Mike, Caddyshack, and Caddyson (who has asked for a new nickname on the blog, Blondie….uhm, no. I would, however, consider Dagwood) worked over the weekend before the latter two returned to the city. They harvested mushrooms and took them to the Farmers Market, picked bushels of produce, freed more trapped raccoons, boiled straw and innoculated logs for mushrooms, put the new pump on the sprayer, and did other odds and ends. The elusive neighbor’s cattle (or is that neighbor’s elusive cattle?) also got into the barn again, so they tried to find where they came in and fix that break in the fence. They never found the other cattle nor the break, even though they did have to avoid a loose black Angus in the dark on the road to the farm the night before. I mowed, did little things around the house, and worked on the revisions for my MA thesis.
This final chapter of my thesis is giving me a little trouble because it involves the politics in turn-of-the-century Kentucky, and particularly the bossism of the time. It seems each locality had its own political and industrial bosses, and although there were Republicans and Democrats, the Democrats were also a divided party. They pretty-well absorbed the Peoples Party (Populists), and in doing so destroyed it as a viable third party opposition, but within the ranks, the bosses also worked to support or defeat William Goebel–a Populist-Democrat who became governor in a very disputed election and who was assassinated while in office. (One Democratic faction actually swore him in on his deathbed and released a statement to the effect that his last words were that he supported the laboring people, while humorist Irvin S. Cobb claimed his last words were, “Doc, that was a damned bad oyster!”)
The political aspects of turn-of-the-century history, for me, are fascinating. I love the strategies I see employed in politics. And believe it or not, living on the farm allows me to see a cultural connection to the early political processes. Why blocs of voters connected to a particular boss in their community and voted the way he ‘suggested’ becomes clearer when one realizes the illiteracy, the economic reliance, the religious affiliation, and the sense of community rural people possessed. At the turn of the century, much more that 51% of Kentucky was rural.
I also see carryovers in ideologies that in many cases still exist today. Kentuckians, as elsewhere, when they look to their futures still seem divided over their idea of progress. Do they look for an urban-industrialized future with competition on the globalized market, or do they look to traditional and agricultural values? or will they seek a combination of both?
I have no answers. What I do know is the calming influence the agricultural lifestyle has on me and it is not something I wish to give up, though I certainly desire ‘outside’ employment in a vocation I love. I certainly have my days when I want the things the city has to offer. I may not be as materialistic as some, but I do desire some of life’s finer elements: a house large enough for family to visit, travel to foreign places while I’m still young enough to appreciate them– not to be rich, but to have enough. If there is an American dream, I believe that is the dream for most of us.
There’s the rub. What is enough? When I worked in Newport Beach, California, enough seemed to entail a nicer home than your friends, a more expensive car, membership at elite social clubs, perhaps a yacht to cruise on the weekends or ski trips to Vail or other resorts. Kitchens were beautiful, but rarely used, as folks sought out the freshest, finest food in out of the way places. There was the ‘need’ for the newest phone, computer, electronic home entertainment systems and a careful eye to the things your neighbor purchased. Many worked hard, but were poor as the result of high debt, house-payment poverty, and a cultural inability to look outside materiality. Certainly not everyone fit that mold, but it was just as certainly a trend.
I see the same trend among certain people here and I, myself, am guilty of chasing the elusive cash cow on the road to materiality. Yet here, I take greater satisfaction in the land, the animals, and in the pursuit of time. Time off from chores, time with friends and family, time to explore surroundings, time to research the history of this place, and time to absorb the beauty of it all are significant elements of my pursuit. While others may draw a conclusion that there is never enough money for the things they desire, I understand there will never be enough time. Great and lasting accomplishments require just that. A thousand years from now, no one will know or care what I owned or that I, as one individual in society, even existed. But this land will remain, changed perhaps, or changing always…but existing.
As Kentuckians seek a future of abundance, my hope is that they will find a way to balance their desire for materiality with the quest for time. Small- farm agriculture is an important element of that balance– at least equal in importance to big industry and new technology– and farmers will continue to be an integral part of the state’s economy long after political ‘names’ disappear from our history. The agricultural issues they vote on today will affect Kentucky tomorrow and they need to be cognisant of that, even when their own political bosses push them in a different direction. Otherwise, our future is like that big Black Angus Caddyshack encountered on the road. It runs here and there, never certain of its destination, inadvertantly destroying things along the way, and very nearly being killed by the high powered machinery it confronts in the dark. Our politicians, state and national, need to be mending fences, not tearing them further down in order to keep our rural and urban futures safe.