The Autobiography of a Catholic Anarchist/Chapter 5
Life at Hard Labor—Refusal to Pay Income Tax
1943 – July, 1947
(Albuquerque and Isleta, New Mexico)
Christmas of 1942 I went to Santa Fe to see my wife and the girls, and although I was not welcome I did get a couple of hours' enjoyment playing games with the girls. I could not get a job there so went to Albuquerque. Here I obtained work on a dairy farm at $70 a month and keep, 12 hours a day work.
I wanted to get my ideas clear on Christian Anarchism so wrote a book of 150,000 words on the subject much of which was quotations from all of the different brands of anarchists of whom I had read. I sent it to several publishers but did not really care if it was printed or not. It is bound and on file with my other writings in the Labadie Collection at the University Library at Ann Arbor, Mich. After eight months I went to work for Albert Simms who had married Ruth Hanna McCormick. I worked in the cow barn, in the greenhouse and taking care of his valuable calves.
A group in New York City had asked me to write something from Tolstoy against war so I read all of the twenty-two volumes of the Scribner edition and took hundreds of pages of notes, listing them on the subjects of Thou Shalt Not Kill, Christian Anarchism; The Simple Life; and Religion. The first was published in a small green covered booklet and distributed free. The others were much longer booklets and have not been published.
During this time I was aware that a withholding tax would be taken from my pay if I worked on any other place than a farm and that at the end of the year I would have to pay taxes or refuse to pay them. My study of Tolstoy and the emphasis of Dorothy Day in the CW that payment of taxes was unChristian, inasmuch as most of the taxes went for war, helped me to make up my mind openly to refuse to pay taxes. I wrote to the leaders of all of the pacifist groups in the country asking their moral support. All of them but one told me I should write to Congressmen in order that they would act like men; and that one person could not do anything. The one person who approved of my stand was Dorothy Day.
When I refused to pay taxes for 1943 on March 15, 1944, Mr. Simms fired me, saying "You will be arrested tomorrow and I will be disgraced for having harbored you in my employ."
I got a job at a dairy and orchard south of town after working a few weeks for a bee man bottling honey and trapnesting some prize chickens he had. The tax office did nothing about my report.
Meanwhile Sharon had been the guest of honor at a symphony concert in Albuquerque. I met her there and of course was proud of her. Carmen graduated from high school in Santa Fe in 1944. When we had named her Carmen in Wisconsin we had never thought that she would be graduating in a class with many others girls by the name of Carmen as was the case in this old Spanish town. That summer my wife and the girls moved to Evanston, Illinois in order that they might get the best education possible in the piano work which they had chosen. Meanwhile I had visited the Indians in nearby Isleta often and become acquainted with the priest who liked the CW.
In June, 1945 the CW printed an article of mine on "The Simple Life" in which I explained the principle of voluntary poverty and non payment of taxes as I had learned them from Tolstoy and the CW. When I was working a man asked me "Why does a fellow like you, with an education and who has been all over the country, end up in this out-of-the-way place working for very little on a farm?" I explained that all people who had good jobs in factories, etc. had a withholding tax for war taken from their pay, and that people who worked on farms had no tax taken from their pay. I told him that I refused to pay taxes. He was a returned soldier and said that he did not like war either, but what could a fellow do about it? I replied that we each did what we really wanted to.
Here is my story of the simple life: At this dairy I live in an old adobe house. Father Sun, as the Indians speak of the ball of fire, rising over the Sandia (Spanish for watermelon) mountains to the east filters through the mulberry and cottonwood trees to my open door. I turn in bed and relax. A prayer for those near and dear and for those loved ones far away; in and out of prison and CO camp, and in and out of man's holocaust: war. The night before I had cooked unpolished rice sprinkled with raisins. With milk, and the whole wheat bread I have baked, my breakfast is soon finished. It is now 8 o'clock. I go to the dairy to see if any change has been made in plans for work for the day. If my student friend in the milk truck appears, he will take my letters to the mail box; otherwise I will take them myself.
Now the German prisoners have arrived from the nearby prison camp. Paul is to continue his work with me in the orchard pruning dead wood from the trees. Each of us knows a little of the other's language and we each aim unconsciously to please the other by speaking in the language native to the other. "Guten morgen, what speak you?" I say. "Hello Hennacy," he smiles, "nothing much."
In this high altitude it is chilly for perhaps an hour, Then we take our shirts off. Perhaps the branches scratch us, but we do not need to worry about tearing our shirts. He wears his North Africa cap and I wear my white Gandhi semi-turban. The orchard has not been pruned thoroughly for some years. We are late with the work, for 5000 trees have accumulated much dead wood.
Mourning doves have commenced to build their make-believe makeshift nests. They will contain two eggs which will hatch out a little brother and a little sister; the former combative and the latter as quiet as the proverbial mouse—that is unless the owl or roadrunner gets the eggs or the young birds. This roadrunner is a carnivorous bird, killing snakes and small animals also. It is streamlined, runs swiftly after its prey, and is mostly bill and tail.
As Paul views the countryside from the treetop he says that hardly a house can be seen, and contrasts this with the many houses in sight of his father's farm near the Polish border. A quarter of a mile away we see the morning train coming from Los Angeles. Today we have a row of trees with bits of dead wood scattered near the tops, which takes more time. Yesterday we had old trees, half dead, which required but several large limbs to be severed. Fido and Borso follow us to the orchard and it seems they must lie under the very tree where limbs are falling, gnawing a bone or a bit of frozen and dried apple; but they lead a dog's charmed life and are never hurt. Soon it is noon as Paul goes to the dairy to eat his lunch with Fred, Frank and Karl, and the guard who carries a gun but never uses it. I have cooked a kettle of pinto beans, and not having planted any chili peppers last summer I have added some vegetable shortening and onion for flavor. Orthodox vegetarians dodrink coffee, but not being orthodox in much of anything I have some coffee in cool weather. And of course the balance of the loaf of bread with oleo. For a few minutes I may finish writing a letter which I have begun earlier, or finish an article in a paper. I do not take a daily paper, getting the news from two weeklies. I would not have the noise of a radio around.
Then I usually walk across the road a block to say hello to my Spanish friends; especially my four year old Lipa. She will be kneeling on a bench making tortillas and beans from the table and will greet me with a mixture of Spanish and English in precise, quick words. The father and older brother are employed on the farm also and I have worked with them at odd times. The older sister passes the orchard on the way to school and likes apples. Now I have to forget my German and see if I can remember a few Spanish words. Lipa will proudly say "apple" and I will say "manzana." She will point to my pocket and say "pocket" and I will reply with "bolsa." Soon it is time to go to work. As I leave, Lipa or some of the family will give the traditional Spanish "come back again." It would be good if I would reply, "come over to my house," but the accommodations of a bachelor are not conductive to visiting. Brother Joe has been over to practice typing letters, and Lipa has come running several times to "see your girls" (the pictures of my daughters). Seeing the typewriter she took great pride in saying this long word. Another English word which delighted her, in taste and in tongue, was "gingerbread."
