This post is dedicated to the geezers– young and old (said very affectionately)– who think the end of Western Civilization is nigh. Don’t get me wrong, I share your sentiments. When we have a national conversation about KFC in the halls of congress, all is most certainly not well. I have spent the last 20 years or so preparing for TEOTWAWKI. I have 16 ways of boiling water and only six of them require electricity. I have spent an inordinate amount of time and energy preserving Western Civilization in my 3300+ volume library of honest to God
crappy old books. I live on a Farm in the middle of a state no one gives a hoot about. I have an asparagus patch! Generators, deep freezers, guns, ammo. Hell, I even have a roller washtub and a 250 gallon rain barrel. So I share your concerns. I reject your conclusions. Here’s why.
The Story of the Farm Hand
I have a Farm Hand. He’s a 16 year old kid who plays baseball and football. He tells me he’s an A-B student and his favorite subject is biology, least favorite, English literature. (He liked Romeo and Juliette; did not like Julius Caesar.) He does not know that the “Fe” on the spray bottle on the picnic table stands for ferrum or why I would spray iron on my gardenias, but he is well acquainted with the Pythagorean Theorem which we’ll make use of when we build an adjustable stand for my 50W portable solar panel. He went to the prom but his girlfriend has since dumped him. He likes to fish. Given some random comments he’s made over the weeks he’s been in my employ, I strongly suspect he very much looks forward to spending Friday nights with his buddies. He always calls me “ma’am,” even when he texts me.
So he’s a kid in the rural South.
His dad is a high school teacher with a master’s degree. His mom’s a nurse.
During the final 45 minutes of his ten hour work week last Saturday, he was enthusiastically clearing out the entrance to the pasture in which the sheep, Bonnie & Clyde, live. Weed-wacking and chain sawing like nobody’s business! (He’s quite keen on Farm Hand tasks that involve destroying things.) I went to check on him and he was walking up to the patio looking a bit ashen. Said his mom and dad had just driven up. There was a family emergency and was it okay if he left right away? Of course. I ran inside, got his $100, paid him and wished him well.
John and I speculated that a family member had been in an accident, or that one of his grandparents– who he loves to talk about– had fallen ill. Later I texted him “Let us know if there’s anything we can do.” Now, I of course know that in a community where the Farm Hand’s great uncle had been part of the crew that built the Farm’s chimney (it was a monstrous task, I’m told) we are pretty far down the list of folks who would be called upon to do anything, but offering to help is just what one does.
There was no immediate reply to my text, and I silently hoped all was not too terrible.
I got a reply Monday morning. It began,
“Miss Marica– this is [insert name] [insert name of Farm Hand]’s dad. Thanks for your concern, but all is well. I wanted to let you know that it may be a few days before [Farm Hand] is back at work. He is grounded, and will only be going to school and back home.”
I happened to be sitting in the truck with John at the time I started reading, so I read it out loud. We cracked up! For starters, there’s “Miss Marica” coming from a grown man who must be pushing 40 or so. But that’s just Southern manners for you. It is how a younger person addresses his elders.
The Farm Hand is grounded! Heh. So that’s the family emergency. Farm Hand’s Dad went on to give me his own cell number because, “[Farm Hand] won’t have his phone for a while.”
I later texted his number, thanked him, said we understood, what with having three previously teenaged girls who attracted their fair share of teenaged boys, and put in a good word for the Farm Hand.
We texted back and forth. Here’s a quotable quote:
Thanks for understanding! Like I said, he’s just being a boy. Sometimes though, that entails a bit of punishment. Not letting him work seems the worst punishment of all– he really enjoys working at your place!
Think on that.
I have no idea what the Farm Hand did. In this context, “being a boy” does not mean he fidgeted in his seat. Whatever it was he did (no doubt Friday night), that his parents found out about– presumably on Saturday afternoon, and more than likely from the parents of some other boy– was in their minds so egregious that they were compelled to drive out here together and tell him one of two things. Either there was a “family emergency” and he needed to come home right now, or they busted him on the spot and told him to get his butt home now. (If asked, tell Miss Marica there’s a family emergency.) I prefer to believe they busted him on the spot– it would explain his ashen face.
I am dying laughing as I write this. Reminds me of the time… . Well, that’s a different story. Did you catch this part?
“Not letting him work seems the worst punishment of all–“
Grounded. No phone. No car. Being carted back & forth to school by your dad. Probably everyone at school talking about it, at least for a day or two. And the worst part is not being able to work as a Farm Hand. No mention of not getting paid. “Not letting him work… .”
“… worst punishment of all–“
So geezers (said very affectionately), maybe I’m overly optimistic, and maybe things will get so bad that we’ll start eating each other, and maybe, as Bracken notes, things will just take longer to deteriorate the farther from the city one is. (The Official name of the Farm is Farther Along Farm.) But I’ll bet that across this land last weekend there were many more stories of Farm Hands than any of us realizes. Through my rose-colored glasses, that give me hope.