Hydrogen Jukebox Press
An Online Edition
edited and annotated, with an introduction by Dr. Luke A. Powers
Saturday, May 23, 1914
"Here comes the Martin," cried the Gray Pigeon, as a long-winged figure in swift and graceful flight appeared in the sky. "Now we shall hear!"
Her feathers were scarcely composed to listen before the new comer dropped beside her on the basin, and after the cheeriest of greetings dipped his head for a drink. He is the largest of native Swallows, a splendid fellow whose loud clear twittering song is heard above the housetops, often in summer showers, as he loves to take the storm on his strong wings. Because he is a great traveler, and also because he lives near the railroad and flies over and over the freight yards and depots of the city, he has usually some news from far away to tell to the more home-loving visitants of the Fountain.
"And what do you know?" inquired the Fireman affectionately when the Martin had taken his fill of the cool clear water. "How are things about the railroads?"
"Why, about the same old seven and six; lots of strawberries have gone out, and plenty of people looking for a place to spend the summer," answered the Martin in his clear, pleasant, offhand manner. "I haven't been to the depot, though, since a week ago today, when the clubwomen came from Pulaski."
"Tell us about that," demanded the two Pigeons together. "Did they have a good time?"
"Oh yes, I should say. I heard nothing else but praise of the hospitality of Pulaski; it went ahead of all expectations."
"Now, Chattanooga prides itself on the same attitude," said the Sparrow. "Pulaski has nothing on us when it comes to entertaining. When the Shriners came, Chattanooga women were delighted to honor the guests."
"I heard a good deal about that, too," said the Martin.
"Of course. Everything in homes or clubs was at the disposal of the nobles and the visiting ladies; no amount of time or service was considered too costly for their entertainment."
"Did it ever occur to any of you," asked the Fireman, "that we have with us always a class of visitors who yearly do more for Chattanooga than any visiting order has ever done or will ever do--without whose aid the city could hardly exist--yet for whose entertainment nothing has been done?
"I mean the country women, of whom we talked the other day; the farmers' wives, mothers of good, clean country blood and brawn, of precious health and more precious honesty. Every year they send of their best, the work and crown of their lives, to be utilized in the city's trade and industries. The high birthrate of the native mountaineer should be even more than it is at present a valuable offset to the influx of foreign blood by immigration. Criminals in cities are rarely country born. The criminal exists in the country, but usually as a fellow without brains or ambition enough to get a good job in town.
"Yes, it is their best that they send to the city, and what does the city give them back? Have you ever seen any special entertainment prepared for them?--any honor done them?"
"Yes, one," replied the Sparrow, looking thoughtful. "Several Sparrow generations ago the rear of Severin Bros.' grocery on Market street was almost a country woman's club. By the consideration of the store they were enabled to sit on packing cases or wooden chairs, in winter to warm their feet at the stove, while waiting for their menfolks to hitch up. They brought their children and their purchases there for safekeeping and shelter, and the wait sometimes lasted for hours.
"That many happy hours of reunion between kinswomen and old schoolmates took place there among the lard tubs and potato bins, the heaped-up sides of salt pork and the stock of brooms and baskets, there are those who can testify. How many lines of inquiry were started, how many stirrings toward a fuller womanhood were kindled, how many questions of deep import among the vital things of the home were considered at these informal gatherings of four or five women at a time who had no other chance to talk together, let any one say who knows."
"Such a place is no longer to be found," lamented the Gray Pigeon. "Even out in the country groceries are no longer loafing places, while the city's industrial life has developed to a point where no business can afford the space. Nor should they be expected to do so. The movies are valuable in helping this state of affairs, but even they are not places to rest or to converse in.
"Hence the country woman's visit to town is a weary round. Every Saturday at midday one sees the tired mothers weighted with small children pacing through the heat and dust, vainly trying to pacify the tots with candy, which soils best frocks and draws flies--the terrible flies of the open street, which carry all the diseases of summer whether these be new or old. I have seen a very young mother whose children, roused before daybreak to begin the long ride to town, went to sleep and could be dragged no further, sit helplessly down on a doorsill and remain there with one baby in arms and the other stretched at length with its head in her lap until her husband came. And it is very common to see young girls fragrant with the innocence of the country standing conspicuously around on corners simply because they have nowhere else to wait until time to leave town."
"Pulaski is ahead of us in that regard," said the Martin. "I heard that they have there a rest room in the courthouse, furnished by the women's clubs, made really restful and inviting."
"It would be lovely if such a room could be maintained in connection with the Co-operative store," suggested the White Pigeon.
"Good for the store, too," commented the Sparrow. "A country woman's rest room, besides being attractive and comfortable, must, above all, be on the countryman's beat. It's no joke to drive several blocks out of the way with a tired old team and a heavy load, if he lives, say, ten or fifteen miles out of town and is already so late as to have in the back of his head a disturbing vision of milking and feeding in a snaky log stable after dark."