First Blood (test) & Remembering Pete Maravich

My blogging journey (going back to June 2005) has been, in large part, a chronicle of my life. Being on the heavenstretch now is different than when I was just a middle aged Deliberate Agrarian blogger. So it is only fitting that I document my recent blood test.

I am 65 years old and I have never had a blood test. I have not had a physical exam by a doctor since I was 18. I needed it at that time to get into higher education. The building contractors I worked for didn’t require that I have a physical exam. Neither was a physical needed when I took a job as an assistant teacher in a high school building trades program (a position I held for one year). From there I went to work at a New York State maximum security prison and, amazingly, a physical was not needed for that job either. I worked at the prison job for 13 years. I walked out the door, a free man, the day I turned 55.

So it is that I have avoided the medical establishment for much longer than usual. But Marlene (my wife) has been prodding me, especially since I turned 65. And especially since I have been tired a lot (low energy), not sleeping well at night, and I experience niggling little aches and pains (they come and go). I chalk all that up to the normal aging process, but Marlene insists that something is wrong.

With all of that in mind I agreed to fill out an extensive health questionnaire, followed by a lengthy phone consultation with a medical doctor who is an integrative health practitioner. This medical professional is someone Marlene found for her own concerns a few years ago. After the call, Marlene and I both went to get a blood test. It’s something Marlene does on a regular basis.

We downloaded the 5 pages of test results a couple weeks ago. None of it made sense to me, except the test for Lyme disease, which was negative. That has been a concern of mine after getting a tick bite some years ago. The tick actually died on my back after swelling to a good size getting its fill of my blood. It was stuck to me for awhile before we discovered it.

But when Dr. Marlene looked my test results over, she exclaimed that it’s no wonder I’m tired all the time… my Vitamin D level is extremely low!

I did a little research on the internet to try and decipher some of the other test results and it looked to me like I had several health issues of concern.

Well, today Marlene and I went to visit the doctor and get her insights about each of our blood tests. The doctor said to me, “So you’ve looked at your blood test?”

I replied, “Yes, and it appears that I have a lot of things going wrong.”

She looked at me and said, “Your blood test is stellar!”

Seeing my surprise at that, she said it again.

We went over my blood test results, section by section, and the doctor expressed amazement at how heathy I was. She didn’t expect the results would be so good. She used the word “remarkable.” She said the numbers were in line with a healthy 40-year-old!

As the doctor was telling me these things the emotion welled up in me. It was all I could do to suppress a sob of joy and thanksgiving. Oh my God! Such mercy and grace that I don’t deserve! I never expected such an outcome.

But my Vitamin D level was, indeed, extremely low. The doctor told me that I should be taking a liquid vitamin D supplement and that should help with every thing that is bothering me… the fatigue, the poor sleep, the little aches and pains.

Getting this surprisingly positive health analysis brings to mind the famous basketball player, Pete Maravich ….

Pete Maravich was a superstar at basketball, but his life after the game was one of searching for meaning and purpose. Here is an excerpt from Pete’s Wikipedia page…

After injuries forced his retirement from the game in late 1980, Maravich became a recluse for two years. Through it all, Maravich said he was searching “for life”. He tried the practices of yoga and Hinduism, read Trappist monk Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and took an interest in the field of ufology, the study of unidentified flying objects. He also explored vegetarianism and macrobiotics, adopting a vegetarian diet in 1982. Eventually, he became a born-again Christian, embracing evangelical Christianity. A few years before his death, Maravich said, “I want to be remembered as a Christian, a person that serves Him [Jesus] to the utmost, not as a basketball player.”

In 1988 Pete Maravich was visiting Dr. James Dobson to do an interview on his popular Christian radio program, Focus on The Family. While visiting, a small group of men got together for a pickup game of basketball. After some play, the men took a break. Dr. Dobson asked Pete how he was feeling. Pete replied, “I feel great!” Then, he literally dropped dead on the spot. (read the story here)

Pete Maravich went to be with Jesus at 40 years of age.

God has, thus far, given me 25 more years than He gave Pete Maravich. But I know my days are numbered. Even with a “stellar” blood test, I could suddenly become seriously sick tomorrow, or just drop dead. Both outcomes are to be expected. These things are part of the human condition, and they are in God’s hands. I’m comfortable with that. I’m comfortable knowing that sickness, if it comes, as brutal as it might be, is only for a season. Then, for followers of Jesus Christ, death is not the end. It is the glorious beginning.

For now, I’m still running my heavenstretch.

Leaping Into Real Estate Investment

My wife and I are about to buy “multi-family housing” as an investment. That’s the property pictured above. I never had any interest in this sort of thing. As in introvert, the thought of interacting with tenants was repellant to me. Besides that, there was the small matter of money. I’ve seriously eschewed debt since I was a teenager. There is no way I would borrow from a bank to buy property. But circumstances and realities change.

The money has come, slow but steady, since the 2002 publication of my chicken plucker plan book, and the Planet Whizbang mail order business that book birthed. It is a relatively modest savings, but much more than I ever thought I would be able to save 23 years ago (the time of a significant Great Depression in my life).

With the accumulation of one’s life savings, and the onset of old age, Marlene and I are faced with the problem of how to responsibly manage our resources for our elder years? How do we ethically, and reliably, and safely put our savings to work so that it generates some income? This is especially challenging in a time of high inflation.

There are, of course, all kinds of ways to invest money. But as a “retail investor” I’m not confident that conventional strategies are best, especially since Marlene and I are late to the investing party.

If we had invested a portion of every paycheck into something like a Vanguard index fund, starting back in our 20s, our financial future would be considerably more secure. But we did not do that (we tried). Those were very lean years for us. Marlene stayed home to be a mother (and homeschool teacher) and we barely kept the bills paid with the money I made doing carpentry and remodeling work.

So our reality is that, at 65 years of age, we need to exercise some intelligent stewardship of our modest savings; to put it to work in a less complicated (easier to understand), more down-to-earth, and tangible way. Owning and renting apartments seems to fit the bill.

It so happens that all of this is now more doable than it ever was because my youngest son, James, bought a 5-unit apartment house last year. It is one street over from the place we are buying. The initiative he took to buy that place impresses me to no end. He’s not even 30, but he’s thinking ahead. He’s a whole lot braver than me when it comes to taking on debt (he didn’t get any money from me). As much as I’m personally against debt, I will concede that there are smart ways to use it.

It helps that James is not an introvert. Not at all. He’s remarkably good with people, and he’s surprisingly savvy about this real estate business. So much so that his mother and I feel confident about paying him to manage our 4-unit apartment.

Our thinking is that James will manage the place and I’ll get involved if there are repairs or improvements that need to be done. As Marlene and I age, James will continue to manage a secure income source for us. When I die (statistically, I’ll be the first to go), he can continue to see that his mother receives the income. When Marlene and I are both gone, the property will go to our three sons. They will then have options for selling or keeping the income ball rolling. That’s the plan.

The place we are buying has been owned by the same local couple for over 30 years. The man was in my class in high school. They have another 4-unit in the village. They are selling because it has become too much to manage the two units (he has some health issues). They have maintained the property very well.

It’s interesting to note that the property James bought was also owned by another couple for over 30 years, and they are friends of our family. When they realized James had an interest in buying, they were helpful in making it happen. They sold because they moved out of the state.

These properties are in a nice area of a small rural village in upstate New York. It is only 6 miles from our home.

Marlene and I saw this property listed on the local Facebook page and both thought the same thing… we needed to check it out! We wasted no time in calling the real estate agent (a local woman we know). I think we (along with James) were the first prospective buyer to look at the place. Other appointments were lined up after us for the next couple days. There was a LOT of interest in the property.

