Hot air from the wind power lobby

Tom Adams and Ross McKitrick, Financial Post
Wind and solar power are key drivers behind Ontario’s surging electricity prices
On Oct. 30 we published a Fraser Institute study entitled “What Goes Up… Ontario’s Soaring Electricity Prices and How to Get Them Down.” We analyzed the factors driving the rise in Ontario’s electricity prices, focusing on the so-called Global Adjustment (GA), which is a non-market surcharge set by the province to fund payments to electricity producers for above-market revenue guarantees. Our econometric analysis allowed us to track not only the impact of direct payments to power generating firms but also indirect effects arising when one distorted production decision subsequently distorts the incentives of others, boosting overall provincial liabilities. Among other things we found that adding wind power to the grid increases costs by about three times the amount of the direct payments to wind turbine operators, with the interaction effects making up the difference.

On November 3, The Canadian Wind Energy Association issued a response to our study prepared by the consulting firm Power Advisory LLC. CanWEA’s press release acknowledges that electricity prices are increasing but claims that these changes benefit Ontarians. While it is certainly true that rising prices — up 52% since 2004 in inflation-adjusted terms — have been enormously beneficial to CanWEA and its members, they are harmful to Ontario consumers and firms. It is important to understand the real factors behind price trends, and not simply to take at face value the claims of an industry group with an obvious conflict of interest in the matter. Read article

11 thoughts on “Hot air from the wind power lobby

  1. First the private electricity producers got the legal right to sell power in Ontario and then they got to be first in line to sell the power they produce to the province.

  2. The Grapes of Wrath
    John Steinbeck
    (c) 1939

    ‘[excerpt, starting at page 36]
    THE TRACTORS came over the roads and into the fields,
    great crawlers moving like insects, having the incredi-
    ble strength of insects. They crawled over the ground,
    laying the track and rolling on it and picking it up.
    Diesel tractors, puttering while they stood idle; they
    thundered when they moved, and then settled down to
    a droning roar. Snubnosed monsters, raising the dust
    and sticking their snouts into it, straight down the
    country, across the country, through fences, through
    dooryards, in and out of gullies in straight lines. They
    did not run on the ground, but on their own roadbeds.
    They ignored hills and gulches, water courses, fences,
    houses.
    The man sitting in the iron seat did not look like a
    man; gloved, goggled, rubber dust mask over nose and
    mouth, he was a part of the monster, a robot in the
    seat. The thunder of the cylinders sounded through the
    country, became one with the air and the earth, so that
    earth and air muttered in sympathetic vibration. The
    driver could not control it—straight across country it
    went, cutting through a dozen farms and straight back.
    A twitch at the controls could swerve the cat’, but the
    driver’s hands could not twitch because the monster
    that built the tractors, the monster that sent the tractor
    out, had somehow got into the driver’s hands, into his
    brain and muscle, had goggled him and muzzled him
    —goggled his mind, muzzled his speech, goggled his
    perception, muzzled his protest. He could not see the
    land as it was, he could not smell the land as it
    smelled; his feet did not stamp the clods or feel the
    warmth and power of the earth. He sat in an iron seat
    and stepped on iron pedals. He could not cheer or beat
    or curse or encourage the extension of his power, and
    because of this he could not cheer or whip or curse or
    encourage himself. He did not know or own or trust or
    beseech the land. If a seed dropped did not germinate,
    it was nothing. If the young thrusting plant withered in
    drought or drowned in a flood of rain, it was no more
    to the driver than to the tractor.
    He loved the land no more than the bank loved the
    land. He could admire the tractor—its machined sur-
    faces, its surge of power, the roar of its detonating cyl-
    inders; but it was not his tractor. Behind the tractor
    rolled the shining disks, cutting the earth with blades
    —not plowing but surgery, pushing the cut earth to the
    right where the second row of disks cut it and pushed
    it to the left; slicing blades shining, polished by the cut
    earth. And pulled behind the disks, the harrows comb-
    ing with iron teeth so that the little clods broke up and
    the earth lay smooth. Behind the harrows, the long
    seeders—twelve curved iron penes erected in the foun-
    dry, orgasms set by gears, raping methodically, raping
    without passion. The driver sat in his iron seat and he
    was proud of the straight lines he did not will, proud
    of the tractor he did not own or love, proud of the
    power he could not control. And when that crop grew,
    and was harvested, no man had crumbled a hot clod in
    his fingers and let the earth sift past his fingertips. No
    man had touched the seed, or lusted for the growth.
    Men ate what they had not raised, had no connection
    with the bread. The land bore under iron, and under
    iron gradually died; for it was not loved or hated, it had
    no prayers or curses.’

