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John Henry Faulk discusses his book "Fear on Trial" ; part 1

BROADCAST: Dec. 1, 1964 | DURATION: 00:34:44


Folklorist and radio show host John Henry Faulk discusses his book "Fear on Trial," covering his experiences being on the Hollywood blacklist and his lawsuit against AWARE; includes Christmas story at the end of part 2.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


John Henry Faulk "America has always been a society of doubters and questioners. Most of our honored forebears were doubters and questioners of our economic, political and social institutions. They demanded and effected changes that strengthened and improved our country. They founded and joined and supported organizations which sought to achieve their purposes. We've always honored and respected a citizen who felt strongly enough about his country's problems to join with his neighbors, meet and discuss how best to solve them. Once we got our right peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances nailed down good and solid in the bills of -- Bill of Rights of our Constitution, we started joining, and we haven't slowed down since. That is, we didn't slow down until after World War II, when we were suddenly told that we had better stop this joining or we'd get hauled in before a committee and made to apologize or get publicly pilloried, blacklisted. We suddenly lost our appetite for joining, and most of us quit joining, and we quit questioning, quit doubting. If we didn't quit, we kept quiet about it. We knew the vigilantes were riding. To me the most sinister aspect of this -- that whole period was the systematic way respectable educators, ministers, artists, writers, librarians, Americans from every walk of life were hauled in by some committee or publicly denounced by some vigilante group and pronounced guilty. Guilty for having thought and acted like responsible citizens. The terrible thing is that many of those so victimized, and the American people as a whole, accepted this sentence of guilty. They accepted the right of the vigilantes to bring the charges, to make the decision, to pronounce the sentence. Those very attributes which had for so long been held to be marks of civic virtue in an astute citizen suddenly became sufficient cause to suspect and punish him. Citizens came to accept the dictum that our concern about injustices was a greater crime than the injustices themselves, and we all kept quiet. Silence became our greatest virtue. We felt that silence would make us safe. What a paradox. Silence was precisely what exposed us to the worst ravages of the vigilantes. The habit of keeping quiet is still on us. Blacklisting still goes on. It would be gratifying indeed to think that if my lawsuit serves no other purpose, it demonstrated that one does not have to keep quiet when the vigilantes come riding."

Studs Terkel The last two paragraphs of a book read by the author, the Texas voice, I think to many perhaps a recognizable voice, should be to many more, John Henry Faulk. The book deals with one of the most amazing phenomena I think of our time, "Fear on Trial," due to perhaps the most celebrated trial of the past 20 years or so. John Henry Faulk, actor, performer on radio, television, suing an outfit that had scared, frightened everybody, called "Aware." The last time Johnny was guest on the program talked about the case itself, about the book he was writing. But Johnny, as you read these last two paragraphs, this is pretty much your credo. I think you used the phrase "doubters and questioners." You've always been a doubter and a questioner, and it seems to be that one aspect of American life is as dependent.

John Henry Faulk Well, I, I'm very flattered that you'd call me a doubter and a questioner. I come by it honestly. I was raised to believe that's the way you improve, you see. I even doubt and question myself, let alone everybody around me. I was raised in a doubting and questioning family, and I like to believe I was raised in a doubting and questioning culture. That's the way we -- you know, that was the whole concept as I understand it of our society. We were a people that could ask questions.

Studs Terkel This was in Texas. In Austin.

John Henry Faulk Yes. Well, but I like to think of it in terms of America as a whole. Of course, I's -- I was a product, I was the -- I never touched the skirts of the frontier. My parents did. But I was a product in a way of the American frontier. The thing that gave us strength. The thing that gave this land its, its impetus, to you know, to build one of the most exciting societies in the world.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking, you're talking about the doubting and the questioning, a fellow who always challenges and asks, who wants to know, one of your mentors, the one to whom you've dedicated the book, died not too long ago. J. Frank Dobie, the great folklorist of Texas. He was a doubter in a question or two, wasn't he?

John Henry Faulk And a prime example of exactly what I'm talking about. He questioned everything, including himself, you see. He had no illusions about him, himself possessing the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And he was perfectly willing to listen to any opinion, except one born of ignorance and bigotry. He had little patience with that. For instance, now you take my Aunt Edith. I've mentioned her before, but Aunt Edith would say, "Well, you know them old university professors up there at the University of Texas, hit ain't nothing but a cesspool of nastiness and atheism, and they make you sign your name to a test paper that you come from monkeys and don't believe in the Bible before they'll give you a passing mark." Well now, he had little patience with this kind of unbridled ignorance, you see, Dobie did. He didn't question where Aunt Edith was concerned. He only had contempt, and especially when Aunt Edith came in more reformed terms or, or type of a pontificatin' Chamber of Commerce president sounding off.