I called the real estate agent a couple hours after seeing the place. I offered full asking price (it seemed like a reasonable amount to me) and explained that we did not need financing. I sensed from the agent that having the cash to buy made a big difference. She told me that she would not schedule any more viewings, but needed to follow through with the viewing appointments already in place. She would call me a couple days later.

I got a text two days later asking if our offer was solid, or would we be willing to pay more? I replied that it was the best we could do. Fifteen minutes later, our offer was accepted.

All of this happened last month. We would be closing this week, but there is one little problem…

One tenant, a young woman, has not paid rent for a long time. I don’t know how long. Just “a long time.” And she won’t leave.

Before viewing the property, James told Marlene and I that we needed to make sure all tenants were current with their rent. If there was a delinquent tenant we needed to not buy the place. Or, we needed to stipulate in the purchase offer that the tenant be out before the purchase is finalized. That’s what we did, and now we are waiting. It could be months before the eviction process plays out.

I’m curious to know if any of you who read this have purchased rental property as an investment and, if so, what has been your experience?

Stages of a Man’s Life, From The Cradle to The Grave. Circa 1840

I happened upon the above Currier & Ives print while roaming the internet a couple weeks ago. I had never seen it before and did a deep dive. I ended up purchasing the modern copy pictured below from an EBAY seller.

According to Wikipedia, Nathaniel Currier was born in 1813 to a relatively poor family. His father unexpectedly died when he was 8 years old. He and his 11-year-old brother were then tasked with the job of supporting their mother and two younger sisters. That is a situation worth contemplating for a moment or two.

When he was 15, Currier apprenticed to a lithography printer. At around 23 years of age he opened his own printing shop. He experienced surprising success producing lithograph prints of various national disasters.

In time, he teamed up with James M. Ives and they built a very successful company. 7,500+ different lithograph prints were published by Currier & Ives between 1835 and 1907. Currier & Ives prints were found on the walls of nearly every home in America during the late 1800’s, and into the next century.

As far as the artwork goes, The Stages of a Man’s Life prints appear to vary somewhat over the years but the basic concept, and the central message, is the same. These prints were obviously inspired by this 1835 broadside…

If you can’t read the entire title, here it is:

The Life And Age of Man. Stages of Man’s Life, From The Cradle to The Grave, wherein all Christians May Behold Their Frail Nature, and the Miseries That Attend A Sinful Life, Set Forth in an Alphabetical Poem.

In copying the broadside, Currier & Ives left out the part about Christians beholding “their frail nature and the miseries that attend a sinful life.” But a definite Christian message would be retained in the central picture, under the arch at the bottom of the print. Here is a close-up of that image on the 1835 broadside…

in the surviving 1835 broadside above, the fat man at the table is a glutton and an imbiber of alcohol. We can also assume he is lazy. Behind him is the tempting siren. Satan offers such worldly pleasures to the young couple, but they are walking away; they are resisting the Devil.

Keep in mind that television and movies were not even imagined in the mid 1800s. Print images were a means of conveying emotion and thoughtful messages, and that is the case with the above engraving. You can bet that everyone looked at that picture and gave it some thought, especially the young people of those days. The broadside and the Currier & Ives version were very popular because they presented a moral admonition; they reinforced the dominant Biblical worldview of the American people in those days.

In my facsimile copy, originally produced by Wm. B. Burford, not Currier & Ives, the message in the image is less clear and slightly more “Christianized”…

As you can see, the topless seductress is missing (Satan is, instead, topless), and food gluttony is not a tempting issue any more. The young couple appears to be listening to the Devil, not walking away. In the distance, behind them, the cross of Calvary can be seen.

Each stage of the man’s life is associated with an animal, and a bit of verse. These verses appear to be the same for all the different versions of this print…

Age 5— Until the first five years be spent, a child is lamb-like, innocent

Age 10—At ten, goat-like, he skips and joys in idle sports and foolish toys.

Age 20— At twenty, love doth swell his veins, and heifer-like, untamed remains.

Age 30— With ox-like strength to smite his foes, at thirty to the field he goes.

Age 40— At forty, naught his courage quails, but lion-like by force prevails.

Age 50— Strength fails at fifty, but with wit, fox-like he helps to manage it.

Age 60— At sixty repine, fraud and stealthy ways, wolf-like he tries his wealth to raise.

Age 70— At seventy, news he’ll hear and tell, but dog-like loves at home to dwell.

Age 80— The cat keeps house and loves the fire; at eighty we the same desire.

Age 90— Weak donkey backs were made to bear; at ninety we must suffer everywhere.

Age 100— If we should reach the hundredth year, Tho’ sick of life, the grave we fear.

I am 65 years old. The verse for 60 has some application to me. The implied concern is that of finances. With his best and most productive years behind him, does the 60-year-old man have the money he anticipates he will need to sustain his future years? Yep, I can relate to that. But…

I certainly don’t relate to “fraud and stealthy ways, wolf-like”, trying to increase wealth. No, that’s not me.

Nevertheless, I find this entire production to be engrossing, powerfully thought provoking, and well worth hanging on my wall (which is what I intend to do with it). The print provides perspective that anyone on the ascending side of the image needs to consider and keep in mind.

As for fearing the grave at 100 years of age, that isn’t part of my thinking now, and I don’t expect it to be if I make it to 100. Frankly, I welcome the grave at 65. But I’m in no hurry to get there. Soon enough….

Do you have a Currier & Ives print? Or do you have young recollections of a Currier & Ives print when you were growing up?

P.S There is a Stages of Woman’s Life version too.

Credit Freeze Coming?

“Don’t look now, but there’s something funny going on over there at the bank, George. I’ve never really seen one, but that’s got all the earmarks of being a run.” —Ernie the taxi driver

As you probably know by now, last week America experienced two bank failures in a 48 hour period. One was a large bank. These events are being called “black swan” events, but they are not. A “black swan” is an unanticipated, out-of-the-blue crisis event. That was not the case with these failures.

The banking sector has been experiencing underlying systemic problems for the last couple of years. Several people in the know have warned that these problems would eventually come to the surface; something had to eventually give. And now it has.

As is always the case with these financial failures, those at the helm knew the ship was going to go down. They started piling cash into their lifeboats weeks before their hapless customers had any idea something was wrong. They and their lackeys (i.e., legacy media and government) failed to warn the people who would be affected. They even encouraged so many ignorant people to invest in the soon-to-fail institution.

Now, aware Americans are wondering, what’s next? It’s a question well worth considering…

The banking system is complex and interconnected. A serious failure in one bank can lead to cascading failures through the whole banking and credit system.

There is a good chance that the financial arm of the government (the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve) will be ale to stop the financial contagion before it spreads and leads to failures of other banks, as well as the many businesses that are dependent on those banks. But there is a good chance they will not be able to stop it, or that it will not stop before significantly more damage is inflicted on a lot of innocent people.

Clint Eastwood’s character, “Dirty Harry” Callahan comes to mind…

With his Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum revolver pointed at the bad guy, he says: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question, ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?”

The only difference would be that, in this instance, the criminal punk banking system has the loaded hand cannon and is pointing it at all the hard working, sacrificially saving, and investing citizens of the land. Do you feel lucky?

Well, personally, I don’t believe in luck, and I know enough economic history to realize this could get seriously bad before it gets seriously better.

I’ve blogged more than once in past years about economic self defense in a world of predatory economic institutions. Institutions, I hasten to add, that are enabled and protected by the government. They want us all to be wage and debt slaves. After all, economic slavery is one of the best population control mechanisms there is. And we all know that government’s unchecked natural inclination is to perpetually expand in size and control.

It’s not an easy thing to stay out of debt if you are a young person starting out in life without any family resources to help. It never has been. And the traditional model of one income earner (the man) supporting a family (of housewife and children) on a blue collar job has become almost impossible, though not totally.

My wife and I managed to do it, barely. There were precious few luxuries for the first couple decades of our marriage. No boats, no campers, no fancy vehicles, no yearly vacations, no sport vehicles, etc. Our small home (built by me, to save money) was sheathed with plywood and torn, curling tarpaper for a long time. We rarely ate out and when we did, Pizza Hut was high class. We didn’t even have a riding lawnmower or snowblower. My children grew up knowing and seeing a no-debt (or precious-little debt, quickly paid off) lifestyle.

My sons grew up hearing and understanding my aversion to debt. The worst kind of poverty is debt poverty. But when they got out into the world, and started to see more how other people lived, they realized that just about everyone in the low and middle classes is in debt! Everyone is borrowing money for all kinds of things, and many of those things are not-necessary things. Going into debt and being in perpetual debt is a lifestyle. It is the American way. I’ll get off my soapbox now…

So it appears that the financial system is starting to self-destruct before our very eyes. The show has started. I sure do hope that they can fix it before it gets a whole lot worse.

In the final analysis, we’re all just spectators, watching powerful forces at play.

One of the concerns to be aware of at this point is that of a credit freeze. I thought I blogged about this in the recent past but can’t find any mention of it. I guess I just thought about blogging about it. Anyway, if the banking crisis worsens, there will be a bank holiday (they shut down) for a period of time, and there will be a credit freeze in the banking system.

In the event of a credit freeze in the system, the banks would not only be closed, credit and debit cards would not be working. All institutional banking would come to a screeching halt.

That being the case, one of the things that makes sense for all of us victims is to be a little proactive… to have enough cash on hand to get through a week or two. Same with food. And keep your gas tank topped off. Those are simple, prudent preparations for what is possibly coming.

If the system freezes (it is only an if), I’m persuaded that it will get started back up before long.

And stock up on popcorn too… the coming weeks should be interesting.

When Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Plane Was Crashing

I’ve never attended a rock music concert. I’ve never wanted to. I’ve never owned a t-shirt celebrating a rock band, or any other musician. I do appreciate musical talents, but I don’t go gaga over musicians.

In my teen years I was more inclined to listen to secular folk music, and I bought a few cassette tapes of musicians like like Gordon Lightfoot and James Taylor. But the song, Sweet Home Alabama is, to my way of thinking, one rock music listening exception.

Sweet Home Alabama is the biggest hit of the Southern rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s a song that can get even the most strait-laced of Baptists moving to the beat… if no one is looking.

The song’s lyrics are somewhat controversial, but the first stanza isn’t…

Big wheels keep on turnin’
Carry me home to see my kin
Singin’ songs about the southland
I miss Alabamy once again

Personally speaking, Alabama isn’t my home, but I can relate to the idea of missing home, of going home, of being home, and reuniting with my kin. In short, of loving home and wanting to be there. It’s hard not to like a song that wistfully celebrates one’s home.

Simon & Garfunkle’s Homeward Bound comes to mind, as does John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads. Then there is James Taylor’s Carolina on my Mind. Only in the end does Taylor mention home: “Gotta make it back home again soon, gotta make it back on home again soon,” but the whole song is about pining for home in North Carolina.

If I had any musical ability, and had it in my mind to compose a hit song, I would endeavor to create an endearing composition about home. You can’t go wrong with a good song about home. But this blog screed isn’t about music. Let’s get to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s famous airplane crash…

I confess to thinking that Lynyrd Skynyrd was an actual person. That is not the case. It’s a fictional name for the music-making group. And I confess to not knowing this accident even happened until a few months ago, but the crash occurred back in 1977. To be precise, it was October 20, at 6:52 pm (dusk). The plane was a 30-year-old, 40-passenger Convair CV-240. It was a biggun. There were 26 rebellious young rockers and 2 pilots on board.

There are several YouTube videos about the crash, featuring interviews with rescuers and survivors. I happened upon THIS ONE and what I’m going to focus on comes from that video. I think I was attracted to it because “Documentary” is in the title. I like documentaries. The fact that it was a documentary about a historical event involving a plane crash led me to click on the link.

The video held my interest, and I was especially fascinated with one rescuer recollecting what one survivor on the plane told him was happening inside the plane seconds before the crash. But a few more details first…

The chartered CV-240 was on route from South Carolina to Louisiana. It ran out of fuel before reaching its destination. First, one of the two engines quit. That was cause for concern. But, if need be, a big plane can keep going on just one engine. Then the second engine stopped. That’s when they knew they were going to crash.

The hope was that the pilots could manage a crash landing in a field, but it wasn’t to be. Moving through the air at approximately 200 miles an hour, the plane started lopping off the tops of trees before going down in heavy woods 300 yards from the field. It was a hellacious crash. The plane was torn to pieces.

Lynyrd Skynyrd crashed in Gillsburg, Mississippi. It was in a remote rural area. Recollections of some local rescuers start at 4:10 into the above-mentioned video. One rescuer, Dwain Easley, was a 26-year-old farmer in 1977. The plane crashed a mile behind his house.

Easley and another man went out looking for the plane. As Providence would have it, two Coast Guard choppers just happened to be nearby and wasted no time getting to the area of the crash. With powerful searchlights (it was dark by then), they spotted the wreckage a quarter mile from where the two men were. Mr. Easley and his buddy headed for the light. They were the first to arrive on site.

People were crying for help inside the plane. A police officer arrived on the scene from another direction at about the same time. Easley expected the cop to take charge but he did nothing. So the farmer and his friend went into action. Easley pulled out his pocket knife and started cutting seat belts. Then he and his friend started carrying bodies out. By the time trained rescue personnel arrived, the locals (some other men in the neighborhood showed up) had everyone out of the plane, except the deceased pilots.

The segment of the video that I found most interesting was Mr. Easley recounting what one of the surviving passengers (it’s not clear who) told him happened after the second engine stopped; when everyone knew they were going to crash. I quote Mr. Easley….

“You know, they were a rock band. They were bad boys and girls, and partying, and drugs, and profanity, and all, and when that second engine quit, he said, everyone in there went down on their knees and started praying to God… “Born again Christians, just like that!”

Mr. Easley chuckled a little as he was telling that story. Other online interviews make mention of the passengers praying. There are, as the saying goes, no atheists in foxholes… and I would suppose there are no atheists in planes that are headed for a certain crash landing.

Unlike Mr. Easley, I see no humor in the story. Life is a serious journey, and death is, well, it’s deadly serious. The worldly fame, the thousands of cheering fans, the money, and all the things money can buy became worthless in those last seconds. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life were instantly gone. King Solomon summed it up…

“I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14)

Those who put their faith in Jesus to save them before they come to death’s door do not face the seriousness of death alone, and without hope. But those who go to their death without trusting in Christ? … I shudder to think of anyone dying without that sustaining faith.

So it is that the question comes to my mind… What exactly were those people praying? Were they praying for God to save them from death in the impending crash? Or were they expressing sorrow for their sins, repenting of those sins, and putting their faith in Jesus to save their souls from eternal damnation? There is, after all, as I’ve alluded to in the previous paragraph, a fate far worse than just dying.

Only God knows what kind of prayers were said in those last seconds. But it is worth noting that the six people who died did have a small measure of time to get right with God. Not every lost sinner has that. Death often comes suddenly and without warning.

What of the twenty who survived the crash? Well, evidently, God answered their prayers differently. Some were severely injured, but they lived. God gave them more time.

I wonder, did those twenty survivors give thanks to God for that? Did they acknowledge the grace and mercy of God? Did they go on to pursue lives that reflected love and appreciation for the Sovereign who providentially ordained their physical salvation on that day?

