Things For Which I Am Thankful

32 Things for Which I Am Thankful

 

Preface

Matt and I lived in Western Australia for 10.5 years.  We started our own cattle feedyard and grew our business nicely until environmental activists and an out-of-control Department of Environment and Conservation put us out of business.  We lost our entire lives’ savings, plus Lindley – our honorary family member and operations manager – to suicide.

 

We fought through a corrupt court system for years prior and two years beyond shutting down.  I’ve always said it was the most awful, negative, horrible experience I had ever been through.  I HATED the entire thing.

 

But I would often say to myself (and others around me), “It’s okay.  We are together, we’re healthy, we have four happy and healthy kids, and we choose happiness.”  Or “As long as we have our health, we can do anything.”

 

Having been back in the States now for more than 5 years, we were dealt a blow recently when Matt was diagnosed with Metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma.  He had noticed a lump on his right-side neck.  After lots of tests and procedures, it appears that the primary is an inoperable lesion behind a remnant tonsil.  He’ll start radiation and chemo soon.

 

I’m a big believer in PMA – Positive Mental Attitude.  But I can tell you, I’ve not been a very good adherent to that faith these last few weeks.  So, I decided at last to follow my own advice.  I’m going to count my blessings.  There are many.

Matt and Janet

  1. I HAVE a husband!  After 3 separate tragedies in the last week alone in which accidents claimed lives instantaneously, I looked at Matt Thursday as we were driving to or from an appointment and said, “I have you today.  I have you right now.  I’m so very glad.”
  2. I have a husband whom I love – and even like! I have a husband worth mourning.  November 1 will be our 20th anniversary, which I reckon is about the 1/3 mark of our total married life.  I want those 40 more years.  But even if I don’t get them, what a 20 we’ve had!
  3. Automatic washing machines. Wow!  Pop the clothes in, and walk away while they do the work.  Just…Wow!
  4. Courageous friends and family. We are truly blessed in abundance in this regard.  They’re not afraid to ride this ride with us.
  5. Running water. How amazing is it to turn the tap and have water magically appear?!  A good bath or shower calms, refreshes and revitalizes.  Especially if you fall asleep in the bathtub!  I highly recommend such multi-tasking!
  6. Faith-Filled friends and family. Prayers are being said, a prayer blanket has been delivered, masses are being offered… We are so very thankful!  I do not abide believer-bashing.
  7. Atheist friends and family. When we went through our struggle in Australia, some of our biggest supporters were atheist.  I learned much from them, and am thankful for their presence in my life.  I do not abide atheist bashing.
  8. I’ve struggled through deep questions of faith and philosophy.  It’s tough.  I get the arguments against organized religions and the means by which men control other men.  I get and respect skepticism.  I encourage my kids and students all the time, on all matters, to “Question Everything – Always!”
    • But at the end of the day, I agree with my brother that it’s just too amazing for this all to be random. There have been too many “coincidences” in our lives for me to think it’s all just random.  (See specific stories below.)  I do not reject evolution;  I do not believe faith and science to be mutually exclusive.  But I do believe God has taken care of us.
    • I give a fun assignment in my math class every year, “Which Famous Mathematician Are You?” Students take a totally un-scientific survey, then they are given a picture and bio of a famous mathematician.  We have fun researching and finding out more about these mathematicians, and I refer to them throughout the school year.  Most of our famous mathematicians/scientists were philosophers and theologians, pursuing the meaning of life.  Arguing that such pursuit is somehow un-intellectual is just silly.
  9. Four kids who are independent thinkers and doers! Our kids are not needy.  They’re just fun, and they are carrying on with life – laughing, inventing, planning, playing, building.  They give me pure joy.  Except when they piss me off.  But that’s not very often.
  10. Matt’s parents, 88 and 86, continue to be independent doers! They drive, shop, attend church and Rotary, and they will help us with anything we need help with.  And we thought we were moving to Columbia to help THEM!  HA!  Joke’s on us!!
  11. My parents are also alive and well, and give much encouragement, support and shoulders to cry on, if needed. How many couples our age can say that their parents are still married to their first spouse and all four are still not only living, but living well!?
  12. People working independently on cures and treatments for cancer. There are many who think outside the box and who have shared information with us.  Matt has done lots of research.  It’s a tough slog, wading through what’s out there.  There is a boatload of anecdotal evidence, but scientific studies are harder to come by (for lots of reasons).  Matt has cut out all alcohol and sugar, which seems reasonable.  It’s scary to reject all conventional treatment options though.  We appreciate people sharing information with us without being pushy.
