Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Legacy of Gumption

Journal Entry: Weight = 173.4; Coinage = $ .71, 26 pennies, 2 nickels, 1 dime, 1 quarter; Glass bottles retrieved = 1; Ground scores = 2; Best coinage find = 2 nickel, 2 penny scatter find on a back lot parking space.

Feature Entry: The MoneyWalker was recently honored to have been selected to give the keynote address at the University of New Orleans Founders Day Club (formerly Louisiana State University in New Orleans). The title was The Legacy of Gumption. Gumption is a bit crude but UNO has always been the working persons’ university for the LSU System.

On this morning’s walk, I noticed a series of abandoned automobile tires scattered along a side street in a warehouse district of Mid City. A thought came to me that in the four years since Katrina we have been striving to clear debris, not add debris to our recovering city. Maybe the tires are a sign of real recovery, that we are getting back to our basic nature of being “the city that care forgot.” Anyway, the tires reminded me of my boyhood home in the high plains of Texas and my farmer-boy roots. Not that we would have ditched the tires for others to attend to, but we would have disposed of them in some creative way.

At the Founders Day meeting, a sociology colleague had indicated an interesting finding from his recent study. The so-called middle class neighborhood of Gentilly Terrace was “coming back” much slower than the more down-and-out neighborhood of Hollygrove. The though counter-intuitive came to mine before he explained his thesis. The middle class folks kept waiting for the state and federal government to come forward with their various assistance programs—Road Home money, Recovery Money, Small Business Loans. The promised money was slow in coming if at all and still they waited. Not the Hollygrove citizens. Either not believing the feds, or conditioned not to expect a bail-out, they rolled up their sleeves, gathered their friends and family members and went to work rebuilding their homes and businesses from their own resources. They had gumption, just like we farmers in Texas.

Perhaps it is gumption that drives the MoneyWalker to walk rather than to pay the high prices of fitness club membership. And maybe it is gumption that led to the realization that money can be found along the paths of the Mid City walks. And maybe it is gumption that helped the MoneyWalkers move a notch or two up the proverbial ladder of middleclass. Anyway, I suspect that fellow moneywalkers have their own rich legacy of gumption. If so, salute!



  1. Robert M. Pirsig's 1974 classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, has several great references to gumption that I think you would connect with. Pirsig's book uses discussions about riding motorcycles across the backroads and motorcycle maintenance to connect the familiar ideas of technology and art during an exploration of the metaphysics of quality. That's probably one of the worst descriptions of the book ever written, but if the below excerpt intrigues you, pick up a copy and jump straight into chapter one and don't read the author's note or any another thing about it until you've finished reading all the way through.

    I like the word gumption because it's so homely and so forlorn so out of style it looks as if it needs a friend and isn't likely to reject anyone who comes along. It's an old Scottish word, once used a lot by pioneers, but which, like "kin," seems to have all but dropped out of use. I like it also because it describes exactly what happens to someone who connects with Quality. He gets filled with gumption. (Pirsig pg 272).

  2. I've heard the word many times but never really had a feel for the true definition.

    Many times people have looked at me quizically when they hear about my numismatising. I just chuckle and think of those jars that will go to the bank next week to be counted.

    Gumption. I like it.