Sep. 5, 2005

What Happened When Bobby Jack Cockrum Tried to Bring Home a Pit Bulldog or What His Daddy Said to Hi

by David Lee

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Poem: "What Happened When Bobby Jack Cockrum Tried To Bring Home A Pit Bulldog or What His Daddy Said To Him that Day" by David Lee from A Legacy of Shadows: Selected Poems © Copper Canyon Press.

What Happened When Bobby Jack Cockrum Tried To Bring Home A Pit Bulldog
What His Daddy Said To Him that Day

let me tell you the story
of the man who saved
a baby grizzly bear
from a forest fire
and brought it home
nursed it
fed it
kept it like his own
And how the last thing
that man ever learned on earth
when it grown up
and he tried to keep it
out of the hog pen one morning
was the lesson
of what a grizzly bear
is at last
And it had
a final exam
he couldn't help
but pass

Literary and Historical Notes:

Jack Kerouac's novel On The Road came out on this day in 1957, the story of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty roaring across America—the book that defined the Beat Generation. In the opening pages, Kerouac wrote: "I'd been poring over maps of the United States for months, even reading books about the pioneers and savoring names like Platte and Cimarron and so on, and on the road-map was one long red line called Route 6 that led from the tip of Cape Cod clear to Ely, Nevada, and there dipped down to Los Angeles. I'll just stay on 6 all the way to Ely, I said to myself, and confidently started." The book got good reviews: The September 5 New York Times review called it "the most beautifully executed utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as 'beat'."

It's the birthday of journalist and fiction writer Ward Just, born 1935, in Michigan City, Indiana. He's the author of several novels about the Vietnam War and politics in Washington, including A Soldier of the Revolution (1970) and Stringer (1974).

It's the anniversary of America's first Labor Day parade, in 1882, when 10,000 workers marched from New York's City Hall to Union Square, then gathered in Reservoir Park for a picnic. The idea came from a carpenter, Peter J. McGuire, who a year earlier founded the precursor of the AFL (American Federation of Labor). McGuire had suggested a holiday in September to honor workers and give them a break during the long stretch between Independence Day and Thanksgiving. The first Labor Day was held on a Tuesday, but the holiday was soon moved to the first Monday in September. In 1884, Congress made Labor Day a national holiday.

Today is the anniversary of the First Continental Congress, 1774, in Philadelphia. Forty-five men crowded into the main room of a brand-new building in town called Carpenter's Hall. Most of them were lawyers and they met to debate the latest acts of Parliament, like the closing of Boston Harbor, and the Quartering Act which allowed authorities the right to evict anyone from their house in order to provide shelter for British troops. Hardly any of the delegates knew each other. John Adams wrote to a friend, "We have numberless prejudices to remove here, and are obliged to act with great delicacy and caution." A few days later, news came from Boston that British ships were bombarding the city. A Connecticut delegate wrote in his diary "all is confusion here, every tongue pronounces revenge." The Congress ended in October with a call for each colony to arm itself against the British, and the following April 1775, war broke out at Lexington and Concord.

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