“Sprut” is a work about life and struggle for farmers’ rights of the San Joaquin Valley, created on the basis of a real event – an armed clash between farmers and authorities in the county of Musselslaf in 1880.
Poet Presley came from San Francisco to this fertile region, where immense fields of wheat stretched, not only for the purpose of improving health. He dreams of creating a great Song about the West, this boundary of romance, where new people settled – strong, courageous, passionate. He dreams of a “great song” that will cover the whole epoch, the voice of the whole people – his legends, his folklore, struggles and hopes. And constant conversations of farmers of the valley about the tariffs for
Presley tells himself that, as a part of the people, he loves this people and shares all his hopes, fears and joy. But at the same time, the ever-complaining little farmer-tenant, German Gouven, dirty, sweaty and limited, resents him. Gwen rents the land from a large farmer, Magnus Derrick, in whose house Presley lives. And often traveling around on horseback or bypassing the holdings of Derrick and his fellow farmers Anikster, Broderson, Osterman and others, looking at the vast expanses of this blessed land, Presley feels a sense of unbreakable peace, silence, serene happiness and security. But one day a dissonance in his dreams bursts into the scene of the death of the sheep, which was crushed by a steam locomotive rushing all the way. The feeling of serene tranquility and security in Presley disappears. Now it seems to him that this racing monster of steel and a pair with the only one like the Cyclops, The fiery eye is a symbol of a tremendous power, great and terrible, and blowing out thunder all the expanse of the valley that carries blood and destruction in its path. It is a monster with steel tentacles, a soulless force with an iron heart – a giant, a colossus, an octopus.
Such pictures, again and again disturbing the peace and contentment around, will more than once meet in the narrative. For example, in the description of the festival on the occasion of the construction of a new barn near Anikster, when a cowboy Delaney rushes into the crowd of guests laughing, a former worker at the Anikster farm, whom he unjustly dismissed. The shooting begins. Following this, farmers are immediately notified that the government of the railroad has designated the sale of land on which their houses are located and on which they have been working for many years. The price for land is set at an average of twenty-five dollars per acre.
The hostility between the farmers of the San Joaquin Valley and the railway existed for a long time. Many years ago, the American government gave the corporations of the Pacific and South-Western Railways a prize for laying a way to a part of the land on both sides of the road. The railway has issued a series of brochures and circulars on granting the settlers a rich land in the Tulare district. It was promised that with the sale of land to such settlers will give preference to all other persons, and prices will be established based on the cost of land on average for two and a half dollars per acre. Magnus Derrick took then ten thousand acres of land, Anikster, Osterman and others – much less. Year after year they successfully managed, repeatedly raising the issue of the purchase of this land to the leadership of the railway. But his representatives, in the person of the lawyer Roggles and the agent-broker Berman, always left the answer. The corporation consistently and mercilessly pursued its policy. First, the tariff for cargo transportation to the sea was raised. At the same time, not only large but also small producers were to suffer, for which it meant ruin. Characteristic in this respect is the history of the former locomotive engineer Dyke. He was fired, offered to move to a lower-paid job, and he refused. To feed his family, he begins to grow hops, laying his house and land with Berman. But the hops transport tariff rises from two to five cents per pound, depending on the cost, not the weight of the cargo, and Dyke is ruined. Under the influence of the Karachar anarchist, he decides to take revenge and robs the postal car, while killing the conductor, but taking only five thousand dollars – on which he deceived the direction of the road. Hungry and exhausted Dyke eventually overtake the pursuers – he faces life imprisonment.
Farmers, having lost the case about the reduction of tariffs in the railway commission of the State of California, decide at a meeting with Magnus Derrick to choose their people to the new commission. Magnus Derrick, it would seem, is a man of incorruptible and strict rules, but the player in the shower, after a long hesitation, becomes the leader of the union of farmers opposing the railroad management. He has to secretly from all but Anikster and Osterman, bribe two delegates to the farmers’ congress, where the members of the commission are elected. At the suggestion of farmers, the senior son of Magnus-Liman, a well-known lawyer in San Francisco, is among the members of the commission. A scene in the cabinet of Liman Derrick is remembered when he considers a new official map of the railways of California. All of it is dotted with a vast complex network of red lines – on a white background different parts of the state, his cities and towns were entwined with tentacles of this huge organism. It seemed that the blood of the whole staff was sucked to a drop and the red arteries of the monster swelled sharply on the pale background, swollen to the limit, leaving in an unlimited space – some growth, a giant parasite on the body of the whole state,
However, Lyman Derrick has long been bribed by the railroad administration, which promised him support in the elections to the governors of the state. At the meeting of the commission, as if mocking the aspirations of farmers, the tariff for the transportation of wheat was reduced only for those places in the state where it is not grown. Farmers are losing again, and Magnus drives out of his house the Lyman, who acted as a traitor. To top it off, the editor of the local newspaper Mercury learns of the bribes that Magnus gave and is threatened with exposure if he does not give the editor ten thousand dollars for the expansion of the newspaper. Magnus gives everything he has.
