The Pony Pack Murders Optimism Scale

  • Patric Hedlund, editor of The Mountain Enterprise [Gary Meyer photo]

    Patric Hedlund, editor of The Mountain Enterprise [Gary Meyer photo]

By Patric Hedlund

I’m in a profession that seems to manufacture cynics. But only one-half of the old stereotype about journalists who “work too much, smoke too much, drink too much, sleep too little” is accurate for me. I don’t smoke and hardly drink—except raspberry smoothies. The Humphrey Bogart characters in those clever 1940s movies about glamorous, dissolute newspaper folks wearing fun hats would find me a bore. I am guilty of the other two charges however. I work late and rise with the sun, every morning.

I do have a dark secret though, and I’ll tell you if you promise not to spread it around….

Although many plants love me, I am a serial pony pack murderer. Pony packs, for you who do not know, are those optimistic little 8-packs of young flowers or veggies, thriving with a desire to just sink their roots into the tilled earth and grow to the heavens. They are generous and beautiful, given half a chance and a little water. But too often I am called suddenly away and the pony packs don’t get properly planted. I can testify that one newspaper deadline cycle is all it takes for their pretty little lives to expire.

The guilty shame I feel can combine with some of the ugly things I see people do to each other to make me flirt with feeling cynical about humankind.

There are the rare rogue property managers cheating people and causing them to lose their homes, or outright theft of people’s property and their entire life savings. There are the drug dealers and the petty extortion rackets, like a recent one of a local guy who occupies people’s homes without paying rent, milking the system to stay in the property until the owner finally goes to court to get him evicted, more than 7 months later.

Don’t get me started about the big banks’ robo-signing foreclosure scams that a local woman tried to fight, and the unconditional bank bailouts that used our tax funds to reward the same people who most benefited from creating bogus real estate derivatives and flaky mortgage standards in the first place.

Why weren’t they required to repay those same taxpayers by reinvesting in the domestic economy instead of hoarding funds and salting them offshore? I still don’t get that.

And then there is the institutional corruption in the Veteran’s Administration that is finally being revealed on a national scale, which we are reporting about this month.

About the time I get overwhelmed at how bad things are going in the world, and concerned about my ability to ever have faith in human beings as a species again, I become immersed in reporting for this local weekly newspaper.

Suddenly all the answers are there for me. Almost every week these pages tell about our own neighbors who are knocking themselves out to volunteer to help others.

We report about Relay for Life raising over $36,000 to assist neighbors with cancer, and kids pouring through town, washing cars to raise funds for a grieving family that has lost a child. There is the Family Resource Center staff, helping seniors and children. There are random people who have never met each other suddenly working together as a team to try to save a life.

There are the volunteers running our water companies and school boards, or creating the health fair, or groups like Focus Central connecting people to the creativity that keeps them young at any age. There are tiny businesses that make a healthy place for kids to explore, like Computers & Games, and our artists, writers, producers and photographers who share their talent with joy.

There are people working to find homes for puppies and kittens. Three are church groups and Meals on Wheels who take nourishing food and a welcome smile to people struggling with illness. And there are people like Dave and Jill Hicks who are on a mission to make things better for others.

Something about reporting these stories replenishes my faith in others. It even rekindles my own optimism. And suddenly I am able to take the plunge again.

I will buy another pony pack, and give myself one more chance to see those little flowers thriving in the summer sunshine, taking root and growing into what they were meant to be.

That makes me want to thank you, our readers, and our little towns, for the privilege and fun of reporting about your good deeds each week. I’ll let you know how the gardening turns out.

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This is part of the July 11, 2014 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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