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By AliceUhlker

Looking for T,ora
"On Jaxaary 16, 1959,Zora NealeHarston, wfeiry fiom tbc effcctsof a ttroAe and uiting painfilly it longband, composed letter to tbe 'editorial a department' of Harper & Brotbersinqtiring if tbex uoild be interestedin seeing'tbe bool I am laboing trpon at prerent-a life of Herod tbe Great.' One lear and tue/ae dayt later, Zora Nea/e Harston died uithoat fuds to prodde for ber burial, a resident of tlte St. Lacie County, Floifu, Welfare Home. Shelies today in an unmarAedgrate in a rcgregatedcemeteryin Fort Pierce,Florida, a rettixg place generallysymbolic of tbe blacAwiter's fate il Ameica. "Zora Neale Hurston is one of tbe most signtf;cant unread aatlton in America,tbe autbor of tuo minor classics foilr otber major booh." and "Zora Hursronand the Eatonville -Robert Hemenway; Anthropology," from Tbe Harlem Rexaissance Remembered, edited by Arna Bontemps (Dodd,1972) ON Aucusr lt,1973,I wake up just as the plane is lowering over Sanford, Florida, which means I am also looking down on Eatonville, Zora Neale Hurston's birthplace. I recognizeit from Zora's description in Mu/es and Men: "the city of five lakes, three croquer courts, rhree hundred brown skins, three hundred good swimmers,plenty guavas, two schools, and no jailhouse." Of courseI cannorseerhe guavas,but the five lakesare still there, and it is the lakes I counr as the Dlane prepares land in Orlando. to From the air, Florida looks completely flat, and as we near the ground this impressiondoes not change. This is the first time I have seenthe interior of the state,which Zora wrore abour so well, but there are the acres orangegroves,the sand, mangrovetrees,and of scrubpine that I know from her books.Getting off the plane I walk through the hot moist air of midday into the tacky but air-conditioned airport. I search Chadotte Hunt, my companionon the Zora for Hurston expedition.She livesin $Tinter Park, Florida, very near Eatonville and is writing her graduatedissertation Zorz. I seeher on ,




waving-a large pleasant-faced white woman in dark glasses. \7e have written to each other for severalweeks, swapping our latesr finds (mostly hers) on Zora, and trying to make senseour of the massof information obtained (often erroneousor simply confusing) from Zora herself-through her storiesand autobiography- and from people who wrote about her. Eatonville has lived for such a long time in my imagination that I can hardly believe it will be found existing in its own right. But after 20 minutes on the expressway, Chadotte turns off and I seea small settlement of housesand storesset with no particular pattern in the sandy soil off the road. \7e stop in front of nteatgray building that ^ has two fascinating signs: EAToNVILLE POSTOFFICE and eAtoNvrrn CITY HALL. Inside the Eatonville City Hall half of the building, a slender, dark brown-skin woman sits looking through letters on a desk. \fhen she hearswe are searchingfor anyone who might have known Zora Neale Hurston, she leansback in thought. Because don't wish to I inspire foot-dragging in people who might know something about Zorathey're not sure they should tell, I have decided on a simple, but I feel profoundly aseful, lie. "I am Miss Hurston's niece," I prompt the young woman, who brings her head down with a smile. "I think Mrs. Moseleyis about the only one still living who might rememberher," she says. "Do you mean Mathi/da Moseley,the woman who tells those 'woman-is-smarter-than-man' in Zora's book?" lies "Yes," saysthe young woman. "Mrs. Moseleyis real old now, of course.But this time of day, she should be at home." I stand at the counterlooking down on her, the first Eatonville residentI have spokento. Because ofZora's books,I feel I know something about her; at least I know what the town she grew up in was like yearsbefore she was born. "Tell me something," I say, "do the schools teachZora's books " here? "No," she says,"they don't. I don't think most people know anything aboutZora Neale Hurston, or know about any of the great things she did. She was a fine lady. I've read all of her booksmyself, but I don't think many other folks in Eatonvillehave." "Many of the church people around here, as I understandit,"



