By Kim Gutschmidt
Chapter two of Bound for Glory introduces us to the Guthrie family and his hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma. It begins with his birth in 1912 and he explains that he was named Woodrow Wilson Guthrie in honor of the soon-to-be President Wilson.
Okemah, in his childhood, was a small farming community of around 1,000 citizens. Woody claims that everyone knew just about everyone else and the reader sees as the chapter progresses how that fact can be both an advantage and disadvantage. Much is made of the reputation and impressions people living in Okemah leave on each other.
Woody had two older siblings, Clara and Roy, and an amusing part of the chapter tells of how a toddler Woody attempted to follow his brother and sister to school. It reminded me of my own envy of seeing my older siblings go off to school each morning and I was left to entertain myself. Woody composed his first little song while waiting for Clara and Roy to come home, the pickets in the fence his audience.
In the chapter Woody’s father, Charles, was a successful businessman dealing in land purchases and it was a source of pride for the family that they were able to live in a fine home and were able to purchase anything they desired at local merchants just by signing their names to a charge slip.
As in the first chapter, we see the theme of conflict in chapter two. Charles Guthrie is described by Woody as being a fighter in his land deals. Woody writes, “Papa was a man of brimstone and hot fire in his mind and in his fists and was known all over that section of the state as the champion of all the fist fighters.” Woody’s mother, Nora, seems to have a more gentle nature. Woody describes her as one who taught the children songs and ballads and stories and to “…always try and see the world from the other fellow’s side.” His father, however, “…taught us never and never to allow any earthly human to scare us, bully us, or run it over us.” It seems that those early lessons from his parents taught Woody to use his love of music and storytelling to fight for and demand fair treatment and to encourage others to stand up against wrong.
Another theme continued from the first chapter is one of cooperation between others in order to solve a dilemma that, on the surface, seems near impossible. Woody tells a rather funny story of him trying to best a playmate and in his eagerness to be higher and therefore superior to his playmate, Woody finds himself literally up a tree and unable to get down again. It’s the cooperation of other children in town, along with the incentive of a reward, that gets him back on the ground.
Although chapter two has charming and lighthearted stories contained within (the conversation Woody has with his mother after his tree rescue is especially sweet), there’s a dark cloud that seems to be gathering along the horizon for the family. It seems that sadness will come to the Guthrie family before too long.