No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
Angels and saints warred with demons and devils in the head of Silas Strayhorn; always in conflict, seldom silent, and only at rest when he slept or passed out drunk, a chorus of voices compelling him to action.
Silas was a man of great needs and questionable tastes. He toiled from sunup to sundown. No menial task or manual labor was below him. Poorly educated and prone to maladies of the mind, Silas found comfort in liquor, immoral women, and religion. The god of Abraham was his god. Born and raised in an orphanage outside of Iowa City, Iowa, Silas moved to New Hampton in 1889 at the age of thirty-four. There he was a day-laborer for anyone who required his services as a well-digger or dairy-hand. He also performed lumberjacking, basic carpentry, stone hauling, animal husbandry, and harvesting.