The mailman comes in the afternoon. Perhaps today I receive several letters from boys in CO. camps, discussing Tolstoy and bringing up questions which puzzle them. It is now 6 p.m. and I go to the dairy for my quart of milk, perhaps carry a can of water also, and chop wood for half an hour. Evenings are cool and even in the summer a cover is required. The apple, cherry and peach wood burns brightly in the fireplace. Even twigs burn well in the range.
It is now early April and asparagus, which has come up for years throughout the orchard, presents a fine supper for the vegetarian. Many times with a half pint of milk, a little pepper and shortening added, it makes a filling and delicious meal. At other times slowly fried and mixed with rice it gives a flavor resembling oysters. (Some meat-eater may correct me, for I have not tasted oysters for thirty years.)
Perhaps a letter or article in the CHRISTIAN CENTURY, which a friend kindly subscribed to for me along with several other papers, suggests an article which I feel impelled to write. Perhaps I am writing another Tolstoy booklet corresponding with my Doukhobor friends in Canada, or writing a digest or review of a book which a friend has loaned to me. My only luxury, a semi-stuffed armchair, is in front of the fireplace; the stove to the right and a table of apple boxes to the left, where my typewriter and current correspondence is scattered. A large table to the back which has been used for apple sorting is used for bread mixing, hectographing, and a general place for material I want within easy reach. I use a board across my lap for a table and have the food handy at the stove.
Before me, above the fireplace, are oil paintings by the former owner of the orchard. This man was a Christian Scientist whose mother knew Mrs. Eddy. Neighbors tell of his reading "The Book" to sick animals and saying that the power of right thought would make grain instead of the weeds now in the fields. There are undoubtedly metaphysical laws little understood by most of us which show the relationship between the great waves of hatred, fear and war which sweep over and surround the atmosphere of this world and the waves of epidemics, blights, floods and so-called "Acts of God." St. Francis could tame the man-eating wolf of Gubbio at a glance, but he had first tamed the passions, hatreds and materialism which had previously held sway in his own being. Christian Scientists or any of the cults springing from that premise cannot expect to control weeds, insects and wholesale epidemics as long as they bless war and the economic system which feeds on war. When they have the courage and the spirituality of the early Christians then they can surely "take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them." But warmongers and Mammon worshippers need not expect miracles.
A picture of Jesus at the carpenter's bench finally wore out after I had put it up and taken it down when moving around. My half-pacifist young Lutheran minister friend, Leeland Soker, gave me Sallman's Head of Christ. My unorthodox array of "Saints" on the wall are Tolstoy, Debs, Thoreau, Jefferson, Abdul Baha, St. Francis, Vanzetti and Gandhi. The pictures of my own girls and family and that of an Indian maiden is the only touch of femininity in the house. This room is 14 by 16 feet with two windows and three doors, and the bedroom is 13 by 13. The walls are nearly four feet thick, made of native adobe, and the ceilings are ten feet high.
Tradition tells of treasure hid here in this house at the time of Indian raids. For the house was once an old fort in the times when the whites were encroaching upon the Indian country. The treasure that I have found here was buried, all right—buried deep within my personality, and it took the peace and quiet, the productive labor among kindly, common and everyday sort of people to discover it.
Originally all doors led upon a small patio in the center open to the sky. The east wall is now torn down. Part of the house was used as a Catholic chapel in the early days. Enough cracks here and there allow Brother Mouse to come and go. At a former place where I lived by myself I was able to stop up all cracks and holes within two months so that mice did not enter. It was their home before it was mine. They have a right to live, to chew and gnaw, but they do not need to do so in my two rooms. There is plenty for them in nearby fields and farm buildings. They do not bother old copies of the CATHOLIC WORKER or other pacifist or radical papers. Their especial taste seems to be for the CHRISTIAN CENTURY—but then they may have developed certain tastes from the former owner of the place.
It is now a bright morning in early May. By this time my skin is nearly as brown as that of Hans. Last year the blisters on my back worried others much and myself but little. This year not a blister came from my exposure to the sun. Two electric pumps bring water from the irrigation ditch and from a well to irrigate the 100 rows of trees. For a short distance the water runs between banks uphill until it reaches the trees. (The saying here is that only a Mormon can make water run up hill. They understand irrigation, are good workers and their system of helping each other could easily be studied and used by all of us. I have some Mormon friends who like to read the CATHOLIC WORKER.) The gopher has made holes in the ditch bank and this is a continual trouble until they have all been stopped up. Hans watches the ditch bank for leaks and I see that the water reaches each tree.
Melons have come up from some left in the field last year. I plant onions, parsnips, rutabagas, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, blue Indian corn from nearby Isleta pueblo, and the native pinto bean. Later sweet potatoes and peppers will be planted. Last year I planted a small patch of wheat but soon afterward came to work here and did not harvest it. My employer has doubts about my ability as a wheat farmer but I planted about an acre. Much of it is up but some of the ground is black alkali where even weeds will not grow.
Old timers here and there along this Rio Grande have watermills where corn is ground between two stones. They go with exceedingly slow motion but there is no cost, and these stones have been grinding for centuries. If it is possible to get my blue corn and wheat ground at such a mill I will do so; if not, the hammer mill of my employer can grind it. The primitive way of cutting wheat, binding it by hand (for few people raise wheat and use a binder here) and threshing it out by hand on canvas seems queer. By itself it may seem foolish, but taken as part of a pattern of life it has meaning. Orthodox economists tell us that the farmer who uses a horse and a plow and very little machinery cannot afford to compete in the market with the farmer who uses up-to-date machinery.
It happens that I do not care to own property and have it taken away by the government for non-payment of taxes, for most of the taxes in my lifetime will go to pay for World War II and to prepare for World War III. One who eats meat can raise a few hogs and chickens in the country and here turkeys do well. For a vegetarian who simplifies his needs, the cash that is needed for certain purposes can be earned as a farm laborer; and most of the food to be consumed can be raised on an acre or two. To raise food for animals and then eat the animals is expensive. Why not raise the grain and eat it yourself?
I am not competing on the market with others any more than I am losing an election when I do not enter the lists of voting. My ideals are above and beyond that nose counting which takes place at the ballot box, and the economic system which myself and other free spirits follow is above and beyond the market place. The B-29's roar over my head hourly. These planes of death exist, as do the market place and the voting booth, but they do not need to be a part of my life if I do not choose to help pay for them or live in fear because of the warmonger's security in these false gods.