sayscharlotre in a murmured aside,"thought zora wasprettv loose . don't think they appreciated writing about them." her " S f ell, " I s ayto th e y o u n gw o ma n , ' ,th a n k you for your hel p." she clarifiesher directionsto Mrs. Moseley's houseand smilesas C h a r lot t eand I r urn to q o . "Tbe letter to Harper'sdoesnot expotea pub/isber'srejectionof an anAnounmasterpiece, it doesreaealltou the brigltt promiseof the Harbtt lem Renaissance deteiorated for rzany of tlte writers wbo sbaredin ix exuberance. alsoindicates persona/tragedl of Zora Nea/eHurston: It the Barnardgraduate,autbor of four norc/s, tuo booAs fo/A/o/e,one aolumeof of autobiography, most inzportantcollectorof Afro Arrzeican the folAlorein Ameica, reducedb1 pouertyand circunzstance see{a publisher by to untolicite mai/." -Robert Hemenway d "Zora Harston uas born in 1901,j902, or l9}3_depending on how old sbefelt lterself be at tlte time someone to a:Aed.,'-Llbrarian.Beinecke Library,YaleUniversity THr Mosnrsy HousErs sMALL AND wHrrE and snug, its tiny yard nearlyswallowed by oleanders up and hibiscusbushes.charlotte and I knock on the door. I call out. But there is no answer.This strikesus as peculiar.$7e have had time to figure our an age for Mrs. Moseley-not datesor a number, just old I am thinking of a quivery, bedriddeninvalid when we hear the car. we look behind us to seean old black-and-white Buick-paint peeling and grillwork rusty-pulling into the drive. A near old lady rn a purple dressand whire hair is strainingat the wheel. She is frowning because charlotte's car is in the

M rs. Mo se ley lo ok s at us s us pic ious ly . "y es , I k n e w Z o r a N e a l e , " she says, unsmilinglv and with a rather cold stare at Charlotte (who I imagin e fee ls very w hf ie at r hat m om ent ) , "but r h a t w a s a l o n g t i m e ago, an d I d on 't wa nt r o t alk about it . " "Ye s ma 'am," I m ur m ur , br inging all m y s y m p a t h y t o b e a r o n the situ atio n. "Not o nlv th at," M r s . M os elc l. c onr inues , "l' ve b e e n s i c k . B e e n in th e ho sp ital for a n oper at ion. Rupt ur ed ar t er y . T h e d o c t o r s d i d n 't believe I was g oin g to liv e, but v ou s ee m e aliv e, d o n 't y o u ? " "L oo kin g well, t oo, " I c om m ent . lvlrs. Mosele y is out of her c ar . A t hin, s pr ight l v w o m a n w i t h n i c e



she gold-studded false teeth, uppers and lowers. I like her because her straw standsstraighr beside her car, with a hand on her hip and pocketbook on her arm. She wearswhite T-strap shoeswith heels that {. show off her well-shapedlegs. "l'm eighty-twoyears old, you know," she says."And I just can't remember things the way I used to. Anyhow, Zora Neale left here to go to school and she never really came back to live. She'd come here for material for her books, but that was all. She spent most of her time down in South Florida." "You know, Mrs. Moseley, saw your name in one of Zora's I books. "You did?" she looksat me with only slightly more interest."I read some of her books a long time ago, but then people got to borrowing and borrowing and they borrowed them all away." "I could send you a copy of everythingthat's been reprinted," I offer. "$7ould you like me to do that?" "No," saysMrs. Moseley promptly. "I don't read much any " more. Besides, of that wasro long ago. all Charlotteand I settleback againstthe car in the sun. Mrs. Moseleytells us at length and with exactrecall every step in her recent operation,ending with: "What thosedoctorsdidn't know-when they were expectingme to die (and they didn't even think I'd live long enough for them to have to take out my stitches!)-is thatJesusis the for best doctor, and if He says you to get well, that's all that counts." being With this philosophy,Charlotteand I murmur quick assent: But and church bred. we have heard that belef before. Southerners is what we learn from Mrs. Moseley that she doesnot remembermuch bevond the year 1938. She showsus a picture of her father and mother and saysthat her father wasJoeClarke'sbrother.Joe Clarke, as every Zora Hurston readerknows, was the first mayor of Eatonville;his fictional counterpart isJody Starksof Tbeir Eyes ll/ere lYatcbing God. We alsoget directionsto whereJoeClarke'sstoreuas-where Club nightspotwe had seen Eaton is now. Club Eaton, a long orange-beige on the main road, is apparentlyfamousfor the good times in it regularlyhad by all. It is, perhaps,the modern equivalentof the store porch, where all the men of Zora's childhood came to tell "lies," that is, black folktales,that were "made and used on the spot," to take a has no idea line from Zora. As for Zora's exactbirthplace Mrs. Moseley , After I have commentedon the healthygrowth of her hibiscus more talkative She mentionshow much she . bushes,she becomes


