where the writers are
Frost and Election Season

The fog rises high off the lake and off the valley beyond the country road at the end of our driveway.  The green grass between our house and the lake glistens with frost this morning.  I run to Gerald and ask if this was a killer frost.  Would our son-in-law’s soybean crop be damaged just as the corn crop was hurt by the summer drought? 

The farmer’s success depends on the weather, and the price city dwellers will pay for food is also weather dependent. The fear of an early frost is a familiar fear to me. Yeteven more than our over fifty years of farming made me aware of the weather and food supply connection, Robert J. Hastings book A Nickel’s Worth of Skim Milk impressed me with this concern.  Hastings wrote about his eight years in grade school during the Depression when he wore the same coat all eight years.  Like most people in small towns and on farms, his unemployed father made an annual garden.  During those years, however, bad weather limited his production just as the job loss limited the family income. 

It is odd how sometimes life seems to be on a bad luck roll.  Just when someone thinks they can stand no more, another blow comes to knock them down yet again. Things get worse and worse, but usually eventually things turn around.  In the meantime, people have to be tough and use unbelievable human ingenuity to survive.

One of the ways that Hastings’ family survived was through thriftiness—the kind of thrift few of us could understand today despite our bad economy. His mother deliberately bought his school coat much much too big for him.  How many children have you seen today with clothes that are too big for them?  He grew into the coat and wore it until it was too little for him, but he continued wearing it anyway.  Finally the nation’s and his family’s economy improved, and he got a new coat for high school.

I do not know how families’ whose unemployment has run out are making it. I cannot imagine how a family can survive when their home and all their belongings are destroyed by fire, flood, or tornado.  Yet across our nation right now families with those troubles are making it. (Some are not, of course.  Some have turned to alcohol or drugs or suicide.)  I have wondered if the Greatest Generation veterans were as strong as they were because they were part of a family that kept hanging tough and fighting hard for survival during the Depression.

One of the most exciting articles I ever read was a news magazine account in the 1960s of the successful California lives of the Oakies that John Steinbeck told us about.  Someday someone will be writing about today’s trials and how their family made it anyway.  Michele Obama’s story of her dad going to work everyday to support their family despite multiple sclerosis brings tears to my eyes. Would he not have been shocked to know back then that his daughter and his widow would live in the White House someday? 

In the past, the business cycle has usually brought an end to recession.  I suspect it will again unless some fundamental difference has occurred to change that usual result.  So I am hopeful that regardless of who is elected President, we will see the economy improve and more jobs become available.  And, of course, whoever is elected will get credit for that turn around whether that person is responsible for the improvement or not.

One of my greatest concerns is the lack of health care for many of our citizens.  Despite our fine hospitals and many excellent doctors, international statistical comparisons show that our health care is inferior in its results.  Our loss of infants, for example, is much greater than many other nations despite the fact that we spend more than them for health care. 

The Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) will still not be universal, as I understand it, but it seems to be a step in the right direction.  Children with serious health problems can no longer be denied insurance nor can we adults be suddenly dropped if we become expensively ill or lose our jobs.

If we have the will to do it, we can make the changes we need to make and have care as good as other developed nations.  I would like to see the for-profit insurance industry out of the health care system altogether as Britain has done but some other nations use insurance to give universal care. Personally, I don’t want to be denied a needed procedure by an insurance company.  Governor Romney wants my state to take care of the health problems in Illinois as he did in Massachusetts, but I don’t think he understands how broke our state is. With our tendency to elect governors who end up in prison, I trust the federal government more than our state government.

Last night a neighbor phoned and asked me if she could bring me a Romney sign to put on our farm.  I had listened to his foreign policy address that morning, and I told her no.  If I knew he could achieve peace, I would certainly vote for him and put up a sign encouraging other people to do so.

The murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American heroes was evidence of serious problems in that part of the world.  What I do not know is whether President Obama or Governor Romney would be more effective in healing those problems--or if anyone can. Would Romney’s tough talk, building more warships, and increasing our military budget and perhaps military presence work better than Obama’s measured thoughtfulness and emphasis on diplomacy? If there anything our nation can do to insure people in those countries will start getting along?

I like few advertisements on television, but I do like the new one showing a renown economist who is asked if something or other will take place in the future. (I don’t even know what is being advertised.)  His succinct answer to the question  if he can predict what will happen is, “No.”  That is how I feel as an ordinary citizen about knowing which candidate will more likely achieve peace or prevent our being in another war in the Middle East.  I do not want our citizens killed and I do not want innocent men, women, and children in other countries killed.  But I do not know how to vote to achieve that end.

