‘I owe all of my success to a white, enamel drinking dipper with a red ring around the edge.’ – Pettus L. Read, December 8,1997
I wrote those words several years ago in a column and they still hold true today. When I wrote that statement, we were engaged in a presidential election that had gotten completely out of hand in campaign mud slinging. In 2004, I repeated that same column, because once again, another group of campaign efforts went off the deep end and totally got to the point of embarrassment. Now up in Washington, we are debating things that are so important to all of us, that many of our elected officials may have thrown the dipper out with the left over water in the bucket making it very difficult to fix our ailing finances.
In 1997 and 2004 my column was a political philosophy as if I was running for office myself. The results were several offers for me to run for state office and even more offers suggesting that I should run for the state line. I repeated it again in 2004 and got suggestions for me to seek high offices in the areas of dogcatcher and justice of the peace, but do so in another country.
The fourteen-year-old statement at the beginning of this article and the rest of this column is just what I would say to a crowd of voters if I were going to run for public office and attempt to fix Washington. This is a repeat of those earlier columns, but I think it needs to be said again due to current political efforts of seeing who can make the other group look the most foolish rather than sticking to the issues of the country and its people.
First of all, I was born in a log house on a frosty October morning. It wasn’t a cabin, but it was a log structure and that seems to have worked for the man in the stovepipe hat back in 1861. I never split rails, but I have picked cotton, cut tobacco, always got selected to pick the down-rows of corn, and built fences out of locust poles. All of these events built character and patience, which I believe a good candidate should have. I just wish more of our Washington crowd had to pick a few down-rows every now and then to see what it is like to make ends meet.
Second, I grew up without running water. By not having running water you soon learned the lesson of conservation. I learned how to take a bath with just a teakettle of hot water and to save enough for the next member of the family who needed a bath. A politician, who doesn’t know how to take a “washpan” bath with Ivory soap, should not be elected. Many of our leaders today call themselves conservative. I question that of many of them. A conservative is one who can make an entire bucket of water last in a family of five, from sundown to sunup with enough in the morning left to make coffee.
Third, I grew up knowing what a cold dipper of water from a good well tasted like. There is nothing any better on a hot summer day than a fresh bucket of water and a white, enamel dipper with a red ring as your drinking utensil. I have tried aluminum ones, stainless steel and wooden, but nothing beats an enamel dipper. They stay cold and lay in the bucket just right. Having to drink out of a dipper in a family of five soon teaches you to share, and to be thankful for the small things in life. You also learn that the last little bit of water left in the bucket at the end of the day is not that great. This teaches you that if you want to make it better, it is up to you. Either get another bucket of water or do without. A good politician should be able to make things better and try to keep the bucket at least half full. I’m afraid we have too many who don’t even know how the bucket gets filled to begin with.< /div>
Fourth, by not having indoor plumbing you soon learn to make decisions. Weather has a lot to do with your decision making at that time of your life, as well as teaching you a lot of self-control. I think most of you understand what I am talking about. But, a good leader must be a good decision maker and Washington needs less indoor plumbing.
Fifth, I had a loving family. There were five of us who lived in one small house, and we children never knew what our financial standing was. It didn’t matter. We had a mother and father who loved us and provided everything we needed. Not what we wanted, but what we needed. Government spends too much time on wants than needs.
We were taught right from wrong, how to work, taken to church, and learned very early that the family was number one. We were taught from the very beginning to help your community, church, and others. It is time for Washington to work like a family, remember the family is number one and not themselves, plus what they accomplish should be accomplished to together.
– Pettus L. Read is Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org