Industrial-Agricultural Life

It is out in the country that we have another home, and there is no use in arguing, it is the greatest place in the United States of America, Alaska, or the insular possessions. In fact, it is the greatest place in the world.

We call this place "The Maverick," a piece of vanity and egotism that we believe warranted. For it is built, as far as possible, without the rules of the Lords and Masters of creation—independently, haphazardly—but scientifically for the benefit of the cool air in the summer, the warmth in the winter. Another great benefit is that we can look at the city of San Antonio at a distance, in its beautiful outline. This allows us to forget the poverty, disease and suffering that is in it. We can rest.

It is only three and a third acres in size—but after all this is twenty times as big as the average fair-sized city lot—and for density of population, about one four-hundredth of New York City or Philadelphia. It is isolated on the highest hill around the city, and since the place was considered worthless land, no one thought to cut the trees. So it still has fine oaks and mesquites, a blanket of bluebonnets in the summer, wild Texas cherries, and persimmons, and virgin soil.

It has never been "owned" by anybody but the King of Spain, the City of San Antonio, and the Maverick family. Carlos the Fifth, His Catholic Majesty, King of Spain and Navarre, Prince of the Asturias, took title unto himself and gave it to the then mythical city of San Antonio.

A hundred or so years later, came this man Maverick, made revolution with others by violence and blood against the Mexicans, who had done the same fifteen years earlier to their King, signed a "Declaration of Independence," and set up a nation. Then, from this city of San Antonio he bought part of this Spanish grant. In due order, and by the rules of inheritance, gift, devise, and descent, my own family has a tiny portion of this—a place to live in privacy, in some seclusion.

The house that stands upon this tract was once a street car. Its reconstruction is the symbol of a passing age. Two or three years ago, the Public Service Company abandoned street cars for busses. And they sold their derelict street cars for $25 apiece; we bought one and placed it on the side of a hill. Lengthwise, it faces the town; we took an acetylene torch and burned out a door. Then we brought rock and laid it to make the car look as though it grew naturally out of the earth. There is an apron roof, protruding out about five feet all around. The final touch was a great flag-stone porch at the front.

My street car is forty-two feet long. In one cabin is a modern electrified kitchen (I wish I could get electricity as cheap as in the Tennessee Valley), and in the other end a modern shower-bath, toilet and clothes closet. We sit high on a hill, open to the Gulf breezes that come rolling through. Besides, no horrible pavements and brick buildings are near to catch up the heat during the day, and keep us hot all night. So in the summer time it is fifteen degrees cooler than in the city. For the winter time, we sit just under the summit of the hill, and this protects us from Texas northers.

Wild doves have their nests within forty feet. Mockingbirds sing at the top of their voices. All kinds of birds make themselves at home. Agarita bushes, looking like little stunted holly trees, are filled with bright red berries, which make the prettiest and finest jelly in America. The little bushes stand quite still while we pick the berries.

On the other side of the hill is the house of Santos. His full name is Santos del Rio Vaca, which means Saints of the Cow River, or the River Cow; however, he does not know I have translated his name and, therefore, it has never occurred to him. Santos was born in Mexico, is twenty-eight, has a wife, two [Three as we go to press.] children, as many relatives as I have, and being a Mexican, he probably has as many generals in the family as I have; he also has a garden and nearly as many dogs as relatives. I put no gutter on his house, so he has made one of tin cans which we throw out of the street car. He has built himself a rock porch, and has decorated his house after robbing me of various colored paints which I have used here and there. He is artistic, but does not know it. Moreover, being my servant, he makes me feel like a baron, and I walk about the place and tell him what to do in quite a baronial manner.

Above me on the hill is a small cottage, which we call "The Winant Mansion." Cost, one hundred dollars. It, too, has modern conveniences. It is our guest house. I got it from Governor Winant, former head of the Social Security Board. He has property nearby, where the cottage formerly stood. Boys were throwing rocks and breaking it down, so I moved it over for forty dollars and had it painted and repaired for sixty more. So there is a fine little house all for a hundred dollars.

South of the street car is a separate garage, sleeping porch and room; this we use any time of the year. All over the place we have benches and cedar chairs, hidden under the shady trees. It is all fixed up so anyone who lives there, or visits the place, can hide according to his temperament.

With all these wonders, the whole place has only cost us around three thousand dollars, and yet it is as fine a country home as there is in America. The land was given to us, supposed to be worth a thousand dollars an acre, although not worth over thirty-five dollars an acre.
Such homes should be available to every family in America. But land all about me is being "held" for sale at exorbitant prices; now and then a real estate man frames an addition and raises prices artificially; in any event, this character of home is not available to the American people, because they owe a mortgage on the town home in the first place, and because land is too high-priced in the country.
All this fits into the idea of modern American life. With machines men will necessarily work fewer hours, and certainly people will have more "spare time." Our life will essentially become industrial-agricultural, or urban-country. One will work at a speed-up lathe twenty hours a week—three days of work, and four days to spend in his country place. There he can paint, climb trees, tat rugs, make whiskey, study philosophy, or be plain lazy.

All this is possible if we provide for certain necessary things. These will include removing worry by a system of social security and old age pensions; that is, the accumulation by the Federal Government of sufficient assets to care for certain classes of people—which means spending and working in the early years to keep our economic and financial machine going at full speed. Other things necessary shall be the conservation of natural resources, which shall be largely nationalized, or controlled and regulated by our various governments—and other economic measures which will keep us going. All these we will talk about.

But to get back to my street car. The land around here, as I have already told you, is not worth more than thirty-five dollars an acre. It is held at from five hundred to three thousand dollars. Generally speaking, water, heat, light, utilities, are either not available at all, or only at unreasonable prices. Had not my family made all these available to me, and given me the land, this home would be impossible because of the original outlay of cash required.

The American people should have a right to buy land at reasonable prices. If this means the regulating of the price of land, although it shocks our free-born American sensibilities, I'm afraid it must be done. Or, to put it differently, American families through their government have a right to live like human beings, and a way must be found, even though some family claims go back to the King of England—or even of Spain!

It means more. In the old days if you wanted water, you could find a river or creek and plunk yourself down on it. Unfortunately, however, people kept on being born and the latecomers found the river, the fertile field, and the forest all fenced off, with a sign "No Trespassing." It certainly does not mean that they must go without.
Co-operative endeavor is then forced upon us. Only by such endeavor can we have the things we severally lack.
For certainly, all this talk about how a man should have self-reliance and initiative and be a good American like our sturdy forefathers, when a man has to grow corn on a pavement, is sheer cruelty. To tell the man in the country who is without a supply of water and has a farm hopelessly eroded anyway, with taxes he cannot pay, that he must be a strong individual—and refuse co-operation, aid, or benefit from his own government, is to ask him to be a fool, and to commit suicide.
America must pull off its blind-folds, and pull out its ear-plugs. Though she may blink a while, and have rumbling in the ears, she will finally see that the whole pioneer philosophy has changed from the idea of individual isolation, to co-operative endeavor with proximity of individuals. Only in this way can individuality be saved.