“You young folks today shouldn’t be allowed to do a damn thing until you have picked two seasons of cotton by hand and spent two years in the army.”

          Mr. Andrew Ivey said that to me from behind the counter at the local hardware store thirty years ago. He was a nice guy as far as I knew. I couldn’t claim to know him well.

          His image stands out in my memory because he was always very red-faced with hair as white as cotton and wore thick glasses. To my twenty year old self everyone over thirty might as well have been a hundred years old so I don’t know how old he was at the time. I am guessing in his forties or fifties, possibly older.

         Back then some friends and I were cutting firewood for spending money while in college. Not exactly a cushy way to make easy money but we were all young and I don’t remember it being excruciating labor. We got to be in the woods and it was our own small business which not only brought us decent cash but gave us some measure of independence and satisfaction.

          I was in the hardware store that day buying a new handle for my axe used for splitting logs. My partners made fun of me for being scared of chainsaws and preferring the more arduous task of splitting and stacking the wood. I was okay with that.

            I had seen one of my friends have his leg gashed open when the chain broke on a saw once requiring stitches. I also knew a guy who was using a chainsaw that kicked back from hitting a knot in a tree and damn near cut his face off.

          Some good natured ribbing and a back that was little sorer from splitting wood all day was fine because at least I knew I wasn’t going to end up in the emergency room.

          Mr. Andrew Ivey delivering to me his opinion on the youth of America was not totally unsolicited.

          As I placed the axe handle on the counter I solemnly asked him just trying to be funny,

          “Mr. Andrew if this axe handle puts blisters on my hands can I bring it back for a refund?”

          Maybe he misunderstood me and thought I was being a smartass. It is possible he was just having a bad day and I caught him at the wrong time. It could be he saw in me all the possibilities and dreams of a young person he would never get to fulfill because of the path he had chosen in life. I don’t want to speculate or paint him in a bad light. You just wonder about some things.

           One fact is for certain. What I said angered him. It was apparent from the tone of his voice, the demeanor on his face and the way he leaned forward on the counter glaring directly into my eyes when he said what he did. I felt so uncomfortable I wanted leave the axe handle lying there and run out the door.

          It’s a funny story to me now in hindsight but at the time it pissed me off. I thought it was unfair for this old man to judge me when I was working hard and he really didn’t know anything about me or my situation.

          Now I am the old man to people in their twenties. It bolsters my ego to tell myself sometimes how much harder working I was than the young folks of today or how much rougher life was and how my generation overcame more but I know better.

          My generation was born into unprecedented good times. Just about any college major guaranteed you a job in your field. If you learned a good trade money was available from banks to start your own business and you could get ahead with hard work.                      

          People in their twenties could afford fine homes and fancy cars that a lot of our parents didn’t have until they were twice our age.

          Hell, before I was thirty years old I was a member of three different country clubs at one time because of my addiction to golf. And to quote Steve Earle,

          “Golf is a lot like cocaine. You hit that white thing once and spend the rest of the day chasing it.”

          Yep. We threw consumerism into high gear and cultivation out the window because we wanted what we wanted ‘now’ and by golly we shouldn’t have to wait for it.

          So you young folks of today listen to me and let me tell about exactly what my generation did for you.

          We wrecked your economy through greed. Enough was never enough for us and now you are paying the price.

          A hundred thousand dollar college education is not a guarantee you will even be able to get a job much less a job that pays a living wage and enough to pay back the high interest student loan that may cripple you for life while the bank that loaned it to you got the money to lend it for less than one percent.

          Every one of you living in this country has a body full of chemicals and pollutants we used to create our great wealth contaminating the air, soil and water in the process.

          Most of the other countries in the world hate you and not because your country has prospered as some would have you believe. It is because if they had something we wanted we just took it and if they didn’t like it we stomped on them with the largest military industrial complex the world has ever known that has to have wars created for it to keep it alive.

          You have been sold on the idea through marketing that you cannot exist without the magic pills the pharmaceutical companies are cranking out for pennies and making billions of dollars on when they sell them to you.

          Politicians have you all convinced that you are un-patriotic and not a good American if you don’t hate somebody. It doesn’t matter who it is but you have got to hate somebody so that there are always opposing sides to fight against keeping you from seeing what they are really up to.

          Do not misconstrue my embarrassing admission as guilt or an excuse for us not to try. I am not letting either one of us off the hook that easy even though we could have been better examples.  There is hope.

          We aren’t evil we just got lost. Your generation has the talent, the skill, the ability and most importantly the imagination to save us all and I believe you will.

          Rules are indeed made to be broken but you must learn them before you can break them. Some of the rules we made were good ones so hold on to those. Break the ones we got wrong and make new and better ones we can all learn from. You’ll know the difference when you come to them and when you don’t we can figure it out together.

          It won’t be easy but nothing worth having ever is. I have faith in you.

 

          Thanks Mr. Andrew

Comments

Michael February 13, 2016 @04:25 pm
Bubba, I agree with most of what you wrote with the exception of this statement, "We wrecked your economy through greed." I'm not sure who this "we" is that you refer to but I'm not part of that "we." Greed is an oft overused term, kind of on par with coveting. Both are the basis for ANY economy, yes even a socialist one. We see good things that others have and want the same things. Not the particular thing, because that is theft, but something similar or better. It's what drives us to work hard, better ourselves and strive to have more. And there's nothing wrong with any of that. Those that wrecked the economy are those that got the college degree and went to work for gov't, banks, law firms, Wall Street and mostly the Fed. Nothing anybody on Main Street USA wrecked anything. We might have gotten too interested in getting more, but the real damage was done by our so called "leaders."
Johnny V February 12, 2016 @12:36 pm
Wise words old man. Wise Words.

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