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Drive carefully, the kids are back in school

August is half over and the kids are back in school. Be careful while driving near schools and in residential areas. My neighborhood is so much quieter during the day without the hordes of neighborhood youngsters on skateboards, bicycles and with basketball games in the streets and cul-de-sacs.

There is an empty street that runs behind my house that is an ideal place for a portable backstop and night pick-up games under the street lights. Unfortunately on other nights the same block of asphalt is used as a drag strip or a tail-gate party zone. The Madera Police Department patrols the area regularly.

When I was in school, classes started in September, usually the Monday after Labor Day. Several times, the beginning of the school year was delayed an additional week because the students were needed in the field for the grape harvest. Lots of Madera Baby-Boomers will remember earning money for school clothes during the summer harvest.

Whole families took to the field to pick grapes or chop cotton. Some followed the crops. One of my aunts told the story of how at age 18 she informed her beau that they either needed to get married or she had to go with her family to Washington to pick apples. They got married, had four children and spent 60 years together before the husband died.

Today, very few grape crops are hand picked. A few area boutique wineries or small acreage vineyards still have people cut grapes, but the majority of Madera County’s grapes are harvested by machine.

Tubs and those scary-looking hooked-blade grape knives were once a common item for sale at many stores during the summer months. Hardware stores and places like the Grand Central, Hal’s and Frank’s Market all sold these harvest accessories.

Many middle- and high-school students earned money by hiring out as temporary field workers. Are there still students who work in agriculture during the summer? Our parents believed that working in the fields as kids was an excellent motivator to us to study and get good grades to avoid field work as a permanent career choice. Those types of object lessons are no longer taught.

According to, minors 14 to 15 years of age may work up to three hours on a school day, eight hours on a non-school day and 18 hours in a week, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. when school is in session, (or) until 9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day and as many as 40 hours per week when school is out. I do not envy parents trying to instill work ethic in their offspring.

When the economy was at its worst, the jobs that were normally held by underage workers, say in the fast food industry, had been filled as either second jobs for the under-employed or primary employment for the out-of-work.

In the Aesop fable of the grasshopper and the ant, the grasshopper played music all summer as the ants worked to store food for the winter. When fall arrived the hungry grasshopper begged the ant for food who turned him away. The moral of the story being a time for work and a time for play. Today the grasshopper would file for government assistance and the ant would be forced to share his food.

We live in a moment of history when the average person need not take responsibility for tending to his or her own needs. My parents’ generation would do without rather than accept government handouts.

We have generations of people who have not worked, whose parents didn’t work and their grandparents before them, did not work.

I had a friend who as an unwed mother gave her children each three names in addition to her last name because she didn’t want her child’s file confused with another’s at the county welfare office. I was appalled then and still am today.

Too many people no longer take responsibility for themselves or their children. Women who allow their kids to run wild in places like the bank encourage the children who are being polite to join the melee. I saw a woman with two young sons running around and she just stood there never saying a word of correction to halt the ruckus. It was if she was immune to the noise and the behavior.

I see kids making noise and at the very least I sternly say something along the lines of “Hey, little dudes, inside voices!” Sometimes the parent will take notice and correct the child’s behavior.

I almost got run over by a pair of blond children with a shopping cart at Walmart. One was pushing the cart and the other was standing on the front facing the rear. When I told them to be careful, the mother got indignant and said how dare I speak to her children that way.

Seriously lady, you’re not watching the little speed racers and you have a problem with someone else telling them to slow down? She stomped off in a huff and didn’t say one word to her children.

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