Loorting Zoro for

/oaedto dance, when she was a young woman, and taiks about hoq. good her husband was. When he was alive, she says,she was completelyhappy because allowedher to be completely he free, ..1 was so free I had to pinch myself someti;es to tell if i was a marned woman." Relaxednow, she tells us about going to school withZora. ,,Zora and I went ro rhe sameschool.It's calledHungerford High now. It was only to the eighth grade. But our teachers were so good that by the time you left you knew collegesubjects.Vhen I went ro Morris Brown in Atlanta, the teachers there were just teaching me rhe same things I had alreadylearned right in Eatonville. I wrote Mama and told her I was going to come home and help her with her babies.I wasn't learninganything new." "Tell me something,Mrs. Moseley," I ask, ,,why do you suppose zora was against integration? I read somewhere that she was "g"inrt schooldesegregation because she felt it was an insult to black teacliers.,, "Oh, one of them [white people] came around askingme about rntegrarron. One day I was doing my shopping. I heard ,em over rhcre talking about it in the store,about the schools. And I got on out of the way because knew if they askedme they wouldn,t I , like what I was gotng to tell 'em. But they came up and askedme anyhow. ,What do you think about this integration?'oneof them said. I acted like I thought I had heardwrong. ,you're askingme what 1 think about tntegratron?' said. 'Vell, as you can seeI,m just I an old colored woman'-I wasseventy-five seventy-six or then-'and this is the first trme anybodyeveraskedme about integration.And nobody askedmy grandmotherwhat she thought, either, but her daddy was ore of you all.' " Mrs. Moseley seems satisfied with this memory of her rejoinder. she looks at charlotte. "I have the blood of three races in my veins,,, she saysbelligerently,"white, black, and Indian, and nobody asked me anltbing before. "Do you think living in Eatonvillemade integrationlessappeali n g to y ou?" "vell, I can tell you this: I have lived in Eatonvilleall mv life. and I've been in the governingof this town. I've been euerythingbut Mayor and I've been assistant Mayor. Eatonville was and is an all-black town' we have our own police department,post office, and town hail. Our own schooland good teachers. I need integration? Do "They took over Goldsboro,because the black peoplewho lived there neverincorporated, rike we did. And now I don't even know if



up houses there around the any black folks live there' They built big and we don't sell l^k.s. B,-,twe didn't let that happen in Eatonville' here'" land to iust anyboiy. And you see' we're still \w henweleav e, M rs .Mo s e l e y i s s ta n d i n g b y h e rcar,w avi ng.I blasting black newspaper think of the letter Roy vilkins wrote to a integration of schools' the Zora Neale for her lack of enthusiasmabout from' of the experience Eatonvilleshe was coming I wonder if he knew from a self-contained' Not many black people in lmerica have come unity are taken for granted' A all-black community where loyalty and place where black pride is nothing new' said that botheredme' There is, however,one thing Mrs' Moseley it that thirteen "Tell me, Mrs. Moseley," I had asked' "why is has been put on her grave?" yearsafter Zora's death, no marker she doesn't have a stone And Mrs' Moseleyanswered:"The reason in South she wasn't buried here' She was buried down is because really knew where she Florida somewhere.I don't think anybody was." sbe "On$ to reacha uider aadience,needsbe eter uite books-because wasaluays her youtlt sbe in is a perfect booh of entertainment herself'In uealtbl ubite people' someof wbom and getting scbolarsbips tbingsfrom tbe Negrorace them' sbe for simpfi paid beriutt to sit aroand and represent anecdotes'bumorous did it in such a racl fasbion' Sbe wasfull of sidesplhting as a out stoies, remembered of her tife in tbe Soatb tales,and tragicomrc makeyou laugb one mn' daagbterof a trattelingministerof God' Sltecoald no doabt' sbe wasa ilte and cry tbe next' To meny of ber wbitefriends' term-tbat is' a nafue' perfect 'darhie,' in tbe nice meaningtbey giae the cbildlihe, sweet,bumoroxs,and bighly coloredNegro' gfue /et college "But MissHarston utu! cleaer,too-a stadent ulto didn't or academic pretensions' for her a broad 'a' and ubo had greatscorn all otheruise,Thatisufusbeuassacbafinefolklorecollector,able'ogoamong tbepeopleandneaeractasifshebadbeentoscboolatal/.Almostnobodl and meastrebis bead e/secould stop tbe awrageHarlemite on LenoxAaenue and not get bawledoat for tbe deaice uitb a strange'looiing,anthropologicat uhosebeadlooAedinterettixg' attempt, exceptZor4, uho usedto t'op unlone (Knopf) and meastre/. "-Langston Hughes' Tbe Big 'lea ,,|Ybatdoesitml,terwbetwbitefolhsmastharethoagbtabout ber?"-student,"BlacklWomenVriten"class'\(cllesleyCollege


