Many know Woody Guthrie as writer, folk singer, and political activist. But of the varied roles taken on by this American icon, perhaps the most surprising was his stint as a fortune teller. Back when still living in the Texas panhandle town of Pampa in the late 1930s, Guthrie threw a little mica paint on his rented shack to catch the headlights of visitors and set up business as a kind of soothsayer, complete with a hand-painted sign that read, “Faith Healing, Mind Reading, No Charge.” Despite these trappings, Guthrie was no palm reader, no crystal ball gazer. Instead, he just sat and listened to the...

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