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President Adams Said Check Out The Firework Stands

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  – From the Declaration of Independence    

Once again, we prepare to celebrate another July 4th to mark the event that changed our part of the world back in 1776. Those men who made up the Continental Congress, and met in an extremely hot Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, adopted a document that shaped history and their lives forever. All of the 56 signers faced extreme hardships due to their act of courage to secure liberty for this country. In fact, all of those who joined in the fight for America’s independence from that time forward fought against odds way beyond their ability, but not beyond their determination.  

In a recent news report from the The Old Farmer’s Almanac.com website, they quoted John Adams, making a statement to his wife Abigail, about what would be the results from his actions and his fellow signers by putting their name on that document 235 years ago. Besides being an individual with a lot of courage and foresight, he could also even predict the future, because he said we would be selling fireworks in large colorful tents beside the road and cooking hamburgers to celebrate our freedom. Not so much in those words, but he did tell Abigail the day after signing the Declaration of Independence, “This day will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more."  

I hope this year you are going to take John Adams’ advice and celebrate July 4th with plenty of pomp and illuminations. We spend all year talking about what is wrong in this country on TV and among ourselves, but I hope at least we use July 4th to celebrate what is right.  

Just as John Adams and the other 55 men saw the need to do something to preserve our liberty, today we have thousands of young men and women in the Armed Forces from our rural communities and cities fighting in distant lands to continue to preserve those freedoms, as well as the freedoms of others. In our celebrations, let’s also take time out to support them this Fourth and salute our flag with dignity when it passes by. Give them your support by saluting a member of the Armed Forces when you meet them on the street and let them know you care, as well as appreciate them for what they do.  

Each day, I see “Support Our Troops” magnets on trucks, SUVs, automobiles and other modes of transportation. It is good to see our citizens backing our troops. Let’s do even more to show our pride this Fourth by flying our flags and placing our hands over our hearts when the “Star Spangled Banner” is played. The Fourth of July is more than a holiday. It is a celebration of freedom, our way of life, and a love for our country. Take time this 4th of July to visit a community event, firework display with patriotic music, or walk through a national cemetery.  

Make your day off more than just a holiday; make it a celebration of pride in community and country. John Adams predicted you would do it 235 years ago and we shouldn’t let our founding father down… especially on the 4th of July.                           

                                                                                        -30-    

Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pettusr60@gmail.com      

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Scratching Ain’t Polite

There’s a story I heard the other day, over at Sewell’s, about one of our Tennessee cousins having one of our other cousins from Texas to come and visit recently. It seems cousin Tex, who is very well off, climbed into the passenger seat of Cousin Harley’s old rusty pickup truck and headed out to take a look around at what was growing on the Tennessee rock farm that Harley is very proud to call his own. From the very beginning of the trip, Cousin Tex could only expound upon the size of his Texas holdings, and Cousin Harley was soon getting a total "fed-up-ness" of his proudness.  

When the truck went by a field of Jersey dairy heifers, Tex asked, "What are those?"  

Harley said very proudly, "Those are the best Jersey replacement dairy heifers you will find east of the Mississippi River. Their production history will be second to none."  

"Why, we have deer on my ranch bigger than those under-fed things," Tex said, as he puffed on a huge cigar.  

The truck now approached a large pond located between two beautiful green valleys that would be the envy of any good farmer. "What kind of fish do you have in that little mud hole," Tex said with a snicker.  

"That's my spring fed pond that provides water for our entire herd and has some of the largest bass you have ever seen in it," Harley said, trying to out do his cousin.  

"Well, if that is all you can do, you need to build something larger," Cousin Tex said. "If you were in Texas, you would have to fill it in due to it being a mosquito hazard."  

Harley had just about had all that he could take, when, just as he made a turn onto the farm's dirt road, he had to stop for a large snapping turtle sitting in the middle of the road. The turtle was a big one and about as mean looking as anything you had ever seen.  

"What in the world is that?" Tex asked, somewhat in a shocked manner.  

Harley saw his chance to win the "whose is bigger" contest, and said, "Oh, don't worry about that. You act like you have never seen a Tennessee tick before."  

With the current hot and dry weather we are having, Tennessee ticks may not have the chance to grow as large as the one Harley showed to his Texas cousin, but they are really hungry about now and looking for a meal.  Tall grass and weeds are prime places to encounter their presence, so try to remain in paths, lanes and clearings.  Yards can be kept clear of these unwanted visitors by mowing weekly. They carry dangerous diseases, and this time of the year, ticks are no laughing matter, so please take precautions.  

