Cuttin' Back

This here’s Stretch Coyote talkin’ at ya.

When I was a little cowboy, well, a little boy with a bicycle for a horse and a six-shootin’ cap gun, I just naturally assumed life would get better as I got older. I thought that was what the so-called American Dream was all about. What with all these newfangled innovations like television sets and air conditioning, I thought the future was about makin’ life more entertainin' and comfortable.

But now the electric company tells me I’d be a better person if I stayed hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The water company tells me that my days of leisure, soakin' sore muscles in a warm bathtub after a long day of mowin' and blowin', are over; that it’s my civic duty to jump into the shower just long enough to get moist and soapy and then get the heck out. And what the hell was I thinkin’ when I flushed my toilet every time I took a leak? Some sustainable eco-friendly enviro-poet even made up a little jingle: “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.”

I can understand times of crisis when we all have to cut back, but it does seem kinda like these gluten-free, carbon footprinters are getting’ a bit too personal when they go to talkin’ about my bathroom habits.

So OK, I suppose I was livin’ in a fool’s paradise to actually have some nice heat-absorbin’ grass growin’ around my domicile. I’ll just keep my cowboy boots on when I go outside, walkin’ on that lovely hot gravel that simmers where my cool green grass used to replenish Planet Earth with oxygen. After all, my hybrid mix of crabgrass and locoweed died anyway after the local water police told us we couldn’t water our lawns except on religious holidays.

Now I suppose if you’re in the water, electricity or gasoline business, things are probably workin’ out real good. Once upon a time water, electricity and gasoline were relatively cheap and plentiful. Now they’re rare jewels worth any price we are made to pay for them. Not that any of those commodity oligarchs planned all this out. How could I be so cynical? Yeah, how could I? After all, you gotta shut them oil and gas refineries down for maintenance sometime, so why not do it in summertime when folks is travelin’ and can’t say no to risin’ gasoline prices?

When I was a little cowboy, a regular fellow like my pap could have a job that would buy his family a house and put food on the table. And if mom was not a career-type person, she could stay home with the kids and the family would still be OK, puttin’ a little money away for rainy days and retirement.

Yeah, I know, now we’re livin’ in a great big, interconnected world with competition for wages that go beyond our national borders. If somebody in Bangladesh is willin’ to work for ten cents an hour, then what do we expect rich factory owners to do? Take care of their own people? Now that’s a pretty dang old-fashioned idea, ain’t it? I do understand. It’s just business. It's the new American Dream—cuttin' back and payin' more.

But I just can’t shake the feelin’ that the fix is in, that no matter how hard you try to keep your head above water, there’s always somebody pushin’ you back down—somebody in a big yacht.

~ Stretch Illustration by John Sherffius
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