By Nash Dunn
O-N-E Staff Writer
In America, children are introduced to capitalism at a young age.
At home, kids tap moneybag tokens around cardboard games like Monopoly to dominate the housing market and possess the illustrious Boardwalk. At school, children work through math problems where little Jimmy wants to buy a cookie for $2, but only has nickels, dimes and pennies to make up the total.
From the time we can take money in one hand and exchange something in the other, we are economic profiteers. It’s in our blood.
And, in reality, there’s probably no better example of a child capitalist at work than the entrepreneurial 8-year-old selling lemonade for a couple of quarters on a hot summer day. It’s the stereotypical image of a young boy or girl putting way too much sugar and far too little ice in a partially homemade batch of concentrated Country Time lemon squeeze.
Fast forward 40 years, and those grassroot principles are still at work at flea markets and swap meets around the nation. It is average adults selling their personal goods to make a couple of bucks on the side. Only, as adults, their profits help pay for a little more than a new pack of baseball cards or brand new Nerf gun.
In our area, these grown-up lemonade salesmen gather each Thursday at the American Legion Fairgrounds in Newton. Citizens inside, and out, of the county polish their best coin collections and harvest their ripest green and red peppers for the all-day event. It’s like a once-a-week state fair without the rides or country ham biscuits.
Last week, among the many that flocked to the market, was Jackie Wilson. Wilson, along with his wife, sell their homegrown crops at the market from time to time – offering fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes and squash for a couple of bucks a pound.
Sitting on a white and plastic porch chair underneath a tent, Wilson carefully weighed the vegetables on a scale to his left. He wore a plain black T-shirt with pressed blue jeans and boots. All he needed was a cowboy hat that said “manifest destiny” on it, and he would fit the classic cowboy persona created more than a century ago.
After an introduction and friendly chatter, it was time to see how this aged local felt about the times. It only took one mention of the word economy to have Wilson thoroughly explain how those lemonade-stand values America is known for have slowly faded away.
“America has sold out – you show me where she ain’t,” Wilson said, pointing his finger across the world at the Chinamen and overseas merchants the United States bargains with daily.
Wilson said the increasing cost of gas, fertilizer and seed make it hard on the farmers and “poor man” in the nation, saying he’d go broke if he tried to rely on farming alone to make a living.
“They might get the poor man down on his knees, but he’s going to get back up,” Wilson said. “The poor man is going to survive.”
Wilson talked with me for more than 30 minutes about the state of the nation, not double-thinking his thoughts once. It was one of the only times on the job where someone has truly spoken their mind to me with no filter. Wilson didn’t care about being politically correct or withholding information – he spoke his mind and offered solutions. I respect that.
And sure, Wilson may not have the best answers – neither do I. But maybe with a little more conversation, without all the politics, we can get somewhere other than the middle of a seemingly bottomless pit of debt. So, in the future, my kids can take their moneybag tokens and turn them into a reality.
Nash Dunn is a reporter and columnist for The Observer News Enterprise. His column appears in the Wednesday edition of The O-N-E. Reach Dunn at email@example.com .