Another group of pests (without legs) gaining a lot of attention these warm days is poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. I have never experienced their itchiness and seem not to be allergic to urushiol oil, the sticky, resin-like substance found inside the plants. But, I do respect them and try to avoid handling them unless I have on gloves and long sleeves.  

Bayer Advanced, a business group of Bayer CropScience LP and part of the Bayer AG family, say that half the U.S. population is allergic to urushiol oil. But, they also say it’s not just the allergy to urushiol that’s a problem — it’s how potent it is.  

They say it only takes 1 billionth of a gram of the oil to cause a rash. That's not much oil to cause the distress that comes from it getting on your skin. One trip in the forest could cause 500 people to itch from the amount that would fit on the head of a pin. And, urushiol oil can stay active on any surface for up to five years, even on dead plants.  

The Bayer group says you can take control of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac, before they take over your yard and farms, by keeping your lawn and fence line clear and trimmed, and cut back the undesirable plants to ground level every time you see green growth.  

There are brush killers in concentrate form available from Bayer that is a chemical alternative to chopping, that kills the brush down to the roots so it won’t come back. I have tried it and it does work. Some other brush killers kill back the vines but don't kill the roots. Before you know it, you're back spraying again.  

It even controls kudzu. If it will kill kudzu, the plant that ate the South, it will surely help get rid of the itchy stuff as well.  

Avoid the Tennessee ticks, kill out the plants that contain urushiol and enjoy an itch-free summer. Itching often comes at the most inopportune times and in the strangest places.    

                                                                                                  -30-    

Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pettusr60@gmail.com      

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Time To Shake A Few Hands

It’s my favorite time of the year, once again, when all the stores are filled with patriotic supplies, making red, white and blue the colors of choice for the next couple of weeks. As we prepare to celebrate the 238th birthday of this country, everyone is making plans to have their own birthday bash in their own special way. As we rapidly approach another 4th of July celebration, as well as another election year, I can’t help but wonder what our founding fathers would have thought about our current method of getting to know our candidates for some of the most important offices in government. With my being a candidate this year in my own county, it makes the celebration even more important to me.  

It will not be long before a new commercial will show up each day on our televisions, with a different proposal of just how conservative government should be administered. If the television commercials are not enough to fill your viewing pleasure, then you can go to numerous web sites that will give you even more information on how tight we should run the government ship. No new taxes, cut government spending and reform anything that has a tax on it are just a few of the things that are getting attention this year as we move closer to primary day voting on August 7, 2014, and general election time for me.  

But, let me warn you, if you attend any public July 4th celebrations, prepare yourself for candidate smiles, handshakes and colorful hand fans to keep all of the hot air moving. I love this time of the year, but especially on election years! And now that I, too, get to kiss a few babies, as well as hug a lady or two, election time on the 4th looks even more exciting! Our political system is what has made our country different from all of the others, and whenever we move from the candidates avoiding the one-on-one events to doing everything on the web or TV, we are asking for less input from the people. Give me a strong handshake and a look in the eye any day, instead of the person wanting my vote over a fancy mud-slinging TV commercial. My opponent has started after me on Facebook and I see that as just plain tacky.  

I like seeing the candidates at the picnics, parades and group gatherings proving the point that they are one of us. I’m glad they see the need to get involved and be a part of the system that has worked these 238 years.  

It is tough these days to find common sense individuals who do wish to get involved. I know, there are the criticisms and the continued second-guessing by those who stand on the sidelines and point fingers, but we need good people to take a deep breath and jump in and give government a try.  

I got the urge several months ago to serve as a commissioner on my county’s commission. I have wondered why I have done this, but why shouldn’t I? For years I have preached the importance of citizens getting involved in their local governments and doing the right thing for the good of all citizens. Just like some preaching that I have heard from pulpits, it is easy to point fingers at someone else, but when it comes your time to do the right thing, avoid the excuses of why you are too busy or why now is not the right time. I guess the time has become right for me, and I needed to practice what I preach.

Believe me, I’m stepping off into a citizenry job that many, if not most folks, would run from as fast as they could. Having to decide the future for a growing county and taking on the responsibility of being right or wrong for what may happen in the lives of people for the next several years is challenging to say the least. But, I look at it as a repayment to a county my ancestors traveled to over 225 years ago, that I might help make it a little bit better for the next several generations to live and make their homes - just like I did.  

So often we feel that our opinion is not worth a lot, but it could make a difference in the future of a county, a state or even our country. Too many of us go about our everyday lives not becoming involved in what makes this country work. Those individuals who gave us the reason to celebrate our country’s birthday 238 years ago could just as easily have said I have other things to do, but I’m so glad they answered the call to speak up.  

I jumped into the creek with both feet by saying “yes” to serve my county, and would like more of you to join me in the swim. It is easy to make judgment calls from the sideline if you are not taking any of the hits. Celebrate the 4th this year by being a patriot and get involved in the system. That way, you can really see the fireworks from up close. I’ll be at my Rockvale community’s 4-H celebration shaking hands. Hope to see you there!  

                                                                                          -30-  

Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pettusr60@gmail.com

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Mr. Ford Started All Of This

The other day as I filled-up my new 4-wheel drive, V6, campaign-retirement-good feeling pickup truck with ethanol blended fuel and watched the digital cost monitor spin like an out of control slot machine, my thoughts went back to simpler times when a fill-up of gas was something of enjoyment. It was nothing like today when every time we fill-up we have to wonder what vital organ of our bodies we will have to sell next just to pay the bill and if the Icee machine is still going to have cola flavor available or just the old blue kind.  

I’m talking about the days when a service station provided what the first part of its name implied - service. Back in those days when you pulled up to the pump, a young man with his name on his shirt would greet you with a smile and ask that important question, “Fill’er up?” He would then proceed to put either high-test or regular gasoline in your tank and move almost in a run to the front of your car as you got one of those small bottles of Coca Cola from the red box out front.  After a search for the hood latch, he would then raise the car’s hood and grab the dipstick to check the oil in the engine. While there, he also felt of the hoses and belts to see if they were safe to get you on down the road. Slamming the hood shut, he would next take out a gray shop rag from his back pocket and wipe off his handprints from the hood.  Usually the shop rag was also greasy, but it was the thought that he was trying that counted in this action.  

Next, in almost one motion, he would grab a squeegee from a bucket of water, and using the same rag he wiped off your hood with, he cleaned your windshield.  After completing all of these assignments, he finished filling your tank and if you purchased at least ten gallons of gas you could even receive a cup with the station’s logo on it, or even better, a bank shaped like a dinosaur to put your saved pennies in. Of course, that was back when a penny was saved and not left to be smashed into the pavement in area parking lots.  

The good part was that all of this may not have cost you no more than thirty-five cents a gallon and a total bill of something over five dollars. You would leave the station without the smell of gasoline on your hands and shoes, a clean windshield and sometimes with a fresh quart of oil in your engine.  

Not today. Instead, in today’s world you pull up to the pump, stick in a piece of plastic causing the computer to harass you over whether it is a debit or credit transaction and to try to sell you a super-duper car wash. Then, someone from inside a bullet-proof enclosure speaks over a microphone telling you that pump number 5 is ready and their dark chocolate latte coffee is only a buck twenty-five with a fill up today. After filling up your tank, you notice that you need to make a call to the bank for a loan and that this fill-up has helped increase the resale value of your automobile. You also told the machine that had your credit card that you wanted a paper receipt; but instead, it pretended to print one, said thank you and gave you nothing, causing you to have to go into the “Get It and Run” and ask the person behind the glass to give you one. And, they are not all that happy to do so, because Bubba forgot to put paper in the machine and you smell like gasoline.  

There is really no comparison to the two events mentioned here other than the fact that in both cases we thought the gasoline was high. Remembering prices at twenty-five cents, I also remember when gas went to forty cents and everyone thought that was high. Back in those days, gas pumps contained only three spaces for a price and when gasoline fill-ups went to over $10, new pumps had to be bought. But, you did get service with your visit and whether you stopped at Sinclair, Esso, Lion or Mobile, service was important and the thing that brought back repeat customers. Service stations in those days were in the people business much more than being in the gas business.  

Today we have made the swap of the service of yesterday for the convenience of today.  If a store doesn’t have that Icee machine, latte coffee, a full-line of groceries, a selection of drinks that fills two walls of the store and a car wash, then we may not stop. I didn’t mention restrooms here because from the dawn of time that has always been a gamble on what you get and it has not changed.  

