Summer on the White Grass
Selected Short Excerpts
Chapter 1, Page 15 –
I was born in St. Louis, Missouri but was brought home very soon thereafter to the little town of Ferguson in December of 1933. Yes, the same little town now famous for police violence toward Negro members of –up to that time– a quiet, little suburban community, about 20 miles northwest of downtown St. Louis. Surprisingly, it took only forty or fifty years after the City of St. Louis’ Police Department was accused of racial bias and the excessive use of force against black folks, for that type of social injustice to spread northwest and infest and reach a boiling point in Ferguson. That accusation was made by the investigating panel of the Human Relations Council of the City of St. Louis. I was a member of that Council, having been appointed by the Mayor of St. Louis, and had been chosen to be the Chairman of the Investigation Panel by the other members of the Council. Our investigation found the St. Louis Police Department ‘guilty’ of the charges. I was given a citation by the NAACP –and earned the undying hatred of the Mayor who had appointed me. But, that‘s getting way ahead of my story.
Chapter 1, Page 17 –
Racial bigotry and hatred provided one of my first lessons in public and private morality. As a very young Catholic boy in the 1930‘s, I couldn‘t understand why the white citizens of Ferguson who had so much seemed to hate our Negro neighbors in Kinlock who had so little. Even worse, I couldn‘t understand why our Catholic priests and nuns in church and school said little or nothing to help me understand that reality. Of course there were no Negro members of our Catholic church or school. Once every spring and fall, my Father would load all of us children (only three then, but later six and Mom didn‘t go along) into our family car and he would take us on a silent tour of Kinlock. No editorial comment. He let us see for ourselves what real poverty -and lack of privilege– looked like.
Chapter 1 Page 32 –
The Catholic Church was even worse than just negligent or forbidding. Their entire sexual morality program was built on the concept of “Thou Shalt Not!” There was no explanation for the ‘not’, and ‘not‘ didn‘t seem to apply to the clergy. In retrospect, it seems to me that the sex drive in most young teens overwhelms the use of simplistic prohibitions, and Church leadership should have known and addressed that fact from day one.
As evidence of the Church leaders (all males) failure to be responsible is their treatment of the nuns (all females) as the fortunes of the Vatican declined. The Church abandoned them and failed to provide for their health and welfare as their schools closed. These were women who had given their lives to the Church. The Church hierarchy (all males) continued their palatial lifestyles as the nuns were left to fend for themselves.
A further irony is the fact that lack of morality by Catholic Church leaders (males) resulted in the moral shame of the pedophile priests parade in our courts. Only one Pope (Benedict) had the honesty of character to resign and his resignation wasn‘t because he was a pedophile, it was because he couldn‘t control the Roman Curia which, to this day, does not accept legal or moral responsibility for the damage their pedophile priests caused to children all over the world.
If you want a colossal example of failed moral leadership, look no farther than – Rome!
Chapter 3, Page 44 –
The road (really, roads) from Laramie into Idaho was long, boring and uneventful. I had lots of short, and some long ‘lifts’ until I was somewhere in Idaho, near the Idaho/Wyoming border. It was a cold, grey, late afternoon. It was getting colder and darker every minute. I was standing alone at a country road intersection, not a house, barn, car or truck in sight. The silence around me was disheartening. I‘d been standing there, alone, for what seemed a terribly long time. I was not dressed for the cold. I had on blue jeans, a jeans jacket and engineer‘s boots, but no hat or gloves. A very light drizzle had just started to fall and I was getting wet and very hungry. Forget the bathroom factor.Then, the light rain changed to light snow.
Out of the darkening snowy mist a headlight appeared. The headlight turned out to be the remaining one of the original two on a little, red pick-up that probably dated to the early forties or, possibly, the late thirties. The pick-up stopped and the driver called out of the open, passenger‘s side, window, “Where you a‘go‘in, kid?” I said, “Jackson”, and he said, “Get in”-which I was very glad to do! After saying my thanks and telling the driver my name, he told me he was on the way to Jackson and would be glad to have company.
Within seconds of our departure I realized that the little truck had glass in only one of the two front windows, a.k.a., windshields, and the passenger side window, mine, was open and wouldn‘t roll up. That meant that I had front and side open window views, great on a bright sunny day in the mountains but not ideal for travel in a late winter cold rain turning- to-snow, storm. My driver wasn‘t very talkative but I quickly learned that he was a sheepherder and was blind in one eye. I also learned, just minutes before my task was assigned, that the little red truck did not have an operative windshield wiper. My task was to reach out the ‘open window‘ in front of me to wipe the snow off the window glass in front of the driver–with my bare hand and a piece of dirty cardboard. As the dusk turned to dark, and the rain turned to snow, there didn‘t seem to be much opportunity or need for conversation.
The first hour wasn‘t too bad but then the snow really started to come down, thicker and faster. I don‘t remember how much time passed while we were on relatively open road, but now we were climbing through forest on what seemed to be a one lane gravel road, in deep snow. I don‘t remember any cars or trucks ever coming past us going the other way during this part of our trip. At this point there was just barely enough remaining light to see what I was told by my driver was the Snake River, roaring and tumbling over rocks, at times just a few yards below my open side window. There was no roadside barrier, sometimes no trees between the little pickup, me, and the river. I was looking through the open window at raging water, roaring over big boulders, in a cold, grey, snowstorm, in a very old pickup with one headlight, without some window glass or a windshield wiper other than me and a one-eyed driver. Then, there was just darkness, one headlight reflecting on the blinding snow, the one-eyed sheepherder and me–the windshield wiper. I never asked or looked to see which of his eyes was blind. At this point, I didn‘t think it would make much difference.
Chapter 4, Page 52 –
Sunday morning came with beautiful sunshine and perfect temperature. I packed and made my obligatory trip to the male Indian worker‘s bath house, a long, low, log cabin structure with nothing inside but lines of washbowls, showers, lockers and toilets, to freshen up for the ride south. I was coming out of the bath house when, all of a sudden, screams and cries started coming from the Women‘s bath house next door. Then, all hell exploded! Girl Indians‘ were jumping out of windows and running out of the doors on both ends of their bath house, in various states of dress and undress. The girls were followed by a pair of good sized black bears, momma and papa bear, no baby bears. I guess the bears didn‘t like the screaming because, after they exited the door of the bath house facing me, they just ambled off, slowly, into the woods. Telling and re-telling the bear story made the trip from Canyon to Moose go faster.
Chapter 7, Page 95 –
It does rain in paradise every once in a while. It wasn‘t often in midsummer that a slow steady rain would fall all morning, but, in August, in Jackson Hole, it was really early fall. My cows needed milking twice every day, spring, summer or fall, and when it rained they usually headed for the woods. There is something about a steady rain in the tall pines that makes all animals very mellow. This happened on one of those days.
The barn had a collection of ponchos available and, when it rained, or looked like rain, I would put one on before saddling up my horse. If it was raining, I always put my harmonica in my pocket when dressing, so I would have something to do if finding my cows took longer than expected. This was a very rainy day and I couldn‘t find my cows so I headed deeper into the woods than usual. Horses don‘t get to run through woods. The best they can do is a slow, steady walk and the horse is stepping over a lot of downed trees, very carefully. In the rain, I liked to take my feet out of the stirrups, put my legs up, sort of over the saddle horn, to let the poncho act like a tent and keep the water off my legs and boots, and let the horse pick his way through the trees. So, on Shane, in the deep woods, playing my harmonica very softly, my head down to keep the rain from running down my chest, I looked up to find that Shane and I were in the middle of a herd of elk.
Shane and I just stopped and stood still. The elk just continued grazing. Once in a while the bull elk would pick up his magnificent head and give me a confused look. He must have thought I was a funny-looking cow. I was very glad not to be wearing horns. After about twenty seconds of savoring the idea that Shane and I had been accepted into an elk herd, we resumed our slow walk in the rain through the herd, and continued our search for my cows. At times, we were so close to an elk cow that I could have reached over and petted her. We stayed as far away from the bull as possible.
Chapter 11, Page 125 –
Perhaps the final insult to my career as a US citizen, entrepreneurial businessman, was being invited to lecture at the Washington University Graduate School of International Business in St. Louis. I was allowed to explain to kids, half my age, in a graduate school of international business, that labor was not only ‘a’ but ‘the‘ commodity in the production of consumer and industrial products in the world market. Unfortunately, the US worker at even a lowly $6.00 an hour, couldn‘t compete with Asian workers who did the same, or better, work for $0.03 per hour. And, sad to write, our ‘Government‘ couldn‘t care less whether or not U.S. citizens had jobs, or whether the Asian workers were free or slave laborers. When I read some of the absolute crap written by economists, or politicians (or their speechwriters) about what destroyed the US economy and the middle class I wanted to throw up. Between stupid politicians, i.e., ‘government leaders‘, greedy bankers and/or investment companies, and most giant retailers, it was a dead heat!
Afterwords, Page 182 –
And if you don‘t think our society isn‘t coming apart at its moral seams, just notice these ‘indicators‘: the increase in white police officers shooting blacks, the increased use of all kinds of ‘heavy‘ drugs by the 15-35 year old members of our social disorder, the ever increasing war in the Middle East, the refuge crisis, and the unbelievable increase of ‘porn‘ everywhere.
The worst, additional ‘indicators’ I saved for special notice–the almost total absence of ‘civil‘ discourse concerning issues of politics, religion or sex in our society today. Then, you add to this horrible social alienation the enormous increase in the purchasing of ‘personal’ firearms as exemplified by the AK-47–the perfect gun for varmint hunting–and I have a horrible, sinking feeling in my gut as to how all of this will turn out. Orwell was right about drugs (Soma as Cannabis) as the social cop-out but he missed Meth, Cocaine, Heroin and ‘Facebook!’ Further, I suspect he would have written a comedy if he had witnessed President Trump and our last eight and a quarter year‘s Congress. They don‘t, and didn‘t, have the brains to run the country, much less the world. And, the Roman Catholic Church, the Curia, continues to run its business‘–which is maintaining the Roman Papal–prince lifestyle—and continues to forget what a religion should be about. Say another prayer for Pope Francis. He will need all the help he can get. We the People will probably need more than just one prayer, or two!