Keep Your Ears And Eyes Open

Can you believe it has only been two years since we made a decision on who goes to the Legislature? Just like you, I have been enjoying the absence of primaries, general elections and grown men calling each other names. But, here we go again next year and I suggest you fasten your seatbelts, because it looks like another bumpy ride.

It will be good to hear some candidates with new ideas and not something they have heard from the latest “news alert” on a TV news show. I hope to see more people running this year who think for themselves and pull from their own background experience than from what others tell them they should think.

I like good old common sense, which seems to be running low in some arenas these days. Being from the farm, I have noticed how many candidates often claim to be farm raised. Not as many seem to be coming into major offices with farming in their backgrounds these days, but many claim to have spent many hours on their granddaddy’s place in the summer. You have heard them. They begin their speeches, when in farm country, telling about hard times as a youngster back on the farm.

To them, it was always winter, three o’clock in the morning, the depression, and they had to harvest every crop known to man. They all also had to walk hundreds of miles to school in blinding snow storms uphill both ways. I heard one the other day say he would walk four miles to school each day, except days when he was lucky enough to ride a stick horse.

It does help candidates to understand agriculture, but farmers do know when the candidate is getting beyond their field of real understanding.

One hot August day several years ago when I was a child, one such candidate did that in my hometown. I’ve told the story often and I’m sure this is a repeat, but maybe you’ll get a kick out of it at least one more time.

The country store located in the crossroads at Versailles was a favorite gathering place for candidates to meet the farmers in the area on Saturday afternoons. They would shake hands, pass out cards, and visit with the folks shopping at the store. If a crowd gathered, they would even give a speech on the store porch.

On this particular August Saturday afternoon, a crowd did gather to hear a candidate speak on why he should be elected their state senator. As he spoke in a loud and thunderous voice, a little boy moved to the front of the crowd to get a better look.

The senate candidate had spoken for several minutes giving his qualifications and continued to expound on his important ties to farming. Speaking to a group of people who made their living from plowing the soil, this candidate knew he had to prove he was one of them. As the crowd grew strangely silent the senator-wanna-be said, “I am so rooted in the agriculture community, that I even grew up between two rows of corn.”

When the little boy who had moved down front heard his statement, he immediately tugged at his mother’s dress and said loud enough so everyone in the crowd could hear, “Mama, he must be a punkin!”

Of course he was referring to the fact that back in those days we used to plant pumpkins between the corn rows in the field. Pumpkins were planted in this manner to feed to hogs and not for Halloween decorations. Corn was also gathered by hand as well, making it easy to load the pumpkins as you picked the corn. The modern day corn picker, however, made the practice of planting pumpkins in the corn rows a thing of the past and also saved many farmers backs as well.

Go ahead and enjoy your holidays, because come the first of the year the signs and the candidates will start to appear just like the first leaves of spring. Then it will be up to the people to pick the candidate best of the job. But, just like the little boy, this year we need to keep our ears and eyes open for a few “punkins” out there.


Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at