Yes, fuel prices are high, I agree. But, it has never been cheap to operate a vehicle, starting all the way back with Mr. Ford.                  

                                                                                          -30-    

Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pettusr60@gmail.com      

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What Goes Around Comes Around

I have recently been attending budget hearings in my county to learn more about where our tax dollars go, and after you come out of one of those meetings, you have to grab hold of something to stop your head from spinning around. My county’s school system, for example, is the fifth largest in the state and the numbers that churn out of those budget meetings are very head spinning.  

Providing an education for our children is no longer hiring a teacher, getting some chalk, a few erasers, a blackboard and a paddle. Blackboards are now white and dry erase, the teachers cover subjects today that did not exist back in my day and the paddle left school with me, and is something only talked about today by old guys who make them larger with each story told.  

The school budgets of today cover school nurses, graduation counselors, lifesaving equipment, new air conditioner units and other items, that now have become necessities in our schools rather than just wants. As I listened to the budget discussion on these modern-day schools, I had to think back to my days when the classrooms were air conditioned by the windows being opened and the school nurse was the principal with a bottle of iodine.  

Of course, it does cost more these days to raise a child. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that a middle-income family with a child born in 2010 can expect to spend about $226,920 ($286,860 if projected inflation costs are factored in) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise that child over the next 17 years. Of course, that all depends if you have a kid who is low maintenance and is satisfied with just above average and not attempting to be a member of the overly popular group that demands the latest in everything. If that is the case, then you are out of luck with this USDA report.  

That is around a 2 percent increase from the 2009 kid. The expenses with the greatest increases were transportation, childcare, education and health care, which are a big part of rearing a child. They showed small changes in housing, food, clothing and miscellaneous expenses on a child over that one-year period. This was based on a family income between $57,600 and $99,730. It seems the more you make the more you spend raising your child, so if you are making more than $99,730, you can expect to spend $377,040. I guess that extra cost is for silver spoons or something like that, figuratively speaking. If you make less than the $57,000 figure, your child is only going to cost you $163,440. I guess this proves that the more you have, the more you will spend.  

Growing up on a Middle Tennessee farm, I don’t think I cost that much. As my preacher said one Sunday, “We were so poor that we ate cereal with a fork for breakfast and supper. The reason we used a fork was to save the milk.”  

My early years of life were spent in an air-conditioned house. Whatever the condition of the air was outside, it was the same inside. However, the plumbing made up for that. You got plenty of exercise going to the well for water and going to the outhouse when needed. At an early age you developed bathroom discipline. Cost for all of this…priceless.  

Every Saturday was spent “harvesting” and picking a chicken for Sunday dinner, which may have included the preacher as a dining guest. I guess you could say a lot of our chickens went into the “ministry.”  But our meals included homegrown vegetables and meats, which never would have been included in a survey.  

The good thing about my raising, starting as a 1948 model child, compared to the cost of today’s model child, is that my model wasn’t really involved that much in the competition of child rearing back in those days. Most of us boomers had about the same things and pretty much dressed alike. A couple pairs of blue jeans, a pull-over shirt, white socks and a pair of penny loafers was all you needed to get by. You had home clothes and schools clothes, which neither the two varieties did twine. Bored was not a word you dared to use around parents for fear of finding yourself moving hay bales from one side of the barn loft to the other and then back again or maybe even cleaning out a fence row which seemed to never get clean.  

There is something to be said about us “antique kids.” We may have been cheap to create as kids, not costing a quarter of a million dollars to rear, but we are now costing a pretty penny to operate and keep running. What goes around comes around, I guess.    

                                                                                       -30-    

Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pettusr60@gmail.com      

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Dairy Numbers Short But “Udderly” Vital To Tennessee Economy

With National Dairy Month quickly approaching in June, a major celebration is planned in the Volunteer State, and it’s been that way for a lot of years. The dairy industry has generated billions of dollars to our state’s economic activity for years and continues to do so even though the number of dairy farms you see along the roadsides has dwindled over the years. Last year, more than $157 million was put back into Tennessee’s economy by Tennessee’s dairy production.  

Tennessee’s dairy farmers are always focused on producing a nutritious product for you, the consumer, because not only is that their business, they also are consumers as well.  Unlike a lot of business folks, their commute each day is a short one to the job site, consisting of only a few hundred yards in many cases to the dairy barn where they have staked their career on providing a product that meets some pretty high standards starting each day right in those dairy parlors where the cows receive the best of care.  