Our phone caller warned me that our nation is in a mess and that my great grandchildren were going to suffer because of it.  This special neighbor friend has worked hard all her life, and most of the people I know do so.  Our children and grandchildren certainly do.  I am very proud of them for that. I have a great deal of confidence in our nation’s people and especially our young people.  I truly believe that they will be able to cope with whatever is thrown their way when they are in charge someday.  They will go through rough times just as every generation has.  Their rough times may be worse even than ours. But if they have the will, they will survive and our democracy will also.

I will be listening to the vice presidential debate Thursday night and to the two remaining debates between President Obama and Governor Romney.  I will try to follow the national and international news and understand it the best I can.  And then I will be deciding by election day which candidate I will vote for.  It will probably be too late to put up a sign though.

P.S.  I wrote most of this in the morning plus a report on Jeannie, Cecelie, Leslie, and Mike’s weekend visit.  Then I got a call from Katherine’s aide that she was sick and leaving. (Actually she came to work sick spreading her germs—GRRRR.) Suddenly I had to hurry to town.  Late tonight I got home, proof read my earlier effort, thought I was copying it to post, and the entire blog disappeared with only two words saved when I tried to paste.  I have re-written the first part the best I remembered it, and left off the weekend report.   Ah well.




















































2 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip

Sue, You bring up many of the


You bring up many of the same points I wrestle with in regards to our country and where we are headed.

I bought clothes slightly larger for my kids, because my parents did that for my five brothers and sisters. We wore hand me downs, we patched and let out hems. My mother made me five "smocks" and five pairs of elastic waist pants to wear to school. 

We ate leftovers, over and over again. We got presents on Christmas and Birthdays. We drove used cars, and saved up for big purchases like a color tv.

I have fond memories of a very happy childhood, even if we did not live in a fancy house or drive expensive cars.

I put myself through college and spent the first ten years paying off my college debt. I've been unemployed for two years and I've had no health insurance. I've worked with the poor and 90% aren't freeloaders. They are people who fell on hard times, just like myself.

There are no quick fixes or easy solutions, but I hope that no matter who gets into the White House, we find a way to get along.

Great post!


Comment Bubble Tip

Thanks, Annette

I loved your comments.  We have lots in common.  I too bought clothes a trifle larger for my kids to grow into.  Altho I am not a seamstress, I proudly made my girls a couple of smocks when that was the fashion--I think they were passed down from the older to the younger.  I never learned how to make slacks.  I loved hand-me-downs as a child, and I welcomed them for my kids.  I looked down on people who felt ashamed of hand-me-downs--and I guess that was narrow minded of me.  But I felt that was silly.  Our kids only got presents on birthdays and Christmas also.  We still eat left-overs and always will.

I love your knowledge and your assurance for today's parents that happiness does not depend on a large income, fancy house and cars, etc.  Teaching thrift to kids can be of great value to them and to our environment.

Gerald's ag economics professor taught him that health insurance did not pay off for farmers in debt.  So for many years, we simply counted on good health, and I envied the coal miners' families in our community that had good insurance when I usually had $40 or $50 a month doctor bills in those 1960 days, when $50 was a lot of money on a tight budget.  We were fortunate that an elderly farmer got together a group of Blue Cross insurance and Gerald took insurance mostly to support him and encourage his efforts.  That was the year we had two children in and out of hospitals.  The insurance was a relief to my peace of mind.  (Gerald said we still might have come out ahead without the insurance that year.)  But mostly since then we have felt it important to keep insurance and have been able to do so--except when our kids left home for college and work. I remember a $17,000 hospital bill with no insurance.  Later, I would try to piece together two or three tiny $50 or $100 a day policies for our kids in case anything happened to them before they got jobs with insurance.  I really appreciate the new law allowing kids to stay on parents' policies until they are 26.  I resent insurance companies with high-paid executives and shareholders making money on human illness and misery.  Health insurance started out as non-profit, and I believe it should have stayed that way.

I hope you stay healthy, Annette, and that jobs open up soon for our people.  I absolutely agree that the poor are not usually freeloaders.  I imagine that many wealthy people would lack the skills to survive if they had to cope on as little as some of our citizens do.