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Shannon Bardwell: 'Forty dollar people'


Shannon Bardwell



Quite often I think about independence, or the lack thereof. I imagine living without electricity and doubt if I really could. I would miss my electric coffee pot. I enjoy waking in the morning to Folgers brewing. I would miss that. 


Then there''s clean water. Realizing how many people in the world don''t have clean water, I''ve reminded myself to be thankful. Do you know we are one of a few countries in the world that use clean drinking water to flush our toilets?  


I caught myself one day refusing a glass of water. 


"I don''t really care for water," I said. 


My own audacity encouraged me to become a grateful water drinker. I drink water now, fresh from the filtered water spout, along with cubed ice from the electric Frigidaire. How rich I am. How dependent.  


This year is my first for greenhouse gardening. It''s been a learning process. I enjoy the smell of basil and dill. I even like the smell of tomato plants. I tried doing the organic thing and spraying soapy water on the plants to discourage pests. I wish I hadn''t done that, as I can''t smell the tomato plants anymore, only Palmolive. Also, the plants are sticky. I won''t do that next year. 


I help take care of the land. I water, and water, and water some more from a well deep within the earth. I''m awed sometimes at the scorching heat of the day compared to the icy chill of the water. All these things make me thankful that I live where I live. Independence Day makes me thankful to all those, in whatever capacity, who have made this day possible. 


Gladys Taber, a country dweller, wrote the following in 1948, after a visit from a neighboring apple farmer: 


"Thank God I am an American! Pioneer courage still persists, we have our heritage, we are worth saving. We, the people, the ordinary American people, we shall build, not tear down civilization! I felt humble and grateful for the friendship of the apple man who renewed my belief in humanity. What could I give them in return? Only my feeling for them, my respect, my admiration.  


"I could know in my mind the lean days, the aching nights they had spent. I could feel the untimely hailstorms, [the drought] that ruined the crops, the blight, the long hard days of picking. But happy is he, and blessed is he who builds success out of himself.  


"Yes, they started out on forty dollars, but they just weren''t forty dollar people. They took what they had, and went ahead and got results.  


"... They got in their ancient car and drove away in the twilight, and I watched them go. I was uplifted, yet a little sad all at once, because maybe I haven''t realized every possibility myself. I''ll do better, I resolved, going in to start supper."


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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