Above my pay grade

Bill Miles

Solving society’s complex problems are above my pay grade. However, opinions are cheap and everyone has one or more which they believe are good. The circle(s) in which I navigate seem obsessed with ‘immigration’ talk. A friend sent me a link entitled, “When high school teenagers were recruited to replace migrant farm workers.” I had never heard of the strategy even though I’d barely passed out of the age segment in the mid-1960s. As are quite a few bureaucratic ideas, this one might have seemed good but ‘reality’ is the fodder of accomplishment. The belief was that teenage boys could be enticed to work in the far western farm country laboring at manual tasks if they thought it’d make them “men” and supplement masculine development. I equate that with motivation for joining the Marines. Now a 70-year-old relates how he was attracted by the grandiose claim of the then Secretary of Labor. He was sold on the venture by portrayal of the image that young ladies and parents sought for their teenage sons and brothers (or boyfriends). Baseball heroes like Stan (The Man) Musial and Warren Spann and football Hall of Famer Jim Brown stood beside the government bureaucrat to help sell the program. The solution looking for a problem was to replace the understanding the U.S. and Mexico had begun during World War II to provide migrant laborers for California farms. During that period young men were being grabbed by the draft and hustled away to foreign places like Belgium and Guadalcanal. Workers from south of the border picked cantaloupes, radishes, peaches, etc. for Mainland U.S. tables. Long story getting shorter the now 70-year-old revealed how stooping over to pull vegetables from the soil, enduring triple digit temps, sleeping in sheds hogs in the South would have refused to occupy and similar ordeals resulted in most of the teenagers hitch hiking home. Needless to say this fiasco is not included in “Business Guide.” Not a whole lot has changed. I see tasks being performed by folks whose skins don’t show sunburn like mine. As a youngster who grew up on the Sunday delicacy of fried chicken from a pullet kidnapped from a flock wandering around the yard (and messing it up), I didn’t really like the Southern treat. In recent years with the evolution of so many side products and budget prices in relation to other food items, I’ve adjusted my taste and menu. Seldom do I think about how the chicken breast gets to the vendor I patronize. Recent news items make me reflect. I am a ‘Son of the South’. I watched my siblings and many of their contemporaries head ‘Nawath’ for a ‘job’. It was not a better job. It simply was a job. Too many never returned unless survivors brought them home to red clay graveyards. Fortunately, some stayed through careers, were frugal and ‘came South’ to retire. When they left their homeland, it was for opportunity. They toted superior work ethics. They maintained ingredients they’d learned for doing a good day’s work for a good day’s pay. They didn’t lie. They didn’t cheat. They could be counted on. That’s why a friend of mine related the other day his experience when he made that trip across the Mason-Dixon Line three score years ago. “My buddy and I went to this place about the time the shift was changing,” he recalled. “One of the bosses came by and asked ‘What you boys want?’ We said ‘A job’. ‘Where ya from?’ he said. We said ‘North Mississippi’. He instructed us, ‘Go tell that woman at the desk to put you to work’.” That scenario might have been today’s labor/business relationship on securing helpers. Several years ago a business acquaintance and I were discussing his newly found ‘workers’. He explained that he had a ‘contact’ in a major southern city that had ‘right’ connections in Mexico. He could supply dozens of labors for the industry in which this person was engaged. In fact his ‘go between’ was so well ‘oiled’ that on the night of the presidential election in Mexico that year, the 'enabler’ had talked personally with the new leader. Like I say. Workable answers are above my pay grade.

If you would like to contact Bill Miles you can email him at bill.t.miles@gmail.com

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