I recall a man I worked with on my first full time day job as “filling-station” attendant. His name, I seem to remember, was Calvin and he was probably in his thirties with a family. His job was washing cars. He didn’t own one himself. He walked home and back for dinner (lunch) and one day he was five minutes late getting back, so the boss, a real Arkansas a**hole, fired him. Being late was just an excuse. The real reason? He was “uppity.” Didn’t show proper respect for his “betters.” I’ve never been able to erase the sight of him as he walked back toward home with his hands in his pockets and his head sunk into his shoulders.
I don’t imagine Calvin ever sang the blues. A person could get fired for doing that as well.
I also recall the “cotton-choppers” that traded at my father’s little country grocery store. A truck with a covered bed would pick them up before daylight to take them to the fields. They would stop at our store and buy food to eat at noon. Then, after chopping all day, they would stop back by after dark and get something for supper and, if there was enough money left, breakfast.
This went on until the crops were laid by. I don’t know what they did for food until it was time to pick the cotton.
I’ll admit I never heard them sing the blues. I never heard them sing at all. They were too tired.
I do know that I have heard stories about this farmer and that one who would “short” them on pay and laugh about it for the victims had no recourse for justice. Maybe they did sing the blues in the quiet and safety of their own homes.
I also know they led a wretched, oppressed life in which they couldn’t drink from a white water fountain, use a public restroom, send their children to a decent school, or—oftentimes—vote.
|From what I understand, it must have been|
those poor black folks up north that sang
the blues. Those in the south were happy
with their lot. Saw that on Fox News. - C.W.
I do know that anyone who would believe they chose such a life would be ignorant enough to believe that we choose our sexuality, or that we should be either rewarded or punished for it.
I do know that these experiences caused me to try to lead a life that would attend to the poor in spirit and the downtrodden and to be wary of those who worship riches too much, whether they be hedge-fund managers, corporate executives, or televangelists. I’ve also remained aware of the many unearned benefits resulting from enough northern-European DNA to have me classified as “Caucasian.”