The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Steinbeck’s Turkey Shoot

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I’ve referenced John Steinbeck before in these pages, both as a writer who inspires me and as a voice for working class labor struggles.  Steinbeck has been on my mind again of late as a school community with which I am intimately acquainted manages its labor issues.  I am reminded of a symbolic act described in The Grapes of Wrath.  The scene comes in Chapter 24 after an attempted break-up of the fruit picker’s camp .  A character named Black Hat suggests a course of action for his fellow beleaguered laborers by relating something he heard about:

“…  Fella tol’ me what happened in Akron, Ohio.  Rubber companies.  They got mountain people in ’cause they’d work cheap.  An’ these here mountain people up an’ joined the union.  Well, sir, hell jes’ popped.  All them storekeepers and legioners an’ people like that, they get drillin’ an yellin’, ‘Red!’  An’ they’re gonna run the union right outa Akron.  Preachers git a-preachin’ about it, an’ papers a-yowlin’, an’ they’s pick handles put out by the rubber companies, an’ they’re a-buyin’ gas.  Jesus, you’d think them mountain boys was reg’lar devils!…  Well, sir–it was las’ March, an’ one Sunday five thousan’ of them mountain men had a turkey shoot outside a town.  Five thousan’ of ’em jes’ marched through town with their rifles.  An’ they had their turkey shoot, an’ then they marched back.  An’ that’s all they done.  Well, sir, they ain’t been no trouble sence then.  These here citizens committees give back the pick handles, an’ the storekeepers keep their stores, an’ nobody been killed.”

The actions Black Hat describes are fictional, but he alludes to an actual episode.  An annotated edition of The Grapes of Wrath explains that in February, 1936, ten thousand workers formed an 11-mile picket line around the fences of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company to picket against layoffs.  Within days, Akron citizens formed a “Law and Order League” to encourage labor organizers and other outside agitators to leave town (this was common elsewhere in the midwest).  As such, the war veterans in the union ranks began conducting military-type drills to prepare for any attacks.  The conflict was resolved the next month.

It’s not the threat of violence from the fictional mountain men or the real-life war veterans that fixes my attention–it’s the rallying for a common just cause.  It’s the preparedness to meet outside threats.  It’s the show of unity.  It’s all very inspirational.


Written by seeker70

September 1, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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