Sunday, March 8, 2009

More Stories From Trying Times (2)

One thing that this 'Greater Depression' or what ever you want to call these times, is that it will give us some great stories to tell, eventually.... I don't think that any of us will end up on the other side with the same lifestyle that we had going into it. A lot of adjustments and adaptations will be made. But like 'Winter Camp', it might be hard in places, but there will be great stories to be told by the fire.

Some time ago, I did a post on tent cities and the fact that we don't have soup lines anymore, even though millions of people have already lost their jobs. When people lost their jobs in the '30's, they were up against it right away. There are some who sniff with disdain at unemployment compensation, and food stamps, but the fact is these programs provide a very needed safety net, both to the individuals, and to the economy. Recently Jon Markman from MSN Money opined that if we save too much, we will endanger any recovery. Imagine if there were no social safety nets, and when someone lost their job, bang - all spending stopped. Period. And probably with their neighbors too.

This paragraph does have a point, and does lead into a story, but you sometimes have to 'liken the stories (like the scriptures)' unto yourself. During the Great Depression, there were no bailouts - banks just failed left and right, and savings were wiped out in a minute. We were on the Gold Standard, and the FED couldn't conjure up billions of dollars out of nothing. As much as I disapprove of the bailouts and other shenanigans, I do think the FED has managed to stave off the total financial system collapse, at least for a while. So, anyway, bad things happened, and happened pretty fast. Your are at work on the farm, and the bank fails, and all of your money is gone and the bank will try to seize your home and farm. About 25% of the people were unemployed, and a lot of them were hungry.

If you watch 'Sea Biscuit' you will see a family that couldn't feed all of the kids. The parents made a decision to kick the oldest son out so that he could be a jockey. Things were that bad. Tens of thousands of men and boys roamed the countryside looking for work. It was like having every fourth person that you met on the street having a sign that said 'Will work for food'. And that is what they did.

One story that I remember Mom telling was about a man like this. As a little kid, I always saw him as a grizzled old timer, maybe in this early 30's. That is still how I picture him. Probably married, with a baby or two, and just no prospects. He might have been from Denver, or even farther away. He came to the farm in late summer, late in the day. Grandma W would have been in her 30's and Mom would have been maybe 8 or 9.... Grandma had been canning sweet corn from her garden and I am sure was worn out with the work and the heat of pressure canning using a wood cook stove in the summer. I'm not sure, but I believe that they had a 'summer kitchen' arrangement where a stove was in a screened but airy area during the summer, but it was still hot work and a long day.

Grandpa must have been away in the fields when the man came to the door. I don't know what was said but the man wanted work. Grandma must not have had any money. He must have been hungry and made more so by the smell of the canning. Grandma must have seen his need, and she responded in the only way that she could. By the end of the day, the kindling box would have been low, or empty. She told him to chop her a box of wood, and she would feed him. Mom said that he went to work with a will, and soon the box was full, and he sat down at the table and ate several plates of corn cut from the cob, with as much butter was he wanted. He probably had as much milk as he could drink as well, as Grandpa had a dairy.

Well, there isn't a lot of drama there. Just a hungry tired man, and a compassionate woman. But it is a nice story, and I have always liked it.


AnnieOfBlueGables said...

I want you to continue to post these stories as long as you can remember new ones. They are great

pixiestylist said...

i love your stories. "the nurse" said recently she listened while you read "little house on the prairie" to "the girls" and she was suddenly one of them in the living room while your voice read she was a little girl again. i can hear your voice when i read your blog and i feel the same way, i'm a little girl with a mean mary sweet sally bedtime story. i love it :)