Government Cheese,
Aunt Ruth's Equities, And
That Virgil Caine Song


Please Note: 
The following is a cross-post from my new blog, The Deliberate American. Please stop on over sometime and check it out. Thank you.




I remember the day my parents came home from town with a bunch of free food from the government. I was 12 years old. It was 1970. There were a couple big bricks of yellow cheese, and powdered milk, and white rice, and some other things I don't recollect. The cheese was pretty good, but the powdered milk wasn't.  

The food was for poor people. It was "welfare" food. I didn't like knowing that my parents were poor. 


We were poor because my stepfather had experienced a serious health setback. 


He didn't look or act sick to me. I saw him as a fit, hard-working Marine veteran. But he wasn't as fit as he looked because he went into the VA hospital for surgery. A couple weeks later he came home a different person. He was so pale and weak and helpless that  only with my mother's help could he get up the four steps into our house. He was only 39 years old. I remember it well. It was a shock to my senses.


My stepfather had been the manager of an industrial laundry in Syracuse, NY. But when he went into the hospital, the company let him go. I don't know exactly how long he was out of work but it was long enough to be an economic hardship. Thus, the government food.





I'm sure my parents didn't like taking that free government food. To my knowledge, they never did again. And I suspect that is how they came to sell Aunt Ruth's stocks.


Aunt Ruth was one of only two living relatives my stepfather had. She was his mother's sister and she lived in California. Aunt Ruth had no children. I met her once, when she came to visit some years earlier. She was a pleasant, white-haired, old lady. Aunt Ruth died a couple years before my stepfather went into the hospital. She left him some stocks in her will.


We started getting mail in big envelopes from different companies. They contained colorful photos and financial details. Marathon Oil and Phelps Dodge were two I remember. They were blue-chip stocks from long-established companies. Aunt Ruth had invested her money wisely.


Back in those times, the daily newspapers had a couple of pages reporting how each and every stock was doing. I was such a nerd back then that I made graphs and charted the daily progress of several stocks.


In time, my stepfather recovered and got back to work. I noticed that the information from the various stock companies stopped coming in the mail. I asked why. My stepfather told me he sold the stocks.


I've always thought that selling those stocks was like selling the seed corn. Between 1970 and 2011 (when my stepfather died) the average annual return on stocks was around 10%. One dollar in the stock market in 1970 grew to be worth around $50 in 2011.


In retrospect, selling Aunt Ruth's stocks might not have been the smartest thing to do, but it was the responsible thing to do. My stepfather had a family to support, and he was down on his luck. 


Unfortunately, my stepfather struggled with one serious health crisis after another for the rest of his days. Finances were always tight. My parents were always struggling to keep the bills paid. There were periods of time when the bill collectors called. Our phone service was shut off once for awhile. My parents would manage to save some money, and then another health and financial crisis would come.


My stepfather worked well past retirement age, because he had to. And when he died (my mother had died a few years earlier), his estate amounted to a small amount in a checking account, along with the contents of his house.


That's a sad story, but it's not an uncommon story, and it's not a bad story. In fact, it's actually a good story. That's because my stepfather was a remarkable example of a responsible man. He was a diligent and hard worker who sacrificed for his family. I can't recall him ever wasting money, or spending a lot of money on something special for himself. No boats, no fancy cars, no expensive hobbies, nothing like that—it was all about providing for those he loved. And, at times, I saw my parents being generous towards others with money they really couldn't afford to be generous with.


Life dealt my stepfather one cruel blow after another, but he took the blows and he fought back to the best of his ability. He did the best he could against difficult odds. I admire him greatly for the example he was to me.



###

That phrase, "selling the seed corn," got me to thinking about the song, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. The YouTube video below shows Levon Helm singing the song, while playing the drums. 






I can't play a musical instrument, and I can't sing, but Levon Helm can do both at once. It's a fine song and a remarkable performance by a very talented man.

