This story takes place near a great Midwest city in the USA. Like all Great cities in the Midwest, the area had undergone tremendous change in the past 200 years. Now it was changing again, some say for the better, some think for the worse though. Whatever, there were a few spots scattered 50 - 100 miles away that never seemed to change very much over the last 200 years. Seemed a few years for the USA but our area was now nearly 400 years old, if you did not believe the early Vikings and Rune Stones from 1,000 years ago.
One area nearby raised horses and had done so since it was founded; another, raised dairy cattle. Several areas were and still are home to the Amish and Mennonite cultures, not quite a Luddite but to varying degrees adhere to the ways of the past and ignore things we, in modern times, think of as necessary technology.
There is a difference in living that way, to destroying and forcing your belief on another; a sane person does not force their way of living on someone else. Most people do not want to go back to the Stone Age way of living.
Then there are some of us who don’t want to continue on the rat-race we call modern living either. So here I was, at a place my grandfather always referred to as ‘his peace in heaven on earth’. He probably exaggerated a little but after five years breathing in smog (In LA folks we have smog days) and having to wear a mask like in Tokyo when you did not know if the sun was shining, I left to try life here instead.
Just off the expressway, some 70 miles out of town I found a modern looking motel; at least that’s the way it looked from the parking lot. There were actually other cars there too, not just horses and buggies. Things sort of changed once I went inside to register. Looking around was a treat, inside was like a ‘Cracker Barrel’ store. A diner, food store, knickknacks, and a dozen other sections from household goods to fresh fruit and vegetables, not what I had expected.
I got a room and yes they took my Amex Card imprint; I never leave home without one. I had a small overnight bag and was walking to my room when I stopped to listen to a conversation between some girl and what was obviously an HR person.
“Why can’t you hire me, I need a job. My Dad even told me I should start working!”
“Hon, I wish I could hire you, but we have a State rule that until you are 18, we can only hire a 16 year-old to work 20 hours a week and that with the school’s approval.”
“But I just graduated high school and I am 15. They had me in advanced classes and I was taking College Credit courses my last 2 years.”
“I know you are smart, very smart, your test scores are off the chart, however, I can’t hire you.”
“It’s not fair! I worked so hard and there are not many places to get work around here. I don’t drive or have a car yet. Please, is there anything I can do?”
“I’m afraid nothing I can do, really, and I’m not recommending you do anything illegal either.”
She was walking past me looking like her dog was run over in front of her.
I made a comment, just had to, she was the kind of person you just instantly liked, or was it felt sorry for.
“Please don’t take this wrongly but I overheard part of your conversation about a job. What that person told you is not exactly true. There are a number of ways someone who is not 18 can get a job. There are Child Labour laws but, and I say but, to work full time and get paid requires both luck and a considerate judge. Interested in some jumping thru hoops to get a job?”
“Mister, I have three older brothers and am the eldest daughter of eight kids, so unless they marry me off to some farmer here I need a job.”
“OK! I like you! I got a good feeling about you. Let’s have some food, I’ll tell you about me and what options you may have. After that can we go to your home and speak with your parents. They need to agree with what options we consider then give some approvals accordingly.”
“Great, but I live 6 miles away and by the time I walk home, ask them for permission and walk back to tell you I’m not sure I will even think straight.”
“OK, no car right, I heard you say that. What if we drive my car over, I’ll wait outside and you go in and tell them what we want to discuss or I’ll go back to the motel and you call me if everything is OK to come over.”
“Except we don’t have a phone, just a shortwave to call the farmers and workers.”
“If I have the front desk verify who I am and we tell them you are going home with me, would your parents object to that? I used to live near here ten years ago and my granddad died six years ago, he was well-known here I think!”
After checking with and an extensive cross-exam by Holly at the Front desk we were off.
My MB was not a Jeep or a off-road truck, but Samantha told me there were dirt roads all the way home that when there was no rain, ice or snow would be fine for a car to pass.
“This sure beats walking!” She exclaimed.
She was a pretty little thing, actually she looked older than the 14 or 15 that I guessed she was. Pretty smart too to graduate high school already.
Mom and Dad apparently were letting us talk about a job; she motioned me into the house. She said they were impressed that we both took so much care to identify who she was going with. Holly, from the front desk, had copied my license, car registration, plate numbers, 2 credit cards and called the local police who said they knew my Granddad. She too would pass muster if she ever wanted a job with me.
The job, Oh yeah. It was working for me. Duties were simple, she would do or be responsible for everything I did not want to do. I had a salary in mind, a good one for a person of any age. In my line of work you follow that gut feel. In 5 years I had made a ton of money buying and selling stock, homes and made various business loans using the money I had inherited. At 23 now I was rich and burned out. I told you, Granddad’s words would remind me how things used to be.
We sat at a kitchen table, four coffees later here is a summary of what Samantha’s options were, as we saw them.
1 Get emancipated 2 Own a piece of the business, 17% or so 3 Get married and work in a family owned business 4 Have a judge agree that as a HS grad she was OK to work 5 Work 20 hours a week with her former school’s approval 6 Move to a State with less restrictive Child Labour Laws 7 Lie and/or use a false id 8 Fight things in-court
I told them options 2 and 3 sounded pretty good to me.
Samantha blushed. Mom and Dad did not seem very shocked. I later learned girls as young as 11 or 12 were married off, if they told the judge they were pregnant. At 13 the girls parents could allow a couple to get married in this State.