I don’t know the answer to those questions. I hope at least some of them did. But I have seen no mention or indication of it in any of the other survivor interviews I’ve watched. This link tells what happened to five of the survivors in the years after the crash. It isn’t positive or uplifting. It is, frankly, deeply lamentable.

How To Save Boys From Modern Cultural Emasculation

I picked up a well worn 1890 copy of The American Boy’s Handy Book (pictured above) at a local estate sale last summer.

The deceased owner had a library room (every bibliophile’s dream) with packed bookcases from floor to ceiling, and a long center table stacked with more books. I filled 8 large, very heavy canvas totes (4 trips back and forth to my truck to unload) with a selection of books, and paid $80 for them all. It was a wonderful sale, to say the least.

The American Boy’s Handy Book is not a book I had access to as a boy. It was reprinted in 1983. If I knew of such a book I would have, without hesitation, bought it for my sons. After writing that sentence, the thought occurred to me that maybe I did buy the book for them. This morning I texted a picture of the modern reprint and asked…

My youngest son replied, “We used to have a beat up copy. That was a great book.” My middle son wrote, “I loved that book.” Well, I was pleased to get that feedback!

I have written in long-ago blog posts about the value of rural living and pursuing an agrarian family economy as the ideal for raising children. The objective with boys ( I have no daughters) being that they need the freedom to explore the natural world. They also need a variety of outdoor-focused activities that encourage hardy self reliance and personal resilience. To my thinking, steering clear of the government school paradigm is a critically important part of the equation.

Modern American culture works in a multitude of ways to emasculate boys. The definition of emasculate being, “to deprive of strength, vigor, or spirit: to weaken.” This has been accomplished with remarkable success. We now have a civilizational crisis of masculinity. It has become painfully obvious and, not coincidentally, American civilization is collapsing all around us.

This being the case, I can’t help but think that the generations of boys who grew up reading The American Boy’s Handy Book did not grow up to be helpless and confused modern men. Not at all.

The woeful modern expectation is that the government needs to do something about this! But government will never solve the problem of the loss of manhood in America because, for one thing, it does not serve the best interests of greater government control, which is the tendency of all governments. Alas, weak men invite (and even welcome) tyranny.

Besides that, government rarely (if ever) solves any problems. Homeschool civics lesson 101… Governments create more problems than solutions. And the stronger and more centralized government control is, the more and greater the problems they create.

True “solutions” to cultural maladies come family by family, child by child, with deliberate, selfless, radically countercultural instruction of children by parents. Parents who, furthermore, pursue guiding instruction in wisdom, faith, and character primarily by way of example, and secondarily with lessons and activities that generate self confidence, self respect, resourcefulness, and a deep sense of responsibility.

Those things don’t happen in a child’s life by accident, and they don’t happen overnight. They come in slow, usually imperceptible, accumulative ways in the formative years of a child’s life. Sometimes they come by way of a fun little book like The American Boy’s Handy Book.

And there is a girls version too!

Another Old Tractor in The Family

My son Robert bought himself a 1947 Farmall H tractor this last week. He stopped by to show it to me. I handed him my phone and asked him to take my picture (see above). I worked for a year on a dairy farm when I was a lot younger than I am now. I earned enough to buy my first car. But that’s another story, and I’ve told it in the past. I think I’ve blogged about most all of my stories before. I reckon I’m about out of old stories.

The farm I worked on had three old Farmall H tractors. I’m pretty sure the H tractors replaced the work horses on that farm. I pulled a lot of hay wagons, and gravity wagons, and silage wagons with an H. They were also used for pulling the manure spreader and raking hay. The H is a real classic.

Farmall made 391,227 H tractors between 1939 and 1953. Original price in 1953 was $2,000. Robert paid $1,200 for his H. It includes tire chains and a snow plow. All the tires are new. As I understand it, new tires for the back cost around $600 each. The old rims are not rusted rotten around the tire bead, as is often the case with old tractors (for example, my old Leyland tractor).

Robert’s tractor needs a few little repairs. Nothing serious. Nothing he can’t handle. He built a workshop behind his house a couple years ago. It’s a beauty. A shop like I always wanted, but never had. Robert has natural mechanical talent, and he puts it to good use. For example…

Robert wanted a Farmall M more than the H. The M is more powerful. But the M is a harder find. This H is a step up from the little Ford 8N he has been using.

Yes, indeed, men like old tractors. Do you have an old tractor?

Long Time, No Write

My last blog post here was nearly seven months ago! I was once so motivated to communicate with the written word through blog posts, and now I am not. My original Deliberate Agrarian blog yet lives and has a whopping 5.5 million views. There were two (or was it three?) subsequent blogs, and finally this one.

I have not totally given up on this blog. It may beckon me back in time. Seasons of life, you know. I had more to say back then, and I felt powerfully compelled to be saying it.

This morning I went looking for the old blog post I recall making after traveling to Maine and the Common Ground fair in Unity. I wanted to know what year Marlene and I did that. It was the last time I visited with my birth father. Finding that blog post took some doing, but it turned up HERE at my Upland blog.

While visiting Upland I happened upon the blog post that I wrote back in 2016, and have reposted below. I read it, and I liked it, and I thought to myself that the subscribers here that have not seen it might like it too.

As most of you know, I am making YouTube videos instead of writing blog posts. The primary reason for this is that YouTube gives me money. It’s not a lot, but it has become enough to make a difference. It’s enough to get some bills paid.

Besides that, there is the “game” aspect of monetized YouTube videos. For an entrepreneur, making money is something of a game. You create a product, put it “out there ” and see if it makes you money. Sometimes you win a little. Sometimes you win a lot. Sometimes you actually lose. Most of the time, I win a little. But it adds up.

My most recent video is not part of the game; it is not monetized (but YouTube still places their ads there). It is a 1959 home video. I put it on YouTube for my family. Anyone else who starts to watch it will probably not finish. It’s just downright boring if it isn’t your own family. But at 7:51 into the movie the Auld Lang Syne piano music starts, and the last 2 minutes or so get to the point.

Soon after posting that video, my youngest son sent me this message: “Really a great video Dad! The ending was very moving for me.”

That message from my son made my heart glad.

We are on the cusp of a new year. What will 2023 bring? I think it will bring more of the same. That’s my prediction. God only knows the specifics.

With that in mind, I wish you and your family all the best in 2023.

Now, on to that old Upland blog post…

If A Slug Crosses The Road…

As I was walking along my way this morning I spied a lone slug crossing the road in front of me. I walked on by before turning back and taking the picture you see above. After all, it’s not every day one sees a slug crossing the road.

I don’t know why this slug (among so many slugs that surely inhabit the land beside the road) decided it alone must leave it’s natural element and cross the broad expanse of rough macadam. It is a mystery, among so many mysteries, to be found in the natural world (a.k.a., God’s garden).

Outward appearance notwithstanding, this was clearly not your typical slug. Perhaps it was a high achiever, looking for new opportunities. Or, maybe it was an adventuring slug, choosing to cross the road simply because it was there, and because few other slugs dared to cross. It could be that this was a rebel slug, breaking with its slug-world cultural expectations—a rebel without a clue. Then again, it may be that the slug was on its own half-baked Keourackian quest, looking for life’s answers On The Road. And there is always the possibility that this slug’s cognitive abilities were affected by an environmental toxin. Which is to say, it had lost it’s mind. We will never know for sure.

The question that a deep-thinking philosopher might ask upon seeing this slug on it’s journey, would be a variation of the tree-in-the-woods question.

You know… “If a tree falls in the woods, and there is no one there to hear it, does it really make a sound?”

Applied to this slug crossing a lonely country road in Upland, the question would be:

“If a slug crosses the Way, and a pilgrim traveller does not happen along to see it (and take its picture), does the slug actually exist?”

