Appreciate the simple things in life — like little pigs who can build houses

We have a tendency in America these days to overthink things. I know, it’s easy to look at Americans these days and wonder if many of them think at all, and I must admit that’s a valid point.

Perhaps what I’m actually trying to say is that Americans actually have a tendency to needlessly complicate things that are perfectly fine left simple. For instance, take my wife’s car. I mean, please, take it, because I get tired of its needlessly aggravating “smart” features — like touch-screen controls for the air-conditioning.

It’s one year newer than my truck, which has its share of fancy features but also has these handy simple things called “knobs” that you can instantly turn to adjust the speed and temperature of the air-conditioner. Her super-fancy car, though, requires the driver to hunt through the 37 different buttons on a touch screen. (No, not that screen! The one below it. Yeah.) Then, find the A/C, then find the fan speed button, then find the temperature adjustment for the driver’s side, then the passenger’s side … Oh, forget it! Just roll down the window. And by “roll,” I mean push that button. (No, the other one!) And by the time you look back up at the road, you realize you’ve missed your turn and killed three, maybe four pedestrians.

We grew up in simpler times, such as when you actually did have to roll down the vehicle window. Our car radios didn’t have Sirius XM or Bluetooth; they picked up three FM stations and the hog report on the local AM station. Our TVs didn’t have cable or Hulu or Netflix or Paramount Plus or Disney Plus; they had an antenna that picked up “Hee-Haw,” rasslin’ and the Rev. Billy Graham Crusades. We may have been country folks, but we knew we were going to Heaven and would be able to kick butt when we got there!

Now, I’ve got grandsons ages 2 and 5. And when we do let them watch a cartoon, what do they yell for? A Pixar computer-animated film like “Toy Story 8″ or “Coco and Nemo’s Cars”? Nope.

“BIG BAD WOLF!”

What they’re actually asking for is “Three Little Pigs,” an animated short on Disney Plus. It’s not Pixar. In fact, it was released in 1933 and went on to win an Academy Award for Only Animated Short Film — oops, sorry, make that Best Animated Short Film.

You know the story of the three little pigs, I’m sure: The practical pig builds a house of bricks, while another builds of sticks and the third builds his house of straw because the price of lumber has gone through the roof and the windows he ordered are stuck on a ship anchored off the California coast! To make matters worse, a big bad wolf comes along and starts blowing on everything, knocking down the pigs’ houses and spreading wolf Covid throughout the community, killing 1 percent of the animals and getting three anti-vax, freedom-loving porcine masons laid off. Yes, it’s a classic, old, simple tale.

And the boys love it!

In the past few weeks, they’ve enjoyed riding around on our simple, slow golf cart and listening to spooky music while checking out Halloween decorations. Their favorite song? Something by a rapper with “Lil” in front of their name or Billy’s Eyelash? Nope. They love “The Purple People Eater,” with which Sheb Wooley hit No. 1 in 1958.

And while they have access to phones, computers, tablets, TVs and even Alexa, their favorite thing to do when they come over is to run around outside and march down the trail of steps I put on the hill behind our house so that they can throw sticks in a creek at the bottom. I don’t know how much you’re planning to spend on Christmas presents this year, but I plan to get the boys a whole box of sticks. They’re not expensive, and they’re not going to still be stuck on a cargo ship in January. A stick is one of the few things still made in America.

I certainly understand their fascination with those multi-purpose sticks. We used to throw them in the creek when we were kids, too, and “race” them as boats. My grandma used to tie a couple together and tell us they were airplanes, and we’d play with them for hours. I know you’re thinking we must have been rich, but no.

I’m glad the boys appreciate so many simple things in life, for now anyway. And they understand that a good stick is priceless. Fortunately, they’re also smart enough not to build a house out of sticks because, you know …

“BIG BAD WOLF!”

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