Tag Archives: hell

Two Gossamer Wings

Detail of original engraving "The Hours&q...

Detail of original engraving “The Hours” by Francesco Bartolozzi showing gossamer wings on a nymph (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The storm raged throughout the night,

The thunder was loud and the lightning was bright,

I slept in the basement to avoid the worst,

For I was of the opinion that hell had burst,

Straight line wind gusts of sixty or more,

Had blown a tree over and knocked open my door,

When morning dawned I cleared the debris,

And said a short prayer about the death of a tree,

The sun was shining and the sky was clear,

But I heard a sound that seemed very near,

At first I guessed it had to be a mouse,

But I knew for certain it was in my house,

A baseball bat was in my hand just to be sure,

For I remembered the tree had made my house less secure,

From room to room I searched for the sound,

I’d gone through most of the house and nothing was found,

“My bedroom!”  The thought jolted my mind,

I tightened my grip, not sure what I’d find,

The door was open and the lights were on,

The shape under the covers had to be someone,

As I got closer I slowly raised the bat,

I was slightly afraid, but don’t tell anyone that,

Carefully I pulled back the sheet and to my surprise,

A woman stared at me with two large luminous eyes,

Her skin was glowing and I could tell at a glance,

I’d never seen anyone like her, even by chance,

She was startled by my appearance, I tried to calm her fears,

It was at that moment I noticed her tall pointed ears,

Without any warning I kissed her ripe ruby lips,

Her eyes grew even larger when she felt my fingertips,

Pushing aside the covers she leaped up and hovered in the air,

Mesmerized by her beauty, I gasped to see her bare,

She wore no make-up, no bracelets or shiny rings,

But behind her back fluttered two gossamer wings,

An angel or fairy queen, I didn’t know for sure,

Because at that moment my thoughts were not pure,

As her mood changed, her color changed too,

I was glad to see she now had a warmer hue,

She was offering herself to one without wings,

Perhaps she knew I could do other things,

She smiled at me coyly and I almost burst,

My heart was pounding wildly, I was at my worst,

Her wings beat steadily as she stayed out of reach,

“If you want me, then it’s patience I’ll teach,”

We dined, danced, and talked for awhile,

Different worlds didn’t matter, I could tell by her smile,

Later in the night she fluffed up a nest,

I thought she was tired and needed her rest,

Instead she drew me close and wrapped her wings around,

She took me on a flight, somewhere heaven bound,

Her slow release kept me under her spell,

I didn’t know whether I’d reached heaven or hell,

That night she taught me much about certain things,

Inside I was flying even without gossamer wings,

She left late one night after a storm rolled in,

Desiring to be free and fly with the wind,

Now I stand in each storm waiting for her return,

My heart is empty without her and for her I yearn.

Now What?

Scroll of the Book of Proverbs

Scroll of the Book of Proverbs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wanted to sit next to her,

But I was sure it wasn’t a great idea,

She interested and excited me,

Yet it was not meant to be,

I knew the mental state I was in,

She was pretty, intelligent, and wise,

I did not want to be rejected again,

Although it wouldn’t be a surprise,

I shook the dust off of my shoes,

And headed out of town,

I was sure that someone waited for me,

An angel would be found,

Strength and wisdom I needed for awhile,

For I was easily tempted as a lonely man,

I wanted someone to love each day,

Not for a one night stand,

A woman who laughed and smiled,

With space for me in her heart,

I even wanted more than that,

But I knew that’s where I’d start,

I thought life should be shared,

For a day, a year, or more,

For a Proverbs woman I’d wait in line,

Or go pleading at Heaven’s door,

I’d resist the sirens at Hell’s front gate,

For my sake I hoped it was true,

I was looking for a saint, not a sinner,

And that’s when I met you.

 

 

I wanted to sit next to her,

But I was sure it wasn’t a great idea,

She interested and excited me,

Yet it was not meant to be,

I knew the mental state I was in,

She was pretty, intelligent, and wise,

I did not want to be rejected again,

Although it wouldn’t be a surprise,

I shook the dust off of my shoes,

And headed out of town,

I was sure that someone waited for me,

An angel would be found,

Strength and wisdom I needed for awhile,

For I was easily tempted as a lonely man,

I wanted someone to love each day,

Not for a one night stand,

A woman who laughed and smiled,

With space for me in her heart,

I even wanted more than that,

But I knew that’s where I’d start,

I thought life should be shared,

For a day, a year, or more,

For a Proverbs woman I’d wait in line,

Or go pleading at Heaven’s door,

I’d resist the sirens at Hell’s front gate,

For my sake I hoped it was true,

I was looking for a saint, not a sinner,

And that’s when I met you.

