Uncle Sid Discusses What It Means To “Occupy”

The other day as I pulled in the long gravel driveway of Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie’s farm, the winter wind was blowing to beat the band and the yellow glow of light coming from Aunt Sadie’s “Gone With the Wind” hurricane lamp in the window of their white frame house was surely a welcome sight on that dark, cloudy November day I made my visit. Things hadn’t changed much around the old farmstead, and this time of the year the days required both of my kin folks to keep close to the home fires.
Aunt Sadie met me at the kitchen door wiping her hands on her apron and led me to the back portion of their house where the old couple spends most of their time. There, sitting at the round kitchen table, was Uncle Sid enjoying a cup of hot coffee and a few of Aunt Sadie’s teacakes. He seemed to be in some kind of trance watching the leaves blow around out the back kitchen window. After exchanging pleasantries and taking my seat at the table to also share with Uncle Sid some of Aunt Sadie’s teacakes, I asked Uncle the question we all seemed to be asking right now, “What you think about all of these individuals camping out around the country protesting Wall Street and calling themselves ‘Occupy?'” I knew I was walking into a major debate, but it was a cold day and a little heated discussion just might warm things up a bit.
The old man never bothered to even look my way, but answered, “Winter will make a determination who is really dedicated to occupying anything. When that cold wind starts to blow and snow begins to fly, those little old tents on concrete won’t feel as welcoming as they did on cool fall nights. They will be the 99 percent with frostbite if they are not careful.”
Uncle Sid took a sip of his coffee and continued, “Boy (I’m 63, but he still calls me that), I never had a person without money give me a job and it seems to me this Occupy crowd is complaining because some people have worked hard to make a lot of money and they want some of it without having to work themselves. I know that may sound sort of a hard way to look at it, but you don’t get anything by doing nothing and that is what they are doing. I sure can’t leave this farm to go protest and am in no way a millionaire. So I guess I will just occupy this place here, do my chores and live within my means. It is a lot warmer here with Aunt Sadie.”
I knew the couple had experienced the Great Depression and may be a lot more understanding of what free-markets and capitalism are all about than most of those protesting in our major cities. But, I was still looking for a word of wisdom from Uncle Sid about what was going on. As he played with the rim of his coffee cup, he once again looked out the window to the blowing leaves with a look of deep thought. Turning back in my direction, he took his wire-rimmed glasses from his ears and pointed them at me and said, “The story is told back during World War II that a group of Marines had been pinned down for about two weeks. Spirits were starting to get really bad and the captain noticed that the men were also starting to smell pretty bad as well.
“While sitting in their foxhole, the captain just mentioned to his sergeant that it sure would be nice if the men could have one simple thing to make them feel better, like just a change of underwear and to clean up a bit. Half-way hearing what the captain said and thinking he could solve the problem, the sergeant left the foxhole and called the men together. He announced to the unit, ‘Men, I know it has been tough, but I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is tonight you get to change underwear.’ The men all cheered. Then the sergeant went on to say, ‘The bad news is Harry, you change with Fred; Smith, you change with Thomas; and Frank, you change with Sam.'”
After a laugh from both Aunt Sadie and myself, Uncle Sid went on to say, “The moral to this silly little story is somebody may come up with an idea that sounds good at first, but in the end things still smell pretty much the same.”
Getting up from the table the old man continued, “I’ve been around for several years and all of this is just like weather cycles. I’ve seen weather cycles change every so many years and that seems to be what we have going on for us right now. Just wait, we will forget about all of this just like the cold before long and start worrying about something else like the heat and dry weather. Always have and always will.”
You know, he’s right. It always helps to listen to a little common sense on a cold winter’s day.
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– 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 pread@tfbf.com