No happy little story

Man in a word has no nature; what he has. ..is history.

~ Jose Ortega y Gasset

  

I am sitting here trying to find some happy little story to post in order to break up the litany of horror that my blog has become, but …  I can’t.  Even the articles I find about folks that sympathize with the natives do so because the indigenous people were suffering such atrocities.  I can’t seem to filter out the bad when I write about that time period, and probably shouldn’t try to.  Violence and disregard for human rights, Native human rights, permeated everything.    I am writing about war, and war is ugly. Terrible.   

Perhaps part of why we do repeat history is that we don’t like to look at it.  Why would we?  The things human beings are capable of are scary as hell.   We like to believe in cause and effect.  Personal cause and effect, in that there  is a reason bad things happen to people.  And if we can believe there are reasons, then we can also fool ourselves into believing we can control our fate, and avoid bad and scary things.  History, if carefully considered, blows that theory out of the water.

 If one wants to read a truly terrifying book, find Holocaust Testimonies, the ruins of memory, by Lawrence L. Langer.  It contains testimonies of survivors and while the memories recounted are heartbreaking, the greater realizations are even worse.

Survivors had to come to terms with the fact that past actions were no indicator of future experience. None.  

“ … there is no connection between the victim’s life and the victim’s fate… “  Heroes died while prisoners who became Kapos survived the war. As did folks that stole food from other prisoners and snitched to bring favor from the guards.

I think modern culture has spoiled us by always providing happy endings.  I will watch or read a tragic story, but I really do expect some sort of” ah ha !”  moment at the end, that makes me feel better and gives me hope. 

 Langer’s book notes that

“Most of their [survivor’s] stories nurture not ethical insight, but confusion, doubt and moral uncertainty….  tragedy and  history …  demands some idea of causal sequence …   But when consciousness expands into a universe so violated that old designations like tragedy and history lose their force…. [In these testimonies] the cherished voices of continuity, adaption and renewal speak with the authority of their absence… “

Many Germans (and  bad guys here)  committed horrible atrocities, and went on to live long, and for some, prosperous lives.  Indian killer  Larrabee moved back east and became some sort of law man in his town.  No kidding.  Geer lived.  Theodore Aldrich, thought to have killed many Indians, some of them infants,  lived to a ripe old age (though I’ve read he was tormented by the memories of the war—and hope that’s true).  Yet mothers that tried to save their children died.  And their daughters were raped anyway.

 What does it mean?  Ignoring cancer doesn’t make it go away.  Ignoring history seems to secure its repetition.

I would love to close with some wise and thoughtful words.  Some wonderful, uplifting  insight about continuity, adaption or renewal but I’ve got nothing.   Anyone?

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8 Responses to No happy little story

  1. ”I would love to close with some wise and thoughtful words.  Some wonderful, uplifting  insight about continuity, adaption or renewal but I’ve got nothing.   Anyone?”

    Okay, I’ll bite. As you have probably noticed, I’ve been by your blog at least four or five times a day since you stared it. As you probably have already guessed, I’m addicted to anything about the early history of the north coast. Sadly, I love the “bullshit stories” that have a grain of truth, a grain of exaggeration, and a grain of good story telling. (sorry about using the term “Bullshit” on your fine blog. But, having been raised around this canyon, I’ve discovered that there is no better word to use, and any other term only dilutes the meaning of the word.)

    You answered your own question; ”Indian killer  Larrabee moved back east and became some sort of law man in his town.  No kidding.”That sounds like a fine story to me.
    I want to encourage you to keep researching the history, you have found many interesting things, and I don’t want to discourage you by what I’m about to say: You are guilty of getting caught up in the horror of your own stories. Like a moth to the flame, you have gotten too close. You aren’t seeing the forest for the trees. Just like an ambulance driver that gets caught up in the death destruction and horror of a drunk driver accident, it does no good to lose your objectivity.

    Let me give you a completely made up story:

    Say you were a man that moved out here to find your fortune in the gold fields. You spent, or lost, all of your money trying to find gold, and all of the frustrations as you might imagine happened with no real law in the west. You moved on, and you found a little spot of flat ground that was just barely big enough for a few animals and a garden that you could support your wife and four kids on. The Indians, for what ever reason, killed your cow and your pig. Probably to feed their starving family, but you are now without your breeder pig and your milk cow. You don’t have any way of replacing them. The next night you see a couple of Indian people sneaking into your grainery. You choose not to go out and tell them not to do that, but just shoot them instead, because you have already suffered more of a loss than you think that your family can handle. You are not proud of yourself. But you don’t see it as being any kind of a choice. You and your neighbors meet and send a petition to the Governor for Militia help. You don’t get it, and the raids keep going on. A strong man who’s family was killed in Mendocino county by Indians steps forward and say’s “We’re gonna have to handle this ourselves” and he organizes a raid on the Indians. He flatly states that you’d better take part in the raids or you will be run out of the country for being a coward. You can tell that he means what he says. You take part in the raids and you really aren’t proud of yourself, and you really don’t want it to be known that you had anything to do with them. You are sick to death with the horrible things that you have done. You don’t even tell your wife or family. One day when thinks get better, you gather your little family and move away. You come to a town that is half-way civilized and you are asked to be the Sheriff, and keep the peace. After what you have been through, you have the determination to be a good sheriff and keep the people of the town safe. You die as an old man, much loved and respected by you family and your new friends.

