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January 23, 2024
As young adults, my parents lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s. They both grew up on farms, and as my dad once said, “We had plenty of milk, meat and eggs to sell, but no one had any money to buy.” I believed them when they explained that they knew what it was like to be poor.
Being raised in an era when everyone had to do without is probably why they lived their lives as frugally as possible. I’ve written before about my parents never throwing anything away. My father once designed and constructed a square bale loader entirely from scrap parts that were lying around our metal junk pile. Once constructed, it worked as well as a brand-new, store-bought machine.
I never experienced the degree of poverty that my parents endured, and I never really thought of myself as being poor because everyone who attended my one-room schoolhouse was in the same socioeconomic class I was in. The lack of indoor plumbing and summer shoes was the norm, not the exception, so I have always taken pride in being a bit thrifty myself.
A few months ago, I received a phone call from an ag teacher who grew up and works in the county where I was raised, so we have a lot in common.
She told me she was traveling down the interstate on her way to pick up a show pig for one of her students when she noticed a heavy-duty chain binder on the shoulder of the road. The chain tightener had obviously fallen off a semitruck, and the location was exactly by the exit to get to my farm. She stated that she would have stopped and gotten it herself, but she was already running late to meet the trucker who was hauling the pigs.
I thanked her for the information and immediately got in my truck to travel the 4 miles to the location on the interstate. The piece of equipment was exactly where Paula had said it would be, so I carefully retrieved it, in between groups of cars and trucks whizzing by, and proceeded home — where my wife reprimanded me for risking my life for a piece of hardware.
“Those things sell for around 50 bucks,” I explained, “and it’s as good as new, and I’m always needing an extra one.”
A few hours later, I text-messaged Paula and thanked her again for the tip on the free chain-boom. I also told her that my wife was not happy with me for taking such a risk on a mere $50 item.
“Yeah, but she wasn’t lucky enough to be raised poor.”
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