When Jakob Kallemeyn deserted Napoleon’s army for An-dijk in Friesland we assume it was as much if not more for Napoleon’s modernizing tendencies than his military fail-ures. He chooses the warlike Friesland, notable for uniquely staving off the Vikings and the Romans; as well as bitter family blood feuds.
Jakob marries into the family of a prominent seed-grower in Andijk, notable for hosting house meetings of illegal re-ligious dissenters against the modernizing efforts of the Dutch king. Jakob is also heavily influenced by a local prophet, who after having a white-light experience aban-dons his work and waits for the second coming of Jesus. Jakob’s first son, with Elsie the daughter of the seed-grower, is the first of a succession of descendants to have their teeth set on edge, so to speak, the result of tensions between platonic spirituality and material secularity. following the family to America only after his father’s death. Another of Jakob’s sons has a son named Martin, leaving home at fourteen to escape his father’s violent alcoholism. Martin’s son Alonzo wants to become a Calvinist minister; instead, Martin creates an apprenticeship for the sixteen-year-old in a letterpress shop. “You don’t have to pay him,” he tells the master printer. Physical letters cast in lead the boy now sets on edge.
The year is 1934, the place is the South Side. Bo Diddley is now six years old, also part of a migration wave to Chicago, the largest migration in history.