I keep ten dollars for expenses and send the remainder to my wife and girls. During the month of May, 1945 my expenses were as follows:
- Whole wheat pour, 25 lbs........$1.25 (could grow own wheat)
- Vegetable shortening, 3 lbs........68
- Cornmeal, 5 lbs....................46 (could grow own corn)
- Oleomargarine, 2 lbs...............38
- Rice, 4 lbs........................58 (price is too high)
- Raisins, 2 lbs.....................23
- Syrup, 5 lbs.......................47
- Yeast, salt, sugar, etc............50
- Electric light bill..............1.00
- Bundle of CO and CWs.............2.40
- Postage stamps, haircut, etc.....2.05
I bought a quantity of pinto beans (seconds) last year and still have some left. Have a few jars of apple butter which I put up last fall. Get a quart of milk free from the farm daily, and asparagus, wild lettuce, and later fruit and vegetables. Irish potatoes do not grow well here. The ones that you buy at the store now are not worth the money, so I buy rice instead. Another year I should get a few hives of bees.
Reading of the bread-making at Mott St. and of Cobbetts old-fashioned way of bread making, and of Catherine de Heuck's rye bread encouraged me to persevere until I can now say that I make as good bread as I have ever tasted. Here is my method, developed at last after getting the yeast too hot, the oven too hot, and the dough raised too quickly. At noon I put 13 cups of whole wheat flour in a pan. Heat a pint of milk until it commences to bubble, then add water until it is a little more than luke warm. Crumble in 2 cakes of yeast and stir until dissolved. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and 4 of sugar to the liquid and pour liquid in the flour. Mix and add 4 tablespoons of shortening. Knead it a bit and add more water if necessary until it is not too sticky. I then put it in a pan, cover it with a cloth and take it over to Lipa's mother, Reyes, and leave it in her warm kitchen until 6 p.m. (If I left it in my room, Brother Mouse would nose around and perhaps get in the habit of searching for such good food—and my room is too cool for the dough to rise properly.)
At night I knead the dough lightly and make it into four loaves according to the size of pan I happen to have. (The Spanish word for bread is "pan".) I leave these loaves for about an hour and a half by the open oven door where a wood fire is burning. When the loaves have raised sufficiently I put them in the oven; but it must not be too hot or the outside will burn and the inside be doughy. In about 45 minutes the bread will be done. Shortening applied to the top of the loaf as it is removed from the oven keeps it from cracking. I place the loaves in a roomy and airy oven of another stove which is stored here and not in use, but is mouse proof. In the morning, half of a small loaf goes to Reyes and Lipa and half of a loaf to the growing son of my employer, who prefers it to store bread. A good slice is given as a token to Pat, the bookkeeper on the farm, who kindly brings my groceries from town, as she goes there often in her car.
I have been unable to purchase any buckwheat flour and make my own everlasting dough, added to each day during the winter months. The prepared stuff you buy is a travesty on the name of buckwheat. In winter I make hotcakes from flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and shortening. Have fried mush often for breakfast. When I am out of bread and do not have any yeast I can make fairly good tortillas. One day Lipa said that she had made two for me, but they are not nice and round like my mother's. (The saying among the Spanish people is that until a girl can make perfectly good, round tortillas, she is not ready to be married.)
A cup of flour, a teaspoon of salt and the same of baking powder and shortening, with enough milk or water added so the dough will not be sticky, will make three tortillas. Roll the dough out rather thin and place on top of the wood stove. Do not have the fire too hot. Keep turning from one side to another until light brown. Then put between the folds of a cloth. Spanish people break the tortilla in bits and dip up beans with it. I have learned to do this fairly well. One night last year when I had taken apples to Lipa I stayed for supper. Lipa jumped up from the table and rolled out a rather lop-sided tortilla and placed it on the stove. Chattering in her snappy English and Spanish, she forgot it and it was badly burned, With a nonchalant gesture she said, "That's o.k. Hennacy, take it along and eat it on your way home."
It is Sunday morning. I get up at 5.45, eat a hurried breakfast, take my good clothing in a grip along with about 50 CATHOLIC WORKERS and go to the orchard to look over the situation of the water, which has been running all night. Here the water has gone into another row and missed half a dozen acres; there it is dammed up with weeds and a furrow. I channel the water in the proper places and look over the next row for potential breaks, and turn the water into this new row. I oil the pump, and then a dash of cold water livens me up. Change my clothes, and walk a mile down the road to the seminary chapel, where I give a CW to each person as they enter for 7.30 mass. Then I walk the the miles toward town. Many times a workman picks me up.
If I am early I visit Rev. Soker in his study for half an hour and give him a paper. Then I go in the rear of a large church and say my prayers. The old Irish priest here says what he thinks, his sermons being short and to the point. Some people know me as I stand in front of the church after mass with the CW, but most of them are busy with other affairs. As people go in for the 11 o'clock mass some get a paper from me. Then I hurriedly walk two miles to a church near the University. I have met this younger priest personally; he was a former social worker, so we have something in common. Here the people coming from the 11 o'clock mass and entering and leaving the noon mass can obtain papers from me if they like. Some military men eye my Gandhi cap warily as it bears a neat inscription in red, "Free India Now."
On my way home I leave a copy with my partly pacifist friend of the Christian denomination and chat with him a few minutes. Then I deposit a copy with my Jehovah Witness friends, to whom I have previously explained the mystery of one who is not a Catholic giving time and energy (as they give time and energy for their cause) to distribute a Catholic paper. The fact that I was in prison with Judge Rutherford in Atlanta in 1918 commands their respect. They see the pacifism of the CATHOLIC WORKER but it has the name "Catholic". How could that church be for "the Truth?" There must be something wrong! I have met the Jehovahs in other cities; they have courage, and that pardons much of their intolerance.
Coming home the other Sunday afternoon I stopped in to say hello to Lipa. Seeing me with a shirt and coat she asked, "Hennacy, you been to Ecclesia?" I said that I had. "You say Name of the Father?" "Not very much, but I say benefice for my honey," I replied. Quickly she took me into the bedroom and proudly pointed to two candles burning at either side of an image and said, "See Santo" (the Holy Child).
One other Sunday I sold papers at the church near the University and the priest said "every soldier who dies fighting for his country goes at once to eternal bliss." An old priest at the big downtown church saw me selling CWs and said "The Catholic church in all of its history has not lived up one jot or one tittle to the Sermon on the Mount. Come in and talk with me sometime." An Indian who was a guard of the German prisoners said to me after reading a CW, "Why does no one tell us about conscientious objectors except after the war is over?" I explained that we were getting them ready for the next war.
