02 January 2011

Sunday Open Forum – Mailboxes and Old Barns

By Emma

Money (what little we ever saw) seemed to have a pretty gentle, inoffensive presence in everyday life on the farm in the fifties. This was not a laissez-faire attiude: it was a chosen perspective that had strength and history. We appreciated what we had and didn’t think much about what we didn’t have, but it wasn’t until many years later that I realized how very little actual money was available.

There was no connection that I recall between the amount of money available and the quality of life in our home. My dad specifically trusted God, but he also had an earthy sense of humor about money that was sometimes expressed as “Money isn’t the first thing in life, but it’s sure ahead of whatever’s in second place.” Good years (good cattle prices and big crops) and bad years flowed together. Farmers only got paid one time a year (two times if they had beef cattle to sell). The other payday was when the wheat, our only cash crop, would be taken to the grain elevator nine miles away.

On a hot day in August Dad was up behind the garage tuning up the 6-foot combine because the wheat crop, a good-looking one, was ripe and ready to be harvested. Canvases are tightened. Belts are checked. Auger operation is tested. Looking good. And then, about 4 pm, perpetually rain-starved eastern Montana gets hit with a violent 20 minute thunderstorm with heavy hail. After the thunderheads dissipate over the horizon toward North Dakota, the combine looks a little embarrassed, all dressed up in John Deere green with nowhere to go. Dad walks out into the fields near the house, gets down on one knee and holds a broken wheat stalk in his hands. Then he gets in the truck and drives down to the far fields. Much later, when he comes back, he pushes the little combine back into its place in the line of machinery because the wheat is gone.

The combine isn’t needed tomorrow.

Now every morning at the breakfast table Dad would read from the Scriptures and we would sing a song from the little blue Danish songbooks. Then he would pray. The Night The Harvest Was Destroyed I wondered how he would pray the next morning. Was he disappointed in God’s failure to act? Or in God’s decision to act? Dad was never rude or demanding toward God (God being the sovereign king of the universe and all), but neither was he dishonest. So, of course, when he prayed that next morning he wasn’t either rude or dishonest–and he never mentioned the crop. Didn’t figure God owed him an explanation. And didn’t figure God had changed. So there really was no need to mention either the hail or the wheat.

One summer day when my parents were not home and I had been left home alone for a bit, I dared open the drawer of my Dad’s desk in the corner of the dining room. I was going to look at my Dad’s checkbook and see how much money we had.

I lifted the checkbook out and laid it flat on the desk. I took hold of the edge of the top flap, carefully lifted it straight up, watching for any loose paper or anything that might be dislodged and accidentally left out of place later, and then pressed it flat down and looked it over. There were no loose pieces of paper, so now it only remained to page through the ledger portion of the checkbook and find the balance.

Ah! I found it. The balance….was $656. I got so scared… because we had a great big house and 1200 acres of land and lots of farm equipment and a hundred head of cattle and a great big barn and two chicken coops and 3 tractors and a great big freezer in the basement…….how was it possible that we had so little money??? Then I remembered that he hadn’t hauled all the wheat into town yet! But still….will that be enough? For the clothes Mom couldn’t sew? For canned fruit? For flour? To buy coal to heat the house? To buy fuel for the field work? To pay to have the seed wheat treated (so it was bright pink before it went in the ground)? To pay the vet to come to vaccinate a hundred head? To buy the salt blocks the cattle needed? To buy oil and grease for the field equipment? To buy DDT for the big hand spray cans we used in all the outbuildings to kill flies and spiders and anything else that needed killing? (We bought it undiluted. By the gallon. Wonderful stuff, DDT.)

After I closed the checkbook, put it away and silently vowed to never, never, never again look at any of my father’s papers, I went outside and sat on the step for a long time and just waited for them to come home.

Now in our little country church, there were one or two elderly couples who “had money” and I had overheard comments about these people–neither unkind nor envious–just comments that made me know they were seen differently because they had lots of money.

Then I heard the word “rich” one day and realized it applied to those people. I couldn’t figure out whether or not it would apply to us because although I didn’t think we were “poor,” neither was I sure who was included in “rich.” Were people like these elderly couples the ONLY rich ones? Or were we perhaps “rich” even though we had only $656? How much money did it take to be rich?

As a child I sometimes asked questions I shouldn’t ask; saw things I shouldn’t see and said things I shouldn’t say, so I didn’t say anything about this for a long time. But finally, in a moment of courage, I did. “Daddy, are we rich?”