  13. The MU Medical Center and Ellis Fischel Cancer Center (an affiliate of MD Anderson) are amazing! We have almost never waited for an appointment, the staff, nurses and doctors are smart, efficient and down-to-earth, and we are only 20 minutes away.  That’s huge!
  14. My wonderful co-workers at Rock Bridge High School. I work with THE BEST people imaginable and my principal ROCKS.   They make me a better teacher and a better person.
  15. People who have battled cancer before us. We have fantastic technology, better information and more effective treatment than ever before.  Our odds are better because of those who have gone before us.
    • I remember Faye Cannon from Hugo going through an experimental (what I think was) platinum treatment for her cancer back in the 80’s.  She lost all desire to eat because all food tasted like metal.  She also told my mom when she was only just finished with treatments that if she had it to do over again, she would choose not to take them.  Given the fact that she’s still alive all these years later, I wonder what she would say today.  Matt’s chemo treatment will be cisplatin, a platinum-based treatment.  Thanks, Faye!
    • LOTS of courageous people come to mind. I hate to start naming names; those who have contacted us with their personal stories, recommendations, and encouragements are much appreciated.
  16. People who have lost loved ones to cancer who are willing to re-live their pain while supporting us today. This truly blows me away, and I cannot thank them enough.  A few names that come to mind immediately are Kim and Ken Spady, Sue Simmonds, Elaine Whiteford, and my new friends Jason and Becky Mott and Matt and Heather Thomas.
    • Kim and Ken Spady were in my sister’s Ag Econ course at Oklahoma State back in the late ‘80s. They married the day they graduated from college, and proceeded to have 4 wonderful sons.  While we were in Australia, Kim went through breast cancer and then Caleb, their 10-year-old son was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an inoperable and terminal brain tumor.  I followed Caleb carefully through Kim’s “Keeping Up With Caleb” posts on Carepages.com.  Kim went through another tough cancer treatment right at the end of Caleb’s time on earth in 2009.  She never once mentioned herself.  The grace with which Kim and Ken went through their ordeal has always given me great inspiration and comfort.  They have never been far from my conscious thoughts.  The sheer strength of physical reactions I have had when bracing for results and opinions on Matt’s condition have surprised me.  I cannot imagine going through this with one of my children, let alone battling cancer at the same time!  Kim and Ken, thank you for your courage, honesty and testimony.  My level of respect and appreciation is more now than ever.  God bless you guys.
    • Sue and Terry Simmonds were in our church (St. Matthew’s) in Australia, and Matt and Terry were in Rotary together. They were good friends and we shared meals on multiple occasions.  Terry was diagnosed with cancer after we got back to the USA and passed away in 2014, 12 months after diagnosis.  In February of this year, Sue sent me the following message:  “Hi Janet, How are things with you all?  Quick question: where is it that you are living now? I’m being prompted by the Lord to attend the Aglow International Conference in Richmond Virginia in September. It was definitely not on my agenda for a variety of reasons including available leave and finance! However I’m sure if He wants me there a way will be found. I will have to be honest catching up with your beautiful family was the only reason I would even consider putting America on my travel wish list. I don’t mean to offend but with limited budget there are other places up the list.” Sue was one of the first people to reach out when we found Matt’s cancer.  Chills go down my spine when I re-read Sue’s message from February.  How about yours? (Can’t wait to hug your neck, Sue!)
    • Elaine Whiteford lost her beloved husband earlier this year. We had the privilege of attending their wedding in Narrogin, Western Australia, way back in the early 2000s.  It was a blast, they were perfect for each other, and we always valued their friendship.  Elaine also reached out immediately.  I’ll say it again:  It just blows me away that she is willing to re-live the pain through helping us.
    • Our oldest daughter, Kate, is actively involved in FFA. Through her, we have met wonderful people here in Columbia.  Aaron Mott was president of the club this past year, and we met his parents and grandparents at the FFA banquet in May.  Becky and Jason live relatively close to us.  The other day, I called her to ask if we could borrow a trailer to get Kate’s pigs to the fair next week.  I shared with her the news of Matt.  She invited me for coffee Saturday morning.  We barely knew each other.  Three hours later, it seems I’ve known her forever.  Jason’s dad lost his battle with cancer about 5 years ago, but that was only part of the story that Becky shared with me, giving me perspective and encouragement.
