When Johnny Cash Comes Marching Home

One of the best things about the Nebraska Lege is this: Every bill has a public hearing where ordinary citizens can sashay up to the microphone and state their case. And boy, there are some cases.

Remember Senator Schilz’ bill to end daylight saving time in Nebraska? (see “It’s Only Day Two and They’re Already Pole Dancing!”) Yesterday was the public hearing for Senator Schilz’ bill, and three old farts came up to testify in support of going back to the good old days before daylight saving time and electricity.

One little old lady was upset because with daylight saving time, she has to wait an extra hour “for the dew to get off the grass so I can mow.” I just don’t know where to go with that one.

Another little old lady worried that daylight saving time “messes up the dairy cows.” Not one of the senators was willing to break the news to her that cows don’t wear watches.

But my absolute favorite speaker was Johnny Cash Austin; a skinny, grizzled old Korean War vet with scraggly white whiskers, wearing a black-and-gold Veterans of Foreign Wars ball cap and sporting a big red bandana dangling out of his back pocket. He shuffled up to the microphone, stated his name, and then explained his middle name isn’t really Cash … he just made that up a few years back because he likes the ring of it and Folsom Prison Blues is one of his favorite songs.

I guess he made that confession because he thought he was under oath. That’s another thing about public hearings in the Lege … nobody is under oath to tell the truth, and let me tell you, it shows.

Anyway, after Johnny Cash Austin confessed, he said, “Let’s get down to business.” He went on to say he was born in the “old” (meaning before daylight saving) time, and daylight saving time messes up the animals and the children (a phrase I think he picked up from the dairy cow lady). He made it a point to say daylight saving time “above all, disturbs our children,” and that’s important because children, according to Johnny Cash Austin, are “the future of the United States of America.”

“That’s all I have to say about this,” Johnny Cash concluded. And that is all he had to say about daylight saving time. But then his real story began:

“They were gonna court martial me in the service for doing too much work,” he grinned, and everybody in the room chuckled. “But they never did,” he added. “They promoted me.” Everybody laughed again, and one senator quipped, “That’s almost the same thing, isn’t it?”

Then Johnny Cash started talking about Russia, and how the United States sold left-over equipment from World War II to Russia, which caused all sorts of grief to our troops fighting in Korea. “We had M-1 rifles we were firing against Russian tanks!” Johnny lamented. “And the tanks were made in the United States!”

Then Johnny Cash shook his head and said softly, almost to himself, “Korea was bad.”

The senators were becoming impatient with old Johnny Cash, and one of them said to him, “Well, that’s probably a tale for another day.”

“Sorry for talking about Korea,” Johnny apologized. “But I got a letter from Washington, and some people there want me to tell them my story, so I’m looking forward to that.” Then he stood up and shuffled to the back of the room.

So it is a good thing the Lege holds public hearings on every bill, even goofy bills like killing daylight saving time. With public hearings we get a glimpse of the things that are important and meaningful to ordinary human beings. Things like dew on the grass and cows and children. And the heartache of war.

Thank you for your service, Johnny Cash Austin.

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