So, anyway, there is a place in that song where Levon sings: "You can't raise the cane back up when it's in the feed."


I always thought those words had something to do with using up the seed corn. But I have recently learned that I have long misheard the lyrics.


He is actually singing: "You can't raise a Caine back up when it's in defeat." 


He is referring to Virgil Caine (who served on the Danville Train).







The Deliberate Agrarian
Is Back!

Dateline: 26 February 2018



After a long absence, I have returned to blogging as The Deliberate Agrarian

But I am now at a new blog site. Here is a link...  The Deliberate Agrarian 2.0

I invite you to come join me for this new blogging adventure.

Herrick Kimball




2017 Update

Dateline: 17 May 2017



"The Deliberate Agrarian" has undergone yet another transformation. I have gone from blogging here, to blogging at my new Upland blog, to now video blogging! 

My new video blog is titled, This Agrarian Life. I invite you to join me in this new journey. You can read all about it at THIS LINK.



Upland...
Blogging After
The Deliberate Agrarian

Dateline: 11 August 2016



Dear Friends,

After 11 years of blogging here,
I have moved to Upland
Please visit when you can.

Herrick Kimball





The Agrarian Writings
Of O.E. Baker
(series links)

Dateline: 10 August 2016




Before closing down this blog I want to make sure I compile this list of essays on the agrarian writings of O.E. Baker. If you have an interest in agrarian thought, this man's writings will resonate with you...








A Whizbang Poem

Original Dateline: 23 June 2006
Repost Dateline: 10 August 2016

My son, James, looking way too enthusiastic
about plucking chickens (back in 2006).

Earlier this month, fellow Central New Yorker Mike Miller contacted me by e-mail to see if his 11-year-old daughter, Clara, could interview me for a school science project on inventors. The Miller family raises and processes their own polutry with a homemade Whizbang plucker which, as many of you know already, I developed and published plans for. 

I did not actually invent the plucker. I took the mechanical concept employed by expensive commercial plucking machines and figured out how to make an inexpensive homemade version using common materials and basic handyman skills. So I invented the Whizbang design. Anyway, I agreed and Clara e-mailed six questions which I promptly answered.

A few days ago, Clara wrote to thank me for answering the questions. She said: “I ended up getting 100% on my report and my teacher is a hard grader! Plus, I had to write a poem to go along with my report and I thought you might want to hear it.”

Well, I certainly did, and with the author’s permission, it’s my pleasure to share with you....



The Whizbang

by Clara V. Miller


We grab a chicken from the pot,

Toss it in while it’s still hot!

Spray some water and pull some levers,
Pretty soon there’re no more feathers!

So stop by our farm if you get a chance,
and you can see the chicken dance!

After you enjoy our chicken dinner,
you’ll say this plucker is a real winner!

So thank you Mr. Herrick Kimball
for making our plucking job so simple!



Thank you Clara Victoria Miller for such a thoughtful and delightful little poem!



Atrazine Anger
(A Christian-Agrarian Response)

Original Dateline: 26 April 2006
Repost Dateline: 7 August 2016



I heard on the radio a couple days ago that the European Union has recently banned the use of atrazine in E.U. countries. That got my attention.

The report stated that atrazine is the #1 selling herbicide in the world. 70 million pounds of the chemical killer are used by farmers in the U.S. each year. It is used primarily by corn growers to suppress weeds.

The E.U has banned atrazine because it recently came to light that the toxin has a significant “adverse biological effect.” What that means, in part, is that atrazine was found to destroy the reproductive ability of frogs. That understanding led to further research where it was found that atrazine causes breast and prostate cancer in mammals. Not coincidentally, people who work closely with the chemical have significantly higher rates of those cancers.

Atrazine runs off the fields, into streams and lakes, and finds its way into the drinking water supply. The acceptable U.S. drinking water standard for atrazine is 3 parts per billion. But new studies have found that as little as .1 part per billion (that is 1/30th of the standard) is enough to do harm. According to the news report, atrazine has been found in groundwater as far as 600 miles from where it was applied.

