Fair Week

I’m writing this in the middle of fair week. No, that doesn’t mean everything is fair this week and unfair the rest of the time. The Franklin County Fair is one of the great perks of living here. It is also the topic at the top of my unscientific survey for requested topics.

There are still enough independent livestock farmers to do competitive livestock shows at the fair, not to mention other judging events. There’s the antique farm machinery and demonstrations, and the draft horse pull. There’s the midway that we walk through to get somewhere else, but produces lots of noise and excitement to keep the atmosphere charged. There’s fair food. All these things make for the uniqueness of the week.

We rush to get done with things at home to make time for the fair. I’ll never forget the night that Craig, who runs the local radio station, wanted to do a live interview with me because I was running for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. He asked me if I liked the fair. What I said would have passed as mainstream in other markets, but people don’t talk like that outside a close circle of friends out here in the country. As far as I know, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) never came after Craig. Maybe they were busy with 9/11 truthers or JFK conspiracy theorists instead. The government lost my Selective Service records too. It shows we’ve got a ways to go to become an efficient totalitarian state.

This afternoon Dawn and I work in the ice cream stand, possibly the most popular attraction at the fair. We are so fortunate to have a friend like Marcus who asked us to work there. He and Robin and the other fair board members deserve all this praise that is heaped upon them all the time. If everybody worked that hard, there wouldn’t be a market for economy cars.

While I’m on the subject of individuals as an essential element of a whole I can’t help but mention a letter to the editor that was published in the Hampton Chronicle last week. The writer was pointing out how vocal music director, Jesse Bunge, had evolved from focusing on groups to a focus on individual achievement as a path to success as a group. (Jesse is moving away. His contribution to the school vocal music program was notable but he helped mold the individuals in Franklin Chorale into an exceptional group as well.)

What struck me, was how this writer saw the same thing as I did in Jesse’s career. The philosophy of the founders of this country are symbolized by Jesse’s approach as described in the article.

Thanks to all those individuals out there who bring the pieces together for the rest of us in this beautiful community.

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Only Slave-owners Can Give Rights

I can’t remember a more spectacular fireworks show than what we had at the fairgrounds in Hampton July 3rd. I suppose Thomas Jefferson was pounding away on his keyboard on that day, 241 years ago.

We were at the Municipal Band concert and hadn’t planned on staying for the fireworks due to the yawners they used to have out at Beeds Lake. But the show that night came awfully close to the degree of genius of that declaration penned so many years ago.

Steve Huling did a fantastic and heartfelt job singing the Lee Greenwood classic, “God Bless the USA,” at the concert. It occurred to me that a lyric in that song embodies why we are burdened with this ongoing debate about healthcare.

And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me”

Men gave that right to me? I don’t think so. Jefferson had it right; we are endowed by our Creator (or any amorphous form you personally deem responsible). A man may have died to preserve those rights or guarantee those rights, but no man gave us those rights. Those words may apply to slaves and slave-owners, but not a citizen of the country founded on the words in The Declaration.

If a man can give us rights, he can take them away. The reason we have this vast pool of wealth the single payer advocates want to tap into, is because of the guarantees provided by government that we may be enriched by our own efforts.

The number of people on the dole for healthcare may be thirty percent since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society began in 1964. But the dollar amount is much greater. Medical costs skyrocket after age 65. Two thirds of medical costs in this country were borne by government even before The ACA (Obamacare).

Goods and services with no government subsidies or interference have shrunk to a quarter of their cost of 60 years ago in terms of hours worked. Healthcare has quadrupled during that same time with the help of government’s elimination of most of the competitive marketplace in 1964.

There are other reasons for higher costs such as the limiting of the number of doctors and hospitals that trade associations lobbied for over the years. Truman’s establishment of IRS deductibility for employer-provided health insurance distanced the patient from healthcare decisions and that led to increased demand with less restraint on costs. Nixon’s wage and price controls further isolated prices from patient choice.

