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 15, 2017

Broken Chain--a story (v)

He walks away from Henry DeRegt with some apprehension, but proud too to have acted and not simply allowed himself to be cheated for another day. What he hadn't thought of was how the news would be heard once he returned home. 

His tracks were still fresh across the dew across the pasture he had to cross to get to DeRegt's farm.

The sun rose in a blaze, not a cloud in the sky, yet another perfect day for picking corn. He stopped for a moment and stripped the overall jacket from his shoulders. He straightened it carefully, holding it by the collar. He had paid nearly three dollars for it in town. His own money. Pa couldn't af­ford it, he knew. He threw it back over his shoulder and kept walking. 

He could get another picking job. Ben Mc­Crory had talked to him just last week. Pa hadn't been able to afford much the last two years. DeRegt was right. He couldn't be foolish about this. He needed to do  his share.

Two years ago the crops had looked tall and strong in early July. The corn had stood more than waist high. His father had thanked the Lord as he asked His blessing every mealtime, it seemed. They had bought ten more acres four years ago, and he knew that a good crop would keep the bank happy for at least another year. 

Then hail. One night it was hot and wet when they settled into their bunks. But the wind, a slashing wind that shrieked through the grove. Lightning turned the whole yard into day, and thunder shook the house and sent them into the storm cellar. It was all over the yard, a blizzard of hail. His father went out to the field then,his dark figure melting into a night still flashing with a storm now wreaking its havoc many miles to the east.

John walked through the field of corn where his own family's hope had stood so high just two years ago. Pa had to take a job with an implement dealer in town. Everyone had to work harder. Their own corn was ready to be picked, but like everything else for the last two years, it would be done only when there was some extra time. He could start today. His little brother could help. Today, he could get 100 bushels in yet--he was sure.

He was running when he entered the yard from behind the barn. His father had already left for work, and his mother was doing the chores alone when he walked up behind her and took the fork from her hands.

She was as shocked as he might have expected, to see him. "Trouble?" she asked.

He hadn't considering how he was going to tell her, tell them. They were friends, of course--neighbors, church members.

"Does he needs Snooks and Diamond?" she asked him. "I know they were thinking of buying another team sometime. . ."

There was no excuse, he knew. There was only the truth.  "Tm not going to work there anymore," he said, shoving hay through the chute.

"Certainly you aren't finished already?"


She put both hands up at her waist, then retied the scarf around her head. "What is it  then?"

"I quit."

That he did was stunning to her. He could feel her eyes sharpen on him. "Why?"

"He cheated me, Ma." He stood the hayfork upright and squared his shoulders. She needed to know the truth. "He wasn't being fair, not at all, and I told him I wouldn't work for him if he was going to cheat me."

With the back of her arm, she wiped the sweat and chaff from her temples. He couldn't help but feel the anguish in her eyes. "What exactly do you mean?"

"The chain was broken, the chain across the wagon, Ma." For some reason, something like sadness swept away the anger. "All day yesterday he promised to fix it, but he never did." He took a step away from her, looked away from her hurt. "He said I picked 75 bushels. He lied, Ma." Nothing changed in her face. It was as if she hadn't heard what he said. "The wagon held much more than 30, much more. You should have seen the box! The sides bent way out like this-" He made an exaggerated curve with his arm.

"Oh, John!" She turned away from him. 

"Ma, don't you see? it wasn't fair--"

His mother stared away from him as if imagining what was going on at the neighbors. Then she looked back at him, stared, unbelieving, then turned toward the window. "You finish the chores, John." She said no more butclimbed slowly down the ladder.

That day--all day--he picked their corn and didn't even break for dinner. His mother brought him lunch midway through the afternoon, but she made no mention of Henry DeRegt. 

Tomorrow: John's father returns from work to hear the story.

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