My mind has been on my Dad lately. Even though I was privileged to have him until he reached the age of 93 and even though he has been gone from us for eleven years, I still miss him every day.
What set him on my mind today was some articles I read about the current entitlement generation. Those who think someone else should pay for their food, their housing, their medical expenses, ad nauseam. Add to that the myth of white privilege. I'll tell you just how entitled and privileged my Dad and his generation were.
Dad told me stories about when his family needed cash money. Not just the Depression years, but all the time, for a farmer like my Grandfather on a sandy soil farm in northern Minnesota would never get rich. Matter of fact, they would rarely get out of poverty.
When Dad was old enough to do the work of a man, in the summer and fall, he and one or two of his brothers would go to the nearest town and catch a freight train going west. No comfortable passenger cars for them. A person had to have cash to ride the passenger cars. They found an empty boxcar and rode it to the wheat fields of the Dakotas or Montana - wherever they could find work on threshing crews. It was hard, hot, dirty work. This website tells a little bit about it. Once they managed to get places on a crew, they stayed as that threshing crew moved from farm to farm, threshing the wheat crop. They kept out just enough of their wages for their basic needs and sent the rest to their parents.
When threshing season was over, they looked for other jobs. Most times they found jobs picking potatoes. That was back breaking work, following behind the horse drawn machine that lifted the potatoes out of the ground, the men going after, picking up the potatoes, tossing them into buckets or baskets and filling gunnysacks. This is a photo of a potato picker and although it is not my Dad, it could have been.
My grandmother kept this postcard in her Bible. It was written by my Dad in October of 1934.
It reads: "Dear Mother, Got here at Helena today and are going out on a potato picking job in the morning. Ken (Dad's brother) went out on another potato job to nite. Don't write cause I don't know how long we'll be here. As always, Ralph (my Dad).
Here's my point. Dad's family needed money. There was a little money to be made working in the woods in the winter, but no work in northern Minnesota in the summer and fall of the year. The family raised chickens and hogs and milked a few cows. They raised a big garden and foraged for berries and such in the summer. But a large family still needed cash for what they couldn't produce themselves.
They didn't expect anyone else to give them anything. Dad and one or two of his brothers went where there was work to be had. Another brother stayed home to help their Dad on the farm and after their Dad's death in 1936, they saw to it that their Mother could stay in her home and saw to it she was cared for in her old age. The girls helped their Mother garden and preserve food and bake bread. When some of the girls were old enough, they earned teaching certificates and taught school to bring in money for the family.
This life wasn't unique to my family. Many, many other families across the country were working hard to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. And they did it on their own, without standing in line for welfare benefits. They would have been ashamed to ask for a handout.
Take a look at this picture.
That is my Dad at the top of the ladder. That is his brother below him. The picture was taken around 1920. They are just oozing "white privilege," aren't they. And yet, I never once heard Dad complain about being poor. And I never knew him to turn down a job because it involved hard work or getting dirty or didn't pay a king's ransom. He was just happy to have work.
I'm thinking that those who think they should have everything given to them should be introduced to the reality my Father's generation lived through. His generation was comprised mostly of hard working, God fearing folks who did whatever it took to keep their families going. They had pride in a job well done. They considered a handshake as good a contract as any signed document. They were the people who made America what it used to be.
We sorely need more like them.
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