In light of the new findings, the Environmental Protection Agency here in the United States has NO intention of eliminating or even limiting the use of atrazine. Why would an agency of the government, charged with protecting the environment (which includes the people who live in the environment), NOT ban a widely-used synthetic poison that is making people sick?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because the EPA is a government bureaucracy, and like every government bureaucracy the EPA is subject to political influence. And the chemical companies have a lot of political influence because they rake in a whole lot of MONEY when American farmers slather 70 million pounds of atrazine over the earth each year. Atrazine is a cash cow. Safety is really beside the point. MONEY is what it’s all about. And keep in mind that we are discussing just one of many such chemicals.

Atrazine is yet another example of how corporate-industrialized agriculture is a sham and a failure. The monster proudly boasts that it “feeds the world” but, in the process, it poisons the environment, causes innocent people to suffer and, in many instances, kills them with impunity. Such lives are sacrificed on the altar of profit and success.

When technology kills innocent people as a “side effect” it is inherently wrong. I dare say it is evil. It is the result of sin and rebellion against God. He created the earth and all that is in it and when He was done He said, “It is good.” God made it good and sinful man destroys it. In the book of Romans, Paul says that creation longs to be set free from the bondage of sin. Creation longs to be set free from things like atrazine.

I don’t believe the average modern Christian really cares much about atrazine. Most modern Christians do not really believe in exercising responsible stewardship of the earth. The concept of sustainability is foreign to them. They see the earth as expendable—something to be exploited and used up in the process of supporting the ease and comfort that come with their high standard of living.

This is, I believe, the natural extension of modern evangelical thinking that Christians are going to be raptured out of this world at any moment. That being the case, so the thinking goes, why should Christians give much concern for husbanding the earth? Few Christians will outright admit to that way of thinking, but actions (or lack of actions) speak louder than words.

And, by the way, doesn’t the Bible say that God is going to replace the earth with a new one someday? If that’s true, then we can exploit and destroy to our heart’s content, right? Let us eat, drink, be merry, and ravage the earth, for tomorrow we get a new one. Such thinking is also a sham and a failure.

That God will one day create a new earth does not give His people license to destroy the one He has placed us in now. I do not think God winks at the pillaging of creation for vainglory achievement and personal profit. How presumptive and prideful and evil it is to assume such an attitude.

Any government that protects the corporate-industrial destroyers has forsaken it’s God-given mandate to protect the innocent. And Christians who buy into the technological destruction should be ashamed of themselves.



The Bad Cut

Original Dateline: 1 June 2006
Repost Dateline: 6 August 2016



I was working in my garden yesterday afternoon, preparing the soil so I could plant tomatoes, when my son, Robert, called out to me from the kitchen window...

”Hey Dad! James cut his finger. It’s pretty bad. I think you should come in.”

I stood up, straightened out my stiff back and marched toward the house, wondering what I was going to encounter. Just how bad was the cut going to be? Would I have to take my 11-year-old son to the emergency room? I wished Marlene was not away running errands.

James was waiting for me just inside the door. He was clutching his finger. There was a very concerned look on his face. “”How did you cut it?” I asked.

”On the top of a can,” he replied.

”Let me see it.”

He extended his right hand, and let off his grip around the finger. The cut was in the fleshy thumb-side of his middle finger, between two knuckles. It was a bit over an inch long, and deep. But not to the bone. It was hardly bleeding and that surprised me. I shook my head and pronounced in mock seriousness, "Well, it looks like we’re going to have to amputate.” James managed a weak smile.

I took my work boots off and walked into the kitchen with my wounded son following, and clutching. ”Tell me again how you did that.” 

He showed me an empty can of Bush's Baked Beans on the counter. The round top, held to the can by a small section of rim metal, was hinged straight up. James had reached into the cabinet over the counter for a drinking glass and brought his hand down on the sharp lid.