  3. ‘[excerpt continued]
    At noon the tractor driver stopped sometimes near a
    tenant house and opened his lunch: sandwiches
    wrapped in waxed paper, white bread, pickle, cheese,
    Spam, a piece of pie branded like an engine part. He
    ate without relish. And tenants not yet moved away
    came out to see him, looked curiously while the gog-
    gles were taken off, and the rubber dust mask, leaving
    white circles around the eyes and a large white circle
    around nose and mouth. The exhaust of the tractor
    puttered on, for fuel is so cheap it is more efficient to
    leave the engine running than to heat the Diesel nose
    for a new start. Curious children crowded close, ragged
    children who ate their fried dough as they watched.
    They watched hungrily the unwrapping of the sand-
    wiches, and their hunger-sharpened noses smelled the
    pickle, cheese, and Spam. They didn’t speak to the
    driver. They watched his hand as it carried food to his
    mouth. They did not watch him chewing; their eyes
    followed the hand that held the sandwich. After a
    while the tenant who could not leave the place came
    out and squatted in the shade beside the tractor.
    “Why, you’re Joe Davis’s boy!”
    “Sure,” the driver said.
    “Well, what you doing this kind of work for—
    against your own people?”
    “Three dollars a day. I got damn sick of creeping
    for my dinner—and not getting it. I got a wife and
    kids. We got to eat. Three dollars a day, and it comes
    every day.”
    “That’s right,” the tenant said. “But for your three
    dollars a day fifteen or twenty families can’t eat at all.
    Nearly a hundred people have to go out and wander on
    the roads for your three dollars a day. Is that right?”
    And the driver said, “Can’t think of that. Got to
    think of my own kids. Three dollars a day, and it
    comes every day. Times are changing, mister, don’t
    you know? Can’t make a living on the land unless
    you’ve got two, five, ten thousand acres and a tractor.
    Crop land isn’t for little guys like us any more. You
    don’t kick up a howl because you can’t make Fords, or
    because you’re not the telephone company. Well, crops
    are like that now. Nothing to do about it. You try to
    get three dollars a day someplace. That’s the only
    way.”
    The tenant pondered. “Funny thing how it is. If a
    man owns a little property, that property is him, it’s
    part of him, and it’s like him. If he owns property only
    so he can walk on it and handle it and be sad when it
    isn’t doing well, and feel fine when the rain falls on it,
    that property is him, and some way he’s bigger be-
    cause he owns it. Even if he isn’t successful he’s big
    with his property. That is so.”
    And the tenant pondered more. “But let a man get
    property he doesn’t see, or can’t take time to get his
    fingers in, or can’t be there to walk on it—why, then
    the property is the man. He can’t do what he wants, he
    can’t think what he wants. The property is the man,
    stronger than he is. And he is small, not big. Only his
    possessions are big—and he’s the servant of his prop-
    erty. That is so, too.”
    The driver munched the branded pie and threw the
    crust away. “Times are changed, don’t you know?
    Thinking about stuff like that don’t feed the kids. Get
    your three dollars a day, feed your kids. You got no
    call to worry about anybody’s kids but your own. You
    get a reputation for talking like that, and you’ll never
    get three dollars a day. Big shots won’t give you three
    dollars a day if you worry about anything but your
    three dollars a day.”
    “Nearly a hundred people on the road for your
    three dollars. Where will we go?”
    “And that reminds me,” the driver said, “you better
    get out soon. I’m going through the dooryard after din-
    ner.”
    “You filled in the well this morning.”
    “I know. Had to keep the line straight. But I’m
    going through the dooryard after dinner. Got to keep
    the lines straight. And—well, you know Joe Davis, my
    old man, so I’ll tell you this. I got orders wherever
    there’s a family not moved out—if I have an accident
    —you know, get too close and cave the house in a lit-
    tle—well, I might get a couple of dollars. And my
    youngest kid never had no shoes yet.”
    “I built it with my hands. Straightened old nails to
    put the sheathing on. Rafters are wired to the stringers
    with baling wire. It’s mine. I built it. You bump it
    down—I’ll be in the window with a rifle. You even
    come too close and I’ll pot you like a rabbit.”
    “It’s not me. There’s nothing I can do. I’ll lose my
    job if I don’t do it. And look—suppose you kill me?
    They’ll just hang you, but long before you’re hung
    there’ll be another guy on the tractor, and he’ll bump
    the house down. You’re not killing the right guy.”
    “That’s so,” the tenant said. “Who gave you orders?
    I’ll go after him. He’s the one to kill.”
    “You’re wrong. He got his orders from the bank.
    The bank told him, ‘Clear those people out or it’s your
    job.'”
    “Well, there’s a president of the bank. There’s a
    board of directors. I’ll fill up the magazine of the rifle
    and go into the bank.”
    The driver said, “Fellow was telling me the bank
    gets orders from the East. The orders were, ‘Make the
    land show profit or we’ll close you up.'”
    “But where does it stop? Who can we shoot? I don’t
    aim to starve to death before I kill the man that’s
    starving me.”
    “I don’t know. Maybe there’s nobody to shoot.
    Maybe the thing isn’t men at all. Maybe like you said,
    the property’s doing it. Anyway I told you my orders.”
    “I got to figure,” the tenant said. “We all got to
    figure. There’s some way to stop this. It’s not like
    lightning or earthquakes. We’ve got a bad thing made
    by men, and by God that’s something we can change.”
    The tenant sat in his doorway, and the driver thun-
    dered his engine and started off, tracks falling and
    curving, harrows combing, and the phalli of the seeder
    slipping into the ground. Across the dooryard the trac-
    tor cut, and the hard, foot-beaten ground was seeded
    field, and the tractor cut through again; the uncut
    space was ten feet wide. And back he came. The iron
    guard bit into the house-corner, crumbled the wall, and
    wrenched the little house from its foundation so that it
    fell sideways, crushed like a bug. And the driver was
    goggled and a rubber mask covered his nose and
    mouth. The tractor cut a straight line on, and the air
    and the ground vibrated with its thunder. The tenant
    man stared after it, his rifle in his hand. His wife was
    beside him, and the quiet children behind. And all of
    them stared after the tractor.’

