Hey Boomer, this is why you need to join a farmers’ market… or start one.
To illustrate, let me continue the story from last month. During the first year I lived on “The Island,” a large fishing resort plunked down in Lake Huron, we cut ice with a team of horses and a big work gang, just like everybody else had done forever. The second year, maybe 1964, we turned a very long page in history that had begun when the modern horse was brought to Canada.
With winter being long and our labour being considered immaterial, it was an easy decision. We would try it. We bought the shiny yellow Alpine (I’m scared of horses anyway). I was about eighty pounds or so, had been cutting wood and carrying water for two years, so I would be “some help.”
Another factor was the knowledge that with a snow machine, my sisters and I could travel a few miles over the ice to the two-room Mission School in Whitefish Falls instead of doing school by correspondence. In theory, we would boat to school until freeze-up, wait at home for two weeks while the ice hardened, cross the ice on the snowmobile until break-up, wait at home for two weeks while the ice melted, then into the boat again.
Melting season on Lake Huron is chancy. The steel boat with our biggest motor could break the drifting and frail ice by raw impact (or if not, we broke the propeller and spent the night in and out of the boat, moving ice cakes aside with axes and splintered oars in conditions too hard to recount).
So late that winter, on a morning with the sun coming up on our faces, we started the usual ice-cutting with our saws, bars and ice chisels. Our team was down to three good men on the ice: old deaf Mike with my old Ojibwa friend to pack the icehouse, and me to do whatever I could. It was a mixed language situation between English and Ojibwa, but back then, the old Ojibwa tended to be very subtle when they spoke English. You watched their eyes as much as listened to their words for the real meaning.
The Alpine maneuvered closer to the ice block haul-out ramp and towed a much lower steel sleigh than the full horse team did. This meant that ice blocks didn’t need to slide along as far or be pushed up the sleigh ramps as high. An added bonus was the lack of the horse’s “semi-solid exhaust.” With just a little extra whiskey, two good men could tong the blocks out of the water and onto the sleigh in one big motion. Everything was going fine as we adapted to our new gas horse until, riding on the back heading up to the icehouse, there was a minor crash and my ankle got caught between the snow machine and the sleigh drawbar.
Did it ever hurt! It swelled up so big I couldn’t get my boot back on. There was no Medicare then. Nothing was falling off so it was something to just live with. For a couple days, I lurched around, being useless and complaining, until it wouldn’t really move much at all. Then my old Ojibwa friend sat me down in the snow and looked right into my eyes.
I looked back at him and he said, “Jimmy, if you don’t get that moving it will never move again.”
This kind of echoed through my head. Old Ojibwa at that time were all healers by virtue of unpleasant experience. So I started flexing, crying, hurting and trying to walk again and it eventually healed on its own.
So I’m now… older than I was. Like many, I have increasing trouble in conversation finding the words. I have something like arthritis crippling my smaller fingers and moving into my good right hand. Again, Medicare can’t fix this. On my long-gone Ojibwa friend’s good advice, I started playing flute and learning music to open up my head and keep my fingers going. Am I any good? Hardly, but that is not the point.
The point is (finally) the farmers’ market where I flog my wares. I have to think hard and talk constantly. My numb little fingers count change, make coffee, put out the signs, make signs. I find it a very good practice for me, as it would be for any older person. The younger people there are very sharp and insightful. They want to succeed, want the community to succeed, and have a bigger stake in the future of our community than we have.
And, surprise, the younger sorts need us old farts. We have the skills and experience to get done everything their phones won’t do. Boomers often don’t need income from a market table, but they need to get out a lot, blow out the cobwebs a lot, and talk, keep moving and thinking.
So starting and floating a market concern, building the skills to make and hopefully sell something is pretty hard, expensive and awkward for loners like me. So what? Do it anyway. Failure doesn’t hurt - it’s the only way I learn anything. I’ve failed at so much, by now I must know everything, and if I don’t, I’ll make it all up and nobody will notice.
The oldest people in the world are in Okinawa, Japan. They get that way because of ikigai, a sense of purpose in life, and moai, an informal social grouping that looks out for each other. My Ojibwa friend would boil it all down to: “Ya don’t keep it movin’, it’s all gonna stop.”