He hesitated before he said, “Yes, we are.” Another slight pause and he chuckled as he added, “—and some day, we might even have some money.”


We never did. But we definitely were.

119 Responses to Sunday Open Forum – Mailboxes and Old Barns

  1. AFinch says:

    I wish I could “like” this more than once. This is my favorite so far, Emma.

    • sundancecracker says:

      Agree completely. It’s Frilliant !!! Great Job Emma.

    • WeeWeed says:

      Ditto!! Thank you!

    • TXMom says:

      Thank you, Emma. Beautifully written.

    • emmajeri1010 says:

      Hey, you’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed the piece and thanks for saying so. One of the things I’m realizing as I think over the years and make word pictures is this: regardless of what corner we each grew up in, what our house was like, who our favorite teacher was….there ARE more of us than there are of them. That hasn’t been apparent over the decades, not even during the best of “the moral majority” years, I don’t think (which seemed to somehow reflect Jerry Falwell’s perspective, which is fine…but that had an inherently limiting effect on participation levels). We’re just beginning to speak up, say what we think and fight back. We’re acting on a decision that we will NOT, any longer, be ashamed of who we are or think that we are “less than” (some self-anointed elite). (Have you noticed they don’t like it much that we’re not as easily intimidated into silence as we were 5 years ago, or 10 years ago, or 20 years ago?) Thanks for looking at my pictures.

      • WeeWeed says:

        You are exactly right, Emma! They don’t like the “silent majority” speaking up one dang bit – that’s why they stay on the tea party like white on rice. Oh….that’s probably RAACISSSTT….

      • Menagerie says:

        Emma I needed this today. I’m having a very bad day, and your story is just what I needed to make me see what is real and important. Thank you.

    • Bijou says:

      Wonderful, Emma! Thank you!
      Once again, I see parallels between this experience of yours, and my own.

  2. Pat P says:

    I love this one, Emma.

  3. Patriot Dreamer says:

    Excellent article, Emma. Thank you!

  4. Patriot Dreamer says:

    IT’S JOBS, STUPID: DNC Chair Tim Kaine Admits Obama Was Too Busy With Wars and ObamaCare to Care About American Jobs


    What about that “laser-like focus”? We were told over and over again that jobs were Obammy’s priority. I guess maybe they got in the way of basketball, golf, vacations, you know, all those other important things.

    As for ending the Iraq war. President Bush did that, and he should be the one to get credit for it.

  5. Patriot Dreamer says:

    from Zimbabwe’s 2008 economic meltdown:

    Hyperinflation History: Visitors Snap Up 100 Trillion Zimbabwe Bank Notes


  6. sundancecracker says:

    On Saturday’s Fox News Watch, liberal FNC analyst Alan Colmes asserted that the Tea Party was a “bunch of angry white guys who went around and put up racist signs.” As a debate ensued pitting Colmes against the other three panel members, he later defiantly asked, “How many blacks did they elect?” leading Jim Pinkerton of the New America Foundation to fire back: “The Tea Partiers elected two – Allen West and Tim Scott, Florida and South Carolina.”

    Host Jon Scott began the segment by assuming that the liberal Colmes would not have any complaints about the mainstream media’s coverage of the elections. After Colmes voiced his approval of the media, Scott sarcastically posed: “For instance, the Tea Party. Tea Party always got favorable coverage, right? Or fair coverage?”

    Colmes then unleashed on the Tea Party: “Oh, they got, look, the Tea Party was a bunch of angry white guys who went around and put up racist signs at these at, these events on lawn chairs who had nothing better to do on weekends than sit on lawn chairs with signs suggesting Obama was a Muslim who wasn’t born in this country.”


    • WeeWeed says:

      Skeletor pi$$es me off everytime I even SEE him, let alone when he opens his lunatic pie-hole.

      • Bijou says:

        ‘Skeletor’…WeeWeed, you’re too kind! But very funny!
        (I always thought Maria Shriver was Skeletor. but I suppose there can be two of them.)
        Re Colmes, I have a visceral reaction to him and have to change the channel. Ugh!

  7. sundancecracker says:

    Graham: 2012 hopefuls all have their problems, but Romney probably best
    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was clear Sunday on what he wants in a 2012 GOP presidential nominee: “the most electable conservative.” But the senator was pressed on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on specifically which of the current names believed to be in the ring would deliver. “Probably [Mitt] Romney,” Graham said.

    • Patriot Dreamer says:

      Of course a RINO is supportive of another RINO.

    • AFinch says:

      Heh, I suspect Romney would have preferred Graham to have endorsed another candidate.

    • PhillyCon says:

      Graham should be worried about his own re-election chances. Echoing Afinch, this is the last thing Romney needs when he is trying to desperately convince everyone he is a conservative.

    • Amsterdam Expat says:

      Miss Lindsey just planted a big wet smooch on the Mittwit’s face — but is this really the sort of endorsement he or any ‘Pub really wants?

      Maybe it’s a poison valentine …

      • WeeWeed says:

        No kidding, her “kiss of death” is nearly as good as the Won’s, the Lightbringer, the Head Kahuna, the Big Cheese, ok. I’ll stop…

  8. Patriot Dreamer says:

    Producers of the BBC show “Polar Bear: Spy on the Ice” thought they could outwit some polar bears:

  9. AFinch says:

    Republicans promise to fight administration efforts to implement can’n tax through regulation:

    “Michigan Rep. Fred Upton tells “Fox News Sunday” that the Republican-led House won’t “let this administration regulate what they’ve been unable to legislate.” He says Republicans want to tackle the problem “in a reasonable way.”

    Read more: Republicans Plan to Fight Obama Pollution Plan

  10. Felix says:

    Emma, this is an incredible article. Thank you for sharing it.

  11. AFinch says:

    What do you guys think of Zuhdi Jasser? Here is an excerpt from his latest op/ed:

    “The fact is, we can’t go into 2011 without a discernable strategy on how to defeat Islamist radicalization. House hearings on Muslim radicalization would only be the first step toward finally crafting a US offensive against political Islam. Again, only liberty-minded Muslims working from within Muslim communities can counter the narrative of Muslim victimization. But America needs to be unashamed of taking the side of those Muslims who advocate reform against political Islam.”


    He is an M.D., former lt. commander in the U.S. Navy and an advocate for modernizing Islam and confronting Islamists. He sounds very, very reasonsable in his speaking and writing, but I can’t help but be a bit skeptical. What he is advocating isn’t really Islam is it? And why have no radical groups issued a fatwa against him?

  12. sundancecracker says:

    oooh is that a tingley leg feeling I’m getting……. Do it, Do it, Do it…

    The incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Sunday that Republicans will bring up a healthcare repeal measure before President Obama even delivers his State of the Union address this month.

    “I think there wil be a significant number of Democrats who will join us,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” Upton said that leaders are counting on Democrats who voted against the massive healthcare reform package to do so again, coupled with greater GOP numbers.

    “I don’t think we’re going to be that far off from having the votes to override a veto,” he said. Upton said that even if repeal faces hurdles, House action will “put enormous pressure on the Senate to do the same thing.”

  13. TXMom says:

    A Message to the new congress….

    • Thomas Hooker says:

      That is good. Do you know who is doing the govpeeper website?

    • sundancecracker says:

      Nice commercial. Like TH I would be interested to know who/what is govpeeper. :)

    • TXMom says:

      I posted this video because I love the message and thought it was well done. The person who made the video is J. Brown. All I know is that she is an fb “networking buddy” of mine, an active Conservative, a mom, and lives in Texas. I believe the site will be a “call to action” site with contact info available for us.

  14. Thomas Hooker says:

    It seems as if so much of modern juvenile fiction assigned for school is depressing. Have you noticed this with what your children/grandchildren are reading? Then there is the overall school agenda that runs counter to so many values. Children can listen to chapter books long before they are able or willing to read those same books on their own. Starting with fiction, and the concept of supporting liberty over socialism/totalitarianism, what books would you suggest for reading with youngsters?

    For instance, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

    cross-posted to book thread

    • AFinch says:

      Not sure what age group/reading level you have in mind, but my niece loved the His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) when she was in middle school.

      • Thomas Hooker says:

        Hmmm. I found those depressing. And anything that is pushed that much by the American Library Association gives me pause.

        All age groups, really. For reading aloud when they are younger, for reading on their own later. Good stories that support the concept of a free people.

        • Ting says:

          Try “Love Among the Walnuts” by Jean Ferris. I had to look hard for something amusing and uplifting in Young Adult Fiction back when my daughter was a 6th or 7th grader. We read it aloud together at night after she finished all the school-assigned reading that was depressing the ever daylights out of her. She could not stand reading from about 5th grade until after high school because everything they assigned, even for summer reading was so depressing, so they could learn empathy, don’t you know.

    • Patriot Dreamer says:

      Can’t go wrong with “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis.

      • violet says:

        I agree with this recommendation — the Narnia books were my favorites when I was young (they still are!) and have been favorites of all my kids.

