In a recent online discussion on labor saving devises and the American cult of efficiency, my friend Maggie reminded me of one of my favorite lessons in the book Farmer Boy. The Wilders threshed wheat by hand and they did it on days that they couldn’t do other things because the weather. It was a job that father and son could do together. Almanzo asks his father why they didn’t hire a machine to it and his answer was full of wisdom…
Almanzo asked Father why he did not hire the machine that did threshing. Three men had brought it into the country last fall, and Father had gone to see it. It would thresh a man’s whole grain crop in a few days.
“That’s a lazy man’s way to thresh,” Father said. “Haste makes waste, but a lazy man’d rather get his work done fast then do it himself. That machine chews up the straw till it’s not fit to feed stock, and it scatters grain around and wastes it.
“All it saves is time, son. And what good is time, with nothing to do? You want to sit and twiddle your thumbs, all these stormy winters days?”
“No!” said Almanzo. He had enough of that on Sundays.
I’m not a Luddite by any means, however, I do believe that we must look at technology very carefully and ask ourselves how it will effect our family life and and culture before we blindly adopt it. A milking parlor would be a more efficient and easier way to milk my cows, but it would also make it so my children would not be able to help milk until they were teenagers. By that time they would have found something else to be interested in and cow milking would not be part of their being. It would be easier to feed cows with a machine in a modern freestall barn, but my children would be left out again. The family farm would have no use for the family. The same holds true for many labor saving devises in the home. I remember a story of a wealthy farmer who had many hired men and two sons. The neighbor came by and asked why his sons were out hoeing corn by hand in a 15 acre field by the road. “You have hired help to hoe corn” he said, “why are your boys doing that?” The farmer replied that he was “not raising corn in that field, he was raising men.” May the Lord give us the ability to think critically in these matters.