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The Watches of the Night by Harry M. Caudill

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The Watches of the Night by Harry M. Caudill

In 1963, Harry M. Caudill published his now classic account of the reckless, deliberate despoliation of the Appalachian Plateau, "Night Comes to the Cumberlands." Thirteen years later, in "The Watches of the Night," Caudill continued the heartbreaking story of an incredibly rich land inhabited by a grindingly poor people whose problems, despite state and local aid and an unprecedented boom in coal, had worsened: the land was being stripped more rapidly than ever; the people's traditional relationship with the land was being uprooted, and their old customs eliminated by standardization. Both a narrative history and a polemic against greed and waste, "The Watches of the Night" hammers at "the profligacy growing out of the persistent myth of superabundance." The author ponders an even darker future if the cycle of boom and bust is not broken. He writes: "Americans have never understood or respected the finely textured, little-hill terrain of the Cumberland Plateau." Neither the farmers nor the miners who followed the early pioneers saw it as a place to cherish. Through decades that have lengthened to nearly two centuries the land has fought back, sometimes with savage floods and always with persistent efforts to reforest. "But now time runs out and our 'inexhaustible' resources have turned finite....The Kentucky Cumberlands are many things, but most of all they are are a warning.



Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1976