Steinbeck is our taking off point for flagellants (it's the former preacher Jim Casy speaking with Tom Joad):
“I says to myself, ‘What’s gnawin’ you? Is it the screwin’?’ And’ I says, ‘No, it’s the sin.’ An’ I says, ‘Why is it that when a fella ought to be just about mule-ass proof against sin, an’ all full up of Jesus, why is it that’s the time a fella gets fingerin’ his pants buttons?’” He laid two fingers down in his palm in rhythm, as though he gently placed each word there side by side. “I says, ‘Maybe it ain’t a sin. Maybe it’s just the way folks is. Maybe we been whippin’ the hell out of ourselves for nothin’.’ An’ I thought how some sisters took to beatin’ theirselves with a three-foot shag of bobwire. An’ I thought how maybe they liked to hurt themselves, an’ maybe I liked to hurt myself.”
Fifth printing of the first edition (1939) -- the battle hymn on both front and end papers:
We'll move on by the middle of the essay to Amy Irvine's Trespass, a memoir about living at the edge of the promised land. At one point in her attempt to live as a wilderness advocate among the ranchers of southern Utah, she discovers a coyote, newly shot and hung on a barbed wire fence. She identifies with the coyote.
We just got a copy of Dave Foreman's book Ecodefense, a handbook for the monkeywrencher. It pictures a similar scene and describes possible ways to cut such fences: