Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.


Monday, 2 April 2012

Homesteading


.

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34100/1a34114v.jpg

Church, Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940


A homesteader prays
to a temporary god
but that's ok
in a temporary way

but for the girl with the dog

wrapped in a blanket
and the bandaged head
sitting on the sidewalk

outside Top Dog
in the rain
at 1:45 a.m.
there is no homestead

though "today
I found out
I'm pregnant" and
"I'm just waiting

for the guy who
did this to me
to go to court
in the morning

and then
if they let him walk,
we're going back up
to Mendocino."
 


http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34100/1a34118v.jpg

Les Thomas, homesteader, Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34000/1a34096v.jpg

Faro and Doris Caudill, homesteaders, Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34100/1a34103v.jpg

Faro Caudill, homesteader, drawing water from his well, Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34100/1a34150v.jpg

Dugout house of Faro Caudilll, homesteader, with Mt. Allegro in the background, Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34100/1a34135v.jpg

Jim Norris, homesteader, Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34100/1a34109v.jpg

Jim Norris and wife, homesteaders, Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34100/1a34122v.jpg

Wife of Jim Norris with canned goods, Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34100/1a34100v.jpg

Mr. Leatherman, homesteader, tying up cauliflower, Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34100/1a34165v.jpg

Mr. Leatherman coming out of his dugout house, Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34100/1a34133v.jpg

  Pinto beans, main crop at Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34100/1a34110v.jpg

  Bill Stagg, homesteader, with pinto beans, main crop at Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34100/1a34113v.jpg

  Mrs. Bill Stagg with state quilt, Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34100/1a34108v.jpg

Bill Stagg, homesteader, in front of his barn, Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsac/1a34000/1a34100/1a34158v.jpg

Field of beans and farmstead of Bill Stagg, homesteader, Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, October 1940
 
 
Russell Lee photos from Farm Security Administration Collection, Library of Congress

10 comments:

ACravan said...

Even though this is a fantasia on the photo series, it seems as real as the grinding on gravel tire sounds that just surprised me outside my window (they surprised me because you can't see the road from here and I've never heard tire sounds so close and clear) and also a lot of stories I used to hear in Brooklyn, NY Criminal Court from people the state defined as victims of domestic abuse who were just waiting for the men (usually it was men; sometimes men and women reversed roles) to appear in court and, they hoped, walk. I could read a whole book of these. Curtis

TC said...

Curtis,

There is latterly a growing wave of migratory population that has appeared on the streets of the East Bay radiating out from Oakland, where, as the woman outside Top Dog explained, it is possible to live out of dumpsters and on the sidewalks. She had a dog in a sweater and a suitcase on wheels. She asked for help with wheeling the suitcase.

The Dust Bowl migrants in Russell Lee's photos, who had stopped to build lives for themselves in a godforsaken spot way up atop the Continental Divide, were starting from scratch in a DIY life upon the land. Plainly it was not easy for them. But there seems to have been a work ethic, a spirit of self-reliance as well as of common enterprise. And many did stay on.

There appears a nobility in their poverty. That has to do with living upon the land. Living upon the urban pavements is obviously another thing altogether. And these, very different times.

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Yes, as Curtis says, "a fantasia on the photo series," Russell Lee's technicolor-like (some kind of Kodak ultra-real intensity of color) glimpses into interior souls of these "homesteaders" for whom Pie Town must have been a place along the way, somewhere they landed after previously having been elsewhere -- like "the girl with the dog/ wrapped in a blanket/ . . . outside Top Dog," who is also on her way from there to somewhere, who knows where.

4.2

light coming into sky above still black
plane of ridge, robin calling on branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

whereas a series of what is
past itself, which is

and so, light more and more
at last, beginning of

silver line of sun reflected in channel,
blue white sky on horizon next to point

Hazen said...

It could just be my imagination, but Lee seems to get a little closer to his subjects in the square-on portraits here. I love these color photos, and sense Lee’s genuine affection for the people in them.

We're all homesteaders "in a temporary way." Thanks, Tom.

Nin Andrews said...

I love these. They remind me of another time, even though we do have migrations, as you say. They also remind me of El Salvador today, rural El Salvador.

Growing up on a farm -- people would walk up that dirt road, looking for work. And almost everyone came in for a bite to eat. (I remember we ate lunch with the Orkin man once.) But men and stray dogs and cats came up, looking for something, and some stayed and some moseyed on.

dalriada9 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

“A nobility in their poverty”—poor as it was, I suspect these homesteaders respected the land they lived on because it made them feel richer; as you point out, what is there left for poor city folk to respect?

TC said...

Must admit that the degree to which I've lived a migratory life is a matter of some regret, but oh well, I did not come from Scotland or Virginia, those wild places... and have never had any desire to return to the urban scene whence I issued (though the one I've stuck myself in finally feels in many ways even less like "home").


Pie Town Fair: Russell Lee

tpw said...

The photos, yes, are very cool and striking, but the poem is also a gem. It gets so much work done with such leanness and clarity of language.

dalriada9 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.