    • Matt’s exploratory surgery and biopsies of throat and thyroid were on Tuesday, July 11. We were there at 6:15 a.m..  After Matt went into surgery, I returned to the waiting room, where two families had appeared.  We all began visiting and I asked them if they were related.  Gesturing around the entire room, one of the ladies said, “No, but we’re all family because we’re all here.”  When one family left, I continued chatting to the other one.  Matt and Heather Thomas and his parents were waiting for their 13-year-old daughter’s 8-hour tethering surgery to correct scoliosis.  We felt an immediate connection; Heather’s eyes revealed too much understanding when I told them of Matt’s diagnosis.  I discovered that Matt and Heather are our neighbors.  I tracked their house down the next day and Heather immediately hugged me and when I left, said, “We are going to be good friends.”  Incredible!  Of all the people in all the waiting rooms with all the timing possibilities…I find amazing people who also happen to be our neighbors!
  17. Air conditioning. I don’t really need to explain this one, do I?
  18. People who recognize how excellent my husband is. Theresa Manzella wrote this on my Facebook post in which I wished Matt a happy birthday on 5 July (he got a PET for his birthday!):  “Happy Birthday Matt Thompson! Thanks for everything you do for our liberty! Thanks for everything you’ve endured without being bitter. Thanks for the example you’ve set for us to follow.”  I lamented that her tribute to Matt was better than mine, but I sure did hold her in even higher esteem than I had before (if that was possible!).
  19. It’s summertime and I’m a teacher! That means that I have been able to go to every appointment with Matt.  I’m behind on some of my plans to more fully develop my course, and teachers truly need a summer break because this job is tough.  But the fact that I could be a nervous wreck when I’m not responsible for daily teaching is quite a relief.
  20. Benadryl.  Matt is sleeping a little better than he had been.  Drowsy formula ain’t all bad!
  21. Coffee.  Coffee is very good.
  22. Humor.  This one really shouldn’t be so far down the list.  Can we just say that these are not in order of significance?
    • Thursday, Matt had appointments at 9:40 and 2:00. We went home in between and I took Will to the dentist.  On the way in for his 2:00, then, I told Matt that I had made appointments for all the rest of us.  “But I didn’t make an appointment for you, because….” I trailed off, thinking of how to say that he has an impacted wisdom tooth and they would probably want to deal with that and we have enough other stuff to deal with right now.  As soon as I hesitated, Matt filled in, “if I die it won’t have been worth it?”  He laughed at his own joke and I laughed with him.
    • I watched a compilation of funny answers on Family Feud.  My stomach hurt I laughed so hard.  That felt good!
  23. Good insurance. I’ve complained that I’m really just working for medical insurance, and since we almost NEVER go to the doctor, is it worth it?  As of right now, I think you can guess my answer.  I’m truly thankful to not be having to negotiate on each expense that is presented.  In addition to the stress of having to do that, it would delay everything.
    • As I was walking past a man in the hospital this week, I overheard him on the phone, “Okay, how can we keep this from going to a collection agency?” I know that that will still apply in our case, because hospitals are notorious for being bad bookkeepers and selling to collection agencies before the patient has ever received the first bill.  But right now, I’m not worried about it.
  24. Wine.  Wine is very good.
  25. Matt is otherwise very healthy! The nurse at the radiation oncology office looked at us incredulously when Matt said he was taking no medication…nothing.  She said she’s never had that short of a list before.  She said the Vets come in with PAGES of medicine listed.  Biederman was much more positive about prognosis when learning that Matt doesn’t smoke and seldom drinks – nowadays.  Dr. laughed when Matt admitted to drinking heavily in college.  He said that doesn’t count!  LOL!
  26. Wild flowers. They brighten my spirits almost as much as my conversations with Judy do as we walk early in the morning three days a week.
  27. My siblings. There’s just something about that blood and shared childhood experiences that bond us together.  I can lean on them without hesitation.
  28. Matt’s brothers. There’s just something about that blood and shared childhood experiences that bond them together.
  29. The Internet and modern communication. Being able to connect with all of you – both sharing updates and receiving information and messages – is a real blessing.  Thanks, Algore.  (hehe)
  30. Air conditioning. Did I mention air conditioning?
  31. Our friends from past homes…Hugo, North Dakota, England, Australia, Amarillo, Dalhart, Poland, San Angelo…and online friends we’ve never met in person!
  32. Another day of life in a world that, despite the many things that are wrong, is still pretty darn wonderful.

