Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Morning Thanks--literature

There we sat, totally silent over the last few lines of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, a passage where that long-bearded writer and prophet goes on and on about the near sacramental character of his prison experience, thanking the Lord for piling on the burden of suffering which, miraculously, brought him to faith that pulled him through. 

There we sat in an old classroom--after all, it wasn't yet outfitted in expensive, cutting edge technology, one of the few that isn't. There we sat in a fine enough clothes for suitably dressed middle-class kids and their profs. There we sat, each of us having just eaten lunch, replete with choices. There we sat, each of our expensive books opened on each of our desks.

There we sat--me too--in silence before an idea that's been arising so often these days that I'm starting to wonder myself whether I'm good with God. After all, I haven't, like Solzhenitsyn, been unjustly imprisoned for eight years, suffered the horrors of the Gulag, watched those who weren't strong enough die. I've had it pretty good, really; never suffered through a Dust Bowl or a Pearl Harbor, never engaged in a firefight in Khe Sanh or out in some desert plain in Afghanistan, never stalked the countryside for daily bread or walked a mile for a cup of water.

Writers who are believers--and I'm thinking especially of some I've read recently, like Solzhenitsyn, like Gina Ochsner, like Andre Dubus--hold that theme in common. Each of them in their own fictive worlds like to nudge the reader along to an acknowledgement that's very much in the air these days before Easter, the notion suffering can well be sacramental, a blessing, that makes us vastly more resilient against the darkness in the valley of the shadow.

But it's not easy to talk about in 21st century America. What do you say about it to 20-year-old kids who are worried about jobs and relationships and identity? Must we all suffer sometime like Solzhenitsyn? Is getting knocked down a prerequisite to growing up? Must some old man die so the new man rises? Really? Is all of that true?--and if it is, how do we then live?

There we sat in silence.

Literature--my chosen field for the last forty years--pulls us into questions that have no easy answers. That's what the Gulag does. The story doesn't stay on the pages of that expensive book but leaps, agile as a deer, into our hearts, into our minds, into our souls. Even though I've never been to Russia, know very little of the old Soviet system, and nothing about Siberia or work camps, when I read some thing like the Gulag, it begs me in to make it my own. I'm led to think not just about what the writer says but to think even more about what the writer says means to me. That's where the process begins, in fact.
Literature does its best work when it asks questions, I think. It's not particularly good at answering them; if it were, it would be preaching. Lit makes us think about what it is we believe, how it is we act, how it is we form our lives. 

And there we sat in the kind of prickly silence that Solzhenitsyn spread over us. Maybe that's right where he wanted us, right where we should have been. 

This morning, once more, I'm thankful for literature, even though, like life, it sometimes leads us to places we'd rather not have been.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Morning Thanks--Fellowship Singers

I'm not at all sure what he was picking up yesterday on his guided tour of the new comprehensive care facility that will likely be his abode quite soon, and his last one. The land he worked as a farmer for all those years will always be home in this world, but by the end of the week in all likelihood he'll have a new residence, this one smaller than the last. 

It's not a change he's giddy about, but then being giddy about anything is tough when you're 97 years old.

But I was taken. The place has a dog and three cats--almost worth the price of admission all by themselves. Like all residents of the place, he'll get a measure of TLC beyond anything he knows. "My hearing aid isn't working," he'll call these days to tell his only daughter. By the time she gets there, it's working and he's almost forgotten. 

No more. He'll now have a hostess at his beck-and-call. If he wants a malt at three in the afternoon or a beer at seven, she'll get it. I'm not sure he'll ever exercise such opportunities. He's steeply "depression-era," and he doesn't want someone to have to go out of the way for him. You know.

I think this new place is grand. Still, as he admitted to the director, he doesn't have a choice. It's time. 

The tour was an hour long, led by an administrator who did her darnedest to sell him. But I don't know what went in--except cost, and about that he was flummoxed; but he is, after all, depression-era. 

So when it was over we sat for twenty minutes at a little outdoor eatery near the front door, a place where you can grab a tray of popcorn and a glass of lemonade or half-cup of coffee. The three of us sat and looked around and not at each other because getting flummoxed isn't hard for him anymore. Happens a lot. His world is very small, and every molehill is a mountain--he says it himself. He knows he's on a road to a place we all go eventually, but it's just taking far more time for him to get there. Simply stated--pets and hostesses and chocolate malts aside, if he had a choice he'd rather be gone.

A crowd of residents started to form around us from a parade of wheelchairs and walkers massing towards the door of the little concert hall/church (if you open the sliding doors, stained glass and a pulpit appear). The afternoon's activity was the Fellowship Singers, a half hour of hymns so old no self-respecting church would touch them anymore. 

When one of the singers came by, I stopped him. I had no idea he was part of the entertainment until I saw the hymnbook. "Sing with us!" he said, fanning through the pages. "We sing ten hymns, one after another." He pointed at the open page. "Next month, the next ten."

"I can't," I told him. "I didn't practice."

"Neither did we," he says. "Come on."

I had to giggle. 

We talked Dad into staying, which wasn't easy. He hasn't been to church much as of late--it's too hard to get in-and-out. If he hears the sermon at all, I'm not sure he gets it; and the music isn't what plays in a memory that's probably more active than his consciousness. 

So we wheeled him in to a room so crowded the blessed hostess had to scramble for chairs--SRO almost, although a goodly portion of the crowd were wheeled in and thus brought their own. 

There the Fellowship Singers stood, up front, about a dozen grandpas themselves, singing their hearts out through a whole gaggle of the museum-quality hymns people like my father-in-law grew up with, once--and now again--the very language of their worship.

I've been to gorgeous concerts in the last few years--international artists of stunning virtuosity, concerts in which my own granddaughter sang with choirs that had me holding back tears. I sat in sheer awe at a concert by Cantus, maybe the best vocal ensemble in America. But those Fellowship Singers--yesterday they were a blessing like none other. 

I don't know how they played in my father-in-law's mind just then. Chances are, what he heard barely made it over the confusion running through the empty corridors of his consciousness. But what he heard was language and melody utterly familiar. 

I don't mind saying that the moment was its own kind of revelation to me because I couldn't help but witness a transaction one rarely sees in life: ordinary people being an abundant blessing in such a charmingly simple way.

The sheer delight of grace is its almost comedic surprise, as it was yesterday at a place I hope my father-in-law will soon learn to think of as his on his trip home. This morning I'm thankful for a bunch of saints, the old guys with the hymnals up front.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Morning Thanks--what's out there, out back

This, yesterday at around five in the afternoon, was our back yard. Past tense, was, because although the photo (hardly a showstopper) stops time on a dime, what's out there this morning right now in the darkness, isn't the same. Nor what will be out there around five in the afternoon today. Yesterday, temps soared. Mid-seventies. It was gorgeous.

Last weekend, out west in South Dakota, it was January, temps below zero, cars covered with snow. All winter long our Buick hadn't coughed. Finally, in March ye olde engine told me how angry it was to be left out in the cold.

One Sunday later it's May. What a joy. 

What's in the picture is not all our backyard. On a clear day from the deck, we can see two or three miles west to east. What's ours is one sweet acre, front to back where most of the long, dead field grass stretches, and west to east about as wide as a photo allows. Those four snaking paths through the grass I cut last year so our grandkids had a track for the four-wheeler.

And so that I could walk through our little kingdom and supervise the wildflowers coming back where once there was nothing but alfalfa--to which I added two sprawling pumpkin plants I planted when my grandson suggested that a couple of pumpkins out back would be cool. 

There's a bare spot out there to the just west of the yellowed field grass, a rectangle of open space. See it? 

The idea of that space--I've never been mistaken for Johnny Appleseed or Old McDonald--is that it become, some sweet day, a field of native flowers in profuse and almost sinful abundance. Last year, I "plowed-the-field-and scattered/the good seed of the land" (some childhood song just came back there--sorry) with the help of a friend who's not only helpful but blessedly adept at renewing native prairie and setting the world ablaze in wildflowers. 

It felt like an almost biblical undertaking, mixing a few precious seeds in with what amounted to a cover crop of sawdust, mixing it up in a big tub which created a ritual brotherhood that brought me back to that early scene in Moby Dick when the Queequeg and Ishmael have their hands in a pot of richness from a sperm whale.

Okay, that's overdoing it. But the whole process seemed ancient ritual, even more so when we walked through that chunk of plowed ground scattering handfuls of seed and sawdust.

