Southern People

Tiller on the ConstitutionRicky was scrutinizing a five hundred dollar tiller in Home Depot. I stopped to talk. Walking around stores that sell manly stuff and starting conversations is great fun for me. My sons will confirm I have done this for a long time. These days I get paid for the privilege.

Politicians and opinionators warn us about people like Ricky; he is one of the groups messing up America. There have been many since we gained our independence and started letting lawyers run things. The British and the Native Americans were the first ones. Irishmen, Jews, Catholics, Japanese, Commies, Hippies, Vietnamese, and Muslims followed at convenient intervals. Lately we have decided Liberals, Hispanics, Gays, and smart people are causing all the trouble. Ricky’s people are a convenient target and have been on the list several times. They never seem to fall far from the blame spotlight.

He and I talked for several minutes and got along fine despite our differences. Ricky was considering the tiller primarily for his dad, who is eighty three. I know his father, sort of. I’ve met many men like him, poor but dignified, honest, hardworking, and smart.

Ricky’s father, like mine, fought during World War II, the last time our soldiers were actually fighting to preserve American freedom. My dad returned from that war hoping to improve his dirt poor upbringing and get an education. He wanted to raise his family in better circumstances than his father had been forced to do.

Ricky’s dad wanted the same things but he had a problem my dad didn’t have; the color of his skin. Guys like him were forced to take a back seat to other people simply because they had more melanin in their system. He spent his entire life being treated as less than a man by people who were no better than he was; most were probably not close to his equal. I can’t imagine how hard it was to walk down the street with his young son, feel the disdain thick as Dixie humidity, and know there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.

He still works the land; raising food from seeds, dirt, and fertilizer; creating sustenance for those he loves. When Ricky told me how his father enjoys working in the dirt in the heat, his eyes softened. I thought his voice cracked a little, but that could have been the pollen.

I liked him a lot. He must have liked me some; he decided to buy the tiller on my say so. We talked a while about fathers and working; tools and money. We didn’t talk about whose fault it is the country is having problems.

Since our constitution was created over two centuries ago, every law, every budgetary decision, every declaration of war has been done by one group of people. Every four years, those same people come down from Washington and blame all our problems on someone else. They tell us to vote for them and they will fix everything. Then they leave until the next election. They show up again hoping we’ve forgotten what they said last trip. Sadly, we usually have.

I’m of the opinion we shouldn’t believe them anymore. Ricky didn’t seem that bad to me. And his father is salt of the earth. I know him.

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Mike Cox

Mike Cox

Mike Cox currently writes a weekly column in South Carolina for the Columbia Star called "It's Not a Criticism, It's an Observation." He is trying to grow old as gracefully as possible without condemning the current generation in charge to doom. Each day this task gets harder as the overwhelming evidence mounts. He currently has two published books; Finding Daddy Cox, and October Saturdays. His columns have won three South Carolina Press Association awards since 2003. Mike has three sons and two grandchildren and lives in Irmo, Sc, just outside of Columbia.