One Sunday morning in June I arose early, picked a cup of mulberries from the bush at my door, which with sugar and cream and some bread made a delicious breakfast. I had borrowed a bicycle from Lipa's brother Joe, and after attending to the irrigation of the orchard I started down the road to the Indian reservation in which is located the Pueblo of Isleta, seven miles to the south. The road was uphill and down and quite sandy, so that progress was slow. Here it wound along the edge of the bluff overlooking the two ribbons of the Rio Grande with a wide expanse of sandbars between. Horses grazed on the lush grass along the river in the lowlands near the Santa Fe bridge. Coming into Isleta a rather large adobe house with buildings of the same material occupied the corner between the road and the bridge. An Indian with an exceedingly large brimmed hat was feeding some animals. An auto, partly dismantled stood in the yard. Just south of the bridge is the dam which throws the water through the spillways for the reservation.
It was now 9.30, and upon inquiry of the priest's housekeeper I was told that today's mass had been at 8.00, and the next Sunday it would be at 10.00 o'clock, as the priest had the 10 o'clock mass at a neighboring town this morning. I had taken fifty odd copies of the CW along, and I commenced to knock at each door and give a copy to each family. The houses were on narrow semi-streets winding here and there, as in Santa Fe, and each yard held farm machinery, wood, and the familiar wagon in which I had often seen the Indians from the orchard on their way to town. Nearly every woman who came to the door spoke to me in English and thanked me for the paper. Several extremely wrinkled old men came to the door, and although they may not have understood just what it was they received, thanked me for the paper. Perhaps twenty houses were locked; the people were in the fields or gardens in the outlying parts of the reservation, or visiting. Here I did not leave a paper as I saw I would not have enough. One noticeable thing about the houses is that they are large and roomy, although perhaps a married son or daughter would live in one end of the house.
A man and his wife were on the porch of a nice appearing house, and when I gave them a paper said that three families lived there. First a pretty dimpled young matron appeared and later another comely young woman, and each got a copy of the paper. While a young sister and brother looked at the paper I stopped a moment to rest. I explained where I worked, and that this was a Catholic paper a little different from the others, in that it did not support war. The young ladies said that about 100 young men from the pueblo had been drafted. Later a mother and daughter invited me in when I gave them a paper. The house was very clean and roomy (more so than my own). A huge coffee pot like we used for threshers in the east stood on the stove. Two stars on the door indicated that men were in the armed forces. I mentioned the story that my Quaker great-grandmother had told me of Indians not harming Quakers, who did not lock their doors, fight the Indians, or give them liquor. They recognized the name Quaker, but did not know of any such thing as conscientious objectors, saying that war was bad but boys had to go, and what could you do about it. I replied that many Catholic boys were in concentration camps or in prison in preference to going to war. I told them of the five Hopi Indians who had refused to register and had gone to prison, and of the injustice of Indians being made to fight the white man's wars, after being despoiled of their country and not being allowed citizenship.
A beautiful granddaughter with a clear bright complexion and bright dark eyes, about 8 years old, came in for a few minutes. Her name was Pauline Jiron. Now it was noon and they invited me to eat with them. Peas, with a side dish of chili which made the tears come to my eyes and my mouth burn; bread baked in the oval adobe oven outside the door, and coffee. They brought sugar from the cupboard especially for me, but as I did not use it, nor they either, it remained untouched. I spoke of some old Indian men I had met at the doors that morning and wondered how old they were. "They may look old, but they are not so old" my hostess replied. All families in the pueblo were Catholic except two or three who had a Baptist minister meet with them in their homes.
Nearly every house had several dogs near the door, but not one of them howled, although I was dressed in the white suit I had worn in the dairy, and in my white Gandhi cap, and must have appeared unusual to them. Several notices of silversmiths and their wares were posted at houses. All the Indians had splendid teeth, and not one bald-headed Indian was to be seen. The older men wore hair braided or rolled at the back. The older women wore white leggings wound round and round, and bright shawls. The men wore gaily colored shirts. The children ran to bright colors, as do the Spanish. The generally accepted idea that Indians do not beat their children, that the children are not afraid and seldom cry, was found to be true by my observation, and in answer to questions on that subject. "The Navajos simply do 'sh-h-h' and the children cease whatever nuisance they are making," one lady told me.
I approached one house where a large wire and wood net or container partly filled with corn hung between four posts. In response to my knock an elderly man asked me to come in. His daughter was there, and later his wife came in. He looked at the paper and saw that it was Catholic, and thanked me for it. He asked me to sit down. I said that this was a Catholic paper that did not believe in war, and taught that all men were brothers and should not kill each other.
"The skin may be different color," he answered, touching his tanned arm, "but the Great Spirit is in the heart of everyone. The Sun is the father that gives light and makes the corn grow. If it seems to shine too much for us, we must know that it shines for everybody; for some who need it more than we do. A man who curses the good Mother Earth because the crop does not grow is sinful. We must plant good seed, and God and Mother Earth bring us good food. A good man does not curse God, Father Sun or Mother Earth. Good health comes from the good God."
That man's son is in the occupied German territory now. The father had never heard of conscientious objectors, but felt that the war was evil, especially for Indians to fight for the white man when they were not free themselves. He too was interested in the Hopi Indians who had refused to register, I told him about my Quaker great-grandmother, the activities of the Quakers in hiding escaped slaves, and of my own opposition to war and refusal to pay taxes.
It was now 1.30, and I went to the house of the priest, which was enclosed to the right of the church behind adobe walls. He was baptizing Indian babies, so I waited on the porch. Corn grew knee high in the patio, and rabbits played in the enclosure bedded with clover. I had brought the housekeeper some asparagus I had gathered in the orchard that morning, and I smelled it cooking. Soon the priest, a big man, appeared. He greeted me cordially. I had mailed him a letter previously explaining that I was coming to his parish to distribute the CW, and had mailed him several copies. He knew the truth about Pearl Harbor and was not in favor of obliteration bombing. He said that, as in the last war, the army factories of international cartels had not been touched, while hundreds of thousands of civilians had been burned alive. I gave him a copy of the CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR which he had not seen before.
On the bicycle as I was going through the Pueblo toward home, several children and older folks recognized my white attire and waved to me. A jeep full of guards from the German prison camp passed me, and one of them who knew me wondered what I was doing down there. They had often met me as I had passed their camp on the way to on Sunday mornings. Nearing home I stopped for a drink of water at the home of cousins of Lipa whom I had met before. As soon as I got home, a look at the well in the orchard proved that the water was running properly. I was very hungry and prepared a good bowl of rice and raisins with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, then went to the orchard to turn the water into another row for the night. As Joe was by himself in the dairy I helped him cool the milk.
