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Green Corn Rebellion

The crushing of the Green Corn Rebellion also ended the Socialist Party—which had arisen, blazed for a season, then flamed out like Halley’s Comet—and the IWW presence in the state. The violence by which the Green Corn uprising was suppressed, along with the apparent lesson of “might makes right,” arguably strengthened in the state’s psyche a comfort and dependency on violence as a remedy to difficulties large and small. William Cunningham’s powerful 1935 novel, The Green Corn Rebellion, rich with local dialect and idioms, and from which the following excerpt is drawn, brought the heart-rending episode to life with a power and intimacy a non-fiction work would have found difficult to capture. Numerous issues that drew many Oklahoma farmers and laborers to the Socialist Party’s aggressive addressing of them are woven through the narrative of this scene.

It was afternoon, and they were sitting in the grandstand at county fair grounds waiting for the big Socialist meeting to begin. Fred Nick was going to speak.

“Well now, I reckon you mean old Dixie that got sway-backed from eatin’ too much roastin’ ears and drinkin’ a lot of water,” Mack said.

“Yeah, that’s the hoss.”

“Well, he wasn’t no good for a saddle horse,” Mack began, “but we figgered that if we fixed him up a little he could do a little light plowin’, so we rigged up a pole and put the front end on his shoulders and the back end of his rump, then we took some sursingles and put ‘em over the pole and under his belly and tightened ‘em up and pulled his back up straight.