Thanks again for your tremendous support.  I feel better after writing this.  I hope you, too, can minimize your tribulations by focusing on your blessings!

I Love Pink Slime!

As you may or may not know, I love ag and I love freedom.  I also love technology in general and food science in particular.  I’m thankful every day, for example, for those evil preservatives that make my scarce food dollars go further.

And I LOVE “Pink Slime!”

I was reminded of this when a friend whom I respect and admire a lot posted on Facebook “Hamburger Chef Jamie Oliver Proves McDonald’s Burgers ‘Unfit for Human Consumption.'”

Jamie Oliver
The story was about how Oliver got McDonald’s to change their recipe because, “in a long-fought battle,” he had been campaigning against the safety of their burgers because “the fatty parts of beef are “washed” in ammonium hydroxide and used in the filling of the burger.”

Of course, nobody has been made sick by McDonald’s burgers, but that didn’t keep McDonald’s from capitulating to this “perception is reality” type pressure.

Goodbye efficiency, hello more expensive hamburgers!  Nope, the hamburgers won’t be any safer, and McDonald’s has now tarnished their reputation even more by giving the appearance that what they were doing before was wrong!

I’m “spitting chips” angry, not at my friend nor at Jamie Oliver (although he does aggravate me), but at McDonald’s.  The biggest single consumer of mince meat in the world has just denigrated our product (beef) and by making this announcement, has relegated a brilliant advance in food technology to the proverbial dustbin.

That’s a shame for our world.  Efficiency makes our world a better place.  It makes food cheaper, it makes our environment cleaner, it makes better use of our natural resources.  Efficiency is a wonderful thing to strive for and to celebrate.

I’m sick of these better-than-thou food activists attacking it.  But I’m even more sick of big companies trying to appease these food activists and their followers at the expense of all of those benefits of efficiency (and at the expense of my pocketbook in general and certainly on the rare times we eat out!).

Here is how I responded to my friend’s post:

Okay, this is misinformation. Ammonium hydroxide is used in lots of food production (including cheese and wine).

This LFTB (lean, finely textured beef) aka “pink slime,” is a wonderful product that has made a relatively worthless product worth something. The man that invented it, Eldon Roth, is amazing. He’s been doing it for over 20 years, and it has increased efficiency, which is great for the environment.

The reason the beef is unfit for human consumption beforehand is because it’s too high in fat. It’s the tiny bits of trim that have little bits of meat intertwined.

Roth’s process separates out those little bits, making them edible. It is 100% safe, and I’m thankful for a cheaper mince product when it is mixed with normal mince.

I am very happy to eat it, and to feed it to my family.

Does Jamie Oliver eat cheese and drink wine?  Even I know that he does!  What an arrogant, hypocritical jerk!

But McDonald’s is even worse.  They have taken themselves further away from what has made them successful throughout the years:  giving their customers decent fast food at a decent price.

I wish I could defend McDonald’s as I’m defending “Pink Slime!”  But, alas, they are catering to my enemies and abandoning their principles.  They are the true slime.

And they won’t gain a single customer on the back of their decision.

That also makes them idiots.

♠♠

I love ag.  I love the principles on which McDonald’s was founded.  I love sticking to principles.

 

 

 

PIPs and Trojan Horses

Trojan Horse 2The Trojan Horse.

Would we recognize it if we saw it today, in our time, disguised in contemporary clothing?

Have we already unwittingly allowed it through our gates?

Do we mindlessly celebrate minor victories while dancing around the Horse, ignoring the many signs of trouble all around us?

Jack Yantis shot and killed in Council, Idaho.

LaVoy Finicum shot and killed in an FBI ambush in Oregon.

Numerous ranchers run off their properties over the past few decades due to out-of-control regulations allowing unfair ratcheting-down of permit rules.  (See page 40 of link.)

The Hammonds in Federal Prison for conducting normal burning operations in Oregon.

Ammon, Ryan, and Cliven Bundy, along with 33 others, arrested, and most held without bail in Federal Prison. Many held in solitary confinement for weeks.

Vast expansion of Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations.

Vast expansion of the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Federal agencies, including BLM, militarized.

“Sue and Settle” practices enriching Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with our tax dollars while empowering bureaucracies. (Win-win for the “defendant” and the “applicant”; big loss for tax payers and freedom.)

The list goes on.

