Graphic Witness: Hugo Gellert
Graphic Witness home page

Hugo Gellert: Comrade Gulliver

page title

PICKING UP

IN the beautiful Shenandoah Valley we lost our way in a storm. Rain came down in torrents. We crawled along slowly on a muddy road. We saw a light ahead and Mr. Keen suggested that it would be best to try to put up there for the night. On the side of a hill we came upon a house surrounded by giant trees.

Mr. Keen blew his horn. A man appeared on the sheltered porch carrying a lantern. "Could you put us up for the night ?" shouted Mr. Keen. The man waved to us to come. "Gee," exclaimed Mr. Keen as we got inside, "look at those hand-hewn oak beams. And look at that fire place! Haven't seen anything like them for a long time. You've got some house. Must be older than any of us here."

"Older than any of us?" the owner exclaimed. "It's almost as old as my great-great-grandfather, who built it. He was the first of the settlers in these parts. He had to clear the Indians off before he could touch the land."

"And your people have been in this house ever since?" asked Mr. Keen.

"Sure have."

"I guess it'll last your tribe another five generations."

The man turned away and after a moment's silence he answered: "Reckon not. I'll be out of here within a month."

"You selling the old place?"

"No. The bank is taking it. The old gent, I reckon, would turn over in his grave! He got the place from the Indian Chief, White Eagle."

"A gift?"

"No, a swap. The Chief came to the old man and offered his peace pipe -- that's the kind of a man built this house! The Chief had his eye on a white stallion that belonged to my folks. He said he dreamed they gave him the stallion for a gift. The think-box of the old man thunk fast. He said 'sure' he believed in dreams -- he dreamed too. Dreamed that White Eagle gave him all the land in this Valley -- that's what he told the Indian Chief. And they squatted right here, where the house stands, for a long long time, saying nothing. Then White Eagle got to his feet and said, 'Pale Face, dream no more.' And he and his braves, leading the white stallion, left this place forever.

"My folk fought for this land, risked their lives. They plowed with one hand and held the gun in the other. Sleek banker fellers been takin' it piece at a time -- and now they take the last patch of land with the house . . ."

"White Eagle giveth and Blue Eagle taketh away," remarked Mr. Keen and smiled.

But the farmer didn't see anything funny in Mr. Keen's pun.

19