I near ’bout wrote the book on government shutdown

I near ’bout wrote the book on government shutdowns. I’ve seen the money flow slow to a trickle. And then dry up altogether! I’ve protested and moaned and got mad and blamed it on the hog market, them big shots out of Memphis and Jimmy Hoffa. I got so desperate in 1959 I took a job picking up Zag Nut and Moon Pie wrappers at Roe Alexander’s swimming pool.

We didn’t have a clue back in the pre Beatle days about central government bellicose, trickle down economics or congressional stalemate. We were also not up to speed on White House bargaining, staged press conferences or beltway power brokering. We didn’t know that you could have “essential” jobs still funded right through a shutdown. When the spigot got turned off up above me, I didn’t get nothing!

We all liked Ike but we didn’t depend on him.

Daddy was the government as far as we were concerned in the fifties and early sixties. Oh, we had heard of Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson. But we didn’t know if the speaker of the house and the powerful senator from Texas liked each other or not. We were not privy to their private meetings or behind the scene negotiations. They acted stately enough and I’m fairly certain they passed some very important laws……but none of them ever reached out to the end of Stonewall Street.

Dad was our president, congress and Supreme Court all rolled into one. When he passed a law it wasn’t overruled, out voted, defied or even debated. Me, Leon and David Mark might whisper about it very low, under our breath……but really, they most always worked out to the good of all.  

Dad made the money so he also rightfully set the budget. And here’s where the government shutdown came in. Mom didn’t work. She would get up before daylight, cook breakfast, clean the house, make the beds, hang out a load of wash, get lunch started, dig a few Irish potatoes, make a dress or sew a shirt together, fry a chicken and take it to a sick neighbor, sweep off the porch, have dinner ready when we got in from football practice, go over our homework and keep the fire going, but none of that brought any money into the house. If Dad didn’t work the soup got a little thinner.

I remember one year the Tri-County Stockyards closed down for a spell. Dad’s work, trucking hogs and cattle down to Tupelo, came to a screeching halt. The first thing that went was the quarter for the picture show. We lived without Roy, Hoppy and Gene until the crisis was over. We also ate a few more turnip greens and a tad less meat. Dessert became crumbled up cornbread in a glass of buttermilk. Somehow Mom just “categorized” things in their importance to the good will of the family and we all kept going.

You could complain to the high heavens but it wouldn’t help. Folks had problems of their own. I understood from an early age that the universe didn’t revolve around me. And nobody expected something for nothing! Since I couldn’t go to the movie, I galloped down to the big ditch and fought the Indians single handed. Listen, life becomes a lot more colorful when you have to make up your own pictures!

Somewhere in the mid fifties a driver wrecked one of Dad’s trucks. And in the very same week another truck, due to some faulty wiring, caught fire and burned. There was no insurance. You talk about a government shut down! I can’t remember any “woe is me”, lamentations or throwing up the hands. We also didn’t, and wouldn’t, take a handout from anybody. My Dad would have died first! He just kept on working.

I don’t know that we “circled the wagons” or had the ole “we’re all in it together” talk. We just kept on living. And sharing. And growing. And laughing. I look back on it from the vantage point of a lot of years and realize those tough times might have been the greatest days of all for us.  

Sometimes we had so little that a shutdown was hard to perceive.

It got a little tougher in high school when the teamsters union went on strike and Dad couldn’t drive. Billie Jean wanted me to wear those Penguin shirts and take her to the Dairy Bar every night for hamburgers and cherry cokes. I was a little embarrassed for my situation. But I rightly figured dating was important, but it wasn’t essential! And I found a girl that liked to take long walks and swing on the porch.

A shutdown by any government is a set back. I’ve been there. But it is not the end of the world. If we’ve got the wrong people in charge, let’s shut them down. It’s hard to follow OUR money because of all the finger pointing…….by guys that don’t own the money! And I can’t understand how you pay some folks during a shutdown and not pay others. That doesn’t sound like “we’re all in it together” to me. Who’s to say one job is more important than another? What’s happened to compromise, civility, leadership and “truth, justice and the American way”?

            Daddy would just work harder. That was always his answer to any problem. ’Course, people not working got us into this mess in the first place.