I read today that Eddie Albert
(of Green Acres fame
) passed away.
For those of you not familiar with the show, there were a series of shows in the 1960's like Petticoat Junction
and the Beverly Hillbillies
. Green Acres was a reverse spoof of the Beverly Hillbillies. Instead of the country folk moving to the big city, the big city folk moved to the country and boy was it country. Even the theme song
was corny. I suspect some of the most loyal fans were those of us who grew up on farms and rural communities. I remember some of my more sophisticated friends from the east and west coast never getting what was so funny about a pig that farm folk could talk to or a chicken that never crowed at the right time. The gags that had to do with the less than competent utility company or extension agents were something that rural folk could really see as satire, rather than a less-than complimentary parody.
Something the show did portray was a sense of community..taking care of one another and looking out for our neighbor. I think Eddy Albert probably did a lot of good for those of us who "endured" the country life.
As much as I have enjoyed the travel and new paradigms I have experienced, I still appreciate my childhood living on a couple farms, a two-room school house and the challenge of living and working in a small, rural community. I still enjoy heading back to places like Edgar, Nebraska
or Logan, Kansas
and other the rural parts of Nebraska and Kansas, visiting family and friends.
Both my grandparents owned farms in Nebraska near Edgar and Harvard, Nebraska
when I was growing up. Through my grandparents, I learned to start a 1938 John Deere tractor (no key switch you had to spin a crank wheel that generally threw you on your backside after it kicked back at you). I learned that a power take-off could kill you faster than a gun. I rode a planter behind a tractor that usually provided me with about 3 inches of caked on dust after a day of helping out. I learned about the benefits and curse of irrigation, fertilizer and government subsidies. When I was about 6 years old we had moved to Edgar from a rural farm. After school, I would ride my bike downtown and sit with my Grandad Smith with a few of his buddies in front the tire store. I suspect that is probably where I acquired my gift of gab, as well as a few unsavory phrases, much to my mother's dismay. It's also where I learned that Prince Albert really does come in a can and that old guys were wearing bib overalls a long time before the fashion models found them.
I learned from my Grandad Johnson about livestock, specifically how to stay out of their way. I learned that a Hereford Heifer
can kick you a long way when you are 10. I learned that cleaning a chicken coup was nastier than cleaning out the hog pen. It's also why I have a profound appreciation for clean eggs in the shell.
I learned that chicken-noodles and mashed potatoes can be cooked in the same pot.
You could also get lost in a cornfield by the end of July, (Knee high by the 4th of July). I learned that corn causes a fog as it releases moisture in the air and I learned that driving on a gravel road is a lot harder than on "oil mat."
I also learned the benefits of conversation a long time before it was fashionable, to give back to that which provides for you and to always help out your neighbor.
I learned to haul drinking water into the kitchen from the well outside. We even all got to share the same drinking ladle from the bucket. I got to churn butter by hand, make homemade ice cream by hand and was amazed when I found out there were propane refrigerators and not just for RVs either.
I also got to sleep in an upstairs bedroom on a feather bed with the windows open where you heard nothing but the wind, could look at a sky and see all the stars unblemished by city lights and smell clean moist evening air. We got chased into the cellar by tornadoes, learned that a farm is a great place to fly a kite, ride in a wheelbarrow, eat fruit right off the trees, oh yeah, and share a single telephone line with six other families who all listened in on everyone else's conversations.
It was also a time when using an outhouse wasn't an adventure, it was a necessity when the septic tank plugged or froze up. One hasn't lived until you find yourself in a privy at midnight, the temperature is about 30 degrees and you don't dare move for fear of getting a splinter from the privy "seat" and find out there is no toilet paper.
As much as I kid around about being from the lower Midwest, it's still a welcome place to return for a visit. Unless you've grown up there, it's hard to explain driving down Interstate 80 in the spring to see the new crops along the Platte River. To get off the "I" and travel some of the smaller communities along US 6 or US 30.
So.. as I sit here tonight with the a/c on , reliable electricity, cell phones, working indoor plumbing, a computer and cable television, I'm thinking it's too bad that my kids aren't going to get to experience those same "Green Acre" things that I did.
Thanks "Mr. Douglas