Well, it’s a silly question, isn’t it? 

Of course the slug still exists, and of course a tree makes a sound if it crashes in the woods with no one there to hear it.

One has to be a worldly-wise philosopher to be confused by such questions. Normal people know better.

Personally, I’m confident of these things because Jesus Christ answered both questions in Matthew 10:29, where he told his disciples the following:

“Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.”
(New Living Translation)


“Not a single slug can cross the road without God knowing about it.”

And again…

“Not a single tree can fall in the woods without God hearing it.”

The concept of God’s sovereign omnipresence and omniscience  is boggling to the human mind. We have a tendency to limit God’s abilities because of our own personal inabilities. In other words, if we can’t conceive of something being possible, then it must be impossible.

But in Matthew 19, Jesus tells his disciples that “…with God, all things are possible.” 

In that instance, Jesus was talking about salvation. He had made it clear that no human can possibly, by their good works or wealth, be worthy enough to enter into the Kingdom of God. When they grasped this reality, the disciples wondered how anyone could possibly be saved from the penalty of their sins and enter the Kingdom.

The answer to their question was speaking to them, but they would not come to understand that until later, when God’s plan of redemption had been fulfilled.

That little word, “all,” as in “With God all things are possible,” is actually a very big word.

“All” is beyond our human comprehension in so many ways—sort of like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is beyond the comprehension of a slug.

So, in review, with thanks to that little slug, we’ve managed to confidently answer a “deep” philosophical conundrum here. It’s a good day when you can get something like that accomplished.

And now, with all this talk of slugs and tree-sound in mind, I have a much deeper question….

If a slug crosses the road, does it make a sound?

Personally, I’m inclined to think it does, even though I can’t hear it.

And I have no doubt that if a slug does make  a noise, God can hear it.


Agusta Best & Aunt Sprecher’s 1929 Gas Stock

My Planet Whizbang business volume seems a bit lower than usual for this time of year. It’s not a crisis. It’s actually kind of nice to have a more time. I’ve managed to get enough firewood cut, split and stacked for next winter. Better yet, Marlene and I have had more time to go to garage and estate sales. As you may already know, we buy and then sell on EBAY. It’s a side hustle we’ve done for a few years.

I look primarily for old tools, old hardware, and old paper when I’m at an estate sale. One of my recent finds is a 1929 stock prospectus for the Arkansas Natural Gas Corporation. Along with the prospectus was the receipt you see pictured above, with the hand-written note. Here’s what the note says…

Dear Aunt Sprecher,

Twenty of these shares belong to you and thirty-five to me. I did this to simplify matters. If ever you care to sell yours let me know. I can do it without trouble. Hope this will go up quickly. It is quoted on the N.Y curb. Lovingly,

Agusta Best

The receipt shows that Agusta and her aunt purchased 55 shares of stock for 9-1/8 dollars each on June 28, 1929. I’ve never seen dollars denominated in 1/8 fractions! 1/8 of a dollar would be .125 cents.

Agusta’s mention of “the N.Y. curb” really had me baffled. What’s the curb? Well, near as I can tell, the curb is the New York Curb Exchange, which became the American Stock Exchange. Prices for the Curb Exchange were probably quoted in the newspapers and Aunt Sprecher could track her stock value there.

I well remember back in the old days of my youth when the daily newspapers had pages devoted to showing the prices of hundreds of stocks. I think they were the ending prices from the previous day. There was, of course no internet with up-to-the-second stock prices, and no television programming devoted to investing back then.

When I was in 6th grade I would go to the stock page and look up the value of Disney stock. It was the only company I could relate to. I actually made a graph and plotted out the day-to-day value of Disney for awhile.

These days, with the internet, a sixth grader could easily buy Disney stocks (but I wouldn’t advise it). Retail stock investing has come a long way.

Scripophily is the hobby of collecting antique stock certificates and other historical financial instruments. I never knew that until I went to list these old papers on Ebay. I’m hoping a scripophile somewhere will pay me $32 (plus postage) for it. It might actually be worth more than that to the right person.

Old paper (ephemera is the term that fits) like this is often a learning experience, and that’s part of the reason I like old paper. What I don’t know, and I wonder about, is how Agusta and her aunt’s stock purchase played out, especially as it was purchased in 1929!

Exactly four months (to the day) after purchasing the stock, the stock market crashed. They refer to that event as Black Monday. Next day (Black Tuesday) came another drop in the market. A month later came another crash, which is remembered as Black Thursday. They were dark days, and those events ushered in ten years of The Great Depression.

Did Arkansas Natural Gas Company survive the Great Depression? Did the eight different banks that they worked with (as indicated in the prospectus) survive? From 1929 to 1933, 6,480 banks in America closed. Did Agusta Best & her aunt loose all of their $501.88 investment (the equivalent of $8,438.16 in 2022 dollars)? Why were these old papers saved?

I’ve always liked history. I like the big-picture perspective that an understanding of history provides. A person can learn a lot about the future by looking back at history.

J.D. Belanger on Farming, Freedom, America & The Future (in 1976)

I was 18 years old in 1976. I subscribed to Mother Earth News, Organic Farming & Gardening, Farmstead, and Countryside Small Stock Journal. Those magazines and the down-to-earth, contra-industrial way of life they espoused fueled the back-to-the-land movement of that era.

I sold my collection (going back to the 1940s) of Organic Farming & Gardening magazines on EBAY a few years back. Same with my old Farmstead magazines. And today I listed 16 back issues of Countryside. They are in rough shape. Anyone else would probably throw them away. I have a hard time throwing things away if I think I can squeeze a few dollars out of them.

Before I wrapped them up I spent some time leafing through the vintage pages. The articles and the old advertisements took me back 46 years to when I was a very different person. I was young and strong and full of idealistic energy. These days, I’m no longer young, no longer strong, no longer full of energy, and my idealism has been tempered by the realities of life. The three primary realities being, 1. Life is hard, 2. Life is not fair, 3. Life is short ( I think I’ve blogged about those here in the past).

I’ve made my share of mistakes and I have some regrets in my life, but not many, and none of them are major regrets. I’ve come to realize that “my disappointments are God’s appointments.” That’s a thought-provoking little phrase I learned from A.W. Pink. And in a somewhat similar vein, the sage quip, “No experience is lost,” comes to mind. I learned that one from my friend, Laura Coburn, who heard it more than once from her consoling mother.

But enough of that. I want to share with you a short article written by J.D. Belanger back in 1976. Belanger was the owner and editor of Countryside. It’s an interesting article to me because of the historical perspective, and because it looks at the influence of the traditional agrarian way of life on the character of America.

I have scanned both pages of the article. You’ll probably need to enlarge your screen view to read it…

The article ends with, “The future must remain a mystery.” Well, the next 46 years after writing those words are no longer a mystery. What we have seen in America is the further destruction of small family farms And we have also seen the continuing moral, social, and economic decline of the nation. I dare say it is no coincidence.

The town I lived in 46 years ago (when I subscribed to that issue of Countryside) had at least 7 small dairy farms, one of which I ended up working on for a year after high school. These days, there are no dairy farms in the town. They are all gone, and with them a way of life has vanished.

It is nigh unto impossible for a small-scale, traditional-style family farm to be economically viable in 2022 America.

The good news (it’s always best to end on a high note) is that there are still plenty of people who embrace the rural-based, hands-on, self-reliant, family-and-faith-centered way of life.

Personal agrarianism, once ordinary and necessary, is now a mostly-idealistic pursuit that has, of necessity, evolved with current realities. But it survives. And those who pursue it with wisdom are the quiet, thankful minority.