  4. [page 79]
    Tom stood looking in. Ma was heavy, but not fat;
    thick with child-bearing and work. She wore a loose
    Mother Hubbard of gray cloth in which there had once
    been colored flowers, but the color was washed out
    now, so that the small flowered pattern was only a lit-
    tle lighter gray than the background. The dress came
    down to her ankles, and her strong, broad, bare feet
    moved quickly and deftly over the floor. Her thin,
    steel-gray hair was gathered in a sparse wispy knot at
    the back of her head. Strong, freckled arms were bare
    to the elbow, and her hands were chubby and delicate,
    like those of a plump little girl. She looked out into the
    sunshine. Her full face was not soft; it was controlled,
    kindly. Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all
    possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffer-
    ing like steps into a high calm and a superhuman un-
    derstanding. She seemed to know, to accept, to wel-
    come her position, the citadel of the family, the strong
    place that could not be taken. And since old Tom and
    the children could not know hurt or fear unless she ac-
    knowledged hurt and fear, she had practiced denying
    them in herself. And since, when a joyful thing hap-
    pened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it
    was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate
    materials. But better than joy was calm. Imperturba-
    bility could be depended upon. And from her great and
    humble position in the family she had taken dignity
    and a clean calm beauty. From her position as healer,
    her hands had grown sure and cool and quiet; from
    her position as arbiter she had become as remote and
    faultless in judgment as a goddess. She seemed to
    know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she
    ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family
    would fall, the family will to function would be gone.
    She looked out into the sunny yard, at the dark
    figure of a man. Pa stood near by, shaking with excite-
    ment. “Come in,” he cried. “Come right in, mister.”
    And Tom a little shamefacedly stepped over the door-
    sill.
    She looked up pleasantly from the frying pan. And
    then her hand sank slowly to her side and the fork
    clattered to the wooden floor. Her eyes opened wide,
    and the pupils dilated. She breathed heavily through
    her open mouth. She closed her eyes. “Thank God,”
    she said. “Oh, thank God!” And suddenly her face was
    worried. “Tommy, you ain’t wanted? You didn’t bust
    loose?”
    “No, Ma. Parole. I got the papers here.” He
    touched his breast.
    She moved toward him lithely, soundlessly in her
    bare feet, and her face was full of wonder. Her small
    hand felt his arm, felt the soundness of his muscles.
    And then her fingers went up to his cheek as a blind
    man’s fingers might. And her joy was nearly like sor-
    row. Tom pulled his underlip between his teeth and bit
    it. Her eyes went wonderingly to his bitten lip, and she
    saw the little line of blood against his teeth and the
    trickle of blood down his lip. Then she knew, and her
    control came back, and her hand dropped. Her breath
    came out explosively. “Well!” she cried. “We come
    mighty near to goin’ without ya. An’ we was wonderin’
    how in the worl’ you could ever find us.” She picked
    up the fork and combed the boiling grease and brought
    out a dark curl of crisp pork. And she set the pot of
    tumbling coffee on the back of the stove.
    Old Tom giggled, “Fooled ya, huh, Ma? We aimed
    to fool ya, and we done it. Jus’ stood there like a ham-
    mered sheep. Wisht Grampa’d been here to see.
    Looked like somebody’d beat ya between the eyes with
    a sledge. Grampa would a whacked ‘imself so hard
    he’d a throwed his hip out—like he done when he seen
    Al take a shot at that grea’ big airship the army got.
    Tommy, it come over one day, half a mile big, an’ Al
    gets the thirty-thirty and blazes away at her. Grampa
    yells, ‘Don’t shoot no fledglin’s, Al; wait till a growed-
    up one goes over,’ an’ then he whacked ‘imself an’
    throwed his hip out.”
    Ma chuckled and took down a heap of tin plates
    from a shelf.
    Tom asked, “Where is Grampa? I ain’t seen the ol’
    devil.”

