further denatured

Ahoj friends, And welcome, those of you new to the High Plains Drifter Newsletter. It was really something, this last tour of America's oft-overlooked Great Plains (and some mountains too). Summoning songs with you in abandoned churches, art spaces, backyards and the odd dive bar. Thank you for being capacitors, and making it happen. when i got back to texas though, i got whipped up in the whirlwind. and oh, i got tired. maybe you too would like to be let off the hook, to forget for a moment about the ephemeral billions being slung around Washington and Wall Street, indeed the world. the unfathomable debt in which we are, in a way, drowning. money, it seems, has grown tired of all the fuss, the discrepancies. money is flown off to some theoretical nest no economist can reach and it ain't coming down. encouraging in its absence the development of other currencies: self-sufficiency, creativity, friendship, thrift. this is not to belittle the troubles of any given individual. indeed, we got big problems. but this is not all there is to it. there are happenings in other orbits. it's a warm morning here, and the mexican woodpeckers and grackles are up in the oaks babbling their cryptic liquid songs. selfish, it could be said, or self-preservative to focus elsewhere, but do try. i would like to tell you what the great plains did to me. plains of earth, not air. i could tell you all kinds of stories, about the fishermen in thailand who, upon pulling up the day's catch in their big nets, pick out the stingrays and throw them like frisbees about the ship deck; or i could tell you about the geezer hobos i met under the Highway 969 bridge, who have been there since 1978 with one guitar and one styrofoam cooler, exploring their endless repertroire of obscure country songs. but these are of another plane. so, i will stick to the earth. * * * * * * * * * * * it was a hell of a drift, this one. from the Balcones Escarpment to the Livingston Range, by way of Sand Hills, open range and Bad Lands; rivers Red, Arkansas, Milk, Missouri; through the main upthrust of the Rocky Mountains and her many drifting island offspring. Threading it all together are plains so vast as to wipe off the map the heavy-handed boundaries of states, the dotted lines of latitude and longitude. Skies so wide as to reduce to a whisper those wildcat oil towns, handsome brick-laid cowtowns, fur trading outposts and county seats. sightlines so long as to dismiss the last hundred and fifty-odd years of white settlement that led up to the settled American Great Plains of today, the Greatly Unsettled America of today. The fear-mongers' voices do not carry far on a prairie wind, and if they do, it's because you're listening for them. But then the traveler tops a rise and falls into region of endless corporate croplands. a stillness descends. the spirit of the land dies. it's the same sort of feeling you get when you see your first open pit mine or old growth clear cut: it has to come from somewhere, my dear. many plains farmers today are laying their bets on biofuels. this is the source of one kind of "green energy", oceans of it stretching endlessly (though when ripe, the strange sorghum heads are more of a pinkish-purple). and then a town grid rises from the flat monoculture palatte and you temporarily inhabit it, and start to meet more kids at shows and folks gas stations of Indian descent. you enter and leave whole other nations: Omaha, Cheyenne, Lakota. or hear, from a highway worker in the Nebraska panhandle, of an isolated all-white town called Whiteclay (pop. 14), located just a few hundred feet from the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux reservation, where 4 million cans of beer are sold each year*. history is alive, the people and the land are breathing, at times singing their death song. and simple distinctions between past and present can't be made; suffering and injustice, sacrifice and windfall all wrapped up in the person next to you at the cafe or listening to you sing. No, it wasn't so long ago, and the book is not closed. The Great Plains are a Great Paradox, and my love for them, conflicted as it is, grows deeper still. a version of the vision: FURTHER DENATURED * * * * * * * * * * * On the plains today you might still see for yourself how our history's writ in blood in many a meadow and creek bed and sacred, holy place. America has managed to hide the bones of ten million massacred buffalo. and the truth too, shrouded in shame and apathy, when it comes to the wrath loosed upon the Plains Indians, the war we waged on their ground. "Threats, deception and murder"...i don't mean to preach, but if you aren't sure what happened on the plains in the 19th century, you might ought to start asking, reading, finding out. "redman vs. bluecoat in the Wild West, a few battles ensue and America completes her mainfest destiny, under the auspice of the christian god": this was the lie we were fed as schoolkids, a story that might have stretched from p. 402 halfway down p. 404 in your grade school textbook of US history. this rendition of historical fiction affords much romance to the prairie sod buster, the Sooners racing for their Oklahoma land claims, wily scouts and lone rangers who made the plains "safe" for white expansion. this fiction casts the Indian character as carved of wood, some mysterious wildman who pops out of the bushes in his full feather bonnet, a half-wit with a hatchet and a peace pipe, a willing, doe-eyed squaw played by a white lady with braided hair dyed black. Of course, the nation had much to gain by dehumanizing the Plains Indian--America coveted the land they lived on and the untold riches therein--and dehumanizing is an essential component of genocide. in the century and a half since, tens of millions of settlers, tens of billions of dollars of resource exploitation and agriculture do make a lot of historical noise, threatening to drown out anything that doesn't substantiate it. Quiet, quiet. what remains is the impact of deeper harmonics, the legacy of an american "victory": reservations carved like gristle out of the plains, accounts of the miserly rations doled out by agencies in the midst of blizzard or drought; the empty treaties, the forced marches, the massacres. and most of all, the descendants of those who survived. No, it wasn't so long ago, and the book is not closed! * * * * * * * * * * * Please drop a line if you are so inclined. Fare Forward, Voyagers! Amy Annelle * * * * * * * * * * * *more on Whiteclay: