Would you pay $75 dollars of your own hard earned money as a 15 year old for a pair of Abercrombie & Fitch pants? You know, the ones with distressed look, pre-made holes, faded, cool with all the buckles and snaps/straps? You can hear the wheels of a Maine teenager turning when he/she is contemplating spending hard earn potato harvest money as they rifle thru the rack at an factory outlet store in Freeport. It is refreshing to hear them mutter "heck with that...I'm going to keep looking Dad...let's hit another store". Because money is hard earned working long hours on a Maine potato farm...getting up when it is dark and frost on the ground and then sweltering heat because you are now over dressed at 2 pm when it is hovering around 70 degrees in the autumn sun under blue skies in a dusty Aroostook County field. The farmer needs your help, you have fun with the other kids on the "chain gang" and there is an huge sense of satisfaction from a job well done. Lessons learned in the field stay with youth for life. Cautious spending, not wanting to part with money too easy...doing your home work to get more cool clothes for less money. Small town, rural community values. Your whole outlook on life starts in the potato field, your first entry level job. You are working against the weather, you get tired, dirty but conquer the harvest with three weeks to squirrel away savings that are used to help the family budget stretch. Child abuse some utter. But to someone from Maine, it is part of our heritage. This is where you learn how to work, like to work, want to work and pitch in. Twenty dollar bills are not just handed to teenagers like they are made on a printing press in your cellar. The tables are turned and the youth are enpowered with the drive to make it on their own, to be independent, to be self sufficient. I packed the lunch this morning after a big breakfast to see my son Elliot thru until noon lunch break and asked him what was on tap for work today. He works in the potato house and sometimes on a spud harvester in the field, where ever he is needed. Instead of grading russets, katahdins or green mountain potatoes that come into the potato house from the field, he said today they are doing more "1322's" which is tech talk for new varieties of spuds used by the chip industry. The eating habits of the average US household have changed from sitting down to a Maine baked potato at night at the family meal to fast food pre-pared throw it in the microwave style potatoes. for folks on the run. But the work ethic and memories are still there in Aroostook County. Working hard, coming home to a big meal and a sense of satisfaction that the farmer needs you to get the crop out before frost hits help shape, build and form the kind of kids that becomes the next generation of community member, parent, tax payer and voter. Maybe Washington should be run like a small town, a community of folks where money does not grow on trees, is earned with hard work and not spent with careless abandon. Maybe small town is real world, down to basics, simple, honest, no games. Maine..the way life should be.
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