Studs Terkel Your Aunt Edith was merely Aunt Edith, but yet there is Aunt Edith in so many who took over.

John Henry Faulk Yes!

Studs Terkel And indeed frightened, challenged all those who would say, "Maybe there is another way. Maybe there is a truth," but Aunt Edith then took over. As you, what you were reading at the very beginning of this conversation, Johnny, the last two paragraphs of your book, the last sentence, "It," that is, your suit and triumph, "demonstrated that one does not have to keep quiet when the vigilantes are riding," the fact that you prove the Emperor does have no clothes in this case, you see. Even the august "New York Times" recognized this fact, and their editorial is one they're very proud of you and the victory. "We do nothing," quoting "The New York Times," "to strengthen democracy if Americanism is turned into a device for undermining the freedom the Constitution guarantees every American," and going on, implying editorial, keeping quiet being the terrible thing. You did it, Johnny! That's the point, somebody did it, and you did it.

John Henry Faulk And this is a very fascinating thing, you see. And I did this, I was hailed as a hero and what a courageous and noble self-sacrificing thing this was to do. John Faulk challenged these mighty men and the -- walked right up to the lion's den and walked in there without a stitch of clothes on and bare-handed and dragged them or hauled them all out by the tails and flung them down the gully. Well now, this is absolute nonsense, of course. It didn't require the slightest degree of courage, and this is what I hope my book "Fear on Trial" gets across. It wasn't an act of courage, Studs. This is the remarkable thing. It required no bravery to do this. You see, I don't know whether I told you this story on the program before, if not, I'd like to -- I think I relate it in my book here, "Fear on Trial." But I had a lady that worked for us that lived with us that used to think I was the bravest little boy in the world because I'd run out after dark. I'd run out

Studs Terkel This was in Austin.

John Henry Faulk Yes. Down home. We lived out on a farm, and I'd run out to the barn after dark, and she'd say, "Something'll catch you in the dark, honey. Something will get you." Now she, her name was Miss Annie Mae, and Miss Annie Mae would tie her left leg to a bedstead every night to keep a haint from carrying her off, and I'd say, "Well now, what are haints made out of, Annie Mae?" I was eight or nine years old. And she'd say, "Well, they're -- they kind of misty-like, they kind of waferish-like," and I'd say, "Well, they ain't got no bones and meat on them, have they?" And she'd say, "No, they ain't that. They just kind of drift through things." And I said, "Well then, how they going to pick you up?" She said, "Well, I don't want to find out. And I just know they pack you off." But one time when I was about 12, I walked past a graveyard with Jack Kellum and was telling her about it, I was coming home that way, when she said, "Well, that's where the graveyard is, isn't it?" Annie Mae did. And I said, "Yes." And she said, "You walked past that graveyard at dark?" And I said, "Of course I did." And she said, "Lord, something will catch you," and she -- it shook. She -- she said, "You -- I believe you one of the bravest children I ever saw." Well, you see, for me to walk past a graveyard believing that nothing whatever would happen to me, required no courage, did it? You wouldn't congratulate me on my courage for having done so.

Studs Terkel It's the fear of the old lady.

John Henry Faulk But if Annie Mae walked past it, see, it would require a great -- 'cause she believed in them. I didn't believe in the defendants. I don't believe in these self-proclaimed super patriots, the, the extremist groups.

Studs Terkel Isn't this the subtext of this book, or the base that -- it's the subject, the subject of haints, the subject of ghosts.

John Henry Faulk That's right. And America ran from ghosts. We ran from ghosts to the point that we had one of the great generals of this land, Gen. George Marshall, a revered man, his, his, his character blem-- attacked and his patriotism questioned by McCarthy, and the president of the United States didn't stand up.

