The drafters of the US Constitution outlined few services for the federal government to perform: organizing militias as needed to defend the states, establishing post offices and maintaining post roads. Many of the services to which people have become accustomed were not provided by government agencies. I suspect that this is the origin of many volunteer fire and rescue squads. Rural communities have a long tradition of people taking care of each other, including pooling their resources to organize emergency assistance. Such organizations may have existed in urban and suburban areas at one time, but my impression is that fire fighters and EMS in high population areas became local governement agencies years ago. Recent news reports have panicked at near bankrupt cities laying off police officers and fire fighters.
Even here in the mountains, there are debates about the ability to keep the rescue squads volunteer without tax money, other than grants for building and equipment upgrades. Our local County Commissioners have sent up trial balloons about adding taxes to help generate revue to cover expenses including workers compensation insurance premiums for those who are willing risk their lives to save other peoples lives and homes. Paying salaries, for those willing to leave their work in the fields, factories, and stores when the pager goes off, has been discussed also.
Meanwhile, grants, donations, and fund raisers generate the revue to keep these organizations available when we call. The Baker station of the Mathias-Baker rescue squad hosts a dinner and bluegrass jam on the first Saturday of each month. If we are available, we head on down for a filling dinner and some good tunes. The $8 price is well worth the taste and entertainment. Make sure you bring an extra $5 in case they have a 50/50 raffle.
Out here some things are described at “Old Timey”. The rescue squad dinners certain fit that definition. The meals, country ham, pork loin, ham pot pie, BBQ chicken, etc. with whipped potatoes, green beans, cole slaw, apple sauce, and home made desserts, probably do not come from cook books, but someone’s great-grandmother. The bluegrass music also fits this definition. Sometimes the musicians come loosely organized with a binder of lyrics and chords. Sometimes a named local band will headline the evening and have CD’s for sale. Sometimes anyone who shows up with a guitar, banjo, mandolin, or fiddle will be the entertainment for the evening. In any case these are not professional musicians, but folks who have some talent and play for the enjoyment. They were probably up at 5 a.m. tending to their livestock or working 3rd shift, and spent the day fixing equipment and running their farms and businesses. About 15 years ago, I lent a CD of local musicians to a co-workers who liked bluegrass music. She said it was “too authentic”. I’ll take that as a compliment and sing along from my seat at the table.