|It is springtime and the seeds are barely peeking through the top of the soil. It takes a practiced eye not to mistake a sprout from a weed. My Grandpa had taught me all of his tricks of gardening many years ago. I grew to love the feel of the soft, dark, damp textured soil, with is rich nutritious earthy smell. He had never used chemicals, calling them the "lazy man's way."
The government inspectors had come and gone. Those G-men that had carefully scrutinized the property inadvertently carried my memories back to the days when Grandpa had been his happiest. I picked up my antique garden hoe to return to my weeding. The repetitive slow movement of raising and lowering the perfectly balanced tool lulled me back to the carefree days of my youth.
I was a young boy working next to my grandfather in his large rural garden. I was not much of a vegetable eater, but I sure enjoyed spending my time listening to his exciting stories. Grandpa never had idle hands, therefore to spend time with him I was expected to work. I soaked up his great stories of life, war, joy, tragedy and family history, as if I had been a sponge. He had learned all he taught me from his grandpa and in his words, "You learn every day, son, from just plain living life."
I knew that grandma canned many of the vegetables, for winter consumption, that we could not eat while fresh. However, I never questioned where the excess veggies went. One summer grandpa started talking about supply and demand and something called the free market system. The process eventually started to make a little sense to my immature mind, over the years that were yet to come. My first memory of the Farmer’s Market was exciting.
“Up and at ‘em. We’re going to market today.” Grandpa whispered in my ear.
"OK!" I answered slowly crawling out from under my warm comforter; I scrambled to dress for breakfast. I was seven years old, and did not nap during this first hour-long drive in the dark, as the excitement consumed me. We sold our produce out of the back of the truck in those early years.
When the day was finished and the dusk was upon us, Grandpa handed me a crisp dollar bill. “You can spend half,” he instructed, “and save the other half for a rainy day.”
Distracted by the commotion of the dog barking, I glanced up to see a small yellow car raising dust on the road. Now days you could not tell which neighbor might be coming or going. All vehicles were the same make, model and the color designated what year it was manufactured. Choice went by the wayside when Government Motors became a quasi-public corporation.
Returning to my reminiscences, I was now attending high school and times had changed for Grandpa. He had health inspectors and sales tax certificates to deal with and was required to give each customer a receipt.
“Darned bureaucrats.” He grumbled.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
"Well, capitalists encouraged people to borrow towards wealth. Buy now and pay later."
Curious and wanting to know more, "Grandpa, what's bad 'bout that?"
"Son," he stooped down to one knee to look me in the eye and answered, "You can't make money using money that ain't yours." He stood up and continued, "Most of these guys here believed that ruse. They bought high tech equipment, putting people to work in factories."
"That don't sound bad."
"It can be, son. Tell me," he continued, "If your tractor works, why buy a new one on credit?"
Thinking really hard for a good answer, I proudly responded, "Cause it has air conditioning?"
"Well," sitting down in his lawn chair beckoning me closer, "Did that air conditioning grow tastier produce?"
I did not think of an answer before he continued, "Supply and demand is a careful balancing act. Keep expenses low and supply a good product. Set your prices to make a fair profit, spend, and save it wisely. Capitalism thrives with the risk of failure or success. Take the risk away with easy loans, subsidies and bail-outs and success loses too."
This was the beginning of my education in capitalism.
Then along came the financial crisis of twenty-Ten. The economy took a nosedive. Those legislators in Washington passed a financial reform act that gave the Federal Reserve the right to seize banks, by some complicated accounting formula, if they became insolvent. The Fed. confiscated assets and property that had any debt against it. Farmers lost land that had been in their families for generations. Everybody, more or less, worked for the government these days.
"Darn bureaucrats." I screamed aloud to no one. "I should be grateful," they say, "that I am still allowed to grow enough for personal consumption."
"Grandpa!" I could hear coming from off in the distance. I was almost finished with the weeding in the small licensed garden plot. I glanced up to witness my gregarious under-nourished seven-year-old grandson skipping down the gravel driveway. Those bureaucrats that my Grandpa complained about now monitored schoolchildren's weight, as obesity was now a health crime.
"Grandpa," he said excitedly, "we learned about your war today."
“What war was that?” I asked.
“The Economic War of Twenty-Ten, Grandpa.” He answered.
“Well, if you want to hear my story, you pick up the brand new hoe your Momma purchased for me and set to working.”
Word Count: 916
Written for and first place winner of:
Quotation prompt is: “Capitalism has learned how to sell anti-capitalism."