House of Earth Question #13: The Wind

by Woody Guthrie

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House of Earth Question #13: The Wind

Unread postby fireflydances » Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:06 pm

The sound of the wind against the hollow cowshed was loud in their ears. They raised their voices as they talked. The noise of things moving in the wind came to their ears like the flapping of wings. Dry stalks of corn, higuero, tumbleweeds, and sticker bushes rattled as they bounced against the board, as they blew loose from their places and leaped, jumped, sailed, and whistled past the ends of the shed. The world moved around about them. All of the faces of nature crept, crawled, wiggled, shook, watched its chance, and then howled away over the grass roots. (pg.77)

Wind is a presence in this book. It haunts it. There are many long and beautiful descriptions of the sound of the wind, the feel of the wind, even the destructive force of wind. And it’s not just the wind that plays a role. The land is woven into the action, and also the creatures and the plant life.

Was Nature a character for you in this book?

If you had to do a character description of “the environment” in the Texas Panhandle, what would you say? How would you describe this character?

Do you have a favorite Guthrie description of nature?

Were there other passages that you really reacted to?
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Re: House of Earth Question #13: The Wind

Unread postby Theresa » Wed Apr 10, 2013 8:52 pm

Yes, nature was definitely a character in the book. Guthrie wrote the wind and the seasons...mostly the wind...as a living, breathing thing, controlling the flow of life on the plains.

    p.95: Ella May was of these things and born and raised among these things, and the life that she felt in her was the life that she saw and heard, felt, in all of these things in their seasons.

    But the seasons of the summer things and the hot things were gone for this year, and this wind that was blowing its first hays and dusts across the farm was the very first touch of the winds of the cold season, the frosty-breathed, icy-tongued breaths of old winter. And here where no valleys hid them like cowards from the sun, or from the wind either, here where they hunted for no shelter behind rocks, here where they faced all of the ten million things that men and people and the weather could throw at them, here they both knew, Tike and her, that the difference between the summer and the blizzardy winter was sometimes, most times, just a couple of little short minutes. The tongue of the blizzard of winter licked under the flying tail of warm summer. One could go and the other could come in two minutes.

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Re: House of Earth Question #13: The Wind

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Wed Apr 10, 2013 11:21 pm

Absolutely, nature was a major character! It’s funny because I normally think of “nature” as bursting with native plant and animal life – it’s green and lush and wet, full of the calls of birds and wild animals. In this story, perhaps what is remarkable, is the absence of all those things. They are replaced with the wind, the rain, the sun, the snow, the dust. I might go so far as to describe the environment as “all of Mother Nature’s fury rolled into one unending cycle of torment”. (Not sure how to work that into a character description, but the character would definitely be stern :perplexed: ... Ha! I’m suddenly reminded of my 5th grade teacher – she was a VERY strict nun. :lol: )

fireflydances wrote:Do you have a favorite Guthrie description of nature?
There were so many. I think this one really captures the environment. p.92-93:

No place on the earth is closer to the sun than these upper flat plains. No spot on the globe is closer to the wind than here on these north panhandle plains. Nowhere could the wind blow the rain any colder than here, nor any harder could the rain ever hope to fall, nor any longer could it stand. None of the world’s winds blow dustier nor drier, nor harder day in and day out. Nowhere on the planet do the winds and the sun suck the grass, the leaves, the cattle, sheep, hogs, chickens, dogs, cats, people any drier. Nowhere could the winters blow any icier, the blizzards howl any lonesomer, nor the smoke from the ranch house chimneys get whipped out any quicker, nowhere could the icicles hang down any longer, or could the whole world freeze in two minutes any glassier.