The problem really is that the productive people who fund all this are starting to step aside. There have been 250,000 jobs lost due to the 50 employee cap on exclusion from mandated employer insurance. The businesses not started and not expanded because the extra work only went to taxes can’t be measured. Who wouldn’t want to simply enjoy life rather than work for free?

What to do? The money will run out. The haters who look at medical care as something they rightfully own will want to protect it like anyone would protect their property from thieves. These people must be appeased or they will become increasingly violent. Remember the so-called conservatives screaming, “Keep your hands off my Medicare!” a couple years ago? They thought it was theirs too.

Appeasement to me looks like continuing the socialist system for those who’ve planned their lives around it but advocacy of an insurance industry that only insures individuals and adjusts rates to reflect risk. Smokers, race car drivers, and Sumo wrestlers should pay what the insurance company offers or find a new lifestyle and pay less.

To blame high medical costs on free markets is to ignore the facts. That Jefferson guy said government will grow and liberty will shrink. A good first step would be to stop celebrating liberty that doesn’t exist, recognize the problem, and notice that immediate gratification is a sign of an uncivilized society. That is what single payer is. It is legalized theft that is not justified by wishful thinking.

Far From the Thundering Herd

Life was good at “The Dead End.” Louie and Joyce let Mike and Len and me live in this run down shack up Elk Creek from Heron, Montana for free. All we had to do was put plastic on the windows (since they were all broken), install a wood cook-stove and wood heater and find a couple buckets suitable for hauling water up from the creek.

Louie and Joyce had lived there while they built their house after moving from Los Angeles. Louie had a concrete contracting business there and saved enough to buy this little ranch in the Western Montana mountains, not far from Idaho.

It was high praise when Louie said, “you sure you’ve never done concrete work before?” as we finished the footing for his shed.

Coincidentally, Louie and Joyce had Angus cattle, just like Dawn and I do today. Their cows calved in the mountains and brought their calves down when the snow came. Here, we see our cattle every day. Louie even proposed to us that we build a hog confinement building. That’s as far as that went, but a strange sort of hint of things to come for me. The isolation from the hog disease pool would have been amazing. As it turned out, Dawn and my partnership with swine bought us our farm (with the help of three kids). I’ve tried to track Louie down to share where he helped guide me. But to no avail.

As savings started to dwindle, a friend mentioned some good jobs were becoming available working for a helicopter logging company in Idaho. The money was real good and the work was hard, but like a sport; a sport that actually produces something worthwhile.

In an area that rivals Mississippi for low incomes, we were the rich folks. When the weather got cold I left the seat cushion out of my ’59 Bug so I could easily take the battery in the house for the night. Where we were, the moisture that made it past the Cascades was ours. Old timers said if we could see a fence post at Christmas, it was a drought. Fog was a problem too, for the chopper. But with momentum and chains I always made it to work in that Bug. I had it easy compared to the log truck drivers.

They didn’t need OSHA on those jobs. We simply wanted to live. On my first day of work, Lou Morgan (in his red and black checkered shirt and big black beard kinda like…) took my leather gloves and tossed them over the edge of the landing. They wouldn’t tear and your hand would stay in them and leave you if they got caught on something. He made me cut the hem off my jeans for the same reason. The plastic hardhat I got in Sandpoint was soon replaced by an aluminum one with a brim that would keep the rain off my neck. As I look back, I wish they had already found that EPA regulations and legislation could have kept my gloves dry and the rain off my neck. Science is so incredibly wonderful nowadays.

I was so fortunate to have that job working for Columbia Helicopters. The logs were moved out of the woods without tearing up the fragile soil. And we always got the cream because we logged places conventional loggers couldn’t access, like swamps and cliffs. Ironically, cliffs scare the heck out of me today.

If we were in town and saw a truck go by with only one or three logs on it, they came from us. I still see a long straight log as a thing of beauty. And my love for undisturbed soil may be rooted in that six-year career as well.

Then there were those nights in the peace and quiet of The Dead End with Len and Mike as we solved the troubles of the world and listened to the cracking fire.