— By LARRY M. JONES
I believe it was Edgar Bergen, comedian and ventriloquist, who originally said, “Hard work never killed anybody, but why take the chance.” While originally intended as a joke, it seems to me that many Americans are adopting this as a way of life.
In the latest issue of The American Legion magazine, an article containing data from a Pentagon report cited how obesity in our youth has become a threat to national security. This obesity, along with inadequate education and criminal records, disqualifies three fourths of all American youth from military service. Even the “cream of the crop” that could pass physical standards showed unhealthy characteristics of a sugar rich diet and sedentary lifestyle, frequently rendering them unqualified for battle readiness.
Each time we watch television or read the printed media, we are bombarded with weight loss plans, diet food ads, ads for diet pills, diet supplements, gym memberships, and surgical procedures to provide us with a lean and healthy body. Everyone’s looking for the easy way out. For the most part, America’s obesity epidemic is simply the product of a sedentary lifestyle. No longer is the majority of the population required to work and sweat long hours in the fields, construction sites, and factories across the land. Instead of having their faces buried in an electronic device for hours each day, children used to play strenuous outdoor games that burned up all those excess calories.
We certainly didn’t have weight problems down on the “pore farm” when I was a youngster. Today I struggle trying to maintain a balance between caloric intake and burning off all those burritos. Unlike the earlier days, we worked extremely hard in the fields and in doing our chores. If we were hoeing a peanut or cotton field that was a mile or two from the house, we threw our hoes over our shoulders and started walking. At noon time (dinner for us country folk), we walked home. After dinner and a short nap, we made our way across the pasture back to the field and hoed until the shadows were long. Regardless of how much bacon drippings my mother put in her pinto beans, how much cow butter we put on the hot cornbread, or the fact that most everything we ate was fried, no one was fat or had high cholesterol.
We didn’t use an ATV or diesel powered “Mule” to check on livestock or water gaps. We walked. When we dug post holes for cedar posts, we did it with hand “post hole diggers” and a digging bar. We shoveled sand and gravel into the bed of the pickup and mixed it with Portland cement with a hoe when we needed concrete. It would be many years before the “Easy Button” would be invented.
When Helen and I first married, she was always exercising. I convinced her that she needed to combine garden work with exercise---no wasted effort that way. I suggested perhaps she could harvest onions by getting over the row and doing squat thrusts. Each time she came upright, bring an onion with her. She actually tried it for about 20 minutes. The next day she could hardly get out of bed, and it was at least one more day before she would speak to me.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy Commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County.