Farmers don’t do mountaintops |

Farmers don’t do mountaintops

Staring across my snow-filled, frozen backyard while listening to a broadcast of the circus called the Illinois General Assembly impeach a clown named Rod Blagojevich, my mind slipped back to cold mornings milking cows in southern Illinois.

As it did I felt the aching of my half-frozen toes, smelled the earthy, steaming Holsteins in the parlor and saw my father warming his pinkish fingers on a mug of hot coffee.

Mostly, though, I heard Jackie, the farm’s hired man, pass comment on the cold, the snow, the cows, the day’s news, my hair, his whiskers, his or mine or whomever’s whatever.

It was a daily routine for Jackie. He’d arrive about 6, make a cup of Folger’s instant coffee, then stand in the doorway on my end of the parlor and offer brief sonnets of river bottom wisdom on whatever burr was rubbing him raw that yet-dark day.

The wisdom usually involved words, phrases and acts that violated the Second, Fifth and Sixth Commandments. (I never knew him to keep the Third one, either.) At five-and-a-half feet tall and a brick short of 150 pounds, he was a little man with big opinions.

Once, when discussing pre-Watergate Richard Nixon, Jackie, the yellowest of yellow dog Democrats, spit out a string of clever blasphemy that included the words “crook,” “liar” and “shot.”

My father, a member of Nixon’s silent majority, didn’t even look up because he’d heard Jackie’s prescriptions six times a week for 25 years.

Curiously, though, once Jackie fired his dawn salvos he rarely offered, nor could he be baited into dispensing, any opinion on anything the rest of the day. His bile simply took 24 hours to build, boil and burst.

During the blistering cold of last week, however, I wondered what the leathery spitfire might have said of the hucksters, buffoons and clowns that dominate today’s news. It wouldn’t have been kind, I reckoned, but it would have been colorful.

For example, what might his take be on the economic jet set meeting at the Swiss mountaintop resort of Davos to chew over this year’s World Economic Forum topic, “Shaping the Post-Crisis World”?

Jackie’s riff, I think, would have started with something on the order of “Why don’t they stay home and pay their (expletive) bills?” before moving on to “Davos? Ain’t no farmer going, I tell you, ’cause farmers don’t do (expletive) mountaintops.”

Elegance. Poetry. Charm.

You and I might have hemmed and hawed to come up with something as lame as, Why would anyone believe anything these shapers of the pre-crisis and present crisis have to say about the post-crisis?

Not Jackie; a simple “(Expletive) idiots,” and judgment would come and gone.

Or how about Citigroup, the most bankrupt bank in America, needing to be told by the White House that it’s bad form (“fix it”) to take delivery on a $50 million corporate jet while accepting $45 billion in bailout cash from taxpaying janitors, teachers and farmers.

“I wouldn’t have said a thing,” Jackie likely would have noted. Then, I’m sure, he’d have recommended something in a very large caliber for “them (expletive).”

A secretary of the treasury who “forgot” to pay his taxes and still reached the pinnacle of power? “Been you and me, we’d never see daylight again,” Jackie would have said. “Why should anyone follow the law if there ain’t no law for rich (expletive)?”

And all from a man who never read a newspaper because he couldn’t read or write.

“Readin’ and writin’ doesn’t teach you right from wrong,” he once said. “Some of the smartest people in the world are right stupid.”

Amen, brother.

© 2009 ag comm

Write to Alan Guebert at agcomm, 21673 Lago Dr., Delavan, IL 61734, or by email at

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