This is apparently a new post. You could have fooled me. I have been hauling posts around all day and I’ve even handled a few new ones over the years. The big difference between new posts and old posts is the number of electric fence insulators and wire staples and especially cow-sh1t. Trust me on this. Otherwise posts are posts. I hauled 105 of them out of the burn pile (they’re re-fencing – where labor is expensive (here) it’s quicker and cheaper just to uproot the entire fence -good and bad poles together and start again – when you’re doing 10-50 miles of fence, that is). I’ve only got a mile or so to do – and I am not a big commercial farmer, and can’t write this off against my profits and reduce my tax burden and get a new fence.

So: I have had a day of scavenging good posts from tangles of wire. I am very grateful to do it – it’s money I don’t have to spend – and posts I collected will see me out, and my conservationist and conservative ‘waste-not-want-not’ Scots soul rejoices in the knowledge, that I got a bargain and saved some trees for someone else to use. So I ache in a lot of places. And then I came home and carried firewood. A lot of heavy firewood. Story of my life.

Actually it is the story of 99.99% of all the humans that ever lived. Hard, backbreaking labor, a lot of their lives. Ok, so there are exceptions, mostly where women (see who tills the fields in Africa) or slaves – or the peasants do (or did) the hard work for a pittance if they were lucky. The modern world (not even just the first world) is a historical anomaly in terms of so many things, including just how much work – physical work – mere survival for so many takes, let alone building a civilization and improving on just surviving for the next few minutes.

I’m not starting in some utter wilderness, ignorant of local dangers, conditions, and even of what can be eaten – with only the most basic of hand-tools, often no recourse to buying what you needed… you had what you had or you did without or made a plan. I’ve just done it on a fairly low budget, with a ton of knowledge – both that I have and available to me, about the place, food, dangers etc. and with a fair bit of mechanical help. It’s as soft as goose-grease compared to the pioneer or the colonist who ensured that the human race didn’t die out in some obscure cave somewhere in Africa. I at least have some inkling of just how hard it is, of what they faced. I could give up and run back to civilization and stick out my hand to the Australian government tomorrow. They never had that choice, often as not. It was make it work or die – and open a softer path for those who followed.

The men and women – and the kids who started helping as soon as they could – not from choice but from need, who took on these challenges and built the world we now live in… well, we owe them everything. The pioneer – judged by today’s standards (and, look far enough, and all of us, black, white, and every shade between are descended from people who did this) have imperfections by those modern standards. You have spoiled brats who derive their very pampered existence, and the freedom to make an ass out of themselves without the historical norm consequence (being dead) from those very men and women, scornfully deriding them. Hell, they scorn people that work and protect them now, let alone the giants on whose shoulders they stand and make pipi.

Look, the one thing those who labored so hard and long to make civilization did, was make life easier and better – and that meant for everyone, including those who have never worked physically every hour they could to grow a crop or rear livestock, or build a home or a town, or school. Those who never have had cute little bambi eat the food that was going to keep them fed that winter, that they’d worked so hard for. (Been there. We ate bambi.) Those who never had the stock that was their livelihood preyed on and killed, or stolen. (Been there). Those who have never faced having their home attacked and threatened with destruction (yes, been there too) and the lives and well-being of all they held dear in real danger. I have to wonder how and what these pampered and inevitably loud-mouthed individuals who scream rage and disparagement at ‘colonialism’ (remembering that ALL humans are descended from colonists) would do if they faced the same situations those colonists did.

I’ve seen enough cases to have have a damn good idea, though. Seen enough bunny-huggers either flee as fast as possible back to the city when they tried the whole self-sufficiency bit… or become remarkably keen on bloody vengeance on the animal ( or the entire species) that just took a single bite out of every apple they had nurtured. I’ve seen people who derided firearms as barbaric and awful… suddenly become terribly keen on having one, when that is what stands between them and their families being attacked and their property destroyed. There were always men and women who stood against things we – safe in the civilization built on what our ancestors did – are appalled by now. Who looked wider and tried not to – to use an example — kill ALL possums because one ruined their apple crop. Good on them. It was always there – and it it was always a very few. That hasn’t changed all that much, in my opinion. I’ll bet the loudest now, if suddenly plonked into a primitive colonial situation with no way out, faced with a marauding group of young bucks from a local tribe, killing and robbing their families and burning their homes and leaving them to starve… would be among those calling loudest for retribution, if not genocide.

