Sociability

Farm Bureau Song Book

Farm Bureau Song Book

The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker; a working class trio that might have defined the Everyman through a century or more of British villages and early Americana.  I tried to think of an appropriate Rockcreek trio – maybe “the farmer, the painter, the grain elevator?”

That’s not good poetry, but from my adolescence through my early salad years I knew a lot of Rockcreek Everymen and women – a well driller, a mechanic, the drunk who would drive off the road and through my father’s fence every few years.  The man in the ’62 Chevy pickup who dug graves by hand.  The owners and their wives at the grain elevator/ feed stores at Grammer and Elizabethtown and the general stores in Grammer and Burnsville.  Grammer had a post office in the store.

These Everymen and women populated the general stores, the grain elevators, the churches and the roads.

And then there were the fraternal organizations.  The Freemasons in E’town and Alert.  The Odd Fellows Lodge in E’town.  The Red Man’s Lodge in Grammer.  They each had their own hall, and in every hall was a piano, and at every meeting of lodge or church or Farm Bureau someone would play the piano and lead the assembled Everymen and women through a song or two.

I knew these people.  Some of them I only knew as a boy knows the adults in his life, but I knew them, and they knew each other.  They knew each other’s cars and and trucks and what was sitting in each other’s back yards.

I knew them, but I didn’t like all of them.  They weren’t always nice.  They knew each other without everyone liking one another, and yet they would come together in meetings and sing.  No American Idols here, no solos or karaokes.  When they sang, they sang together.

One year my grandfather’s old Grammer Greys baseball team held a reunion.  Over three hundred people came, and my grandfather lead them through the song, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”  I think of that now and I’m amazed; three hundred people gathered in a little grassy ex-schoolyard with really nothing in common except a loose association with a local baseball team forty years gone.

Today’s society encourages us to “like” one another.  We don’t know each other, but we’re urged to like each other.  We “like” our friends on facebook.  If our “friends” do something we don’t like, we “unfriend” them, it’s as simple as a tap of the keys.

Let me say this; “Like” is overrated.  A community stitched together with “likes” will blow apart in a light breeze  because “like” is so ephemeral.  It’s better to know someone, even if in knowing them you learn they have certain traits you don’t like.  Even if the people you know aren’t always nice.  The fabric of a community is woven together by knowing people, and that’s a difficult task in this day and age.  The general stores have been replaced with convenience stores where gas is “pay at the pump.”  The lodge halls and churches with their pianos are almost all gone.  Where can we go to meet and sing?

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