CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - Republican Beans and Social Security


By Jack Cawthon

Homer Bob was agitated. His face was florid as he paced back and forth like a caged cat eyeing a bird just beyond its barrier. Burvil stood off to the side looking a bit sheepish and I could only assume that he had once again been reading to Homer Bob from some unsettling material. I had cautioned him about reading Charleston Gazette editorials, although on occasion some that had provoked me had had a soothing effect on Homer Bob and I could only surmise that the two had come together like two children speaking a language of their own making which excluded mature minds.

And that is the danger-some may say beauty-in being a writer who can't read. Goodness knows, he is protected from the slings and errors that beset those of us who do, but all writers need the words of others to fill the empty space when they are bereft of their own. Just pick them up, reshape them a little, and insert them as one's own. Think of it as the ultimate in recycling stolen goods.

I looked at Burvil and he shrugged his shoulders as he often does when he places the blame on others for his own transgressions. So, I approached the source and asked Homer Bob to tell me about it, much in the same manner as a kindergarten teacher might say to a beginning abstract artist, avoiding the harsh "what is it?"

"Hits thet there Bill Peyton," he bellowed. "The big depression is a-comin' and we're all gonna be eatin' Republican beans. "They's ain't enough of 'em," he continued, so as we have to git some acrost the waters from the Poles!" Well, first of all, I told him the man's name is DAVE Peyton, I read his column fairly regularly and I didn't recall anything about "Republican beans," although I have the impression that Mr. Peyton may think most Republicans are full of them.

As you may recall, Dave Peyton was working on a conglomerated paper in a border town when he supposedly violated some "policy" the paper had in place. He was called in, told "adios," or whatever they speak on the Ohio River border, and told not to let the door him on his pass, words I could easily identify with. However, as he walked through that door a funny thing happened: he was snatched up by big-time journalism and became a columnist for the Charleston Daily Mail.

"Hits the Big One agin," Homer Bob wailed as he walked the plank without stop. "My ole Pappy talked about Hoover beans and bein' out of work. We're all gonna starve," he sobbed.

I saw that I couldn't solve a problem when I was uninformed, although like most folks I often try. So, I asked Burvil to show me the Peyton piece.

It turned out to be a folksy column in which Mr. Peyton is talking about home gardening and raising BUSH beans and POLE beans, which just goes to show that even the simplest writing can be misinterpreted, as I well know from my simple attempts.

He had written another column about home canning, about how he and his wife had an almost instinctual urge to prepare for the winter in the manner in which it has always been done in the hills, the planning ahead for a time when food may not be plentiful. I thought of my mother when I read that. She always had the cellar shelves stocked with jars to be opened when the winter winds howled even though it might have been cheaper and certainly a lot less work to buy the things she needed. However, she had done it that way in the country and she saw no need to change after moving to town.

How different it is today as those of us who have grown soft head out to the nearest supermarket. Panic sets in with the forecast of a couple of inches of snow as people hurry to stock up with food items that once were close at hand from their own shelves, fearing two or three days without a supply may bring about starvation.

The current issue of Newsweek speaks of the Baby Boomers who have suddenly become aware of the aging process when they receive that first invitation from AARP upon reaching the ripe old age of 5-OH. All at once their thoughts turn to Social Security and they begin to wonder if it will be there when they need it, the "will there be enough food" basic instinct surfacing for them.

These are the Yuppies of today whose parents, many of them at least, grew up in times when money was scarce and where one needed to scrimp and save for the day when times might even get tougher. No immediate gratification with that sort of mind-set!

Yet, that same quiet desperation can't be passed on to a new generation. Poverty can't be taught; it must be experienced and even so we tend to shelter our own from the harsh realities that we once experienced. We catch that amused look when we stoop down to pick up a penny off the street or, like Mr. Peyton, stock food for a day when there may not be a plenty. It's ingrained in us and will never be completely erased from our minds even when we have more than enough. Enough is never enough when one has experienced not enough.

That's why so many old folks who pass on after living lives of frugality shock their survivors who never suspected that such "poor" of outward appearances could be living with all that material wealth. And that may be why two elderly sisters in Morgantown who lived "simple lives" passed along over $18 million recently to a state university.

Finally, those who were young and now find that they too will age suddenly panic after years of living high on the hog never preparing for the time of want. Maybe with a touch of cynicism we might say "Let 'em eat beans!" But politics being politics Social Security will survive in some fashion if in no other way than by taking from those who have and giving to those who haven't, another one of those recycled ideas.

But when I went home and turned on the TV there was one of the Bush boys with his dog promoting beans. I wondered if Mr. Peyton might share some Republican beans with those of us beset with the grasshopper syndrome.

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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