joy to open a book and find a voice that resonated, a world that seemed authentic, and a narrator who could convey his experiences with meaning and honesty My thanks to the Southern Literary Trail for another dynamite read. Written the same year as The Grapes Of Wrath 1940 and easily drawing comparisons, this is a lyrical slice of life story simply told by a young boy whose parents earnestly struggle to make ends meet while farming and coal mining in the Appalachians Harkening back to a time when a full dinner plate for your child meant plenty and a bare tree branch decorated in eggshells became a treasure, this was a good December read as a personal reminder to simplify holiday expenditures and enjoy charitable giving 12 18 Read for On The Southern Literary Trail club. The mines on Little Carr closed in March Winter had been mild, the snows scant and frost thin upon the ground Robins stayed the season through, and sapsuckers came early to drill the black birch beside our house Though Father had worked in the mines, we did not live in the camps.Thus starts a story that is about a place and a time period than it is about plot and characters This is told by one boy, and he describes his family, their life, and the location, but it could be a generic family In some ways it reminds me of Rawlings The Yearling And of Ivan Doig Here, too, the family struggles to keep food on the table The kids roam the wilds and do chores, but receive very little in the way of formal education.p 76 The preacher is speaking His words give rise to the title These hills are just dirt waves, washing through eternity My brethren, they hain t a valley so low but what hit ll rise agin They hain t a hill standing so proud but hit ll sink to the low ground o sorrow Oh my children, where air we going on this mighty river of earth, a borning, begetting, and a dying the living and the dead riding the waters Where air it sweeping us Yes The dialect is heavy, which can be frustrating, but it didn t bother me here In fact, without the dialect, the story would have lost its strength and flavor Even the names contributed to the flavor Uncle Jolly, Aunt Rilla, Uncle Luce, Lala, Crilla, Tishy, Lue, Fran, Nezzie Uncle Toll and Aunt Sue Ella all from p 178.The author was the first poet laureate of Kentucky which doesn t surprise me He chooses and uses words beautifully. In James Still s 1940 novel River of Earth, which takes place in Kentucky, we are offered not only a fascinating coming of age story with a striking setting, but references and historical first hand knowledge of how life played out in the mountains and coal camps of the region.The main character s father, Brack, is presented as a hard working man, though he puts his own pride in helping kin folk above of tending to his wife s and children s needs first He works as a coal miner, a mountaineer, a homesteader, and a farmer as opportunity arises, and in this, Still is cleverly able to show us many aspects of different Appalachian occupations while using only one character and one family.The view of coal mining is fascinating and accurate to my knowledge While coal mining is oftentimes romanticized, those in the business have a great and simultaneous respect and loathing for it, always wanting to be doing it, never wanting to subject their children to it This seems to be how it is presented here.While the father is presented as having a good work ethic, there were varying degrees of this among characters One set of his cousins will work, but they re forever playing childish tricks Another refuses to work, and on and on Increasingly, the latter type is becoming prominent in the region, or at least in my home state It is truly a social economic problem I wonder oftentimes if this may be solely for a reason like Uncle Samp s, in that he simply does not want to work.Adding to the authentic feel of the novel are the choices of unusual names the author uses for his characters, such as Kite, Jace, Lizzie Blue, Oates, Aus, Fletch, Darb, Kell, Euly, etc It brought me in mind of the poem Names from Jim Wayne Miller s The Brier Poems Also in authenticity is the written dialect, always a controversial subject amongst writers.I was surprised how big a deal a funeral and grave of a deceased loved one was The mother, Alpha, seemed to be compromising with the reluctance of her husband to have a funeral by saying, It will ONLY be a one day funeral Emphasis added I had heard of the Appalachian Celtic tradition of stopping the clock on the hour and minute of one s death, but the rites of covering the grave in a white sheet, having an arbor and ideally a picture of the deceased , and building a rain shed over the grave are unusual to me Why do these people also based on other readings I ve done seem to be so obsessed with death This book is filled with beautiful descriptions of the natural surroundings of Appalachia They are accurate, stunning, and in stark contrast to the general roughness and darkness of the people, their ways, and their mindsets It s what I believe is one of the many ironies of the region also presented as an irony in Catherine Marshall s acclaimed Appalachian novel Christy.This enjoyable novel has so many levels of story, plot, culture, and character in it, than can be studied in a review One of the underlying themes is surely one of hope and growth As Brother Sim testified, Till I come on the Word in this Good Book, I used to think a mountain was the standingest object in the sight o God But they go a rising and a falling These hills are jist dirt waves, washing through eternity My brethren, they hain t a valley so low but what hit ll rise agin. A beautiful, beautiful book Written in 1940, it s a gem of Appalachian literature Reminds me a lot of The Grapes of Wrath In the 1920s, Appalachian farmers who were completely self sufficient became enamoured of the quick and plentiful wages of coal miners This was all well and good until the demand for coal decreased The result was a landless, jobless, hungry, perplexed people , says Dean Cadle in the forward James Still writes about one family in this predicament His writing is so lovely and artful Thank you to Lee Smith for recommending this book to all and sundry. First Published In , James Still S Masterful Novel Has Become A Classic It Is The Story, Seen Through The Eyes Of A Boy, Of Three Years In The Life Of His Family And Their Kin He Sees His Parents Pulled Between The Meager Farm With Its Sense Of Independence And The Mining Camp With Its Uncertain Promise Of Material Prosperity In His World Privation, Violence, And Death Are Part Of Everyday Life, Accepted And Endured Yet It Is A World Of Dignity, Love, And Humor, Of Natural Beauty Which Still Evokes In Sharp, Poetic Images No Writer Has Caught Effectively The Vividness Of Mountain Speech Or Shown Honestly The Trials And Joys Of Mountain Life I read this book several years ago As I remember it, the plot is weak but it is a book of great lyric beauty I do not think it would appeal to everyone but those who love Appalachia will appreciate it. I d like to see the English teachers of Upstate, SC put this one in the curriculum This story, set in the coal mining region of eastern Kentucky during the depression, is relevant to our area in that time period i.e a life shuffle between the cotton mill villages and the farms than The Grapes of Wrath which they cram down your throat Honestly, it s one of the most beautifully written stories I ve read, an interesting and accurate rendering of the people and circumstances.