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Tales of a Hay Hauler: ‘Culture Shock’

Brad Nelson Published on 31 December 2012

If you are reading this, then the world did not end in 2012. Just a couple of takes on the Mayan calendar, which some believe show the world ending in December of last year.

One is that the calendar simply restarts and runs to whatever 2012 plus the years from the start of the calendar equals; the other is that the makers of the calendar simply ran out of space and assumed following generations would be smart enough to continue it on carbon-fiber-covered styrofoam.

I’m just south of Nashville, Tennessee, as I write this. I sent the older daughter off to college many years ago, and a fellow native to South Carolina went head-over-heels when he met her.

There was culture shock. The son-in-law said they met when they helped a mutual acquaintance move. He, being of marriageable age and on the prowl, asked her to go with him for a hamburger when they finished.

“Now, I was used to the ladies needing some time to put on their faces and get all prim and proper before even a simple event, so I asked Lara Sue how much time she needed to get ready.

When she said ‘I’m ready now,’ I was dumbstruck,” said Mark as he recounted the experience. Here was a young lady who was dressed in “grubbies” and who was still sweaty and grimy from a moving project who had the confidence in herself to go on a first date of sorts just as she was. Then it got worse.

They went to a local hamburger joint and ordered. They got their soft drinks and found a place to sit. “She promptly picked up my drinking straw and planted it in my drink with the paper wrapper still in place.

While I looked at this and wondered what to do, she proceeded to shoot me between the eyes with the wrapper from her straw.

I sat there in shell shock wondering what to do when she kicked me on the shin under the table. She just sat there with a bit of a grin on her face and I wondered what in the world kind of a wildcat I had just entered into a tangle with.”

He implied that after 20 years of marriage, she is still two or three steps ahead of him.

She had been kind of hanging loose waiting for another fellow to get back in the area. That one I had been hoping would fall off a cliff or something.

She called and told me about her new discovery. Just little things, like he had his own car. He managed his own checking account. He treated her like a princess.

She had called to ask my advice, and I did my best to keep my mouth shut and let her talk herself into taking this southern gentleman seriously.

Not long after came the big trip where he drove her to Washington State so she could show him off to the family. He must have figured that her family could somehow be tolerated, since it was not long after that trip that we got the call that made the engagement official.

His plan took him back to the South where he worked to establish residency – and then the southern colleges that had the programs he felt were the most powerful in what he wanted to do with his life.

As far as I know, he never incurred any debt while ending up with his MBA degree. We got to see Atlanta twice, when the two grandsons were born.

Sue followed close behind finishing her own education, and when I asked her about her degree, which was worded different than Mark’s, she said, “That means I’m worth more money than he is.”

Mark just stood there and acted like he could never be prouder of her.

Mark accepted employment with an accounting firm in Atlanta. In less than a year, he realized he hated the work. Real estate appraisal had funded most of his education, and it wasn’t bad work, so Mark went back to it.

With lots of blood, sweat, tears and an interesting time through the upset of 2008-2009, the kids ended up at Nashville and now operate their own appraisal firm.

It’s nice to see the kids do well as a family. It doesn’t hurt that they also have enough and to spare.

We have to take pictures when we get together, so the friends of the Tennessee gang can see where the grandsons get their height. I offered the oldest one half of my fat for half of his skinny; he’s thinking about it.

The other end of the culture shock is that the son-in-law is the grandson of some of the last true southern aristocracy. That causes my daughter to roll her eyes and correct me on the finer points of manners.

I’ve mentioned to her before that she has to expect something like that when the son of southern aristocracy marries the daughter of the king of rednecks. I really try to be polite and not embarrass her.

A young man struggling with life said to one of his elders, “You really don’t care what I do to earn a living, do you?” He was answered that any honest, honorable line of work would be most adequate.

He went on to explain that youth should search out what they enjoy doing and then educate themselves to be able to make a living doing what they already enjoy. This is one of the secrets of happiness.

I know a man who is seen by those around him as a workaholic. To this man, every day is a day of pleasure, since he honestly enjoys what he does each day.

He also had a run-in with culture shock. He said, “I can teach a man how to weld, but if he doesn’t know how to work, I can’t help him.”

My son-in-law had the opportunity to observe his style one summer. He has commented repeatedly of seeing this man give directions to an employee, sometimes by positioning pieces of steel and tack-welding them together for the employee, then asking the man if he understood how the parts went together.

When the employee answered “yes,” he would leave. Discussing the observation, the boss commented that after the man knew how to do the job, there was no need for him to hang around to watch.

In what is referred to as “the summer from hell,” my son-in-law and one of my sons shared time together and learned from each other.

The son-in-law commented that Dan’s insistence that a load of baled hay be stacked perfectly straight on all sides was important.

He remembers that as he puts together the final paperwork on a real estate appraisal. “An appraisal seems to carry more weight if it is in perfect form when it is turned in.” Now if those two can learn from each other, then culture shock cannot be a bad thing.  FG