Short Story – from REDNECK

Hank 

by Bob Lane from the book REDNECK

Bob watched his stepfather’s face as the hail pounded down on the fields west of them. The face of a dry land farmer: leathery, lined, stoic. That face usually revealed no emotion, but for a moment Bob thought his Dad would cry. Then anger clouded his face like one of the lightening flashes announcing that the hail was coming east toward their half-section. He had only seen that look once before in the six years they had been on the farm. They were all coming back from town on Halloween and had spotted a strange pickup in their farmyard. Three young men were about to load their outhouse onto their pickup to take to town for some Halloween mischief. His stepfather had confronted them, carrying his 12-gauge shotgun.

“Better put her back now, boys,” he had said quietly.

“Oh, shit! Yessir, yessir, we will. Sorry about that; don’t know what got into us. We were just funning around. We’ll get ‘er back right away.”

The outhouse was put back and the three partygoers left. But with the hailstorm there wasn’t anyone to threaten. Mother Nature didn’t give a damn if you had a 12-gauge shotgun or not. You could just watch and do nothing.

In ten minutes it was over. The damage to the neighbors to the west had been total. Their own wheat was bent over but not completely destroyed. After the clouds passed by they walked out into the field.

“Well, it looks like we can harvest some of it, but goddamn it, it will mean a lot more work.” His stepfather leaned over to hold up the plants to see how much of the grain had been knocked from the golden heads. “We’ll have to put pick-up teeth on the bar of the combine to lift all this straw up to the cutting sickle. We better go up to the house and call Hank.”

They had been hoping for a great crop this year. Last year they had lost about forty acres of wheat to a rain storm. When it rained hard, the land north of the house flooded because it was the lowest point in several miles. Much of the top soil from around their place had, over the years, washed into the area they called “the lagoon.” The soil was great, but if it rained too hard you could never harvest the crop. People at the Co-Op always said that Ott should plant half wheat and half rice in the lagoon.

One year they had cut wheat in the lagoon and it yielded eighty bushel to the acre. If only they could control the rain. You had to have rain, but not too much rain. Two summers ago they had tried to empty the lagoon. Ott and Hank had this idea that if they drilled a deep hole in the lowest part of the lagoon and stuffed some dynamite into the hole they could open up the land so it could drain.

Bob remembered the day of the big explosion. A well digging rig had been brought in and they punched a hole in the ground about one-hundred and twenty feet deep. Then they had wrapped several sticks of dynamite and crammed them down into the hole. People from all around had come to watch.

“We’re gonna pull the plug on this lagoon,” Hank said as he pushed the plunger to set off the explosion.

There was a deep rumbling sound and a two foot high splash of water just above the hole. Everyone waited for the water to drain out.

Nothing happened.

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Remembering

Above: Otto Foltmer with my Mom and my wife circa 1960.

My step-father was a small farmer. He worked with his hands all of his life. He worked with mules, horses, and later tractors. Otto was primarily a wheat farmer. He took pride in his farming. Straight rows, sowing at the right time, cultivating, knowing when to harvest. There was a German Lutheran toughness to him and a real pride in growing crops and beasts to feed the people.
It was a real shock to him when he made his first trip to the east coast. He went up to the top of the Empire State Building and looked out over the city. He noticed barges in the Hudson River that were dumping their loads into the river. He asked what they were dumping. He was told they were dumping excess wheat and also milk. He could not believe it.
Why would they do that he asked. For the futures market he was told. Too much wheat brings the prices down now and in the future.
When he came back to the farm he was changed. Those barges had stolen his life’s purpose.
At about the same time Camus was writing his Notebooks 1951 – 1959. He writes (35) :
According to Melville, the remora, a fish of the South Seas, swims poorly. That is why their only chance to move forward consists of attaching themselves to the back of a big fish. They then plunge a kind of tube into the stomach of a shark, where they suck up their nourishment, and propagate without doing anything, living off the hunting and efforts of the beast.
The remora reminds me of the rich speculators of today. They do not produce any wheat or corn – they merely bet on its price in the future. And they don’t manufacture anything to use for anything – they specialize in gambling.
Oh, yeah, and Otto paid his fair share of taxes.

Otto was a farmer – repost

wheatMy step-father was a dry-land farmer. He worked with his hands all of his life. He worked with mules, horses, and later tractors. Otto was primarily a wheat farmer. He took pride in his farming. Straight rows [once when my brother was home on leave during WWII, and was new to farming, Otto had him working in a field where he was supposed to drive the tractor at an angle across the face of a hill, Bud’s rows got so crooked that he decided to fix the line by working up and down the hill to correct the line! The result was a disaster as the rows now ran up and down the hill side instead of across its face.], sowing at the right time, cultivating, knowing when to harvest. There was a German Lutheran toughness to him and a real pride in growing crops and beasts to feed the people.

It was a real shock to him when he made his first trip to the east coast. He went up to the top of the Empire State Building and looked out over the city. He noticed barges in the Hudson River that were dumping their loads into the river. He asked what they were dumping. He was told they were dumping excess wheat and also milk. He could not believe it.

Why would they do that he asked. For the futures market he was told. Too much wheat brings the prices down now and in the future.

When he came back to the farm he was changed. Those barges had stolen his life’s purpose.

At about the same time Camus was writing his Notebooks 1951 – 1959. He writes (35) :

According to Melville, the remora, a fish of the South Seas, swims poorly. That is why their only chance to move forward consists of attaching themselves to the back of a big fish. They then plunge a kind of tube into the stomach of a shark, where they suck up their nourishment, and propagate without doing anything, living off the hunting and efforts of the beast.

The remora reminds me of the Wall Street speculators of today. They do not produce any wheat or corn – they merely bet on its price in the future. And they don’t manufacture anything to use for anything – they specialize in gambling. Oh, and gas prices? Betting on the futures is responsible for a large share of the price.

Oh, yeah, and Otto paid his fair share of taxes.

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