It so happened that James and Robert were hungry. Marlene wasn’t there to feed them so they opened the can and satisfied their empty stomachs with the beans. I like it when my boys fend for themselves, but I stated the obvious: ”You shouldn’t leave the lid up like that. Next time, fold it down into the can and throw the can away.”

”It’s starting to hurt a little now,” James said, looking at his finger.

I replied, ”Oh it’s gonna hurt all right! I expect you’ll be screaming in pain in a few minutes.” He didn’t say anything.

”I’m going to have to wash it real good,” I announced. ”Because if I don’t wash it out, it could get infected and swell up and turn green and ooze pus and gangrene will spread up your arm and they’ll have to cut yer whole arm off.”

He protested with a frown... ”That’s not a nice thing to say. It doesn’t make me feel good.”

I quit the kidding, grinned, and told him, in all seriousness, ”You’re going to be fine, Buddy. Dr. Kimball’s going to fix you up real good.”

My hands were soiled from working in the garden. I made a big show of sudsing, scrubbing and rinsing up to my elbows, with him waiting patiently by the sink. Once clean, I regulated the water to a comfortable warm, worked lots of fresh soap suds into my hands and gently washed his hand in mine. Then I rinsed his hand off and patted it dry with a clean towel.

The gaping wound showed meat and was, frankly, a little unsettling to me but I didn’t tell him that.

”That’s a good one, James. Did I ever tell you about the time I cut myself bad and your Mom sewed it back together for me?”

He responded by showing me a diagonal scar on the base of his left index finger, where he had cut himself with a knife a couple years ago. I had never noticed the scar before, but it sure did look familiar. I looked at the same spot on my own left index finger and there it was.

”Look at that, James,” I said, proudly showing him the scar on my finger. ”That’s the one Mom sewed up. You and me got the same scar!”

I reached for a bottle of Betadine in the kitchen cabinet.

”Is that going to sting?”

”No, it shouldn’t sting.

I flooded the cut with the solution and told him to wait while I went to my shop. There, in a file cabinet drawer, I keep a bunch of first-aid supplies, including a selection of military surplus sutures....

But I did not get any sutures. I got the next best thing—little butterfly bandages. Butterfly’s will hold most cuts together very well, especially if they are not bleeding too much. They are, to my down-home, self-sufficient way of thinking, a satisfactory substitute for stitches. I always keep a supply of butterfly bandages.

One butterfly, carefully placed, pulled the wound together very nicely. To keep it clean, I applied a couple of oversize Band Aids. Then I told my patient not to get the hand dirty or wet for at least a couple of days, and not to put a lot of stress on the finger— Doctor’s orders.









This Deliberate Agrarian's
Long Swan Song

Dateline: 6 August 2016



A swan song is a metaphorical phrase for "a final gesture, effort, or performance given just before death or retirement."

My swan song as "The Deliberate Agrarian" is in process, and it will be a somewhat drawn out final gesture. It will conclude with my retirement from this blog. Hopefully not my death. But wouldn't that be dramatic... concluding this Deliberate Agrarian swan song and then dying! One never knows.

This blog, which began in the spring of 2005, now has 1,110 posts in the archive. That's a lot. I am in the process of going through each one, starting with the first. 

I'm closing off the comments so the posts don't get loaded with spam comments (I am continually removing them). I'm deleting some of the posts. And I'm reposting a few, as you may have noticed the last few days.

It's not like I have nothing else to do, so all of this could go on for a couple of months. 

And then that will be that.

My future plan is to launch another blog. It will NOT be about "Faith, Family and Livin' the Good Life."

Well, maybe it will be a little. But my main focus will be on.....

Oh, but I'll save that for later. 

(I don't think it will be a big surprise, but it's still an idea in its infancy). 

So, with the end in sight, I hope you will enjoy my swan song of selected blog reposts.