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Firewood man’s take on taxes, takers

By David Kidwell

From a Blue-Collar Gentleman

With hopes that I’ve paid for my last load of the season, I handed my ‘firewood-man’ 60 bucks of legal tender a day or so back. The wood is exceptional, red-oak and locust; so it was worth the price. These mountains are so wonderfully abundant in natural splendor, I sometimes can’t believe the beautiful wood I throw into my stove.

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed splitting wood; but I ain’t much on the sawing. Saws are loud, really loud; and after some time running a chainsaw, as a job for a short while, the chainsaw has become like the jack-hammer for me. Once I learned enough to be more than capable with the tool, the joy of using it diminished.

That is why I don’t mind forking over the cash to the “firewood-man.” My “firewood-man,”(and I have more than one actually), is a gruff busted-knuckle gravelly dude who ain’t got much time to visit because he has other customers waiting on him. He owns a really old truck, or two, and a good saw, or two. He spends his spring and summer season hunting for and sawing up the corpses of the beautiful trees we all love so much. Cutting wood is hot, humid and dangerous work; and most of the cutting is done while the snakes are good and warm and happy and ready to strike.

The fellas that do this work truly and clearly live at the cutting edge of freedom. They have no retirement accounts, they certainly don’t have stable steady jobs; and they probably don’t have health insurance. Unless that health insurance is provided by the taxpayers of the United States of America.

It takes a man not afraid of hard-work to individually scrape a life out of the mountain region we live within. I respect these rough and tumble “jack of all trade” people. They are often hard-living characters, but these are the type men that once settled a rugged unsettled mountain range. They are real, they are authentic and they do the best they can to live as free men. Again, I respect them; I respect their approach to life and I respect their appreciation of simplicity. Not everyone agrees with me, certainly, but I’ve always considered that an ample degree of simplicity is a requirement for peace and happiness; of course, that is only the world according to me.

Well, one of these busted-knuckle individualists was helping me stack my purchased firewood the other day. We were in my garage (which has no room for a vehicle because of the pool table) and the television was tuned to a cable news station. The news person mentioned something about President Trump and the President’s displeasure with a dead hero’s’ lack of appreciation for his own funeral. Although I was busy regarding and admiring the awesome steel-like hardness of the locust-wood, my firewood-buddy felt the need to respond to the words from the television. So he broke the silence between the two of us with a surprising remark (surprising to me), he loudly proclaimed, “I love the President; he is gonna straighten this country out! He is finally gonna make all these poor people quit cheating the government. I’m sick and tired of all these ‘takers’ getting’ all of our damn tax money!”

Well, his words nearly startled me; it was like someone squeezed the juice of a lemon into my eyes, I was awakened; so I responded, “Buddy, what did you say? What are you trying to say?”

He continued with an affirming tone, “You know what I’m talkin’ about Doc…(people often refer to me as Doc); all these damn government programs; there’s food stamps and free damn phones and free damn Obama-care health insurance and still yet, welfare. I’m sick and tired of these poor people taking everything. They really ain’t nuthin’ but thieves. They are destroying this country and it wouldn’t be happening if that dumb-ass liberal federal government would quit sending our money to them ‘takers’!”

My brain, for years, has been tempered by empathy; so I did not respond to my firewood-buddy as I might have when I was a younger man. Yet there was, I’m certain, an obvious shift in my facial expression; but even a rough and tumble fella that barely scrapes out a living can read the face of a man in the throes of pure ironic confusion.

My jaw dropped and my mouth was fully open; I gathered myself, genuinely smiled and responded, “Buddy, have you looked around here lately? Well I have; and I ain’t seen one damn poor person doing all that well. They must be horribly inept thieves.” Then I asked him, “Do you have any idea how much money and support the taxpayers of the United States provide to these mountain regions we live in? Do you know how we would have to live if them ‘liberals’ weren’t sending the people around us some food and money?”

I continued, “Do you realize that without U.S. taxpayer assistance we, in this region, could not afford to keep our schools or hospitals or nursing homes open; our roads would be in shambles (much worse than they are now). If we had to rely on the tax monies from Harlan County alone, our hollows would be spattered with starvation, killing children and the elderly.”

In our time, right now, I fear what I spoke is true. I’ve never been able to understand how a county (Harlan County) that put hundreds and thousands of millions of dollars into the state coffers could end up so financially tenuous. From an outsider’s view, it would seem that the coal-counties ultimately got screwed. Why are we not receiving severance tax from Louisville whiskey or Lexington horses? I think it is a fair question.

What is happening now is unfair; but it is here, it is happening and it is painfully clear to all of us. We in this region are experiencing a true American tragedy. However, because we live in a beautiful country, U.S. taxpayers assist us even now; just as this region has supported this state and the nation for an honest one hundred years.

My firewood-buddy walked out the garage door but took enough time to stop turn and comment, “Doc, I know you’re a highly educated man; but you don’t listen too well. You keep talkin’ about taxpayers…….that ain’t who I’m mad at; I ain’t mad at you taxpayers, I’m mad at the federal government!”.

Touché firewood-man; Touché.