Wallace Nutting loved New England. I do too, and I'm always proud of my "Yankeeness" even though my roots are in Italy, Cuba and Spain.
I am reading this lovely book (there are several in the series) with the author's flowery language, and looking at old black and white photos he took and hating to read to the end. He not only takes the reader on a trip through Vermont, a state I love dearly and always have, but to times I remember on an extended family's Vermont farm that didn't have electricity yet 63 years ago. Haying was done with a team of greys, a flatbed hay wagon, and backbreaking, hot work with a sickle and scythe. Blade sharpening was done on a stone which spun when you sat and peddled. There was no indoor plumbing; there was an outhouse. There was a cistern in the kitchen which was spring fed, the dipper hanging by the side. An ornate black and chrome woodstove stood like a queen in the sitting room for heat. The cooking was also done in the kitchen on a woodstove and consistently fed a family of six. There was a tall pump outside and a little one on the counter by the sink. There was no telephone service yet. Hogs and a cow as well as the team of King and Joe were housed in a big red barn whose foundation was made of stone picked up in the field.
So let me take you to the small section called "Home Virtues" in Mr. Nutting's book as I wonder, did I teach my son as well as I could? No children I know are much aware of these times. It has to do with culture and self-reliance. and that's a terrible thing to lose.
It is probably true, as a broad statement, that generations of men living in apartment houses cannot remain free. The habits of independence in thought and action which are stimulated by dwelling in a detached home are necessary to educate a free man. An apartment house, with a suite of rooms in which everything is furnished, is calculated to sap the manliness of young Americans and so far will in time come to be immoral. That is to say, if everything is furnished for a man he grows to be a parasite.
Our fathers hewed watering troughs from logs. They made buckets of wood and thus became their own coopers. They wanted a damp-proof powder carton, and found it in an ox horn, and from other horns they made their buttons, and even swore by "the great horn spoon". Few families had much china; fewer had tin. The plates were trenchers of wood turned on home lathes. Pottery though rude was serviceable. But the age was, above all others before or since, the wood age. Wood of so many good sorts was ready to their hands. There is no non-conductor better than wood. Place your hand on a log a foot away from a blaze and you find the wood barely warm. Finding colder winters here than in England, the settlers soon fenced out the winter by the lapped clapboard and the wainscotted wall. Their vehicles, even to the axles as in the "one hoss shay," were all of wood or leather, except perhaps the tires and linch-pin.
What they could not make they did not want. They were a fine example of Socrates' half-humorous, wholly wise saying, on going through the stalls of a market: "How many things there are in the world that I don't need!"
There can be no doubt that the versatility cultivated by their situation in life was the source of that contempt in our ancestors for shiftless people As a child I remember the term shiftless used by my grandfather as an epithet of opprobrium as strong as any attaching to moral turpitude. The contrast was vast between their time and ours, when the same man who lays brick cannot lay a tile.
The hand of our grandmother! It was worthy to be carved in marble by a master and the effigy kept under glass like the crown jewels! What of deftness and cunning and experience and strength and tenderness did it lack! Surely the hand - when it is glorified by such knowledge and use and such a spirit - is a fascinating and adorable member, worthy to be kissed, nay almost worshiped, despite its wrinkles and hardened knuckles. It founded and fed and furnished a family and a nation."
I ask you - whether you are a Yankee or not - what happened to the core of us?
We have been whipped into submission of a small group of people who we elected and a media that fills us with vile propaganda with the message pounded relentlessly into our heads that we must follow unjust law, made by corrupt elected officials and crooked lawyers. These rules are made to punish us, to take us down to whimpering, sniveling babes and make those very politicians and lawyers we believed in, very, very rich and powerful.
Nutting's recollections were made when Anericans still believed in such ideals as freedom, hard work, success, and self-reliance. We were not degraded by men and women intent on socialist/left wing change. The heavy hand of government had not yet laid its fist on our chests.
I ask you once again...What happened to us as a people, and why aren't we stronger when strength of character and conviction is absolutely essential to our lives and that of future generations in this time of great danger from the tyranny of Washington, DC?
I make my own soap. It is a simple, inexpensive task that turns out pure soap without scent and chemicals with three ingredients - lye, water, beef fat. If they take away the lye because of meth labs, prohibiting me the luxury of just buying it to make soap, I will make my own with wood ash and water.
I can sew by hand if I need to, and the christening gown my granddaughter wore at her baptism was made by hand. I have a spinning wheel and can take a fleece and spin and knit the yarn into a sweater that is both waterproof and warm (but not for Florida). I watched my father butcher cottontails in the fall down in the cellar by the coal furnace, and I could dress a deer or a rabbit if I had to. I think I can still harness a horse or a pony to a cart. I can milk a horse, a donkey or a goat and then make cheese (did you know donkey milk is better tasting than cow or goat milk?)
I can put a bee hive together, embed the supers with beeswax base comb and start a hive (which I may do in the spring), or care for a flock of poultry. In other words, IF NECESSARY, I could live REALLY HARD because besides being an art form of sorts, I was taught these things along the way of my life. I have lived by lantern light, without television and without plumbing because I had to. I have ironed at that time with a sad iron and sent my boy to school unwrinkled. I think I could make a moccasin out of leather. I know I can tan an animal hide. I've done it. I have not endured great tribulation or trial because I learned these things.
And I look around today at people in Walmart, especially those of 40 and younger, wondering how they could survive without...without instant communication, HDTV, huge, honkin television sets, mindless video games, social networks, the big game, and cheap Chinese goods that fall apart quickly. In their wildest imaginings, could they follow a recipe in a book and make a loaf of bread? Or know how to identify wild berries, and that simply sugar and those berries can be made into jam, sealed into jars with boiling water and saved for next winter?
Look at the grandchildren next time they're with you for a visit and remember Aristotle's remark: "How many things there are in the world that I don't need!"
Think of what you really need to survive in this strange and dangerous world we have allowed to be. Can you survive what may be in store for you?