The human story is not all a pretty one. We’ve done some horrific things – to each other, as well as… possums. We have destroyed things. But humans both create and preserve -even when it is of no benefit to them (I’m trying to think of another animal that does this with intent, on even a remotely similar scale). We show traits like honor, kindness and altruism on a scale not seen elsewhere. We might meet aliens one day who do better… or worse.

One of the things about living in the greatest and most comfortable age – particularly for the vast majority of people who would have been working their backs sore and fingers worn out – is we tolerate its detractors. But tolerance doesn’t mean agreeing with them, or not pointing out the stupidity – and cupidity – of their positions. Or pointing out that their own ability is non-existent, and that compared to the people they criticize, they are pygmies, physically, intellectually and morally. They could not walk in their shoes.

Our books need to reflect this. We’re going to face the new frontier. We need to hero people who can and will.

Image by Ann — please donate from Pixabay

26 thoughts on “posts

  1. Well said! Those of us that have had to work in the rough or starve/die recognize your excellent description.

    These days, I live in a smallish city and appreciate the relative ease of my life.

    1. When I moved into this house six years ago, with its central heat and automatic thermostat… I noted the novelty of getting up on a winter morning to a warm house. (Something I’d not experienced since 1974.) No coal to fetch, no wood to chop, no propane to haul and constantly tinker with. No chimney to clean out, no ashes to haul, no below-zero mornings when the fire has gone out.

      And a tractor and a post pounder, instead of a horse and a hand digger and the sweat of your back. (Not that there ain’t still sweat, but orders of magnitude.)

      Yeah, by the standards of history, nowadays we’re astonishingly spoiled.

  2. I’m reminded of the story Planet Run by Keith Laumer (can be found in the collection Legions of Space that was free through Baen a few years ago. I can’t remember if on the Free CDs or the Free Library).

  3. Post-hole digger. Three words that should cure anyone who romanticizes farming or ranching.

    As one who has been stalked by two and four-footed predators, I firmly believe that a lot of human creativity (good and ill) stems from “I don’t want to be eaten” moments. And from not wanting to starve. There were a lot of plants transplanted or seeded in the American Southwest by people passing through who must have thought “You know, if I stick a few of these in the ground, I might have an emergency supply if I have to come back/retreat this way in the future.” And it worked, at least for the plants.

    1. An UNPOWERED post-hole digger. One you have to turn your own self if you want to get those 40 posts set. Don’t forget about the corner posts, which take huge holes, anchors and brace posts so they won’t pull right out of the ground when you tension the fence. We used old railroad ties.

      Then you have to tamp the dirt in around each post with the shovel handle while keeping it straight and aligned. Concrete is expensive, dirt is free.

      I don’t miss farm work, in case you hadn’t noticed. 😛

      1. *dry tone* I got that impression, yes. 🙂

        There is no glove that will stop manual post-hole diggers from giving you blisters. None.

        1. All that experience did come in handy when I replaced the fence between my house and the neighbor’s. They paid for the wood, I built the fence. It’s still standing after 15 years.

        2. Interestingly enough, I counted yesterday how many posts I have dug in since we started work on this farm – no fences yet. I got to 99. I’ve got 200 more to put in to sort out the boundary fence. I need to put in another 50 at the very least… I – and the blisters, have decided mechanization is the go.

