Among the favorite pieces I’ve found so far is this wonderful poem by “The Dust Bowl Poet,” Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel. She was born in 1918 in Lincoln County, Oklahoma, and immigrated to California with her family in 1936. Wilma never married, but she cared for her mother until her death in 1983 and for her sister, Opal, until her death in 1992. Although Wilma was a prolific writer, none of her work was published until 1971 (in the Tulare Advance-Register newspaper), and some has been published elsewhere later. In her succinct style of free verse, she captured the San Joaquin Valley environment, our small towns, and our working-class culture.
By Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel
fashionably late this year
cloaked in classic trailing gray
dripping with diamonds
when she even moved a finger
they fell by millions
teardrop perfect on houses
wasted their beauty on growling
and gave the water tower
a noble tiara
Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel
All rights reserved ©Back40 Publishing/Stone Woman Press, Joshua Tree, Calif.
I wish I had written that poem; it’s one of the cleanest descriptions of tule fog I’ve ever read. If you have excerpts from literature, correspondence, or poetry that you think would help us reveal the history of San Joaquin County, please comment here or e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Stuart is the executive director and CEO of the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum.