2019-01-09 / Editorials

Don Lively

BACK WHEN

The conversation was, as is often the case when folks my age gather, about how things used to be.

About the good ol’ days.

We were talking about how things were when we were younger and much less technically adept.

Before many of us had phones in our homes, much less in our pockets or purses like we all do now.

If you’re close to my age by a few years either direction you remember when there were only three television channels and they were only on during daylight and evening hours. The stations went off the air at midnight with a stirring rendition of The Star Spangled Banner playing over a picture of the American flag. All-night programming was years in the future and cable stations didn’t appear until decades later. And unless you were financially better off than we must have been, every show was in black and white.

The good ol’ days.

It was a time in the Blessed South when most people made their livings and raised their families either by owning a farm, working on a farm or working in a local business that supported farming. It was an agrarian society and ripping an existence from the soil or from raising livestock was what most folks in our neck of the woods did.

Daddy’s farm consisted of a little over a hundred acres that made up the homeplace where our house was, and over a thousand additional acres scattered all over our side of the county.

Most of our neighbors were farmers too.

Nearly any direction you could go from our place you’d find fields or pastures where folks were farming their own family lands.

Then came the 80s.

Somewhere in my papers I still have the letter from Mama telling me that they had lost the farm and would be moving off of the homeplace. It is, without a doubt, the saddest letter I’ve ever received even though she wrote in an upbeat, cheerful way, exactly as you’d expect from a tough, Christian farm wife.

Nowadays many of those small family farms are no longer in operation but there is still plenty of farming being done around these parts.

It’s still a noble, valuable profession.

Which is why thousands of people were recently offended when a politician seeking higher office made a totally ignorant and obtuse statement that young people should no longer “have to go into agriculture” to make a living. Many people who lost their farms in the crunch would have given nearly anything to keep farming.

But, as Daddy liked to point out, time marches on.

Nostalgia, however, remains.

Back then was also a time where there were small stores in nearly every established community. Those stores were family businesses and were the backbones of the areas that they served. They were also gathering spots. It wasn’t unusual on a rainy day, or any evening after the sun had gone down and the farming was over for the day, to find several men and a few young boys sitting around inside the store on upturned Coke crates, talking farming or politics. Often they would partake in the age old Southern custom of pouring a pack of salty peanuts into their bottles of Coke so they could snack and drink at the same time. Others would feast on Moon Pies and Royal Crown Cola. If I was one of the little boys present I preferred Stage Planks and a brand new drink at the time, Mountain Dew. Those times were not just fat-chewing sessions. I can clearly remember many times Daddy being asked for farming advice from the younger men. Country stores were places of education.

Back then, so were country churches.

My own little church has undergone several renovations over the years, not merely for cosmetic reasons but because throughout its history it’s continued to grow and more space was needed. But it still has the feel, the personality, of a small, friendly place to worship. There are many folks who were brought to the church when they were newborns, came to know the Lord there, were married and raised their own families there, were mourned over after they went to Heaven and are now buried just across the road. That’s quite a testament to the mission of service the church has shown for over two centuries.

So, in some ways the good ol’ days never ended.

Still plenty of farming going on.

Fewer, but still some country stores serving their communities.

Still houses of worship welcoming members and strangers alike.

Just like back when.

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of two books of Southern Humor, Howlin’At The Dixie Moon, and, South O’ Yonder. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com.

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