|2/8/2014 3:10:00 PM|
Hammer drops by before summer ends
I jumped. It was a quiet early morning and the sun hadn't peeked over the buildings on the north side of West Main. I thought I was the only one in the office and was enjoying the quiet and getting some work done. John Hammer, my friend of recent years, was standing in the doorway, his massive bulk taking up most of the frame. It amazed me how such a big man could be so quiet.
"Well, G'morning John," I said. "I didn't hear you walk in."
"Front porches," he repeated.
When John Hammer had a point to make, small talk was worthless.
"What about front porches?" I asked.
"When I was growing up, my mom and dad used to sit on the porch in the evenings. They'd talk. They'd read the paper. My mother would usually have something she was knitting or sewing while my father mostly read."
"What'd he read?" I, being the inquisitive reporter-type, asked.
"Every night it was the paper," he said. "On Sundays, he read the Bible. There were other things they did out there, too. Neighbors would come by. They'd talk . . ."
The Hammer looked away for a moment. Maybe he was back on that porch, living indeed in another time. It gave me a chance to briefly reflect on the big man. He stops by the office or catches me on the street every now and then. His collar is strictly blue and I suspect his heart is bigger than the printing press he used to work on. Although his voice sounds like it's being drug across gravel, I'm betting his bark is a whole lot worse than his bite . . . but I've never wanted to find out.
"And that's the problem, Timmons," he growled.
"Hang on. What's the problem John? You've lost me."
"Don't you get it," he said. "Look, I was talking to a guy not too long ago who had lost his job when his factory cut back. I wasn't exactly feeling sorry for him, but I sure could sympathize. A lot of us have gone through that and it's hard. But then he said something that just froze me in my tracks."
"What's that, John?"
"He said that he was just about to take a job he'd been offered when Congress up and OK'd Obama's plan to extend unemployment benefits for another year. Told me there wasn't any sense in him going back to a job that didn't pay so much when he could sit at home and collect his unemployment checks.
"Timmons, my daddy would've rather slept with a bed of rattlesnakes than take charity - at least not when he had a breath left in him to do something about it. And here this guy, who was ready and able - but not willing - to go to work, decided to sit his lazy butt at home."
I was still puzzled.
"OK John, we've all heard stories like that and I agree with you that it's wrong, it's more than wrong. But what's that got to do with front porches?"
"I know you're not old enough to remember Pearl Harbor," he explained. "But this country was galvanized after that terrible day in a way that we haven't seen since."
I shook my head.
"Hold on there, John. We just observed the ninth anniversary of 9/11. This country came together because of that day."
"Oh really?" he said with one eyebrow going up. "After Pearl Harbor, housewives left the home and went to work as Rosie the Riveter. We had rationing of gas, rubber, nylon, meat . . . tell me Timmons, do you think this country has the discipline to go through gas rationing, or being limited to what they can buy at the grocery store today?"
I didn't get a chance to answer.
"I'll agree that we came together nine years ago," he continued. "But the difference between then and now is the difference between positive and negative. We became galvanized as a country in a positive way during WWII. We worked together for a common good.
"Today," he almost spat the word out. "We come together because we're against something. We complain and gripe. We're not 'for' much of anything anymore. We're always against.
"I'm telling you Timmons," he said as he started to turn and amble away. "It's about front porches. This country was a whole lot better off when people spent time on front porches."
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