Back when I was, oh, about seven or eight years old, I was playing on the front porch of the house in the small town where my grandmother lived. There was a swing hanging from the ceiling of the porch. I would lie on the cushion of that swing and try to make the swing move, but it’s impossible if your legs aren’t hanging down so you can pump the air. That’s what moves the swing. I studied the chain holding the swing and looked at the eye bolts holding the chains and the swing. At the time I did not know what an eye bolt was, nor how it worked, so I wondered how long the swing would hold me up. Moreover, my parents or my grandmother would sometimes sit in that swing, and I knew they were heavier than me, for they were bigger.
The swing has nothing to do with what I am about to tell you. I was just thinking about that porch and the swing the other day, and recalled that late afternoon when I sat up, got off the swing and sat on the edge of the porch. Looking down the street, I saw a boy in my classroom, Robert Jones, crossing the street about half a block away.
“Hey, Robert, where you going?” I shouted.
“I’m going to get a comic book. My mom gave me a dime,” he shouted back.
“Well, wait a minute. I’ll go ask Grandma if I can go with you,” I said.
I ran in the house and asked Grandma if I could walk uptown to the dime store with Robert. I also asked if I could have a dime. She gave me a nickel.
I ran out and joined with Robert to walk down the alley, across another street, up the alley to the sidewalk on the main street and then just a few steps to the left to the dime store.
Inside, we took our time looking over the comics. Robert picked out a Superman comic. A dime was sufficient to buy that. I had only a nickel, so I had to buy an offbrand comic, something not nearly as good as Superman. Robert left so he could go home and read the adventures of Superman.
I stuck around and kept looking for something I would like. It was difficult to find something.
“Who are you?” the old woman clerking the store grumbled.
“Huh?” I said.
“What’s your name?”
“Ralph Hohenfeldt,” I said.
“That’s what I thought,” the old bat said. “You better just go on home. Addie Howe does not want her grandson reading comic books.”
“Uh-huh,” I said. “She gave me a nickel to buy one.”
“Well, go on, get out of here,” the old battle-axe said. “I am not going to let you buy a comic book. I go to church with Addie; she must not know what kind of trash is in these books. You just go on, now.”
I left the store, slamming the door, of course. I walked down the alley, crossed the street, cut down between some houses and walked through the unfenced yards to come up to the backyard of the house where Grandma lived.
I went inside and gave the nickel back to Grandma.
“The lady in the store wouldn’t sell me a comic book,” I said. “She said she knew you.”
Grandma took the nickel from me and put it back in her coin purse.
“Well, find a book to look at,” she said.
And I did.
Hillary Clinton once quoted an African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Because she is a liberal Democrat, she made the case that the government needs to step in and take the role of the village and help parents raise children.
Conservative Republicans chastised her and called her some bad names. They said that parents, not villages and certainly not governments, should raise children.
That’s what happens when you start getting political about things as simple as raising children. Issues arise, truth gets lost.
The Africans were right about the role of an entire village to help raise kids. Ozarks villagers and small-towners knew and practiced that without the help of government back in the middle of the decades of the previous century when I was a young Ozarks Boy.
Over the following years, though, as the government was called on to take the role of the villagers and those who fought against government intrusion in private life over-reacted, the family and the village reached the point to where this is what happens now:
Store clerks today will sell any kind of trashy reading to a kid as long as the kid has the money because the clerks don’t know the kid, don’t know the parents or the grandparents.
And, besides, if the clerk refuses to sell what the kid wanted, the modern parent or grandparent will rush to the store and give the clerk a good cussing.
If I’m making it sound like people were better and life was grander in the old days, it’s only because that is the truth.