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Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Smokey Briggs


By Smokey Briggs

The Greatest Generations'

biggest failure

I saw Slim out at the auction barn a couple of days ago.

We were just shooting the breeze and talking over the merits of pretty little dun mare when this couple walked up.

They were pretty average I guess. 30-something with diet-cokes in hand and two grade-school-age wild monkeys dressed like kids.

The man stuck out his hand toward Slim and Slim shook his hand.

"I just want to say thank you," the man said.

"For what?" Slim asked, after pulling his cigarette out from between his lips.

Well, it turns out that somebody gave this guy a copy of Tom Brokow's "The Greatest Generation," for Christmas, and he read some of it, or at least the dust jacket, and was recently enthralled with the folks that survived the Great Depression, fought and won World War II, and then built the America we enjoy today.

Slim nodded, smiled, answered questions, and was generally polite to the couple as their monkey/kids terrorized a shetland pony from behind a fence. (Like all shetland ponies this one was evil and so we didn't worry about it - eventually it would get its revenge. They always do).

I just watched. All the while this guy was talking with Slim I could tell his wife was getting more and more irritated. Finally she couldn't take it anymore.

"I don't mean to be rude but that is a disgusting habit," she said nodding toward Slim's smoldering cigarette. "And it will kill you," she added with finality.

"Well, you are rude," Slim said. "I'm out here bothering nobody and ya'll came to me. But while we're on the topic of disgusting, let's talk about diet-coke and the extra 40 pounds of fat ya'll are packing. Now that," Slim said glancing at her hips, "that will kill you."

"And just so we're straight on the matter - I've seen a lot of life and death. This trip on earth is pretty short and I plan to enjoy it, including these cigarettes. If they kill me, fine. But it's a choice, just like your choice to drink cokes, not exercise, get fat, and die from it."

Well, the conversation didn't go far from there.

"That's a shame," Slim said later.


"Because they don't get it. What they like about my dad's, and your granddaddy's generation is the results, but they don't like the methods at all?"


"Sure. The rules. The attitudes. These days we make fun of, or criticize, nearly every aspect of that generation."

"Back then if a man smoked a cigarette, it was his choice. It wasn't anybody else's business. Most folks got a few bad habits. Mine happens to be pretty obvious."

"Back then spanking kids was how you did it. Today spanking is nearly child abuse. But it's okay to raise little hellions like those two," he said nodding toward the monkey/kids hanging on the shetland pen.

"Back then divorce was hard to get and considered a disgrace. Today it's perfectly okay to walk out the door on your wife and kids, or husband and kids for that matter. "

"Back then school boys settled problems with a black eye and bloody nose. No big deal. Today a little scuffle requires three counselors, two lawyers, and some pansy trained in non-violence awareness."

"Back then men and women both knew that they were different from one another - and men generally treated women with respect, and vice versa."

"Back then it was a disgrace not to answer the call when your country needed you. "

"These days we laugh at anybody who suggests there is right and wrong and not just a big gray area. But black and white was good enough for the "Great Generation."

"Back then, lots of American boys grew up shooting. And when we went to war, our boys out-shot everybody else. It made a difference. These days nobody wants to hear that. Guns are just bad."

Slim took a final drag on the cigarette and ground it out on the fence post.

"They were great, but we are going to do everything exactly opposite of the way they did it and hope for the best," he said with a chuckle.

"I guess the only thing the "Great Generation" failed at was raising kids with a lick of common sense," Slim said. "Probably their only big failure."

"I'm hungry," he said. "Do you think we can get a hamburger without the cholesterol police catching us?"

"Yeah. I may even bum a cigarette afterwards," I said.

"Naw. It's a bad habit and you've got enough of your own."

"Then I'll have double-cheese on that burger."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Smokey Briggs is the editor and publisher of the Pecos Enterprise whose column appears on Tuesdays. He can be e-mailed at:

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