I still had not spoken of what the job consisted of or how much the salary and benefits would be. In the time we spent talking I already decided I would pay for her to gain a higher education. The job, as I saw year one would be to find me a house, land, a small farm, lodge or resort at which I could re-live that dream I spoke of earlier. No mean feat seeing as even I did not know the particulars. There was an old saying, ‘I’ll know when I see it’!
In effect she and I needed to be joined at the hip so to speak; each trusting the actions of the other. Sounded like a marriage to me!
“We can’t decide what this means. We need to have a family meeting and discuss things. The wife and I thank you for speaking to us plainly so as we could follow what you were saying. Sam is the oldest girl and we know farm life is not going to please her. How long are you in town or do we have to decide?”
“I’m not certain if I said this to you but I used to live near here and decided to come back. Take as much or as little time as necessary. I will not hire anyone else until I tell you, then you say aye or nay. I like Samantha, like this town and the people in it and want to become a part of it again. That’s another thing I look to Samantha for.
In many ways I was just repeating the same things granddad had said to me. I did not know for certain what I wanted but deep down knew it was not what I had been doing in LA. Funny how we seem to know what we dislike but are unable to voice the things we want in a new life.
That ‘M’ word came up. I had it as an option, her Mom and Dad had brought it up several times and Samantha merely asked if she would not be too young for me, she had no real sex experience. I asked my self something different. With respect to a house, land or farm I hadn’t a clue. I merely wanted something nice and comfortable, not a mansion for people to look at. Yes, I did want some modern conveniences but nothing extreme or out of the ordinary. Samantha and her parents and I had a talk about that. The only things they did not have on the farm were a telephone, hot tub and swimming pool. We agreed that a lake or a hot spring could work just as well. City water and sewer were not available in most farm country but a well and good septic system worked just as well, sometimes better.
Judging from the head nods and bobbing up and down they seemed to agree with my thoughts. I also caught glances between mother and daughter, then both looked at me. Yep, Mom did not seem to think there was not much of a problem in those 7 or 8 years difference. I did not either, in-fact the more I listened to her take on things the more I found myself wondering how I could ever enjoy life without her.
Sad to say, that was exactly what happened. My mistake was showing her LA. Then the change from isolated farm girl to the dazzle of life in the big city set in. My thought was that it would happen sooner or later. I canceled our trip to Las Vegas. She did come back with me, unsigned contracts in-hand for a ‘family’ discussion as to what option she should take.
As I said before, no salary or benefits as part of my job had ever been discussed. The money, glitter and glamour she saw that would be hers in LA was all she could talk about. Her dad and I had a brief conversation. I think he expected me to voice some objections, I did not. Samantha and her Mom and Dad thought I would just go back to LA with her in-tow and we would live happily ever-after.
Been there, done that; it came as a shock to them when I wished her good luck, saying that unless she tried things like that it would be a problem for the rest of her life. I, however, would not be a part of that. Sure, I was disappointed but kept a lot of my bitterness out of the conversation. I saw in her the answer to my problem but now better understood her feelings for an escape from the farm confines.
The Bard once wrote, ‘Parting is such sweet-sorrow’ or something like that. It was true. It taught me a lesson not to jump to conclusions and not to assume to know the value of what the other might be thinking. It was different here. In LA, money seemed to be the end-all in everything. Here, people had other values.
People being people all had a whole bunch of differing values here. There were things most in a farming community shared, like rain, the weather, crop prices etc, but there were many more unique quirks based of who they were. Besides, I could never understand a woman, gave up trying to long ago.
Went back to my room, took a shower and grabbed anything I could find in that self-serve mini-bar. The next morning I had to ask myself if it was all a dream. Obviously the flight ticket receipt from LA gave me some proof. Breakfast did not, it was tasteless. My depression might have been the reason for that, the other diners seemed to be enjoying their food.
As I looked up I saw someone I knew; it was Holly. She sat right down and handed me a package. “Here are all the things of yours I copied when you took Sam home. I guess things did not work out with her, your back alone.”
“You might say that but better now than later; she just wanted to get away from the farm thing, I think. How are you doing?”
“I’m fine I guess!”
“That sounds a bit like your not. You know if you ever need anything or a job, I think you have a lot of potential!”
‘Thanks but around here potential is just a nice way of saying ‘horse shit’; it doesn’t pay the bills even as fertilizer goes.”
“Education, good luck and money pay the bills. What do you need to get ahead?”
“A rich husband, generous boyfriend and ... seriously though, I want to be an architect. That takes a formal education and experience. I have neither.”
“OK, is there a school here where you can learn some of those things?
“The local college has the basic math and graphics but it only gives a 2 year degree. Then I’d have to go to get more specialized study then a license and/or experience, easy huh? I can’t even afford that basic school.”
“Holly, do you live at home?”
“If you get a B average for your first two years I’ll pay for it and the rest of your education. I will pay for your first two years here at the community college and all your school expenses later at a school of your choice. You will also get some extra money for clothes, food and personal items. When ready, you will come work for me with a good salary for four years then you are free to do your own thing. What do you say?”
“What no first born, be a live in maid or be your sex slave? Where do I sign up?”
“You have already. I will give you 3 months expenses in advance at a time. Summers are yours or go to class, your call, I’ll pay you for that too.”
Well I was sending someone to college, someone who seemed to appreciate it. I still did not have a solution to my problem though. I dare not ask Holly but my options were limited. To see her face brighten up was something to behold.
“Class starts next month, Summer school. Can I go?”
“Gee, let me see? Well, yes I guess you can. If school needs more than 3 months at a time we can change to 6 or 12 in advance even.”
“I can’t thank you enough. Are you sure I can’t do anything for you?”
“Find me another you or a Samantha. I really want to find a place for myself around here; LA is no longer my home.”