Studs Terkel I want to come

John Henry Faulk On behalf of him. This is what fear does

Studs Terkel Again we come to the fear, the fear of ghosts, like this little old lady who tied her foot to the bedstead so that the haint wouldn't get her and thought of your bravery as you walked after dark, because you weren't afraid of haints, because there's no such thing as haints, we say in the 20th century, yet your trial indicated you were completely laying the ghost. You were doing this. You know, but it was a ghost. I'm thinking of three -- to me, this is a great drama in this remarkable book. The drama involves three different people, Johnny, if I may suggest this to you as a basis for our just conver-- this'll bring back memories and everything. There are three strains in America in this book. There's Johnny Faulk, who obviously to me is the archetypal American, the questioner, a man who wants to find a certain truth and seeks his way. At times you fumble, at times I'm sure you're scared, you've experienced this, you're human, perhaps even during the trial at one time or another. There's Johnny Faulk taught by J. Frank Dobie, and your father too, we'll ask about him later. Then there's the ghost himself, a man named Vincent Hartnett, who was the terror of all New York of all the television and radio industry, everybody bowed to him. He had the sheet called "Aware," and I'll asked you about this man, and then there's a third figure, of the organization and friends of yours who were testifying for Hartnett, for the defense, but in testifying -- it's quite a chapter here. We couldn't hear his voice, and the judge, Judge Geller was it, had to say, "Speak up. Speak up." He couldn't talk. He couldn't -- and he finally had to stand up. So -- have I something here in saying there are three different strains? The organization man, the guy who went along believing in the ghost, Hartnett, and you questioning.

John Henry Faulk Now, this is quite remarkable, because as Studs hasn't mentioned here, I do talk about myself, and necessarily I have to, because I'm relating a personal story and my own personal experience. I don't pass any comment as you know on Mr. Hartnett at all. Mr. Hartnett tells his own story in this book in his own testimony and incidentally, half the book "Fear on Trial" is that, testimony from the trial itself. I don't say anything about Sam except that Sam Slate was a good friend of mine. He was a business executive, he was an executive in a big corporation, a huge network,

Studs Terkel We should point out that he was one of the executives on this big network that

John Henry Faulk Yes. And was a dear friend of mine. He was a well-educated man, a man of, of a great deal of human warmth. He was also, as I say, an executive. Now, this corporations saw fit to take a posture. They all liked me very much, Sam Slate was terribly fond of me. I would say he was more fond of me than anyone else

Studs Terkel You must understand, Johnny, the reason for his, there was nothing personal involved.

John Henry Faulk That's right.

Studs Terkel There was nothing -- that was the horror of it. There was nothing personal involved, you see. He likes you!

John Henry Faulk Yes. Now, getting back to the book, "Fear on Trial" here, and what the point, the very cogent and what I, what I consider one of the most brilliant observations on the book's been made that Studs just made, is that Sam indeed does embody, Sam Slate embodies this, this man that's voice became a whisper. He was testifying against me, and the trial came up after six long, desolate years of unemployment, with which Sam sympathized very deeply with me. He was testifying, you see, and as he testified and did -- took the corporation's position in this matter, as you know, he tells his own story here. His own testimony is the thing that undone him, that made the, made the -- thing had undone him, the thing had undid him. As a former schoolteacher, I ought to get this right. But Sam, you know, it becomes obvious that he's being less than candid, doesn't it? And the jury got mad. The judge was constantly admonishing him, "Speak up, speak up." And he looked nervous and jumpy and finally the judge says, "Stand on your feet and talk, the jury can't hear what you're saying." As Sam Slate related

Studs Terkel And Sam was also, again reading into the book which is obviously there, is a symbol of a, of one aspect of America at this time and unfortunately of now, too, the silence, the man who knows something else is so, but the fear of the organization man of this ghost, of this other figure. Come back, we'll come

John Henry Faulk Well, the most terrifying aspect of Sam Slate's testimony to me, and I think I relate it here while he's testifying, you know, and his testimony is in there, is when he was sitting there and there was in the, in the spectators' rows behind me and I knew they were there, persons who knew him very well who had attended a party at my home that I gave in honor of Sam Slate when he was elevated to general manager, bless his heart. Nizer was there, it was the only time he'd ever met Nizer socially. Louis Nizer.

Studs Terkel Who was your -- this is Louis Nizer

John Henry Faulk -- My attorney

Studs Terkel Celebrated. Who was your lawyer.

John Henry Faulk Yes. Myrna Loy was there, who was sitting in the spectators' row. And Sam Slate had met her there, too. And Sam, Nizer asked him, said, "Do you recall a dinner party that was given in your honor?" And Sam Slate said -- "And at which I met you, Mr. Slate, at which you held up a glass and toasted Mr. Faulk and said 'As long as I'm at CBS, John Henry Faulk will be there'?" And Sam Slate, "No, sir, I have no memory of

Studs Terkel He didn't, he erased it from his mind.

