Sunday, November 30, 2014

Their Brother’s Keeper

The O’Dares (not their real names) were simple people—salt of the earth farm folks, and honest, hard-working Christians. They lived just a few miles across the county line headed south out of Stone County on the road to Charleville. There in McClellan County, they were well known and liked as just another set of neighbors that could be counted on to help others when the chips were down, whether it was gathering in the crops of a man with a broken leg or cutting firewood for some widow-lady up the holler. They weren’t well off, but they had a good farm with a lot of bottom-land for crops, hillsides for cattle, and hilltops for hay. Hillsides too steep to be mowed as pasture grew trees for lumber and firewood. Their eggs, meat and vegatables all came from the farm. Mr. O’Dare loved his farm and treated it as well as he knew how to do. It repaid his efforts bounteously. Like many of their neighbors, they had a coal stove in their parlor and a wood cookstove in the kitchen. There was no other heat in the house, but sleeping two to a bed atop one feather tick and under another kept them warm on the coldest night. In summer, the extra tick would be put on another bed so they could sleep separately through the sultry months.

As a result of the hard work and frugality of him and his wife, the O’Dares had saved enough to send their oldest son, Sherman, to college. He’d be the first person on either side of the family to take his education beyond high school at a time when many people didn’t even finish high school. There was just one problem; they could afford to send Sherman to college, but not his brother and two sisters. So they got their kids together and laid out a plan. After Sherman graduated, he would pay his parents back by sending the next oldest to college who, in turn, would send the one just below him, to be repeated down to the fourth and last child. The plan would be slightly easier than it would have been by the fact that there were a few years between each child. The children all agreed.

It took a little longer than it might have, since the first two boys went to medical school and became doctors. However, they stuck to the plan and both boys and the girls all ended up with college degrees. By each paying back to their parents some of what they’d spent on the eldest son, the parents had an easier retirement than they would have otherwise, also.

If it were a perfect world, or a made-up story, I could tell you what happened to the two girls, but I honestly don’t know. The boys had their medical practices in my hometown and I met them both as a child (had them both as my doctor then, in fact). Neither forgot their farming roots and ended up with farms that seemed to mean as much or more to them as their practices. The eldest used to go out to my future in-laws and discuss farming with my future father-in-law, so my wife actually knew him better than I did. The plan that the parents had was a good one and it worked. I wonder, though, how many young people today would make such a commitment and stick with it. © 2014


Sixbears said...

I wonder if the high price of college has made that sort of bootstrapping impossible these days?

Love it when a family pulls together. That's the real lesson there.

Vicki said...

And wouldn't the world be a better place if more of us would commit to helping one another.

Gorges Smythe said...

I'm sure things were cheaper before the greed of academia got so carried away, Sixbears; and you're right, that IS the lesson.

That's for sure, Vicki.

Mary Ann said...

I think this used to be more common in the old days... than it is now... but I do actually know of one oldest son who put his brother and sister through college, and bought a house for his dad! He was a nice guy, too!

Gorges Smythe said...

It's nice to know there's still a few selfless folks out there, Mary Ann.