LooAing Zora for

Mns. Sanau Pner ParrnnsoN is a handsome,red-haired woman in her late forties,wearingorangeslacks and gold earrings. She is the director of Lee-Peek Mortuary in Fort Pierce,the establishment that handled Zora's burial. Unlike most black funeral homes in Southernror,r-ns thar sit like palaces among the generalpoverty,Lee-Peek a run-do*'n has it snzall look. Perhapsthis is because is painted purple and white. as are its Cadillacchariots.Thesecolorsdo not age well. The roomsare clutteredand grimy, and the bathroom is a tiny, stale-smelling prison. with a bottle of black hair dye (apparentlyused to touch up the hair of the corpses) dripping into the face bowl. Two pine burial boxesare restingin the bathtub. Mrs. Pattersonherself is pleasantand helpful. "As I told you over the phone, Mrs. Patterson,"I begin, shaking her hand and looking into her penny-brown eyes, "l am Zora Neale Hurston's niece and I would like to have a marker put on her grave. , You said, when I called you last week, that you could tell me where the grave is." By this time I am, of course completely into being Zora's niece, , and the lie comeswith perfect naturalness my lips. Besides,as f,aras to I'm concerned,she rr my aunt-and that of all black people as well. "She was buried in 1960," exclaimsMrs. Patterson."That was when my father was running this funeral home. He's sick now or I'd let you talk to him. But I know where she'sburied. She'sin the old cemetery,the Garden of the Heavenly Rest, on SeventeenthStreet. Just when you go in the gate there's a circle and she's buried right in the middle of it. Hers is the only grave in that circle-because people don't bury in that cemeteryany more." She turns to a stocky, black-skinnedwoman in her thirties, wearing a green polo shirt and white jeans cut off at the knee. "This lady will show you where it is," she says. "I can't tell you how much I appreciatethis," I say to Mrs. Patterson,as I rise to go. "And could you tell me something else? You see, I never met my aunt. \fhen she died, I was still a junior in high school. But could you tell me what she died oi and what kind of funeral she had?" "I don't know exactlywhat she died of," Mrs. Pattersonsays."I know she didn't have any money. Folks took up a collection to bury her. . . . I believe she died of malnutrition." ''Ma/nutrition? "



head againstCharlotte's Outside, in the blistering sun, I lean my hot metal only intensifies even more blistering cartop' tht 'tittg of the my anger. condition hasn't "Malnutition," l manageto mutter' "Hell' our Phillis \flheatley's time' She died of malnutrition!" changedany since ;Really?" says Chadotte, "I didn't know that'"

It uas so tbe "One canno,oaeremphasize extentof ber commitment' uas short'lirted' Sbeen great tbat her madage in the sping of 1927to Herbert antil 1931'tbe tuo separoted Tttfoogt, ditorce did not comefficially ber collecting'Slteento amicabiyefter onl a feu months,Hurston to continue "-Roben Hemenway ottend MedicalScbool. "\7sar climbed into the $ YouR NAME?" I ask the woman who has

back seat. voice' as if she is a "Rosalee," she says.She has a rough' pleasant and has an air of ready singer who also smokesa lot' She is homely' indifference. the grave she "Another woman came by here wanting to see white short' dumpty "' little says,lighting up a cigarette' "She was a But let or Daytona' l"iy fri- o.t. of these Florida schools' Orlando we gets staned' All I know is where the me tell you something before that grave' You better go cemeteryis. I don't kno* ot'e thing about back in and ask her to draw you b map"' diagram of where the A few moments later, with Mrs. Patterson's grave is, we head for the cemetery' \( edr iv epas t bl o c k s o fs m a l l ' p a s te l -c o l o re dhousesandturnri ght a mll curving gate' with onto 17th Street. At the very end, *e 'u"th fading into the stone' I the words "Garden of the Heavenly Rest" drawing' to find a small expected,from Mn. Patterson'ssmall gravefive or ten pacesfrom circle-which would have placed zora's .,circle'iis over an acre large and looks more like an the road. But the din road and scrapeagainst the abandoned field' Tall weeds choke the that I step out into an active sides of the car. It doesn't hclp either anthill. don't even belicve "I don't know about y'all," I say' "but I that is trad.itional this." I am used to the haphazard cemetery-kecping neglect is staggering' As this in most Southern black communities' but