John Henry Faulk That's, that's what I would like to believe, because I don't like to believe he would deliberately distort the truth. But it just broke my heart.

Studs Terkel Well, see, the erasure

John Henry Faulk -- These

Studs Terkel The duration

John Henry Faulk I remember Emily Kimbrough told me just the other day, said "I haven't been able to speak to him since then." You see, this is

Studs Terkel the Another asp--

John Henry Faulk This is the, this is the cost that these

Studs Terkel -- Another

John Henry Faulk Faceless men in America

Studs Terkel You mentioned Emily Kimbrough who was in town a few weeks ago. She represents another aspect of America, she's not in this book and yet she couldn't speak to this man -- Emily Kimbrough represents a sort of a gracious aspect of a country that once was, indeed can be. A gracious woman, who

John Henry Faulk Yes.

Studs Terkel Has no particular definite commitments in any strong way.

John Henry Faulk No.

Studs Terkel Just who believes in a graceful America, you

John Henry Faulk Well, see

Studs Terkel She couldn't speak to this guy, you see.

John Henry Faulk No, she knew me personally, she knew Sam personally In

Studs Terkel -- In friendship.

John Henry Faulk And I must say that she, she took no partic-- she loathed and despised blacklisting and thought it was perfectly shocking that I'd been blacklisted. But you see, this old-line American that you're talking about, this is the reason this book cuts through political, political allegiances. It's not a Democratic or Republican book, because I've had as much support from indignant Republicans as I have from indignant Democrats.

Studs Terkel Well, Johnny, what you, what you say I think is very significant. The political aspects of this book are wholly secondary. There's something else involved

John Henry Faulk Oh, yes.

Studs Terkel What's this country all about? And what are we all about as men and women? This is what it's about, really, you see. The book, "Fear on Trial," Johnny Faulk, a certain kind of guy. The unfortunate Mr. Slate, called him unfortunate for the moment, that kind of man. And then you have this figure Hartnett, who's in and out, the man whose name just evoked terror in the hearts of the biggest shots in TV, the heads of networks, who was really no, not even there, yet you have this, this particular sequence that to me is incredible. As your lawyer, Louis Nizer, is devastating him, and proving that he lied and continuously, at the same time he's a mechanical man. He's taking notes, as he was doing of the actors that came into the courtroom and checking the time they came in. He was still playing his

John Henry Faulk -- Whie he was sitting, excuse me, while he was sitting on the stand. This is related in the book "Fear on Trial," he's sitting there on the stand, he removes a little notebook from his very precise breast pocket, and very precisely writes down, glancing at the clock and glancing at the faces of these people who come into a public trial, you understand. He obviously is going to use this a year hence and say, "These people" -- charge these people with having attended the John Henry Faulk trial, you see, possibly sympathizers.

Studs Terkel At the moment he's being devastated by Nizer, see at this very moment he's doing it, so another -- another image comes to me, and that's we -- earlier we spoke of the impersonal aspect of Mr. Slate. He liked you, it was impersonal. This guy's a mechanical man. The idea that there's a mechanical man involved here. It's not a question of belief or commitment, it's a matter of, of a machine at work, you see.

John Henry Faulk Yes. Now, this is an interesting, this is a very interesting thing about, about this, this, the symbol that you've made Hartnett to be, you see, of what we now come to call extremist groups, the extremist thinking, because he was a man that had a wife and five or six children. He was obviously a loving father. He was obviously a good husband. His wife looked at him with adoration. Yet as one performer after another, and you've read their testimony here, Ken Roberts, Everett Sloane, the dozens of prominent actors and performers who got up and testified in my case, and their testimony is in this book, "Fear on Trial," he -- not the slightest -- they'd tell the most awful stories about their suffering. Kim Hunter reciting how she was just crushed and utterly put out of business and how for two years she, she was almost driven mad by the persecution of Hartnett. Not the slightest trace of remorse covered his countenance.

