I’ve posted about the peanut butter sandwich era, also known as “The Austerity Program.” Along with the lunchtime economy, my parents employed other means of saving money, particularly on food.
One day, the local Agway Feed Store advertised, “Fifty free chicks to each adult. Bring your own container.” Dad’s inner farmer immediately saw the possibility of low-cost meat filling the freezer. He and mom hurried down to Agway and took the chicks out to a brother’s (Gary) farm about a half hour away from our home in town and not far from where we used to live.
At the same time, he went halves on a heifer with another pioneer brother. He named our half “Herd,” so that he could say, “Come out and see my Herd.” Ha, ha. “Herd” joined Gary’s actual herd and enjoyed a happy, if brief, life of rustication.
Not content with these cost-saving measures, Dad also planted a garden at Gary’s where we grew onions, tomatoes, corn, green beans, and Swiss chard. Unfortunately, not having ready access to the farm made it difficult to properly cultivate the garden. A couple of times we went out there to weed and had a hard time distinguishing the plants from the weeds. It’s a bad sign when you can weed your garden without bending over.
Meanwhile, the chickens were eating like feathered pigs, and trips to the feed store were frequent, even though a considerable number of them got pecked to death or just keeled over from some other unknown cause. Agway, as it turned out, had seen us coming.
Dad finally ordered the execution of the flock. He beheaded the birds and dunked them in hot water to loosen their feathers, my brother and I were put on plucking duty, and Mom, with her surgical background, did the gutting.
Confronted with my first warm, dead bird, I nearly lost my lunch. I grasped a bunch of feathers and spent the next 5 minutes gagging. Mom said, “You don’t want to be a nurse,” and sent me packing down to the execution station. For some reason, watching Dad chop off heads was less upsetting than plucking feathers.
I don’t think Dad ever did an analysis of how much that chicken cost per pound. I doubt sincerely that we saved any money.
“Herd” met her end later that year, and one day I arrived home from school to find huge chunks of dead cow (known as primal cuts) resting on every flat surface in the kitchen. Dad was in the dining room with the grinder clamped to a chair, a large tray of meat chunks, and two salivating cats.
My mother handed me a large knife and set me to work cutting up meat. I cut my finger within 10 minutes and was dismissed from the kitchen to help Dad fend off the cats, thank goodness. My brother met a similar fate when he arrived home.
Parental fatigue set in after a little while, and their amateur efforts resulted in some odd cuts of meat. Finally they gave up and we ended up with a lot of hamburger instead of roasts and steaks.
Meanwhile, the garden was producing an abundance of Swiss chard and green beans which had to be prepared for freezing. I spent many a long afternoon blanching, chilling, and measuring out vegetables, stuffing them into freezer bags and securing them with twist ties (alas, Ziploc had not yet been invented).
All of these measures, of course, were for the sole purpose of putting kingdom interests first and making it possible for my parents to pioneer.
There was one other cost-saving move: Ditching the Chevy Impala (comfortable, full-sized sedan) and purchasing a Volkswagen Beetle (a bare-bones tin can with seats).
While the Impala had 4 doors and could seat 6, making it an ideal field service car, the Beetle was a 2-door compact car designed for the maximum discomfort of the back-seat occupants. The Impala had a few little luxuries that the Beetle lacked, such as a competent heater for those below-zero (F) winter days and nights common in that part of Maine.
My brother and I gamely took to the back seat while Mom learned to drive a stick shift.
Shortly after the Beetle appeared in the driveway the Society announced our first round of tract work, which was to be sort of a blitz-the-territory type of event. Our congregation territory being largely rural, meant a lot of pulling into a driveway, exiting the car, and then getting back in before driving to the next house. The Beetle was never meant for this type of action.
Dad, however, devised a plan whereby we would rotate between seats. Here’s how it worked: The person in the front passenger seat would go to 3 doors in a row. Then Dad would take a door, and the person immediately behind the driver would get out and run around the car to the front passenger seat. Meanwhile, other person in the rear would slide over to behind the driver, and the former front seat passenger would crawl into the back. Or something like that.
We even took the Beetle for an 8-hour drive to the International Assembly in Montreal.
I can’t say with any confidence that any of these money-saving ideas paid off, but we sure as hell advanced the kingdom interests – with a vengeance.
As a footnote, I now own a Volkswagen New Beetle (not the 2012 abomination) and love it. But I’m in the driver’s seat advancing my own interests.