More cowbell. Less noise.

My grandfather had a few cows. He had a cowbell for the lead cow. It was a great way to know where the cows were when you have more woods than pasture on the land you homesteaded.

My mom got the cowbell when my grandfather gave up cows. She had followed the sound for years.

There isn’t much need to keep track of cows in suburban Chicago, but there is need to keep track of a son who played football and baseball down the street. Rather than hollering at dinner time or study time, mom rang the cowbell. It was the only one in the neighborhood. I knew it was time to go in.

It was a good system. No one needed to yell.

I don’t remember whether there was much yelling at kids in our neighborhood. There probably was in some houses. None of us, parents or children, exhibited any tendencies  toward perfection. However, no one felt it necessary to do that yelling while standing in the driveway or on the front porch.

In our house it was because discipline was a matter within our family. There were rules, there were boundaries, there were spankings. But as best as I can remember, at least for me, public humiliation was not one of the forms of discipline. (I chose the lavender bellbottoms myself. I cannot blame my parents.)

But I lived before facebook became the new driveway, where comments between spouses, and between parents and children are now audible to the whole neighborhood. What you say publicly can be read and remembered by all of your friends. At least. What you write on a wall may ultimately build a wall. So learn to use messages.

We already are examples. We can be good examples. Like my mom and the bell.

Happy birthday mom. And thanks to Glenda Watson Hyatt for inspiring this post.

15 thoughts on “More cowbell. Less noise.

  1. joseph ruiz

    “What you write on a wall may build a wall” may this phrase be branded into my brain especially the part that controls what I think and say because Jesus said if we think it, then for us we have said it, though I will make every effort to limit the damage where possible.
    Thanks Jon,
    Grace and Peace


  2. Rich Dixon

    For more than forty years I tried to erase the image of a constantly, intensely yelling dad. I forgave, but never forgot, and the wall built by that image was always in the way. The cowbell helps you find the right way, while yelling only tells you where you messed up. I could’ve used a cowbell.

    And I could’ve done without the mental image of “lavender bellbottoms.” That’s the sort of thing that could haunt a guy.


  3. Scott Brune

    I too was summoned home by the ring of a bell, the sound carried through the neighborhood, and when I heard it, I better be home within a few minutes or there were consequences. I am sure the neighbor’s thought I was conditioned like Pavlov’s dog. Better than my Mom yelling, which may have sounded like the voice of Howard’s mom on the “The Big Bang Theory” Show. It was a different era then, when neighbors actually knew each other and looked out for each other.

    I don’t have much problem with what is written on a wall may build a wall since I don’t write on e-walls, for the very reason that it is like chiseling in stone a thought that you may later want to retract.


  4. Scott Brune

    Since I just posted a comment on this blog, I suppose I should have said I VERY RARELY write something on e-walls (otherwise the comment is just plain stupid!)


    1. Jon Swanson

      Scott, when I read your comment I thought, “but this is writing on an ewall”. So you caught it.

      I wonder if that era is still true in Paulding? I think it might be. And in little neighborhoods all over. And I think that it’s true in this neighborhood, too. And I be that if we gave each other permission to look out for each other and our kids, we’d find facebook a safer neighborhood too.

      And, so you know, I’m keeping an eye our for your girls on twitter. They are doing great.


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