Our dairy farmers live and work each day on their farms taking pride in preserving not only the business, but also the land for future generations to come.  It has been said of dairy farmers that caring for the environment is as much second nature as it is a priority. They use a pretty wide range of environmentally-sound practices for recycling water, conservation tillage, grass waterways, manure management and other methods of making sure the milk we drink each day is safe, along with protecting the environment of the cows they look after. And, it is reported due to advancements in technology and science, as well as a decline in the number of dairy cows within the United States, dairy farmers have reduced their carbon footprint by nearly 63 percent over the last 60 years. That is the equivalent of taking 32 million cars off the road. Dairy farmers were dealing with the carbon footprint concerns even before it was the “in” thing to do.  

Tennessee ranks 31st in the nation in milk production with eight processing plants located in the state at Athens, Covington, Kingsport, Memphis, Murfreesboro, Nashville (2) and Powell. Middle Tennessee State University also has its own processing plant manned by students to provide milk for on-campus consumption from the school’s own dairy farm used in processing training.  

In mid-May there were only 380 dairy farms in Tennessee compared to over 900 at the same time in the year 2000. Milk production in the state has dropped from an average of 2 billion pounds in 2000 to a total state production of 805 million pounds at the beginning of 2012.  

Numbers and production continue to decrease around the state, but those Tennessee dairy farmers who remain still produce perhaps the safest food product consumed in this country. From the 48,000 milk cows located in Tennessee, consumers receive a nutritious product containing nine essential vitamins and minerals, including protein, calcium and vitamins A and D.  

Seventy-one percent of our milk produced in this state is on family dairy farms that have fewer than 200 cows. The average milk cow in the state will cost $1,310 and will produce 6.1 gallons of milk a day. She will drink 50 gallons of water, eat 20 pounds of grain and feed, and 55 pounds of hay and silage, and chew her cud from 6 to 8 hours each day to produce those 6.1 gallons. The average cow produces 90 glasses of milk a day and she is doing her part to keep us healthy, but are we?  

Some folks say Tennesseans’ diets are lacking when it comes to good nutrition. We only get half the amount of fruit and milk we need to meet our daily requirements, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By getting three servings of dairy products a day, we can help boost our nutritional needs.  

June marks a month-long salute to dairy that began in 1937, and it has grown into an annual tradition. This year’s theme is “Dairy Packs Power.” The theme highlights the reasonable cost and the best nutritional value of dairy products for your money. When planning your meals, make sure to include nutrient-rich foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Dairy foods contain nine vitamins and minerals to help your family build strong bones. Penny for penny you can’t beat milk.         

In June, let’s honor the contributions of our dairy farmers who look after our good health, as well as work 24/7/365 to provide us consumers with fresh, wholesome dairy products.                

                                                                                            -30-    

Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pettusr60@gmail.com      

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From The Backseat Of An Old Desoto

I have been spending a lot of time lately working in a pick-your-own berry patch located almost in the heart of one of Tennessee’s fastest growing cities, which gives me the opportunity to meet a lot of people. Many of them have moved to our state from other parts of the country and world to enjoy what I have been fortunate enough to grow to love due to the fact I was born here at an early age and chose not to leave.

I have always been a people admirer. Guess I got that training from early days of coming to town on Saturdays and being told to stay in the car while my parents did their shopping on our town seat’s public square. My older brother and sister along with myself would do our “people watching” from the backseat of our old Desoto, as everyone would assemble on the square back in those days. Saturday was the day you took off from work on the farm to come into the city to get your necessities and see everyone else doing the same thing. There was not a mall, shopping center, or very few large grocery stores, but the town square had everything you needed, plus a great place to watch people without them noticing you watching them.

Since that time, I have always enjoyed talking to people from other places and learning about their lives, along with finding out more about the places they came from. In a way, I have travelled around this world without ever leaving home and seen some interesting places through the eyes of those who have been there.

While spending my days in the berry patch, I have had to help folks with their purchases and check them out at our stand. I enjoy their stories about when they use to pick strawberries as a child or tell about how sweet the produce is from the state they come from. You get a lot of stories that start with “back where I’m from” and go on to explain about how they miss those days as well as those products.