Last year, I mowed the piece weekly. You've got to give the newly planted wildflowers a chance to take root without simply getting crowded out by weeds, I was told. So that little plot out back looked clean but crappy last summer. The lawn mower kept it from getting shaggy, but a Wordsworthian field of daffodills it wasn't, nor, I'm told, will it be this summer. 

Yesterday, for the first time since last fall, I walked through the backyard, front to back, side to side, including that richly sewn chunk of last year's nothingness. I don't have to tell you--in all that Sabbath warmth, things were popping. From the deck, what's out there looks like it's wearing its own dirty winter coat. But up close, there's green galore.

I haven't a clue whether that spotty emerald is friend or foe, but I couldn't help smile at what's emerging because just last weekend it was dreadful winter, but yesterday it was almost June.  

Once upon a time it bothered me that the derivation of the word easter is significantly pagan. But just because its origins have nothing to do with an empty tomb doesn't mean it has nothing to do with resurrection. What's happening right now in that barren-looking little stretch of ground in our backyard is flat out beautiful, even if what's there is still weeds. It's a promise.

For those intermittent splashes of green in that little piece of our backyard that I couldn't help notice yesterday, I'm thankful this morning. 

Easter is still a month away, but it's a joy to know that what's coming up just can't wait.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Morning Meds--Sabbath

Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening.” Psalm 104

I was born and reared in an ethnic and religious tribe which practiced Sabbitarianism religiously—sometimes self-righteously. I have no doubt that what we did or did not do on Sunday became, for those of us with bona fide Dutch surnames, a means by which to hold on to some identifying feature in the fierce boil of the American melting pot.

Last Sunday, my wife and I didn’t go to church. Instead, we hiked up Spirit Mound, where, 200+ years ago, Native people told Lewis and Clark they’d find little 18-inch devils,l little miniature people. It was a beautiful late summer afternoon, and the updraft rolling up the mound kept a dozen swallows more than happy. Watching them play in that wind just beneath us, was a joy. But there were no devils, no little people.

It must have been devilishly hot 200 years ago. Seaman, the huge, black Newfoundland Lewis bought for twenty bucks before he left, got himself overheated, so hot they sent him back to the Missouri River, about ten miles south.

Not so last Sunday. It was beautiful, and we were alone, overlooking land where Lewis and Clark first spotted buffalo herds. For a half hour or so, we just sat up there, in silence, the swallows swooping around us.

I’m tempted to say that our being there was kind of worship, but I won’t, even though it was. I’m so steeped in religious tradition that skipping church takes some doing, and I won’t deny that my justifying a Sabbath on Spirit Mound is, in great part, a means by which I can assuage plain old guilt: The fact is, I didn’t go to church.

Sabbitarianism, practiced faithfully when I was a boy, has left a mark on me, for better or for worse—that’s what I’m saying. Years ago, on a trip to the Netherlands, I realized that it has left a mark there, too, even though few Dutch-Americans consider the Netherlands a “Christian nation,” as so many them are proud of asserting about this country. On a Sunday, shops were closed, not because everyone was in church, but because not going to work kept families together—or so a Dutch historian told us. An interesting idea—laws created for families, not businesses.

And I’m thinking all of this this morning—it’s still dark outside—because my son fully believes, as I do, that part of the cause of his depression years ago was a year’s night shift at a local factory. He barely ever saw the sun. Spurgeon’s commentary on Psalm 104: 23, minces no words: “Night work,” he says, “should be avoided as much as possible.” I understand why Spurgeon says that—maybe better than he did himself. Then again, maybe not.

What’s clear in this verse, however, is the Bible’s arduous work ethic. Finally, 23 verses into this panorama of a psalm, man makes a cameo appearance, and what’s he doing? —backpacking among the mountain goats and coneys? worshiping? No, he’s working, doing his nine-to-five.

All of which reminds me of Weber’s argument about cause and effect between Calvinism and capitalism. It makes me think of night shifts in local factories, and what we might have lost in this country, making the Sabbath into any other work day—how easy it is, even for Christian believers, to believe in the godliness of work, and, as we have elsewhere, to shape virtue into self-righteousness.