Studs Terkel It wasn't a question of, not even remorse. No emotion. You see, this is, here's a father of six kids as you describe. Bright-faced, charming kids, obviously a loving father. I can't help but think of another country, another time. The testimony of Hoess, H-O-E-double S, who was a commandant of one of the concentration camps, who was also a loving father, loved the canaries and the birds. The split: a mechanical man

John Henry Faulk It requires a schizophrenia for an individual, a citizen of this country or indeed a citizen of any country, you see, to pillory and destroy one of his neighbors for, for ideological reasons or supposed ideological reasons and not feel any of those emotions that are associated with, with, with a warm human being here on Earth, or with human contact here on Earth.

Studs Terkel Aren't we coming now to another? Go ahead, Johnny.

John Henry Faulk I was just going to say, in Mississippi I was, I was fascinated with an account I ran into here the other day, a fellow I was talking to from Mississippi, who was telling me with great glee about these three civil rights workers that were killed there, and how they were going to, the perpetrators of this crime were going to beat the rap, hahaha, and he was just tickled to death. No sense of having committed an atrocious and hideous crime, you see, that was abomination in the eyes of all society, but a sense of "Ha ha, we got rid of them. They are the enemy." You see.

Studs Terkel As you say this, Johnny, you introduce the subject of Mississippi and this guy, and this lack of feeling, this unfor-- again, I used this wretched man, this lack -- who is less than a man, this lack of feeling. You wonder -- I can't help but thinking of something you did, you know, John Faulk, by the way, John Henry Faulk for those who don't know is, perhaps the great storyteller of our time, I feel, very much so, and I've always thought your tales are not so much comic, there's a humor but they're gothic tales, and yet true because our times are gothic times. Remember the story you used to tell, it's a monologue of a guy watching a lynching.

John Henry Faulk Yes. And

Studs Terkel And I couldn't help but think of, of the trial here, too. And can you recount that?

John Henry Faulk Well, I don't recount that, but I can recount one of my cousins out in East Texas that said they were -- they'd tormented this Negro child, literally threatened to hang him, you know, put a rope around his neck and pulled him up against a limb, and had gone through it, and he said, "I didn't get to see, stay for all of it, we was having more fun, that little old young'un was just squallin', and we get, we throwed a real scare into him, I had to get home 'cause Mabel was waiting for me, the kids, you know, I was going to take the kids down Christmas shopping, and they wanted to see Santy Claus, and I had to get home to the kids, they'd a give me the devil if I hadn't a got home fer 'em." And you see, this, this is, this is the schizophrenia that I'm talking about, where there is absolutely no feeling, no, no relationship whatever to the suffering of this victim that they had there, tormenting him, and a very great warmth for his children, his wife, he obeyed all the rules and dictates of his society. Now, what happens? Because they, there's many of them in this country today. You see, this isn't, this isn't exactly the same. I'm not talking about exactly the same thing. I'm talking the Hartnetts in this land are symbolized to me. There's a certain viciousness about them that to me is unpardonable, because it costs our country so dear. It -- you see, any man that wants to, as far as I'm concerned, is perfectly welcome to criticize our Supreme Court, to criticize the president of the United States. It so happens I'm very fundamentalist when it comes to our democratic processes here. I think that the president works for me, and indeed the Supreme Court is there to serve me. I'm not there to serve it, see. But it is, it is established by the American people as the presidency is. It's one thing to say they don't know which way it ends up whether they're going or coming. They're all ignorant if you want to. Say anything about 'em you want to. But it's quite another thing to deliberately say that they are under the influence of a foreign power and are seeking to subvert our country, because there you're accusing them of treason, see, which is a crime.

Studs Terkel There we come to the haints again, too. So we come again to the haint. We come to the ghost again, that pervades the

John Henry Faulk And this, this you have to traffic, here you have to traffic in fear. And here is the, the real betrayal of our society to me. And what I hope that my book

Studs Terkel Well, it does

John Henry Faulk that Illustrates.

Studs Terkel Very powerfully, very dramatically. It's funny, Johnny, as you wrote this book, it's written very simply, you're simply telling a story, but it's one that it's difficult for the reader to put down, this

John Henry Faulk Well, I've tried to do something in this book. I've tried to file an injunction of J. Frank Dobie, who was as you know a great inspiration to me, and who represented, embodied a great many of those qualities that I like to think that I at least try to achieve in my day-to-day living. Frank Dobie said, "Johnny, when you write this book, I know, I know how mad you are at 'em. [Street pox?] run you out of business and keep you starvin' death for six years, damn their souls. Johnny, it's not your business to cuss 'em. Let 'em cuss theirselves. Just illustrate, just, just exhibit them in a way that the reader'll get the point. Don't you form an opinion one way or the other."

