“There is so much to do here”

China is in a demographic death spiral. There are 1.3 billion people in China, but due to a forty years of 1 child policy, they have an aging boomer population, and recognize the need to adjust and right-size their population by encouraging their young women to have more children. In the West, the solution to this problem, as presented by “thought leaders” is always to allow more, and indiscriminate, immigration. I would like to provide some counter-signaling to this in the form of a profile of the people and the rural land of Louisiana. I met up with an older family over Christmas and I would like to share my visit with you all. In order to protect their privacy I will change their names.

Uncle Jackson fought in WWII, in the Pacific, and came home and started a small business with his brothers. Born in a family with ten children, he married young and he and his wife had 10 children as well. He saw it as normal to have 10 children. All were healthy, became law-abiding taxpaying citizens. Over the years his business employed hundreds in his local economy, and at 72 he decided to cash in his chips and retire. His idea of retirement was to buy was to buy a large working rice farm and CONVERT it to a RANCH! He makes his own hay for the cattle, of which he has many. He has a working shed with several tractors to sort and bale hay. At 89 he is the picture of “winning”, doing what he wants to do. There was a large satsuma tree with thousands of ripe satsumas (we visited at Christmas). My only regret was I did not bring bags to collect more.

Once inside we saw the dynamic, his wife still ran the household, and his domain was outside. In their late eighties, they were spry. One of their daughters lived with them and looked after them, and one of the sons helped to work on the farm daily. The house was large to accommodate many of the children to come back and visit. They had one of these very fine ovens, an AGA from Great Britain. On her mantle Aunt Carolyn had many figurines of Catholic Saints, they are very faithful, with a small chapel built into their home. These Catholic Saint figurines and portraits pervaded the house. Let’s compare this woman, who raised 5 men and 5 women, lives in a big house with no need for a nursing home in her late 80s, to the professional ladies working with kids today. In their cubicle, in place of the Saints, you can find (I have 2 coworkers that do this) cheap plastic trolls and stuffed animals from China. These fill up a shelf in their work cubicle and the feeling I get is a mild schizophrenia. What is it about having these creatures, I will call them false idols, with their eyes on you at all times? I find it must be a kind of misplaced maternal instinct, longing for the attention of children or small animals. But how can you compare this cheap plastic garbage to the martyrs and miracle workers with a real life story chronicled through the centuries by The Church? These women may have a couple kids, raised by strangers, while their maternal instinct is channeled through their work or whatever impoverished refugee they see on social media. Will their children be able to tend to them as they get older, or will they be off to the nursing home, to be tended to by strangers?

Uncle Jackson took a couple hours out of his day to show us his property. “It goes a mile that way, and half a mile the other way”. We got to see his many hay bailers and tractors and horses. He showed us how he laser leveled his property for better planting, and his cattle chute was designed by Temple Grandin. Read Kevin Williamsons recent article on modern farming to get an idea of what technological progress has done for US farming and the world. Earlier in our visit he showed us how cows were leaning on his barbed wire fence and bending it over. Then we drive past this section, and he says to us, “Now you see this, I had to learn this (remember he’s 89) , this is hogwire, it costs more money, but it is too small for hogs and cows to stick their head through. Look at how straight that fence is. This was the signature “aha” moment of the trip.

Hogwire keeps the fence straight, you see

 I drove through this section of Louisiana to run an errand, drove seven hours in a single day, and it compresses the landscape in your mind more than usual. This is what Louisiana looks like. There may be rice, soybeans, sugar cane, or cattle, but no mountains or beaches, or all night sushi joints. There are even occasional oil wells or gigantic refineries. The layabout or pocket philosopher or desk jockey like myself will have a tendency to look at a scene like this and say, “there is nothing to do here” But a farmer / rancher looks at the same scene and says, “there is so much to do here.” Even if it isn’t the lifestyle you choose or enjoy, I think it’s fair to recognize and even celebrate the people that work to put food on or table or gas in our car, and raise new generations of citizens.