We give thanks…
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
November 23, 2019
Here we are in November. Seasons have changed. Leaves are falling and blowing from our yards to our neighbors’ and back again. Fall is the time we become reflective and thankful for our lives, our families, good fortune or the fact that we survived bad fortune. Probably a mixture of all those things, along with sweeping and raking those leaves. In recent years, there has been a push back to the Pilgrim story we were taught in our youth. Though details of a feast with Pilgrims and Indians may not be an exact rendition, there were Pilgrims, there were Indians, thanks was given and much much more happened in between.
To get some perspective of early life in the Americas, I read the book “Somewhere Else, Somewhere Different: The Story of Francis Brayton an Early American” by Ann Jewett. The author makes it clear that though Francis Brayton really did exist in the 1600s (she knows because she is a direct descendant and has spent time collecting histories and data), the early part of the story about Francis’ grandfather and father was fabricated out of factual bits and pieces.
Do not expect pizzazz or earth-shattering tales and tragedy at every corner. This book reads more like a personal journal where you find the twists and turns in life full of practical and for the most part, everyday occurrences, giving a glimpse into early New World life. Through Francis’ grandfather in France to Francis’ father in England, then Francis, we find a family indentured to the rich. Francis wanted a free life where choices and opportunity were his decisions to make. He takes his dreams across the sea.
In the New World, coastal lands were already somewhat carved out by early pioneers, with small villages and towns, roads and industry. Freedom from a state church and the ability to regulate themselves and build their own governments were priorities. Within the pages of this simple book, you experience people breathing life into a new and sustaining democracy. For anyone who loves history and is interested in getting into the heads of those who imagined it to reality, this may be your kind of reading. Like I said, with no hoop-la. Just a very solid, uncomplicated telling in real time with real people figuring out the path to creating what became our America.
Many of you have fond memories of the “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, either by reading or by the television series. The stories are real, portraying Laura’s childhood between 1870-1894, offering another look into early American life. As the big eastern cities grew and thrived, young families had to reach out farther into the expansive American landscape. The Ingalls left the big woods of Wisconsin, traveling through Minnesota to the open spaces of the Dakota Territory. They settled on the vast Kansas prairie. I remember the tv series as being one terrible, heart-stopping tragedy after another. But reading the books brings perspective that tragedy did not occur at every turn of the page. The family had much to be thankful for.
In “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, we find the Joad family and many more suffering in Oklahoma. It’s now the 1930s and poor tenant farmers struggle in the Great Depression while watching their crops dry to dust and blow around like furious hurricanes. They tied what they could to their old jalopies and headed west over the plains, mountains and through hot scorching desert. Many came right through Tehachapi toward their destination of the fertile San Joaquin Valley, with the promise of better lives burning in their hearts. An excerpt reads: “They drove through Tehachapi in the morning glow, and the sun came up behind them, and then suddenly they saw the great valley below them. Al jammed on the brakes and stopped in the middle of the road, and ‘Jesus Christ! Look at that,’ he said. The vineyards, the orchards, the great flat valley, green and beautiful. The trees set in rows and the farm houses.”
It must have looked like heaven to those who withstood the dry winds and blowing dirt. They were so thankful. But for them the hardships continued. The book has an apt title. The grapes, the abundant harvest. The wrath? From God? Or the wrath in how they felt, scratching out a living in Arvin while that big green valley of bounty spread out before them out of reach? They became different pioneers, having to reinvent themselves, fight for freedom and their dreams in a nation already built.
I sometimes wonder how many of us live aware of the treasure we have in the very foundation of our country, its bounty, its democracy, the foundations of justice and law that are uniquely designed for all people, all created equal. To take for granted such a precious creation, built by the sweat, ingenuity and sacrifice of early pioneers, adventurers and entrepreneurs, disrespecting their fervent and living dreams would be a dishonor to their memories. May we humbly preserve their dreams and ours by remembering how we got to the Thanksgiving table.
*Midge Lyn’dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.