    Again, I want to say the above story is a complete fabrication! But why would you want to loose your objectivity and start wallowing in the obvious horror of what happened to BOTH white people and Indians. Most of us have gotten past the horror and we are NOW friends and work and live together. Neither the Indian People Nor the descendants of the early settlers get much joy over wallowing in the horror.

    But, some of us get a lot of joy from hearing the accounts of the early struggles, and the exploration of the north coast.

    If you are going to condemn a man like Larabee, you owe it to his family to understand what may have motivated him, why he moved away, and why he became a Sheriff. Most everybody already knows about the horror. From what I understand he was a fairly well respected person back in his day. I have no way to justify that statement either, but it seems only fair to say it.

    What most people don’t understand is how really fortunate we all are; We live in one small bubble in all of time and place, where PEACE is accepted as Ideal. Enjoy that Idea.

    • lynette77 says:

      Hey Ernie,
      First of all, I use “damn” and “hell” all the time, and frankly had to get rid of the cuss jar at home ’cause I was going broke, so no worries there :-).

      As far as your story goes, I don’t like it at all. Not one bit. Most likely ’cause it has many shades of truth, but I’m just guessing here. Maybe it was just a bad story (kidding). We can’t know what happened so many years ago, though we can imagine (like your story there)… I think many people did … boy this is tough. OK, so I accept that some, SOME people killed others because it seemed a matter of survival. Notice I did say “seemed”. I don’t know of anyone that would have died because of Indian depredations, yet many, MANY indians died. So… I think the perceived threat here was much greater than the actual threat. I’ll accept, though, that folks responded to the perceived threat in ways we can (sorta) understand.
      The problem was that the Indian wars weren’t all about responding to perceived and actual threats. There were many through and through bad guys here. Humboldt provided a safe haven for them for a very long time, and provided no incentive to cease their sociopathic behavior. And so they continued…

      Regarding Mr. Larrabee…

      November 16, 1861, Humboldt Times: “Mr. H.P. Larrabee and Mr. Fay were arrested last Thursday on a charge of false imprisonment for detaining a squaw over night in a place they had selected as a a rendezvous for all the Indians they can collect [for transportation to a reservation]. They had some 30 to 40 Indians there… They had no difficulty in giving bail to appear before the next Court of Sessions December 14, 1861, Humboldt Times: The Court of Sessions was comprised of: C.S. Ricks, W.C. Espie, H.H. Ticknor, D.D. Averill, M. Eddy, J.T.S. Beck, W.M. Allen, A. Crane, Geo. Graham, A.D.Sevier, D. Ready, J.H. Kimball, B.L. Waite, J.O. Showers, W.C. Ables, B Adams. The Grand Jury came into Court and recommended the dismissal of charges against N. Fay and H.P. Larrabee. The Court dismissed them.

      23 March, 1861, Military Correspondence: Mr. Larrabee. I do not know that I ever saw the man. I heard no man speak in his favor, or even intimate one redeeming trait in his character. The universal cry was against him. At the Thousand Acre Field and Iaqua Ranch even the woman who was shot and burned to death was condemned for living with such a man. Of most enormities of which he stands accused you are aware. An accomplice and actor in the massacre at Indian Island and South Beach; the murederer of Yo-keel-la-bah; recently engaged in killing unoffending Indians, his party, according to their owm story, having killed eighteen at one time (eight bucks and ten squaws and children), and now at work imbruing his hands in the blood of slaughtered innocence, I do not think Mr. Larrabee can be too emphatically condemned. He certainly richly merited his recent losses.

      I think he was just a bad guy…

      • That last part was from the report of Lieut. Daniel D. Lynn. He looked down on the local people and called them the “Buckskin Gentry”. He thought of them as people that would fit nowhere else, and were driven here to get rid of them. Most likely he was right.

        The REAL story would be; what drove them to do the things that they did? What was their motivation? You wouldn’t do those things, I wouldn’t, most people wouldn’t. Yet some us us have their very blood coursing in our veins. The second REAL story would be why were they released from custody?

        The only thing that I can conclude is that it was a different time and place. What other reason would they have had to do the things that they did other than survival? There is some justification in what I say, because they did survive. That thought is so repugnant that no one will allow themselves to think it. But it did happen, didn’t it?

