Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Ah, the good old days...

Posted 6/09/15 (Tue)

We’ve often heard the phrase “those were the good old days.”

Our parents walked up hill 10 miles to get to school with nothing more than a hot potato in their hands to keep them warm. After school, they walked 10 miles up hill to get home.

Those were the good old days – but were they really the good old days?

If we look at how things are today and see how we’ve morphed into societal chaos the past 50 years, then yes, those were the good old days.

In today’s world we are supposed to be politically correct and not offend anyone.

No more Ten Commandments in school, if a child doesn’t want to pledge allegience to the U.S. flag, he doesn’t have to, the New York City public school board recently OK’d a book for young children titled “Heather Has Two Mommies,” Little League baseball players get shut down because they are selling brownies not made in a commercial kitchen, illegal aliens in Arizona are demanding their rights as well as  welfare checks and we worship Hollywood stars and risque athletes instead of characters in the Bible.

You know what, I’m offended because of all that. Who can I file a lawsuit against? I don’t want to have to listen to Spanish when I call a business or read it when I go into Home Depot. I’d prefer it be French. I’m offended and I have my rights.

So maybe they really were the good old days –  or were they?

As a young child in the 1960s living near Hazelton, I remember electricity going out frequently.

I also remember the outhouse in the back yard and how rough that must have been when the temperature dropped to 30 below zero.

If you research weather during the 1930s, you’ll find that temperature extremes were a lot more common back then. In fact, in those Dust Bowl years from 1932 to 1936, long periods of extreme cold happened and that had to be tough to deal with on a daily basis.

Our outhouse wasn’t insulated, just a bare wood structure with a Montgomery Ward catalog and Look magazine for your convenience.

But using an outhouse at 30 below certainly can’t be considered a convenience.

Some of us remember having to take a polio vaccine when we were children. It was administered in a sugar cube and I seem to remember that was the most horrible tasting sugar cube imagineable.

But for many years, polio was a big threat to the health of the United States and we swallowed that bitter pill, or sugar cube as it were, so we wouldn’t get that crippling disease.

Also in the 1960s, we didn’t have FM radio, nor did we have more than two TV channels. AM radio was the entertainment. KFYR, 550 AM in Bismarck was locked on the dial, at least during the day.

Now, we have more FM stations in Minot than Bismarck had AM stations when I was a kid.

TV has gone from the snowy, analog picture to crystal clear high definition. When we first got cable in Hazelton, there were 11 channels. Today, there are 11 over-the-air channels in Minot.

Talk to any farmer today and they will tell you they can’t survive without using chemicals and they have to get bigger in order to stay in business.

I’ve often wondered where that philosophy came from and how it got so engrained in everyone.

My parents raised six kids on a 160-acre patch of farmland and about 30 acres of pasture land for the 10 dairy cows. In addition, there were about 100 chickens and one dog.

We weren’t rich, but we never went hungry and we always had decent clothes to wear.

My dad never used chemicals or fertilizer, only manure and he didn’t have big equipment. Come to think of it, none of the neighbors did either.

They mostly grew oats and corn with an occasional flax or sunflower field.

I often wonder how my dad did it on 160 acres up until 1969 when we moved to town. Neither of my parents were educated about farming. It was all trial and error and advice passed down from my mother’s parents who came from Switzerland.

Today, farming seems to be a stressful kind of business, one in which producers are watching every dime and every bushel.

I know of farms in Stutsman and Emmons counties that are approaching 20,000 acres and they don’t seem to be big enough.

But my parents made a living on 160 acres with six kids and one dog. Farming was their passion, not their business. They always seemed happy. Maybe those were the good old days after all.