We don’t do that here anymore

Have you ever taken your shoes to be worked on? Does anyone do that anymore? I remember when fixin’ shoes was cheaper than buyin’.
Of course, back then they were quality made and lasted a long time if cared for properly. I’ve been looking for a brand-new pair of blacks and a brown for about a month now. Every where I look, they are just not quite right. The pair I am trying to replace is about new but they are worn out with a few holes. I was looking at them and found that a percentage was made in one country – Mexico, another percentage in the European Union and then assembled in China.
I am sure the store that sold them made a profit, as did the various companies who manufactured the pieces. The sad part is after just a couple of years later and I am searching for a new pair. I still have shoes in my closet passed to me by my late father that were worn day after day for years and they are still as strong and shiny as they were when I was a child. I often wear them to dress events. Amazing how they have held up but of course, they were made entirely in the United States and whenever there was a problem, the shoes were taken to the shoe repair shop to strengthen them for a few more years of service.
I have always heard that the only way to avoid repeating the missteps of history is to know history and then use that knowledge to avoid the same fate.
If I understand one underlying reason that the South lost the Civil War, it is that the North held the best hand when it came to industry having a better ability to manufacture and keep manufacturing both the tools of war and those items needed on the home front.
Not having the same ability, the South was doomed to eventually simply run out of supplies.
Our country’s status over the last few months as the pandemic was thrust upon us has reinforced the need for concentration upon our all of our essential supply lines – medicine, food, technology, transportation, military and otherwise to not only encourage but ensure that our country will not be left wondering what happened if the rest of the world is shut down or we or isolated by any unexpected catastrophe.
I have heard President Trump stress the importance of building in and buying American over and over, and I hope that his administration and our congress will use this experience as a wakeup call. We may exist alongside our neighbor countries, but we are our own country with over 300 million people whose needs must come from some where and that somewhere plain and simple should be in the U.S.A.
Many times I heard my mother comment when the neighbors were selling scrap metal bound for Japan before WWII, that her father said that America would get all of it back one day.
It did begin Dec. 7, 1941, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent battles.
I mention this and my earlier example for two reasons.
Like those selling scrap iron, Americans have often looked to the best deal to make some extra money right now. Thousands of American businesses benefit financially by sending jobs overseas or over the border, or simply purchasing items they need from foreign producers. I am sure that these decisions are making their bottoms lines more profitable.
Companies are not totally to blame. As consumers, we want the cheapest whether it comes from China, India or wherever rather than purchasing something that will keep an American on the job making something and keeping an American company afloat.
There was a time when almost every component of every item we had in our homes and businesses or used in everyday life was made here in the U.S.A. — every automobile, radio, television, fan, telephone, refrigerator, stove, iron, vacuum cleaner, etc.
Today you would be hard-pressed to find any of these, which do not depend on a foreign-produced part to make them work. Of course, some of these manufacturing companies are American in origin but not in loyalty when they choose to build factories elsewhere, reducing America’s industrial might.
I understand that American manufacturing is to the point now that many elements needed to construct even some of our most sensitive military systems now must be manufactured overseas because no one does it here anymore.
We no longer need to hear a mantra for America to be: “We don’t do that here anymore.”
It is simple to see that we did not learn from history. If we do not right the ship, America will one day soon be no longer able to make anything without the industrial machine and labor force of China and other countries.
Now instead of scrap metal, we are sending our cash, boatloads of cash each and every day that Americans flood the stores.
If like our current experience and America was even more cut off from the rest of the world, do we have the wherewithal to survive on our own anymore? Can we build or produce what we need for our population? It was not so long ago, just 40-50 years, that the answers to these questions were yes. I would say the answer now is no.
When so many of our former factories are dormant, our skilled workers gone from lack of jobs, America may go the way of the South or to paraphrase my grandfather before WWII, America is going to get all those great bargain buys and cheaper jobs thrown back in our faces.
Think about that the next time you go out to shop. Think about that the next time you talk with you senator or congressman. Think about that when you visit the polls this November. If we don’t wake up, my friends, we will all be singing someone else’s tune and possibly in a different language.

