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NEW AMERICAN GOTHIC

COLUMN: Keeping a little piece of old Wilton alive

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A few days before Thanksgiving we finished processing turkeys down on the Vincek Farm. Every year a bunch of us show up to spend a few long work days doing the job.

We do it mostly because we want to do our part to help keep the farm going for another year.

Some of us have been doing it for more than a few years.

It’s my time to catch up with old Wilton. It used to quite the agricultural dynamo. Now every year there are more “townhouses,” suburban neighborhoods, convenience store gas stations, distribution warehouses, doctor’s offices and medical palaces being built.

It is not the Wilton of 40 years ago. It is affluent suburbia. I know people who love living there, and enjoy the fact that some of their taxes are paid for by all the economic activity.

And, frankly, all those people help the farm by buying the various produce, including the turkeys.

I’m from a different time. A trip to the mall is onerous to me. A nice fishing stream interrupted by development is my idea of a really bad idea.

But America has gone a different way, and so has agriculture. The mid-20th century way of doing things is obsolete — too much work and not enough money. As my friend Tom Normile said over two decades ago, “We don’t dig holes anymore. We use a backhoe.”

Grownups mow lawns, now, on fancy lawn tractors. Kids look at computer screens. It’s a different world with different expectations.

As far as I can tell, the biggest differences is debt.

When you think about it, financial institutions, the lenders, actually own almost everything, not just some of most things.

But there is no arguing our standard of living as a whole is much improved. I am one of the minority still driving around in vehicles that show rust and age.

My brother the architect says, “I believe in debt.”

It seems to work for him.

But back to keeping that spark of the old time family farm alive. Turkey processing gives us older guys who are left the chance to compare the neuropathy in our well-used feet and our other aches and pains.

It gives the younger guys present a chance to listen in on the thoughts and opinions of the old grumpy fogeys.

It gives me a chance to be around more people than I am used to the rest of the year. More and more my world of work seems to be a solitary endeavor.

It’s fun to step back in time to what used to be called “changing works.” That’s when it was standard for everyone in agricultural communities to pitch in for everyone else, and for labor and tools to be shared for the benefit of the whole. Major hay-making and harvesting would move from one farm to the next until everything was done. “Many hands made light (or I would say, ‘lighter.’ It was still hard physical work) work.”

Believe it or not, I’m not making that up. That’s really how it was done.

That’s why a bunch of us show up every year to help with the turkeys. We want to keep a little piece of old Wilton alive.

Forrest Hartley lives in Hadley, N.Y. Leave a message at new_americangothic@yahoo.com.

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