No. 446



The American Free-Enterprise system has been called the eighth wonder of the world. The average American's lack of understanding about what it is and how it works, has been called the ninth wonder of the world.

It is my belief that most Americans don't understand our nation's economic system because their lives and careers are touched by so little of it. When they begin a job or career in a given field and spend all or most of their working life there, that's basically all they know. This is certainly not meant to put people down, but our personal success is determined by and large, by our ability to see the whole picture and to make wise and informed decisions.

I have had a number of different jobs and careers and without even being aware of it, fate really smiled on me many years ago when I was a printing salesman. This was because I was fortunate enough to have a boss who was community minded, and he led me to become a Ôvolunteer' in many different organizations. When I was involved in the Chamber of Commerce and later in the United Way, I met many outstanding business leaders. As I talked with these business executives about their company, what it sold or produced and was given a personal tour of their operation, I began to see more of the picture and how our system works.ÊÊ

This is the backdrop for my appreciation of a wonderful little book a friend sent me the other day. The title does not do justice for the tremendous message it contains, but it's called Mr. Thingbobbin SquirrelÉOn Cedar Mountain. The author is David Smith, a retired Staff Manager who worked for 35 years for a large communications company. In various assignments in personnel, labor relations and communications, he did many different kinds of writing. As a result he knows corporate structure, problems and practices, and observed the personal and the business habits of managers, from supervisors to presidents.

What David Smith has actually done is create a masterpiece. By using his fantastic imagination and a hillside teeming with a clan of squirrels, he has created a microcosm of American business and the free-enterprise system. The plot begins with a mama squirrel talking with her newborn son (that she has named Thingbobbin), about the dos and don'ts of growing up, staying alive and being able to fend for himself. With the passing of time his education is broadened to understand the squirrel hierarchy. As he travels further up the hillside, the trees are taller and they are controlled by squirrels that are called ÔTree Bosses." At the very top of the hill, in the largest tree can be found the head squirrel, which is known as Big Buck.

Wouldn't you know it? Big Buck has a son who is away at college. More about that later. After a few weeks Thingbobbin begins to build his own nest. He sets about the task of securing the materials and weaving branches, limbs and leaves to make a secure and safe nest that will withstand the wind, rain and snow. It is later discovered that Thingbobbin has an unusual talent for building nests and begins to have other squirrels request that he build or repair their nests. Soon the "Tree Bosses" promote him to be head of the construction crew. They build like mad and soon every squirrel's home or nest is in excellent shape.

Then one day, a friend of Thingbobbins suggest that he needs to do something outstanding that will bring him to the attention of Top Buck and other leaders in the clan. He finally hits on the idea of using plastic that is fished from the stream below (an environmental issue here), to lace and reinforce the nests that are being built. This brings him to Big Buck's attention and he is promoted again, this time to Supervisor of all construction. When Top Buck's son comes home from college he is assigned to a position directly under Thingbobbin, to learn the ropes. It does happen like this in the business world. Things run smoothly until it is discovered that the new plastic material has made the nests so sturdy and durable that the work crews are all out of work.

At this point, Thingbobbin is demoted and put on the shelf. There are many other issues in this book such as committee meetings, power sharing, pension funds, a clandestine affair, embezzling and finally, bringing three groups of squirrels together to live in harmony for the benefit of all. Obviously, I have only touched the tip of the iceberg here and if you or a child or grandchild would like to glean some real economic insights, written in simple and understandable language, I would highly recommend, "Mr. Thingbobbin SquirrelÉOn Cedar Mountain," by David H. Smith. It can be ordered from 1st Books Library, 1-888-280-7715. Ê(Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)