The Manual of Patriotism, Globalism, And My 1988 Letter To The Editor

Early April is typically the slowest time of the year for my Planet Whizbang mail order business. It’s not like I have nothing else to do to fill the time, but I don’t feel right if I don’t have at least some income coming in. So I’ve been photographing and listing things to sell on EBAY, starting with a lot of books. Thus it was that I was taking pictures of the Manual of Patriotism For The Schools of New York pictured above… and I found a photocopy inside. It is of a letter I wrote to the Editor of the Auburn, NY Citizen newspaper back in 1988. That was 34 years ago!

A friend of mine bought that book at a yard sale back then and gave it to me. The book inspired me to write the letter to the Editor. 1988 was, mind you, back in the old days, before the internet was a thing. A lot of people back then used to get the daily newspaper. I wrote a series of letters to the Editor in the mid to late 1980s.

In retrospect, those newspaper writings were the beginning of my career as a writer. When magazine articles and books followed, I became a part-time professional writer. I define professional writer as someone who gets paid for writing. The idea of getting paid money for writing (as opposed to doing physical work in the building trades) appealed to me. And it amazed me. It still does.

I had forgotten about my newly discovered 1988 letter to the Editor, and read it with interest. I think it’s worth reprinting here in this blog post because what I had to say is still pertinent. In fact, it might be more pertinent than it was way back then. The title of the letter was given by the newspaper’s editor. It is somewhat misleading. My letter was more about globalism than patriotism.

My reflective hindsight comments follow the letter.


American Patriotism’s In Danger Of Extinction

Is the spirit of American patriotism gasping its last breath as we race towards the 21st century? I for one hope not, but the handwriting is on the wall and the painful truth must be revealed.

Patriotism is love and pride of country, born of familiarity with its history, reverence for its institutions and faith in its possibilities; but it is more than just an emotion. True patriotism is also an aggressively loyal and zealous support of one’s nation.

I recently acquired an old copy of the “Manual of Patriotism for Schools of New York.” This 470-page volume was published in 1900 under the direction of the State Legislature, and it’s filled with patriotic quotes, poems, songs and writings on everything from the flag and George Washington, to “the nobility of labor” (when’s the last time you heard that?). It was believed at the time that public schools should be “nurseries of patriotism.” Teachers were instructed to teach “the wonderful power that abides in great personalities. Hold before their (the students’) eyes a vision of the commanding figures of our American history. Inspire them with a loyalty and devotion to native land.”

I graduated from public school in 1976. I don’t remember it as being a nursery of patriotism, and I rather doubt it has since become one.

Just last year a 19-member Study Commission on Global Education came out with a report urging that standard courses in American schools be “infused with a global perspective.” Secretary of State George Schultz thought it was a good idea, but fortunately for America, Secretary of State William Bennett is critical of global education. I’m sure the NY State Legislature of 1900 would agree with him.

This globalism is hostile to patriotism. It has no regard for national self-interest (which is the essence of patriotism); it destroys national boundaries; it would take a free and independent America and reduce her to a subservient world state.

In 1945, America threw away a measure if its sovereignty by joining the United Nations. It hasn’t done us a bit of good. Will we continue to skip blindly down the path to oblivion while singing “We Are The World“?

If this idea of globalism creeps into the soul of America it will destroy patriotism along with our legacy of personal freedom under the Constitution. History shows that the bigger and farther removed from the people that governments get, the more oppressive they become.

I propose that the song be changed to “We Are America; I propose that, once again, the “Manual of Patriotism” be used in our schools to instill an ardent love of country and keen understanding of the principles of liberty, and I pray that patriotism, the sacred flame that guards a free and independent America, will never die.


Were I to write a similar letter to the Editor these days, I would be more inclined to use the word nationalism instead of patriotism. Though I consider myself a patriotic person, I’m wary of patriotism being used by government propagandists to get Americans to support all the different military conflicts that politicians (allied with their military-industrial-complex handlers) routinely ignite all around the world.

Nationalist is considered a toxic word these days, but I define and use the word as the antithesis of globalist. While nationalism has been the driving force behind many wars throughout history, in America the masses are typically swayed to support foreign military interventions by an appeal to patriotism.

A healthy American patriotism (or nationalism) is grounded in a knowledge of, and appreciation for, the great achievements of those who established this country, and our Constitutional form of government in particular. Such history should be celebrated and memorialized.

Yes, America has experienced dark and regrettable episodes of history, and they should be acknowledged. But our best history is what should define America and be taught to young Americans. Our best history is founded on limited, decentralized government, separation of powers in the government, democratically-elected government representation, personal responsibility, property rights, Sound money (it’s in the Constitution), the rule of law, freedom of speech, and freedom of worship.

Globalism is the enemy of all that defines what is the best of America.

Bright Betty Bam-A-Lamps

I think I’ve mentioned here before that I eventually get around to getting different projects done. The Bright Betty lamp-in-a-jar is a perfect example of that. I developed the Bright Betty design 11 years ago and established this web site to present a how-to photo tutorial for making the Bright Betty.

In addition to the tutorial, I was going to offer parts kits for making the lamps. I hired my youngest son, James, to cut and flare pieces of soft copper tubing that serve as the wick holder. He made a couple hundred of them. I bought lots of the wire and a spool of fiberglass wick. Then I moved on to other projects. The idea and the parts were shelved for over a decade.

Yesterday, I made the YouTube video you see above. I posted it this morning and listed the parts for sale on the Workshop Page at my Planet Whizbang web site. I can now cross that whole project off my list. It’s a good feeling to finally bring a started project to completion!

YouTube is a big challenge for me. I’d like to make more videos and I’d like to get better at making them. My problem with making the videos is that they are incredibly time consuming. I’m also making them without any help. And I’m a real amateur at the lighting and other technicals. But I like to think I’m getting a little better.

What I like best about YouTube is that they pay me money. Last year I earned $3,900 from my YouTube videos. I don’t know how they calculate what they send me, but I get money deposited into my bank account every month. I’m persuaded that monetized YouTube videos are the best passive income side hustle in the world.

Most of my YouTube income comes from just a few of the many videos I’ve made. This one about toe-nailing studs with screws went viral last year. It has earned me over $2,000 so far. The funny thing about that video is that I made it in a couple hours and I didn’t put a lot of effort into it.

On the other hand, I put an enormous amount of time and effort into making this video about making traditional carpenter sawhorses. I consider that sawhorse video to be the very best one I’ve made. Thus far, it has earned me $32.50. My hope is that it will eventually go viral, which means that the YouTube algorithms pick it up and promote it. Those algorithms are a big mystery. Lots of YouTubers are trying to figure out how to hack the algorithms.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll never be a sophisticated YouTube creator. But I’m not going to let that hinder my efforts. After all, I’m the guy who self-published a book about how to make a chicken plucker. Back in 2001 I formatted every page of that book as a paste-up “mechanical” and hand-drew all the illustrations. Then I had the first 100 copies photocopied and bound with a plastic comb. It was a totally amateur production. I should have been embarrassed trying to sell a book like that. But people bought it, and they liked it. I’ve sold more than 25,000 copies, and it’s still selling. That book was the beginning of my Planet Whizbang mail order business. The sale of those initial 100 photocopied books financed everything that followed. It’s kind of amazing.

So, that’s my story of my Bright Betty lamp project. Now I need to finish the house addition I started four years ago…

The New Maker Movement

Alec Steele

One of the most positive things going on in the world today is the rise of the Maker Movement. This article describes the Maker Movement as follows:

The maker movement is a cultural trend that places value on an individual’s ability to be a creator of things as well as a consumer of things.  In this culture, individuals who create things are called “makers.” Makers come from all walks of life, with diverse skill sets and interests. The thing they have in common is creativity, an interest in design and access to tools and raw materials that make production possible.

The article further states…

“While the majority of makers are hobbyists, entrepreneurs and small manufacturers are also taking advantage of the classes and tools available in makerspaces. The maker movement is international, promoted by magazines, conventions, video channels and Web-based marketplaces. The movement is growing rapidly and is expected to be economically disruptive; as ordinary people become more self-sufficient, they will be able to make their own products instead of purchasing brand-name products from a big box store.”

The Maker movement is, to my way of thinking, a resurgence of  the traditional ethos of hands-on self reliance and creativity. Most men and boys who grew up in the early to mid 1900s were familiar with Popular Mechanics magazine. That publication was all about making things in the home workshop and it kept its readers well informed about new technology.

When I was a teenager in the 1970s Mother Earth News magazine had a powerful appeal to the Makers of that era. I loved those old Mother Earth magazines. In fact, if you look at the books and other information products I’ve created and sell in my Planet Whizbang business, you will see a very strong Mother Earth News influence. Not the current Mother Earth, but the now-vintage Mother Earth News, back when it was started (in 1970) and run by John Shuttleworth, the founder of that publication. Yes, I was powerfully influenced by that magazine.

I was a young Maker in the 1970s. I didn’t have access to much in the way of tools or a workshop, but my stepfather had a small, old table saw (fearfully dangerous, it was), a work bench with a vise, and a few old hand tools. There were old scraps of wood in our barn. I started by carving several spoons out of the old wood, and I carved a large wooden scoop. I learned about wood grain and how to use chisels, a rasp, and lots of sandpaper. I also learned (to some degree) how to sharpen chisels.

Then I bought myself a block plane and a pine board. I wanted to make some staved containers. I hand-planed, assembled, sanded and finished the pieces on a desk in my bedroom. That was some 55 years ago. A few of those creations are still around…

There was, of course, no YouTube back in my day, and I had no woodworking mentor to learn from. I was a Lonely Maker, trying to figure out how to make basic things from book and magazine articles. These days, aspiring Makers can tap into so much more information and inspiration, and it’s great to see. I would have reveled in the Maker Movement of today if it were available to me in the 1970s. I think my life trajectory would have been much different or, perhaps, less focused on just woodworking and the building trades, which is the profession I worked at for the first 25 years of my adult working life.

These days, I satisfy my maker inclinations vicariously. I watch the inspiring Makers on YouTube. Jimmy Diresta is one of the most popular YouTube makers. I always enjoy his videos. Alec Steele is another favorite of mine.

Alec has a good story. He was inspired by seeing a blacksmith working at a local craft show when he was 11 years old. He was consumed with the desire to learn all about being a blacksmith and that’s what he did. When Alec was 16 years old he convinced his parents to let him leave school and become a full time blacksmith. Today he is 24 years old and has 2.4 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. He is making a small fortune with his YouTube videos, and it sure does look like he’s having a lot of fun in the process. It’s downright impressive.

Alec Steele doesn’t just forge steel, he has made videos about jewelry. Here is one excellent example…

And Alec doesn’t just have skills with metal. It turns out that his father is a greenwood chair maker. Alec crafted a greenwood chair with his father when he was a boy. In the following three videos, he returns to his parent’s home and he and his father make chairs together. I found these three videos to be not only interesting, but a real delight…

Makers are my kind of people. Hurrah for the Maker Movement!

Inflation Assault

Today I received a book and chicken plucker fingers order from a woman who told me she used to read my Deliberate Agrarian blog when she was a kid in high school. That was nice to hear. The years have gone by! My kids have grown up and have their own families. Now there are grandchildren. And I have become a senior citizen. For the record, I started blogging just about 17 years ago (My First Post).

Long-time readers may recall that I have written numerous times over the years about economic issues, with inflation being a common theme. Go to my Deliberate Agrarian blog and type “inflation” into the search box if you want to see some of the essays. I’m pretty sure I also wrote about inflation at the three other blogs I started and penned (each for a short season), before settling in here for my heavenstretch.

Thus it is that I’ve been anticipating inflation for years, and now it is here. I wish it wasn’t.

My poultry shrinkbag supplier has recently informed me that they are increasing their prices 9% because of inflation. That’s in addition to the three price increases they had last year. They also let me know that some of the other products they sell are experiencing hyperinflation, by which they mean that the price is so unstable that they can not provide a price. I would need to call, confirm, and order based on the price at that time.

Inflation is theft. It is a violation of the eighth commandment. Inflation is akin to the “deceitful scales” mentioned in Hosea 12:7. Proverbs 1:11 says: “A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.”

As I was thinking about the abomination of inflation today it occurred to me that inflation as we in America are now seeing it is not just financial theft, it is economic assault.

Most people are not even cognizant of the fact that they are being robbed by inflation when it is around 2% a year, which is the inflation sweet spot that government likes. Inflation at 2% is sort of like picking just a little out of the pockets of the unaware masses. But if the theft gets more obvious, we enter the realm of assault, and it happens in degrees…

First there is the annoying pinch of noticeable inflation. Then comes the mean push. Then comes the slap in the face. Then comes the gut punch. Then comes the 2×4 up side the head. Then, if you’re still standing, perhaps the firestorm of hyperinflation will finish off your earthly treasures.

The ability to withstand the inflation assault varies from person to person (or family to family). Personally, I think I’m at the “mean push” stage, but I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of people around me who are currently experiencing the 2×4 up side the head. That is a concern to me. I know my kids are at least feeling the pinch.

According to this recent article, “between 50 percent and 78 percent of employees earn just enough to pay their bills each month. Missing a paycheck for them means living with overdue bills.”

My parents experienced overdue bills when I was a kid. I remember my mother taking the calls from bill collectors. Then she just stopped answering the phone. Then the phone company disconnected the phone because the bill was so overdue. That solved the problem of bill collectors calling. True story.

When I got a job in high school I helped pay some of the bills. Fortunately, my parents managed to keep their home and get through their financial crisis (many people are not so fortunate). Those experiences made a significant lifelong impression on me. My children did not have to help me pay any of our household bills. Perhaps it would have been better for their personal development if they did. Perhaps they will need to help Marlene and I with our finances someday in the future. I hope not but that is often how it plays out.

I’ve mentioned my late uncle, Clyde Kennedy, and his book, The Hard Surface Road in past blog posts. Uncle Clyde went through the Great depression as a kid. His childhood experiences were far more traumatic than mine. Perhaps it’s a type of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that affected those who grew up in hardship during the Depression years. Uncle Clyde was a resilient, resourceful, hard working, and thrifty man. He didn’t die a pauper.

Some of the economic prognosticators are talking about a demand destruction phase. That is to say, people are naturally going to stop buying things, and otherwise reduce their spending. Economic activity will thus decline. The velocity of money will drop significantly. I’m sure this must be happening to some degree already. But, if inflation continues, the demand destruction period may be short lived.

There comes a point in the escalation of inflation when people who still have money realize that the best thing they can do with their money is to spend it, because the buying power of their money is declining so quickly. If you buy things you need before the price goes up (again and again) you are beating inflation, at least to some degree. I’m already doing this. I’ve purchased enough copy paper, printer ink, and other essential business incidentals to last me for at least a year. It’s better to turn money into tangible things when fiat paper money becomes worth less.

I listen to a lot of economic commentators who are not mainstream. Gary North was one of them. In the inflation-or-deflation debate Gary always argued for inflation. He got it right.

A little over a year ago I blogged here about Steve Bannon’s daily War Room Broadcast. I listen to the show every day. It’s the only way I’ve found to get important news that the controlled media refuses to report. I subscribe to the Epoch Times weekly newspaper and it is excellent. But Steve Bannon is better. And if inflation gets much worse, I’ll have to cancel my Epoch Times subscription.