Having worked during the summer in the orchard seven days a week without extra pay I had earned a vacation in December. My employer had presented me with a fine wool sleeping bag. On Dec. 15th, 1945 I hiked before daylight eastward over the pass toward Amarillo. Walking twenty-three miles and riding 183, I came about an hour after dark to a farmhouse and asked if I could sleep in a shed or barn. It was bitter cold and the man asked me in the house to get warm. Later he insisted that I occupy a spare bed in an enclosed porch, saying that I could sleep in my sleeping bag anytime. His forecast was correct, for of the twenty-two nights that I did not stay with relatives on this hike, this New Mexican was the only farmer who allowed me on his place. I love the land, and it would please me to tell of the hospitality of those who live on the land, but alas, the farmer seems to have the mind of those who live in the city: prosperous and selfish. In Texas a returned soldier in a truck gave me a long ride. Passing a small town, he said, "See that undertaking establishment? Good money in the business. I used to own it, but saw so many dead in Europe that I swore I would never bury one more person. So I sold my business and bought a farm."
On one lonesome stretch of the highway hundreds of cars passed without noticing me. Finally a young couple stopped, told me to put my bundles in the rear, and crowded themselves to allow me to sit with them in the front seat. We struck a snow storm as we arrived in Oklahoma City. I put on my galoshes, which I had carried along with my lunch and other things which might be needed in a hurry, in a flour sack hung in front of me, which balanced the sleeping bag on my back when I hiked. A girth strap of wide leather, wound around the back and buckled in front formed a harness. As on the hike which my wife and I had made years before, I never asked for a ride, but waited for people to ask me: trusting in God instead of my thumb. During two nights in Oklahoma I slept in old vacant houses along the road. Doors and windows were missing, but the floors were dry. Both times I was directed to them by the keepers of small stores who were unwilling to permit me to occupy their nearby sheds. The temperatures these nights were below zero. My sleeping bag was warm enough, but tying it up in the morning was a problem, for my hands became very cold.
In Webb City, Mo., I met several soldiers with bus tickets in their pockets hiking from the west coast, trying to get home by Christmas. No room on bus or train. (My sisters had offered me a round trip ticket, but I felt that I did not wish to be the occasion of the government getting that much war tax. I found that even if I had a ticket I could not have used it. So the absolutist turned out to be practical for once.) In the afternoon a man who had attended Quaker meetings in Philadelphia in his youth, but who was now a Catholic, gave me a ride from near Kansas City to Des Moines. He was an officer in the Kansas Co-op Wholesale and a friend of Monsignor Ligutti. He was much interested in the copies of the CW which I gave him. It was now after dark and bitter cold. I phoned Msgr. Ligutti and made an appointment for 8:30 the next morning. Salvation Army, hotels and tourist camps were full, so the only recourse for this anarchist was to ask for the hospitality of his enemy, the state. With very little formality I was ushered into a tank cell and was the only occupant of a fifty-bed room. Later in the night some one else came in, whom I found in the morning was a young fellow whose employer had skipped town without paying him. They went around cleaning brass on the front of banks. I staked him to breakfast and a CW and each of us went our way. It was storming. Msgr. Ligutti greeted me cheerfully and I warmed myself before his cheery fireplace in the large house where the offices of the Rural Life Conference are located. He was to leave for Rome the next day. He was interested and sympathetic with my mode of life and enthusiastic about the CW. Presenting me with about ten pounds of literature he wished me well on my trip.
Near Stirling, Illinois, I walked about seven miles and it became dark. Finally I saw the lights of a 24-hour restaurant, had a cup of coffee and went on my way, being told that the next town was about seven miles away. I walked and walked and my fingers were nearly frozen it seemed. I thought I had surely gone the seven miles and stopped in at a farmhouse to get warm and ask directions. The town was still three miles away. Again I walked and walked in the darkness; suddenly I saw another 24-hour restaurant. Looking closer I saw it was the same one, for when I left the farmhouse I had walked four miles back the wrong way. I treated myself to a good omelet, for I was extra hungry and tired. The proprietor had overheard the conversation about my getting lost and suggested that if I did not mind sleeping between bags of onions and potatoes in the basement I could do so.
I was awakened at 5:00 a.m. by a waiter and told that a trucker would take me as far as Joliet. It was now the day before Christmas, and I was 125 miles from my destination, Evanston, Ill. Sleet on the highway and the windshield made this a bitter day—the worst of the trip. The truck broke down and after much walking and a few rides I met my wife and girls. The activities of their sect did not allow my radical aura to befog the atmosphere, so I went to Milwaukee for Christmas.
Later I said hello to my girls for a few minutes and went to Cleveland to visit my mother and sisters and brother. One brother-in-law had been raised a Christian Scientist; he was an ex-soldier, and was interested in the booklet I gave him published by the conscientious objectors who were Christian Scientists. Another brother-in-law lived in a suburb where there was a Catholic church. My sister had tried to give the priest and her Catholic neighbors copies of the CW but without success. I met Max Sandin, CO in World War I. He was also a non-registrant in World War II and one who refused to pay taxes.
Leaving just before dark I took a street car to Berea to visit my hiking pacifist friend, Phil Mayer. He had edited the Walden Round Robin, and although he was a humanist is enthusiastic about St. Francis of Assisi. At breakfast next morning his wife read a few pages from the Little Flowers of St. Francis in lieu of a blessing. It told of the angel in disguise who knocked in such a hurry on the door and of the ill temper of Brother Elias. It seemed to me a good lesson on faith and peace and trust in God. One of Phil's enthusiasms is the reciting of the epic poems of Vachel Lindsay. He showed me a letter from Lindsay's widow, who had been a Communist for years, in which she spoke of her recent conversion to the Catholic faith and her pleasure in knowing that he knew of the Catholic Worker movement.
That evening a lady stopped and gave me a ride for fifteen miles. This was after dark and very unusual. It seemed that a son had been killed by a hit and run driver and she always picked up people, feeling that they would be safer with her than walking on the road. That evening earlier an old couple accompanied by a married daughter and 7 yr. old son in a car picked me up and wondered why I did not ask for rides. I answered, "Oh I am a pioneer and pioneers don't ask for rides." The small boy looked at me with my Gandhi cap and said haltingly: "Oh Mom; a pioneer; a real pioneer; Gee Mom, they had hard times!" After another ride I walked up toward four farm houses but saw folks hiding behind doors rather than run the chance of speaking to a stranger. Down the road I saw the light of a garage; it was one of those 24-hour restaurants and trucker filling stations. While eating I heard conversation that told me that the young proprietor had had a nervous breakdown that morning and had not yet regained consciousness. His wife had worked all day and was weary. One girl had to cook, wash dishes and wait on table. The father-in-law was busy waiting on gas customers. I said that all of my journey had led me to that place that night, and proceeded to wash dishes, peel potatoes, etc. for several hours until the work was caught up. I slept on a bench by the entrance although I did not sleep much because of the noise which lasted that Saturday night until 4:00 a.m. In the morning the wife of the proprietor fixed me an especially fine breakfast and wondered what they would have done if I had not happened to come at just the right time. I told her nothing "happened" in this world, that all things work together for good to those who love the good—God. I had barely stepped out of the place the next morning when a taxi stopped and the driver, who was going to work, took me the twenty-eight miles to Toledo.
