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« Why the Past Is Impor… | Home | Nostalgic about Brown… »

Then and Now, Slow and Fast

Monday 18 January 2016 at 12:41 am.

This article by Ray Spitzenberge first appeared in IMAGES for January 14, 2016, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

A foreign exchange student from Germany attending East Bernard High School back in the 1990's once said the one thing he couldn't understand about Americans was that they were always in a hurry. He was amazed that we not only had fast food restaurants but also drive-through car washes and banks with drive-by windows.

"Why are you in such a big hurry?" he asked me.

"I'm not," I said, "so you're asking the wrong person." Then I explained to him that I liked the way it was in the 1940's when I was pupil in rural school in Dime Box much better than now (now being the 1990's). No doubt in modern man's attempt to race against time, we have accelerated even more in the two and a half decades since then.

Today, we drive our children and grandchildren to school even if they live three or four blocks from school. In the 1940's, the distance from my house to Dime Box Rural School was about the distance from the East Bernard Dairy Queen to Savon Drug Store. We walked (that's not the three or four miles I used to tell my children we had to walk). Farm kids did live three or four miles from school, and they rode the school bus, or, in a few cases, rode a horse to school. In all cases, nobody traveled very fast.

Located on an outlying farm, my grandparents lived about three or four miles from town and the school. I never rode a horse from my grandparents' house to school, but I did ride with my grandfather to town on a flatbed wagon pulled by an old plow horse many times. We did this on Saturdays to take eggs to town to sell and corn to the mill, and bring livestock feed back to the farm. It was pretty much an all-day trip.

You couldn't hurry a plow horse if you wanted to. The speed of a really good riding horse at a gallop was about 30 to 35 miles per hour, and, believe me, a plow horse pulling a wagon would make only about 5 mph. Grandpa's 1935 Chevy wouldn't do more than 40 miles per hour with my uncle driving it. Those old school buses in those days chugged along about 30 mph, and, as I said, your horse at a gallop might do up to 35 mph, -- so those riding a horse to school could beat the school bus. And while the average healthy person can run about 28 mph, he walks about 3.1 miles per hour (thus it would take you an hour to walk from the farm to the school). Now, if you were a goose you could have made it faster than any of the modes of travel I've mentioned, -- when in a hurry and traveling in a straight line, geese can fly as fast as 55 mph.

Every decade, vehicular travel seems to get faster, whether train, plane, or automobile. Jet planes have already passed the speed of sound (which is 768 miles per hour). At the rate we are going, in a hundred years, automobiles will be traveling that fast, too. At 671,000,000 miles per hour (186,000 miles per second), the speed of light is way out ahead of anything else, though I'm sure that restless, antsy human beings won't stop until they've achieved that speed some way. Wouldn't it have been funny if horses traveled at the speed of sound and you would hear their hooves clopping after you arrived at school?!

Well, that still doesn't answer the foreign exchange student's question as to why Americans are in such a hurry. It seems that many race through the day so that they can spend four hours watching inane, predictable television shows in the evening. Sorry, I suppose that's a rush to judgment, but you know you could do a lot of good talking with your Grandpa and an amazing amount of pondering while snailing along at 5 miles per hour on the flatbed wagon. By the way, snails travel at .00227 mph, so that's an exaggeration of course.

While most people think of turtles as slow-moving creatures, they can walk three or four miles per hour and can swim 10 or 12 mph. The ant is faster than the snail, and travels approximately 19,800 inches per hour (I'm not sure how many miles per hour that is, -- you do the math).

Since I'm not in a hurry to race through life, ambulating with my arthritis and my walking cane, I travel by foot somewhere between the speed of a snail and the slowest of the turtles. I even drive my car slowly, and since I never travel by plane, I will never break the sound barrier. What's the advantage of my ambulatory languorousness? By just walking from my studio to the house, I see the flowers bloom, hear the birds sing, and watch the squirrels throw pecans at each other. What more could you ask for?


Ray Spitzenberger serves as pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wallis, after retiring from Wharton County Junior College, where he taught English and speech and served as chairman of Communications and Fine Arts for many years.

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