Saturday, August 13, 2011

Oh Pioneers!

First published in SlightlyCreaky:

Oh Pioneers!

No cowboy and Indian wars loom over the horizon. The cavalry has gone off to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ‘frontiersmen’ in the Space Station have a Daniel Boone ‘elbow’ to manage all by themselves—with a little help from Houston; but we have become so accustomed to their adventures that we simply watch and grin. So where are the pioneers? Oh, they are just over in the next county—or down the street. But don’t look for men with rifles and women with long skirts. Instead, look for those brave souls who are seeking a way to fight stagflation, recession, depression, and general lack of confidence in a ‘standard’ way of life. But that does not mean that they lack for enemies other than attitude. Hand held to eyes to shade the glare from all the ‘super stars,’ prize athletes, politicians, and ‘trumped’ up billion or millionaires…

No bank robbers with masked faces staked out accounts this past year, but the one-armed bandit down at the gas station still did a pretty good job of depleting the budget. And no one wore a mask at the checkout counters scanning the groceries. And, of course, one of the biggest threats to fiscal well being continues to be the insidious reduction of whatever interest savings should be accumulating in a place called “Wall Street.” So the new pioneers have their battle lines drawn; but what weapons will prevail against doubt, dismay, and double digit inflation?

The Great Depression of the 30s found the pioneers of the economic battlefront making do or doing without. But most of them had never heard of credit—much less a credit card. Today’s pioneer goes to battle carrying the burden of past excesses. Now the jobless who carry credit card debt have no choices left—housing, transportation, food—just the essentials of life—these are no longer choices.

Years ago and several generations back, the backwoods cabin in Jack County had a rock cistern for water and a rock trail hewn down the side of the mountain to level ground. A mule, a rifle, a fireplace, and a bit of luck with the wildlife provided sustenance. Somehow those pioneers survived to invest in the county co-op. The investment receipts have beautiful scrolled writing in the dates and names. But who could possibly calculate their worth now?

In New York City, Dallas, or in Wichita Falls, a mule, a rifle, and a fireplace might not help anyone survive today. But, like those early pioneers, we still need to feel it is worth our while to invest in our community—investing by building homes, buying local products, or raising our families here. Most are willing to work for that investment—when work is available. Even a pioneer needs a plow, a hammer, a way to connect with community. All over our country we need those tools; they are called jobs.

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