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HARD LABOR by Ammon Hennacy - Catholic Worker odds & ends
May 15th, 2007
08:44 am


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HARD LABOR by Ammon Hennacy
Having nearly fathomed the mysteries of the harness which equipped the blind and deaf mules borrowed from a neighbor. (I milked his cow while he caught the wild animals). I hitched them to a disc and prepared the garden previously irrigated two weeks before. A clump of Johnson grass here and there defiantly showed remnants of green after the rest of the garden was a pleasant brown. A harrow leveled off the ground nicely. One row of eggplant and peppers remained from the summer garden. The hot August weather has nearly burned them up but now near the end of September they were blooming again and would produce until heavy frost.

The Old Pioneer brought twine and we measured out straight rows. We hitched the blind mule to the plow and the Old Pioneer led as I made---not the straightest row in Missouri or Arizona---but one good enough for our purpose. We came back over he furrow to make the ground even on both sides of it. By 1 pm I had returned the mules and had started to plant the winter garden.

The rows are 81 feet long. I have never worked in such fine, mellow ground, not a hard lump of dirt to be found. It rained a few days before when I had made a hurried trip to Hopi-land and this had melted any clods that had remained from the plowing around the first of August when I had driven the mules and Jack Yaker had tried his first stint with the plow. The furrows were about a foot and a half in depth. I leveled off the ground between them with a rake and then took a how and chopped halfway down the edge of the furrow to make sure that the ground was fine and crumbly as a bed for the seeds. Then I made an inch furrow along this edge where I judged the line of irrigation water would about reach. Here in this Valley of the Sun you do not want to have the ground wet above the seeds or the sun will bake it so hard that the seeds can hardly push through the cracks in the earth and kill the plants.

First I planted a row of radishes. Then taking a chance that we would have a late frost I planted 46 hills of Irish potatoes in the next row. Last year I had planted them in August and it was so hot that they dried up in the hill instead of growing. The trick with potatoes is to have the ground loose and high enough above the furrow so that the top is always dry; the water on either side subbing up and making sufficient moisture. Next I planted two rows of chard, the green leaves of which would mix well with the carrots, to be pulled each day for a salad from the next two rows. A row of onion seed and onion sets provided a different shade of green in the garden, followed by three rows of beets. We had made four rows for the planting of peas in November; two beds for the tomatoes in the spring and two wide beds for watermelon. It was after dark before I stopped to eat supper, but all had been planted except two rows of beets. The bundle of CATHOLIC WORKER newspapers having strayed in the mails I had none to sell Sunday morning so I got up early and irrigated the garden. Now two weeks later as I write the radishes have long been up and the other seeds are up here and there.

Long before I had known that Gandhi ate from one bowl---the aluminum one he brought from prison---I had told the women folks that they cluttered themselves up with too many dishes. Sometimes my sister-in-law at whose home I lived for a year, called me "one-bowl-Hennacy" and minimized the quantity of utensils around my place at the table. To my mind the simple life means that one should eat that which is at hand and buy from the store only when absolutely necessary. As long as I have Irish potatoes in the garden they form the bulk of my main meal. When they are gone I do not buy potatoes but eat eggplant, onions and peppers which are delicious fried. When I worked in a dairy I made my own cottage cheese but now that is one thing that I buy at the store. Except for the months of August, September and October I have chard or spinach and carrots which make a fine salad, so then I really have two bowls instead of one. When I worked at a chicken ranch in Albuquerque I ate cracked eggs by the dozen. Since then I seldom buy eggs. When I worked in the large apple orchard there and wrote of my visits to the nearby Isleta Indian pueblo I had apples every day of the year and fine cider part of the time except in the months of April, May and June. Here I also had asparagus seven months of the year. It grew wild in the orchard and all that was needed was to cut the shoots every few days and not allow them to go to seed. When cold weather came I never bought this very expensive product of the canning factory having had my share of during the remainder of the year.

