June 2012
4-H Extension Corner

Cowboy boots — and the immigration law


The late Paul Lowry wore overalls and work boots, not cowboy boots, but learned his lesson about prejudice.

I can walk into just about any of the Quality Co-ops I write about and, if I happen to walk by the neat rows of boots and shoes and catch a whiff of that well-tanned leather, I am almost immediately transported back to a time when simple boots taught me an important lesson about prejudices…and how foolish they can often be…

I can’t imagine a finer Christian man than my daddy, but even he had his own special breed of prejudice.

When I was much much younger, I once heard him say he "tried never to hire a man who wore cowboy boots."

He classified men who wore them into one easygoing lump. If you were REALLY going to WORK, like he did building houses and my granddaddy and uncles did following a mule in the fields or working in the nearby ore mines in the 1940s and ’50s, pointy-toed, higher-heeled cowboy boots just didn’t quite fit the ticket as much as those lace-up leather work boots (and even brogans) most men wore back then.

Then years later my husband Roy appeared on the scene. Wearing – you guessed it – pointy-toed boots (you remember those side-zipper shoes from the late 1960s and early ’70s!) that weren’t quite cowboy boots ,but were close enough to meet daddy’s scrutiny.

But Roy proved himself one of the hardest workers around, greatly admired by his colleagues tossing daddy’s boot theory out to pasture.

Most prejudices are just as foolish and just as deceiving as my daddy’s boot theory!

Many years ago, I was privileged to interview the charming woman who had been our local high school’s first black student on the 30th anniversary of that fateful year. She was the only black student in our school for an entire year, until it was fully integrated shortly thereafter.

She talked about how she often felt so alone, but how she was proud to have done her part in making our town, our county and our state a better place.

And she also talked about how I always talked to her in our gym class, even though I was a few years younger. I was a little different myself. The little, self-conscious, hippie-type girl with big eyes and a big heart.

The late Paul Lowry (left) and Roy Geno worked together on a project in the early 1980s.


So here we are these many years later, still grappling with many of the same issues.

As a reporter, I have covered all aspects of the immigration bill. I have studied it and pondered it. And like so many others, I haven’t found any solutions to all the controversy.

I do believe we should have more secure borders, simply because of the extreme threat of terrorism that we seem to push to the back of our minds the further we get from that devastating 9-11 date.

But I also believe we need to be carrying out those objectives for the right reasons and not simply for the color of someone’s skin or their country of origin.

Don’t get me wrong. If someone breaks criminal laws like drugs, physical violence or even murder, I think they should be either locked away or deported. I’ll never forget one of my son’s friends who was casually driving to Wal-Mart about a mile from here a few years ago and found two BODIES thrown out into the roadway…that kind of violence MUST be stopped.

But there has got to be an easier way for those truly seeking a better home for their families to come here to work.

One of my cousins has for years traveled to Mexico on mission trips, ministering to families who are literally living atop garbage dumps in shacks made of cardboard and tin.

I can’t blame any one of them for wanting to come to a better place where they can actually find work and make a living for their family.

There were articles in the newspapers this very week about Alabama farmers who have cut back their crops because they fear they won’t have enough workers to harvest them.

Here we’re pushing Buy Fresh Buy Local and it’s getting harder and harder for local smaller farmers to GROW local. Having to deal with a myriad of governmental regulations was hard enough without adding even more to the mix.

So like I said, I haven’t been able to find any answers. It seems every time the government gets involved in anything, it gets so complicated it is almost a lost cause.

Could there not be a simple piece of legislation written saying something like "you come here, you work, you obey these rules, that’s o.k."? And if that doesn’t match the federal legislation then it needs to be made more SIMPLE as well.

I am a simple woman living on a simple farm trying to live a simple life. And I’m not liberal in any sense of the word. On most things I’m about as conservative as you can get.

But while I DON’T have the answers, I do know some SIMPLE facts.

Jesus made it quite clear in the New Testament that He came for all people. No matter how rich or how poor, no matter what nationality or what color, no matter if a person was dressed in a prince’s robe or leper’s rags, whether male or female.

My simple philosophy is that God places us all here on earth for a reason, whatever physical size, shape, color or sex we might be.

Just as each individual is personally responsible for developing his or her own assets, we each have the responsibility to view each person as his or her own separate identity requires.

Shouldn’t immigration laws be based solely on national security and the number of people our country can safely and efficiently absorb?

We must not lose sight of the fact that we can no more group people solely on their appearance or nationality than we can group them according to the type shoe (or boot!) they wear.

In my opinion, that’s the simple fact.

Suzy Lowry Geno is a Blount County freelance writer and can be reached through her website at www.suzysfarm.com.