All while our peak industry organizations have been at the table. Have maintained their seats.

Most people are convinced that it would be much worse if those vital seats had not been filled with the flesh of our hired guns.

I beg to differ. It is precisely BECAUSE of our presence at tables with people who despise our existence that things have got as bad as they have.

Without our voluntary compliance, insane regulations would never have flourished.

Peak Industry Parasites (shall we call them PIPs?) spend more time with WWF and HSUS than they do with cattle and tractors and the people who run them.

Board members are given 5-star treatment while being brought along in the ways of compromise and “reasonableness.”

Just as our federal political processes are front shows for the fact that bureaucrats are really in charge, boards are facades of representation while CEOs, swimming in big bucks, schmooze with Washington DC (and Rio de Janeiro and Paris and…) elites.

Our industry associations are modern day Trojan Horses. They’re killing us from within.

It’s time we stop funding our demise.

It’s time we stop worrying about how the anti-productivity brigade views us.

It’s time we stand up and manage our property, our animals and our families….

… without kowtowing to unelected and unaccountable leaches who care more about pacifying pansies in suits than about standing unabashedly for the principles upon which this country was founded.

In fact, it’s past time.

Time to destroy the Horse.

The Stand of Finicum

Finicum #29

 

I’ve written a poem in tribute to Robert LaVoy Finicum, the brave man who was mown down by our Government this past week.  Text is below, but I’ve read it aloud in this video:

Gather ‘round, my children, I beseech you, come,
And hear of the Stand of Finicum.
‘Twas the 26 of January, 2016,
When news came down of the awful scene,
Hands in the air, his time had come.

An Arizona rancher, a God-fearing man,
Ol’ Finicum loved taking care of his land,
His wife and his children (the source of much pride),
His dog and his horses, worked hard by his side,
Living honest and earnest and calloused and tanned.

One day short of his 55th complete year,
Patriot Finicum stood, not out of fear,
But to protect the ones in his care,
He knew they’d not get out of there,
So he stood on his own, without tear.

The background story is vital indeed,
Finicum knew good people were in need,
Of a leader, a legend, a down-to-earth man,
To re-set the course of this once-great land,
The law upon which Founding Fathers had agreed.

The Constitution, my children, is this law of our land,
Don’t agree with it’s writing, but you must understand,
Freedom fighters knew, Federal Gov., once founded,
Would reel out of control, if not constantly hounded,
Ol’ Finicum realized that it had got out of hand.

In ’14 with the Bundys, he’d taken a stand,
Unarmed ranchers faced death to protect their land.
Federal agencies, armed to the hilt with SWAT team,
Threatened the cowboys, automatic rifles did gleam,
Ol’ Finicum, willing to die, advanced, grand.

The Feds backed down in that glorious moment,
Knew they couldn’t win with the camera component,
They’d bide their time, wait for the day,
When they controlled the situation, make the cowboys pay,
There’d be a day of revenge, they’d get their opponent.

What once had been bureaucratic ineptitude,
Had morphed into evil, no longer subdued,
Ol’ Finicum knew that a Stand he must make,
Laws used against honest ranchers made us all ache.
The Hammonds, imprisoned, the facts grossly skewed.

“We have FARMERS in PRISON!” good people decried,
We moaned and we blogged, from our soft chairs, we tried,
To get out the facts, to educate non-ag folk,
For years, heavy laden, we almost went broke,
Working to sway public opinion to our side.

But, you see, Dear Children, that’s not how it should be,
The intent of our founding was to protect liberty.
We are not a democracy, majority shouldn’t rule,
Laws are meant to protect, from the powerful, cruel,
Each person’s life, their freedom and property.

Ol’ Finicum saw, he experienced, he breathed,
The increasing assault on original ideas conceived,
Supposedly enshrined in our Constitution,
Finicum saw the ongoing dilution,
Of individual rights; he was extremely bereaved.

“Liberty or death,” was what he lived by,
Put his life where his mouth was, with God did he lie,
Dying in snow, bleeding, mown down,
An FBI ambush, far, far from town,
Ol’ Finicum, Faithful Servant, did die.

Ol’ Finicum stood, side by side with his brothers,
Stood tall for truth, goodness and justice,
No concrete box imprisons this legend,
He’s free with the angels, as we always reckoned,
Now let him be our guide and fair compass.

Let his death be of value! Let it be not in vain,
Let us honor his memory, Let true justice reign,
Let us, Dear Children, continue his fight,
Let us ensure might does not conquer right,
In mind of the Stand of Finicum, may our courage not wane.

