Here’s another one of those circuitous tales inspired by two sightings of Mother Jones in one day. Would that be synchronicity? Or serendipity?
Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (1837? – 1930) became known as "the most dangerous woman in America" because of her union organizing, her community activism, her willingness to speak truth to power. As a friend wrote to me today, "This little old white-haired granny would walk right up to a McCormick, a Rockefeller, an Armour and a Swift, and bellow BLOODSUCKER!"
His comment, with the mention of Armour, reminded me of a letter I found several years ago, a letter published in the Asheville Democrat on January 23, 1890:
The Armour Packing Co., of Chicago, the great meat ring of the country, have leased a house on South Main street, and propose opening at once a meat supply market for this city and section.
...by their methods they have forced the price of cattle down to unprofitable rates, so they could control the markets of the country and command the market for the sale of cattle. if farmers in a section would not conform to their terms, they put up stores, pens, and everything requisite to a butchering house and undersell them, so that producers and dealers must either make terms with them or go out of business. ... Our farmers, unless they work through the [Farmers] Alliance, have no help.
If that’s the way it was in the mountains in the days of our grandfathers, here’s the way it is now - I’ve been visiting River Rock, and must say their promotional literature has more literary merit than your run-of-the-mill real estate brochure. Whoever wrote their stuff came up with some doozies. Take for example, this description of just one of the FIVE River Rock developments located between Lake Glenville and the Tuckasegee River:
"Tuckasegee. Mature. Refined. Relaxed. At Tuckasegee, water in all its sonatas is the soundtrack. The perfume is moss."
Whhhaaattttt!!!??? "The perfume is MOSS"?
After that cryptic lead-in, I was introduced to the Hotspots of Tuckasegee, including:
-the Grand Tuckasegee Lodge
-the Orion Spa & Lula Bar
-Eyrie Fusion Restaurant & Culinary School
-Hunter Jim Park & Pavilion
- and, get this
– The Mother Jones Hot Tub and Overlook.
What in the world are these developers thinking? The Mother Jones Hot Tub and Overlook?
In 1901, the real Mother Jones wrote about the boys who worked in the Birmingham mills :
As one looks on this brood of helpless human souls one could almost hear their voices cry out, "Be still a moment, O you iron wheels of capitalistic greed, and let us hear each other's voices, and let us feel for a moment that this is not all of life."
I have seen mothers take their babes and slap cold water in their face to wake the poor little things. I have watched them all day long tending the dangerous machinery. I have seen their helpless limbs torn off, and then when they were disabled and of no more use to their master, thrown out to die.
Such a factory system is one of torture and murder as dreadful as a long-drawn-out Turkish massacre, and is a disgrace to any race or age. As the picture rises before me I shudder for the future of a nation that is building up a moneyed aristocracy out of the life-blood of the children of the proletariat. It seems as if our flag is a funeral bandage splotched with blood. The whole picture is one of the most horrible avarice, selfishness and cruelty and is fraught with present horror and promise of future degeneration. The mother, over-worked and under-fed, gives birth to tired and worn-out human beings.
I can see no way out save in a complete overthrow of the capitalistic system, and to me the father who casts a vote for the continuance of that system is as much of a murderer as if he took a pistol and shot his own children.
And so, it all comes full circle. You hear those words of Mother Jones. And then you hear the words of River Rock, calling out to the readers of the Wall Street Journal:
Since the Gilded Age, the mountains of North Carolina have beckoned, and America’s children of fortune have answered their call. Here on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, River Rock conjures the high life.
Somehow, the image of America’s children of fortune luxuriating in the Mother Jones Hot Tub overlooking the Tuckasegee doesn’t work for me.
At least not without Mother Jones herself there to turn up the heat.
(The views expressed are not necessarily those of the John Locke Foundation.)
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