Friday, October 10, 2008


I'm lucky. My brother and I were raised to be self-reliant. Dad made sure of that.

My maternal grandparents grew up in Oklahoma during the "Dust Bowl" years. My grandmother lived in a small town and her dad sold mules to the U.S. Army. My "Peepaw" grew up on a small farm in the middle of the state. They survived.

My dad's dad also grew up on a farm. His father had died when he was a teenager, leaving him as the male leader of a family including nine children. I remember almost every story he ever told me about those years. They lived an isolated, but very happy and fulfilling life. They planted. They harvested. They loved each other. They survived.

Somehow, through some weird quirk of circumstance, I've always been interested in the past - in how people did what they did against seemingly insurmountable odds. In fact, I've always had a peculiar romantic feeling about how life must have been in those days. My grandfather and dad taught me how to recognize which trees make good fence posts, good firewood, good houses. I learned how to salt- and sugar-cure pork. I know how to hunt. I know how to fish. I know how to trap. I know how to plant and to harvest. I know how to survive.

I watched the events following Hurricane Katrina a couple of years ago with a morbid fascination. I saw entire families helpless - waiting on rescue from a government they trusted with their very survival so completely that they literally died waiting. I saw others descend into a "Lord of the Flies" kind of madness: looting, stealing, and killing. They had lost their instincts for self-reliance. Their communities that could have helped them best evaporated in the mists. Their government agencies, whether local, state, and federal, were too large, too distracted, and too poorly-prepared to save them. They couldn't survive.

Again, I find myself watching sort of sickly mesmerized as the doom and gloom are predicted, but I know that we'll be okay. I know this because all the people I've ever known have taught me, and I've learned. I find it pitifully tragic that others lack this sense of self-reliance. Even the people in the 1920s and 1930s who were raised much closer to our agrarian and self-reliant past than were we, were shocked and surprised by the sudden onset of the Great Depression. As now, the American collapse heralded a world-wide downturn. Nevertheless, our ancestors survived. They took what they had and made the best of things. They did without the trappings of wealth and high society. They turned to the only thing you can really ever count on in this miserable world - God and family. They survived. Moreover, they thrived. Out of the ruins of that dark time rose what has been called "The Greatest Generation" - forged in the hardships of the Depression, further hardened by a World War.

I urge you not to lose heart. And I urge you to listen to the voices of our forebears. My great-great-grandmother, who I listened to as a young child, under an old oak tree in her elderly daughter's front yard, told all us kids of "coming to Texas on a covered wagon", crossing rivers, being harassed by Indians, and surviving. That same pioneer spirit that lived in her, in the Pilgrims, in the "49ers", in Lewis and Clarke, in Daniel Boone, in the Heroes of the Alamo - that same spirit lies dormant in us, too. We will grow through this, no matter how bad it gets. We will grow stronger and better. And, with God's help, we will survive.

Read, hear, learn, and survive.