This Sunday I walked twenty-two miles. Each place where I hoped to get something to eat was marked "Closed on Sunday." Toward evening I saw a church spire in the distance, and supposing it was a Lutheran church I determined to ask the wife of the pastor for coffee. Coming closer I saw a sign which read "Assumption". Where had I heard that word before? I had only had time to read Dorothy's column in the December CW in Cleveland. Sitting down on my pack in front of the church. I looked it over again and saw that Dorothy had been there a few weeks before. Knocking on the convent door, I asked for Sister Columbiere. I was ushered into the parlor and soon the sister arrived, wondering how I knew her name. I showed her a copy of the December CW in which her name was mentioned, and which she had not yet seen. In a few minutes another sister announced that my venison was ready. I had not said that I had nothing to eat since Monday or that I was a vegetarian but I suppose I looked hungry. Sister Suzanne spoke up quickly, "Oh, I know what he likes, for my father is a vegetarian." So eggs and cheese were substituted. The sisters were interested in my hike and in my anti-war activities. I was unable to see the priest, for he was busy with committee meetings for a credit union and a cooperative freezer locker.
After supper I attended Benediction in the church, hearing with pleasure the clear voice of Sister Columbiere, which matched her radiant countenance. I felt that all things did work together for good, as I had asserted that morning, for if I had received a ride I would have gone through this small settlement and not known I had missed it. The sisters gave me some blankets and I slept on a mattress above the garage. I left early in the morning my pack about five pounds heavier because of the sandwiches, celery, cake, etc. which the sisters had given me.
Arriving in Chicago at noon the next day I had a visit at CYO headquarters with Nina Polcyn, Florence and Margaret, old friends of the Milwaukee Catholic Worker group. I also spent several hours visiting with my old friend, Claude McKay, Negro poet and former Communist, a friend of Dorothy in the twenties, and now a convert to the church. I had a few minutes with Sharon as she practiced music at the University before school, and with Carmen as we walked toward a street car.
As I walked up the long hill on Route 151 to the south of Dubuque, Iowa, it commenced to snow. Cars had slipped off the road all along but the pilgrim on foot made it all right. About nine miles further on I heard the bells of the monastery tolling to the right. A man picked me up and wanted to know where I was going, I told him to the monastery. He wanted to know if I was going to join the monks. I told him that I was not, and that I was a kind of a desert monk myself. Two miles further along a dirt road I came to a parish church surrounded by trees. Going down a deep hollow I saw a fine stone building over the hill. I had lived in desert country but had never seen a mirage.
As I walked closer the building disappeared, for it was a mirage. It was much further on hidden in the blinding snow that I came upon the monastery. Brother Joachim, a native Irishman, red-bearded and smiling, greeted me. Supper was ready, and he personally served me and two other guests. The Trappists do not eat meat or eggs but serve them to guests. Their vegetarianism is practiced as a penance, and not because of any especial regard for animals or health. Several other visitors were at the table, none of whom agreed with the Christian anarchist ideas of the CW. The brothers thought that the lesser of two evils should be taken instead of the ultimate good but they were not unduly insistent on the matter. Soon I met Brother Edmund, a graduate of the agricultural college at Las Cruces, N.M. After supper I attended Benediction. We all retired early, as the brothers get up at 2.00 a.m. and pray until breakfast at 8.00 and then are assigned their labor on the farm. After breakfast I attended high mass in the beautiful chapel. Visitors are partitioned off by locked gates from the brothers. Those in the choir put on white robes instead of the brown habit. They have a vow of silence. They sleep in one room somewhat like voting booths with canvas partitions. They sleep with their robes on. There were 57 monks at the time I was there. In 1849 Bishop Loras of Dubuque offered the brothers 500 acres of land and the monastery was founded that year. The present Abbot is Alfred Beston. I left at 2.00 p.m. the next day. Brother Joachim accompanied me for a few steps outside in the bitter cold and wished me peace and God-speed on my journey. In this world of speed and strife, of atomic bombs and commercial fraud, it was refreshing to rest in the quiet of this peaceful monastery.
That evening it was terribly cold. One man gave me a ride who was a captain in the air force in World War I. As airplanes went overhead he cursed and said he would never ride in one again; it was all he could do to drive a car; he had a farm and did not want to get far from the land.
I saw the red lights of a radio station ahead and it seemed that I never got any closer as I walked and walked. Finally I came to a filling station and learned that there was but one restaurant in the town half a mile away. I entered, wearily dropped my pack by the stove, and ordered bean soup—double order. A sturdy youth picked up my pack and asked if I carried this on bean soup. "Seems as if I have to, as there is not much left for a vegetarian to eat." Just then the village butcher came in and the youth said: "Mike, if everyone was like this fellow you would have no job." "What you mean, no job?" asked Mike. The youth nodded to me and I explained that I had walked 18 miles and was not extra-tired; that I did not eat meat because I did not like to kill animals and did not want anyone to kill them for me. But I was not in town long enough to hurt his business. Mike was a simple minded fellow from the old country and took all this very seriously, so he answered: "Every day I kill cow and pig; people ask me to kill mad dog and their too many cats, but I never kill one sheep for he look me in the eye and I cannot do it. Someone else has to kill the sheep."
I journeyed through the long dreary stretches of Nebraska and over the exact spot where Crazy Horse had put blankets on the hoofs of horses and escaped the U.S. military patrol, over half a century before. A returned soldier who drove like mad brought me into neon-lit Cheyenne, Wyoming at 9 p.m. The Salvation Army and hotels were full up so I slept in the jail that night. Going south the next morning toward Denver a middle-aged man picked me up. He asked my destination and why I was hiking. He soon said after looking closely at my Gandhi headgear, "I don't like such people as you. You seem to be smart but have no ambition. Going around the country like this and living on charity in a jail. I never took a dime from anybody. I'm going to leave you right here in the desert although I could take you to Denver if I liked." Knowing it was little use to discuss life and its problems with this Babbitt, and wondering how he ever detoured from his bourgeois mentality to pick anyone up, I thanked him for the ride, walked on a mile and a half and got a ride with a jolly U.S. Marshall to Denver by noon.