  5. [chapter 11, page 125]
    THE HOUSES WERE LEFT vacant on the land, and the
    land was vacant because of this. Only the tractor sheds
    of corrugated iron, silver and gleaming, were alive; and
    they were alive with metal and gasoline and oil, the
    disks of the plows shining. The tractors had lights shin-
    ing, for there is no day and night for a tractor and the
    disks turn the earth in the darkness and they glitter in
    the daylight. And when a horse stops work and goes
    into the barn there is a life and a vitality left, there is a
    breathing and a warmth, and the feet shift on the
    straw, and the jaws clamp on the hay, and the ears and
    the eyes are alive. There is a warmth of life in the
    barn, and the heat and smell of life. But when the
    motor of a tractor stops, it is as dead as the ore it
    came from. The heat goes out of it like the living heat
    that leaves a corpse. Then the corrugated iron doors
    are closed and the tractor man drives home to town,
    perhaps twenty miles away, and he need not come
    back for weeks or months, for the tractor is dead. And
    this is easy and efficient. So easy that the wonder goes
    out of work, so efficient that the wonder goes out of
    land and the working of it, and with the wonder the
    deep understanding and the relation. And in the trac-
    tor man there grows the contempt that comes only to a
    stranger who has little understanding and no relation.
    For nitrates are not the land, nor phosphates; and the
    length of fiber in the cotton is not the land. Carbon is
    not a man, nor salt nor water nor calcium. He is all
    these, but he is much more, much more; and the land
    is so much more than its analysis. The man who is
    more than his chemistry, walking on the earth, turning
    his plow point for a stone, dropping his handles to
    slide over an outcropping, kneeling in the earth to eat
    his lunch; that man who is more than his elements
    knows the land that is more than its analysis. But the
    machine man, driving a dead tractor on land he does
    not know and love, understands only chemistry; and
    he is contemptuous of the land and of himself. When
    the corrugated iron doors are shut, he goes home, and
    his home is not the land.

