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The Last Windrow: Elected officials need rural ethics

I hoped for a “shutdown” on the farm a couple dozen times over the years I roamed the plowed fields and stubble of northwest Iowa. Somehow my dad never saw the value in that idea. In fact, if I suggested any reason that there was “nothing to do,” somehow he came up with some job that I didn’t like.  

There were no “shutdowns” in the country where I grew up. In cases where money was tight, well, we just didn’t spend it. My mother would go to that REA calendar with pockets that hung on the west wall of our kitchen, pull out all the charge stubs for the month, sit down with her checkbook and write out checks until the money from the milk check was gone. 

Usually there were more bills than income, but somehow arrangements were made with our creditors that bought us another week or month. In the end, all bills were paid without a credit card.  

This “shutdown” syndrome is foreign country to me. I was taught from the cradle that if there was a job to be done or a need to be filled, just “do it.” There were no majority votes. There were no committees or panels or commissions. You don’t have time to think too deeply when the cows just broke the fence and were heading for the neighbor’s corn field. You had to act and you didn’t have time to call a committee meeting or check the political winds that blew across the countryside. If you didn’t stop the herd, there was a serious price to be paid.  

I think our country was founded on such a simple rural philosophy. It was hand-to-mouth living whereby you and your neighbors were expected and even mandated to act in an orderly, efficient manner. If you even thought about shutting down a service that was essential to the good of the country, you would be held in contempt by those you affected by your decision. You might actually have been tossed in the pen.  

Here we sit at this time, October 2013, with the Statue of Liberty closed. Yellowstone Park has buffalo roaming and Old Faithful is still spouting, but there is no one there to look at them. Good luck if you get salmonella food poisoning. You might have to wait for a diagnosis.  If you want to shoot a duck on federal property that you paid for, you’ll probably get a ticket. Funds to help families of those killed in our military were suspended. 

What IS going on here?

While our congresspeople are still receiving checks and benefits, those doing the actual work are being furloughed. My upbringing taught me that “what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.” Ever heard that? I heard it many times when someone thought I was getting a benefit and my brother was not.  

No, I never heard the word “shutdown” when I was a farm kid. Rather I heard phases like “get to work,” “do a day’s work for a day’s dollar,” “show up on time,” “treat others as you would be treated by them” and other phrases that at the time I dismissed as old folk’s talk. Now I know they were valuable adages.  

Just wish some of those who are elected to be leaders of this country would adopt a little of that rural ethic. Somehow they seem to have lost their way. I hope they find it fast. The cows are out and heading for the neighbor’s cornfield.  

See you next time. Okay?