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Introduced to the owners, Fouratt told them how he thought the spot could be improved. In early , or thereabouts, he landed the task of reviving it. An occasional visitor to the Mudd Club, which he thought of as being rooted in the social interaction of its customers rather than its entertainment offering, Fouratt hired the White Street alternate Sean Cassette to work as his DJ, oversaw the installation of video screens above the dance floor, and booked punk and new wave bands such as Gang Of Four, Pylon, the Rotating Power Tools and Ultravox.

I wanted to book the same kind of art-damaged acts that would play CBGB. Fouratt stormed out of the venue, but he regretted his decision the following morning, by which time the owners had placed a padlock on his office. He was smoking a joint and enjoying the company of women on an Ipaneman beach at the time of the decision. As the queues on White Street lengthened, Piper concluded that it would be perfectly viable to open an alternative spot, especially if it offered the artist community a place where they could show their art.

Naming his venue Pravda after he stumbled across the reference in File and Wet magazines, Piper opened all the same. It was the beginning of this bizarre new style.

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They were influenced by punk and were reinventing themselves, investing themselves for the first time in throwing out all these ideas. It created a big impression. Only the neighbors were underwhelmed and, having registered their unhappiness, city inspectors closed the spot the following day. Piper argued during subsequent negotiations that he wanted Pravda to operate as a venue for the local community, maintaining that SoHo could come to resemble bohemian Paris of the s if it opened itself to pleasure. But Pravda made my entire career in New York.

The fact that it closed after one night added to the myth. Robert E. Lee wrote his sister on April 10, "With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission in the Army, and save in defense of my native State, with the sincere hope that my poor service may never be needed, I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword.

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Cather's narrator, Jim Burden, who goes to live with his grandparents after the death of his Virginia parents, describes his grandfather: "My grandfather said little. I felt at once his deliberateness and personal dignity, and was a little in awe of him. The thing one immediately noticed about him was his beautiful, crinkly snow-white beard.

His bald crown only made it more impressive. Grandfather's eyes were not at all like those of an old man; they were bright blue, and had a fresh, frosty sparkle. In his youth his conscience had led him to drop his inherited Calvinism and become a Baptist. Caroline Cather, whose father kept a popular tavern on the turnpike, was descended from Jeremiah Smith, who came to Virginia from England in He had been deeded land on Back Creek in by Lord Fairfax, who, one remembers, once had employed George Washington to survey his vast holdings.

The deed to this small parcel of Fairfax's five million acres still remains in the possession of Cather descendants. To Jim Burden his grandmother appears "a spare, tall woman , a little stooped, and she was apt to carry her head thrust forward in an attitude of attention. She was quick-footed and energetic in all her movements. Her voice was high and rather shrill, and she often spoke with an anxious inflection. Her laugh, too, was high and perhaps a little strident, but there was a lively intelligence in it. She was then fifty-five years old, a strong woman, of unusual endurance.

In William and Caroline settled on a farm about a mile east of the village of Back Creek. William bought acres and later more than doubled his property. He built a large, solid three-story brick house on the north side of the turnpike and named it Willow Shade. It still stands on the outskirts of what is now the town of Gore.

Each room once had a fireplace, and surrounding the house in the nineteenth century were great willow trees.


A stream ran through the front yard, spanned by a rustic bridge, and a spring from the mountain behind provided cool water for refrigeration and household use. A flight of steps still leads to a porch supported by white columns and an entranceway into the second story. Across the turnpike is a steep hill that cuts off the view from the lower story. As an adult, Cather remembered the kitchen on the ground floor as being the most pleasant room in the house, also the most interesting.

The parlor was stiff and formal except when it was full of company, which was often, but the kitchen was comfortable. Besides the eight-hole range, there was a huge fireplace with a crane to lift heavy pots.

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There was always a roaring fire in the winter, which was kept up at night after the stove fires went out. There were three kitchen tables: one for making bread, another for pastry, and a third covered with zinc used for cutting up meat. There were also tall cupboards used for storing sugar and spices and groceries. The farm wagons brought supplies from Winchester in large quantities so that the Cathers did not have to make the trip often.

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There was a special cupboard that held jars of brandied fruit, ginger, and orange peel soaking in whiskey. Vegetables for winter were kept in a storeroom at the back cooled by the spring that supplied the house. This house and its surroundings are the center of all of Willa Cather's early memories. Before she was born, however, the war split the Cathers and alienated neighbors. William and Caroline, as strong Union supporters, broke with William's father and brothers and sisters.

Their two sons, Charles Willa's father and George, were too young for military duty at the beginning of the conflict, but before the end they were sent across the border less than five miles away to West Virginia to avoid conscription into the Confederate Army. As the war went on around them, the Cathers lived in fear of trouble.

Both Confederate and Union troops were continually moving up and down the turnpike and demanding of local residents food and shelter. The Cathers were lucky, however, and survived the war with no great loss of property. On one occasion a neighbor who had remained friendly warned them that Confederate soldiers were about to raid the valley and take all the stock of Northern sympathizers. The Cathers took their animals to the neighbor's barn until the threat passed.

Edward Abbey (1927-89)

Later they returned the favor when Union troops swept through the area. At still another point in the war when an epidemic of measles broke out among occupying Confederate troops, the Cathers turned Willow Shade into an emergency hospital. The events of the war in Back Creek Valley are vividly recounted in the diary of William Cather's sister, Sidney Gore , a widow who lived in the village and kept a rooming and boarding house.

She quartered and ministered to soldiers of both armies and could hear the cannon and rifle fire from the battles fought around Winchester. But no real battles were fought in Back Creek. The Gores' greatest problem was hiding food, money, and livestock from thieving bushwackers who straggled through the valley.

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Gore's son remembered that they put their bread in pillowcases after each meal. They tied their money up with medicinal herbs that were hung from the rafters. They built secret closets in the attic, induced the hens to lay their eggs deep in the woods, fattened their hogs in pens hidden in large piles of firewood, and hid the family silver under a false bottom in the kitchen woodbox.

There were agonizing moments, however.


Gore was stunned when Union troops killed her neighbor in August The neighbor had been surprised when asleep by soldiers' appearing at the window and without reflecting had grabbed a gun and fired a shot. Whereupon fifty Union soldiers opened fire. When she said that she was his daughter, the enemy officer introduced himself as her cousin, but family members on opposite sides during the Civil War was a commonplace in Back Creek.

The tragedies of fratricidal war are poignantly set down in Walt Whitman's memory of his experiences as a volunteer nurse in Washington hospitals: "I staid to-night a long time by the bedside of a new patient, a young Baltimorean, aged about 19 years.