No. 484
Back in the early 1970s, I got to know a man by the name of Bill Rosa. At the time he was superintendent of schools in Mountain View, Arkansas. If you have never been to my home state, and have never been to Mountain View, I can truthfully say you have really missed something. Practically everyone in Arkansas is at least familiar with this quaint community, where folk music is played, weather permitting, almost every Saturday in front of the Stone County Courthouse. A trip to Mountain View will certainly take you back in time and it's also home to the Ozark Folk Center and Blanchard Springs Caverns, a deep underground cave operated and maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. You can also catch your limit of rainbow trout in the nearby White River with no problem at all.
One year, back when I knew Bill Rosa, he invited me to be the speaker for his high school commencement exercises and they held the event at their beautiful Folk Center. Unfortunately, I had a previous commitment in another school district and could not accept. To this day, I have always regretted not being able to be there with Bill and his people. The reason I am sharing these thoughts with you is to give you a little background on a topic that hopefully will give you some insights into where we are, economically speaking, in this country.
Along about this time, I was president of the men's club at a church in Little Rock and I invited Bill Rosa to come and speak to our club. He graciously accepted, drove 150 miles down in the evening, back home the same night and would not accept a penny for his time and expenses. During his talk he told a compelling story that has stuck with me to this day. Anyone who knows anything at all about the history of mountain people, also know there is a code of the hills that is very real. There are certain things you can do and again there are certain things you had better not do. There is an independent spirit among these people that you don't find in other parts of the country. In the early days they not only made moonshine whiskey, some still do, they more or less lived off the fat of the land.
Times have changed, but even today there are still vestiges of this lifestyle in this part of the country. This story really has its roots in an earlier day when westward expansion began in our country and most of their forefathers migrated from the mountains, hills and hollers of Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas. These were rugged pioneers who forged a trail in the wilderness that provided a way for others to follow in the coming years. There was a stark contrast to the lifestyle these people lived and the way flatlanders lived on the plantations of the Deep South. Of course this goes back to the days of slavery, when labor was free. Gladly, those days are long gone.
Bill told of a time when the early mountain pioneers lived in small communities to have protection from the Indians, and to survive the long harsh winters. He said each community had a smokehouse and everyone contributed to the smoking and curing of meat, especially wild game, and they all shared in the bounty. In essence, they were all putting something in and doing their part to survive. Then one day, one of the mountain men decided that he could take something out of the smokehouse without putting anything in. As he continued this practice, one of the other mountain men observed him doing this and said to himself, "If he can do that, I can do it, too."
Before long there was another, then another, then another and before long this honest, workable system was destroyed. It was then decided that each individual would have his own smokehouse. This way if they did not put anything in, they could not take anything out. Now it does not take a rocket scientist to see the principles involved here and how they affect life in America today. We have gone from a simple system in the early days of our nation's history where all able-bodied people took care of themselves, to now millions of Americans who look to our government to take care of them and to meet most of their needs. Our government not only takes care of the widows, the orphans and the homeless, but our national and state politicians also use our collective resources for diplomacy, fighting wars and more unnecessary pork-barrel projects than you can name.
There is so much "wiggle" room in a national budget of more than a trillion dollars and state budgets that run into billions of dollars, that it actually invites graft and corruption. That night, many years ago, when Bill Rosa came to speak to our men's club, he helped me to understand the simple principle of not taking something out if you don't first put something in, and what the consequences will be, if too many of our citizens do that. This is what has happened to our Social Security system.
When you have 20 people riding in a wagon and only three pulling it, something has to give and there will be a day when our government can no longer print fiat money. Before we can ever have a stable economy, as an individual or a nation, we must first get out of debt.
(Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)