  6. [page 131]
    What do ya think a guy in business is? Like he says,
    he ain’t in it for his health. That’s what business is.
    What’d you think it was? Fella’s got—See that sign
    ‘longside the road there? Service Club. Luncheon
    Tuesday, Colmado Hotel? Welcome, brother. That’s a
    Service Club. Fella had a story. Went to one of them
    meetings an’ told the story to all them business men.
    Says, when I was a kid my ol’ man give me a haltered
    heifer an’ says take her down an’ git her serviced. An’
    the fella says, I done it, an’ ever’ time since then when
    I hear a business man talkin’ about service, I wonder
    who’s gettin’ screwed. Fella in business got to lie an’
    cheat, but he calls it somepin else. That’s what’s im-
    portant. You go steal that tire an’ you’re a thief, but he
    tried to steal your four dollars for a busted tire. They
    call that sound business.
    Danny in the back seat wants a cup a water.
    Have to wait. Got no water here.
    Listen—that the rear end?
    Can’t tell.
    Sound telegraphs through the frame.
    There goes a gasket. Got to go on. Listen to her
    whistle. Find a nice place to camp an’ I’ll jerk the head
    off. But, God Almighty, the food’s gettin’ low, the
    money’s gettin’ low. When we can’t buy no more gas
    —what then?
    Danny in the back seat wants a cup a water. Little
    fella’s thirsty.
    Listen to that gasket whistle.
    Chee-rist! There she went. Blowed tube an’ casing
    all to hell. Have to fix her. Save that casing to make
    boots; cut ’em out an’ stick ’em inside a weak place.
    Cars pulled up beside the road, engine heads off,
    tires mended. Cars limping along 66 like wounded
    things, panting and struggling. Too hot, loose connec-
    tions, loose bearings, rattling bodies.
    Danny wants a cup of water.
    People in flight along 66. And the concrete road
    shone like a mirror under the sun, and in the distance
    the heat made it seem that there were pools of water in
    the road.
    Danny wants a cup a water.
    He’ll have to wait, poor little fella. He’s hot. Nex’
    service station. Service station, like the fella says.
    Two hundred and fifty thousand people over the
    road. Fifty thousand old cars— wounded, steaming.
    Wrecks along the road, abandoned. Well, what hap-
    pened to them? What happened to the folks in that
    car? Did they walk? Where are they? Where does the
    courage come from? Where does the terrible faith
    come from?
    And heres a story you can hardly believe, but it’s
    true, and it’s funny and it’s beautiful. There was a fam-
    ily of twelve and they were forced off the land. They
    had no car. They built a trailer out of junk and loaded
    it with their possessions. They pulled it to the side of
    66 and waited. And pretty soon a sedan picked them
    up. Five of them rode in the sedan and seven on the
    trailer, and a dog on the trailer. They got to California
    in two jumps. The man who pulled them fed them.
    And that’s true. But how can such courage be, and
    such faith in their own species? Very few things would
    teach such faith.
    The people in flight from the terror behind—strange
    things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so
    beautiful that the faith is refired forever.

