It’s 4:30 a.m. and the 1800’s farmer is milking the cows. One ornery cow kicks over the bucket and now the milk will have to be rationed.

Frustrated, the farmer moves to the chicken coop to gather the eggs feeling like it’s going to be one of those days.

As he approaches the coop, he sees the remains of his prize hen, another fox. It’s turning out to be a tough day.

His next chore takes him to the cellar, where he cuts a slab of meat from the dressed pig he killed a month ago. He grabs a sack of flour as he heads back to the surface. Some sort of bread will be made to go with dinner. He takes everything in for his wife to cook. The kids roll out of bed and they need water to clean up. He goes out to the well and draws a bucket of water, hauls it inside and smells the bacon as the wife says, “we need more wood for the stove.” He glances at the sky; the sun is rising as he gathers the wood and he mutters, “I got to get plowing, seeds need planting.”

He takes the wood in and deposits it in a heap in the first available corner, hugs and kisses his kids, does the same for the wife and he’s out the door to plow.

Darn, he forgot breakfast and takes his aggravation out on the mule as he hooks up the leather straps and slowly trudges to the field for five hours of plowing hoping he gets lunch.

So you really have to say to yourself, “Wow, that guy has it rough. I’m sure glad we don’t have to live like that in today’s world.”

You ever wonder why we have progressed past this way of living. There could be many answers. Most would say technology and thump their chests and say we are American. For the most part, that’s correct. It is the American Spirit.

Let’s take it a step further. What group really rallied behind the American Spirit theme?

I say it’s the small business owners of the past and at this very moment carry on this spirit. Who still gets up at 4:30 a.m. and handles the chores of their life, so they are never late to make our life simpler?

All across this land these people who are braver than most souls independently follow the paths of those before them and sacrifice to serve those of us who chose different callings.

It could be the corner store that’s always there, even when the milk spills and you need more. Or the appliance store that started in a small warehouse and today has a store that you walk in and purchase a refrigerator to replace the one that quit the day before Thanksgiving.

This band of workers provides a service when we need it. If you missed breakfast, well, there is a small business that can and probably will serve you something better than a drive-thru. Do we have our share of these business owners who make our life simpler in Sebring? Indeed, we do. Look closely as you move about our streets, you will see the businesses proud store fronts and signage.

Our reward to these folks tend to fall off as the larger businesses take full advantage of the American way as well, with one unfair advantage and that’s pricing.

I know these are tough times for small businesses with holiday shoppers blowing right by their stores. I believe the small businesses feel the emotions of a volatile economic rollercoaster during the holidays, just as the consumers do. The question I repeatedly ask myself is, “If I were in need and had nowhere to turn, which one of these two groups do you think would do more to help me, small business or the giant stores?” Think about that and the answer as if it were you in that predicament.

So, if possible, this holiday season stop in these local businesses, if for no other reason than to say hi. I promise you that you will not be disappointed; there are some really entertaining, highly enthusiastic and genuine people behind those storefronts. Go find out for yourself, it’s a small sacrifice? When there is choice, shop local. It’s a good bet these folks do.

Tim Smolarick is vice president and group publisher of D-R Media. He can be reached via email at tim.smolarick@highlandsnewssun.com