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Todd’s Garage

One rare day, I remember little about him in any regard, Fa told me interesting things that I was too young to absorb

I remember “coydog” that day, probably he used that word with the other men there, felt hats, overalls, boots, bolt-action deer rifles and shotguns, in front of Todd’s Garage

Hiding behind Fa’s leg, staring up at four coyotes hanging from the door track of the garage buck-shot torn and bloodied dead, grizzled reddish ruff and guard hair shiny bronze brown gray

Feeling the sinew of the back of his knee, the tightness behind his thigh, his muscle flex when he shifted his weight standing there

My first gawk at kill, cut and slash, skin and skewer

I don’t remember his shoes, his shirts, and thinking of his hands I see only knuckles dragging on a camel

The past has extremely selective depths

“Nine-tenths of our lives is well forgotten in the living” (William Carlos Williams)

After the coyotes hanging from that garage door’s track, Fa was the next dead being, one leg twisted askew on the stable floor where he had shot himself

At his age that coydog day, pulling a hill at maximum stand-in-the-saddle torque my road bike’s frame snapped at the dropout on the freewheel side

Pulling that hill against the rising sun

Under which the Dadaab Refugee Camp, eerily broadening and seething, shelters well over a quarter of a million people in arid Kenyan bushveld between Garissa and the Somalia border

Under which are the hundreds of thousands on the Balkan route, two million seven hundred thousand migrants locked down in Turkey, only ten percent of whom are sheltered in camps

All those left in migrationalstasis in Slovenia, Macedonia, Greece, Croatia and Serbia, all borders shut now

And those on the threshold of the UK stuck in what is called The Jungle near the mouth of the Euro Tunnel in Calais

Fated, displaced people from World War Two were known as DPs and considered tubercular, pitiful and lice-infested

Whether trying to get home from the German concentration camps, to a Palestine not yet Israel, or to the Americas or Australia

Desperate, destitute, abject victims of the Machtpolitik of general war

Seemingly resigned

These present refugee migrants are more enraged than abject, often not destitute, victims of Islam’s vicissitudes, interventionism and civil war

In 2014, two hundred and eighty thousand came into Europe and more than a million eight hundred thousand arrived safely in 2015 as around five thousand children women and men died in the waters of the Mediterranean and Aegean

At the end of 2015’s summer EU ministers voted by a majority to relocate just a hundred and sixty thousand EU-wide, to apply only to people already in Italy and Greece

Throughout Africa there are two and half million refugees

Ten percent of the people living in Jordan are refugees and a quarter of all the people in Lebanon have arrived from Syria or somewhere else

Civil war in Syria is the pivotal event in all of this, the US invasion of Iraq was the underlying cause

The unvaryingly poorly equipped desert-crossing migrants of the Mexican US border who set out on foot die even more frequently than those crossing from Libya by sea

Such is our desperate, unforgiveable inventory

But its horror lies outside

Private dilemmas in stable societies typically are petty, like dealing with popped bicycle frames with a weld at the thin narrow dropout of course being iffy

Hair transplants, enhancements, shaved pubes, shapeware, logo clothes, nails, the self-absorptive inventory of our private lives, with other concerns the spectrums of cable and Wi-Fi service, our device, income, clothes, car or truck, and hair, hair, hair

Angst that chews mildly on us

“Cognitive relativism is nonsense, moral relativism is tragic” (Ernest Gellner)

Tracking south on Charlotte’s broad freeways

Western Atlantic world removed from pondering refugee migrants, absorbed by the fast motion’s detail that, like memory, limits perception with its extremely selective depth

Present-time present-place concerns clogged by the subjective associative that flushes out the relevant toward flat banalities

Like the blue, red and white of my Korean-era Georgia tank camp Third Army patch duplicating the anarchist’s monochrome black and white encircled “A”

The current factory farm and open field scheme of things nearly fully replacing the corncrib and smokehouse rural Southern countryside

Tobacco barns and unpainted zinc-roofed cabins with their galleries, chained-up hounds and swept yards along nineteen-forties Carolina and Virginia roads not here now

Jim Crow miserableness about the towns, upright gardened whiteness coming in off the highway toward the courthouse square, shabby squalor on the way out

The old horse and wagon, and bib-overall poverty nearly gone

But much trash-in-the-yard hopelessness still here, trash in the yard means no hogs or chickens running free with all the car and truck traffic on the roads now

Not like the old days before discard stuffed furniture and appliances, before there was cash for store-bought stuff when trash in the yard most often means trash in the house in Wal-Mart’s present rural Carolina

From De Soto’s Carolina Expedition in 1540 that drove hogs along for its own provender down to our electronic world with its surveillance drones

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware” (Martin Buber)

It was much different before the end-Pleistocene extinctions

Well before De Soto, just after the ice, out here in Chester-Whitmire-Newberry South Carolina south of Charlotte, around thirteen thousand years ago there were exotic megafaunae living with the deer, bears and possible mountain lions that are still here

Not all in the Carolina Piedmont but many: five species of deer and moose, two llamas, a camel, three horse types, four ground-sloth type from hundreds of pounds to three tons, a quarter-ton armadillo and a glyptodont that weighed a ton, two ox-like ungulates, a five-ton mastodon, a six-ton woolly mammoth, a nine-ton Columbian mammoth, four hundred pound beavers, scimitar-cats, American lions and sabertooths each as big as African lions, three huge bears, one the giant short-faced bear that weighed nearly a ton, the largest mammalian predator that has ever been

And at sometime within the range of twenty thousand years ago, before the maize-milpa culture reached north via Mexico, we were among them as hunters, gatherers, nomads

Their lines came down through Carolina Cherokee, Catawba, Congaree, and a Carolina descendent or two of those first humans here could be working in IT for a Charlotte bank

Carrying genes of those who hunted giant sloths and feared the local sabretooths

Passing here, coming and going, in single file, in clan, as wagoners or in caravan or corporate van

Travois to BMW, breaking trail hummock to hummock, on the Interstates on ramp to off ramp

Every sort of Carolina trek

Coffles in chains moved inland from the slave pen ports of Charleston like the stripe-clad, black and white, road gangs of two generations ago

Shotgun guarded, prisoner chase

Single file POW columns from the Valley Campaign toward Andersonville

The Jacksonian roundup of the Cherokees forced across the Mississippi into the Oklahoma Territory on one more Trail of Tears

Plantation runaways trying for Maryland and the first stops on the Underground Railway for Boston and beyond to Canada

Horse drives, sheep flocks, droves of oxen, goat tribes, driven to market, toward or away from war

The Chicken Bone Express north to Baltimore, Harlem, Pittsburgh, Detroit City

The back and forth of the Florida wintering and retirement multitudes

All modes of imperative traffic, handguns and assault weapons bought easily in the South and driven north on I-95, I-81, I-77, I-75, I-65, I-55 like cheapo Marlboros

In the Carolinas ever since at least the Battle of Cowpens on the Broad River in 1781, moving on somewhere has been under guard or suasion and a matter of guns and tobacco in one way or another

Poignant in the environs of the grand old Carolina Road given the nature of the slavery heritage game

And in the context of the bloated numbers of the planet’s present refugee ebb and flow that so compel and terrify

A Sherman’s March, an exodus, a Pakistan Partition, an African Diaspora

All has been before and all can be again

Migrations of peoples, the transmigration of species

After we who profess to control it now are gone, perhaps even post-Anthropocene castback and repeat evolution to ground sloths and short-faced bears

 

 

 

 D. E. Steward’s five-volume Chroma (September 1986 to September 2016) is just out from Archae Editions in Brooklyn.

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