Imminent Starvation

People are going to starve.

Here. In the United States. In Australia. In Europe. All over the world.

Now. Not in some far-distant time. In our time.

Within a market-based economy in which the sanctity of private property is honored and protected, if food begins to get scarce, a monetary incentive arises for producers to produce more…take more risks, improve property holdings, invent things, try different methods, break new ground.

IMG_3767

On the road to hunger?

Success in ag production leads naturally to a freeing-up of more people to pursue things other than finding or making food for themselves every day. These things include making better houses and improving water and sewer infrastructure.

Once basic needs are improved to a significant extent, leisure activity increases. Sports and games become more popular. The quality of food improves and it becomes more tasty. People have time to make that food more enticing in appearance and flavor.

Unfortunately, people then also have more time to stick their noses into other people’s business. Rules and regulations begin to proliferate. It becomes harder and harder to adapt to changing circumstances.

Food producers should be rich. What they do underpins what everyone else is able to do. But when property wealth begins to become apparent, jealousies drive others wild. It’s not fair that one should own more property than another! Facts be damned. Emotions triumph.

In lesser-developed cultures, producers are killed and their property taken. But in “civilized” society, one must be much more suave.

Actions are taken over a period of time, through government coercion, with the (not to be spoken of) threat of physical force. What individuals will not do themselves in polite society, they are happy to have done with the imprimatur of Government. They support collective action that accomplishes the goal without offending their own highly-developed sensitivities.

The people who depend upon producers support the passage of laws, the creation and enforcement of regulations, the bringing to bear of pressure for “voluntary” agreements, all which mandate to producers how and when to do things. “Best Practice” is defined.

Language is twisted. Sustainability takes on a completely new definition.

The ability to adapt to ever-changing circumstances dwindles. Hands are tied. Committees are consulted. Legislatures are lobbied. Phone calls are made. Letters are written. Submissions are submitted.

Productivity gains disappear. Efficiency dwindles. Profits plummet.

Producers find it easier to “join them” rather than trying to “beat them.” They leave production and go into retail, service, trading, government jobs.

The weight upon the shoulders of the remaining producers burgeons. True producers become smaller in number while the pressure to produce becomes infinitely greater.

Who could blame them for shrugging off this weight?

Who could deride them for softly declaring, “Let them enjoy the fruits of their policies!”?

We have arrived at such a point.

People, soon, will enjoy those fruits: real hunger and starvation.

♠♠♠♠
I love ag.  I love traveling and history, too.

Thought bubble #1:

Matt and I visited Copan Ruinas in Honduras back in 1998 when we were driving from Texas to the southern tip of South America — Tierra del Fuego.

The Mayan civilization had built up to a high level, and then, mysteriously disappeared. Nobody knows with certainty why. But the most logical explanation I came across was that the population outstripped the capacity for food production.

I do not believe that would happen with freedom and personal responsibility. It only occurs under centralized control. Governments picking fights with other societies is also problematic, as young men go off to fight rather than staying home and producing.

If the people of Copan perished because of a lack of food, it was because they drove their producers away, killed them, or regulated them out of business.

Thought bubble #2:

Stalin, in 1932-33, intentionally killed off his best ag producers (largely Ethnic Ukrainians). He did not appreciate independent thought that was naturally present in successful farmers and ranchers. He was threatened by them. Using force, he stripped the farmers of their own produce and starved them to death. Estimates are that 10 million people died in what is known as the Holodomor.

The Value of Money

I’m reading Laura Ingall’s Wilder’s Farmer Boy to my four kids again.  The chapter titled “Independence Day” has a story that never ceases to resonate with me.

I don’t know why, but I can’t read it aloud without crying.

Perhaps it’s nostalgia for my own hard-work, conservative, country raising.  Or because I understand that the value of money has been undermined by an out-of-control central authority.  Maybe it’s the knowledge that, contrary to its current status, money should be sound and trust-worthy, a thing of integrity and honor.

In any case, I feel compelled to share the story with you here.  I hope the excerpt brings some emotion to you, too.

Father was a little way down the street, talking to Mr. Paddock, the wagon maker. Almanzo walked slowly toward them. He was faint-hearted, but he had to go. The nearer he got to Father, the more he dreaded asking for a nickel. He had never before thought of doing such a thing. He was sure Father would not give it to him.

