'Beware the job...'
Thoreau wrote: "Beware the job that requires new clothes."
When you ponder that point a bit, it makes a lot of sense. The job that dictates the way you dress dictates your life as well.
Grampa Roy never had to dress in store-bought suits to make a living. Grammie Mable made good money her own way, too. The only thing she had to add to her attire, other than her daily "house dress," was her "mosquito sleeves" and floppy straw hat. (The sleeves were a tubelike piece of cloth with elastic on each end. This slipped onto the lower arm from elbow to wrist, providing protection from insects and scratches from weeds and such while she tended her cabbage patch.)
She grew an acre's worth of cabbage for a market garden and was famous, for, as folk said: "No one could whack cabbages out of a garden like Mable Tucker!" She also had 50 laying hens from which she sold eggs in Lincoln. Along with her famous butter, which she traded at the Prentiss store for things that couldn't be produced on the farm -- like flour, sugar, molasses -- she made and saved enough money for extras, like the spring and fall orders from the Sears & Roebuck catalog. (You could even buy a house from the catalog back then – “Kit Houses” for about $5,000. Those houses were solid and still stand today, complete with stable porches. For all the amazing styles they offered, go to: http://www.arts-crafts.com/archive/sears/.)
Grampa Roy, besides his income as a Maine Guide, had several other money-making enterprises. There were the "Thousand Trees," a sugar maple stand that provided thousands of gallons of sap every spring; his gas-powered lathe that he used for woodworking; his strawberry and boysenberry patches, from which he sold berries to Thompson's Store in Springfield; using his gas-powered lather for crafting 10 racket frames for a famous racket outfit; making snowshoes and so forth.
Putting their various endeavors together, they owned the hours of their days, the days of their lives, maintaining an independent lifestyle, as did the other families up and down Tucker Ridge -- an independence that many of us would sure like to have today.
But it's not so simple today. The biggest factor that allowed for such independence back then was the lack of bills in the mailbox. No electric bill (kerosene lamps), no oil bill (cut their own wood, which provided heat and hot water), no water bill, (own sweet well water), no garbage removal stickers, (farm dumps that, combined with far less packaging and far less buying, quickly went back to the ground with next to no pollution), no huge slice of your income taken by the government, no huge property tax bill, no interest on credit cards (no credit cards), no mortgage, as the farm had been built in 1848 by my great-grandfather and without the death tax back then, subsequent generations lived there, and so forth.
Also, folk back then shopped more with a "What do I need? What needs replacement?" method than today's "Let's go shopping and see what's on sale" mode. As Grammie always maintained, "It's not a bargain if you don't need it." The operative word was "need," which is far different from "want" or "could use."
We don't seem to own our lives these days. It's a vicious cycle between the ever-increasing bills, taxes, insurances, escalating prices of products, having to repurchase things that aren't made to last anymore and working jobs that own us, dictate the hours of our days, leaving no time to do many of our own chores or repairs – so we have to hire it done, at up to $40 an hour. We identify with the caged gerbil running and running on his spinning wheel, getting nowhere.
Well, I looked forward to the day I would be out of that day-to-day job routine. I looked forward to retirement age. And I got there. (Indeed, it would seem I'm on a mailing list for "one foot on a banana peel," merchandise-pushers. Each year, as my birthday rolls around, I start getting these "Let us arrange your final arrangements" type stuff in the mail. Yesterday I got the first of this year’s crop. It's a sales catalog titled: "Don't Let Sore Joints & Aching Bones Cripple Your Future.")
I don't have time for sore joints. I may be getting my social security each month, but security it ain't. I still have to make money to pay all those bills that Grampa and Grammie never had. But unless I want to bag groceries (about the only job opportunity available to white-haired, retirement-age folk these days, other than being a greeter at Wal-Mart), I have to come up with other projects. So I keep my freelance writing and have kicked back into my artwork. It's not gonna make me rich anytime soon, I can tell you. But I am independent. Not in the sense Grampa and Grammie were, because of the enslavement of the taxes, (including having to cough up double taxes for income tax payments on any self-employment income).
But then, like Grampa and Grammie, I don't have to buy outfits for work. Indeed, I'm sitting here right now, pounding away on my computer, in my pajamas. And I can dress in my denims, (a material forbidden to be worn in many high-fallutin' jobs), and other easygoing, comfortable clothes and footwear – mostly barefoot.
I own the hours of my days, like Grampa and Grammie did.
Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Belfast graduate, now living in Morrill. She appears on this page every other week.