Saturday, September 26, 2015

Farmer Boy

Many years ago I had a girlfriend who was a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her "Little House on the Prairie" books. I didn't know this until we were in the Missouri Ozarks and drove by a small town called Mansfield. A sign said it was the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family, so my girlfriend said, "Oh, let's stop! I have all her books!" So we did.

We visited their two-story house, which was built by Laura's husband Almanzo and neighbors (the Wilders were, by the way, the parents of the talented writer, Rose Wilder Lane, author of The Discovery of Freedom).

Later I read some of Laura's books. Four, actually. The first was Farmer Boy, which was the biography of her husband, Almanzo.

It was an impressive book. All of her books are impressive, and not exactly for children and women. Men can profit from them - I guarantee you that. All the books are both educating and entertaining.

Farmer Boy was about Almanzo growing up in the 1880s, and it was clearly a different world and a different country.

I've mentioned before the study of history is essential because if you don't understand history, then you're lost.

Farmer Boy is the history of a lost time.

Almanzo was instrumental in running the family farm, even as a small boy - and he loved it. He didn't mind getting up in the middle of the night to make sure the cows didn't freeze to death.

He also hated school and attended only a few months at the most, yet still grew up well-read and self-educated (when we visited their farmhouse there was a fairly large library in the living room).

Almanzo was raised with meaning, importance and community. These days children have little of that in their lives, and spend most of their time not learning anything in school, which they have to attend by law.

As for Laura, she was originally raised in Wisconsin, then when neighbors starting showing up Pa packed up the family and moved them farther west in a horse-drawn wagon to get away from everyone and to be free. He preferred the nearest neighbor to be about three miles away.

In some ways it was a much better world then. (By the way, Pa made everything - house, floor, chimney, furniture - mostly with an ax).

They had very few things that weren't handmade, and they appreciated and were grateful for everything they made. One Christmas Laura and her sister got a tin cup, a peppermint stick - and a penny. And they were grateful "with all their hearts."

I meet a lot of kids who suffer from "failure to launch." They have to spend their days in school from five to 17, can't find any decent jobs, and end up bored and suffering from ennui. None of that happened in Almanzo and Laura's time.

Their daughter, Rose, was essentially home-schooled, yet became one of the best-known and highest-paid woman writers of her time. Raised in a small town, with no Third Worlders, with self-sufficient parents, with a library at often do you see this today?

I also encounter a lot of talking heads from the chattering classes, who babble their prescriptions for our present problems. They're always wrong, which is why I stopped watching them a long time ago.

If you want to find some answers, look to the past. For one thing, the government barely existed then. Nowadays, you can't escape its meddling.

In the past most people worked for themselves. In fact, Almanzo's father essentially told him that if you worked for someone else he owned you and you weren't free.

Let's see...small government and working for yourself....

The idea of working for someone else, with regular raises and being paid a good wage, didn't even last 100 years. It was gone by the year 2000, if not long before. In some small ways it does still exist but is a fraction of what it was at its peak.

Wages peaked, as I have mentioned a few times, in January, 1974. Since then they've been basically flat. The economy, on the other hand, has at least doubled since 1980.

You're on your own.

A few weeks ago I read an article about some petroleum engineering graduates who had their job offers (up to a $100,000 a year) withdrawn because of extreme volatility in the oil industry.

These days I cannot recommend college unless your degree is in extreme demand - and even then that demand might collapse. I'd get some sort of certification that might take three months.

The government is going to collapse sooner or later - and as far as I'm concerned, the sooner the better. It's become your enemy, not your friend.

In some ways we're going to head back to Almanzo's time - people as self-sufficient as possible, working for themselves, with a much smaller government, living in rural small towns, away from the Third World hellholes big cities are becoming.

And that's just fine with me.

Incidentally, across the state highway from Mansfield is a small winery, the Gloria Winery (Missouri, where I lived for years, has many wineries and caves).

The woman at the winery told us she and her husband moved there to reopen the winery, which her husband's family owned but had closed down for years.

They lived in a trailer and had perhaps an acre of vines. She told us, "We don't make much money but we're happy."

After all, enough is as good as a feast. Even if it's a tin cup, a peppermint stick and a penny.


Mindstorm said...

Good times for some people, bad times for other people, as always. For example I'm glad that children no longer work as chimney sweeps.

sth_txs said...

The lowering to how cheap can we get a Toby continues unrelentingly whether you are blue collar, white collar, or in between. Pretty sad that a security guard pays as much as any dope with a two year associates in computers or basic accounting though there are some vocational degrees that pay okay.

Even a good number of 4 year degree positions want you to work for free. The unpaid overtime that was more of a professional courtesy as a salaried employee has become a demand by some employers.

kurt9 said...

It looks like technology might bring back the decentralized nature you describe of 1880's society. Check out this piece on 3-D printing, where the guy says everything that we libertarian transhumanist types have been saying about the inherently decentralizing nature of technology since the late 1980's:

It is silly to think that a decentralized society comprised of self-reliant individuals and small groups must necessarily be low-tech.

Quartermain said...

Some deep thinker in Canada missed your point about the Little House on the Prairie series. Don't listen to him, he's just sore that the books didn't take place in his province.