Swinehood vs. Socrates

I know that I don’t have the writer’s gift that my aunt Linda Ridener Dickson has, nor that of my grandmother Susan Louise Bailey Dickson.  The two of them set a high bar that I can only aspire to.

bailey-0200-f-v01
Susan Louise Bailey, age 6, and her cow, Blossom

Susan Louise Bailey was born in October of 1919 in Hackett, Sebastian County, Arkansas.  She was the youngest of Charles Council Bailey and Viola Tennison’s ten children.  The farm where she was born and grew up had been in the family since 1840, purchased by Charles’ grandfather Francis Baker Bailey.

(I am convinced, though I have not yet proved, that the family was in Arkansas just prior to statehood.  It appears that some of Francis’ sons claim to have been born in Arkansas with dates of birth that predate statehood, but the census is never a great source.  Another post for another day.)

bailey-docs-0929-p1-v00I think things were often tough on the farm.  Through the Depression, I find lots of cases, especially after Charles died, where the farm was always under a lien for back taxes.  Money appeared to be really tight.  It wasn’t a big place and could never do more than scratch out a living on it.  No one was going to get rich there.

With a rural and difficult childhood, you might be surprised to see Susan not only go to college, but also to get a Masters degree, so that she could grow in her career as a teacher and help take care of her family.

dickson-1493-f-v00-SusanDickson-CommencementGrandmother was a teacher for a number of years in Southside High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas, teaching Math the whole time.   She was a special teacher to many students, taking time with them and helping them to understand the concepts that often seemed beyond their grasp.  So appreciated was she that she was recognized as Teacher of the Year.

I think she could be a tough teacher, expecting a lot of her students in terms of academics and in terms of behavior.  But she could also be a lot of fun.  She was always willing to go out of her way to support her students, attending football and basketball games and helping out with various activities.

And she could be an enforcer in class.  She would growl at her students.  It was a low, rumbly growl like an aggravated bear.  They knew to behave when they heard her growl!  But if that didn’t work, she kept a bullwhip on her desk!  I don’t think she ever had to use it.  Somehow, I think both of these are pedagogical techniques not commonly used in the classroom today.

But back to the gift for writing.  Dad shared a brief essay that Grandmother wrote for a class at her funeral.  This must have been in a freshman English class, based on the date – January 1938.  The class was English 103a.

In an assignment on Appearance, Mechanics, Style, and Content, the students were asked to address the question of whether you would rather be a live pig or a dead Socrates.  Here is Susan Louise Bailey’s classic answer to that question:

Sue Bailey
English 103a
January 13, 1938
Appearance, Mechanics, Style, Content

Swinehood vs. Socrates

I must confess that to be either a live pig or a dead Socrates would not be very desirable to me; however, being a swine might have some merits.  In a discussion of the subject a short while ago, a person said “at least Socrates is dead.”  This statement cannot be disputed; but, dead though he is, I am sure that Socrates is unable to sleep peacefully because of the beratings of harassed students struggling with his philosophy and teachings.  After an unhappy existence on earth, troubled with a scolding, brawling wife and stupid children, as well as many scornful enemies, to be troubled even in death by the chiding of one’s victims would be absolutely unbearable.

The swine, on the other hand, has few troubles in life and none in death if he has been a well-behaved swine.  He has nothing to do but doze in the warm sunshine.  If the sunshine becomes too warm, he has only to go to the shade to doze.  He does not have to go to school because there is nothing which he needs to learn.  It is unnecessary for him to work because he is provided with food and shelter.  This lucky swine has no diet to be observed religiously because obesity holds no terrors for him; in fact, the more obese he is, the more admiration he receives.  Most people, in considering the choice of a pig’s life, raise their hands in holy horror at the thought of the food given to swine.  Of course, such food is very repulsive to human beings; but we must remember that the swine does not know anything about our mode of living and is, therefore, content with his lot.  Some might object to the fact that the pig will soon be killed for food.  Since this is true, the choice is not between being a live pig or a dead Socrates, but a choice between being a dead pig or a dead Socrates.  After the pig is dead he is appreciated more than while he is alive, because people enjoy eating the pork roast and ham sandwiches into which he is transformed.  Instead of cursing him for having ever lived, people think kindly of him and his spirit rests peacefully.

As I said before, neither idea appeals to me; but if I were forced to make such a choice, I would rather be a live pig who lives in indolent contentment and by his death brings pleasure to human beings.  I hope that, after my death, I will be as kindly remembered as the swine is.

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More on Hudson Wren

wren-0551-f-v00-HudsonWren-ProgressiveFarmerAfter I posted a bit about my grandfather, Hudson Wren, on the 111 anniversary of his birth, my aunt shared with me a brief autobiography and memory that he put together.  It’s interesting to hear about farming in northeast Arkansas in the Depression and during World War II, so I thought I would share it.

This was written out on 3 pages of the yellow legal tablets that Papaw always used.  I have a number of Sunday School lessons written the same way.  I think this may have been written as background when he was selected Man of the Year by Progressive Farmer magazine.

But, here’s a bit about Hudson Wren, in his own words, emphasizing the some of the things he thought were important.

