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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Spreading the word

© Another Day in the Country

A few weeks ago I was wrote about America’s economic plight and a vanishing middle class.

Did I come right out and say this? Well, it was represented in a story about my chickens and their “world order.” The very next week after the article appeared in the Marion County Record, my Polish Top Knot hens began laying eggs again!

In the article, I’d complained about them not working and said they were on welfare.

Someone must have read that column to them, or at least told them what I’d said, and chagrined, like good American citizens, they set about to change their ways. They began to lay pearly white eggs on the Monday after that edition of the newspaper appeared and continue to do so. That, my friends, is the power of the written word.

There is just something about black-and-white print, the feel of a paper in your hand, the thrill of opening the pages, even the smell of the paper and the ink, that brings knowledge, inspiration, empathy and laughter.

I look forward to the cartoon that appears above this column, every week. It’s healthy to chuckle — even smile. Sometimes I even imagine that it “fits” with what I’ve just written about even though there is no collusion.

When I was a teenager growing up in Kansas City, my parents took the Kansas City Star. When I think about it, I’m a little amazed, because newspaper subscriptions weren’t cheap, I’m sure, and my father had a rather circumspect reading menu. My mother cautioned me about reading what she called “the funny papers,” the cartoon section of the paper.

“They aren’t good,” she said, “It’s wrong.” Which meant that I wasn’t supposed to read them, but I did.

Sneaky, surreptitiously, I read “Mary Worth,” and “Brenda Starr” along with “Dagwood and Blondie.” Now that I’m a parent and a grandparent, I have to laugh at my mother’s caution about the comics. Wouldn’t I just wish while my kids were growing up that the rules they broke were merely reading the funny papers. Life gets more complicated for kids transitioning between childhood and adulthood with every passing year.

Now my daughter sometimes chides me about the kind of things that I cautioned her about as she was growing up. Some she still agrees with and some she thinks proved useless. Now her son approaches those transition years and I’m glad I’m not the responsible parent.

Each era seems to have new demands, and its own needed equipment. However, there are some good things, truisms, that are needed in the toolbox of “becoming adults” that I believe don’t change.

My dad used to say, “Nothing good happens after midnight,” and he expected me to be home well before that hour. I sometimes think of that advice when I hear the kids in town gunning their motorcars on Main St. in the wee small hours of the morning or find them clustered under a light at the corner, trying to get an unguarded wifi signal. They are roaming around, and I wonder, Where are their parents to call them in, send them to bed, train them, keep them safe?

“Guard your health,” my mother used to say. “You are what you eat!” was her mantra.

For my kids, it was “stay away from alcohol or drugs, because your life depends on it.”

The other day my daughter said that she thought I’d worried too much about all that.

“I never had anyone ever offer me drugs when I was growing up,” she said, “or try and talk me into drinking.”

I thought she was extremely lucky and that part of the reason for that was the era and the neighborhood she grew up in.

“Put away that computer and let’s go outside,” I tell my grandson. I wonder, even worry, about the effect of technology on today’s kids.

“Read,” I tell him, and I’ve even brought home books in comic book form to entice him away from electronics. My mother would be aghast.

“Have you ever read a newspaper?” I want to know. He looks at me quizzically, a little skeptical about where his Baba is going with this conversation.

What I want for him, and for all the sweet kids that I teach art to at Centre, is for them to arrive at the ripe old age of 21 without having become addicted or injured or pregnant or drunk.

I want them to know how to think, how to make good decisions, to enjoy working and know how to create a good life, make friends, be responsible, and protect the environment — and perhaps be lucky enough to spend another day in the country.

Last modified April 17, 2019

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