        Other good books for young kids:

        The Great Brain books by John D. Fitzgerald — a series of books about three brothers growing up in Utah in the late 19th century. These books are very funny and kids love them.

        “Henry Reed, Inc.” and its sequels, by Keith Robertson — Henry is an teenage entrepreneur who is always cooking up new plans for making money. These were written in the 50s – 60s and reflect the values of the time. They are a lot of fun to read, and introduce modern kids to what life was like before computers, video games, ipods, etc. My kids loved these.

        For girls, I recommend the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. My girls loved them. (Girls will also read the Great Brain and Henry Reed books, but boys will not read Betsy-Tacy. Girls [in my experience] are a lot more open to reading books about boys than boys are to reading books about girls. Decades ago, when I worked in an elementary school library, I noticed that the girls would read both Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, but boys would read ONLY the Hardy Boys.)

        Also for girls, “Little House in the Big Woods” and its sequels, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

        All of my kids loved books by Dick King-Smith. “Babe the Gallant Pig” is one of his best, but he wrote dozens of fun books for kids.

        All of the above are good read-aloud books, by the way. I have personally read most of them aloud myself. This was a nightly ritual when my kids were little, and (in my opinion) the most fun part about having kids!

        • Patriot Dreamer says:

          I was also thinking about the Little House series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Great books about self-reliance before the era of big government.

        • John D. Fitzgerald, who wrote the Great Brain books for kids, also wrote 3 books more for adults about his family. They could generally be read to older kids, but there’s some sedate out-of-wedlock romance stuff that might need “pruning.” They are Papa Married a Mormon, Mama’s Boarding House (sequel), and Uncle Will and the Fitzgerald Curse.

  15. Patriot Dreamer says:

    Premium power grab! Feds take control of health insurance prices


  16. sundancecracker says:

    West on Sunday…..

  17. marie says:

    lame cherry has a great piece on the slaughter of christians by a muslim bomber..which btw, i have not heard any pol including bambo comment on! where’s the ourage?


    • sundancecracker says:

      Yeah, think about this one for a minute. “A suicide bombing in Egypt?”. A Christian Church, on New Years Day, during Mass. Obviously the fingerprints of Islamic Al-Qaeda are all over this one. And what does Palestinian Hamas say?…. “Da Joooos did it”!

      Yeah, ok Hamas…. The Jews did it just to make you look bad. Suicide Bomber in Egypt. Yeah…. cue up the flying monkeys. Better watch under your prayer mat for Zionists planting land mines in their effort to raise prophets.

    • sundancecracker says:

      Good Points from this blogger…..

      First off, President Obama. For once, the President issued a statement on anti-Christian terror. He needn’t have bothered. From the statement:

      The attack on a church in Alexandria, Egypt caused 21 reported deaths and dozens of injured from both the Christian and Muslim communities.

      Nope. No Muslims were killed in this bombing. Repeat after me, these are not indiscriminate attacks. To continue to suggest that Muslims are the victims too, is an insult to the memory of all those who died and the intelligence of those of us left living.

      And President Obama was not alone, President Mubarek of Egypt did the same thing.

      Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak accused unnamed foreign elements of being behind the attack.

      “This act of terrorism shook the country’s conscience, shocked our feelings and hurt the hearts of Muslim and Coptic Egyptians,” he said in an emergency address to the nation. “The blood of their martyrs in the land of Alexandria mixed to tell us all that all Egypt is the target and that blind terrorism does not differentiate between a Copt and a Muslim.”

      For blind terrorism, they sure do seem very specific. This is anti-Christian violence committed by Muslims. It is not an insult to Muslims to point out the obvious. Trust me, they know it. But it is an insult to all Christians to continue to deny it.


  18. Bijou says:

    What the hell is Clinton playin’ at?
    She went to Brazil for the inauguration of newly elected Marxist president and (former) terrorist, Dilma Rousseff. Hugo Chavez was also there, of course, and Hillary spent time cuddling up to him.
    This is just sickening!

    • AFinch says:

      She. Is. A. Leftist. I know some current or former Clinton supporters want to believe that she isn’t, and maybe they’re correct that she is not as bad as Obama, but tell me one thing she has done to stop his disastrous policies, specifically at State. Where was she when O criticised the new housing in Jerusalem, when State prostrated itself (and the rest of us) to the UN human rights commission over the AZ immigration bill, and on and on and on?