Okay, maybe I’m still trying to justify not going to church. But one way or another, I really do believe my wife and I need more Sabbath rest, more silence, up on a hill, in the solitary presence of just a few playful swallows, nary a devil to be found.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Broken Chain--a story (conclusion)

The neighbor told John's parents his side of the story. Now his mother and father have to choose who to believe. 

No one mentioned his walking away from Henry DeRegt's cornfield until after Sunday dinner several days later. DeRegt and his wife had stopped for coffee after morning service, as was their custom, but John stayed away from the table and the conversation, as he normally did. It would have to be said--what happened that week would have to come up, he knew.

After lunch, Peter left the table quickly, but rather than begin to clean up the dishes, John's mother sat waiting for what was to come.

"I thought it was a good sermon this morning," his father said. "I think I like this new dominie." 

John understood that, oddly enough, his father's observation was intended to prompt a reply.

"And what do you think, John?"

"Ja, it was good." His father rarely spoke of the sermon to him. Even thought it wasn't at all strange for him to talk about the sermon, often enough it was simply a kind of recitation of what the minister had said at the morning service.

"You believe what he said?" It was a pointed question for which he had no answer. He hadn't been thinking at all about what the dominie said that morning from the pulpit. "A good sermon--sure," he said. 

"Didn't disagree with a thing, I guess?"

John pushed his chair back from the table as if to make to leave. "No, I was good with it--all the way through, you know?" He was caught, and he knew it. 

"All about the Lord's control over all things, yeah?"

John nodded.

"His hand is ever over us," he said, pointing to imaginary spots on the table "In all we do, he is behind us, beside us, before us, huh?"

"Always there," John said, "even when we forget."

"Even when we wish he weren't," his father said. But there was a smile on his face. He was being playful somehow, which wasn't like him exactly.

He stopped, lifted his cup to his lips, took a long sip, kept the cup there, kept nodding, first toward John and then at Ma. "So we spoke to Henry today ... about you, about what happened." He looked up. "He said you worked hard. He said you were a good worker. He couldn't expect more, really. He had high praise, John."

"I did--I worked hard," he told them. "I was angry with him, and I worked very hard--maybe even because I was so mad."

"He said you were very angry all right." He stopped, shook his head a bit, and continued. "He said that's why he fired you."

"He fired me?" John said. "He fired me?--he said that? for what?"

"For being so angry about the chain, and for swearing at him."


"He says you took the name of the Lord in vain," his father said.

When John tried to look into his mother's eyes, she turned away. "I said no such thing, Pa," he told them. "I never did. I didn't cuss him out."

"Henry DeRegt claims that you said, 'Goddammit, Henry--fix the damn chain,' and right then he fired you because he couldn't have someone so shameful on his land. That's what he told us. 

"He's lying," John said, slowly, as slowly as he could. "I never said such a thing."

"Are you sure, Johannes?" His mother waited.

"When he didn't fix the chain--I told him the night before that he had to fix the chain and when it wasn't, when he looked at me as if to say that he was boss here and that was all there was to it, that's when I walked away. I turned around, Mother, and I walked home. It all happened like I said."

There were tears, but he wasn't sure whether they were flushed from her belief in the story he'd told or her unbelief.

"I didn't cuss him out." He turned to his father. "I said no such thing. I didn't. You have to believe me."

His father laid out his hand on the table, as if John were a child, as if he were still a little boy who wanted to hold it. So he put his own there, his left hand into his father's right, a hand stained by shadowy grease from the garage downtown. 

"I didn't say those things," John said again. "I never did."

His father squeezed it like a long handshake. "I believe you," he said in a voice that was steady and convincing. "I believe you and I don't believe him," he said quietly. "Henry DeRegt wasn't telling the truth, I'm sure of it. I don't know what you said exactly, but I think Henry lied to me just like he lied to you." He reached over to his wife to try to steady her short and uneven breaths.

She looked up at her son, stood up from the table, walked over and kissed him lightly on the forehead, then smiled and left the room. 

He turned to his father. "But she doesn't believe me, does she?" he said.

"She believes you, too," he said, taking his hand away.

"Then how come the tears?"

He grimaced, as if what he was about to say was causing him pain too. "You still have things to learn--trust me. Those tears she's carrying are for Henry and for his wife and for his family." His father stood from the table. 