He waited until Father stopped talking and looked at him.

“What is it, son?” Father asked.

Almanzo was scared. “Father,” he said.

“Well, son?”

“Father,” Almanzo said, “would you — would you give me — a nickel?”

He stood there while Father and Mr. Paddock looked at him, and he wished he could get away. Finally Father asked:

“What for?”

Almanzo looked down at his moccasins and muttered:

“Frank had a nickel. He bought lemonade.”

“Well,” Father said, slowly, “if Frank treated you, it’s only right you should treat him.” Father put his hand in his pocket. Then he stopped and asked:

“Did Frank treat you to lemonade?”

Almanzo wanted so badly to get the nickel that he nodded. Then he squirmed and said:

“No, Father.”

Father looked at him a long time. Then he took out his wallet and opened it, and slowly he took out a round, big silver half-dollar. He asked:

“Almanzo, do you know what this is?”

“Half a dollar,” Almanzo answered.

“Yes. But do you know what half a dollar is?”

Almanzo didn’t know it was anything but half a dollar.

“It’s work, son,” Father said. “That’s what money is; it’s hard work.”

Mr. Paddock chuckled. “The boy’s too young, Wilder,” he said. “You can’t make a youngster understand that.”

“Almanzo’s smarter than you think,” said Father.

Almanzo didn’t understand at all. He wished he could get away. But Mr. Paddock was looking at Father just as Frank had looked at Almanzo when he double-dared him, and Father had said Almanzo was smart, so Almanzo tried to look like a smart boy. Father asked:

“You know how to raise potatoes, Almanzo?”

“Yes,” Almanzo said.

“Say you have a seed potato in the spring, what do you do with it?”

“You cut it up,” Almanzo said.

“Go on, son.”

“Then you harrow — first you manure the field, and plow it. Then you harrow, and mark the ground. And plant the potatoes, and plow them, and hoe them. You plow and hoe them twice.”

“That’s right, son. And then?”

Then you dig them and put them down cellar.”

“Yes. Then you pick them over all winter; you throw out all the little ones and the rotten ones. Come spring, you load them up an haul them here to Malone, and you sell them. And if you get a good price, son, how much do you get to show for all that work? How much do you get for half a bushel of potatoes?”

“Half a dollar,” Almanzo said.

“Yes,” said Father. “That’s what’s in this half-dollar, Almanzo. The work that raised half a bushel of potatoes is in it.”

Almanzo looked at the round piece of money that Father held up. It looked small, compared with all that work.

“You can have it, Almanzo,” Father said. Almanzo could hardly believe his ears. Father gave him the heavy half-dollar.

“It’s yours,” said Father. “You could buy a sucking pig with it, if you want to. You could raise it, and it would raise a litter of pigs, worth four, five dollars apiece. Or you can trade that half-dollar for lemonade, and drink it up. You do as you want, it’s your money.”

Almanzo forgot to say thank you. He held the half-dollar a minute, then he put his hand in his pocket and went back to the boys by the lemonade stand. The man was calling out,

“Step this way, step this way! Ice-cold lemonade, pink lemonade, only five cents a glass! Only half a dime, ice-cold pink lemonade! The twentieth part of a dollar!”

Frank asked Almanzo:

“Where’s the nickel?”

“He didn’t give me a nickel,” said Almanzo, and Frank yelled:

“Yah, yah! I told you he wouldn’t! I told you so!”

“He gave me half a dollar,” said Almanzo.

The boys wouldn’t believe it till he showed them. Then they crowded around, waiting for him to spend it. He showed it to them all, and put it back in his pocket.

“I’m going to look around,” he said, “and buy me a good little sucking pig.”

Almanzo-Wilder♠♠♠♠

I love ag.  I love the books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and edited by her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, that celebrate ag production, improvement and integrity.

A Pause…

Driving to Amarillo on Tuesday morning, I took advantage of the “down time” to call my friend and mentor, Leon Bradley, in Western Australia.  His wife, Pat, answered the phone.  Leon is battling melanoma cancer and was not available to talk.

I wrote this letter to him this morning, through tears and laughter.  I do not even know if it’s appropriate to post here.  But another friend, Shorty Hofer from Montana, encouraged me this morning to keep writing.  So here you go, Shorty.