          1. At Rivendell, we were digging ( by hand) foundations for a cottage, and unearthed a colonial era steel post hole digger. The auger type you wind round and round. It was in surprisingly good condition, being made of far better metal than today’s version. We used it yesterday to put in posts for an overhead power line to a pump. Great feeling of satisfaction 😀

      2. Turn?
        The ones I’m familiar with are basically two crappy shovels with a hinge between.

        Barring rocks and roots, the first couple feet aren’t too bad. Then you start having to bend over to reach the bottom of the hole you’re digging…
        (Compared to a tractor driven auger though? I’m pretty sure my jaw actually dropped when I saw one for the first time, and watched it perform hours worth of work within a handful of minutes.)

          1. We have “soil” that laughs at post hole diggers. Unless I’m in the hollow where pumice/clay is 4-5′ deep, there’s usually a thick layer of shale a bit below the surface. Clamshell type diggers can get the overburden, but the tractor-driven auger seldom has an easy time dealing with the shale. One project needed 6′ deep, 3′ diameter holes for the framing. That was farmed out, but I was incredibly nervous when the first hole (1 of 12) took 45 minutes of expensive machine time to dig. Mercifully, the others were faster, though the company’s auger needed serious repair when they were done with the job.

            It seems our land used to be sea bottom before the volcanos dumped a lot of pumice and obsidian on it. That shale is nasty! At least we’re not in the zone where all the head-sized rocks are at the surface. That takes nasty and dials it up to 11.

      3. I try to do it so I don’t have to do it twice. I don’t love it, but it is satisfying having it done, knowing it is yours, doesn’t still have to be paid for, or done again for a long time (I hope).

      4. Spouse last year was using an uncovered post hole digger to, logically, dig a hole for a proposed porch. Nobody knew about the live power line – until he hit it. Apparently the wooden handles were good insulation, but there was a neat little hole bitten out of one of the blades.

  4. I recall that tweet asserting that the movie ‘Black Panther’ had something to do with black potential lost to colonialism.

    What about the human potential lost during prehistory, and much of history? Lost potential is the norm, with societies that are less wasteful of it resulting from a lot of slow, sustained, gradual improvement. There seems to have been as much or more lost potential ‘before colonialism’ as during, and ‘post colonalism’ hasn’t uniformly decreased the amount of lost potential.

    ‘Wakanda is fiction’ is much more relevant than ‘Middle Earth is fiction’, precisely because of the people trying to prove real world things with Wakanda, compared to with Middle Earth, Westeros, Pern or Xanth. Wakanda proves nothing, because fictions do not substitute for proofs in reality. Furthermore, Wakanda was colonized by space aliens, the Wakandan technological artifacts come from that influence, and it is not clear how much other space alien influence there was on Wakandan culture, or that any such influence was positive.

    Certainly it is not clear that a reading of the plot only supports such politically expedient claims.

    Societies have difficulties, most have done some things, and many have been pretty terrible, relatively speaking.

    CRT claims have been pretty seriously blind. Forex, the implication that Peel’s techniques of policing are only for the English descended, and that we should be practicing other techniques on those not so descended. *headdesk*

    All there is to do is discard the claims of these crazy people, and continue trying to rebuild a functioning society. Rebuild, because entropy always needs to be fought.

    1. Entropy must always be fought.
      Which is why we cannot simply discard and ignore the claims of its champions.

  5. The God of Mongo delivers world-wide if only we have eyes to see it. Congratulations on your free (to you in terms of $$) fence.
    As for the people who came before us, absolutely.
    Bill and I have been slowly working our way through a BBC series: Victorian Slum. It’s a reenactment, a decade at a time of a tenement in the East End.
    It’s fascinating, made even more so by how much they had to clean it up to meet modern health requirements. It’s still overwhelming how hard everyone has to work, but little by little, things got better. It took generations.

    Best of all was watching one of the older women who grew up in poverty in London’s 1950’s.
    She was quite clear after the first week of living like her East End ancestors had back in 1860:

    “I thought we were poor. I was wrong. We weren’t.”

  6. I wish I had the cite for this poem I learned as a kid. Carnation milk is the best in the land. Here I sit with a can in my hand. No tits to pull, no hay to pitch. You just punch a hole in the son of a gun.

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