It had been a while since I had made the trip out to this part of the county to visit with my relatives. As I pulled into the long gravel driveway of Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie’s, I was already looking forward to sitting down at their kitchen table for a time of down-home discussion. And the chance of getting some of Aunt Sadie’s homemade tea cakes also helped lure me to their white clapboard house out near the county line.
Fall was making its presence known this overcast day as I hurriedly moved from my car to the wide back porch of their farm house. The wind was kicking up newly fallen leaves from the large maple trees that surrounded the farmstead and just seeing Aunt Sadie standing at the house’s threshold and holding the screen door open for me to enter was enough to warm the coldest winter day.
Just as I had hoped for, she had baked her famous tea cakes that morning and the aroma of their goodness still filled the air in the couple’s kitchen. After a hug and taking my light jacket to the bedroom across the hall, Aunt Sadie removed the cover from her cut glass cake stand that held a good supply of fresh tea cakes. They were still warm and soft. She placed two on a china plate and handed them to me along with a cup of hot cider, reminding me that fall was officially here. While trying to control my drooling, I took a place at the round kitchen table across from Uncle Sid.
Uncle Sid had hardly noticed I had even entered the house until I bumped the leg of the table as I sat down, jiggling his cup of cider. He had an instruction pamphlet laying in front of him and he was in heavy consideration over its contents. Now realizing I was across the table from him, he picked it up and proceeded to explain to me what it was all about. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Aunt Sadie shaking her head and walking off into the front of the house. I knew from her look that my tea cakes were not going to be enough payment for the information I was about to be given by the old farmer.
“Boy (he still calls me that), what is your opinion of world trade?” he asked without a smile.
Knowing his question was as loaded as a shotgun at a turkey shoot, I answered, “It is pretty important in today’s economy.” I thought that should be a safe reply and took another bite of my tea cake.
Closing up the pamphlet in front of him and leaning back in his chair, he looked straight at me and said, “Just as I thought, you know as little about world trade as the rest of these young folks do today when it comes to giving our money away to other countries. I grew up knowing how to trade and when you trade it means you come out ahead in some way. The way I see it, we haven’t come out ahead in a long time because we are letting everybody get the upper hand on us.”
Aunt Sadie was right. There was not going to be enough tea cakes or cider for this discussion. “How do you figure we are getting taken in world trade Uncle Sid?” I asked.
“It use to be whenever I bought some things at least two-thirds of the items I would buy would have “made in the U.S.A” on it somewhere. Today you are lucky to find one percent of the things you buy made here,” he said and still not even a grin. “I just bought your aunt a metal yard chair which came in a box in about a million pieces. I had to put it together with screws and washers that didn’t fit a single one of my American made tools.”
Now reaching into the back of his overalls pocket, he pulled out a pair of well-worn Vise-Grips and laid them on the table. Looking me straight in the eye he said, “The only way I could finish putting that chair made in China together was with this pair of American made Vise-Grips I’ve had since the ’60s. Now even Vise-Grips, which were invented in Nebraska along with Kool-Aid and Raisin Bran, and manufactured there for over 80 years, has moved to China. That’s what I mean about world trade. We are not getting ahead and getting stuff that busts your knuckles to boot. We need to fix this problem like using Vise-Grips and start putting made in the U.S.A. back on our stuff again where we can use our own tools. They like our farm products and that can be our Vise-Grips. That’s the simple fix to world trade and now you young folks take care of the tough part. Bring our goods home.”
He was right and all I could say was, “Yes sir.”
– Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com