Here I visited with my old friend Helen Ford, who had a small printing press and who had printed my tax refusal statement. Charles Salmon was studying for the priesthood, but I was unable to locate him. I hiked south and slept one very cold night under a bridge three miles south of Walsenburg, Col. When I awoke two inches of snow covered me. I had not been cold during the night but my fingers were nearly frozen by the time I had tied up my pack. After I had walked a few miles, a man gave me a ride, and I still remember the fine breakfast that I had at the Globe Hotel. Now it warmed up and I was soon over Raton pass and down into New Mexico. Another day, after walking twenty-one miles over dreary roads, I arrived after dark at a small settlement. All of the stores were closed. Going to the house with the brightest lights, I was greeted at the door by a Mexican who worked on the section gang. His wife was away and he invited me in giving me supper and breakfast, refusing any money from "my amigo." I guess he appreciated the fact that I was walking. I gave him my last CW.
An ex-soldier going west to college stopped and asked me to get in. He thought I was an Indian and picked me up because of the pack I was carrying. We arrived in Albuquerque at dark. I phoned my employer to tell him that I had at last come home. A smoldering fire in the fireplace greeted me from my roommate Hovey, the ex-soldier who worked on the farm. I had walked 490 miles and had ridden 3,582, a total mileage of 4,072.
Glad to get back to this land of sunshine I reviewed the result of my trip. I had acquired a sympathetic feeling toward ex-soldiers. It seems that their difficulties had made them kinder than the civilians.
I remembered one evening in Iowa where I had asked half a dozen farmers for permission to lay my sleeping bag in a sheltered end of a building but had been chased away. Later that evening one farmer came to the restaurant where I was eating and slipped a half a dollar in my pocket and said sheepishly, "I am ashamed because I turned you away."
I felt happy with the memory of my family and friends. Carmen and Sharon were continuing their music in Evanston. When a Sophomore in high school Sharon had been chosen to play the piano solo at the Spring Music Festival. She was given Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue to play and told those in charge that she preferred Mozart. They told her that it was an honor to be chosen and she replied, "It is no honor to play trash; get someone who likes trash." She also refused an invitation to join the music sorority.
I felt renewed faith in that Providence which brought me safely through wind and storm and home again. I brought Lipa some mittens and her small brother Ernesto, a cap. The new irrigation ditch was nearly finished and several months of pruning the trees under the rays of the sun and away from the fog and smoke of the cities awaited me.
This Hovey of whom I speak had been a guard over the German prisoners and had asked me if he could come and room with me when he was mustered out. He had been the errand boy of his father in the moonshine business in the Carolinas for many years and had the easy going ways of his people. Despite this he had a better judgment of character than anyone I have met. Some new worker would come and Hovey would talk to him for half an hour and find out more of his past than a detective. Then he would come to the boss and say: "Charlie, watch that fellow, he's a rogue," or else he would say of another: "Don't fight with that fellow, Charlie; he's the best man you have had outside of Hensley." Hovey called me Hensley because he had once known a man by that name and it was too much bother to learn another name. Once he mailed a letter for me and my wife did not receive it for weeks. I asked him if he had really mailed it and he said that he had. As there was a check for $41.50 in the letter he said that he would pay me this amount if the letter did not reach my wife. But he would not mail any more letters for me. My wife got the letter and Hovey felt better.
Once he asked me to "back a letter for me." I addressed the envelope and then he wanted me to write the letter to his sister, "for you write such interesting letters; write just like you do to your girls." So I told his sister of what we had been doing the past week. "Now sign it," said Hovey. I told him that would be forgery so he signed his name himself. He depended upon me to do the cooking; and if I asked him to chop three sticks of wood he surely would not make a mistake and chop four. His quaint ways and slow motion were a source of joy to be, but one Hovey was enough at a time.
I had been visiting the Indians at Isleta pueblo all along. When the Atom Bomb was exploded at nearby Alamogordo in the previous July none of us knew at the time what it was. When we all knew of it I wrote the following expression which I placed in the mouth of a Taos Indian who was visiting. Those to whom I read it felt that it expressed their ideas as well as a white man could.
- They mock you.
- Fire to glow on the hearth,
- Warmth to open the heart of the Holy Corn,
- Warmth to melt the snow on White Mountain
- Giving water for our crops, our animals.
- This, Sun-Father, is good.
- Great fire to kill
- is bad.
- I kill my enemy with my own two hands
- Or he kills me.
- That is brave. To burn and blast every man,
- Every woman and child,
- All animals and birds,
- All corn and grass—
- That is cowardly and wicked.
- They steal your brightness
- For devil-worship;
- They mock you.
In May I received a telegram from Claude McKay in Chicago saying that he was very ill and wanted to come to Albuquerque, thinking the change of climate would help him. Sister Agnes de Sales, head of Catholic Teachers College and a friend of mine and of the CW got a bed on the porch of St. Joseph's Hospital for Claude, He was nearly dead with diabetes, heart trouble and dropsy when he arrived and had to be put under an oxygen tent. I had studied Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, the I AM, Spiritualism, Christian Science, Eschatology, and various other occult cults and at this time was studying Yogi breathing and healing exercises. Their basis was relaxed deep breathing, drawing the strength from God, or as they phrased it: The Great Central Sun. Then this buildup of power was sent with outstretched hands and prayer to that part of the body or the person afflicted. The person to be helped did not need to believe in it; only to acquiesce and not eat meat. I did my best each morning and a friend in Milwaukee who had more experience did the same for him. Whether it was these prayers, those of Sister Agnes and others or not, Claude passed the crisis and in about six weeks was well enough to be released.
The trouble then was to find a place that would accept a Negro. I made a public appeal in a local Protestant Negro church but to no avail. Finally Msgr. Garcia made up a bed in his office for Claude. Later we found a small apartment in the Mexican section. I visited him twice a week, took dictation for a book which he was writing, and wrote his letters for him as he was still weak. Bishop Scheil in Chicago was directly concerned about Claude. In speaking of the Bishop, Claude said that he had the same love in his eyes that Emma Goldman had had. Finally the latter part of September Claude was well enough to go by himself on the train to San Diego, where pacifist friends of mine found a good place for him to stay. Later he went back to Chicago and lived several years. It is likely that he did not keep to a strict diet or that he exerted himself too much, for he died about three years after he left Albuquerque.
