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Chapter 11 - Surplus and Shortages

I wrote this and published it in the Redwood Ripsaw of Davenport, California last year (1965).

A few years back, this chicken was walking down a country road up in Oregon in search of a new master. The mill where I worked had shut down leaving only thousands of acres of stumps. The owner had taken off for Sunny California to enjoy the fruits of his laboror of other peoples labor, depending on how you look at it.

It's pure hell when a working man reaches the age of 50 because the big outfits will not hire over that age, so you have to rely on the small, haywire, molly hogan, chin whiskered contraptions called small sawmills that are forever shutting down when the market falters, or they run out of timber, go broke, go bankrupt, or sell out. This throws you on unemployment compensation half the time, so, as a result you finally reach retirement age and then your benefits on Social Security are low.

Anyway, this particular mill had shut down, so Im goin' down that road feelin' bad. Well, I have a long hike to the next mill town, so I am humming a few little songs to myself as I walk, just to pass the time away. Lemme see now:

"Oh, the beans are always cold, and the wood is always damp in that wonderful, wonderful life in a lumber camp."

"Yes, well log the draws, and lay the squaws, and lay that timber down."

"Oh, landlord have you a daughter fair, to wash a soldiers underwear, Hinky dinky parley voo." (There's worse verses than that).

"I see that you are a logger, and not just a common bum, cause nobody but a logger stirs his coffee with his thumb."

"Oh, I met a man the other day, I never met before, he asked me if I wanted a job, shoveling iron ore, I asked him what the wages were, and he said ten cents a ton, I said, old feller go chase yourself, Id rather be on the bum."

"You will eat, by and by, in that glorious land in the sky, work and pray, live on hay, youll get pie in the sky when you die."

"Organize, oh toilers, come organize your might, then we'll sing one song of the workers commonwealth, full of beauty, full of love and health."

Well, enough of that, and now for some serious thinking. Well by the rip roaring old Christ! Why didn't I think of THAT before! Why dont I try and get the Government to set up a department of Surplus and Shortages? Hell, I'd be the very man for that job, as I sure do know about surplus, having produced lots of surplus (for the boss), and I've ALWAYS suffered shortages! Yessir, they ought to put me in as head of this new department. Speaking of shortages; right now Ive got to hunt up a good will store, or else hit up the "Sally" (Salvation Army) for a pair of oxfords seeing as my old ones are shot. Cant be walking around town with corks on.

Suddenly around a corner, and thru the brush, there is a town looming up "like a horse turd in a pan of milk" as we used to say in the dear dead horse logging days in the Lake States. Yessir, there she is and I detect a sawmill there, but the burner is dead, no smoke, so dammitt, They must be shut down too! Little man, what now? First off, hunt up the "Town Clown", the Harness Bull, and see if he will let me sleep in the jail. Some risk there, but Im too tired to go on any more today. Besides Ive got writing material in my pack, so Ill write that letter to the President about this new department. That is, if the Bull doesnt run me outta town!

In case I get this fancy job, maybe the President will let me visit the Soviet Union, just to cement friendly relations with that country. Id say, "Now lookee here Krushy[1] old boy. You always seem to be coming up with shortages, and I think maybe I can help you out a bit on that. You see, its dead easy to have whopping surpluses, instead of shortages. It's really quite simple. Just raise prices, increase taxes, speed up the workers a bit more, and presto! First thing you know, you too will have surpluses to brag aboutinstead of shortages.

Another thing: I understand you have no unemployed here in Russia. Now that wont do at all! You simply GOTTA have unemployed so as to get more production of the men on the job. They will work better for fear they may be replaced by some of these unemployed. Another thing I see that is haywire, and not good economics: You pay too much old age pensions to these old workers, and you let them work and make all they can. NO WONDER you got shortages. And still another thing; they tell me you have 50 million union members over here. You guys are just plain NUTS.

Here are some more helpful hints: pay your factory managers more money, and fix it so they can start little private enterprises of their own. Let the individual members of the collective farm have bigger plots of land of their own. They will snitch fertilizer then from the collective, and first thing you know you can have a nice private enterprise set up like crazy. Next you will have too much and you will have to lay off men. Next thing then is to start a war to get rid of the surplus.

The hell of it is though, your people may get wise to you and give you the old heave-ho (which is what they DID)

Frankly, I dont think this idea is not what I thought it would be, so I just better forget about this new Government department and "let sleeping dogs lie." Yes, I better be thinking about another pond monkey job instead of this idle dreaming.

Footnotes

[1] Nikita Kruschev.