June 2017
Simple Times

“I Wish I Could Give My Son a Wild Raccoon”

 

Baby raccoon

One person belittled (to put it nicely!) my intelligence.

Another woman talked of how uncaring I was toward others.

Then a man, who I know only because he lives in my same rural county, verbally attacked me on social media, bringing up things from my personal life from about three decades ago AND even discussing my writing abilities. His final jab toward me was saying (falsely, I might add) that I used to be a liberal and he didn’t know what had happened to me!

All because in three different instances and days apart (including talking with an older cousin who I often have animated political discussions with), I said something someone else did not agree with.

Somehow it seems folks will say things on social media they once would not have dared to say in real life, hiding behind their computer keyboards or phones. If you make any kind of political comment, you may be bashed verbally and personally.

It seemed half the folks in the country were arguing about our president’s actions, only to be superseded by comments in Alabama after our governor was forced to resign amidst a scandal.

It’s enough to make an original back-to-the-lander like me retreat to that cabin in 100 acres of backwoods far away from civilization!

But before we shuck it all and give up on life as we know it, I’d like to share some encouragement I’ve found from several folks who died quite some time ago.

A lot of you are familiar with the series of "Foxfire" books, where students interviewed old timers in their Georgia hills and hollers about what their lives were like as youngsters growing up in a much simpler time. Even though those books were mainly published in the late 1960s and early 1970s, they are still popular and new copies are still available to buy on the internet.

But many may not be as familiar with another similar selection. In celebration of our country’s Bicentennial in 1976, students from around the country interviewed 39 of the then-older generation, in the Foxfire style, asking them to provide stories of value to all their children across the nation.

Although I’ve read and enjoyed the South-centered "Foxfire" series for years, I’d never heard of this particular book until about two weeks ago when I was blessed with a large collection of older homesteading books.

The title of "I wish I could give my son a wild raccoon" had me hooked from the beginning!

The interviews include an Eskimo teacher in Alaska, spending her last years writing about her community’s unique culture; a North Carolina banjo maker; an Illinois fireman; a Louisiana Cajun trapper; the granddaughter of slaves; and many, many more. Unique in where they grew up, how they lived, how they were raised, and even how some were facing their deaths.

But the wonderful thing is that each story reflects the diversity of our American experience. They each and every one share the same common values and beliefs they would like to preserve and present to their children, grandchildren and others in their communities!

Each chapter is a different interview by a different group of students. Intriguing titles include:

All valued education, but not necessarily education they’d received in public schools. While many such as Eskimo leader Emily Brown eventually earned degrees way past her master’s, some only went through basic third grade, but then educated themselves not only through the school of hard knocks but also through reading everything they could get their hands on.

There’s talking of raising chickens, selling eggs, raising hogs, and selling that; hunting alligators for two years; rising to milk cows and goats before trudging to school; and those wishing to pass on how to catch catfish in the river when it’s beginning to rain; and how to make stink bait out of the lining of a cow’s stomach ....

As the introduction explained, "This is not often a look at the past through rose-colored glasses … a nostalgic tour through the good old days."

In many ways, it is a series of cautionary tales such as Emily Brown’s talking about the mistakes the early missionaries made with native cultures in Alaska; and Ada Allen relating stories she’d heard from her slave ancestors and how she herself had been Jim Crowed as she tried to live her ordinary life.

But as Charles Schroeder said in his interview in "I wish I could give my son a wild raccoon," "I think the future of America will always be great. I don’t think there is any doubt about this. We make mistakes, we do strange things for our particular time, we pass judgment on ourselves, and we think about our early times ...."

He goes on to say that he wishes he could pass on to his son the idea that what he was doing in his own life was important in this country and in this world.

"An idea that the part of America that HE grew up in will be just as important as the one I’m telling you about today," Schroeder added. "I wish I could pass all of that on to him, and to you."

So what does this all have to do with insults on social media, arguing about the president and even being somewhat embarrassed by the turns in our state government?

These tales of these common people – people just like you and me, although raised in different parts of the country under many different circumstances – all stressed the simplicity of their lives.

All valued hard work, persistence and faith in God.

If we can get back to those three simple things, wouldn’t our world just be so much better?

 

Suzy Lowry Geno lives on a small homestead in Blount County and can be reached through Facebook or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..