Good ole days

Bill Miles

A lot of people I come into contact with tend to ‘live in the past’, a malady I personally think we should avoid. While our memories become immune to harsh events from which we adapt, often we resort to thinking about the ‘good ole days’. Congressman Jamie Whitten, himself near or in his octogenarian years, used to say, “I remember them and they weren’t so good.” If we’re truthful to ourselves, likely we’ll come to the same conclusion. One episode I heard recently was from an individual whose family came from a ‘hard scrabble’ existence and ventured into the industrial Mid-West in its ‘heyday’. This individual recalled he got a job in the ‘Nawth’ doing the same thing he’d been doing in the Rural South and immediately jumped from $35 a week to $100. He also remembered that an older brother made extra money because his superior on the industrial line gave him an incentive to return home on a visit and bring back potential laborers and get $25 a head. Usually anything valued in this manner were cows, mules or hogs. The only prerequisite was that the individuals come off a farm. Upon hearing this it reminded me of a couple decades ago. I know some business executives who commissioned such an enterprise except these ‘hands’ were being lured from south of the border, Mexico. Hundreds of dollars in bonuses were allegedly available for such actions. Today, too many, I fear, wear a righteous ‘cross’ on their sleeve and yell ‘immigration’. Reckon what those native Yankees thought about our southern émigrés in the 50s, 60s and 70s? They probably didn’t need Will Faulkner or Erskine Caldwell to provide an image. Honest labor and existence from the sweat of one’s brow are Biblical admonitions along with observing the “Sabbath’, honoring the Ten Commandments and ‘doing unto others before they can do to you’, opps. New ‘hands’ off a farm was no reflection on intellect as some might think in the ‘hay seed’ portrayal. It was all about willingness to ‘master’ the task. That great attribute, I believe, still exists in our heritage to solve problems in a pragmatic manner. Even possessors of degrees in technical fields tell me that academics are less beneficial than the focus on solutions. I’ve credited my degree with giving me ‘confidence’ to do things that I had no roadmap. I determined early in teenage that guiding a mule behind a straight stock plow or pulling a 10-12-foot cotton sack was not my goal. Now, when I hear about million-dollar priced equipment making one round in a field covering a territory that would have required a half morning at the Tilden farm I grew up on blows my imagination. I am beginning to learn what it means when they say “get big or get out”. Lately I’ve been victimized by a genealogy site on the internet following my participation in DNA testing about a year and a half ago. It’s pretty amazing how science can track your family centuries backward and over competing cultures. One helpful hint in connecting to past relatives is census records. Often I’ve declared that I knew of no one in my family who actually owned slaves in those dark days. I’ve even remarked that African Americans were held in higher esteem than my kin. However, a couple of instances regarding distribution of estates after death noted that a ‘slave or two’ were possessed by a patriarch. I am proud to proclaim that in records I researched all were to be set free meaning that they were more than forced labor. If such chose not to leave the ‘place’, a family member was instructed to continue their care. I’m glad to know that. I wouldn’t take anything for the experiences I endured and most of which I tolerated with little complaining but to have to participate again, “No, thank you.”

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