"Time to get ready for afternoon church, Peter," he said to John's brother who was busily engaged with something in the front room. 

"And you?" his father said. "You'll be coming with us?"

Not once in his life had his father ever asked him a question like that. 

He turned to the stairs, looked back once more at his father and nodded, then climbed the stairs to his room.

In part, I thought it a marvelous story because my wife's grandfather thought it was. He was, without a doubt, proud of his father back then, somewhere south and west of Ireton, Iowa.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Broken Chain--a story (vii)

John's parents try to get to the bottom of what happened between their son and their neighbor, Henry DeRegt.

"When the Lord sent the hail--not to the south or north of us," his father said, "not even to DeRegt's fields, was that fair, John?" He reached across the table and grabbed John's arm, held it as if he wasn't supposed to move. "Was that fair of God almighty to wipe us out? Did I say to Him, 'Well, Father in heaven, I'm sorry, but I won't work if you're not fair'?"

John looked away. He hated the man, kept remembering that broken chain.

"When Verburg pays me two dollars for a job that he makes twenty on," his father said, "do I throw down my wrench and go home? Do I quit and zannik about how it's not fair?"

His mother came in from the kitchen, untied her apron, and sat down at the table. She reached out to John too as she spoke. "Things in life are not always fair. The Christian knows that we must learn to live with it, humbly and prayerfully. We live as servants here in this world."

"Not as slaves!" John said. "You're no slave, Pa, and neither am I." He looked into his mother's eyes. "I can get another job. McCrory asked me too, you know. Just last week."

"McCrory is not a church man, John," his mother said.

"But he's a good man, Ma." John pulled himself back from the table, sitting straight in the chair. "I'd rather work for Ben McCrory than Henry De Regt any day. Anybody would."

"You shouldn't talk that way about a brother in Christ," his father said.

There was more to Henry DeRegt than his father had yet seen, much more. He was sure that his father had never seen the cheating in the man's eyes. "Henry De Regt is no brother of mine," he said. "A man who will cheat you openly, then lie on top of it?--that man is my brother?"

His mother was growing angry. "I'm sure he didn't--"

"If he didn't mean it, then why didn't he fix the chain?" John said. "Three times I asked him--three times. He could have gone back to the barn and got another."

His father tried to temper things, spoke with care to John's mother. "I won't answer for Henry," he said. "He will have to answer for himself." Then he turned back. "But 
'Blessed are the meek,' John. You know that? 'They shall inherit .. .' He didn't have to continue. "If everything you say is true--if he lied and cheated as you say, then tell me this--can you forgive him?"

It was a ridiculous question. "He should ask my forgiveness, Pa," he answered, pointing at his own chest. He had never spoken that way to his parents before.

His mother looked across the table. "Maybe John should go back tomorrow morning, don't you think, Pa? Maybe Henry will let him fix that chain himself."

"I won't," he told them. "I will not be treated like that. I will not work for Henry De Regt again."

His father's stubborn silence wasn't thoughtful, not something to be feared. He kept looking at Ma, John thought, but not seeing her either, thinking maybe about DeRegt, about how he could talk to him after what had happened. It would be easiest for him to say that John had to go back tomorrow, make John do the hard work. But if that what's his father would say, he told himself it wouldn't matter because he wouldn't go. He wouldn't. 

"We need the money," his mother said.

'l can get other jobs," he told her. 
''I'll go see Ben Mc­Crory tomorrow--at lunch,'' he said.

Silence returned. His father nodded slowly. "The boy is right," he told his mother. "Tomorrow John can pick our corn again in the morning, then look for another job." He spread both his hands out on the table. "But remember what your mother and I have said--we sometimes have to accept the Lord's will humbly and graciously, even when it is hard. Sometimes you can't just walk away."

John stood, waited for a moment as if to excuse himself, then, in silence, went upstairs. 

Through the heating vent he heard his mother sniffing just enough to make him think there were tears amid the resonant voice of his father. 

He lay awake for a long time, something fearful still shaking in his hands, stuttering his breath. It was like nothing before down there at the dinner. He'd never to them like that, never tried. But he wouldn't go back. He'd not given in, just as he hadn't with DeRegt. He'd been stubborn and strong. He'd told them exactly what he'd thought, but something in him shook with a different kind of fear because there was something new and scary now between him and his ma and pa.

