Counting Days and Pennies

Will our pennies last till the end? An oxymoronic question asked by a moron.


Who can deny we’ve had too much idle time on our hands lately? Idle time stirs up mental demons that stoke the fires of our fears.

I’m reminded of the Scriptural advice of numbering our days and applying ourselves to wisdom. I get the calculator and discover I’ve already surpassed the three score and ten allowed and am bumping the limits of the extra ten. That calculates to about 231 days remaining. Sobering, seeing how little has been accomplished and worse, how costly it is to exist these days.

Such stark thoughts prompt one to start counting their pennies, wondering if they will hold out to the end. Which always brings up the proverbial conundrum, “When is the end?” There’s the rub. Only One knows, and He’s not talking.

The other day I stop in the grocery store to pick up some things.  Mostly hamburger, chicken and shaved turkey to supplement the dull, boring dry dog food.  Nothing too good for the dog.  I walk out with three small sacks and $63.42 poorer. Is inflation real or what? Transitory, I’m corrected.

I complain to ears that don’t listen, not out of disinterest but out of the fact this is old news. “So what’s new?” is the usual comment.

Is this what life’s come to, meek acquiescence to the inflationary robber barons on every aisle and shelf from food stores to lumber yards to appliance stores and car lots? Is Jimmy Carter running for President again?

No use remembering the old days when pennies counted, the days when $25 would get you through a weekend, drinks and dinner out, a movie and some left over for the Sunday collection plate.

Believe it or not, there were times in the Land of the Lost Cause when cotton was picked by hand. Wages were low, $.03 cents/pound.  That’s right, a picker dragged around a large cotton sack, sweated row by row and if blessed could pick one hundred pounds in a long day.  Wage? $3.00, 300 pennies.

A friend who has passed his allotted ten extra days and I had lunch this week.  Inflation was not the subject, but he did note how times have changed.

“In the ‘60’s, I made $500 a month in my first job. You?”

“Well, $450 for me, but I had a company car and expense account.”

Even then, this was a far cry from picking cotton and literally counting pennies at the end of the day.

I was rummaging around in some old letters my mother saved and one popped up. It was from me. It chronicled a mile-by-mile road trip to New Orleans with my aunt, uncle and grandmother.

In Biloxi we searched for a cheap motel, found one for $16 per night, with air conditioning (roaches came for free, I discovered). I was apparently focused on the value of pennies, even in those days. I was thirteen.

We had dinner (called supper in those days) in the restaurant. I had deviled crab, my uncle a steak and others fried shrimp. Cost? $12.00.  My letter indicated I was impressed and had cotton-picking perspective.

But that was then, this is now. Today we’re shocked while watching the erosion of value and purchasing power of our currency occur like a runaway train down a one-way track into oblivion.

We can continue to kick Nixon around for hammering the last nail into the coffin of our asset-based monetary system. Fort Knox was raided, the gold disappeared and nobody’s talking about where it went.  Some say China, but I have some in two of my molars.

There’s no limit now of how much cash can be created or what value is assigned to it.  As long as it will buy dog food, gas and whiskey, who cares. Until it reaches its stealthy fist into our bank account and filches our last remaining pennies. Cotton picking may make a comeback.

So, what does the future look like? Have we enough pennies to see us through? Or will we continue to live in anxiety, sweating out the parsimonious penny-pinching outlay of our remaining loose change?

Most seem to be surviving, ATM’s are active, Covid is on the run and somehow folks are managing to convince themselves the stock market will go up forever and is not related to Las Vegas. So far, anyway.

* * *

We’re writing the chronicle of our own road trip now. Uncle Joe driving.  Gonna be interesting to read fifty years hence.

For now, we have little choice…just buy the ticket, take the ride.


Bud Hearn

July 16, 2021