Saturday, May 9, 2009

Farm Family

Today I drove an hour and a half south of Fort Wayne to meet with a family on a farm to finalize a business transaction. They had been through a recent fire loss and I was there to get them to sign off on the check that was sent to me from the insurance company. My mission was… I needed two signatures, theirs and mine before it could be deposited into my account. I chose to go to them because I’ve found that sometimes it’s best to go to the customer’s home instead of dealing with the mail especially if it has to do with large sums of money. Somehow someway taking the easy route such as the postal system could end up with “gee golly we really didn’t get it”, or ”I think we’ll l wait to mail it out on Friday when we go to town” etc.
As I made my way to their home I got off the interstate 1-69
and went through a couple of small blip in the road towns before I stopped in at a gas station to confirm my directions and to purchase some bottled water and a Pepsi. Everyone in the gas station immediately got involved in my business including one guy who yelled half way across the store and asked me if I needed the restroom as soon as I walked in. I said, “No I’m ok” (all one word). Gosh I thought to myself, I’m already starting to talk like these hillbillies and I just got here). As we pulled out of the parking lot onto the road my wife pointed to a sign on the building that said “hot meals three times a week”. We both chuckled and said, ”maybe some night we should slip away and come down here for a hot meal at the gas station”.
It wasn’t long before we turned onto the gravel road and on both sides were dark green corn fields
and soy beans and power lines as far as the eye could see. As I arrived at the address which was a remote farm house (I mean, smack-dab in the middle of nowhere), (“first driveway on the left”) which had an unmarked mail box; I pulled into the driveway only to be greeted by three barking dogs (a pit bull, a mix breed dog and a German Sheppard) following the tires of my truck. I pulled to a stop at the back of the house and I turned off the engine and gathered up my paper work which I had promised, I stepped out of my vehicle to meet with the customer and was promptly surrounded by the same nosy dogs that had to check me out. I sensed that this was one of those times not to look at the barking dogs but to maintain my composure and confidence so that I didn’t seem intimidated by the animals in the face of my customers, after all I was a guest and I was now on their turf.
Throughout the back yard there were loose chickens everywhere running for cover amongst the rusted farm equipment, burn barrels and rundown farm buildings as they sensed that they were getting in the way of the action.
Just then the screen door of the farm house swung open and banged shut just as fast as a shirtless young man in his mid twenties stepped out onto the deck with his underwear sticking out of the top of his raggedy jeans. He looked like he just woke up as He hollered back into the house to his mom that “someone was here to see you”; he didn’t seem to make any effort to make eye contact with me as she appeared out of nowhere. We recognized each right away from a previous meeting and I began the conversation by telling her that “I had almost been stopped by the local police patrol car on the way to her home for trying to pass them in town only to realize that I was in the process of speeding to which I had to back off right away or run the risk of a ticket”. She acted like she was trying to process that thought and then she sat down on a porch glider that hadn’t been painted for years so I followed her lead and sat next to her to discuss what needed to be done and of course the signing of the check.
In the background the dogs were still being obnoxious as they continued to relentlessly bark at me as I sat there. Finally the young man (her son) told them all to “shut up” to which they obeyed. I didn’t see any cats around so I assumed they didn’t like cats and probably shot them when they came around. As I sat there with the mom, each dog then had to approach me check me out to see if I was ok or in violation of their turf. Then the mixed breed dog came up to me and stuck his nose between my legs to get a closer sniff of my crotch to which I gently pushed him back. The mom told him to, “Get away”! She was short and skinny and had open sores on her arms that looked more like melanoma or some sort of skin cancer possibly from the over exposure to the sun as she worked the fields on the farm. Even though she was every bit of 75-80 she had a subtle attitude which was written all over her body language and a cockiness about her that said, go ahead and lie to me because I don’t trust anyone.
I must say that my time with her was two(2) well spent hours of intricately woven conversations on my behalf, calculated to a level of political correctness and laced with diplomacy and promises that I promptly wrote down as I made them so that I would not forget and then end up offending them. My conversational efforts were carefully crafted as I went, (shoot from the hip) and designed not of offend anyone. No one had to tell me that I was in deep redneck territory and that these country folks would tell you in so many words that you didn’t belong there and that “you’d be best to get off their property and move on down the road”.
As I sat there her older son pulled in the driveway in a beat-up pickup truck. He came over and sat down across from us to listen in on the conversation with his dark sunglasses on while the rest of the family stood behind the screen door. I’ve always consider it rude to talk to someone who has sunglasses on especially when the sun has gone down. You just don’t know where their eyes are focused, if they are sleeping or ignoring you but you could sense that they he was hanging on to every word. I was able engage him in some small talk and finally a conversation about our sons being in the military (He has two in the Army in Afghanistan). Just on the other sides of the screen door were all the kids and the two moms with their ears pressed against the screen until one of the skinny barefoot, skimpy dressed young moms came out on the wood porch and scooped up several ears of corn that were laying there and went back in the house. Soon you could smell food in the kitchen making its way across our noses and the obvious sound of a table being set and you knew it was supper time
Just then He said to his Mom, “hant you signed that check yet Ma”? Then just as fast as a snap of the finger she said, “Well he hant ask me to sign it yet”. So I replied, “well you know what the good book says….Be anxious for nothing”. Things got quite and we all looked at each other and then I told her when you are ready, I’m sure you’ll feel comfortable signing. We finally came to an agreement over all the, who, what when and where things, after which she took my pen and signed the check and I handed her a copy of it for her records. As we made our way back to Fort Wayne, it took a day or two to sort out what just went down. In some ways I thought it was good to see freedom being exercised in this part of the country. The next morning I woke up and tried to visualize waking up to the crow of a rooster around 5 Am and the sounds and smells of the farm life. Then I thought, could anyone in Washington D.C. relate to the needs of these people? Not really… but on the other hand these people are survivors and besides, this land is their land and they know it.

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