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By Nash Black
“I don’t get no respect,” was the signature line of comedian, Rodney Dangerfield. Poor Rodney never considered that dirt, plain old garden variety dirt beat him by a country mile. We scrub, we scour, and we wash to rid ourselves and our homes of dirt. Take a walk down the aisles of the grocery. Count the number of products designed to be the end-all of end-alls for alleviating our world of dirt.
When we lose our temper with someone, how do we start to lay them low? How many have ever heard someone lash out with, “You dirty so and so?”
A book was published in Scotland on the same day as our Declaration of Independence. It’s title was The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith. Mr. Smith’s ideas of economics have stood the test of time. He never considered the real wealth of a nation is it’s ‘dirt.’ To size up a country’s real wealth an excellent place to begin is with it’s soil.
Great civilizations developed when roaming tribes of hunters and gathers stopped and began to grow their own food. Uncountable numbers of these empires collapse when the soil was drained of its riches. Biblical Babylon, for example, can be traced in part to the erosion that filled the irrigation canals with silt and dried out the farming lands.
When I was in school I remember a teacher saying when Daniel Boone and his brethren forged the Cumberland Gap there was eight feet more of top soil than there is today. It doesn’t take long when you’re part of one of the largest drainage systems in the world. Native plants are removed, fields are tilled, hard rains come, and fine particles of soil mix with the run off in a race downhill to the sea.
Our country has known the horror of watching farms stripped away on the wind when extended drought struck in the 1930s. Measures have been taken to insure this does not happen again on our farms with crop rotation, windrows of trees, fallow fields, no-till planting. Still it has been estimate the U.S. loses several billion tons of topsoil a year.
When you mow your lawn, plant your garden, or dig a ditch bless your fortune that you live in a land that takes conservation seriously and respect the dirt you live on. I’m taking my little plot of land to plant trees which will not mature until long after I’m gone, but maybe they will keep a bit of ‘dirt’ on the land.