DANCES WITH WORDS: Who needs an exercise machine!

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Nick Wolochatiuk

Think back to the New Year’s resolution you made. That annual membership to the ‘Abs R’ Us’ fitness emporium is still gathering dust on top of the television set. Those new cross-trainers you bought are still in the box. Since the Christmas turkey dinner you’ve added two holes in the belt for your too-snug trousers.

In your grandfather’s day, none of the above would have happened.

To start off the day he carried in four armfuls of firewood to keep the wood stove going. All that firewood had been cut, split and hauled without the benefit of anything that ran on gasoline. The water needed to start cooking the morning’s porridge and to do the dishes was drawn from the well near the barn.

To get to the well and to do the barn chores before breakfast, he had to shovel a path, as yet another blizzard had passed through during the night. After the hay for the cattle and horses was thrown down from the mow, it had to be distributed to each of the animals. Of course, water had to be drawn for them too, bucket by bucket, pull of a rope followed by more and more pulls of the rope.

Chores done, it was time to walk to work at the smelter. Even if he had a car, which he didn’t, he wouldn’t have driven it to work. Gasoline, even at 20 cents a gallon, was far too expensive to burn on something as trivial as a two-mile walk to work. On the way home from the smelter he’d carry some needed groceries. His root cellar still had some turnips, potatoes, onions and carrots he’d grown in his garden. However, it provided no salt, molasses or flour.

With all that walking, shoveling, pulling, lifting and carrying, there was no need to punch yet another hole in his belt.

Until he managed to save up enough money, his one-speed bicycle would be his mode of transportation to get from the farm to town, where the woman who would one day become your mother lived. He fancied her enough to make the ten mile ride to see her every weekend, whenever the roads were clear enough.

Together, they would one day add another room to their modest 600 square foot home. They’d trim the rough cut boards to length, and shingle the roof by climbing up a home-made ladder. The backyard garden would have to be expanded to provide for the extra mouths to feed. The sod would be broken with a sharp spade, not a rotary tiller. No bags of chemical fertilizer would have to be trucked from the village hardware store. As a start, the soil was rich enough. As more produce was extracted from the soil, the waste from the animals would be used to enrich it. There was no such thing as ‘waste’ back then.

The only pot bellies back then were on pigs and stoves. Lifestyle was the personal fitness trainer. There was no television to entice us to while away the hours. Feet and bicycles were the mode of transportation. Work boots are better for fitness than loosely-laced so-called running shoes. The patina on denims in those days was the result of real activity, not applied by some machine in a factory.

Exercise machines are a modern invention, made necessary by the elimination of doing real things.

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  • Bruce Sherman
    March 24, 2014 - 10:13

    Nick's long list of his Grandpa's Weight Watcher Work regimen really addresses the cogent issues in our "quick fix" approach to living in our current society. We hire out and pay for others to motivate... entertain and be responsible for our own daily needs... and even worst for our children's. We model this "quick fix" mentality leaving no surprise for any intelligent... thinking individual to quickly understand reasons underlying the rapid rise in obesity and diseases associated with improper diet... excess and zero exercise. Sadly... it is our youth who now display its worst symptoms. However, one must pose one question Nick... to offer the other side of the coin. Every coin has two sides... n'est-ce pas vrai? What was the average expected life span of "grampas" in your hard working grandad's day? Perhaps ... as is always the case... we should aspire to meet ... somewhere in the middle! Let's work at it! Cinch up! Enjoyed your article! Cheers! Bruce Sherman