LooLing Zora for

far as I can seethere is nothing but bushesand weeds,some as tall rs my waist. One graveis near the road, and Charlotteelectsto investigate It is fairly clean,and belongsro someone it. who died in 1963. Rosalee and I plunge into the weeds;I pull my long dressup to my hips. The weedsscratchmy knees, and the insectshave a feast, Looking back, I seeChadotte standing resolutelynear the road. " A r en' t y o u c o m i n g ? " I c a l l . "No," she callsback. "I'm from theseparts and I know what's out there." She meanssnakes. "Shit," I say, my whole life and the people I love flashing melodramaticallybefore my eyes.Rosalee a few yards to my right. is "How're you going to find anything out here?" she asks.And I stand still a few seconds,looking ar the weeds. Some of them are quite pretty, with tiny yellow flowers. They are thick and healthy, but dead weedsunder them have formed a thick gray carpet on the ground. A snakecould be lying six inchesfrom my big toe and I wouldn't seeit. $7e move slowly, very slowly, our eyesalert, our legs trembly. It is hard to tell where the cenrer of the circle is since the circle is not really round, but more like half of something round. There are things crackling and hissing in the grass.Sandspurs are sticking to the inside of my skirt. Sand and ants cover my feet. I look toward the road and notice that there are, indeed, two large curving stones,making an entranceand exit to the cemetery.I take my bearingsfrom them and try to navigate to exact center. But the center of anything can be very large, and a grave is not a pinpoint. Finding the grave seemspositively hopeless.There is only one thing to do: "Zoral" I yell, as loud as I can (causingRosalee jump), "are to you out here?" "If she is, I sho hope she don't answeryou. If she do, I'm gone." "Zorat" I call again. "I'm here. Are you?" "If she is," grumbles Rosalee,"I hope she'll keep it to herself." "Zoral" Then I staft fussing with her. "I hope you don't think I'm going to stand out here all day, with these snakeswatching me and these ants having a field day. In fact, I'm going to call you just one or two more times." On a clump of dried grass,near a small bushy tree, my eye falls on one of the largestbugs I have ever seen. It is on its back, and is as large as rhree of my fingers. I walk toward it, and yell "Zo-ra!" and my foot sinks into a hole. I look down. I am

306 Afteruord six feet long and about standing in a sunken rectangle that is about the two gatesare' thr.. oifour feet wide. I look up to seewhere anyhow' It's "\7ell," I say, "this is the center, or approximately this look like a grave also the only sunken spot we've found' Doesn't to you?" these bushes"' "For the sakeof not going no farther through growls' "Yes, it do'" Rosalee more to be "rJfait a minute," I say, "I have to look around some you don't have to a grave' But sure this is the only spot that resembles come." smiles-a grin, really-beautiful and tough' Rosalee l ' l fe e l s s o rry fo ry o u ' If o n e of thesesnakesgot "Naw, " s hes ay s , laughs' "I ahold of you out here by yourselfI'd feel realbad"'She done come this far, I'll go on with you'" "Thank you, Rosalee"' I say' "Zora thanks you too.'' she says'and 'Just as long as she don't try to tell me in person"' together we walk down the field' example' "Tbe gasto and flaaor of Zoro Neal[e] Hurston'sstorytelling'for and Men' and otber boohs' long beforetbe yarnswerepublisbed in 'Mules hauespread fartber under dffirent a became locallegendwbicb migbt ' ' ' cottld baaemade tbem bestconditions.A tiny thift in the centerof graaity (PaulBremen'Ltd'' London;196l) Personals sellers."-Arna Bontemps, in especialfi tbe blacA "Bitter oaerthe reiectionof herfolhlore's aalue' to co"aert the Afro' ber commanity,frustrated b1 ubat sbefelt was failure HurstonfinalQ garte Ameican uoild aieu into forms of prosefiction, uP. "-Robert HcmenwaY uP AND I DRIVE to the Merritt Monument \UHEN CHARLOTTE I want' Company, I immediatelyseethe headstone . . Howm uc his t h i s o n e ? ' ' Ia s k th e y o u n g w o m ani ncharg-e.' asZora herself must pointing to a tall black stone' It looks as majestic from those root doctorsdown have been when she was learning voodoo in New Orleans. "that's our finest. That's Ebony Mist.'' "Oh, that one," she saYs, "Vell, how much is it?" in relief, " I don' t k now' Bu t w a i t," she says,looking around who'll k n o w ." "here comessomebodY



A small, sunburned man with squinty green eyescomesup. He must be the engraver,I think, because eyesare contractedinro his slits, as if he has been keeping stone dust out of them for years. "That's Ebony Mist," he says."That's our best." "How much is it?" I ask, beginning to realize l probably can't afford it. He gives me a price that would feed a dozen Saheliandrought victims for three years. I realize I must honor the dead, but berween the dead great and the living starving, there is no choice. "I have a lot oflerters to be engraved," I say, standing by the plain gray marker I have chosen.It is pale and ordinary, not at all like Zora, and makes me momentarily angry that I am not rich. I0(e go into his office and I hand him a sheet of paper that has: ZORANEALEHURSTON .A GENIUS THESOUTH'' OF