Just a flat place you call the upper north plains where ten blizzards and ten floods and then volcanoes had a big argument once and then hurricanes haven’t yet been able to settle it yet.



fireflydances wrote:Were there other passages that you really reacted to?
This passage really got to me – the wind is alive with the “unborn blizzard spirits” as Tike and Blanch drag Ella May back into the shack, just before the birth… p. 155-156:

And the open door of the little room allowed the wind to chase in like a whole stockyard of animals drunk on silo juice. Like the mean and greedy spirits of ten hundred nickel-begging saints fighting to enter into the little body of the baby, to be born again here tonight, to preach, to beg, to bum dimes to get drunker on. And all of these wayward souls flew straight into the glass globe of the coal oil lamp on the eating table. And the claws of the night demons reached to steal the flame of the fire because they thought that it was the soul of all life, the warmer of all bodies, the strength in all action. The fire in the lamp globe had higher ideas and craved to light the way for the baby to be born, craved too, just at the right instant, to melt out into the air of the room at the moment that the baby took its first breath, and to be inhaled, sucked in, drawn into the lungs and the blood, the brain and the eyes, the soul of the lamp fire fought the unborn blizzard spirits because if they devoured its flame before it could be breathed into the nose of the baby, then it would take several million years again to get to be a flame of fire again, a flame struck and placed there by the hand of a woman with a baby in her stomach. The room shook, trembled, splashed and foamed, rolled and tossed, pitched and squirmed, with the shadows of the battle that was going on between the flame or fire and the outer winds down inside the lamp globe. The winds howled into all of the private corners of the room, sniffled, smelled, prodded, felt with their deathly fingers, and danced with such a wild passion that they nearly succeeded in stealing the lamplight. The things about the room flashed light and dark like the gunfire from the muzzles of a million freedom cannons.

:-O Wow.

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Re: House of Earth Question #13: The Wind

Unread postby Theresa » Wed Apr 10, 2013 11:42 pm

:highfive: I had both those passages marked, RamblinRebel.

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Re: House of Earth Question #13: The Wind

Unread postby fireflydances » Thu Apr 11, 2013 1:04 am

Theresa and RamblinRebel: Agreed! Beautiful passages. I am glad both of you picked up on Nature as a character.

RamblinRebel: when I traveled across the Southwest last spring I was struck by the realization that land - dirt, sand, rocks, mountains, gullies--has such overwhelming power when you remove the green things we are so used to seeing and calling "Nature" in the East. We didn't see any truly bad weather on our trip, but wow, the thought of wind let loose in a such a place, with no breaks in the form of vegetation, yes - a demon force it would be.
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Re: House of Earth Question #13: The Wind

Unread postby ladylinn » Thu Apr 11, 2013 9:54 am

Nature was a important and necessary character in the book. Wind can remind us of nature. I love to hear the wind - sometimes it can roar and be frightening and sometimes gentle and refreshing. I think Woody captured the essence of the wind and how it ruled the people and their actions. A favorite passage - all of the above mentioned seems to include my choices.

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Re: House of Earth Question #13: The Wind

Unread postby Liz » Fri Apr 12, 2013 1:32 am

Theresa wrote:
    p.95: The tongue of the blizzard of winter licked under the flying tail of warm summer. One could go and the other could come in two minutes.


I earmarked this particular quote when I was reading. I liked how he worded it. And it made me think of typical Texas weather (today) - year round.
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Re: House of Earth Question #13: The Wind

Unread postby Buster » Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:41 pm

Here's a link to a map of wind patterns in the US:



Very hypnotic.

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Re: House of Earth Question #13: The Wind

Unread postby fireflydances » Fri Apr 12, 2013 9:02 pm

Very cool Buster. They have a gallery also, of what the wind was like across the US during a major storm. The hurricane Sandy winds are amazing.

Thanks!
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Re: House of Earth Question #13: The Wind

Unread postby Theresa » Fri Apr 12, 2013 9:04 pm

Buster wrote:Here's a link to a map of wind patterns in the US:



Very hypnotic.

Truly cool....and now bookmarked with my 'weather' sites. :ok:

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Re: House of Earth Question #13: The Wind

Unread postby Liz » Sat Apr 13, 2013 12:12 am

That's REALLY interesting! Thanks for sharing, Buster. I thought it esp. interesting how the high winds tend to be directed right towards the Texas Panhandle.
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Re: House of Earth Question #13: The Wind

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sat Apr 13, 2013 3:17 am

Interesting map never seen anything quite like that before. How wind blows over the continent is affected by many things. I'm assuming thats a general picture as it must change on occasion.


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