About the time Claude left I read a short story in COLLIERS and said to myself that if I couldn't write a better one than that I would be ashamed of myself. Accordingly I wrote a story with Indians as characters. After 17,000 words it was not such a short story. The characters seemed real and I could not leave them alone, so continued. After Christmas I had finished a novel of 120,000 words, which I called Unto the Least of These. As I visited Isleta pueblo on Sundays I would meet an Indian whom I would develop into a character. In order to develop the characters correctly I read every book that I could find in the University library on the different Indian tribes. The hero was Ramon of Taos pueblo to the north of Santa Fe. My wife and I had visited there in 1925, and she and the girls had gone back there for a visit several years ago. A white girl by the name of Ledra, patterned in courage after Sharon was the heroine. I sought to debunk all of the political and religious philosophies and to develop a spiritual force in opposition to the coming Great War in 1951–52, from these Indians and the Hopi and the Catholic Worker. (Looking back I expect that I only made my characters unreal mouthpieces for my ideas, but at least it clarified my ideas.)
As it was spring now, I heard the lively song of the mocking bird as I irrigated the trees in the orchard. The chirp of the robin and the cooing of the mourning dove were broken by the song of the meadow lark, which my boss says, is translated as "John Greenleaf Whittier." On my way to the pueblo one Sunday I passed the wreck of a B29 that had crashed the day before and all aboard were burned to death but one who was dragged out by nearby German prisoners before the whole plane burst into flames. An army truck came along and a voice cried "Halt." It seemed that a German prisoner had escaped and as no white man walked the roads they thought I was the prisoner. One of the guards knew me and so I was not bothered. I had but fifty papers so went to different homes where I had not given the paper last time.
I was walking this time and I saw a flock of sheep herded by a man on a horse in the lowlands within the river area proper. Indians were watering their stock; some coming in from their fields in their wagons, the men with hair in braids and the women with their bright shawls. Here a colt followed its mother; there a dog barked angrily but jumped up and licked my hand when I entered the yard. I went to different houses this time to give out CWs and as before the Indians thanked me. At one house an Indian dressed in American fashion welcomed me and asked for several papers for in-laws, as he was visiting in this home. He asked what kind of a Catholic paper I had. I told him that it was against the war. He replied, "Yes, this is a capitalist war." Several children were around, among them a small sweet child named Carmelita. I gave them apples which I brought along in a sack with the papers.
I stopped at the house where about fourteen Indians were meeting with a visiting Baptist preacher who gave the same kind of a hell-fire message that I had heard when a child. From this meagre crowd the missionary took up a collection of $21 for, of all things, paying another missionary to go among the Jews and convert them to be Baptist! The absurdity of this cleansing of the outside of the platter was never more evident to me.
I went to visit a young returned soldier who was not religious and who was more attracted to anarchism. His wife was from another pueblo. It was Easter Sunday and I carried the baby for her as she hurried to mass; her husband following later, and doing as most men did, standing outside. Each of the Indian women had a bright shawl over her head and a small woven rug as a protection from the splintered floor when kneeling.
Coming back home in my white dairy suit I met some Isleta Indian cowboys who good naturedly said "Hello St. John." I was to receive the appellation from another source years later but thought nothing of it then.
In writing my novel I had read much about Indians. I feel that the following poem expresses much of the spirit of the Navajos, whose waste lands stretch from west of town nearly to the Grand Canyon.
- OLD SHAMAN
- My son was killed in war against the whites
- My son's son starved on their way to exile
- The son of my son's son is at the white school
- I would have taught him Navajo magic
- Lightning and thunders in the medicine-house
- While bright noon waits outside;
- Wonder of the Holy Corn, grown from kernel to ripe
- Ear in a day;
- Songs that bring sunrise and sunset to the sacred room.
- No other of my blood will swallow great plumed arrows
- And bathe in fire without hurt.
- I am last to stand the lone eagle feather on end,
- making it dance, a living thing.
- None will come after me to see in the deeps of the hoganda water-bowl
- All that was and is and will be.
- The son of my son's son reads a book.
- He counts one and two.
Another time when I entered my adobe house I noticed my coat which was hanging on a chair, moving. There was no wind, and looking closely I saw a large bull snake wound around the inside of my coat collar and in my inside pocket. I stroked him and took him outside. But ever afterward I looked in my sleeping bag when I went to bed.
The night before Christmas there was a celebration in the schoolhouse given by neighboring Mexicans. Some of the young folks who had picked apples with me asked me over. It was called "Santo Nino de Atocha," The Holy Child of Nazareth. Several dozen Mexicans, young and old of both sexes and gaily dressed, sang and danced a short shuffle dance for three hours or more. Special songs were written for this performance whose theme was that the Holy Child had been stolen. It was a song of the Comanche Indians who were hunting for the Child. In the midst of the song someone stole the doll in a crib by the altar. Much of the procession broke up and went from door to door in the village looking for the Holy Child which had disappeared. They know, of course, where it was all along and finally found it and whipped the thief in exaggerated gestures, bringing back the Infant. Then all present went on their knees to the front, placing money in a dish by the Infant. I gave a dime to the smallest girl dancer. One verse told of the time when there was a drought and the Comanches took their children to Santa Fe and sold them as slaves to the white men for sugar and coffee. The old timers here said that this was really true.
One of the Santo Nino de Atocha verses
- El comanche y la comancha
- Salieron para Santa Fe
- a vender los comanchitos
- For azucar y cafe.
- El comanche y la comancha
- The Comanche men and women
- Went to Santa Fe
- To sell the little Comanches
- for sugar and coffee.
- The Comanche men and women
Soon afterwards I asked some young folks where I could get a translation of the verses and they directed me across the road. I knocked at the door and who should greet me but the small girl to whom I had given a dime. She squealed in delight and called her mother. In this manner I found my new friend, 7-year-old Louise Aguilar. In the six months that followed I was a daily visitor and played games with her, or she and her aunts came to my cottage for "huevos"; as they liked the change from beans to eggs. When her young aunt was married I was the only "Anglo" invited to the wedding supper. They knew I did not drink beer or wine but insisted that I have plenty of chili. My throat burned and the tears came at this hot food and they all had much fun at my discomfort. Several years later I visited in Los Angeles and tried to find my small Louise but they had moved again.
One of the last people I met at the pueblo was the elder son of the former chief. He was over thirty-eight when drafted for World War II. In camp he refused to drill, saying he was not going across the water to fight for the white man. His captain asked him if he did not want to fight for his country. He replied that his country was Isleta; that it was nothing the white man had given the Indians, but was only a small bit that they had not stolen. The captain was impressed and asked more questions. He found that this Indian had always fought the Indian Bureau schemes; that he wanted the rich Indian to hire help to clean the irrigation ditches instead of making the poor Indian do it for nothing; and for this reason he was drafted away from the pueblo where he could not bother the exploiters. His father had been fooled or bribed into giving the names of all of the Indian youth eligible for the draft. If he had put up a fight the matter might have been dropped, for the Indians are not citizens.
On trips with my employer I went up the beautiful Jemez River and saw the Jemez. Meanwhile I had corresponded for years with the Hopi conscientious objectors and decided to find work in Arizona in order to be nearer them.