Photo courtesy: Benjamin D. Esham
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This is an opinion article from Appalachian Magazine, written by Jeremy Farley:
This past year, our nation celebrated its 240th birthday and though my heart fills with patriotic fervor each time I catch a glimpse of those red stripes flapping in the wind, I can’t help but have those feelings checked by the harsh understanding that America 2017 is a nation in dire trouble.
Far from being the land of the free and the home of the brave, we are now a nation of spineless weaklings ready to be offended at the drop of a hat and often it is the very ones who dropped the hat who are the most offended.
I do not pretend to be an expert on sociology or American history – everything I know I had to learn from my life’s experiences, mostly as a child on a +200-acre beef farm in nowhere Virginia. The older I get, the more I have come to realize, however, that it was here that I received the type of education no Ivy League institution can come close to offering. My only regret is that 200 million other American children never had the same opportunities I enjoyed – opportunities to bottle feed a baby calf, drive a truck through an empty field at the age of 5 (alone), spend summers sitting alongside my father inside the cab of a John Deere tractor, begin Christmas morning the same way I began every other cold and windy winter morning – opening the gates for dad as he unrolled hay for hundreds of hungry animals.
In the year 1790, 90% of the American population were farmers. By 1850, this percentage had dropped to 64%, and then down to only 21% by the year 1930. Today, only 2% of the American population serve as farmers.
And though American agriculture is more productive than ever, I’m afraid that as a nation we are beginning to witness the consequences of having raised multiple generations who have never looped a metal chain through a gate or chased lightning bugs through a field of freshly mowed hay.
As a nation, we have allowed Disney to convince our children that all animals are cute and cuddly, then wonder why dozens of people get killed each year attempting to take selfies with grizzly bears, cougars and copperheads.
As a nation, we have replaced the garden hoe and watering bucket with an Xbox and cell phone, then wonder why our “children” refuse to move out at the age of 30.
As a nation, the vast majority of our families have never even came across an injured bird, let alone taken the time to nurse one back to health, then we wonder why a generation has been brought up to have no respect for nature or its Creator.
While our forebears were busy praying for rain, we have come to regard the water that falls from the sky as being a cursed object — unaware that it is the rain that keeps us fed each day… All sunshine and no rain makes a barren desert, but hardly anyone realizes this in 2016 America; which is why so many never find peace during their darkest days.
There was a time when Americans consumed bacon, sausage, biscuits, gravy, fried eggs and a big glass of milk each morning — and yet they rarely got fat. Why? Because after eating such a hardy breakfast, they went out in the fields and spent the next thirteen hours fixing fences, hanging gates, delivering calves, killing, yes, killing predators, and harvesting food.
Farm work is dirty, tiring, sometimes cruel and always difficult; which is exactly why the percentage of Americans who engage in this work has declined with every generation.
Yet, it was this type of upbringing that allowed a nation to produce men and women who pulled together to fend off the forces of Hell in the Second World War, explore the heavens, eradicate disease and tap the ocean depths.
Sadly, those farm children are dying off the scene each day. They have been replaced by “men” who have never gotten dirt under their fingernails and purchase overpriced coffee as a status symbol.
I’m not so foolish to believe that all of our ills could be solved by a trip back to the farm, but I am confident that if a few more people had the type of upbringing I enjoyed, the world would have a lot more common sense!
“Men In Denim Built Our Country…Men In Suits Destroyed It.”
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