PLOWING MY OWN FURROW by Howard W. Moore

PLOWING MY OWN FURROW

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Patriarch is a dirty word these days, but what else to call this robust 96-year-old man, one of the great old-time pacifist-anarchists, still working on his farm north of Cherry Valley, N.Y., and, judging by this spirited memoir, as alert and independent as ever. Moore was born in Sing Sing (now Ossining), but moved at age 6 to Cherry Valley where he was trained as farmer by his uncle Rance. At 14 he went to New York, became a salesman, then a telephone operator and eventually an engineer-executive for the N.Y. Telephone Co. While his career in business flourished, Moore began thinking his way into a consistent radicalism. He listened to Margaret Sanger, Emma Goldman, and Alexander Berkman preaching in Madison Square Park; he heard Charles and Mary Beard, Scott Nearing, and Eugene Debs speak at the Rand School of Social Science. He witnessed the horrible Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, and he designed the installation of ship-to-shore telephones on board the Lusitania. When America entered WW I, Moore showed up for induction, but thereafter refused to take orders from the military, for which he and his fellow CO's had to endure a series of minor trials and real tortures, some of them fatal. Imprisoned for over two years at Fort Riley, Fort Leavenworth, and Fort Douglas, Moore was put into solitary, chained to the bars of his cell, systematically beaten and harassed. One prison guard spat into every mess plate before serving it. Moore's weight dropped from 150 to 90, a loss not helped by periodic hunger strikes against the abominable treatment. Released at Thanksgiving, 1920, he met hostility all around, even from his own family; he went back into business, later became a WPA administrator, and finally returned to farm in Cherry Valley. Moore's narrative is quietly matter-of-fact: he refuses to paint himself as a martyr, and he straightforwardly rejects most of this country's economic and political system without launching into any tirades. Only the beauty of harvest time stirs his eloquence. A stalwart, sometimes moving witness.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1985
Publisher: Norton