Thursday, June 24, 2010

Making Do

"After a late start, Danny and Lyda had seven children: Will, Royal, Coulter (named Coulter Branch, Danny said, for the stream that ran down off the Coulter ridges), Fount, Reuben, and then ("Finally!" Lyda said) the two girls, Rachel and Rosie. I won't need to make much mention of the children; I name them all together now to give them my blessing. If the world lasts, there are going to be Branches around here for a long time. As the boys grew older, they made do with old cars and old farm equipment as they earlier had made do with old bicycles and outboard motors. This is the way they will survive--by being marginal, using what nobody else wants, doing well the work that nobody else will do. If they aren't destroyed by some scientific solution to all our problems, they will go on though dynasties pass. By this late year of 1986 Danny and Lyda have already got a whole company of grandchildren."

-Wendell Berry, from Jayber Crow

9 comments:

Keifus said...

I don't know man. My immediate thought is that world-threatening scientific solutions and cleverly making do with aging motors are more or less the same thing. Both come from the same damn human impulse. I can't tell for sure where Berry's coming from with it: is this a virtue of poverty thing (limit the damage of our inquisitiveness)? I'll be a little disappointed if he doesn't develop the parallel he presents in that passage.

I like the argument for a simpler, more robust, honest, bullshit-free existence, and there are excellent reasons for being close to your (spiritual and physical) sustenance too. But as I've lengthily blathered about, I don't advocate flushing all the trappings of modern life so much as re-inventing it where it's defective. Naive in one sense (I don't get to make too many of those judgment calls), but in another sense, that's how society will eventually adjust if it survives the current model. Ingenuity can be more virtuous in different contexts, I suppose, if you want to frame your questions that way, but there's no avoiding it.

Keifus said...

P.S. Borrowed Mr. Robbins tonight. (Beets for dinner.) hope you don't mind.

switters said...

I think that's fair. Here's another description of some interest.

"There would now and then be some joking about Danny--to the effect, for instance, that he could mash the face off of a dime between his thumb and forefinger, or that he walked on his heels to save his toes--but he was pretty generally respected too. He and Lyda, in fact, were generous people, good to Burley [his father], to their children, and to their neighbors. They were tight of pocket, you might say, but free of heart."

Danny Branch doesn't appear until the very end of the book. In many ways I find him to be a salve to his opposite, Troy Chatham, a dunderheaded though attractive boob who embraces the get-big-or-get-out philosophy, only to be in debt enough to squander his wife's legacy.

I think, for better or worse, that Berry is quite nostalgic and sentimental, maybe to a fault. But his harkening back is somewhat hard nosed enough as not to end up sound overly sweet.

Danny is Berry's old school farmer, perhaps Berry himself. Though I may indeed be in violation of his short preface to the book:

"Persons attempting to find a 'text' in this book will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a 'subtext' in it will be banished; persons attempting to explain, interpret, explicate, analyze, deconstruct, or otherwise 'understand' it will be exiled to a desert island in the company only of other explainers.

"BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR[.]"

Irony, I suppose. I should note that Danny is a product of the depression. He was born in '33 or '34, and the years Jayber is recalling is the late '60s early '70s. That probably doesn't help my case. Or does it?

switters said...

P.S. I've found that beets really compliment a nice roasted chicken.

Oh, and I forgot to tell you: Guess who was on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me during the "Not My Job" segment the Saturday I was up in Piqua. That's right, the one and only. He's got a new children's book coming out, B Is For Beer. It apparently is to help small kids figure out what dad's doing out in the garage.

Harvested the first of my sweet corn Saturday afternoon. Spec-tac-u-lar.

Keifus said...

See, just a passage, and here I am going for text and subtext. (That opening statement reads like a challenge to me.) Is context all right? My guess is that it's what he's really developing there.

I was going to go back and delete the comment. Riding that hobbyhorse is a little embarrassing once you see the video later. Went too far based on one paragraph.

I believe I'll be going to that podcast, and buy the book (Robbins, at a minimum), maybe leave it carelessly around if it passes muster.

Sweet corn's still weeks away up here, dammit.

Cindy said...

I wanted to write a nice comment about rural America as I've been seeing it out of my car window, on my walks through towns and communities, and tasted at local eateries ....

but I couldn't make it sound like anything but mush.

I think I'll have to get home and process, let much of this sink in before I can make any coherent sense.

Heading south and east now... going through New Mexico.

bright said...

just got home from a week in hocking hills. it's beautiful (t)here right now.

Keifus said...

Hey, it's only a week and a half later, and I just now realize he's riffing on the opening of Huckleberry Finn. Persons attempting to find a moral will be banished? I think the correct response is "I'll go to hell, then."

bright said...

I'll be passing through on my way to Tipp City at the end of August for a workshop - dinner?