Of course, I could be mean and say something negative, but that would not be the right thing to do. And, as I have thought more about these “where I come from” encounters, as one who holds a degree of PWA (People Watcher Analyst) awarded in the backseat of a Desoto, I have determined that most of these people are really telling you memories rather than actual facts. Most of them are remembering the good days and for some reason food often figures into our best memories. Like grandmother’s house on Sundays, homecomings at a church, picnics, the first time you met your spouse, county fairs and other special times. Flavors of things just seem to stay with us and many times remind us of home.

It is sort of like what I’ve said many times since I’ve become older, “Food just don’t taste like it used to when I was a kid.” And in all of my PWA studies I have found this to be true and you know I’m totally right.  But it is no ones fault but our own.

Since those of you over 50 and myself were kids, the medical profession and modern-day cooks have taken lard, fatback and the cast iron skillet out of the kitchen. They put the skillets in yard sales for people to buy and paint little pictures on the back to sell once again as country folk art and replaced it with a microwave that cooks our food by using microwave radiation to heat and polarize molecules within the food.

The word “fried” has been made so taboo in our culture to the point where even Colonel Sanders wouldn’t feel comfortable with his own chicken anymore. If you don’t believe me, take a look at what they have done. It use to be called Kentucky Fried Chicken, but wanting to dodge the bad feelings some people had about the word “fried,” they changed it to just KFC. Now they are even pushing grilled chicken. Nothing against grilled chicken, and I’m sure it is good, but if I’m going to Kentucky Fried Chicken, I assure you it will be the original recipe this chicken-eater will be looking for. That’s the taste I remember.

What we once called “seasoning” is now called a quick way to a heart attack. Instead of ham hocks, bacon drippings and Crisco, we now go out in the yard and pull up weeds to season our food. Mrs. Dash now sits on the table instead of the saltshaker and the kitchen cabinets hold bottles of cholesterol medicines. So, if I understand it right, we have removed country seasonings from our diets and instead now cook our food by radiation and polarized molecules. Still have to admit that country seasonings sound more appetizing than polarized molecules.

Yeah, food does change depending upon where you are from; often the same foods hold different memories for different people. Hopefully we are becoming healthier. However, as I think back to those folks gathered on the square on those special Saturdays, they seemed to look happier. Of course, that’s from my memory and from the backseat of an old Desoto.

                                                                                                           -30-

   

Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pettusr60@gmail.com 

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The Day Is What You Make It

When a person retires, I’m told many people find themselves looking for things to do and wish that they had continued at the old workplace. They say those individuals have depression and seem to be lost in their new life of not working everyday or having to meet deadlines. To me, that sounds pretty sad, and I must say that hasn’t become a part of my retirement routine since I turned out my office light December 31, 2013. Nope, just the opposite.

In fact, I need a vacation. Since leaving the Bureau, I’m in some kind of a meeting for some kind of a board I’m on each week. I’m a member of my county’s planning commission and I’m in the middle of a campaign for county commissioner. Plus, I have the granddaughters, my church and a house that seems to need to be cleaned on a regular basis, even if I’m the only one getting it dirty. And in addition to all of those things, I even offered to help some of my special friends with their pick-your-own strawberry patch in the middle of Murfreesboro on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Yes sir, I do sleep well at nights.

Life can be fun if you will let it be. Sure, I’ve gotten so busy I do have to hire someone to cut my yard, but I have retired and there has to be some perks to this not working thing. The deer and turkey have taken over my garden, which has given me the opportunity to “cultivate” farmers markets. The produce is better than what I can grow and it gives me a chance to see my farmer friends to catch up on farming talk.

The Batey Berry Patch has been a trip for me this spring. I get to see people I’ve never met before and talk to them about strawberries. To see little kids come out of the berry patch on their first visit to a farm, with strawberry juice dripping down their chins, is a real pleasure for this old granddaddy. I get the chance to drive a motorized mule through the field to pick up pre-picked berry buckets for those who don’t wish to bend over to pick their own and spend days outside rather than inside at a office desk. Depression hasn’t found me yet.

Each day is what you make it. I’ll never forget what one gentleman told me not very long after I lost my wife to cancer. At that time, I was having a tough time with my life and he seemed to sense that things were not just right. He told me, “Young man, it is very important that when life seems to have given you the knock out punch that you get up and put both feet on the floor. There will be days you will just wish to stay in bed, but don’t. Get up and put both feet on the floor.” I continue to do that everyday just like the gentleman told me.

