THE MASTER WEAVER
ON the Carolina Piedmont Plateau we drove along a country road skirted by a high wire fence. Around a bend we were confronted by a huge iron gate. A one-armed watchman said: "Pass, please!"
"Pass? What have you got in there anyway?" asked Mr. Keen.
"Weaver Textile Mills. Can't get in without a pass. Sorry, I got my orders.''
"Want to go in?" Mr. Keen asked me. I was curious and I nodded.
"Is the superintendent around?" Mr. Keen asked the man.
"Yes, sir. In the big house, down the end of that lane."
"All right, let's go to see him. Jump on the running board.''
At the house, the watchman rang the door bell and Mr. Keen joined him. A girl appeared and Mr. Keen was ushered in. The watchman came back to the car.
I asked him several questions about the place, but he seemed reluctant to give me any information. I tried to reassure him: "I hope my Boss doesn't take too long," I said.
"Oh, he's your Boss, eh? I was thinking you was one of the swells yourself." We both laughed.
"You want to know what kind of a place this is? I'll tell you. See that fence you just come through? Everything on this side of that fence belongs to one man. He owns the land, the mill, he owns these houses, he owns the church, he owns the school, he owns everybody in them. Man, woman and child work for him night and day. We don't get time to comb the lint out of our heads. 'Lint tops', that's what they call us. We're always in debt, and can't get no place except more behind in the books. He owns us body and soul it seems like. Did you see me sitting at the gate there? I ain't sitting there for fun. My job is not only to keep foreigners out, but to keep home folks in."
Mr. Keen came out with the Superintendent and the man hurried back to his gate.
The Superintendent said to me: "I'm sorry, the mills are shut down today. There's nothing there for you to see. Let's see, how would you like to go to church?"
"Oh, we don't want you to trouble," Mr. Keen said.
"No trouble! It's part of my job to go. Mr. Weaver would give me Hell if I missed it. He'll be there himself. You bet! We got to set an example for the workers. Besides, there's a strike down Columbus -- couple of miles from here. There'll be a special sermon on that." He looked at his watch. "Come on, I'm late now," he said.