Much of the War Room broadcast is about the economy. The discussion lately is focused on the end of the dollar as the world reserve currency. This has been talked about in alternative economic circles for years, but it is now coming into mainstream awareness. This article from a year ago discusses the subject: The U.S. Dollar’s Hegemony is Looking Fragile.

The world is changing. Big things are happening. A whole lotta shakin’ is going on. The history of the world is the history of successive empires built on the wisdom and wickedness of men. The Babylonian empire is history. The Medo-Persian empire is history. The Greek empire is history. The Roman empire is history. The British empire is history. The American empire will be history.

As a Christian, my allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, which is higher and more powerful than any failing empire of men. God’s kingdom can not be shaken. My faith and hope is in King Jesus. I am where I am in history and place because this is exactly where the sovereign creator of the universe wants me to be. I have my bit part to play in the grand panorama of Providence, and God has equipped me to play my part well. Transcendent peace and hope are mine in the midst of turmoil.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, as I know many who read this blog are, everything in that previous paragraph applies to you, and this is God’s word to us: Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.

Or, as the King James puts it: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13)

The Day Gary North Kicked Me In The Pants

Gary K. North (1942-2022)

I haven’t needed an alarm clock to get me up in the morning for at least 25 years. I just wake up and get up, and it’s always early enough. Every so often I’ll I sleep until 6:00 or 6:30 and that’s sleeping in for me. I feel better through the day when I sleep in. But, for some unknown reason, that doesn’t happen much any more. I was awake at 5:30 this morning. That’s more typical. I woke up thinking about Gary North.

My usual winter morning routine is to go downstairs and get the wood stove fired up. Our house will get downright cold by morning in the winter months. But by the time Marlene is up, the house is warm. Getting the fire stoked in the morning and making sure there is a supply of firewood nearby is my responsibility. Marlene and I have an unwritten division of labor in our home economy. I have my responsibilities, and she has hers. They fall along traditional lines. It has worked well for us for 42 years. But I digress.

Gary North was a remarkably intelligent and prolific writer. He died on February 24, 2022 (six days ago). He was 80 years old. You can read his obituary HERE. I think it is the longest obituary I have ever read. If you bog down reading it, scroll ahead to the heading, Advice for the Future. There you can read 11 “important principles that enabled [Gary] to stick to his knitting, stay out of trouble, and be as productive as he was.”

A friend gave me some of Gary’s Remnant Review newsletters to read back in the mid 1990s. I became a regular reader of Gary’s online essays, many of which he sent out free to an e-mail subscriber list. In 2005 he established his subscription web site which had (and still has) a lot of free articles. I was a paid subscriber for awhile.

Gary wrote on a broad range of subjects. He was an economist and a historian, which is a good combination. He was also an entrepreneur. His articles about financial responsibility and entrepreneurship were of particular interest to me.

In 2000 I read an essay by Gary North that resonated with me. It was, figuratively speaking, a kick in the pants that I really needed at that time. It is no exaggeration to say that Gary North changed my life for the good with that essay.

This morning, shortly after 4:00 am, I sat in my recliner by the crackling fire and searched on YouTube for an interview with Gary North. I found THIS ONE from 7 months ago and listened to it. If you watch the interview you will see what an incredible mind Gary had. His recall was amazing.

The interview discussion gets into economics, America’s huge administrative bureaucracy, and our unpayable debt obligations. Gary mentions that Social Security and Medicare account for over half the budget, and with Baby Boomers now retiring, those programs will consume more of the budget. I perked up when I heard him mention that because he was touching on what that 2000 kick-in-the-pants essay was all about.

Gary explained in the interview that America doesn’t have the economic productivity needed for the government to loot enough from average taxpayers to sustain all the social programs. And taxing the super rich doesn’t work because they shelter their fortunes from taxation by establishing foundations.

The good news in such a scenario is that the administrative state (a.k.a., the bureaucracy) will eventually have to shrink. The money won’t be there to support it; the “swamp” will be drained by harsh economic realities. But the bad news is, of course, that there will be inflation and other economic carnage for average people to deal with. And that’s when the interviewer (Doug Casey) asked the following question of Gary…

“What would you say the average guy should do to defend himself from all this type of thing that’s coming down the pike?”

Gary’s reply to that question is a condensed version of the kick-in-the-pants he gave me back in 2000…

“Entrepreneurship is basic, but we know that most people are not entrepreneurs. So the second thing is that you make up your mind that you will not retire. And you will structure your employment in such a way that the checks keep coming when you’re 75, because you’re not going to be able to retire at 65, or at 63. That is not going to happen, at least not to the middle class people. Now, the average Joe is going to do it (retire) but he’s going to get trapped.”

“The super rich aren’t going to listen to us. They don’t need to listen to us. If you’re talking about middle class and upper middle class people who work for a living and don’t want to go on welfare …. then they have to prepare to be employed beyond the normal retirement age.”

Gary further said that forward thinking people need to “implement entrepreneurship strategies.” Real estate investment is one of those strategies. He explains that he’s not talking about getting rich. “It’s gonna be about who loses the least in this (future) scenario.”

I was 42 years old in 2000 when I read Gary’s kick-in-the-pants essay. I had experienced significant financial loss with a newsletter venture that I started in 1997 and closed down in 1998. At my lowest point I was so depressed that I could barely bring myself to do any work. My income was not enough to pay the bills. I had cashed in my IRA. All savings was gone. God only knows how incredibly anguished I was at that time. I call it my “time of humbling.”

I asked my grandmother for help. She sent me some money. It kept us financially afloat. Shortly thereafter, a door opened. I was providentially offered a job as a teacher’s assistant at the local vocational high school ($12,000 a year salary). Seven months later I got a job at a nearby state prison (starting pay of $36,000). I had been financially wounded by my newsletter business failure, and I was not looking to do any more entrepreneurial ventures. Been there, done that, got the psychological scars to prove it. But then I read that article by Gary North.

Gary’s advice was not a pie-in-the-sky, get rich scheme. It was a practical strategy. He energized my innate, but traumatized and deadened entrepreneurial inclinations.

So it was that I had a decent-paying government job and I had time to experiment with small side hustles. Four years after my newsletter failure, with Gary’s wise advice in mind, and my elder years fast approaching, I self-published Anyone Can Build A Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker. As most of you know, that book was the beginning of many small entrepreneurial ventures that are now part of my Planet Whizbang mail order business. God has blessed me with a very satisfying measure of entrepreneurial success (I left the prison job in 2013), but it started with Gary North giving me that kick-in-the-pants that I needed.

I once related this story of Gary’s influence in my life to a friend of mine who has known me since I was a teenager. He told me I probably would have done the same thing even if I hadn’t read Gary’s essay. He might be right. But I clearly remember the inspirational impact Gary’s counsel had on me. It was something akin to an epiphany.

Many of my high school classmates are retiring. They have resources that I don’t have. I’m glad for them. I don’t envy people who have more than me. My hopeful plan is to keep working at my Planet Whizbang business as long as I can. Gary North worked at his writing business until July of 2021, when he was 79 years old and diagnosed with stage 3 prostate cancer. In so doing, he exemplified his own advice to his readers.


My birth father never gave me any advice about life. My stepfather modeled the virtues of responsible manhood, but I don’t remember him giving me any advice about life. Except, perhaps, the time he told me that I should never get a tattoo. He had gotten a tattoo when he was in the Marines and he told me he wished he had never done it. I have heeded that advice. I loathe tattoos. But, again, I digress.

Gary North was 16 years older than me. Not old enough to be my father, but close enough for me to consider many of the essays he wrote to be in the category of wise “fatherly advice.” I’m grateful for that, and I will miss him.