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Clean kind of dirt
It’s the Pitts
By Lee Pitts

There are two kinds of dirt in this world: there is clean dirt and there is dirty dirt. This country was built by people who got dirty... but in a clean way.

Dirty old men with callused hands and dingy overalls and women with food stains and baby spit-up on them were responsible for this nation’s “Golden Age,” not some starch-collared, manicured commodities trader who sits at a computer all day and trades beans, cattle, gold, oil, timber and other things he’d have no idea how to produce.

The best people I’ve ever known had hands that looked like well-worn leather with cracks and crevices that crisscrossed their palms with tributaries of topsoil. They were farmers who worked all day in the fields and got so dirty when they came home at night they had to undress outside because they had a quarter-acre of soil in their boots.

They may be what some might call “dirty” but it’s a clean kind of dirt, acquired in honest work. I guarantee once they get hosed off they are cleaner beneath their rough veneer than the bungling bureaucrats and paper-pushers who waste away in offices all day with hardly a need to wash their hands. Where’s the evidence they did anything that day worth bragging about?

Some of the cleanest living people I’ve ever met didn’t take a shower or a bath for a week. Or maybe even two. They were cowboys out with the wagon where the only water available was for drinking. Their hatbands may have been sweat-stained and their chaps smeared with mud and blood but they lived cleaner lives than most Wall Street CEOs who only get their three piece suits dirty when they spill Hollandaise sauce on them. Or accidentally soak their silk ties in some $20 bowl of soup.

I realize that grimy oilfield roustabouts or drilling rig roughnecks wouldn’t be welcome in the mansions of OPEC billionaires, or Enron-like conference rooms, but at least when they finally get a chance to clean up their dirt will wash down the drain.

The collective conscience of the sheiks, monopoly CEOs and incarcerated energy traders wouldn’t come clean with a box of Brillo pads and a high pressure hose. Your mechanic down at the garage may be smeared with grease but at least his dirt will clean off with a little Lava and hand cleaner. Not so the dirty dictator despot who lives like a porn king in a mansion with 15 bathrooms and a bidet. He may not have dirt under his fingernails but he’ll still be dirty when he steps out of his gold encrusted shower.

The bloodstained butcher, iron-smudged welder, soot-covered fireman, saw-dusted carpenter and coal-smeared miner are all cleaner than the stylish and well-coifed businessmen who steals from his shareholders and lays off the workers just so he can get filthy rich on his stock options. He’s filthy all right.

And the smooth-skinned, payola packing, perfumed politician he has in his pocket smells far worse than the tar splattered laborer, the septic tank pumper or the hog farmer.

Like I said, there is clean dirt and there is dirty dirt.

Soldiers do our dirty work in jungles and deserts all over the world. They may not shower daily, get pedicures or moisturize, but the dirt they wear is a badge of honor. I guarantee that even the most hygenically-challenged soldier is cleaner than the draft-dodging politicians with blood on their hands. Their hands can never come clean.

So, to those folks who look down their snooty noses at people who get dirty working for a living, I’d suggest that if they wanted to feel the cleanest they’ve ever been that they should go get dirty.

Get filthy farming; muddy up your life by producing something of value; work so hard that you smell; clean up someone’s mess and in the process get dirty yourself. I think you’ll discover what the soiled among us have always known: that dirt acquired in honest labor has the power to cleanse the soul and wash away filth.

This farm news was published in the June 21, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

6/21/2006