291. Work is the Thing

A couple of friends ( are they really?) have asked me how I can come up with so many different topics as I approach 300 posts .  Well, catching ideas and playing with them is something I enjoy doing. Others in the asylum like to pull the wings off of flies and train them to do circus tricks, but not I. I glue the cast off wings onto ants and liberate them from gravity’s curse. Random association is not difficult for me. It might be painful for those around me, but I rather enjoy the thin attachment between ideas that often results from freewheelin’ associative thinking like a Rorschach ink blot interpretation.

It’s a cow, right?No, it’s a young Bob Dylan hiding from attacking crows behind a fake beard and spectacular sunglasses. Hey, Bob. You are not fooling anyone, dude.

I think the same thing is at the heart of some humor, and, of course, the painful pun.  If you abandon worrying about what others think of  you, you are free to riff on. Sort of like dancing or singing without constraints. If you stay in your head over analyzing every step and syllable you put forth, you are fatally screwed, my friend. Letting go… can be tantamount to breaking on through to the other side, as Jim Morrison sang.  Elsa sang “Let it go” ad nauseam in the Frozen movie.. My youngest daughter has done some Elsa impersonations locally for little kids. It’s a hoot, but at the heart of it is a willingness to pretend on both sides. It’s a real buzz kill if you get the brat kid who yells, “Hey, you’re not Elsa!”

“Hey, kid. Everyone knows that, but we were all happily and harmlessly pretending she was Elsa, or maybe a close relative. Schmelsa from Bushwick.”

Literalist concrete thinkers are pretty boring folks, I think. They lack imagination. I suppose they make good farmers who spread manure methodically or cut corn religiously, but they are sadly lacking in the fun part of life. I’ve had a few run ins with manure spreaders in Franklin County, and I have to say it’s a good thing I don’t drive one. I’d be tempted to spray folks in open convertibles just for giggles. But a good farmer wouldn’t want to waste his precious manure on pranks when it could fertilize some soy beans up along the fence line. See, work’s the thing not foolishness.

In fact, I learned long ago that many farmers are taught a little song when they are in the cradle. It goes like this,

“We’ll have fun when the work is done, but the work is never done.

So put your back into it, son, cause we’ll have fun when the work is done,

And if that day never comes, don’t worry, we’ll have fun, son, if the work is ever done, now hurry

Oh, when we stand on that cemetery hill and our work is finally done

We’ll have fun, so much fun, watching that humorless sinking sun.”

It’s a real hit at birthday parties. It starches up the young’uns for a life of … starch… and concrete. And fence posts. Arthritis too.

So when young Billy is 12 and wants to play football or wrestle after school, Pa says, “Well, sure, son. You can do all that once the work is done.” But poor innocent Billy rediscovers that no matter how fast he works, the work is never done. The blisters on his hand heal over into callouses while his heart draws tight like old leather shoes on a miser’s feet.

In high school Billy has a car and a savings account at the Valley Bank because he has learned from Pa “Work’s the thing”. He doesn’t have time for silly sports or concerts, movies or dances. Heck, they don’t put money in your pocket. “Work’s the thing that sets you free.” He remembers reading this in History class somewhere. It don’t matter, really. S’pose it’s true, if you like book learnin’.

Something irritates him like poison ivy, though. ‘It’s those freeloading fun lovers. They don’t do a dang thing but laugh and carry on. Why, if they didn’t play all the time and worked some, I wouldn’t have to work so hard,’ he thinks. ‘Sure, those girls are mighty pretty, but Work IS THE THING!!! Girls like that just want your car and money. They know nothing about hard work.’

Billy graduates and works and works and works, setting his roots deep in the soil. So much so that he rarely leaves the county. And why would anyone need to leave this place? There is so much to do– plant, milk, trim, fence, milk, spread manure, milk, harvest, combine, complain about the weather. There is no end to it. But you know what?  We’re gonna have some fun when the work is done.

Caleb Johnson took a cruise after he sold his farm to his second son last year. His skin cancer just about got him licked though. Why would a body want to go to the Bahamas, anyway?  All they do is drink rum and dance. That ain’t work. No wonder they’re stuck in the poorhouse. Me? I’d like to go to China or North Korea. Them boys know how to work, so they do. Pa always said, before he lost his last marble, “Works the thing, Son. Never forget. You can have your fun when the work  is done.”

There was never a more practical man than my Pa. Why he insisted that I bury him with the front loader to save on the funeral costs. So I did. He’s in that berm up behind the milking parlor now. I guess he’s having his fun now. Ma carried on something fierce at the services. I’m not sure if she missing Pa or the fun they never got to.

Anyway, I’m pretty set to follow Pa’s footsteps. It’s a free country but not a freeloading country. So turn off the music and get a job. Work is the Thing.