  7. [page 146]
    They went through Bethany and out on the other
    side. In a ditch, where a culvert went under the road,
    an old touring car was pulled off the highway and a
    little tent was pitched beside it, and smoke came out of
    a stove pipe through the tent. Tom pointed ahead.
    “There’s some folks campin’. Looks like as good a
    place as we seen.” He slowed his motor and pulled to
    a stop beside the road. The hood of the old touring car
    was up, and a middle-aged man stood looking down at
    the motor. He wore a cheap straw sombrero, a blue
    shirt, and a black, spotted vest, and his jeans were stiff
    and shiny with dirt. His face was lean, the deep
    cheek-lines great furrows down his face so that his
    cheek bones and chin stood out sharply. He looked up
    at the Joad truck and his eyes were puzzled and angry.
    Tom leaned out of the window. “Any law ‘gainst
    folks stoppin’ here for the night?”
    The man had seen only the truck. His eyes focused
    down on Tom. “I dunno,” he said. “We on’y stopped
    here ’cause we couldn’t git no further.”
    “Any water here?”
    The man pointed to a service-station shack about a
    quarter of a mile ahead. “They’s water there they’ll let
    ya take a bucket of.”
    Tom hesitated. “Well, ya s’pose we could camp
    down ‘longside?”
    The lean man looked puzzled. “We don’t own it,”
    he said. “We on’y stopped here ’cause this goddamn ol’
    trap wouldn’ go no further.”
    Tom insisted. “Anyways you’re here an’ we ain’t.
    You got a right to say if you wan’ neighbors or not.”
    The appeal to hospitality had an instant effect. The
    lean face broke into a smile. “Why, sure, come on off
    the road. Proud to have ya.” And he called, “Sairy,
    there’s some folks goin’ ta stay with us. Come on out
    an’ say how d’ya do. Sairy ain’t well,” he added. The
    tent flaps opened and a wizened woman came out—a
    face wrinkled as a dried leaf and eyes that seemed to
    flame in her face, black eyes that seemed to look out
    of a well of horror. She was small and shuddering. She
    held herself upright by a tent flap, and the hand holding
    onto the canvas was a skeleton covered with wrinkled
    skin. When she spoke her voice had a beautiful low tim-
    bre, soft and modulated, and yet with ringing over-
    tones. “Tell ’em welcome,” she said. “Tell ’em good
    an’ welcome.”
    Tom drove off the road and brought his truck into
    the field and lined it up with the touring car. And peo-
    ple boiled down from the truck; Ruthie and Winfield
    too quickly, so that their legs gave way and they
    shrieked at the pins and needles that ran through their
    limbs. Ma went quickly to work. She untied the three-
    gallon bucket from the back of the truck and ap-
    proached the squealing children. “Now you go git wa-
    ter—right down there. Ask nice. Say, ‘Please, kin we
    git a bucket a water?’ and say, ‘Thank you.’ An’ carry
    it back together helpin’, an’ don’t spill none. An’ if you
    see stick wood to burn, bring it on.” The children
    stamped away toward the shack.
    By the tent a little embarrassment had set in, and
    social intercourse had paused before it started. Pa said,
    “You ain’t Oklahomy folks?”
    And Al, who stood near the car, looked at the li-
    cense plates. “Kansas,” he said.
    The lean man said, “Galena, or right about there.
    Wilson, Ivy Wilson.”
    “We’re Joads,” said Pa. “We come from right near
    Sallisaw.”
    “Well, we’re proud to meet you folks,” said Ivy Wil-
    son. “Sairy, these is Joads.”
    “I knowed you wasn’t Oklahomy folks. You talk
    queer kinda—that ain’t no blame, you understan’.”
    “Ever’body says words different,” said Ivy. “Arkan-
    sas folks says ’em different, and Oklahomy folks says
    ’em different. And we seen a lady from Massachusetts,
    an’ she said ’em differentest of all. Couldn’ hardly
    make out what she was sayin’.”
    Noah and Uncle John and the preacher began to
    unload the truck. They helped Grampa down and sat
    him on the ground and he sat limply, staring ahead of
    him. “You sick, Grampa?” Noah asked.
    “You goddamn right,” said Grampa weakly. “Sick-
    er’n hell.”
    Sairy Wilson walked slowly and carefully toward
    him. “How’d you like ta come in our tent?” she asked.
    “You kin lay down on our mattress an’ rest.”
    He looked up at her, drawn by her soft voice.
    “Come on now,” she said. “You’ll git some rest. We’ll
    he’p you over.”