Hudson Wren
Wilson, Arkansas

Born: July 18, 1906
Hill farm in Nevada County, Arkansas (Prescott, County Seat).
Graduated: Prescott High School
College: University of Arkansas – degree in Agriculture
Football – University of Arkansas Razorbacks 1927 & 1928

Upon graduation entered Vocational Agricultural field working with High School boys. First job was the establishment of a new Vocational Agricultural Department at the Portland High School (Ashley County) Southeast Arkansas Delta area. [1930]

Three years later (1932) came to Wilson, Arkansas as Vocational Agricultural Instructor.  Worked closely with the management of Lee Wilson & Company.

In the spring of 1933, the Roosevelt Administration came into into office and implemented a program to plow up each third row of cotton because of oversupply and low prices.  While still in Vocational Agriculture was pressed into temporary duty as inspector for Federal plow-up program.  Traveled Northeast Arkansas where got to view much fine farm land and meet many wonderful people.  This program known as Agricultural Adjustment Act was the forerunner of ASCS.

In 1934 succeeded Stanley D. Carpenter as County Agent of South Mississippi County. At that time the Federal Agricultural Adjustment Program was administered by the County Agricultural Extensions Service.

Shall never forget some of the headaches incident to this early program, especially in 1934 when there was a difficulty in securing the “Bankhead Certificates”, a type of permit necessary for a farmer to have before he could either gin or sell his cotton.  The crop was early (August) and the certificates were late (September).  Farmers were broke and disgruntled because of the unnecessary delays cause by Government red tape.  Such was indeed a critical time for the farmer.  All were greatly in dept, the creditors were pushing them for payment, there was a good cotton crop in the field opening fast, but the Government procedure was obstructing the normal operation procedure.

With the help of an excellent County Committee:  J.F. Thompkins: Burdette; Rufus Branch, Pecan Point; and Clay Ayers, Osceola; South Mississippi County did manage to be the second county in the State to receive their allotment of “Bankhead Certificates” and were able to gin the cotton slightly late, but much ahead of any other group of farmers except Pulaski County.

A little nostalgia:
At the time of the plow-up campaign of 1933 the idea was so novel that farmers could not imagine such action.  Cotton was celling for 4c-5c per pound.  “The bank holiday” of March 1933 was fresh on the minds of everyone.  Banks were going broke, Insurance Companies were being forced to foreclose on mortgages, entrepreneurs were jumping from tweleve story buildings, as this county was in the depths of the greatest depression it had known.

Henry A. Wallace was Secretary of Agriculture and reluctantly he decided to take some remedial action after the Plow-Up was announced and it became evident that it was going to be generally accepted the price of cotton increased from 4c-5c per pound to 5c-6c per pound.  Not much in dollars but that one cent represented a 20% advance.  By 1934, the time of the “Bankhead Certificates”, the price of cotton had increased to a whopping 7c per pound – $35.00 per bale.

In 1935 the USDA began a rather comprehensive action program in this County.  USDA leased 12,000 acres of farm land and moved “Rural Rehabilitation clients” onto this tract in an effort to help see them through the depression.  At about the same time the Federal Government bought 16,000 acres of cutover timber land and started a project of development.  This was the beginning of Dyess, Arkansas having taken its name from W.R. Dyess of Luxora, Arkansas who was the guiding spirit behind this undertaking.

[Little Rock] In the fall of 1935 I joined USDA as State Farm Management Specialist. Later became the Regional Farm Management Specialist.  In 1938 I became Arkansas State Director of Farm Security Administration within USDA.  During the ten years I was with USDA I held the positions of Assistant Regional Director FSA, at Raleigh, N.C., and later Regional (seven southeastern states) Director of War Food Administration at Atlanta, Georgia.

In 1945 I returned to Mississippi County as a practical farm operator.  My position was Unit Manager of 12,000 acres of land in the vicinity of Marie, Arkansas.  This involved taking over a tract of land which had been leased out and allowed to grow up by the former operator.  All equipment had to be purchased at a time of strictest rationing and controls.  This involved bartering, trading, and even dismantling a railroad, trading the steel to a farm implement company for farm tractors with which to farm the land.

In 1951 I became Vice President of Lee Wilson & Company, a diversified agricultural-industry operation in South Mississippi County, with operations in Crittenden County, Arkansas and Elko County, Nevada.  There are sixteen departments or divisions within Lee Wilson & Company, representing a wider diversity of interests.

Civic affairs:

  1. One of the original incorporators of Mississippi County Soil Conservation District and a member of the governinging board since its foundation.  Served as President of the Board two terms, a total of eleven years.
  2. Past Chairman of Rural Development Authority that authorized original survey of Mississippi County, its needs, and helped formulate plans that have served as a basis for water-sewer development in rural areas.
  3. Past member of State Board of Economic Education, State Department of Education
  4. Past President (1972-1973) of Arkansas Soybean Association.  Now serving as Chairman of Research and Extension Committee of Arkansas Soybean Association.
  5. Member of Board of Directors of Bank of Wilson
  6. Member of Board of Directors of Mississippi County E.O.C. Inc.
  7. Church affiliation: Methodist.  Member of the Official Board of the Wilson United Methodist Church.  Two terms as Chairman of the Board.
  8. District Representative of Methodist Children’s Home, Little Rock, Arkansas
  9. Mayor of the Town of Marie, Arkansas