Maeve Walks the Prairie

by Rachel Creager Ireland

Here’s a part of Post Rock Limestone Caryatids that Rachel decided to cut, believing that it did not advance the plot in any significant way. (Never mind that she sometimes wonders if the same could be said of every part of the book, and wondered if on this ground she ought to scrap the whole thing.) Oh Rachel, are we nothing more than automatons, bound to carry out the machinations of your imaginary plot? She assures me that she does care deeply for us, begging my pardon that she admittedly cares for her biological children somewhat more.
No matter, Maeve gets plenty of exposure in the book, but hasn’t had a lot here at Veronica’s Garden. Rachel may not have time for this bit, but I do.

***

In the middle of the day Maeve wanted to listen to some music. She thought of the Hutch Family song which had so moved her, so she asked the suit to play something from them, but it was having trouble accessing the web out here in the wilderness. It kept offering her alternatives from the built-in library, which enhanced Maeve’s understanding of the prefix nano. What did a 1950s folk song have to do with the Hutchinson Family? Why on earth was the suit trying to recommend “This Land Is Your Land?”

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream water
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me, a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
As the fog was lifting, a voice was chanting
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking, I saw a sign there
On the sign it said “No Trespassing”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing
That side was made for you and me!

In the squares of the city, in the shadow of a steeple
By the relief office, I seen my people
As they stood there hungry I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking that freedom highway
Nobody living can make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

She didn’t know what it all meant. She had to look up Woody Guthrie, who apparently had some connections to Communists. So was he making a comment on the ownership of private property? Looking around her, seeing the horizon in all directions, a couple blue jays squawking at her, the question of whether anyone could own all this seemed moot. Strange to think of a Communist who loved freedom so passionately.  She looked up “relief office.” It probably didn’t have anything to do with stress relief. . . . Maeve breathed a little sigh of appreciation when she found that Jabar had thought to upload an encyclopedia of history, one of his favorite subjects. It turned out that there had been a massive effort on the part of the United States government to alleviate the economic disaster of the Great Depression, which effort appeared to focus largely on banking, labor, and housing regulations and subsidies, but also fed people soup and employed them doing work that no one else wanted to pay people to do. What an interesting idea. The thought of government establishing programs with the sole purpose of helping people in need was completely foreign to her. She couldn’t figure out whose interest would be served by that. In the end she could only conclude (based on the limited information available) that someone (Franklin Roosevelt? the general population?) simply didn’t want people to starve, or to be left out in the cold. It wasn’t a satisfactory explanation, but it was the best she could come up with.

The rhythm of the song was good for walking, though. She listened again and again, until she thought she could hear that voice rising up from the earth. This land was made for you and me. She thought she was on a long walk, but Woody Guthrie had walked so much more. She wondered if she would ever see those redwoods, or the sparkling desert sands, and what it had been like to see IRL those iconic features of this vast continent, on which she had spent so many years in a tiny dark room.

***

Rachel insists I add that, from her research, she believes that no one has a copyright claim on this song. If you believe you do, for heaven’s sake, please just tell us and we’ll remove it, and make our readers go to wikipedia for the lyrics. For everyone else, we hope that you read the whole song. The best verses are the ones most people don’t know.

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