Monday, January 08, 2018

There's value in things from the past ~ my column from Sunday's paper

We had our traditional New Year’s meal again this year. Black-eyed peas, collard greens, baked sweet potatoes, and cornbread. Our grandparents said it brings good luck in the New Year. The peas represent coins, the collards represent folding money, and the cornbread represents gold. Baked sweet potatoes represent the sweet taste of success. OK, I made that last part up, but you get the idea. 

People tell me that I cling to the past.  They call me an old fogy. That may be true, but we can learn a lot from the past.

And speaking of the past, the collards we ate on New Years were ones we planted earlier in the fall. They were heirlooms. My wife Jilda got the young plants from her sister Nell who got the seeds from Mamie – their grandmother. We shared the wealth with our niece, Samantha. She sent Jilda a text afterward and said the collards were the best she’d ever tasted. I had to agree.

Modern horticulture scientists have made great strides. They’ve tweaked plants so that they grow more fruits and vegetables. They often emphasize making them look more attractive on the supermarket shelves. But looking better does not always mean they taste better. Sometimes they just look better. And if you’ve ever saved the seeds from a hybrid tomato plant and planted them the following year, you won’t get the same tomato.  

Some people in horticulture are excited about genetically modified plants, beef, and chicken. But I don’t share that enthusiasm. I am not alone here.

On one side of the argument food folks are saying it’s the answer to helping address the world food shortage. Those on the other side share my concerns. The potential loss of biodiversity is vast. People also fear superweeds, superpests, antibiotic resistance, and food allergies.

I guess what I’m saying here is that just because something is new, doesn’t always make it better. 

Last year, I broke the handle on my round-pointed shovel. It hurt my heart. Jilda’s mom gave it to me back when Carter was in the White House. When I stopped by Posey and Sons Hardware store, there was a new shovel in the window. The price wasn’t bad, but when I took it to the counter to pay, Mr. Posey told me that it was imported. “It’s a decent shovel for light work, but it’s not like the old shovels,” he said. 

I’ve used the shovel several times, and it’s not as durable as my old shovel was in its day. 

Tools, cars, phones, and other things we use in our daily lives are pretty much disposable. Use it a while and toss it when it breaks. Our landfills are filling up because of this disposable mindset.

This column may seem like I’ve “drifted too far from the shore” as the old gospel song goes, but let me try and bring it into focus.

Science, industry, and modern processes have brought a lot of incredible things into our lives. But there is value in things from the past. 

You can call me an old fogy if you like – but I prefer the term heirloom. 

Happy New Year.


  1. When I quit general contracting I musta had 20 shovels. All in varied stages of falling apart. You are right. My collection started when a handle for the broken shovel cost as much as a new shovel, so I naturally was in a hurry, save me time, buy the cheap shovel. The first broken one was probably 40-50 years old. The replacements never lasted over 2 years. Yep there is a difference in the older and newer in lots of things. We sure have nice weather today!

  2. With almost every step forward, we lose something, but sometimes only us old fogeys realize what we lose.

  3. No arguments from here. I have been called a dinosaur. Is that older or younger than an old fogey?

  4. Anonymous12:10 AM

    I share your concern; we don't repair things today, we replace them (with things that don't last)!!

  5. Have you tried getting a new handle for your old shovel. My husband buy handles for his shovels. He's older than and old fogy. He's turning 74 this month.
    Have a great week.
    Hugs, Julia

  6. I agree with you whole heartedly there is a lot of value in the past. They don't make things to last they way they used to and if they did we probably couldn't afford them.

  7. They sure don't make things like they used to. I'm finding that true on tools as small as a fork.

  8. You are so right! One of the happiest days of 2017 was finding the exact same crockpot I recieved as a wedding gift in 1974. My original died a few years ago and the new crockpots cook way too hot and just couldn't live up to my old one. The one I found was even the same color! It works great and I'm one happy old fogy!

  9. They make things so they will break and I find it disgusting. I will be sad when my tv goes even though it is an old square one that I bought in 1997. It has lasted and is still going! I found out the new TVs that are so sharp looking and flat screen only last 6 yrs or so. I am a believer in heirlooms


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