        If we knew what conditions that led up the things that happened, we could learn from them, and avoid them, but we have to understand the things that motivated what they did.

        • lynette77 says:

          HI Ernie,
          Good point about the “gentry”. There was no further west for these guys to go and so I do think many of the outlaws ended up here.
          I’m also guessing that men like Larrabee and Fay had to be arrested because their crimes were so public, but they were released from custody, in part, because they likely scared the hell out of people. The following articles also show how tolerant the “law” was here of domestic disputes, especially those against squaws. I figure Worth must have done something much worse than McFarren to warrent the bigger fine…

          1860, Aug. 18, Humboldt times. FINED. A man by the mane of McFarren was tried before Justice Boynton, of Pacific Township, on a charge of assaulting and beating a squaw. He was fined twenty-five dollars and committed twelve days, unless the fine should be sooner paid. After being delivered in to the hands of the Sheriff, he concluded to pay the fine.

          1860, May 19, Humboldt Times, SERVED HIM RIGHT. A man named Dave Worth, who has been living across the Bay for some years past, was up before Justice Moore yesterday on a charge of unlawfully detaining and abusing an Indian squaw. He was fined one hundred dollars, which he plunked down, rather than go to jail.

          As far as background, the making of the men… Sounds like grand research idea for someone. I would love, LOVE to know the background on these guys. Especially the really flagrant ones, like Larrabee or Fleming… If we have any takers, I will be first in line to read it !

  2. cweinblatt says:

    Sometimes authors use a novel or screenplay to support political or social beliefs; or to cry out for morality and ethical principles. This is no more clearly evident than with Holocaust books and films. Whenever we stand up to those who deny or minimize the Holocaust, or to those who support genocide we send a critical message to the world.

    We live in an age of vulnerability. Holocaust deniers ply their mendacious poison everywhere, especially with young people on the Internet. We know from captured German war records that millions of innocent Jews (and others) were systematically exterminated by Nazi Germany – most in gas chambers. Holocaust books and films help to tell the true story of the Shoah, combating anti-Semitic historical revision. And, they protect future generations from making the same mistakes.

    I wrote “Jacob’s Courage” to promote Holocaust education. This coming of age love story presents accurate scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. It examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality. A world that continues to allow genocide requires such ethical reminders and remediation.

    “Jacob’s Courage” required three years of research. While the characters are fictional, the events surrounding them are real, including a section in which Jacob’s father, a physician, is forced to work with the real Nazi “Doctors of Death,” Albert Heim and Josef Mengele. Yes, it is frightening. But it is also a coming of age love story with a rewarding conclusion. It is a story of how some Jews fought Nazi persecution and an example of how passion, faith and enduring love existed at the same time as pure evil.

    Many authors feel compelled to use their talent to promote moral causes. Holocaust books and movies carry that message globally, in an age when the world needs to learn that genocide is unacceptable. Such authors attempt to show the world that religious, racial, ethnic and gender persecution is wrong; and that tolerance is our progeny’s only hope.

    Charles Weinblatt
    Author, “Jacob’s Courage”
    http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/

    • lynette77 says:

      Greetings Charles,
      I am so glad you found my blog! First off, congratulations on your book ! It is an incredible accomplishment to finish a book, let alone succeed in getting in published. Some day… someday :-)….

      I’ve actually thought often about writing a novel (have a couple of drafts w/ a couple of different approaches) and imagine a screen play and movie. I’ve found that much has been written about the history of this area, as with the Holocaust, but it still doesn’t… touch people. It isn’t real to them. And to be fair, it has only been the last couple of years that I’ve realized that history happens to REAL people, as ignorant as that sounds. Go figure. Fiction writing and movies seem to reach people in ways that pure non-fiction is not able. And I think there is much to learn and acknowledge about this particular history.

      I’ve just finished an article about Lucy for our local historical society publication and need to step back and figure out what’s next. Maybe fiction “based on true events” will be my next step.
      Again, thanks for visiting, and the suggestion. I hope you will visit again and I will continue to visit your site, http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/

      ~L

  3. cweinblatt says:

    Keep up the great work! I’m impressed. Your “one day” will come and it will happen before you know it. Just keep writing. If you have any questions about how to get published or how to market a book, just contact me (csw1@sev.org) or visit my sister site, http://cweinblatt.wordpress.com/.

    • lynette77 says:

      Hi Chuck,
      First let me say that http://cweinblatt.wordpress.com/ is such a great site for info about publishing : LINK ! I think there are a lot of people with a lot of important stories out there–folks pay attention ! Knowing something doesn’t do much good unless you share your knowledge somehow.

      On a personal note, I really appreciate your offer to help when I get a little further along and I will likely take you up on it at some point. My challenge right now is figuring out what story to tell… and will just trust that I’ll know when I know.

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