"A genius of the South" is from one of Jean Toomer's poems. "\fhere is this grave?" the monument man asks. "If it's in a new cemetery,the stone has to be flat." "Vell, it's not a new cemereryand Zora-my aunr-doesn't need anything flat because with the weedsout there, you'd never be able to seeit. You'll have to go our there with me." He grunts. "And take a long pole and 'sound' the spot," I add. "Because there'sno way of telling it's a grave exceptthat it's sunken." , "Vell," he says,after taking my money and writing up a receipt, in the full awareness that he's the only monument dealer for miles, "you take this flag" (he hands me a four-foot-long pole with a redmetal marker on top) "and take it out to the cemeteryand put it where you think the grave is. It'll take us about three weeksro ger rhe stoneout there." I wonder if he knows he is sending me ro another confrontation with the snakes.He probably does. Charlotte has told me she will cut my leg and suck our the blood, if I am bit. "At leastsend me a photographwhen it's done, won't you?" He says will. he



"Hurston's return to her folk/ore-collecting in December of 1927 uas made possible b1 Mrs. R, osgood Mason, an elderfu uhite patron of the arts, who at uaious tinzes ako belped l^angston Hagbet, Alain Loch,e,Ricltmond Bartbe, and Miguel coaarrubias. Hurston apparent/y c'me to her attention through the intercession of Locke, wbo frequently sented as a aind of litison between tbe loung black talent and Mrs. Mason. The entire relationship desenes extended study, for between tbis wonzan and the Har/enz Renaissance it representsmuch of the ambigaitl inaolued in uhite patronage of blaca arti$r. A// her artists uere instracted to ca// lter'Godmotlser'; tltere uas a decided ernpbasison the 'prinzitiue' aspecx of b/ach culture, apparentl1 a lto/doaer from Mrs. Mason's interest in the P/ains Indians. In Harston's case there were special restictions imposed by ber patron: altbough sbe uas to be paid a handsome salaryfor her folalore collecting, .rhe was to linzit her conespondenceand pub/ih notbing of ber researchwithoat pior approaal."-Robert HemenwaY

"You baue to read tbe chaplers Zora left oat of her autobiography."-Student, SpecialCollectionsRoom, BeineckeLibrary, Yale University DR. BENTON, a friend of Zora's and a practicing M.D. in Fort Pierce, is one of those old, good-looking men whom I always have trouble not liking. (lt no longer bothers me that I may be constantly searching for father figures; by this time I have found several and dearly enjoyed knowing them all.) He is shrewd, with steady brown eyes under hair that is almost white. He is probably in his seventies, but doesn't look it. He carries himself with drgnity, and has cause to be proud of the new clinic where he now practices medicine. His nurse looks at us with suspicion, but Dr. Benton's eyes have the penetration of a scalpel cutting through skin. I guess right away that if he knows anything at all a bo ut Zo r a Hur s t on. he will not believ e I a m h e r n i e c c . "Ea ton ville ? " D r . Bent on s ay s , leaning f om ' a r d i n h i s c h a i r , l o o k i n g flrst at me, th en at Char lot t e. "Yes , I k now E a t o n v i l l e , I g r e w u p n o t far from there. I knew the whole bunch of Zora's family." (He looks a r th e sha pe of m v c hc c k bones . t he s iz e of m v e v e s , a n d t h e n a p p i n e s s o f rn v ha ir.) "l k new hc r daddv . The old m an . H e w a s a h a r d w o r k i n g , Ch ristia n man . Did t hc bc s t he c ould f or his f a m i l v . H e w a s t h e m a v o r of Ea ton villc fir r a whilc . v ou k now. "Mv ta thcr n' as t hc m at ' or of G olds bor o. Y o u p r o b a b l y n e v e r



