Mr. Podger always particularly enjoyed the last night of each summer at Loon Lake .
The narrow fringe of sadness that ran around it only emphasized the pleasure .
The evening was not always spent in the same way .
This year , on a night cool with the front of September moving in , but with plenty of summer still about , the Podgers were holding a neighborhood gathering in the Pod .
The little cottage was bursting with people of all ages .
In the midst of it all , Mr. Podger came out on the Pod porch , alone .
He had that day attended a country auction , and he had come back with a prize .
The prize was an old-fashioned , woven cloth hammock , complete with cross-top pillow , fringed side pieces , and hooks for hanging .
Mrs. Podger had obligingly pushed things around on the porch to make room for it , and there it was , slung in a vine-shaded corner , the night breeze rippling its fringe with a slow , caressing movement .
Mr. Podger sat down in it , pushed himself back and forth in one or two slow , rhythmic motions , and then swung his feet up into it .
He closed his eyes and let the unintelligible drift of voices sweep pleasantly over him .
Suddenly one young voice rose above the others .
`` But '' , it said , `` do you always know when you're happy '' ? ?
The voice sank back into the general tangle of sound , but the question stayed in Mr. Podger's mind .
Here , in the cool , autumn-touched evening , Mr. Podger mentally retraced a day that had left him greatly contented and at peace .
It had begun with the blue jay feather .
Walking along the lake before breakfast , Mr. Podger had seen the feather , and the bird that had lost it in flight .
The winging spread of blue had gone on , calling harshly , into the wood .
The small shaft of blue had drifted down and come to rest at his feet .
All day long Mr. Podger , who was a straw-hat man in the summer , had worn the feather in the band of his broad-brimmed sunshield .
Would a blue feather in a man's hat make him happy all day ? ?
But it was something to have seen it floating down through the early morning sunshine , linking the blue of the sky with the blue of the asters by the lake .
Then , since the auction was being held nearby , he had walked to it .
And there , on the way , had been the box turtle , that slow , self-contained , world-ignoring relic of pre-history , bent , for reasons best known to itself , on crossing the road .
It was doing very well , too , having reached the center , and was pursuing its way with commendable singleness of purpose when Mr. Podger saw hazard approaching in the shape of a flashy little sports car .
Would the driver see the turtle ? ?
Would he take pains to avoid it ? ?
Mr. Podger took no chances .
Taking off his hat and signaling the driver with it , Mr. Podger stepped into the road , lifted the surprised turtle and consummated its road-crossing with what must have been a breath-taking suddenness .
The turtle immediately withdrew into its private council room to study the phenomenon .
But Mr. Podger and the driver of the sports car waved at each other .
Here in the cool darkness Mr. Podger could still feel the warmth of midday , could still see the yellow butterflies dancing over the road , could still see the friendly grin on the young , sun-browned face as the driver looked back over his shoulder for a moment before the car streaked out of sight .
Where was the driver now ? ?
What was he doing ? ?
And the turtle ? ?
Mr. Podger smiled .
For a few brief minutes they had all been part of one little drama .
The three would never meet again , but for some reason or other Mr. Podger was sure he would always remember the incident .
Then there had been the auction itself .
Mr. Podger heard again ; ;
at will , the voice of the auctioneer , the voices of the bidders , and finally the small boy who had been so interested in Mr. Podger's hammock purchase .
`` I like them things , too '' , he had said .
`` We got one at home .
You know what ? ?
If you're lyin' out in the hammock at night , and it gets kinda cool -- you know -- you just take these sides with the fringe on -- see -- and wrap 'em right over you .
I do it , lots o' times -- I like to lie in a hammock at night , by myself , when it's all quiet .
The wind moves it a little bit -- you know .
Mr. Podger had thanked him gravely , and now he made use of the advice .
As he pulled the fringed sides up and made himself into a cocoon , Mr. Podger saw that thin , attractive , freckled little face again , and hoped that the boy , too , was lying in a cool , fringed-wrapped quiet .
Alacrity , the Podger cat , came by the hammock , rubbed her back briefly against it , and then , sure of a welcome , hopped up .
She remarked that she found the night wind a little chilly , and Mr. Podger took her inside the fringe .
Soon her purring rivaled the chirping of the tree crickets , rivaled the hum of voices from inside the Pod .
Mr. Podger was just adding this to his pictures of the day when the screen door opened and Pam burst out .
`` Dad '' ! !
She said .
`` It's getting so chilly we've lighted a fire , and we're going to tell a round robin story -- a nice , scary one .
We need you to start it .
Why are you out here all by yourself ? ?
Aren't you happy '' ? ?
Mr. Podger opened his cocoon and emerged , tucking Alacrity under his arm to bring her in by the fire .
`` Of course I am '' , he said .
`` Never happier in my life .
I just came out here to know it '' .
As the South begins another school year , national and even world attention is directed at the region's slow progress toward racial equality in the public schools .
