Over the weekend, my mom and I were driving through the towns of Atmore, Alabama, and Walnut Hill, Florida, where my grandfather grew up. She pointed something out that seemed applicable to the current status of the U.S. economy.
We were passing by a brick house, a nice house but not huge. My mom said, “That’s the farmer’s house.”
“The farmer that bought the farm Pap-pa used to own?” I asked.
“No,” she explained. It belonged to the farmer who had rented the farmland for many years. She went on, “I guess he had a good deal there. A lot of people told daddy he should have charged higher rent, but he wouldn’t do it. He charged what he thought was fair.”
My grandfather inherited that farm, I think, or maybe he bought it from his uncle. My grandparents invested in a lot of property over the years, some of it used as rentals, some undeveloped. They sold most of it as they got older and needed the money. The farm was the last, I think, aside from their home, and my mom and her two uncles sold that a few years ago.
Don’t get me wrong – my grandparents weren’t wealthy land barons. My grandfather held a variety of jobs over the years, but mostly he worked as a school teacher. My grandmother was a school teacher, too. They had to hide their marriage the first year or so, because female teachers couldn’t be married!
They kept a cow, pigs and chickens when my mom and her brothers were growing up. Pap-pa always had a vegetable garden, too, right up until he died, and he enjoyed hunting and fishing. Those interests of his helped keep his family fed, allowing them to save enough to buy land over the years.
His deal with that long-time farmer included sharing in his crops. I remember going up to the farm a couple of times to pick corn or gather pecans.
After my grandparents retired, they moved from the city out to a waterfront home in what was then a more rural area. They bought a camper and traveled all over the United States, as well as into Canada and Mexico. Pap-pa went hunting and fishing in a lot of different places, they visited family, went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. They paid for all that by renting and selling their properties, as well as with their pensions.
Pap-pa could have listened to those people who said that he could get a higher rent on that property. Maybe they could have had a bigger motor home or a larger boat, or a new car every year. They had what they wanted, though, and what they needed, so they gave another person a chance to earn a living and care for his family and eventually retire to a nice brick house.
My grandparents weren’t wealthy, but they were rich in everything that mattered.