Farmers continue to fight and appeal to the San Francisco court, which decides not in their favor, confirming that the land is the property of the railway. Soon there is a bloody denouement.
To execute the court’s decision in the San Joaquin Valley, the sheriff arrives at the most favorable moment, when the farmers are not at home – they arrange a round-up on hares, spoiling crops. The author draws an impressive picture (and symbolic at the same time) of this round-up, when the carts of farmers are surrounded by hares, stumbling into a pile, then beating begins. And at that moment a rumor spreads that the sheriff is starting to seize the farmlands. Accompanied by a detachment of mounted policemen, he ravages the Anikster manor and meets with a group of armed farmers. However, there are very few of them – Magnus Derrick, his younger son Garan, Anikster, Osterman and some others, instead of the supposed six hundred people, only nine.
The others did not join, hesitated, were frightened. Too great is the risk of taking up arms, although the board of the railroad has done a great job of them, the author writes. These people believe that now the most important thing is to convene a meeting of the executive committee of the farmers’ union.
Meanwhile, Magnus Derrick, wishing to avoid bloodshed, goes to the sheriff for negotiations, and the rest take a position in a dry irrigation canal, serving as a trench. Negotiations end in vain – the sheriff is only doing his duty. Presley spent all this time with Magnus, looking after the horses. But he went out on the road and saw Anikster and other farmers being killed in a shootout. To the scene of the gathering crowds of people who still do not really understand what happened,
In the views of Presley by that time there is a sharp change. An epic poem about the West is postponed, and the social poem “Workers” appeared. She became an expression of Presley’s thoughts about the social reorganization of society. The tragic fate of Dyke, the increase in tariffs, the speeches of the anarchist Karahera that the railway trust is feared only by the people with dynamite in their hands – all this affected the poet. “You were inspired by the people,” says the shepherd Vanami, a friend of Presley, “and let your poem go to the people…” Workers “should be read by toilers. The poem should be simple so that the masses understand it. want your voice to be heard. ” The poem is very popular, and this leads Presley into bewilderment. But now he wants to address the whole nation and tell about the drama in the San Joaquin Valley – maybe it will serve the common good. After all, in other states there are oppressors and their “octopuses”. Presley wants to declare himself a defender of the people in the fight against trusts, a martyr in the name of freedom. Although he is more a dreamer than a person of business.
Now, after the death of his fellow farmers, Presley speaks with a heated and excited speech at a mass meeting in the city theater of Bonville. “We are in their hands, these are our exploiters, our family centers are in their hands, our legislative bodies are in their hands.” We have nowhere to get away from them, “Presley said at the rally.” Freedom is not a gift of the gods. , who only asks her, she is a child of the people, born in the heat of the struggle, in deadly agony, she is bathed in blood, she carries with her the smell of powder smoke, and she will not be a goddess, but a fury, a terrible figure that equally destroys the enemy and friend, fierce, insatiable, ruthless – red terror. “
And although after Presley’s speech there was a loud applause, he realized that he had not managed to penetrate the hearts of his listeners to the very end. The people did not understand, did not believe that Presley could be useful to him.
Difficultly experiencing what happened, Presley took the plight of farmers as a personal tragedy. After all, farmers until the last moment hoped that the law would be on their side, they believed that they would find the truth in the Supreme Court of the United States. But this court decided the case in favor of the railway. Now all farmers will definitely have to leave their farms. They were given only two weeks of delay.
Under the influence of Karachar Presley goes to a desperate act. He throws a bomb at Berman’s house, but fails: the enemy has survived.
