Alison Johnson Memoir - "The Eleventh Hour Can’t Last Forever"

“The Eleventh Hour Can’t Last Forever” - A Memoir by Alison Johnson

The Eleventh Hour Can’t Last Forever - A Memoir by Alison Johnson
The Eleventh Hour Can’t Last Forever - book cover
Warren Buffet's comments on "The Eleventh Hour Can’t Last Forever"

Back Cover Endorsement

"It is an astonishing story. It is a very sad story. Very funny in places. Tragic-comic, I guess. And in this version you maintain for the most part that complexly mixed tone of disaster and almost burlesque--farce?--very well."

Wayne Carver
William H. Laird Professor of the Liberal Arts
Carleton College

The Eleventh Hour Can’t Last Forever
A Memoir by Alison Johnson
Cumberland Press, 2008 191 pages
Click here to order by mail

This is a true story; nothing has been added or embellished. -Alison Johnson
This highly unusual family memoir opens with these paragraphs:

Two tons of silver and gold coins, hundreds of thousands of nickels, dimes, quarters, and gold pieces. They were under our beds, in the kitchen cupboards, up in the attics, in the bottom of dresser drawers, in holes in the ground. My father was obsessed with gathering up these coins and hiding them away in any likely spot in the houses and garages and store buildings he owned in our tiny town on the mid-Western prairie. Nothing could shake his belief that the total collapse of the American economy and government was just around the corner, a collapse that would bring anarchy and rioting in the streets.

With this shadow of Armageddon always hanging over him, Dad believed that he could save his family from disaster only by collecting as much gold and silver as he could lay his hands on.

This fear of a future calamity that might leave his family penniless so dominated Dad's thoughts that he failed to see how his blind absorption in amassing wealth created family problems that would lead to his oldest son's hopeless alcoholism and his wife's mental collapse. My sister grew up so insecure that she eventually turned to the stars for answers to the frustrations of her life, immersing herself in the study of astrology. In the fairy tale, King Midas's daughter was miraculously restored to life after she had been turned to stone by her father's desire for gold, but Dad's destructive influence on his family could not be so easily reversed.

Our family home was in the small town of Palisade on the Nebraska prairie. Palisade lay in a flat river valley, and the hills that surrounded it on all sides cut off any extended view of a world beyond. Since rainfall in southwestern Nebraska was meager, the countryside yielded only a few scattered cottonwood trees clinging to the banks of the river or the tiny creeks trickling into it. The only large plants to survive on the open prairie were sunflowers and tall weeds that dried up in the autumn into prickly golden tumbleweeds that rolled restlessly over the fields, driven by the relentless winds sweeping across the plains.

When I was a child, Palisade had a population of 799. Everyone vaguely thought it should have been possible to come up with one more living soul to push us to the more impressive figure of 800, but 799 it was, and from this peak the population declined to 350 in only a few decades. Even the surrounding counties were sparsely populated. Palisade lay halfway between Denver and Lincoln, 250 miles from each–about as far as one could get from civilization in the United States. From the hills encircling the town, one could look for miles in any direction and see only an occasional farmhouse with its straggly windbreak of Russian olive trees, planted because they were one of the few trees that would survive wind and drought.