June and Persistence
by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

June is the reward for surviving January. The steely cold, hardscrabble winter just past teaches us some valuable life lessons that the quartet of tepid, temperate winters that preceded it could not. Lessons about changes, and the rewards of persistence.

The blessed balm of a June day is balmier, the clouds whiter and puffier, the sky bluer, when the long days of early summer follow the long nights of a long, chilling winter.

In his 1957 classic account of a year spent observing his hill-country farm in rural Connecticut, entitled This Hill, This Valley, the late, great naturalist Hal Borland wrote in June of the common daylily: “The daylilies, the common Hemerocallis fulva, are in full bloom along the roadside fence of my pastures, and in the big bed on the river bank, where they are fighting for possession with the scouring rushes. That river-bank lily bed, I suspect, was started when someone dug up a clump of unwanted daylilies and tossed them there to die, for I have seen discarded clumps take root on an ash heap and in a gravel bed. It is amazing the way they spread and persist.”

There’s something noble and endearing about a life force so powerful that it will take root, grow and prosper when and where it’s discarded, certainly in the fertile soil of a river bank, or more remarkably in the unfriendly cracks in a gravel bed. It takes persistence, especially during the early months when roots must take hold and life-support systems must become established.

Humans and human institutions need that same kind of flinty fortitude to survive in a world of obstacles and challenges. Electric cooperatives are like daylilies, taking hold in unwanted areas, persisting through difficult early years, growing and spreading into a handsome tapestry that’s welcomed and wanted.

In the 1930s and ’40s, rural areas were at best underserved and, in most cases, were neither being served nor were they going to be served by the big power companies. So electric cooperatives were formed by local citizens in hundreds of rural areas and small towns across this nation to provide a service that has revolutionized farming and rural life and American culture forever. Thanks to cooperatives, electricity was brought to the countryside in a reliable way by local employees, in an affordable way because of the not-for-profit operation of a cooperative, and in a democratic way that involves cooperative members electing other cooperative members to the governing board.

Many of the areas served by Virginia’s 13 local electric cooperatives have grown into thriving small towns and bedroom communities of nearby cities. Many areas served by electric cooperatives are seeing an influx of businesses and industries that recognize the value of doing business with local people.

In a world where media conglomerates and big-box retailers and chain restaurants all seemingly believe that bigger is more efficient and more appealing, it’s nice to know that there’s a local company that’s been around for three generations, that’s governed and staffed by local people, that’s owned by you and your neighbors, and whose only measuring stick of success is your satisfaction.

Your cooperative — the “unwanted daylily” as it were — has survived, weathering many storms, and making its patch of earth a little bit better. Through good old-fashioned persistence, cooperatives and daylilies endure.



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