Copyright© 2021 by Mark Elias
“Max,” the young woman sighed as she looked across the small field, “we weren’t prepared for this.”
“What do you mean, you weren’t prepared for it?”
Max Hunter, a tall good looking gentleman in his early thirties, was dressed impeccably for the setting in which they found themselves. The suit he wore had clearly been custom made by a very talented tailor. It fit him like a glove. His hair had been well groomed, cut short on the sides but leaving enough length on top to show his brown hair had a natural wave to it. All of that could be overlooked, but the most telling sign that Max Hunter was out of his element were the shoes. Patent leather shoes looked great on television or walking down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, but out in the middle of a horse farm in the ‘deep south’ parts of Georgia, they were anything but useful.
“What I mean is that we don’t have the lighting we need and we don’t have the power supply.”
“Well, why the hell not?!” Max was clearly upset.
His job was not to focus on the hows of things. He wasn’t supposed to worry about lighting, sound, or any of those other petty things. He had one job and one job only. He was here to conduct an interview and look damn good while doing it.
“Because we weren’t told we’d be outside. We thought that we’d be inside somewhere. We didn’t bring the lighting or any of the equipment we’d need to do this.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be prepared for anything? That’s what I’m paying you for.”
She growled through gritted teeth, “No! You are paying me to record an interview inside of a studio! You said nothing about being on location. I know they didn’t teach you much at that posh little preppie school you went to - other than how to comb your hair, and what foundation looks good for your complexion on camera – but, those of us who actually know what we are doing need to be told certain things. If I carried around enough equipment to handle every possible situation, I’d have to bring a big rig everywhere I went.”
“What do you need?” he sighed in exasperation.
Max had jumped at the chance to get this interview done. This one-hour special would be broadcast around the world. It could be the big break he needed to take the next step in his career. No more of these backwoods locations. After this, it was the glamorous lights of studios where people waited on you hand and foot. Where people brought you coffee instead of you having to make it ... in a pot. Disgusting!
“I’m going to need at least a full day to track down everything we need.”
“A full day?! Kendra, I can’t wait that long. I need to have this footage to the studio by tomorrow morning.”
“Then we need to get somewhere inside.”
“But this is the perfect location!” Max pointed to the old run-down barn behind him.
The barn had clearly seen better days. The paint, once bright red like any other southern farm, had long since chipped away leaving the gray weathered boards beneath it. The two large doors that marked the entrance were hard to open now, but they still worked. There was no doubt this barn had many stories to tell. That is, if anyone ever bothered to ask what those stories were.
“I get that, Max. Trust me, I do, but please listen to me, and try, for once, to actually understand something other than how good you look in the mirror. We are in the very deep south. I mean less than two hours away from the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s the middle of July. It feels like its seven hundred degrees outside. You’re wearing a full suit, you’re already starting to sweat, and it’s only going to get worse. I don’t care how cool that barn looks. If your precious mascara is running down your cheeks there is no studio in the world that will want the footage. Do you get that?!”
“Fine! But we have to do this today. I can’t wait until tomorrow. We’ll have no time at all to get it back to the studio.”
“Max,” I finally stepped up, “if you want, we can go inside the barn for the interview.”
“Inside that thing?” he asked petulantly. “It looks like it’s about to fall down.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. In years past I would have taken offense at his attitude or the way he acted ... Now, that all seemed so trivial.
“Oh, I think you’d be surprised. You see, Mr. Hunter, unlike the way they do things these days, this barn was built to last multiple generations. In fact, a lot of my story has happened in or around this barn. So, if you want your interview, I’d suggest we head inside.”
Max huffed and walked away from me towards the barn to see what was inside.
“Thank you, Mr. Jackson,” Kendra said with a smile. “I’ve worked with Max for a number of years now. I wish I could say this isn’t how he normally acts, but he’s more ‘high maintenance’ than anyone I’ve ever worked with.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “You’re welcome. Besides, I grew up on this farm and there ain’t no way on God’s green earth that he was going to have my wrinkled old butt sitting out here in the middle of July. Stupid dumbass.”
Kendra chuckled, “Is there power inside? We’ve got lights and everything. We can run in and get a generator if we need to.”
