Kenny Ladner

“The kids today are stuck in this era, and a lot of the parents are, also… The kids don’t get out and do the activities that we did…”

Kenneth (Kenny) Ladner was born December 19, 1947 in Bay St. Louis, MS.  He’s lived in Mississippi for most of his life, except a seven year time in Texas.  He grew up on a farm, with what today might seem very little.  Everything that they had to eat was from off that farm – vegetables, meat, even syrup.  While it may seem to an outsider that he didn’t have a childhood due to the need of tending the gardens and livestock, he notes that it was a good childhood.  They accepted their duties, and certainly made games from it, including pecan nut wars (hurling the nuts at each other).

Kenny loved to fish, but not with a pole and line like many kids learn today.  When he was little, his grandfather made him a cast net, and that is how Ken learned to fish.  It was his favorite thing to do.  As he looks at today’s youth, he sees them so taken with technology that they are missing the physical and outdoor activities that Ken and his peers experienced.  This to the degree that he worked alongside a Native American of the Coushatta tribe aged about 28 in Texas.  They hunted and fished together, and one day Ken asked him about a tree he didn’t recognize, and the young man didn’t know.  Here is the full story:

Kenny now works as a site manager for Habitat for Humanity in the Mississippi Gulf Area.  Following Hurricane Katrina, many young volunteers visited the Gulf from all over the United States (and world) in order to show support and aid the recovery.  Working with so many young people, Kenny began noticing a change in work ethic between the generations.  To Kenny, when you’re handed a task, you get it done, then return for more until your work day is done.  He’s not seeing that as regularly with the youth he’s in contact with:

Kenny worries about the general population and their ability to care for their own homes, or to get tasks done with their own hands.  Many of the tasks he takes care of at Habitat are easily accomplished without hiring a specialist.  Things like painting a wall, using a screw driver to correct a loose nob, or caulk a crack between the window and wall are all very simple items that don’t need to hired out for $100 / hour.  But many people do hire such simple tasks out because they’ve become so removed from using their hands.

Taking it a step further, Kenny sees many young people that don’t know how to plant a seed, let alone grow something.  One can grow enough food to feed an entire home in a few square feet, but they don’t realize it.  Kenny has helped vegetable gardens in his community, and is happy to do it.

“My youngest daughter would rather text me than had pick up the phone and talk to me for five minutes.”  Kenny can feel a gap in communication, both in his family and in the public due to technology.  But he also recognizes that technology bolsters our abilities greatly.  He used the example of the CB Radio, that the network of civilians and police men are able to catch a criminal on the loose much faster than just police would have.

I always give my interviewees the chance to say final words on any subject of their choosing.  Kenny chose to speak to drugs and prejudice.  He worries that alcohol and drugs will be responsible for bringing America to its knees, just in the same way it did to the Native Americans. With regards to prejudice, he says it best: