This, I have on good authority, is something that a walnut grower in Junction City told an American who wanted to know whether he needed any work done. The job applicant, by the way–I swear I’m not making this up–is a direct descendant of one of Pancho Villa’s lieutenants. I’m buddies with the applicant’s brother, and he seems like a straight shooter, so I doubt he’s making any of this up, either.
This buddy of mine told me that the walnut grower, a former landlord and sometime employer of his family’s, is wealthy enough that he sold his old mansion for a dollar just to get it moved offsite and make space for his new mansion. My first guess was that the grower must be have a net financial worth of three to five million dollars. On second thought, I can imagine grower going out on a limb financially to arrange such an extravagance by leveraging his ass into a world of debt on the reasoning that he’d make it back with high commodity prices, in which case he might have a net worth of more like half a million. My first guess is probably more accurate, though. Junction City is located in a broad swath of the Willamette Valley, running from the northern outskirts of Eugene in the south to Wilsonville and Newberg in the north, whose agricultural landholdings are among the most concentrated in Oregon. The economically marginal growers have been dispossessed from this swath of land, with a few local exceptions. Fire has swept through the ecosystem, and only the mightiest oaks still stand. I don’t know many details about historical land tenure in the Upper Willamette Valley, but I wouldn’t be surprised that there were never many smallholders on the flats in the first place. There’s a big stretch from Eugene to Albany and Corvallis where there are hardly any towns. The settlement pattern here is closer to what one would expect of West Kansas than of the populated quarter of Oregon, although Junction City would fare relatively well (emphasis on relatively) against the hard-up county seats of the High Plains. They don’t host the Dari Mart mothership, after all.
Anyway, this walnut grower is likely a multimillionaire with minor financial encumbrances, if any, and he talks like a fucking hayseed. His conversation is about getting him some of this and some of that, maybe some nails down at the Ace, and definitely some Mexicans down in the barrio, instead of the American who is already living on his property and asking him if he has any work. At the risk of being foily, I have to submit that this downhome country boy parlance is a strategic affectation. There are seriously fucked up cities, like Lebanon and Reading, PA, that manage to retain local elites of good breeding and respectable diction. These elites may bob around on a troubled sea of wiggers and cholos and hoodrats and white supremacists, but they’re to be found. Few teachers in these cities talk about getting themselves some o’ this-here and a bit o’ that-there and could you pass the kind, mahalo. They talk like normal, self-respecting adults with a full command of the English language and an interest in speaking it properly, more or less, rather than butchering it like low-class Sacramentans. Many uneducated people with spotty grammar who have spent their whole lives in Oregon’s struggling mill towns are too articulate and self-respecting to talk like Pa Kettle; other uneducated people in these same towns have impeccable grammar and an autodidact’s grasp of, for lack of a better term, various shit in lieu of extended formal schooling.
Look at it this way: few teachers in America’s troubled provincial towns talk like hayseeds, although the gym teachers may. The clergy in these same towns, especially the denominational clergy, don’t discuss how they’re hella pissed at that nigga who got him a baby mama who also my baby mama, dawg, know’m sayin’. Yes, you do Nome sane. Your parish priest doesn’t say stupid shit like that. He may be an incomprehensible African or Indian, but in that case he’ll gladly take it upon himself as an educated Commonwealth citizen to use the language properly for the edification of his miseducated American parishioners. Our founding fathers forfeited Commonwealth membership on our behalf using exceptionally good English, so we might as well not be ostentatiously low-class in our own use of the national language, yes? Even Ben Franklin, a dirty old man, was lucid and grammatically impeccable in advising young men to put a bag over her head if that’s what it takes to man up and fuck a grateful cougar instead of chasing after the crazy young bitches.
There are, of course, local and national elites who insist on using ostentatiously low-class language. Most of them have ulterior motives: cf. George W. Bush, who turns mysteriously lucid and articulate in settings that aren’t staged for public relations. This is because these fuckheads don’t just want to get them some Mexicans; they also want to get them some American goobers in their electorate. Nome sane?
And goobers they have. Linn County’s failing mill towns–Albany, Salem, Sweet Home–are teeming with low-church congregations under the sway of excessive preaching about tithing and the Rapture. In the Catholic tradition, church finances are “temporalities,” meaning that if you don’t understand the Latinate flourish, it isn’t meant for you, and historically challenged interpretations of the Book of Revelation are too daft to mention at mass. We mere parishioners are subjects, not citizens in a democracy, so we need not bear the democratic burdens of our Protestant and nondenominational brothers and sisters in Christ. Or something like that. I’m really just being vulgar, not profane. I think.
Instead of researching confession times, however, which I can also do on the internet, I should make some additional comments about the low-church social controls I’m seeing around here. Some of the preachers at these congregations may just be Elmer Gantry racketeers; I don’t know, but it’s possible. What I do know is that some of them are squeezing tithes from their poor congregants like blood from a stone. And by poor, I mean free haircuts from their friend the barber poor. Some of them are apparently preaching crazy shit about the most misinterpreted book in the Bible, Revelation (of course), while abandoned commercial blocks in Albany slowly crumble to dust and Sweet Home tweaks. The TL;DR story about Sweet Home seems to be that everyone knows everyone else and half the town has been waiting with baited breath for the next dope set to reach town since the lumber mill burned down. The enterprising druggies there smoke their homemade marijuana oil before the butane has evaporated and–how baller is this?–distill their own opiates from morning glory. Lebanon, meanwhile, is said to be nothing but sketchy-ass night-walkers on the night shift (on the night shift). These folks don’t set the world on fire, just their houses from time to time. A cracker and his butane: it’s a beautiful thing. By the way, some fuckhead repeatedly rolled coal on us on the Highway 20/I-5 overpass heading into East Albany the other day.
Linn County is fucked, white boy. I’ve heard a similar warning about Cottage Grove, that it has “lots of bars and churches,” not a good combination, to be sure, but I’ve never seen or heard of anything seriously fucked up there. The locals there got the class that my grandmother’s boyfriend didn’t get with his plasterer’s pension, it seems, and he got their money. Everyone in Linn County, meanwhile, is either ostentatiously Washed in the Blood or eagerly waiting for the next shipment of garbage drugs to roll into town. But this unstable, bipolar center of gravity is exactly what the gentry should expect for screwing over the local working class because it would rather get it some Mexicans. As much as I hate to say it, this, not Sam City, is the true pho king of Albany.