I grew up in a small town in Illinois, which has not become bigger and has not become smaller, but is not the town of my boyhood. That’s not news. This has been happening since railroads, interstate highways, and veins of gold went one way and towns went another.
My hometown is a common Midwest metaphor that could represent towns in most counties in Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, and on. But, these are my stories and speak to change and a few lessons for the future and a bit of fun-for-me nostalgic weird recollections — Paul’s oddities.
(I have changed names to protect the guilty, and two anecdotes are from second sources i.e. I stole them from friends.)
First the easy stuff: Everyone had a burn barrel or a pile and if it did not go to the garbage dump, you burned it. In the autumn, you burned the blankets of leafs covering the ground, after raking, and you had two choices. Rake as they fell (the OCB folks) or just once, when the trees were bare. This latter strategy held the possibility of irking a neighbor, but there were no ordinances. In fact, you did not really have to rake them. Leaves would eventually blow onto some responsible neighbor’s yard. Continue reading →
Farmhouses were once so close together that a traveling salesman could make a living in the country. I saw the very end of that, at least in the great Midwest. Now it’s road-to-road farming – no trees, fences or animals. The wonderful creeks where I hunted the great catfish are filled with suds and foam. Today, a door-to- door man would starve or at least run out of gas. Half the kids in my class wore Future Farmers of America jackets. Today that would be one lonely club where I came from.
I learned a lesson from a bible salesman who came by one day. It must have been one of those lazy August days, and my car was broken down. He explained to me that the more rudely he was treated during a pitch the more he knew he was going to make a sale — guilt or something combined with his talent. But, I have found that phenomena to be true in private and corporate life. No, I still did not buy a bible from him – already had one.
But the most irritating door-to-door visitors were the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I must have been pretty bored the day I opened the door to chat religion a bit (still an obsession). That was my first mistake, as once the Witnesses start talking they feel they have a responsibility for your salvation forever, and they don’t give up easily. But, by far my worse mistake, was informing them that I was born a Catholic (a “cradle Catholic” (if you know the term). If you have never experienced this, believe me, Catholicism sets them off. There are probably many reasons for this. Perhaps the church burned a bunch of them, which would not be unusual. But I think the real reason is that relatively speaking Catholics don’t read the bible. They don’t. And until the folk mass, they sang like shit, but that’s an aside. Unless you are in Rome, lets leave the singing to the Baptists. OK? Continue reading →