Lee Pitts: Bureaucrats In Training
March 12, 2012
Some Washington D.C. grown-ups making mischief have proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act which would forbid youth under the age of 16 from operating tractors on operations other than their own family farms.
Are these people nuts? That’s a rhetorical question; of course they are, they’re government bureaucrats. Their job is to stifle ambition, creativity and humanity. Next thing you know they’ll say kids under the age of 21 can’t ride horses without helmets, knee pads, shin guards, a rollover bar, seat belts and training wheels.
The proposed changes are in response to a new study that says agriculture is the most dangerous profession. But that’s just because the same government bureaucrats have put most of the loggers and fishermen out of business with their endless regulations. We’re told that the feds are also considering making rules that would forbid kids from working when it gets too hot. My, my, get little Hortense and Farnsworth out of the sun, hand them their sippy cup, blanky, video game and some junk food. And mothers, don’t forget to disinfect with one of those disinfectant wipes you carry in your purse. The kids will be safe that way. And you’ll still be handing them their allowance when they come back to live with you at age 26, because all the jobs have been taken by foreign kids who weren’t nurse-maided and mollycoddled.
When I was the age they are talking about I got a job so that one day I could buy my own pickup. And when I got that pickup I knew how to drive because old Mr. Moore let me drive his equally old Fordson tractor to pull the spray rig. Believe me, the only safety device that tractor had was a rear view mirror with Mr. Moore in it, checking on my driving. Occasionally he even let me drive it when he wasn’t around, but he later studied my tire tracks to see if I deviated from the straight and narrow. If these proposed new rules had been in effect then I wouldn’t have been near the driver I was when I got to drive the family car and, who knows, I might have hit another car head on as we both were traveling at 65 miles an hour instead of hitting the occasional slow-moving lemon tree while going three miles per hour on the tractor.
I learned important things while driving my first tractor, such as, watch your gauges, know your implements, keep air in your tires, keep your hitches low, don’t run out of fuel, look behind you as well as in front of you, don’t exhaust in a closed building, and don’t be in a hurry to take chances. These all turned out to be important lessons for life as well as driving a tractor.
We figure things out better and faster when we’re kids, just look at six year olds with their cell phones. I was a workhorse at an early age and sure I got hurt. I was riding a bike to my work all over town, and of course I fell down once in awhile, but I got right back on and explored the world. At least that part accessible to a kid on a Schwinn bike that I paid for myself by doing jobs the feds wouldn’t let me do now.
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Years ago a tractor company issued their ten commandments for tractor safety. One of them was, “Keep your kids off and away from your tractor.” It’s the worst advice I ever heard. Kids ought to be required to be around tractors. Maybe then they’d be better drivers when we hand them the keys at age 16. Bureaucrats worry that kids are “at risk.” I have news for them, kids are born at risk. If you don’t want them to be in danger don’t have any.
There’s a fine line between being careful and being overprotective, and we’ve crossed that line. Most urban American kids today don’t work outside in the sun much, that’s for farm kids, foreigners and migrant workers. Instead they sit on their duffs spending hours Facebooking, Tweeting, and producing nothing except text messages and high video game scores. They’re in training to become government bureaucrats.