Back row, L-R:  Matt Thompson, Leon Bradley, Gary McGill, Janet Thompson.  Front:  Kate, Abby, Will and Luke Thompson Photo taken November 2011

Back row, L-R: Matt Thompson, Leon Bradley, Gary McGill, Janet Thompson. Front: Kate, Abby, Will and Luke Thompson
Photo taken November 2011

Dear Leon-

You once told me that you loved horse racing, in part, due to the attitude of the participants in that game.  They understood that losing was part of life;  whatever happened to them, they took it in their stride and carried on stoically and with a sense of humor.

I’ve reminded myself of this time and again since speaking to Pat on Tuesday evening your time.  I must admit, I’m struggling.  I’m sorry.  I know you’d hate that.  I’ll say this, get it off my chest, and then move on to other topics.  I feel like a dark curtain has been hanging over me since Pat informed me of your condition.  I am sorry for you, for her, and for the rest of us who have been so positively impacted by you and your beautiful mind.  I hate the thought of you suffering at all.

I am buoyed by considering the impact you’ve had on my life.  I do not know if you understand how significant that impact has been.  Pat (quite understandably) was irritated by the hours you spent on the telephone on “agri-political” issues.  But I want her and you to know that, as far as I’m concerned, those conversations were much bigger than “issues.”

They were bigger than liberalizing wheat marketing, growing GMO crops, getting a competing grain handling facility into Western Australia, fighting AGW (or ACC or whatever it’s called now!) policies, or working to free ourselves from an unfair levy.

For a short period of time, I was directly exposed to philosophy in motion — a fascinating, entertaining and inspiring fusion of idealism and realism.  I was able to witness you in action, mentally fencing with self-important persons who had no idea of the fatal wounds you were inflicting upon them.  You always left me wanting more.  I could never get enough of your quick wit and clever tongue.

In our conversations, you never hit me over the head in opposition to my ill-conceived notions; you simply inserted one-liners that caused me to pause in my thinking.  I usually would not pause soon enough, and, embarrassingly for me, you had to repeat your little gem more than once…but spaced a respectable distance apart for subtlety.  “It’s not the person that’s the problem.  It’s the system.”  “The Liberals are worse than Labor.”  “Behemoth corporations would not exist within a truly free economy.”

The first time we met, you recommended Terence Kealey’s The Economic Laws of Scientific Research.  Later, you gifted your copy to me.  With your hand-written comments and yellow sticky notes protruding, I consider it one of my few prized possessions.

Your knowledge of, and ability to recall, important authors and works inspired me.  You encouraged me to read Leonard Read’s I, Pencil, Garet Garrett’s Satan’s Bushel and Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man.

You freely quoted (okay, paraphrased!) Von Mises, Hazlitt, Hoppe, Rothbard and Bastiat.  You introduced me to Gary North and led me to appreciate more fully Ron Paul.

You recommended beautiful movies like “Seabiscuit” and “Sunshine.”  We discussed “Dr. Zhivago” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Book, movie or article, you took the time to discuss the ideas behind each work and person.

You were the first to educate me on the story behind Helicobacter pylori…and how we could (should!) take heart from those Australian researchers’ struggle to advance truth.

You taught me the true account behind the miracle of Germany’s post-WWII economy, specifically the role of Ropke and Erhard.  That caused me to begin to question all of the history I had been taught, which opened an entire new world of discovery.  Much of that discovery has been painful, as it involved an abandonment of child-like trust and relatively mindless cheerleading.  But I would not trade that discovery for anything.

The world to which you helped lead me is sparsely populated, but rich in depth of character and adherence to truth.  Satisfaction of intellectual purity salves the pain of existence outside the realm of accepted opinion.

The few glimpses I’ve had into your personal life revealed your accepting and generous nature, and included you playing chess with your grandson.  What a wonderful gift to him!

You taught me how to improve my writing (please don’t analyze this one too closely!!) by playing mental chess with my arguments — by thinking ahead, applying logic at every step, working to make my assertions unassailable.  You also taught me that less is more — to use meaningful words and shorter phrases that conveyed ideas more succinctly.

And this brings me full-circle to the beginning of this letter (another writing tactic you always strove for).  We should treat our lives as you did your articles.  Life is fleeting; we should not waste a moment.  We should fill it with depth and beauty, avoid pretense, cut out the junk and focus on what’s really important.

You modeled this to me.  Thank you for being the best mentor and friend possible.  I will be forever grateful and will endeavor to impact upon other people’s lives as you have mine.

I’ll never do that as graciously, as elegantly or as humorously as you did, but that won’t stop me trying.