Tomorrow: conclusion.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Broken Chain--a story (vi)

His father's corn was not as easy to pick as DeRegt's. It had matured earlier, and the strong fall winds had taken a toll amid the rows. But John worked hard, even harder than yesterday, determined to get as much as he could in, despite his late start. His little brother Peter helped, but Peter was a boy and inexperienced and required lots of help with the inside row.

But none of that mattered. That he was doing their own corn, and that he'd done the right thing--of that he was convinced--pushed him along with a grace and a fervor that he recognized only when he looked back at the distances he was covering.

His father appeared late in the afternoon, but said nothing of the incident. That con­versation, he knew, would follow later at the supper table, once the younger kids were off. The three of them picked until a good deal after the setting sun made the ears difficult to locate. John drove the wagon back to the crib and unloaded, while his father did the chores.

It was the children who did all the talking that night. Something of that wasn't unusual, but it was impossible, he thought, not to feel tension because he knew that the whole DeRegt story wasn't over exactly either. His mother seemed angry about it, his father pensive, although his father talked about a trip to LeMars that day to set up a self-binding reaper. He'd stopped at some cousins of his, and his face brightened when he talked about what had looked like a healthy crop all up and down the road.

Only when the Bible had been read and prayers offered, the children had up and gone in­to the front room did the story return.

"What is this all about, this business between you and Henry De Regt?" his father said. Both of them were sipping hot coffee.

"He chain was broken. I saw it in the morning already," John told him. "I mentioned it--that it needed to be fixed. I told him, and he said he'd do it--and he never did." 

His father didn't look at him. He sat there, elbows up on the table, stirring his coffee with his right hand. 

"I asked him to--I didn't tell him he had to, but I said I thought it should be fixed, and he agreed, but he didn't--he wouldn't." All of that came back in rush of emotion. He could feel the nervousness in his hands, his fingers. "He deliberately left it broken all day, and I picked more  than two loads." 

"That's all?" his father said.

'The chain was broken," he repeated. 

"I heard as much," his father answered. "But that's all?"

"Yes," he said. "He was cheating me." He started to lift his cup, but saw it shake in his hand.

His father stared away into the kitchen, where both of them knew John's mother was listening. Seeing nothing of his own frustration in his father's face made him even more angry. There was no sense of outrage. 

"When you work for someone like DeRegt, the machinery is his business," he looked up in a way that made John feel as if he was a child, as if this was Sunday School. "You work for the man, and he pays you, and  he takes care of the wagon--it's his, not yours."

"He didn't--"

"Did you give him time?"

"When I came back in the morning, I said it again. I told him I wouldn't work until it was fixed--"

"And he said what?"

"He said--" John tried to remember the words exactly. "He said something like you did--that I couldn't make him do anything because he was boss and there were lots of boys who would be happy to pick his corn." Something in his father's cold callousness scared him, something was retreating. "He made me fill the wagon, Pa, fill it to overflowing. Twice the wagon was heaped up full--twice! Overflowing, way more than 30 bushels. A lot more. And I asked him to fix it--I didn't demand it. I didn't yell, didn't say it rough. I asked him."

"And how much did he pay you?" 

"He didn't."

"Then how did you know he cheated you?"

"He told me I picked 75 bushels." He hit the table with his fist, not hard, then pointed into the surface. "I know there was more. The wagon held 35 at least, probably 40. I know, Pa, I've picked before. I picked a hundred bushels at least--not 75."

"Don't have to get sassy. I know what you've done. You're my son."

The steady chime of dirty dishes and glass ware interrupted the silence. His mother was working, but listening closely, he knew.

"So you walked away from him because it wasn't fair?" 
His father scratched his temples. "Did you think of his side?" 

"More than once I asked him--"

"He has to get his crop in alone now." 

"He says he can get someone else easy."

"About that, he's right, you know. Someone else will make that money now." 

He'd seen what Henry DeRegt was doing, the way he was chiseling him--he'd seen it in the man's eyes. It was there in the broken chain, but it was there in the way he deliberately didn't mind what John had said. "You would not have worked for him either, Pa, if you knew he was cheating you. You wouldn't. It wasn't fair."

Tomorrow: The confrontation at the supper table continues.