Apples do not grow in this valley and I seldom buy them. Orange and grapefruit trees are nearby and in season figs and pomegranates. The Old Pioneer will plant some grape vines this month. We had watermelon every day from the 1st of June to August 12th. And of course we had free access to the hundreds of acres of commercial cantaloupes all around us. Our one failure has been tomatoes.While we have had some to eat there have not been enough in proportion to the effort expended. Our rows were too narrow and we gave them too much water and they got too much sun. This spring we will plant them in rows five feet apart and with irrigation only on the outer side. Then the plants can produce leaves and protection from the sun. We have used no commercial fertilizer. I have had a small compost pit and now having subscribed to Organic Gardening perhaps I can improve my methods.

The second Monday after I had planted my garden the Old Pioneer called his brother-in-law Joe, and he and I hitched ourselves to each end of a broomstick which had a rope in the center attached to a cultivator. The Old Pioneer was the driver as we roughed up the ground between the rows. "Damn burrows," grumbled Joe. I also mention two other Joes at times: Joe Craigmyle, the C.O. who did time in La Tuna and Joe Mueller who painted signs for me two years ago and who was a C,O, in Sandstone. As I am writing this article I have just spent the morning hoeing the bermuda grass from around the eggplant and peppers.

This week I was pleasantly surprised to hear the voice of my Hopi friend Thomas Bancycya on the phone. Catherine Howell, a Quaker woman who had been living for several months in Hopi villages and who had now learned the distinction between the real Hopi and the government stooges who accept favors from the whites and thus betray their people had driven to Phoenix to visit Rik's wife Ginny who was old time friend. Thomas came along as he needed to look up work a a stone mason where no tax would be taken from his pay for war and to get some data as preparation for a letter which the Hopi are sending to President Truman protesting the drafting of the Hopi for war. He brought a yellow watermelon and some piki. He had never visited my place. I pointed out the middle of the room which would be his when he came later.

I have refused to attend the movies since 1942 as I do not want to pay a war tax. I had hinted to my friends that I was willing to be an accessory-to-the-fact and attend a movie to see the true story of Cochise, the great Apache leader for whom the county in which Tucson is located is named. I had read the book BLOOD BROTHER by Eliot Arnold and understood that this account of a white man who had made friends with Cochise and secured peace between the Apaches and the whites was correct Arizona history.

So the night before Thomas left we all went to a drive-in theater as guests of Rik and saw Broken Arrow. Thomas felt that the Indian customs presented were fairly accurate. The Apache speak somewhat like the Navajo, quickly and sharply, while the Hopi are entirely different in expression. The only criticism of the play that I had was the fact that the most stirring and incriminating part of the play was merely referred to and not acted out. This was when the army commander offered a flag of truce and coldly ordered Cochise, his brother and four others murdered in the tent. The others died right there but Cochise had a knife in his loin cloth and cut a hole in the tent and escaped and began the famous ten year war against the treacherous whites. When peace had been made the army general made the promise that no soldiers would be stationed on the Apache reservation. Those who have seen this movie and do not know Indian history should be told that Tom Jeffers had to quit as Indian Agent because the government broke its word and sent troops. They should also learn tht during the administration of Governor Safford----one of the many carpet-bagger-neer-do-wells sent from Washington when Arizona was a territory---a special trip was made by the governor to Washington whee he had the bounderies of the Apache Reservation changed in order that the white man would have the newly found copper near the town which now bears the name of Safford. This is the source of the wealth of the mine owners who ran the IWWs out of Bisbee in 1916.

Those interested in Indian history should read APACHE by Will Levington Comfort, the Quaker writer. It is a small book written many years ago and tell of the childhood of Magnus Colorado , the cousin of Cochise, and of his final death when murdered as a prisoner of war. Now with the whites bribing Indian leaders for oil and uranium leases the further robbing of the Indians continues. When we were in Washington, DC the Indian Commissioner urged Chief Dan and Thomas to file claims for the land stolen by the whites. Their reply was that they came not to get money fut to warn the white man of his impending doom when the land would be purified by fire in World War III: and only those with pure hearts would be left. Most of the Indians have become demoralized by the commercialism of the whites. The message which the radical Hopi bring, along with the similar Christian anarchist message of THE CATHOLIC WORKER may yet build toward a society of peace and freedom.-----from THE CATHOLIC WORKER, December, 1950

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