Desegregation is beginning in two more important Southern cities -- Dallas and Atlanta .
In each city civic and education leaders have been working hard to get public opinion prepared to accept the inevitability of equal treatment .
These programs emphasize the acceptance of biracial classrooms peacefully .
The programs do not take sides on the issue itself .
They point out simply that `` it is the law of the land '' .
The two cities have the examples of Little Rock and New Orleans to hold up as warnings against resorting to violence to try to stop the processes of desegregation .
Even better , they have the examples of Nashville and Houston to hold up as peaceful and progressive programs .
In each case there was an initial act of violence .
In Nashville , a school was dynamited .
In Houston , there were a few incidents of friction between whites and Negroes , none of which were serious .
In each city quick public reaction and fast action by the city government halted the threats of more serious incidents .
The Nashville plan , incidentally , has become recognized as perhaps the most acceptable and thus the most practical to put into effect in the troubled South .
It is a `` stair-step '' plan , in which desegregation begins in the first grade .
Each year another grade is added to the process , until finally all 12 grades are integrated .
The schedules are flexible so that the program can be accelerated as the public becomes more tolerant or realizes that it is something that has to be done , `` so why not now '' .
The program has worked well in both Nashville and Houston .
It met a serious rebuff in New Orleans , where the two schools selected for the first moves toward integration were boycotted by white parents .
Another attempt will be made this year in New Orleans to resume the program .
Generally , throughout the South , there is a growing impatience with the pattern of violence with which every step of desegregation is met .
Perhaps the most eloquent move toward removal of racial barriers has been in Dallas .
During the summer , Negroes began quietly patronizing previously segregated restaurants and lunch counters in downtown retail establishments .
It was part of a citywide move toward full integration .
So successful has been this program , worked out by white and Negro civic leaders , that further extensions are expected in the next few months .
Hotels , for example , are ready to let down the bars .
Already , at least one hotel has been quietly taking reservations on a nonracial basis .
Several conventions have been held in recent months in hotels on a nonsegregated basis .
This is a radical change in attitude from the conditions which prevailed several years ago , when a series of bombings was directed against Negroes who were moving into previously all-white neighborhoods of Dallas .
It is also symptomatic of a change in attitude which appears to be spreading all across the South .
Southern whites themselves are realizing that they had been wrong in using violence to try to stop Negroes from claiming equal rights .
They insist they are ashamed of such violence and intimidation as occurred in Alabama when the Freedom Riders sought to break down racial discrimination in local bus depots .
All across the South there are signs that racial violence is finding less approval among whites who themselves would never take active part but might once have shown a tolerant attitude toward it .
There are many causes for this change .
One of the most important is economic .
Business leaders are aware now that they suffer greatly from any outbreak of violence .
They are putting strong pressure on their police departments to keep order .
In the past these same Southerners were inclined to look the other way .
And as the businessmen have begun to act , a real sense of co-operation has sprung up .
This co-operation has emboldened other Southern whites to add their voices to demands for peaceable accommodation .
They realize that by acting in concert , rather than individually , they will not be picked out as objects of retaliation -- economic and otherwise .
Since moving from a Chicago suburb to Southern California a few months ago , I've been introduced to a new game called Lanesmanship .
Played mostly on the freeways around Los Angeles , it goes like this :
A driver cruising easily at 70 m.p.h. in Lane A of a four-lane freeway spies an incipient traffic jam ahead .
Traffic in the next lane appears to be moving more smoothly so he pokes a tentative fender into Lane B , which is heavily populated by cars also moving at 70 m.p.h. .
The adjacent driver in Lane B has three choices open to him .
He can ( 1 ) point his car resolutely at the invading fender and force the other driver back into Lane A ; ;
( 2 ) slow down and permit the ambivalent driver to change lanes ; ;
or ( 3 ) alternately accelerate and decelerate , thus keeping the first driver guessing as to his intentions , thereby making a fascinating sport of the whole affair .
The really remarkable thing to me is that most California natives unhesitatingly elect to slow down and permit the invading car free access .
Whether or not this is done out of enlightened self-preservation , I don't know .
But it is done , consistently and I'm both surprised and impressed .
This could never happen in my native Chicago .
There such soggy acquiesence would be looked upon as a sure sign of deteriorating manhood .
In Chicago , the driver cut out would likely jam his gas pedal to the floor in an effort to force the other car back .
Failing this , he would pull alongside at the first opportunity and shake his fist threateningly .
This negative explanation of courtesy on the freeways , however , does an injustice to Southern California drivers .
At the risk of losing my charge-a-plate at Marshall Field and Company , I would like to challenge an old and hallowed stereotype .
After three months of research , I can state unequivocally that Los Angeles drivers are considerably more courteous and competent than any other drivers I've ever encountered .
During one recent day of driving about Los Angeles there were actually a dozen occasions when oncoming drivers stopped an entire lane of traffic to permit me to pull out of an impossible side street .