The Lost Writings
of
Eleutheros

Dateline: 18 December 2014

A Depression-Era farm Family.
Poor? Perhaps in Babylon, but not in reality.

(How can those children be smiling!)


Eleutheros had a blog titled How Many Miles From Babylon. Some of you reading this may remember it. 

Eleutheros apparently valued his privacy. His name was a pseudonym. It means 'free man' in Greek. He never showed a picture of himself or his family.

Eleutheros lived a self reliant, agrarian life in the mountains of Tennessee. He never said exactly where in the mountains of Tennessee.

Eleutheros blogged from June of 2005 to October 2006. He was an excellent writer and I thoroughly enjoyed reading his essays. But the writing stopped. In time, How Many Miles From Babylon disappeared from it’s location on the web.

If Eleutheros has reemerged on the internet in a different format, I don’t know of it. Maybe someone else knows and can share the information here.

I got to thinking about the writings of Eleutheros and decided to see if I could find his old blog at the WayBack Machine web archive, and I did. The blog is gone from where it was, but it was saved. Amazing.

So I've decided to post an example of one of the blogs of Eleutheros for you here. His writings should not be lost. I'm doing this without permission, of course.  I will remove it if the need arises. And I may take the liberty in the future of posting some other excerpts from this free man, Eleutheros.

The following essay was originally posted on December 3, 2005 at How Many Miles From Babylon....


Ptocheiopsis 
(A View of Poverty)
By: Eleutheros


I have the advantage of understanding this century because I understood that last so well. And I understood the last becasue of my insight into the one that came before. Not personally, I'm not quite that old. But when I was a teenager, my great-grandmother was still with us. She was past 100 years old by then, having been born just a couple of years after the War for Southern Independence. Ah, if one could go back and ask her things now! But even as a 13 year old there was much to take note of. 

My mother was raised in very rural Lee County, Virginia, and was a small child during the Great Depression. She was two years old in 1929 and so the depression economics was all she knew until she was grown. When she and my father would wax nostalgic about the hard times, I asked her what 'hard times' meant. 

"Did you not have enough to eat?" 

"Oh, we always had plenty to eat, we lived on a farm just like almost everyone else in those days. It was common stuff, cornbread, beans, greens with fatback, milk, and such but there was certainly plenty enough."[This, by the bye, in a family of a widow with sixteen children (at the time)].

"Did you not have enough clothes?"

"Nothing fancy and one pair of shoes, but we had clothes enough."

"Were you cold?"

"Don't recall ever being cold."

"What did it mean then that there was a depression? What were hard times?"

"Oh, it was because no one had any money." 

So I talked to my paternal grandmother who was born in the late 1880's and who would have known the world before the hard times set in. 

"What was the depression like?" 

"Oh, hard times."

"Were you all in this hollow, hungry, cold, ill-clothed?"

"No, no, ate then about like we eat now." [Appalachian peasant fare].

"Then why were times hard?"

"Because no one had any money." 

My recources were deep and rich then. I went in to see 'Mommy-Mamaw', the Applachian term of endearment for the ancient matriarch of the fourth generation. She sat up in her bed and spoke in the whistling whisper of a voice from another century and listened patiently to my question. 

She told how just before the crash in '29 there was a brief spate of coal and logging activity and the silver dollars that was the day's wage for a working man flowed for a while. She told how she commanded the same wage as a skilled cook in the logging camp and how she'd fallen from the horse on her way home once and broke her pelvis and so had not had any more children besides my grandmother. You could tell by the expression in her ancient visage that her emotions were mixed, only the one child, and yet here was I, the next to the youngest great-grandchild of a considerable tribe and clan. 

"But what about not having any money?"

The question brought her back from her reverie and her high Cherokee cheekbones seemed to raise up in a crinkled smile as her pale grey eyes lit up with amusement.

"Lord, child, nobody in these hills ever had any money." 

My parents were dedicated post-war suburbanites but my grandparents still lived a horse-drawn eighteenth century lifestyle. The picture that emerged from my quizzing of my elders was that before the 1920's, the economy in this part of the world was subsitence and direct use. Money was not necessary, not much of it anyway. A person with a cow and few pigs and chickens and good stand of corn was well off. 

Then in the 30's electricity came to the hollow. Parallel to the hollow where my father was raised (Crooked Branch Hollow) was a far more arable draw (Hamblin Creek Hollow) which was abandoned and is now reverted to forest because the power company ran the electric lines up the former but not the later. 

This was in the wake of the rampant consumerism of the 1920's that helped bring about the depression in which washing machines and refigerators were being pushed on the public. Now by comparing themelves with people who had electricity, washing machines, refrigerators, and automobiles, the pastoral household was poor in comparison and by those standards. 

The poverty remembered by my parents did not come about as a result of a loss or diminishing of the livelihood of the folk, it came about because there was a new and external standard to which they did not measure up.

==========

P.S. I blogged about Eleutheros' advice on debt back in 2008. Here is the link: Eleutheros on Debt








17 comments:

Michelle said...

I am reasonably certain this is hi wife blogging: http://contrarygoddess.blogspot.com/

I got the link from his old site back in the day.

Herrick Kimball said...

Michelle,

Wow. You are probably right. Her current blog post, "On Modern Day Slavery," reads similar to an Eleutheros post. Thanks for the link.

Brandon said...

how did you find his old writings on that archive site? What should I search for?

Jonathan Sanders said...

The closing statement is profound, IMO.

"The poverty remembered by my parents did not come about as a result of a loss or diminishing of the livelihood of the folk, it came about because there was a new and external standard to which they did not measure up."

Reminds me of the thought that most advertising is meant to inspire a lack of contentment - how else could it work?

Herrick Kimball said...

Brandon,

The link to his blog was...

http://milesfrombabylon.blogspot.com

That is what I plugged into the WayBack Machine.

I managed to get to the last blog post of October 2006. From that post, you should be able to click links on the sidebar to find your way to all his writings.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That last sentence. Best thing I've read on the internet in forever. --Ivy Mae

SharonR said...

Herrick, reading your blog always makes me feel like I'm sitting by a fire with my family listening to the words.

This is something I was just talking to my 14 year old yesterday - only it was more the difference about when I was her age and now. We talked about how if people think they are poor now, it may be because they can't afford to buy dvds or key locaters or the internet or cell phones - things that are widely available now, but not even close to anything that was available in the 70s. We have plenty of clothes, food and shelter, as this writer's family had generations back. Great article. Thanks for sharing this.

CG said...

yeah I still blog now and again. We still live the same way, which always evolves but still. He didn't mean to "delete" his blogs but they were "inactive" too long and I have so hated not having those writings easily accessible. So thanks! Now I will go stalk all of you and see if I find anything of interest!

Herrick Kimball said...

CG—

It's good of you to post and fill in some of the blanks, so to speak. In particular, I'm glad to know all is well and y'all are remaining true to the contra-industrial "good life."

I did not know that an old, inactive blog reverted to a different blog. Yikes. I thought these things were forever. :-)

Give my regards to Eleutheros (or whatever name he may be more commonly known by).

And if, for whatever reason, it is not okay to republish some of his lost writings, just let me know.

Thank you,

Herrick Kimball

Anonymous said...

Herrick, Thanks for the info. I LOVED reading his blog back in the day!!!!! I have often wondered about him and why he just disappeared. Now I know, thanks to you.
Sherri

Anonymous said...

What an awesome article. I would love to have been raised with that attitude. We really must teach our children the importance of NOT getting caught up in the "keeping up with the Jones'" mentality that is SO prevalent in our society. Thank you for sharing this article with us. I would love to read more from Eleutheros.

Pat and Marcus said...

It's really a bit more complicated than than the missing blogger would have it. There was real poverty during the Depression. In the region I live in, ranchers were loosing their ranches in some cases and starvation was a sufficient threat such that there were "rabbit drives" each winter for a series of winters, with the killed rabbits being donated for food. We shouldn't forget that it was the Dust Bowl era as well.

The point, however, isn't without merit. It's sometimes been noted that 1919 was the last year that farmers were regarded as having economic parity with urban dwellers, and that's largely for the reason noted here. It isn't that farmers really grew poorer so much as they didn't have access to urban stuff. And, in terms of the Great Depression, some highly agrarian regions of the western world, such as Finland, hardly noticed the Depression at all, as their economy wasn't of the consumer variety.

Jedburgh said...

I feel like I'm late to the party! Another blogger comes to mind, and they might be one in the same.
Ol' Remus and the Woodpile Report had the same feel as Eleutheros' blog. The Woodpile Report started in 2004 and might seem reasonable to attempt both for no more than a year and some change; 'Remus' was from "Appalachia", was a logical thinker and a great storyteller. He was a classical art lover, had a good grasp of the world of antiquity including the languages, consistently posted B&W photos depicting the depression era and wasn't about putting down the poorer man. He also gleaned depression and wartime era advertisements from the Library of Congress and added a bit of commentary. Alas, in the end aggregating the news we a huge time sink, one that Remus chose not to continue, as he shuttered the Woodpile Report last month for good. At least Eleutheros sounds like a kindred spirit with Remus, if nothing more.

CG said...

any links to Remus?

Herrick Kimball said...

I do remember Remus and the Woodpile Report. Someday I'll see if I can find him in the WayBack machine. Perhaps someone reading this will be able to post a link or provide some details.

Cliff Brake said...

Print and epub versions of Eleutheros's writings are available at:

http://www.lulu.com/content/e-book/how-many-miles-from-babylon/18643857
http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/how-many-miles-from-babylon/16095153

Note, there is no markup. Epub is free, and print book is listed at printer's cost.

Cliff Brake said...

I should further note if the author has any objections to the above, or would like to take over publishing, I'd be glad to provide files.