Studs Terkel And that's what you did. You told the story. It's very simple, the story happens to be true, but this is a story. It was -- just as you helped tell these fantastic tales of Texas childhood that are truth and myth combined, you know, and the line between myth and truth is a narrow one these days, I'm convinced now, you know, that -- so this is a story you told here. But in the story has these gothic overtones throughout, because we live in a gothic time, you see. And that's what makes it so powerful, the reading, you mentioned Hartnett, this figure, and yet there was nobody there who will -- the very strong, powerful men, the tycoons we respect in the communications industries, instead of laughing at them, saying, "Hey, that John Henry Faulk's quite a guy for telling off this clown," this cartoon figure suddenly collapsed. They collapsed because they saw the ghosts all over.

John Henry Faulk Yes. And stood like the

Studs Terkel They were like that old lady! What's her name again? Who tied herself, who was [frowdy?]?

John Henry Faulk Annie Mae.

Studs Terkel They were Annie Mae.

John Henry Faulk Let me tell you, though, Annie Mae made a very interesting observation one time when I, when I was about 14, see, I'd become very sophisticated, and she and I had a real, I mean, I said, "You know, you're just ignorant, talking about these ghosts all the time, and that ghosts are gonna get you, Annie Mae, you waste too much time being scared, person can't be scared all the time." I said, "Ghosts can't hurt you. And I've already -- if I haven't proven that to you a thousand times, you've never been hurt. Never knew anyone hurt by a ghost. Now why are you so scared of 'em?" She said, "Well, I -- maybe you're right. Maybe a ghost won't hurt you, but they can scare you so bad you hurt yourself." And this is, this is what these boys deal in, see. They can make us hurt ours-- make us, make this land hurt itself. See, when we let them become the common denominator dictating to us who shall teach in our colleges, what textbooks should be used, what librarians shall keep on their shelves. When my Aunt Edith talking about the University of Texas, them old atheistic professors are teaching there, making you sign your names to test papers, that you don't believe in the Bible. Do you let her become the, become the mentor or the dictator of whether your book, you know, what's going to be taught?

Studs Terkel Johnny, as you talk of Aunt Edith, and this is all connected, because clearly the phenomenon or the man that is John Henry Faulk did not, you know, you didn't spring out of the head of, is that Jove, like Athena, full-grown? No, you didn't do that, you were born, you were raised, something, and you -- a certain set of values came to be, and perhaps we can come to that, too, though we did talk a little about it last time. You mentioned Aunt Edith. Remember last time you did something, not on the program, that's why. Aunt -- sitting in a rocking chair, talking about her two sons, was it? Do you remember that?

John Henry Faulk Ashford, little old Ash?

Studs Terkel Yeah, because there's a parable here. Yeah, there's a parable here.

John Henry Faulk That's her sons. That's a pretty rough story.

Studs Terkel How'd it go?

