Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Acknowledging My Privilege


I was privileged to be raised by hard-working parents. They gave me the privilege of learning how to work hard alongside them. My first memory of that privilege was when I was five years old and my job, with my four-year-old sister, was to watch the baby (about 7 months so he could sit up by then) in the red wagon over by the fence away from the cows while my mother helped my two older sisters (ages 9 and 10) milk the two dozen dairy cows each evening in the summer.

By the time I was 7, I was privileged to learn how to help my sisters, instead of our mother, who had another baby to care for by then. This privilege extended to the entire year, also after school in the winter no matter how cold or snowy it was.

I was also privileged to help with my mother’s 100 laying hens, gathering the eggs every afternoon, and washing them all carefully so she could box them up for her customers. This privilege paid for my piano lessons.

By the time I was 14, my younger sister and I were given the privilege of being the hay haulers. We spent every July and August and Saturdays in September hauling alfalfa bales and straw bales into our sheds so that those dairy cows could eat all winter. Oh, and milking them twice a day, 365 days a year, was also our privilege.

Yes, we had a dad. He spent most of his time irrigating with canvas dams and a shovel, or planting seeds, or mowing hay, or putting out the hay for the animals during winter while we milked. Or any number of jobs that I kept trying to figure out how to do to give him a break. Like filling up the coal buckets so he could carry them into the stove, or finally getting strong enough to carry the bucket myself into the house.

Another privilege I had was working all summer in a resort town so I could earn college tuition, and then cleaning office buildings on campus all winter to pay for my dorm room. At least I didn’t have to milk cows anymore.

I came from privilege, too. My dad was orphaned by age eight and raised by relatives during the Great Depression, so he lived in the lap of luxury… He knew his greatest privilege was having my mom say “Yes” when he asked her to marry him. My mother milked dairy cows, too, as a child. But her privilege was real because her parents stayed alive, and married, and loved her and her sisters. That was my privilege too: loving parents who loved one another.

I know; this started as sarcasm. And yes, I am white. And yes, no cop has ever stopped me because of my skin color and harassed me. I guess what I’m saying: I grew up knowing that if I wanted anything at all in life, I was going to have to earn it through the sweat of my brow because no one in my family ever got anything any other way. It has stayed that way all of my life. I have a college degree (not earned until I was 40 because getting married and having five kids interrupted the first attempt.) But I paid for it with loans and did my homework in between laundry and meals. And I repaid all the loans. If I wanted something, I just figured out how to get it. I worked, I schemed, I sweated and I did it. It’s all I knew.

And I guess the sad thing is that some people in this country have never had the privilege of learning that.

See those big piles of hay? They were put there by me (purple dress) and the cute blondie on the far left. We were 16 & 17 in this photo.

The two big sisters on the right were both married and moved on by the time this picture was taken.

And those were only two of the stacks we made, we also filled up a hay shed, the upper part of our barn, and another stack in a different field. (We were in excellent physical shape…)

(The frowning girl by Grandpa is a cousin…my parents only had 8 kids.)

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  1. Mark Camp Member

    That’s a good message.

    It is so much more the real message of this departing generation of Ricocheteers to the ascending ones than 90 % of what we churn out…nihilistic whining vindictive ridiculing sarcastic crap.

    I hope our young readers appreciate your telling it as much as I did. 

    • #1
    • July 1, 2020, at 4:46 PM PDT
  2. Hoyacon Member

    Post of the Week, Lileks.

    • #2
    • July 1, 2020, at 4:49 PM PDT
  3. Richard Fulmer Member

    It was a privilege to read this. Many thanks.

    • #3
    • July 1, 2020, at 5:13 PM PDT
  4. PHCheese Member

    And someone had to pick up that hey from the other end of those hey eaters and that’s not B.S. Great post.


    • #4
    • July 1, 2020, at 5:23 PM PDT
  5. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    I read Ralph Stanley’s memoirs, and he had a hard childhood in the mountains of western Virginia. He said that he and his brother didn’t know it was hard because it was all they knew. And their mother had a wonderful garden from which she sold surplus produce and fed them well. You had a wonderful family- great post!

    • #5
    • July 1, 2020, at 5:32 PM PDT
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I love your stories, @cowgirl! It sounds like you had a wonderful family and a solid foundation for taking on a full life. Thanks for sharing it with us and reminding us of the value of hard work!

    • #6
    • July 1, 2020, at 6:08 PM PDT
  7. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    And someone had to pick up that hey from the other end of those hey eaters and that’s not B.S. Great post.

    I didn’t even go there…but–yes–“someone”!! It wasn’t B.S. it was Cow S. And there was a never-ending supply!!

    • #7
    • July 1, 2020, at 6:11 PM PDT
    • This comment has been edited.
  8. Jules PA Member


    • #8
    • July 1, 2020, at 9:09 PM PDT
  9. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    And don’t forget America-privilege — born in a place where you and your family could enjoy the fruits of your labors. 

    Great post. Thanks.

    • #9
    • July 2, 2020, at 7:05 AM PDT
  10. kedavis Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Post of the Week, Lileks.

    If you want to be sure to get the attention of @jameslileks it needs to be spelled out.

    p.s. I think so far this post already has about triple the number of Likes of both of Gary’s Posts Of The Week COMBINED.

    • #10
    • July 3, 2020, at 5:07 AM PDT
    • This comment has been edited.