  8. [page 212]

    17

    THE CARS OF THE migrant people crawled out of the
    side roads onto the great cross-country highway, and
    they took the migrant way to the West. In the daylight
    they scuttled like bugs to the westward; and as the dark
    caught them, they clustered like bugs near to shelter
    and to water. And because they were lonely and per-
    plexed, because they had all come from a place of sad-
    ness and worry and defeat, and because they were all
    going to a new mysterious place, they huddled together;
    they talked together; they shared their lives, their food,
    and the things they hoped for in the new country. Thus
    it might be that one family camped near a spring, and
    another camped for the spring and for company, and a
    third because two families had pioneered the place and
    found it good. And when the sun went down, perhaps
    twenty families and twenty cars were there.
    In the evening a strange thing happened: the twenty
    families became one family, the children were the chil-
    dren of all. The loss of home became one loss, and the
    golden time in the West was one dream. And it might be
    that a sick child threw despair into the hearts of twenty
    families, of a hundred people; that a birth there in a
    tent kept a hundred people quiet and awestruck
    through the night and filled a hundred people with the
    birth-joy in the morning. A family which the night be-
    fore had been lost and fearful might search its goods to
    find a present for a new baby. In the evening, sitting
    about the fires, the twenty were one. They grew to be
    units of the camps, units of the evenings and the nights.
    A guitar unwrapped from a blanket and tuned—and
    the songs, which were all of the people, were sung in
    the nights. Men sang the words, and women hummed
    the tunes.
    Every night a world created, complete with furniture
    —friends made and enemies established; a world com-
    plete with braggarts and with cowards, with quiet men,
    with humble men, with kindly men. Every night rela-
    tionships that make a world, established; and every
    morning the world torn down like a circus.
    At first the families were timid in the building and
    tumbling worlds, but gradually the technique of build-
    ing worlds became their technique. Then leaders emerged,
    then laws were made, then codes came into being. And
    as the worlds moved westward they were more com-
    plete and better furnished, for their builders were more
    experienced in building them.
    The families learned what rights must be observed
    —the right of privacy in the tent; the right to keep the
    past black hidden in the heart; the right to talk and to
    listen; the right to refuse help or to accept, to offer help
    or to decline it; the right of son to court and daughter to
    be courted; the right of the hungry to be fed; the rights
    of the pregnant and the sick to transcend all other
    rights.
    And the families learned, although no one told them,
    what rights are monstrous and must be destroyed: the
    right to intrude upon privacy, the right to be noisy
    while the camp slept, the right of seduction or rape, the
    right of adultery and theft and murder. These rights
    were crushed, because the little worlds could not exist
    for even a night with such rights alive.
    And as the worlds moved westward, rules became
    laws, although no one told the families. It is unlawful to
    foul near the camp; it is unlawful in any way to foul the
    drinking water; it is unlawful to eat good rich food near
    one who is hungry, unless he is asked to share.
    And with the laws, the punishments—and there were
    only two—a quick and murderous fight or ostracism;
    and ostracism was the worst. For if one broke the laws
    his name and face went with him, and he had no place
    in any world, no matter where created.

