The social history of the Central Valley has been poked, prodded, dissected by generations of journalists, photographers, historians, storytellers of all stripes looking to puzzle out once and for all the poverty-choked enigma that is California's farm belt. From The Grapes of Wrath to Cesar Chavez, the bleak warm tales of William Saroyan to the harsh reality of Japanese internment, the Central Valley grows stories so tragic, deep, and humanly rich that in just 100 years or so it's claimed far more than seems its fair share in the broader American tale. Every year brings another crop of stories, but sitting in the pew that Sunday morning, the one I was hearing and seeing had somehow slipped from the net. Even I, who had grown up close by, had missed this one. Glimpsed it, but not seen it for what it really was.
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