heard of it. It never incorporatedlike Eatonville did, and has just about disappeared.But Eatonville is still all-black." He pausesand looks at me. "And you're Zora's niece," he says wonderingly "IJfell," I say with shy dignity, yet with some tinge, I hope, of a llth-century blush, "I'm illegitimate. That's why I never knew Aunt Zora." I love him for the way he comesto my rescue.,,you,re not illegitimate!" he cries, his eyesresting on me fondly. ,,All of us are God's children! Don't you even tltinA sucha thing!" And I hate myself for lying to him. Still, I ask myself, would I have gotten this far toward gerting the headstone and finding out aboutZora Hurston's last dayswithout telling my lie? Actually, I probably would have. But I don't like taking chances that could get me stranded in Central Florida. "Zora didn't get along with her family. I don't know why. Did you read her autobiography, Dust TracAs a Roa&,, on "Yes, I did," I say. "It pained me ro seeZora pretending to be naive and grateful about the old white ,Godmother' who helped finance her research,but I loved the part where she ran off from home after falling out with her brother's wife ." Dr. Benton nodded. "Vhen she got sick, I tried to get her to go back to her family, but she refused. There wasn't any real hatred; they just never had gotten along and Zora wouldn'r go to them. She didn't want to go to the county home, either, but she had to, because she couldn't do a thing for herself." "I was surprisedto learn she died of malnutrition." Dr. Benton seemsstaftled. "Zora didn,t die of malnutrition," ne saysindignantly. "\7here did you get that story from? She had a stroke and she died in the welfare home." He seemspeculiarly upset, distressed, but sits back reflectivelyin his chair: ,,She was an incredible woman," he muses. "sometimes when I closedmy office, I'd go by her house and just talk to her for an hour or two. She was a well-read, well-traveledwoman and alwayshad her own ideas about what was going on . . . " "I never knew her, you know. Only some of Carl Van Vechten's photographsand some newspaperphotographs. . . . \[hat did she look like?" "\fhen I knew her, in the fifties, she was a big woman , erect.



Not quite as light as I am [Dr. Benton is dark beige], and about five foot, seveninches, and she weighed about two hundred pounds. P r obably m or e .Sh e ... " "\Vhat! Zorawasfat! She wasn't, in Van Vechten'spictures!" "Zora loved to eat," Dr. Benton sayscomplacently. "She could sit down with a mound of ice cream and just eat and talk till it was all gone." While Dr. Benton is talking, I recall that the Van Vechten pictureswere taken whenZora was still a young woman. In them she appearstall, tan, and healthy. In later newspaperphotographs-when she was in her forties-l rememberedthat she seemedheavierand severalshadeslighter. I reasonedthat the earlier photographs. were taken while she was busy collecting folklore materialsin the hot Florida sun. "She had high blood pressure.Her health wasn't good . . . . She used to live in one of my houses-on School Court Street. It's a block house . . . I don't recall the number. But my wife and I used to invite her over to the house for dinner. S/te a/uays ate well, " he says emphatically. "That's comforting to know," I say, wondering where Zora ate when she wasn't with the Bentons. "Sometimes she would run out of groceries-after she got sick-and she'd call me. 'Come over here and see'bout me,' she'd say. And I'd take her shopping and buy her groceries. "She was alwaysstudying. Her mind-before the stroke-just worked all the time . She was alwaysgoing somewhere,too. She once went to Honduras to study something. And when she died, she was working on that book about Herod the Great. She was so intelligent! And really had perfect expressions. Her English was beautiful." (I suspectthis is a cleverway to let me know Zora herself didn't speakin the "black English" her characters used.) "I used to read all of her books," Dr. Benton continues, "but it was a Iong time ago. I remember one about . . it was called, I think, 'The Children of God' lTbeir Eyes Were ll/atching Godl, andl rememberJanie and Teapot [Teacake]and the mad dog riding on the cow in that hurricane and bit old Teapot on the cheek . . . " I am delighted that he rememberseven this much of the story, even if the namesare wrong, but seeinghis affection forZora I feel I must ask him about her burial. "Did she really have a pauper's funeral?"

311 Loorting Zora for "She didn't have a pauper'sfuneral!" he says with great heat. "Everybody around here loaed Zora." "\We just came back from orderinga headstone,"I say quietlv. he because zi an old man and the color is coming and going on his face, "but to tell the truth, I can't be positivewhat I found is the grave. All I know is the spot I found was the only grave-size hole in the area." "I rememberit wasn't near the road," saysDr. Benton, more calmly. "Some other lady came by here and we went out looking for the grave and I took a long iron stick and poked all over that part of the cemeterybut we didn't find anything. She took some pictures of the general area. Do the weedsstill come up to your knees?" "And beyond," I murmur. This time there isn't any doubt. Dr. Benton feelsashamed. As he walks us to our car, he continues to talk about Zora. "She couldn't really write much near the end. She had the stroke and it left her weak; her mind was affected.She couldn't think about anything for long. "She came here from Daytona, I think, She owned a houseboat over there. \fhen she came here, she sold it. She lived on that money, then she worked as a maid-for an afticle on maids she was writing-and she worked for the Cbronic/e writing the horoscope column. "I think black people here in Florida got mad at her because she was for some politician they were against. She said this politician built schoolsfor blackswhile the one they wanted just talked about it. And although Zorawasn't egotistical,what she thought, she thought; and generally what she thought, she said." \When we leave Dr. Benton's office, I realizeI have missedmy plane back home toJackson, Mississippi.That being so, Charlotte and I decide to find the house Zora lived in before she was taken to the county welfare home to die. From among her many notes, Chadotte locatesa letter ofZora's she has copied that carriesthe address:1734 School Court Street. \7e ask severalpeople for directions. Finally, two old gentlemen in a dusty gray Plymouth offer to lead us there. School Court Street is not paved, and the road is full of mud puddles. It is dismal and squalid, redeemedonly by the brightnessof the late afternoon sun. Now I can understand what a "block" house is. It is a house shapedlike a block, for one thing, surrounded by others just like it. Some housesare blue and some are green or yellow. Zora's ts

312 Aftenttord squattywith flat light green.They are tiny-about i0 by 10 feet' the others' but that is roofs.The houseZora lived in looksworsethan dirty children sitting its only distinction' It alsohas three raggedand on the stePs. camera' "Is this where y'all live?" I ask' aiming my looking at me earnestly "\We "No, ma'am," they sayin unison' house but she in the ; live over yonder' This Miss So-and-So's " horspital. while I take more pictures'A car .we chatterinconsequentially in it' They scowlfiercelyat drivesup with a yonng tl^tk couple eithef They get out friendliness' Charlotteand don't look at me with uP to them tothe street.I go and stand in their doorwayacross from Zota Hurston used to live right across explain. "Did you know y ou?" I as k . curiously "Vho?" They stareat me blankly' then become at t ent iv e' a s i fth e y th i n k l ma d e th e n a me up' TheyarebothA fro-ed dashiki-ed' and he is somberlY "It's too long a story"' I say' I suddenlyfeel frail and exhausted' streetwho's livec "but tell me something,is there anybodyon this here for more than thirteen Years?" ..That old man down there'', the young man says,polntlng. )ure down He has three houses enough, there rs a man sitting on his steps about him' He weakness is a gr"yilg hair and is very neat, but there 't.r..r.r', husband in Their Eyes l{/ere trYatching reminds me of Mrs. have been as if his features God. He's rather "vanishing"-looking' was beautiful' he was sandeddown' In the old days,beforeblack haswavy hair and light' he because attractive, probablyconsidered own reward' to now, well, light skin has ceased be its brown skin; but there is only one thing I want to know: After the preliminaries, house'" di d " T ell m e s o m e th i n g " ' I b e g i n , l o o k i n g dow n at Zora' s Zora hke flowers?'' of fact"' he says'looking He looks at me queerly' "As a matter her former house' regretfully at the bare, rough yard that surrounds gardener'She loved "she was crazyabout them' And she was a great gloriesl and ' and that running and blooming vine [morning azaleas, Sht kept a night-smellingflower [gardenia] she really loved that and tomatoes gardenyear-round,too' She raisedcollards vegetable and t hing s l i k e th a t. Hurston' "Eu.ryon. in this community thought well of Miss



\When she died, people all up and down this street took up a collection for her burial. \fe put her away nice. " "Why didn't somebodyput up a headstone?" "Well, you know, one was never requ€sted.Her and her family didn't get along. They didn't even come to the funeral." "And did she live down there by herself.r" "Yes, until they took her away. She lived with-just her and her companion, Sport." My earsperk up. "\7ho?" "Sport, you'know, her dog. He was her only companion. He was a big brown-and-white dog." \fhen I walk back to the car, Chadotte is talking to the young couple on their porch. They are relaxedand smiling. "I told them about the famous lady who used ro live across the street from them," saysCharlotte as we drive off. ,,Of coursethey had no idea Zora everlived, let alone that she lived across the srreet. I think I'll send some of her booksto them.,' "That's real kind of you," I say.

"l am not tragtcallyco/ored. Tltere is /,o great sorou damned ap in my soal, nor lurhing bebind n2! e\es. I do not mind at alt. I do not belong to tbe sobbing rcbool of Negroboodulto bold that natare rcmebou basgiaen tbem a lowdoun dirtl deal and wltorcfeelings are all bart obout it. . . . No, I do not ueep at the world-I am too busytbarpeningnl oyter Anife.,'-Zora Neare Hurston, "How It Feels Be ColoredMe," Iyorld Tomorou, l92g to THenE ARETrMES-and finding Zora Hurston's grave was one of them-when normal responses grief, horror, and so on, do not of make sensebecausethey bear no real relation to the depth of the emotion one feels. It was impossiblefor me to cry when I saw the field full of weedswhere zorais. Partly this is because have come to know I Zora through her books and she was not a rcary sort of person herself; but partly, too, it is because there is a point at which even grief feels absurd. And at this point, laughter gushesup to retrievesanity. It is only later, when the pain is not so direct a threat to one's own existencethat what was learned in that moment of comical lunacv is understood. Such moments rob us of both youth and vanity. But perhaps they are also times when greater disciplines are born.

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