It Ain’t Easy

i was thinking about growing up in Lebanon, Tennessee, a small town back then to be sure. i had it easy or at least i thought i had it easy.

i was washing, rinsing and drying dishes somewhere around six or seven and did so with my brother and sister until i left Lebanon for good (but never in my heart), likely for the good of the town folk and me) in 1967. i started mowing and trimming (badly) our yard around eight and began mowing and raking — oh the raking — of the large maxi-leaf bearing trees (elms?) totaling somewhere over an acre of land between the yards of the two adjacent neighbors across the street. JB and Bessie Lee Frame and Fred and Ruby Cowan were the neighbors who contracted me at nine and then my brother after me for the yard work. My father allowed the use of his mower, which required us to care for our yard as well.

i was paid ten dollars for the job and did it almost every week between sometime in April until sometime in October. This would have been good money for a boy back then, but i spent most of it on 45 RPM records from the bins at Simm’s Magnavox on South College, baseball cards, sugar water in wax bottles looking like cokes, candy cigarettes, and Three Musketeers candy bars from Mr. Jackson, who ran “little” Eskews on the corner of West Main and South Tarver, stopping on my way home from school.

i never got an allowance. i did vacuum the tiled and carpeted floors in our house, strip the wood floors and then wax, and once cleared all the cinder or clinkers out of the crawl space in between the basement and the floor of the house. My father had thrown the cinders there rather than take them outside when clearing the coal furnace. This was after he had used the cinders as the surface of our driveway. i also washed all of the windows of our home, inside and out.

During high school summers thanks to Jesse Coe, i worked at the waterworks shoveling the shifting sands in the filter for purifying city water and then dug graves and did the mowing and trimming in Cedar Grove Cemetery. i also did the inventory of the parts in my father’s service area of Hankins, Byars, and Jewell Pontiac, nee Hankins and Smith. i pumped gas and serviced vehicles at the adjoining “full service” station when all the stations did it and didn’t call it “full service.” Later, i worked full time as a cub reporter and office boy for the Nashville Banner’s Fred Russell, the sports editor while i was in between colleges. After a rather pitiful scholarship performance at Vanderbilt, i paid for my college completion at Middle Tennessee while living at home and working as a the county and sports correspondent for the Banner, the weeknight FM and weekend AM deejay for WCOR AM and FM, as well as selling clothes during the holidays for Jimmy Hankin’s Men’s Clothing Store.

i’m sure there are several tasks i left out. In high school, i also played football, baseball, and basketball. While digging graves during summer “vacation,” i also played fast pitch softball Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights; American Legion baseball Wednesday and Saturday nights; and for a brief period baseball in a county summer league on Sunday afternoons.

i went to Sunday school, church, youth fellowship, and the evening service every week and often went to other church events during the week.

i hand wrote all of my homework until i learned to type (oh okay, my mother typed nearly all of my papers when i was under the gun because i had procrastinated until the last minute). i figured all of my math problems on paper until i got a slide rule my senior year in high school. i got all of my books from the library and did my research in the card catalogues of the Dewey Decimal system. i had to make calls from home or use a pay telephone. i used maps to drive places previously unknown to me.

We didn’t have air conditioning in our home until the mid-1950’s and didn’t have it in our cars until the 1956 Oldsmobile. i stole my sister’s Vauxhall from her when i went to work in Nashville . That’s when she was given her Volkswagen bug my father had made from two totaled VW’s. My brother’s clunker (okay, Joe, my old brain just farted and i can’t remember the make or the nickname, but i do remember it was a worn green). Those three cars did not have air conditioning.

i walked to school and back. No, it wasn’t five miles, more like a half mile to McClain Elementary and about one quarter mile, if that, to Castle Heights Military Academy

i never thought of growing up as hard. i goofed off a lot.

Although i wanted lots of things and had impossible goals for my dreams, none of which actually occurred, i did not consider myself disenfranchised. i wasn’t expecting anyone, including my parents to help me financially or otherwise once  i graduated from college, and not a lot after i graduated from high school. i thought i had to do it on my own.

This is not some diatribe about how tough i had it compared to the youth of today. I cannot judge that. i come from a different place and a different time. There are moments i actually think they have it a lot tougher than i did. They have to grow up faster. Their paths are not as clear. There are more people and cultural movements and internet information, both true and false affecting their decisions. What they have to achieve to obtain independence is a far greater leap than mine.