  9. [page 229]
    UNDER THE SPREAD tarpaulin Granma lay on a mat-
    tress, and Ma sat beside her. The air was stiflingly hot,
    and the flies buzzed in the shade of the canvas.
    Granma was naked under a long piece of pink curtain.
    She turned her old head restlessly from side to side,
    and she muttered and choked. Ma sat on the ground
    beside her, and with a piece of cardboard drove the
    flies away and fanned a stream of moving hot air over
    the tight old face. Rose of Sharon sat on the other side
    and watched her mother.
    Granma called imperiously, “Will! Will! You come
    here, Will.” And her eyes opened and she looked
    fiercely about. “Tol’ him to come right here,” she said.
    “I’ll catch him. I’ll take the hair off’n him.” She closed
    her eyes and rolled her head back and forth and mut-
    tered thickly. Ma fanned with the cardboard.
    Rose of Sharon looked helplessly at the old woman.
    She said softly, “She’s awful sick.”
    Ma raised her eyes to the girl’s face. Ma’s eyes were
    patient, but the lines of strain were on her forehead.
    Ma fanned and fanned the air, and her piece of card-
    board warned off the flies. “When you’re young, Rosa-
    sharn, ever’thing that happens is a thing all by itself.
    It’s a lonely thing. I know, I ‘member, Rosasharn.”
    Her mouth loved the name of her daughter. “You’re
    gonna have a baby, Rosasharn, and that’s somepin to
    you lonely and away. That’s gonna hurt you, an’ the
    hurt’ll be lonely hurt, an’ this here tent is alone in the
    worl’, Rosasharn.” She whipped the air for a moment
    to drive a buzzing blow fly on, and the big shining fly
    circled the tent twice and zoomed out into the blinding
    sunlight. And Ma went on, “They’s a time of change,
    an’ when that comes, dyin’ is a piece of all dyin’, and
    bearin’ is a piece of all bearin’, an bearin’ an’ dyin’ is
    two pieces of the same thing. An’ then things ain’t
    lonely any more. An’ then a hurt don’t hurt so bad,
    cause it ain’t a lonely hurt no more, Rosasharn. I
    wisht I could tell you so you’d know, but I can’t.” And
    her voice was so soft, so full of love, that tears crowded
    into Rose of Sharon’s eyes, and flowed over her eyes
    and blinded her.
    “Take an’ fan Granma,” Ma said, and she handed
    the cardboard to her daughter. “That’s a good thing to
    do. I wisht I could tell you so you’d know.”
    Granma, scowling her brows down over her closed
    eyes, bleated, “Will! You’re dirty! You ain’t never
    gonna get clean.” Her little wrinkled claws moved up
    and scratched her cheek. A red ant ran up the curtain
    cloth and scrambled over the folds of loose skin on the
    old lady’s neck. Ma reached quickly and picked it off,
    crushed it between thumb and forefinger, and brushed
    her fingers on her dress.
    Rose of Sharon waved the cardboard fan. She
    looked up at Ma. “She—?” And the words parched in
    her throat.
    “Wipe your feet, Will—you dirty pig!” Granma
    cried.
    Ma said, “I dunno. Maybe if we can get her where it
    ain’t so hot, but I dunno. Don’t worry yourself, Rosa-
    sharn.
    Take your breath in when you need it, an’ let go
    when you need to.”

  10. [page 243]
    Tom kept the truck in second gear over the rough
    road, to protect the springs. At Needles he drove into
    a service station, checked the worn tires for air,
    checked the spares tied to the back. He had the gas
    tank filled, and he bought two five-gallon cans of gaso-
    line and a two-gallon can of oil. He filled the radiator,
    begged a map, and studied it.
    The service-station boy, in his white uniform,
    seemed uneasy until the bill was paid. He said, “You
    people sure have got nerve.”
    Tom looked up from the map. “What you mean?”
    “Well, crossin’ in a jalopy like this.”
    “You been acrost?”
    “Sure, plenty, but not in no wreck like this.”
    Tom said, “If we broke down maybe somebody’d
    give us a han’.”
    “Well, maybe. But folks are kind of scared to stop
    at night. I’d hate to be doing it. Takes more nerve than
    I’ve got.”
    Tom grinned. “It don’t take no nerve to do somepin
    when there ain’t nothin’ else you can do. Well, thanks.
    We’ll drag on.” And he got in the truck and moved away.
    The boy in white went into the iron building where
    his helper labored over a book of bills. “Jesus, what a
    hard-looking outfit!”
    “Them Okies? They’re all hard-lookin’.”
    “Jesus, I’d hate to start out in a jalopy like that.”
    “Well, you and me got sense. Them goddamn Okies
    got no sense and no feeling. They ain’t human. A
    human being wouldn’t live like they do. A human
    being couldn’t stand it to be so dirty and miserable.
    They ain’t a hell of a lot better than gorillas.”
    “Just the same I’m glad I ain’t crossing the desert in
    no Hudson Super-Six. She sounds like a threshing ma-
    chine.”
    The other boy looked down at his book of bills.
    And a big drop of sweat rolled down his finger and fell
    on the pink bills. “You know, they don’t have much
    trouble. They’re so goddamn dumb they don’t know
    it’s dangerous. And, Christ Almighty, they don’t know
    any better than what they got. Why worry?”
    “I’m not worrying. Just thought if it was me, I
    wouldn’t like it.”
    “That’s ’cause you know better. They don’t know
    any better.” And he wiped the sweat from the pink bill
    with his sleeve.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *