Shootin' the Breeze

by "Bummer"

bummer @ abate

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December 2015

Ho, ho, ho!

    Although you’re reading this in December and I usually write a very “Christmassy” story for this month, I’m writing this in mid-October and I want to take a minute to mention that I went on another run today. It was put on by ABATE Region Zero. We had a great turn out, and everything went great. I even met a few ladies who came up from Region 8 with their friends. The only thing better than meeting folks from other regions is meeting LADIES from other regions LOL! Big kudos to our road captain, Ron Hart Jr., for the great route and to everyone else who helped put it on.

    Sure, this is local stuff, but the reason I’m mentioning it here is that I have a point to make that applies to all of us throughout the state and throughout the year: Anyone who attends any ABATE events should appreciate all the work, planning, and effort that goes into putting them on whether it’s a run, a party, a bike show, rally or whatever.... and you should make sure you show that appreciation to those who made it possible. Remember that those who DO work them (like the gate, the sign up, the products, working the stops, or preparing and serving the food) can’t possibly enjoy it as much as the rest of us can because they’re too busy working it. So, please try to remember to thank those people because that’s all they’re going to get out of it. I’m sure that it would be a cool surprise for them too. I don’t think I’ve EVER even heard of someone actually being thanked by those who attend these things whether it would come from a member or a non-member (and officers don’t count because they’re supposed to thank you). In fact, many non-members probably don’t get past the fact that they’re paying to get in and just assume (if they think of it at all) that even if it’s for a charity, we are personally making out from it somehow because it goes to what they think of as “our club” (of course I’m saying that sarcastically). Okay, enough of all that.......

    As we wrap up another year (man, they just click right by don’t they?) I’m reminded of a past December when everything was way different for me. Not necessarily better or worse, just different.

    It was 1980. I was still with my first wife, my sons were four and one, and we lived in a big old drafty farmhouse just outside a little town called Kinsman. Though I had a decently paying job at GM we were still tight on bucks at that time because I was throwing tons of money into that old house as I brought it up to being habitable, and I often thought that maybe I bit off more than I could chew. It had been abandoned for a few years when I bought it, and when we moved in it needed everything: a new roof, a new furnace, the plumbing and electrical was ancient and shot, and the insulation to keep out the cold was limited to newspapers from 1867 when the house was built which were spread out and pasted all over the interior walls of the top floor (the attic). In fact it was in that attic that something odd happened one December day.

    I remember I was moving around some junk the previous owners had left and I reached into an old television that had been sitting there forgotten about for years. I was feeling around inside it for the speaker so I could remove it and mount it above my bench to help with some tunes out in the shed where I kept the scoot....low tech sure, but ya do what ya can. Suddenly I got zapped and knocked on my ass! I musta accidently touched something called the “flyback transformer” which supplied juice to the picture tube. Even though I’ve been inside a few TV sets before, until then I never knew that a large amount of electricity could remain stored in those old TV’s transformers for a VERY long time, even if they were unplugged. But I certainly know it now. Now, I don’t know anything about these newfangled TVs except that they work until you throw them away, and ya don’t see many of those obsolete old ones these days. But if you ever do - don’t go sticking your hand inside one, unplugged or not.

    Later, after I got over the shock (pun intended), I grabbed a flashlight, pulled up a chair, and I took a while to finally actually read some of that old newsprint from long ago plastered all over those walls, and it was as if I was transported back in time.....

John Sheridan, 36 years old, Fleming Road, has died from extensive wounds he received at Gettysburg four years ago. His family grieves..........
A son named Elija is born to James and Lilly Thurmont of State Street.......
Impeachment proceedings are being discussed and are imminent for President Andrew Johnson. Accusations of misconduct fly in Congress.........
Nebraska is admitted as the 37th US state.........
British author Charles Dickens begins US speaking tour in New York.......

    And then as if it was waiting for me to find it, I came across this “letter to the editor” written by a local farmer’s wife way back in that December of 1867.......
    Dear editor,
    My name is Susan Biggs. My husband owns a farm located on Ridge Road. We have 120 prime acres on which we keep four horses, twenty cows, a bull, chickens, and some pigs. Our soil is rich and will grow anything we plant, so that is not a problem. The problem is everything else concerning farming these days.
    When my husband Richard returned from the war three years ago, my father and I had managed to maintain the farm in his absence. But with the war being over, I find that now the prices of everything from feed and grain, to plant-seed and other essentials have tripled, while the prices we receive for our crops, including our produce, eggs, milk and animals, have dropped.
    We have four children aged five to fifteen: Three boys and a girl. Although we may have plenty to eat for now and enough feed stored to take care of our livestock through this winter, with market and grain prices being what they have been of late and how that has affected us, I am afraid we may lose the farm come spring should the bank foreclose on the deed.
    As soldiers, Richard and his fellows were assured that when the war was done they would return to lives of plenty with guaranteed prosperity. This hasn’t been the case and most of our neighbors are having the same problems.
    During the war business had grown and prospered. Factories manufacturing war products simply turned to other pursuits when the war ended. During the war the railroads grew tenfold if not more, and now that the war is over, those same railroads accommodate the increased business and commerce.
    But I ask you, “What about the farmer?” Those of us who do not drive fancy carriages and do not live in grand mansions labor to survive and find that we cannot.
    I await your reply, and I hope you have a merry Christmas.
            Mrs. Susan Biggs

    Well, apparently the editor of the newspaper DID make some effort on her behalf and beneath her submission he wrote in answer:

Mrs. Biggs,
    We have contacted the War Department for information regarding your situation and have discovered the following which has been relayed to your bank: Your husband, being a properly mustered-out and honorably discharged soldier, is entitled to special considerations regarding some financial obligations pursuant to an act of congress as are all veterans in good standing. I will contact you personally with the specifics.
    Pertaining to the state of our national economy, I can only sympathize with those of the farming community and add that the entire working class of this country also suffers inequities. Perhaps one hundred years in the future will find our economy being such that everyone will reap its rewards. Until then we can only endeavor to persevere. Editor

    As I read that I realized that this was about a farm family here in the North, the side who won the war! Imagine what someone from the South experienced after losing everything! (By the way, all that post-civil war inflation would lead to an economic panic resulting in our first “depression” in another six years (1873). Of course the really big one wouldn’t come along until the 1930’s.)

    But back then in 1980 when I was reading all this, it had been well over that “100 years in the future” mentioned by the editor. Now, in 2015, it’s been over 145 years and our veterans still need help, our farmers still need assistance, and those fancy-carriage driving folks still enjoy their privileges acquired from the backs of the “working class” (oh that phrase just irks the hell outta me). THERE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE “CLASSES” IN THIS COUNTRY!!

    In short for whatever reason, there are just too many millionaires, while too many others struggle to survive. Maybe in another 100 years someone will read this in an old Outspokin’ magazine they found in an attic somewhere and hopefully they’ll be thinking that this country has finally gotten its shit together.

    Well, that’s all I gotta say for this year kids except.....
    Try not to spend too much of your hard-earned bucks on Christmas stuff this year (unless you’re rich, then send me something) and remember to be extra safe if you’re going out on the town New Year’s Eve. That night always reminds me of those “Dodge ‘em” car rides in the amusement parks, except police can be involved, the kids are driving drunk, and the collisions are not so much fun. In my old bar-hopping days we used to call it “Amateur Night”. SO BE VERY CAREFUL!!!

    Merry Christmas and a Happy (and safe) New Year to all of you!!

                    See ya next year,

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