I’ve spent most of my life in the company of men- observing them, listening to them, envying them, loving them, despising them, mothering them, and admiring them. I’ve also spent a lot of time being very angry with men, and extremely disappointed in their behavior.
For the first twelve years of my life I lived in a man’s world- the open fields. We saw a few women who worked the grape vineyards and cotton fields and the drying yard, but for the most part the farm laborers who worked beside us were men and boys. When we lived on the dairy- men. When my dad worked for a construction crew in Texas-men.
And at home my primary contacts were my parents, grandparents, an aunt, two uncles, two great-uncles, and my three brothers. My mother was not a “joiner” except for church, and she didn’t have the time or opportunities to make a lot of women friends. We moved once or twice or even three times a year. We often lived in the country, away from other families, and we worked such long hours that my parents had little time for socializing. I recall about three times that they left us and went out with someone else.
I used to think that men were powerful and strong and dependable and industrious. I thought they could, and would, take care of everyone and make the world a better place. That rosy philosophy lasted for about nine years, until I discovered that my grandfather was an alcoholic, my uncle was a convict, and my math teacher was a bully. The world shifted slightly that year and it has never been the same.
Even as an adult I worked for eight years in printing, publishing, and advertising, an industry dominated by men. It wasn’t until I began working in daycare that I really had daily contact with women. So I’ve spent much of my life trying to understand men. I’ve decided that it probably isn’t possible. I’m a woman. Even a child raised with wolves can’t really be one.
I’ve had these thoughts rattling around in my brain because our community recently lost three good men. I wasn’t particularly close to any of them since I didn’t spend that much of my childhood here. But I knew them in passing and from church and from a few business dealings. I knew them because they were friends and family of friends and family. That’s what it is like in a small town. And I know that Caddo will not be able to replace them.
I spend about twenty to thirty hours a month researching and reading about the men and women who have lived in Caddo since 1872. After five years of this I have come to the conclusion that while women have always worked for the establishment and betterment of the town and continue to do so, the number of men doing the same has waxed and waned to an alarming low point. Caddo once had a group of 52 businessmen who formed a club in order to improve and promote the town. Many of our senior men spent their prime years focused on church, family, and community. They worked hard to provide a living for their families and to care for their neighbors. Now they are dying off at an alarming rate.
In the meantime there has been a shift in our society that has meant a dramatic change in community service. More women are working fulltime and caring for their families while trying to help in their church and community. More men are working fulltime while indulging in self-gratification: sports, hobbies, video games, and personal improvement (running, body building). It is not my imagination that many of the mothers I come in contact with complain constantly about being alone. It is not my imagination that many men know more about the NFL than what is going on in their own neighborhood. It is not my imagination that many men care more about the size of their next television or the apps for their new phone than they do about upgrading the local school.
I don’t mean to trash men. And I know that the older generation had its faults. But as a whole, as a group, I think they were more mature and dedicated and selfless. They grew up in different times and had different expectations. Perhaps I just admired the wrong generation. The men who are now seventy to ninety were the foundation of our town that exists now. I’m just afraid that when they are all gone the town will go too.