John Henry Faulk Well, you know, Ashford, I'd known him when I was a little boy. He was much older than me, but a great big lugubrious boy and I remember he one time shocked me speechless when I was about five years old, caught a pigeon and he drove an ice pick through it and pin, pinioned it to the ground and laughed as it flapped itself to death. And I was just so shocked, he was about 13 then. I was so shocked that I was just spee-- it just horrified me to see this creature beatin' itself to death with this ice pick through it, and his his laughter with glee, well, at any rate, I hadn't seen him for a number of years and he had a brother that was several years his junior named Claudy, and I hadn't seen Aunt Edith for a long time. I went down into East Texas where she lived, and she was sitting on her front porch. I was down there collecting folklore, as a matter of fact, and I was near her place, so I drove over to her, and she recognized me but she didn't, she neither seemed happy or sad that I'd arrived, she hadn't seen me in, oh, 18 years, and I was grown by that time, and I went up on the porch and sat down and after I greeted her, and she said, "Well, if it ain't little ole Johnny. Come on in, honey, and set down there." So I sat down on the hide-bottomed rocking chair on the front porch, and she said, "Johnny, you know that's the chair that Grandpa Nichols passed away in. Right there, I set in here in the hammock, like I am now, and he had such a quiet passin', his head just dropped hard, and he didn't hear, have no death rattles at all, he was done gone." And so I got up and sat down on the front po-- on this top step after that, and she -- I said, Aunt Edith, "What's happened to Ashford, how's he getting along?" And I guess there was something in my voice that was questioning, because he was a pretty -- he'd been a pretty incorrigible youth, and Daddy had kept him, trying to send him to the university up at Austin for a while, and he'd been such a problem that he didn't go to the university and sent him back, so she said, "Well, I'm glad to say, let, just let me tell you. Do you remember how everybody said Dash was gonna turn out bad? Bless his lttle ole heart, he was the sweetest little ole thing, you know, when he was three and a half years old, Claudy was born, and we used to have more fun out of Dash, we'd tell him we had another baby now and we didn't need him no more and we was gonna throw him to the hogs? And oh, he'd get so mad he'd just beat his little ole head on the floor and turn black in the face and we'd just give him a good whoopin' for it, you know, tryin' to break him of having a high temper? And hit wouldn't cure him hardly at all, and if he could get hold of a pine knot, he'd hit Claudy in the head with it. I had to watch him like a hawk. But he was a sweet little ole child besides that, and Lee would whoop him almost every night about somethin', but couldn't cure him of his meanness, and one night Lee said, 'Now you cuttin' up and carryin' on,' he'd hit Claudy in the left ear with a pine knot and liked to knock -- said that'd deafen the child, you know. Claudy still got a bad ear from that, and he wasn't but a year old then, so Lee told Dash that 'Now you've been so hateful mean, we're gonna take you out there and lock you up in the corn crib and let the old gray rats eat you.' And oh, he'd taken him out there, and you shoulda heared that young'un squall and scream and carry on. He locked him up good and tight in there, you know. And there was some big ole rats that come after the corn, you know, and we couldn't go to sleep that night, he'd just, little ole Dash was just a-screamin' and a- carryin' on, buttin' his head agin the thing. Lee finally got tired, said, "Well, I ain't goin' to get no sleep, I'm gonna go let him out, but I'll give him a good whoopin' fer it." And he did. And you know, Dash was just stiff all over, he'd, he went into one of his tantrums, you know? And just shook all night long, we hear him layin' in there on his pallet, just a-cryin', you know. Well, when he was six years old, when he started school, and he's smart little ole child, too, h'd come home every afternoon, though, ridin' that old gotch-eared mule, and squallin. And we'd say, "What's the matter, sugar?" And he'd say them ole big boys jumped on to him and slapped his little jaws 'til his ears rung? And so one night Lee got tired of it and said, 'Now look here, Dash. I want you to take this knife.' He had a huntin' knife with a real sharp point and just a razor-sharp blade on it, and said, 'If them ole boys jump you tomorrow, I want you to cut 'em, and cut 'em good and deep.' And bless his little, he showed Dash how to hold the knife so it wouldn't cut his little fingers when he jumped the boys, you know, and sure enough, the next day at recess time, well, three or two of them Grogan boys and that older Simpson boy, backed his -- all of 'em bigger than Dash, backed him up against schoolhouse wall and started slappin' his little ole jaws, you know, and his little ears started ringin', and little old Dash run his hand in his pocket, and he brung out that knife, and he started slicin'. Oh, he just cut 'em good! And surprised them, you know. And he cut that Grogan boy, that Wes Grogan plumb across the hollow, they had to lay him down or his entrails woulda dropped out, and cut that ole Simpson boy, I's always so glad that he cut his left, all the ligaments loose in his left arm right at his elbow, and that was over 30 years ago and he, you can go down at that fillin' station he runs, that fillin' station down, he still can't close his left hand, you know, and Dash was so proud he come home with blood all over his overhauls and knife, and he didn't want us to wash it off. He was so proud of that, but he's done good. Dash has done good, now people said, 'Well, he's gonna turn out bad,' and people was always criticizin', I know your mommy and daddy up there in Austin where it was, was gonna educate him, you know, and 'cause Dash was too smart and wouldn't go that ole hateful university and I was proud of him for that. They sent him back down here. But Dash has turned out good. He's up there now in East Texas, you know, and he's head of the Ku Klux Klan in all his section. He's the head, head man in the whole thing."

Studs Terkel Well, of course that's a horrifying story brilliantly told by John Henry Faulk. As you probably can gather, Johnny, he talks the way William Faulkner writes, and the story, of course. Again, I say it's a parable. Clearly it is. So is the sickness, the illness that is here, and yet in your book you have this ill man, who, who, mechanical man, or call him what you will, described as, Nizer described him thin-lipped in the blue suit. Yet you have all these decent men!