A new norm?

As our country moves forward from the plan of flattening the curve, we all find ourselves in a new normal.
Perhaps new to us, but not to our ancestors. Just as we endured the Swine Flu as a nation a decade ago without any of the approaches, we have tried this time around, prior, we can reach back through the years to see our country and our ancestors pull through epidemics. The Hong Kong flu of 1968-1970 saw us not slow a step in our approach to life, doctors and families just did their best to care for those who contracted the disease.
Regionally and locally, our forefathers dealt with outbreaks of polio, measles, Spanish flu, and before that, smallpox, pneumonic plague, bubonic plague, yellow fever, cholera and other diseases.
Many of those outbreaks came when there was little medicine could do to aid in the situation. Just keep a person comfortable with hope people’s constitutions, wills and incessant prayers either brought them through an illness or not.
While I thus far I have not endured the latest disease thrust upon the world. In my past, I have endured the attack of a virus which brought about the doctors saying “There is nothing we can do, it’s up to him and God.”
That is a very scary place to be, both as the patient or a loved one. I feel deeply for the thousands of families who have faced those moments in recent months and pray deeply for those who are yet ahead facing this latest battle of survival.
These past few weeks, as we have all seen a time that we have not seen before, it makes me wonder what is yet ahead for all of us. Advances in medicine have possibly given us to high of an expectation that there is always something that can be done. I can remember a day in my own lifetime when we assumed a diagnosis of one type or another was essentially a death sentence.
Today, we take many of those diseases in stride, maintained by drugs, operations, treatments that allow people to live long lives, where just decades ago, it was not even a hope. Cancer is still one that scares us all individually, though even within certain types of cancer, survival rates are tremendously better.
I am sharing all of this to say, a few decades ago, any infection that could overwhelm our system, broken bones, heart failure, diabetes and so many other diseases meant our clock was now running on borrowed time. As a society, though it did not make the individual situations less painful or less important, we took the reality of what was possible in stride.
I am wondering now, are we are no longer capable of that strength within ourselves? Can we take in stride that medicine can’t always fix us? Can we take in stride that government is not there to save us and we must be self-reliant? Will we now feel the need that big brother government will have to tell us what we have to do to survive? If everyone does not do what is said to the letter, are we now going to be the watch guards trying to get someone arrested?
My parents and grandparents lived through many epidemics in their lives with no medicine to treat and little hope of survival. They cared for each other, they prayed, they kept working because the family had to survive no matter what came. Loved ones passed, the family mourned, remembered, and struggled through. That strengthened the importance of the survival of all who went on. I and my siblings lived through many epidemics as well, some saw friends fall to polio, we endured measles, and all types of influenzas. I survived some of those when the outlook was bleak myself as a child.
As a country, we will come through this pandemic. As families, we must learn from this experience and come to realize, we must rely upon our own abilities to remain safe and healthy. We cannot put outrageous expectations on medical professionals or government to save us from some new virus or even an old virus which could run rampant across the earth. Our government also should not come to think that the American people are going to allow the shutdown of civilization as they prescribe with each and every epidemic that comes in the future. What we are enduring, I pray is not what we allow to be a new norm.

A comb, a mirror and a brush

As young Pearl sat quietly on the edge of the bed, the red, white and green patchwork quilt wrapped around her feet to ward off the chill of the January frost laying heavily upon fields of brown grass around the homestead below the Gravelly Spur mountain, she stared endlessly over the shoulder of her mother Kitty into the dressing table mirror.
Kitty worked carefully and diligently to take down her long reddish brown hair from the bun she had placed on her head before the rising of the morning sun.
She spread its length down upon her shoulders and towards the floor performing a nightly ritual that her mother Rachel taught her to do before the Scarlet fever came and took her red hair.
From the dark oak dressing table she picked up a brush left her by her mother, encrusted upon it in gold were lightly lilting engravings that surrounded the initials RMH. Beside it lay a matching comb and hand mirror. Kitty took the brush and slowly ran it through her hair as Pearl began counting “One, Two, Three….”
With each stroke Pearl quietly continued her mathematical exercise as Kitty moved from one side of her head to the other not missing a single strand of hair.
As the process continued, Kitty began humming the “Wildwood Flower” gathering momentum as she pulled each stroke.
What to some might seem like an eternity passed for these two in an instant as this quiet time the two shared as Kitty reached her 100 strokes.
When Pearl reached 100 in her count, Kitty turned and said its your turn now and Pearl sat upon the dark green upholstered stool in front of the dressing table and her mother took the golden comb in hand and pulled it through the reddish brown hair removing the tangles brought on from her day’s work around the farm.
She then reached for the brush that Pearl already had in her hand admiring the engraving upon its back.
“When I was just a little one, I watched Momma do this every night. Her hair simply stacked on the floor it was so long,” Kitty said.
“Why do we do this?” Pearl asked
“So that our hair will always be beautiful,” Kitty said.
“Why do we want our hair to be beautiful?” Pearl asked.
Kitty thought about this for a while before answering as she continued to run the brush through Pearl’s hair.
“You remember last year when we took that pony you are so fond of to the fair?” Kitty said.
“Yes,” Pearl replied.
“We’ll didn’t you spend nearly three hours brushing Roscoe down and trying to make his mane look just right?” Kitty asked.
“Yes, I wanted him to look good when everybody saw him and maybe win a ribbon,” Pearl said.
“That’s why we do this each night. We want to look good when everybody sees us,” Kitty said.
“Most of the time the only things that see me er Roscoe, the chickens, and our cow Flossie,” Pearl said. “And that old Stephens boy that’s always hanging around. I don’t much think they care how I look.”
“What about all of us, me and your dad, your brothers and sisters?” Kitty said.
“Well y’all don’t count, y’all have to like me no matter what I look like,” Pearl said.
“Yes, that’s true we will always love you no matter what you look like but even with those who are suppose to love us no matter what, its best to always put some effort into being someone to be proud to be around,” Kitty said.
“Then we better get to work on the twins Wilson and Woodrow, they were wollering in the mud all day and I shore ain’t proud to be around them,” Pearl said. “We better get the washtub out and start boiling some water to give them a bath.”
“I think we will pass on giving them a bath tonight,” Kitty said.
“Tomorrow?” Pearl said.
“We’ll see if there isn’t too much else to do,” Kitty said.
“Can we use some of your fancy perfumed water on them?” Pearl asked.
“I don’t think they will like that very much,” Kitty said.
“If you put a little on me, I’ll let them smell it and if they don’t run away we’ll know,” Pearl said. “I got some nice blue ribbon we can put behind their ears.”
As Kitty pulled the last stroke with the brush through Pearl’s hair, she sat the brush down upon the dressing table and said, “OK, now scoot off to bed.”
“May I go out and tell Wilson and Woodrow they are getting a bath tomorrow?” Pearl said.
“I have to go by the pig pen when I gather eggs in the morning. I’ll be sure to tell them what you have in mind although I think you are going to have an awfully tough time convincing them about your notion,” Kitty said.
As Pearl ran from the room, Kitty picked up the hand mirror and looked more closely at her hair, in one side of the mirror she noticed a portrait of her late mother hanging upon the wall and as she glanced to the other side of the mirror she saw Pearl peaking around the corner. Rather than chastising her for not going right off to bed she reflected on how interesting it was that all three of them were in her mother’s mirror.
(A story from Randall’s book “A Mountain Pearl: Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes”)

The trip to town with country kin

I drove through my town today and saw our shop owners with their doors open with some sitting outside anxiously awaiting customers to stop in. It is an unusual time in all our world. As many communities prepare to open in stages, I think back upon a funny story about some of my country kin. Hope it raises your spirits.

I do not know if I have ever told you about my great-uncle Elige Doolittle. Elige has two twin boys, Will Doolittle and Won’t Do-alot.

I remember as a boy, I always looked forward to Saturday when I was visiting with my grandparents. That meant we would be taking a trip to town. It could mean some time in the 5&10, the grocery store or a stroll around the Courthouse Square or visiting with folks at the farmer’s market.

Going to town was special and meant the folks would put on their best clothes and their best manners.

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