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Wiretapping not such a big deal for country folk
The Back Forty
By Roger Pond

I’m trying to get excited about the government wiretapping scandal. It seems some people are extremely concerned that the government might be listening in on their telephone conversations.

Apparently the same folks who make cell phone calls on the bus want to be sure their privacy is protected.

This wiretapping thing must be an urban phenomenon. I can’t see anyone in a rural community being concerned about such a thing. We don’t need wiretaps around here.

I was standing around a store in town a few weeks ago when one fellow’s wife asked if he had picked up the newspaper. This man said he would get the paper on his way home.

Then he turned to me and said. “I already know what everybody did. I just buy the newspaper to see who got caught.”

No one who grew up in the days of the old party lines is going to worry about wiretaps: That’s for sure. In those days everybody knew whatever was said on the telephone might as well be broadcast on the radio.

Each household had their own ring on the old party lines. One ring was the neighbor’s, two rings was yours, and three rings was another neighbor. It was well known that some folks answered more of their neighbors’ calls than they did their own.

Sometimes we would stop and ask, “Is that you Mildred? We can hear you breathing.”

A few people even planted stories, just to see how far they might go. An FBI wiretapper would have been laughed out of the county in those days.

I can remember talking to the operator to make a call. We told the operator who we wanted to call, and she connected us.

If the operator thought that person might be kind of busy, she might suggest we call back later. “Maybe after harvest.”

Or, “You just talked to Nancy 20 minutes ago. Don’t you think someone else might want to use the phone line?”

(I made those up, but it could have happened.)

This wiretapping hullabaloo reminds me of a letter to a Canadian farm paper several years back. The letter writer says, “I will not utter a challenge for you to print this letter. If you do, thank you, and please withhold my name and address because I fear a police raid on my premises.”

“Hey, lighten up!” I thought. “If the government or the mental health officials got names out of the newspaper I would have been locked up a long time ago.”

(How would you like to bet everyone within 100 miles knows exactly who this guy is?)

I’m also reminded of two fellows who wanted to sing their opinion at a local hearing several years ago. Many in the audience thought singing an opinion was disrespectful of the hearing process.

“Hey, let ‘em sing,” I thought. “We already know their opinion. They could hum it if they wanted to.”

I suppose we could tap these guys’ phones, but what would we learn from that?

This farm news was published in the April 12, 2006 issue of Farm World.

4/12/2006