You never know when your day may change on you, so you have to be prepared just like this story I heard a few years ago at a water utility meeting. The story reported that in a small rural town the local funeral director had asked a young new preacher, who had just moved into the community and become the town’s only preacher, to conduct a graveside service for a man who had no family or friends. The burial would be held at a very small cemetery out in the country and the preacher was told not to expect a large crowd and to keep the service simple.

The next morning, the young preacher headed out into the countryside with handwritten directions given to him by the funeral director. He was sort of excited because this was his first funeral service to ever conduct and he had practiced all night on saying just the right words.

Being new to the area and having no GPS, he got lost and was running almost an hour late for the service. The nervous preacher turned on a graveled road and saw a backhoe and three men standing by what he assumed was an open grave. There was no hearse or anyone else there at the gravesite. All he saw were the men standing there looking like they were getting ready to push the dirt in the grave.

Thinking that he had missed the funeral, he jumped out of his car and ran to the grave, noticing that the concrete vault had already been put down and locked in place. He opened his Bible and asked the workers to stop what they were doing. He asked them to remove their caps and preached a very long sermon over the deceased. After ending his sermon with a prayer, he told the workers they could go on with their work.

The new preacher felt really good about his first funeral, and as he passed the group of workmen going to his car, he overheard one of the workers say, "I've been putting in septic tanks for a long time and I ain't never seen anything like that."

The day is what you make it.              

                                                                                                           -30-

   

Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.  He may be contacted by e-mail at pettusr60@gmail.com

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Horses That Go Klippy Klop

Not long ago, I wrote about the selling of my family home and many of the memories that were stirred from that experience. Of course, the house and attic held many memories, but who would have ever believed an old shed filled with a pile of my father's tobacco sticks, that he used several years ago to raise tobacco, would cause even more memories for this not-so-young farm boy. Those sticks were pretty important on our farm years ago and he guarded those pieces of wood like they were gold. They were the source for making a crop that helped pay his children's way through college and made Christmas a whole lot more enjoyable for Santy Claus and us.

The brown dusty pieces of wood made me think out loud about how some of them would make a really good stick horse for a kid. I was really hoping no one had walked up and heard my “loud verbal thinking.” When I was small, Daddy's tobacco sticks were the "herd" where I would go to pick out a noble wooden steed. Yes, you are right. I’m talking about a farm kid’s stick horse and not one of those you buy at the Barrel, after eating too many cornbread muffins, with a stuffed head that makes some kind of klippy klop sound when you squeeze its ear.

With that piece of wood and a grass string tied at the top for a bridle, I could take my imagination out West with Roy and Gene to fight outlaws and make the long cattle drives. My stick horse, in my imagination, would be just as real and look just as good when we would ride off into the sunset along side Roy and Gene's horses Trigger and Champion.

But, it seems kids just don’t ride real stick horses anymore. In fact, they don’t even know who Roy and Gene are! I spoke the other night to a group of graduating seniors from high school and mentioned Roy Rogers in my talk. None of them knew who I was talking about and didn’t even know that Bullet was Roy’s dog. They also were unknowing that he loved his horse so much that he had it stuffed after it died. Those poor children were so out of touch… not really. It was two worlds meeting on the same orbit.

Growing up on a farm in Middle Tennessee, stick horses were as common in my day as fried chicken being served on Sunday. Of course, you are going to tell me now that fried chicken is no longer served on Sunday and folks no longer eat at home either.

My friend and former commissioner of agriculture, as well as radio and TV star, L. V. “Cotton” Ivy, is a true stick horse fan and supporter. I saw him recently at the Tennessee Hall of Fame induction ceremony for former Congressman Ed Jones and he was looking really good. He often tells the story (which I know is the truth), about riding his favorite stick horse to school. Seems he tied it out front of the schoolhouse and when he came outside in the afternoon to go home, some no-good horse thief had stolen his stick horse. Without his stick horse, he had to walk all the way home!

Cotton and I were born in the years of BWM (before Wal-Mart), and your toys would be found wherever your imagination led you. I can remember when Daddy would get a new batch of tobacco sticks and I would get the pick of the whole “herd” for my next mount. He knew a boy needed a good horse, especially a wooden one.        

Our heroes were real people. We had Roy Rogers on Trigger, Gene Autry on Champion, and the Lone Ranger on Silver. I guess what made them so real to me was that each one of those heroes was agriculturally connected. They rode real horses, drove cattle on the range, worked in the great outdoors, were always having a note coming due, and courted their sweethearts “the cowboy way.”

Never got to meet any of them in person, but in recent years have gotten to know Roy’s oldest daughter Cheryl, who has told me a lot about Roy and it was good to learn he was just like what I thought he was. Never would have thought his daughter would become one of my friends, but isn’t life like that.

Sometimes I do wonder about the future generation. Look at mine. We made pies from mud, horses from tobacco sticks, flying toys from June bugs, and swings from tires. We haven’t turned out too bad.

I just hope the next generation uses their imaginations in fun ways like we did. It sure makes life a whole lot easier, saves on batteries and is tremendously less expensive. Happy trails to you all.

                                                                                                       -30-
 

Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pettusr60@gmail.com

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Is It Really A Necessity Or Luxury

As today’s economy becomes a major factor in how all of us plan for tomorrow, I just wonder if any of you have started looking at things you use on a daily basis that you just can’t live without. Most of us have cut back on some things that we consider a luxury, but I don’t know if I have really considered cutting out something that I consider a necessity.  

Each day I see reports on folks cutting back and it may come to a time when the term “necessity” will catch us all having to give up some of our modern day conveniences. To find out how people feel about what they need and consider necessities rather than luxuries in this country, the Pew Research Center out of Washington, D.C. conducted a survey among American adults by phone.  A car was the number one need for 91 percent of the group, which is right in there with my thoughts, but the number two need was a clothes washer at 90 percent and number three was a clothes dryer at 83 percent. I thought more Americans, especially the younger generation, were pretty locked into their cell phones, but the survey seemed to prove that most folks had rather be clean than heard. Of course, that is all right with me, especially in a crowd.  

However, I never would have thought a clothes dryer would rate up there as high as number three.  With everyone turning to a greener environment, I thought many would be going solar, you know, hanging the wash out on the line in the sunshine. But, it seems there are some things folks are just not ready to give up. During my growing-up years, my mother dried our clothes the all-natural way and it never affected me, other than a time or two of riding my bike under the clothesline and surviving a sudden stop. The smell of fresh sheets right off the line and stiff blue jeans that took a full day’s wear to get them bendable once again is something that you need to experience. I grew up in the day before dryer sheets, during the time of clothes freezing on a clothesline in the winter and your unmentionables waving in the summer breeze for everyone to see. On second thought, maybe a clothes dryer is important.  

The survey went on to list the order of things Americans consider as necessities in today’s world with home air conditioning being fourth on the list, the good old microwave as fifth, a TV set as sixth, car air conditioning as seventh, the home computer as eight, a cell phone as ninth, a dishwasher in tenth place, and cable or satellite TV hookup rounds out eleventh place.

Not until the 1980s did some of the items on the list even exist for many of us and over half of them were not even heard of until the ‘90s. Today, they are a necessity and it causes me to wonder just how spoiled we Americans really are. Now don’t get me wrong, I do like my air conditioning, Andy Griffith on satellite and getting some great offers for upside down tomato growers through email, but are they things we just can’t live without?  

I have also done a survey with some of my southern country farm friends to find out what we cannot live without if we had a choice between having and not having. Here’s our list:

      •     A pickup truck for hauling our dog around the farm and allowing him to look over the side while driving on the highway so his ears and lips will blow in the wind.

      •     Of course a good dog to ride in the pickup truck has to be a part of this list.

      •     A good banker to finance the pickup truck.

      •     Cornbread muffins with plenty of butter. (This one is mine!)   

      •     Duct tape strong enough to stay on a NASCAR racecar at top speed or to keep the mirror on my pickup truck after getting too close to the gate post at the farm trying to dodge that Angus heifer standing on the cattle guard.

      •     Vise-Grip jaw locking pliers. (Can’t ever have enough of these, especially after you plant a few during planting season.)

      •     Free caps from the farm supply stores and chemical companies.

      •     A radio on our tractor tuned to a country station for those long days and nights of planting and harvesting in the fields.

      •     Someone who still makes flip phones.

      •     Deer and turkey season.   

These are just a few of the things many of us need during tough times on the farm. But, you know, tough times are a usual thing if you farm for a living and this cutting back stuff is nothing new for the rural population. Country living has as its foundation survival skills for hard economic times developed over years of practice. We have learned over the years that getting-by is a necessity on the farm and luxuries are the cream from the over abundance of some successes that come around every now and then.

I’ll always consider cornbread muffins a necessity.                 

                                                                                       -30-    

Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pread@tfbf.com

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