“Kendra,” I laughed, “I may be old, but I’m not that old. There’s plenty of power in the barn. I’ll get one of the boys to bring over some hay bales. We can make some sort of seating area. I may even be able to find a horse blanket or something for the princess to sit on.”
Kendra laughed again, “Don’t tell him it’s a horse blanket. He’ll break out into hives.”
“Deal,” I said with a grin.
An hour later their crew had turned the inside of the old barn – the same one I had grown up with – into a full-fledged studio. There were more electrical extension cords, and video cables running around the floor than I could remember having seen before. We’d brought over several bales of hay to use for seating along with a TV tray of sweet iced tea to sit between myself and Max. Of course, Max Hunter never lifted a finger.
“God,” he said with a sigh, “this place is disgusting.”
I’d had about as much as I could stand of him now. I had patience, but there was only so much I could take. The years had taught me to take what people said with a grain of salt, but that wasn’t always the case. Max Hunter had officially pushed me to the point of saying something.
“Listen here, Max, if you want to do this interview, I suggest you shut the hell up and start acting like you appreciate something for once in your life.”
“I...” He tried to say something, but I stopped him.
“Shut it. Ain’t nothing you can say that’ll explain the way you’ve been behaving. You’ve had everyone else around here running around doing whatever they needed to do to help you out and all you’ve done is act like a spoiled little bitch.”
“If I what? You gonna threaten to walk out of this interview if I don’t apologize to you? Here’s a newsflash for that little prissy pea sized brain of yours. I didn’t even want to do this interview, much less have you be here. In fact, the ONLY reason I agreed to do this interview is because a very dear friend of mine, your father, called me and asked me to do this interview as a personal favor. He wanted to help you in your career despite the fact that you’re a pretentious little jackass.”
Max was silent at the rebuke.
“You come up here, into my home, and all you do is insult me, my family, and my entire way of life. It’s very clear you have no respect for anyone, not even yourself. You insult this tiny little town and this old run down barn – but this place saved my life.”
“Yeah. It saved my life. And not just once. I nearly died - three times - before I even made it into high school. It was thanks to this barn, and the people who bought it, that I lived. This barn, this town, these backwoods people, are the reason you have a job right now. So, whenever you want to stop acting like a ten-year-old little spoiled brat princess, and start acting like a professional journalist, you just let me know. I’ll be happy to talk to you. Until then, y’all have a nice day. Make sure to lock the barn up when you leave.”
I turned and started to head out the door when I heard him call me back.
“Uncle Alex, wait!” he sighed, “I’m sorry. I was out of line.”
“It’s okay. You’ve been out of line your whole life,” I smirked to give him a hard time.
“This place really saved your life?”
I shook my head. “Your dad never told you?”
“I think he tried a few times, but I never really gave him a chance.”
“Too bad. You’d have heard some great stories. Sit down. Let’s do this interview.”
What I didn’t realize is that Kendra had already gotten one of the cameras rolling and had recorded my entire berating of my nephew. For a moment I felt a little bad about the things that I’d said, but only for a fleeting moment. Max was the type that needed a good kick in the pants every now and then. Overall, he was a good person. He’d never been in trouble, at least from what I could remember, but he thought very highly of himself.
“So, how old is this place?”
“The barn?” I looked around at the old structure, “I’d have to look to be sure, but it was originally built in the late 1920’s or early 30’s. We can’t be sure because the original owners weren’t that great at keeping records.”
“How old is the farm?”
“The farm goes all the way back to just after the Civil War.”
I nodded, “Yeah. I had to do some research on it for a class my freshman year of high school. Guy by the name of Thurlow Warren was in the Battle of Natural Bridge in Florida. I won’t bore you with the details of that battle, but I’ll say it was one of the few Confederate victories. Anyway, after that battle Thurlow Warren moved up to Georgia and settled this farm. It passed down through the years and stayed in the family for quite a while.”
“So, are you part of that family?”
I laughed, “No, nothing like that.”
“Wait, so ... how did this place save your life?”
I laughed and reached over to the TV tray to get my glass and take a sip of my sweet tea, “Sit back, Max. This is going to be a long story.”