Image Credit: Wayne Allensworth’s great-grandfather James Franklin Allensworth in Caddo County, Oklahoma, at the turn of the 20th century

Spying on the American Remnant

As a boy, your author lived in a working-class neighborhood just outside Houston’s city limits. My parents were the children of rural people who had come to Houston looking for work during the Great Depression. They lived in frame houses sitting on cinder blocks in Houston’s West End, a community of people Larry McMurtry called “citybillies,” with chicken coops and deer hanging from trees in small front yards.

We were proud Texans, Southerners, and Americans, and didn’t see any conflict in those overlapping identities. Some of my relations had high, rather grandsounding names—my grandfather was named Oliver Armstrong Allensworth— while others had more common monikers, at least common for their time and place: Billy Lee and Bobby Ray, Flora Mae and Velma.

My relations sinned and suffered but lived mostly happy lives that reflected the culture that made them. Some met tragic ends, but I can’t recall a hint of bitterness in any of them, and none were hateful. They were poor people as measured by today’s standards, but everyone made a living, and some eventually enjoyed a measure of relative prosperity. I’m sure that all of them would have affirmed that America was the greatest country in the world, that God was in His Heaven, and that life could be hard, but joyous as well. They were in no position to indulge in the ideological fantasies of today’s left, or...

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