Curtis Dahlgren
Massey-Harris 101: Growing up country without helicopter parents
By Curtis Dahlgren
May 14, 2019

THIS IS THE COUNTRY; I WORK HERE. My partner and I worked the day shift. Long days. My partner was my dad. Crime? What crime? The kids were kept so busy it was the cops who were "bored." Maybe it was a Friday, Sarge. It was a smog-free day. Nothing in the air but the smell of new-mown hay. The summer of '48. Today I was finally getting my chance to drive our Massey-Harris 101 (the last one available to our local dealer before WWII). I and the tractor were both five years old.

My dad put the clutch in and the trans in low gear, as I clutched the steering wheel, my feet dangling in air. Pitch fork in hand, my dad jumped on the wagon to load the load as the hay came up the loader. All I had to do was follow the windrow clockwise around the field a couple of times. When the load was full, he jumped off the wagon and took over the driving, back to the barn. That was 71 years ago. I'm not stuck in the fifties – though our county didn't have a single murder in the 50s – I'm stuck in the forties!

Now the year is 2019. Kids having kids. Kids shooting kids! I lost eight friends in a shooting myself 15 years ago. 'Tain't funny, McGee. People say black lives matter, and then shoot cops who are trying to save black lives. This is the city, where kids don't even do paper routes anymore. That's work "Americans won't do anymore."

Sirens blaring. Red and blue lights glaring. Another kid loaded up and off to Mt. Sinai or Loma Linda. "Stray bullet" they say. "Could have been a professional football star." Not now. He'll just be an asterisk. Probably won't even get his name in the paper like those shooters in Colorado. The nihilism virus has gone viral. Is this the utopia those secular progressives predicted? They just didn't want to offend anyone. The Land of No Stigmas. But the "freedom" they promised turned out to be anchor-less. Rudderless. "Free love" they said, but it wasn't FREE. Consequences have consequences.

Memories. When I was six, my dad had me steer our 32 Ford truck around a field pulling the hay loader again. I was three when we moved from Illinois to Wisconsin. The previous owners of the farm at Duck Creek had left behind a model T chassis. No body, but I spend many hours clutching that steering wheel, imagining myself driving down our gravel road. By the time I was 10 or 11, I was not only driving the tractor and horses alone, but driving our car up the road to other fields. Today's child "protection" bureaus would have had my folks arrested. To me though, their confidence shown in me made me want to please them, make them proud, and show them my undying gratitude for as long as they lived.

We should be so grateful to our Heavenly Father, eh? He may have to keep His angels about us and alert, but He isn't a helicopter parent in the sense that we have no choice (and He smiles when we make the right ones). In my previous column, I mentioned the Niemeyer column on political correctness in a 1975 National Review. The author said that homo sapiens is probably an endangered species, not from "climate" but due to excessive protection from risk (think college snowflakes for whom even a dissenting opinion is scary, a case of "bullying"). You call this "the survival of the fittest"?

For my brother and me, self-esteem came from our work, not "participation" in games. Went to a one-room country school. Yes we walked a mile to school, but that wasn't half of the story. We even had work at school, going outside and downstairs to fetch a pail of coal for the stove in winter. Dirty coal. Outdoors? Today's younger generation just sits on the couch looking at one kind of screen or another. People are looking down at the palms of their hands so much, their necks may evolve permanently into that position.

What "self-esteem"? The only thing the self-esteem movement accomplished was making the young more easily offended. The first time they face discipline, such as being fired, they go postal on society. They either panic or melt at the sight of a cross or a confederate flag. One boy in grade school asked someone if he could have some gum, and a girl thought he said "gun." The whole school went into lock-down. This is "the survival of the fittest"?

There were more guns per capita in those days than now. And I drove tractor at five; truck at six. When I was seven, I learned how to ride a bicycle. Without a helmet. Never had time to climb trees as a kid, so I made a career out of that, in spite of two college scholarships. Two of the most dangerous professions: farming and logging/pruning. But it was more fun than sitting in a lecture hall being "lectured" by a professor who thought he was the smartest person in the room!

"Great peace have those who love Thy Law. Nothing shall offend them. Nothing shall be a stumbling block."

What happened? Oh, I forgot; we used to have the Big Ten commandments displayed in schools and at the court house. "YOU CAN'T DO THAT."

Not anymore. That's why I'm "stuck in the forties."

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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