It just seems to me everyone, those my age as well, keep trying to make things easier, trying harder to “keep up with the Jones’, wanting to be more engaged with everyone else.

i keep remembering another line from Dave Carey. i don’t think it’s in his book. i remember him saying it to the senior Navy officers attending one of our seminars on leadership.

“Easy?” he questioned.

“Life ain’t supposed to be easy,” Dave explained, “There is always something happening to make it hard.” Dave, the former POW, should know.

“Life is dealing with the hard things confronting us as well as we can,” he said: i’m paraphrasing here as i don’t recall Dave’s exact words.

That’s my point. i don’t believe we reach the satisfaction of living a good life by obtaining wealth and a lot of things to be admired (we think). i don’t think we gain satisfaction by going on an eternal vacation, sleeping in, lounging around, playing at things we like to play.

i think there is a much greater satisfaction coming from dealing with the harder things popping up in our life and working well. Work is not something to escape. Work is a place we can excel. Working hard.

Another thing: your or my solution, your or my political philosophy, your or my religion, are not going to make this a perfect world. If you try and fix it your way, or they try to fix it their way, someone is going to be left out, someone is going to get hurt. Laws, policies, programs are imperfect. That doesn’t mean we should quit trying to make things right for everybody. That just means to me we need to fix things in our own relationships first. To quit looking for the guilty, quit accusing those of different opinions of being evil.

i can’t fix all of the things wrong in this world. i would like to be a part of improving them, but i can deal with all of the people i come across in this world as individuals, good people with good intentions.

Yes, there are some bad people out there. A few are actually evil, insanely evil. The vast majority are basically good people. Yet we focus on finding something wrong with people who don’t meet our expectations, our perceptions, and then disparaging them, beating them up with accusations not knowing the real intent or actually what happened.

In yesterday’s (Tuesday, July 24) San Diego Union-Tribune sports feature “Off the Wall,” there was an item with the subhead of “Rush to Judgement.” It was about a video that went viral on the web. The video shows Will Venable, the first base coach of the Chicago Cubs catching a foul ball, walking over to the stands, and making a soft toss to a boy in the front row. The boy doesn’t catch the toss; the ball rolls under the seats behind the boy and the man in that row picks up the ball and hands it to his wife.

End of video. Beginning of vilification and damnation of the man. i too was pissed at this callous fellow and in extension all Cub fans — if you are a suffering fan of the bumbling Padres, you don’t like Cub fans, especially when they show up more than your fans when the two clubs play in San Diego — for being so wrapped up in their Cubbies and themselves (oh okay, my brother-in-law and nephew are huge Cub fans and at least they aren’t that bad). Regardless, it looked bad. So bad.

What really happened? Earlier in the game, the man had caught a foul ball and given it to the boy. The boy’s mother told the man if he caught another to give it to another child; her son had the one the man had given him. The video cut off before the man’s wife did give that second ball to another child.

Shame on us. So how many times do we jump to conclusion and excoriate someone before we know all the facts and that person’s intent? Pretty much all the time, and damn near all the time when it comes to politics and religion. There are enough villains out there who need castigating and banning and deleting from our lives. We don’t need to be calling out the wrong folks.

So that’s today’s rant of the old man: Life ain’t easy. Deal with it. Don’t go around blaming folks when you don’t have all the facts. Live your life doing the right thing and treating people the right way.

Back off the insanity.

4 thoughts on “It Ain’t Easy

  1. Enjoyed this very much. My summer anchored were on the farm and there was always plenty of work to do. Yep, we had tractors and equipment, but not like today’s equipment.Air condition, power steering, radios, practically dirt free. Tractors are so big, socexpensive, but can cover so many acres. I had 6 in my fields planting soy beans. Good reed

  2. Yes, you Arte right…we are so easy to judge….guilty as charged. I, too, usually think people are good and well meaning. I believe MOST people are doing the best they can in life. Yet, when we already are negatively predisposed to a group, it’s easy to jump on the negative. Thanks for the wonderful reminder to pause and reflect before judging.

  3. I didn’t have air conditioning in my cars until 1980 and still i’d rather drive my truck that had none and did until 2010.

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