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This Is Your America

As another July 4th rolls around, it might be well to remember the significance of that date. Imperfect though it surely is, there are many reasons to let the flag flutter bravely in the soft winds of summer.

Comes this e-mail from Mistie Collins of Pulaski County:

“Each month I find myself waiting to receive the Kentucky Living magazine just to read your article. The stories you write take me back to a time that, unfortunately, I didn’t live in, but wish I had.

“I grew up simpler than my peers. I was raised by my grandparents. Their way of living just hadn’t caught up with the rest of the world in the ’70s and ’80s.

“My Ol’ Pa would tell me stories and teach me lessons just like some you’ve mentioned.

“We had to work as much as anybody I ever knew, but that was the way they were raised and that was the way I would be raised.

“‘Hard work never kilt nobody,’ Ol’ Pa said. He was right. I am glad I had all those experiences. I love to read, and I love to write poetry. It was because of the evenings spent relaxing with them—well, that was how we spent our time. We either read, put a puzzle together, or played many card games with King’s Korners being my favorite.

“The lessons in that made me want to read and write. The lessons of life…I learned the way it should have been. Adversity, hard work, and simply put, LIFE are all things many kids my age didn’t know and most today have no idea about.

“When I read your articles it makes me smile. Takes me back to the love and honesty in our home as a child. Sometimes it’s as if my Ol’ Pa and Mammaw are speaking right to me through your stories.

“They’ve been gone for over 10 years, but each month I look for them in Kentucky Living. I look for a quote or a similar story that I once heard. Many thanks, Mr. Dick, for all the memories you cause me to recall.”

When we stopped the other day at Judy’s Levy Store for our usual country ham sandwich, I looked at the smiling faces and listened to the soft voices of those sitting at the two tables, and I thought, this is Mistie Collins’ America. Well, I mean it isn’t all violence on television and in movies. Isn’t all sports mania. Isn’t all drive-thrus for quick fixes before heading out on the super highway to somewhere and beyond.

Judy serves her cornbread and beans, sausage biscuits, and slow-cooked hamburgers (pickles on the side) on real china dishes (not to be confused with China on the other side of the world). Judy’s forks, knives, and spoons? Not known to be plastic.

The conversation ranges from seeding and harvest times to the earliest date to begin setting out tomato plants (May 10) to avoid a killer frost. Oh sure, there’s mention of difficult financial times, but the conclusion is straight out of Ol’ Pa’s idea of the surest way forward: “Hard work never kilt nobody.”

That seems to be the challenge hereabouts and at other vanishing country stores across this great nation: it’s time to stop thinking “work” is just another four-letter word. “Work” is another good and true word for being industrious, being responsible, earning a living, being effective, being creative, being helpful, plowing, tilling, cultivating, reaping, and just plain unvarnished behaving.

“Can’t hardly find anybody to do anything…prices keep going up…not like it used to be…Carl been by?…not today.”

Carl was up on the hill getting ready to celebrate his birthday. His wife, Brenda, was cooking ham and other fixings. Cousins and relatives would say a prayer before the annual feast. They would praise the Lord.

So it goes at the Plum Lick crossroads of another birthday of America.

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