Then Presley goes in search of the family of the deceased tenant Guven.
Wandering around San Francisco, Presley stops in front of the huge building of the main control of the Pacific and South-West Railway. It is the stronghold of the enemy, the center of the whole vast system of arteries, through which the vital juices of the whole state were siphoned off; the center of the web, in which so many lives have been entangled, so many human fates. And here is the master himself, the all-powerful Shelgrim, thinks Presley. He is seventy years old, and he is still working. “This is the life-force of the cannibal,” Presley decides. But before him is a man of great intelligence, who understands not only in finance, but also in art. “Railways are built of their own accord,” Shelgrim Presley teaches, “Wheat grows by itself, wheat is one force, the railway is another.” The law to which they obey is the law of supply and demand, people play an insignificant role in all this. We must blame the conditions, not the people, “Shelgrim concludes. – And nothing depends on me. Who can stop the growth of wheat? “
So Presley thinks, no one can be blamed for the horrors that occurred at the irrigation canal… Hence, Nature is only a giant Machine, which knows neither regret nor forgiveness…
In this mood, upset and exhausted Presley is trying to find the family of Guven. He knew that after the funeral of Guven, his wife and two daughters, little Gilda and the beautiful Minna, left for San Francisco, hoping to find work there. But in the big city, these rural residents found themselves in a difficult situation. The money soon came to an end, the owner of the furnished rooms drove them out, and Minna, having lost her mother and sister, was forced after several days of searching, when she literally had no crumbs in her mouth, to agree to the offer of the brothel’s mistress. And Mrs. Gwen just died of starvation in a wasteland. A small Guild was picked up by a compassionate woman. When Presley accidentally met Minna on the street in a new silk dress and hat, which was worn slightly to one side, he realized that his help was late. “I hit the dash in the teeth,” Minna says of herself.
And Presley again goes to the San Joaquin Valley to see the last time with those of his friends who are still alive.
But the “golden” harvest, which has not happened here for a long time, has ripened not for them. In the Derrick Manor, the paths are overgrown with weeds. Now the broker Berman is in charge. It was he who got Magnus’s immense possession, which he had long dreamed of. And the railway set for Berman a special reduced tariff to transport wheat to the sea.
Magnus Derrick and his wife are going to leave their nest. Mrs. Derrick in the declining years should again become a music teacher in the town of Marysville, where her former position in the middle school for women was vacant. Perhaps this will be their only source of existence. After all, Magnus Derrick is now just a relaxed and badly thinking old man. Berman mockingly suggests that he become a weigher at a local freight station and go over to the side of the railway, do what he is ordered to do.
Presley, who was present at this conversation, is unable to further observe the depth of the fall to which Magnus reached. He hurries to leave the Derrick Manor and heads to Anikster Manor. Above her hung a dead rest, and at the broken gate on the tree was nailed a plate with the inscription that the passage and passage here are strictly forbidden.
In the San Joaquin Valley, Presley is waiting for another, apparently, last meeting with his old friend Wanami. This shepherd, like a seer from the biblical legends, can be assumed to be the bearer of the author’s philosophy. It is interesting because, as we would say now, it has the gift of a parapsychologist and is able to act on the consciousness of people who are away from it. This was often experienced by Presley, when as if some unknown force forced him to go to the place where Vanami is located. He is also interested in the fact that, according to the author’s opinion, Vanami comprehended the essence of some global phenomena. It is necessary to look at everything that happens, Vanami believes, from the great summit of humanity, from the point of view of “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” And if a person has a broad outlook on life, then he will understand that it is not evil, but good wins in the end. And because Berman is drowning in a stream of wheat falling on him in the hold of the ship, who will now carry his wheat to the starving in India.
But what is that full circle of life, only a part of which he, Presley, saw and of whom he spoke Wanami? So Presley reflects, heading on the same ship to India. In the struggle between the farmers and the railroad, farmers suffered, Presley continues to reason, and, perhaps, Shelgrim is right that, rather, the forces, and not the people, have closed the horns in a terrible struggle. People only midge in the hot sun, they died, killed in the prime of life. But there remained wheat – a powerful world power, the nurse of the peoples. It is shrouded in the peace of Nirvana, indifferent to human joys and sorrows. Good things arise from the struggle of forces. Anikster dies, but the starving in India will get bread. Man suffers, but humanity is moving forward.