Persistence, tub stickers, crisis survival (tools proven successful for a century) My ancestors who survived the years from 1918-1929 developed effective, marvelous tools and methods. They not only survived, they thrived while creating a legacy of success still enjoyed by family beneficiaries 102 years later.
I think of an old poem by Robert Frost, about a mountain stream rushing and splashing down stream against obstacles, logs, and it hits a boulder. For a moment, the water runs backward, back on itself.
Like life, we are pressed, rushing, turning, always being pushed. But sometimes, before we go further, something stops us, and we go back, back to re-evaluate. And in that repose consider if we wish to be propelled, compelled, by forces pushing us down, down, crashing along in life.
It is then, perhaps that we should consider our roots, our ancestors, before going further into the froth and splashing collisions of life. Back even with a rushing stream all around. Like today, our ancestors dealt with multi pronged disasters. Crashes, curves, rocks and fallen trees along the way.
- Our ancestors 102 years ago, had the Spanish influenza epidemic (which killed 650,000 Americans and over 55,000,000 world wide).
- They suffered World War 1 which killed another 600,000 of our boys.
- They endured the Great Depression, which killed the economy and dashed hopes of millions.
Today our disasters are:
- Covid 19 pandemic (120,000 Americans dead so far, projecting 200,000 within 4 months 300,000 possible in a year.)
- Racial riots civic/social unrest.
- Worst recession since 1929.
- Weather extremes seemed unrelenting, farmers facing drought, others flood, others earthquakes and hurricanes like no others.
How did our ancestors manage to get through it? I can think of a few ways. They found ways to accept the hardships and then laugh at the irony of hardships and laugh at the pain.
For example we often heard jokes about the drought, the weather, the crop failures. Grandma would say: “Looks like we are going to have another ‘tub-sticker’” “Grandma what is a tub-sticker?” “Child that is when the wind blows so hard and long it picks up the wash tub from the neighbor’s front yard, blows it against the side of our house and holds it there for 3 days without ever letting it fall!” Then a heartfelt laugh from deep in Grandma's spirit. It was a "tall tale" but with ironic and telling elements of truth, funny because of the blending of "truth" with "exaggeration".
Or one farmer to his neighbor, complains “Sand storm today”. The other “Yes I watched your 160 acres just blow over."
Drought. “Mmmmm. Mmmmm. It is dry” farmer comments. “So dry our cows are giving us dehydrated milk powder!”
“How was your cotton crop Amos?” “One B per acre“ “One bale per acre, great!” Says Henry “No one boll per acre” (cotton boll)
Those tough and resilient West Texans learned to laugh and joke with one another when times were hard. In face of disaster, they spit back with laughter. And knowing compassion.
They learned to make the hardship heroic and worthy of laughing at. Of course they were old fashioned corny jokes, but it was enough sometimes to get them through. The old jokes were a friends way of helping another, going through hard times.
Next they learned the value of creative frugality.
*Grandma again took up sewing for clothes.
*Took up cooking the basics and making them tasty.
*They planted gardens and canned food.
*The Cadillac was sold and they made do with old tools and used equipment.
*Hard work was redefined. Grandpa worked his own farm at night and in the daytime traveled 50 to 100 miles to do “day jobs” just to make hard currency to buy supplies and pay the bills. One night he walked in the farmhouse out in Jayton, near Gerard Texas and Grandma said: “Noel you have worn the seat of your pants off driving that old tractor, or riding that mule” "Almost worked my ass off", he joked.
*Then there were the lessons of cash management. Granny told me the story of her and my Grandfather with all of the bills spread out on the kitchen table, New Years Eve, the last night of a hard year. After an hour or two Grandpa said:
“Lena, we have paid all of the bills for the year and we have $1.25 left over!” Granny replied: “Then it’s been a successful year!” They laughed together.
Indeed, those are key words to enduring hard times and thriving. “They laughed together”
*Essential honesty. They had to go into O'Donnell, Texas in the Texas Panhandle, to “Blockers Store” to buy supplies. The Blockers were good people, one of their sons later grew up to be “Hoss Cartwright” actor of the TV hit series Bonanza. When they got home after shopping Granny noticed they had an extra $5 bill. $5 seemed like a lot of money in those days. “Noel I think they gave us too much change!” She said. Grandpa Noel spent the next hour, going back to town to give them their money. Mrs Blocker nearly cried. “We have counted and recounted and have been so upset. We were needing that to pay bills. Thank you so much.” They sent Noel home with a new scarf, a gift of gratitude to my granny for finding the mistake, and being honest about it.
*Integrity, friendship, loyalty...strong lessons to help endure hard times.
* Suffering tears and enduring loss. One day Grandpa came in with a sad face and said: “The government made me shoot our 50 cattle.” "Why on earth?!" Granny asked. "New Government policy, the nation has to reduce it's herd, because prices have dropped so low. He had been weeping out in the pasture, over his dead cattle. Every time one of them fell dead it was as if he lost a friend.
* Loving compassion for one another: Granny hugged him and said “Husband we have each other and we will get through this together.”
Together. Important words. They express love, appreciation and respect. Three things our nation needs badly these days. But they can start with you, and yours, me and mine. Lessons that endured and helped them to survive depression, economic failure, drought, disease, pain, even loss, defeat and death. Their kids and grand-kids and great grand children all live and abide from these same values in 2020...our Pandemic and Depression.