Cliff and I were reminiscing the other day about the early years of our marriage when we were struggling to make a go of things on the twenty acres of rocky soil we called home. My parents, who knew we wanted to become home-owners, found the property for us through some guy they went to church with. There was an old four-room house on the place and a hand-dug well to supply water. The only outbuilding was the shell of a disintegrating shed or barn which we used, I believe, to house one hog before Cliff tore it down.
We had been renting a mobile home on the place in Blue Springs where my parents lived, and had purchased a white-face cow and her first calf from a neighbor by borrowing money from my parents and paying them back five or ten dollars every payday until it was paid for. Now that I think of it, every purchase we made back then that cost over $50 was usually done with payday loans from my parents. We were poor. We always paid them back, it was just a slow process.
Everybody thinks that if you live in the country, have livestock, and garden, you are living more cheaply. That may be true for some people, but it wasn't for us. We quickly learned that once you own a place, you are the one responsible for upkeep. We needed some sort of decent shed or barn, especially after we bought a milk cow from my parents. The fencing on the place was decrepit, and Suzy the cow took great joy in escaping several times weekly. Animals know when they are "out", and Suzy, one of the tamest cows I've ever seen, took great delight in kicking up her heels and running when she saw us approaching with a lead rope so we could lead her back to the pasture.
It takes lots of money to build barns and fences, and we had very little money; Cliff would go to work sick because one day off work would set us back for a month, trying to catch up. Many major purchases were delayed until spring when we would get our income tax refund. One thing we learned about living in the country was that we couldn't be running to the store every other day: Oak Grove, a couple of miles away, had a little grocery store, a hardware store, and a gas station or two, but many purchases required a trip to the city. We soon learned to wait until we had a list and combine those trips.
We were constantly broke, and that's pretty much how we've spent the biggest portion of our lives together. We have more spare cash right now, living on Social Security, than we've ever had in our lives.
As I was going back in my memory to all the struggles we've had, remembering how much joy we got out of our pathetic little lives, it occurred to me that I'm glad we've been poor. I'm glad we know what it's like to do without a lot of things. There are people who have had everything handed to them on a silver platter all their lives who don't know the feeling of accomplishment you get when when that last payment is made on a car, or the thrill, every payday, of getting all the bills paid on time. There is a certain pride in knowing you may not have much money, but you have a good credit rating! And we had a lot of laughs and fun along the way, too.
Almost everyone who came up through the Great Depression knew what it was to be poor. These days, not so many people have had that sort of experience, but Cliff and I remember, even though I realize nothing in our experience compares to the Great Depression. Oh, the stories my mother told me!
I'm glad my life with Cliff has taken all the twists and turns it has. I wouldn't take anything for the hard times we've had, and there have been plenty. As we stroll (limp?) through the twilight of our lives, I know there are bound to be more. But hard times are nothing new to us.