      Oh, and for those of you who argue it was better for her to be at State than in the Senate, where she would have been FORCED to vote for the Obama agenda, I ask “This is the woman you wanted to lead us? Someone who could not even be trusted to vote against patently bad legislation? Someone who could not be bothered to lead the opposition against him in the Senate? Someone who jumped at the first opportunity to join forces with the man who you say cheated her out of the democrat nomination?” No, thanks.

    • Amsterdam Expat says:

      It looks increasingly unlikely that she’ll be challenging O for the nomination, doesn’t it?

    • sundancecracker says:

      Claudia at IOTW has a snarky look at this meeting. Check out the pics.

  19. Jennifer H says:


    Here in Texas, we are battling decepticon Strauss for the position of house speaker. I don’t know how many of your states switched from D to R but please stay involved- because they will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory if they can ! Pray for Texas, pray Strauss loses his ugly bid as house speaker!

    • WeeWeed says:

      Thanks for the reminder, Jen!! I just left a nugget for our local squish, Tryon Lewis. (I cannot stand him.) So he’ll have MY email if nobody else’s in the a.m. And according to this article, you’re right – they’ll defeat themselves by splitting the vote if we don’t hound their sorry butts.


    • TXMom says:

      Thank you very much for posting this, Jennifer! This is a huge battle between the grassroots and the Repubs. Straus and RINOs are fighting nastier and dirtier every day with threats and intimidation. The Republican Party is beginning to see just what the power of the Tea Party movement is all about. It is going to get very interesting.

      Jan. 10 and 11 will be important days. The Speaker of the House Showdown will happen on January 10th; the Repubs have called a caucus at 1PM. Also, conservatives are planning a Tea Party rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol, January 11 from 12 to 3pm. I cannot attend, but my daughter and son-in-law are planning on it. We had an historic election and we want a conservative Speaker of the House; Joe Straus is NOT a conservative. The RINOs and Dems love him because he works with the Dems and blocked many immigration and Voter I.D. bills last session.

      This link is helpful because it will tell us if our House member has withdrawn his support for Straus or not. It also has a “Speaker Mandate” e-mail it sends and the Rep’s phone number. Oust Straus!!! lol

      • WeeWeed says:

        Appreciate that link, TXMom! I think my rep (Lewis) is a RINO but as an ex-judge in our dink area he’s hard to get rid of. ( One of those that THINKS he’s one of the elite but merely the big fish in a small pond.) Anyway I digress – with your link I went and dinged ” hiz rinoness” again. Thanks!

        • TXMom says:

          You are welcome, WeedWeed. Mine is Rob Orr, a “conservative”. He has not pulled is endorsement for Straus, yet, and he even told us to “trust him”. They still have a lot of learnin’ to do. :)

  20. sundancecracker says:

    Sheeeesh…. why do I get the feeling Darrell Issa is backing down before he even get the opportunity to get started. C’mon man… It’s time to push forward, don’t get wishy washy now. Obama is corrupt. Obama’s administraion is corrupt. All this crap is corrupt. Don’t go getting all bi-partisan hopey, dopey, changey now. Attack these corruptocrats. Provide NO QUARTER! EVER!


    Aaaargh…. I can’t stand this.

    • sundancecracker says:

      Issa has tried to temper some of the buzz around his chairmanship in the weeks leading up to the new session. He’s indicated he might take a pass on hot-button topics like the Justice Department’s fizzled voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party. He also ruled out any push to impeach the president. After he said earlier in the year that President Obama is one of the “most corrupt” in modern times, Issa has walked that back, sort of — he said Sunday he was talking about the administration.

      But Issa, in an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” said he still plans a rigorous agenda of hearings, targeting wasteful spending and administration regulation of the private sector. He predicted a hostile climate, as he homes in on the dollars-and-cents issues he thinks Americans are eager to learn about.

      Just get in there and start digging through the muck…. enough with the lip service. Please.

  21. PhillyCon says:

    Hey Emma:

    Great stuff! Loved your piece!!

  22. Amsterdam Expat says:

    Minnesota is lucky to have her. (Found via C4P and the Weekly Standard):

  23. Patriot Dreamer says:

    Dave Barry’s 2010 Year in Review
    Let’s face it — 2010 was a disaster. A month-by-month reminder of just how awful it was.


  24. Amsterdam Expat says:

    At Pamela Geller’s site, I came across a review of this book, which seems worth-reading:


  25. yomotley says:

    Emma, today’s memory is inspirational. Thank you.

  26. yomotley says:

    Just been to a new blog (for me at least) and found a very funny comic titled “Graphic Commentary”. You will have to click to enlarge and then click the little “+” sign to magnify.