 

 

The Faith I Can Fly

From Dreams or Angels

Image via Wikipedia

My dreams
were big, It was all foretold,

I thought
I’d make my weight in gold,

Life would
be easy if I stayed the course,

I’d claim my
fortune and then rejoice,

Though progress
was slow in my early years,

I had much
to be thankful for, no time for tears,

My family
was growing, my job was secure,

No problems
on the horizon, nothing to endure,

But my work
consumed me, my home fell apart,

I had not
protected things close to my heart,

A divorce claimed
me and I entered the fire,

I thought my
pain could not get any higher,

I was under
a major demonic attack,

I went to
hell and somehow made it back,

My world grew
beautiful as I clawed to even ground,

I became
more humble the second time around,

My demands
for wealth were low on my list,

But life was
ugly and struck with an iron fist,

I cried to
the heavens because my dreams had faded,

My life was
destroyed, my hopes were jaded,

I was
knocked down again at the end of round three,

Life was not
any fun, was there more to life for me,

Somewhere
hidden in the clouds an angel band awaits,

Waiting for
me patiently behind great pearly gates,

I’ve got
just a few years before I get to go,

I’m hoping
and praying that no one says no,

It would be
very awkward to reach heaven’s door,

And find heaven
filled with no room for one more,

Life has
been brutal and under the circumstance,

I’d ask for
a lotto ticket and one slight chance,

I still
believe in miracles and will until I die,

I just need
angel wings and the faith I can fly,

 

 

What It Is, It Is…………

Assorted flowers in Park Seed Company Garden

Image via Wikipedia

A friend of mine asked me today,

“What should I do if love has its way?

I don’t know how to keep the flames stirred,

Do you know the answer? Tell me the secret word,”

I studied him intently, “You know my advice is free,

And I’ll tell you the truth even if you disagree,

You’re much like the others who sought me out,

Confused by love but your heart is stout,

If you are ready for my answer I will proceed,

I’ll tell you a short story about a man and his seed,”

He nodded his head and inclined his ear,

Ready for the wisest words he might hear,

“What it is, it is”………………………………………….

He looked at me puzzled, then started to grin,

“You’re trying to confuse me before we begin,”

I shrugged my shoulders and looked him in the eye,

“If you don’t take my answer seriously, I won’t even try,

There are struggles in love as you know well,

If you don’t get it right, it becomes a living hell,

But if you listen carefully to all I have to say,

You’ll find heaven, here on earth, each and every day,”

He motioned for me to share the things I might know,

So I began again, saying the words real slow,

“What it is, it is”……………………

This time he listened without making a sound,

“My example is about a garden and fertile ground,

A man started with good soil, wanting the very best,

The site was prepared, everything passed the test,

He sought opinions as he took extreme care,

He tilled it one more time until soft and fluffy there,

He marked his rows, planted the best of seeds,

Sent water down the rows, enough to meet their needs,

He gave thanks and smiled, now that his work was done,

He was proud, there was good soil, seed, water and sun,

He was ready to relax and take a long trip,”

My friend stirred, “He needs to get a grip,”

“What it is, it is”…………………………………………

He looked at me and silently shook his head,

I didn’t explain, but returned to the story instead,

“The man returned, expecting to harvest his crop,

But there was no moisture left, not even a drop,

The once soft ground was hard, the plants were dry,

Insects had shredded everything, his whole supply,

All that was left was ruined, it didn’t fit his needs,

The ground was covered with hundreds of weeds,

He was upset and he still didn’t understand,

I tried to clarify carefully about gardens and land,

“What it is, it is”………………………………………….

I explained to him and I’ll now tell it to you,

“With gardens and love there are rules few,

Rule number one:  Should I let it go?

Let your inner compulsive child speak soft and low,

If something isn’t very important, don’t let it grow,

Love has a chance to bloom for all your life,

If you strive for peace and love instead of strife,

Rule number two:  Should I fix it?

Choose to listen without harsh words,

Don’t chatter loudly like angry birds,

One cannot fix a problem without the other,

Compromises are necessary or why even bother?

Rule number three:  Should I deal with it?

The first thing to remember is the commitment you made,

When you decided to join, the foundation was laid,

You made a choice to become her lover,

A commitment is a choice made over and over and over,

What some people forget is their garden to tend,

They know where to start but don’t wait for the end,

Within each of us is a garden that will yield much love,

But the garden needs tending with help from above,

Should you be negligent and let it grow wild,

In a short growing season you’ll find nothing worthwhile,

Spending time in your garden is a worthy endeavor,

You have to pay attention if you really mean forever,

You cannot neglect all you have promised to share,

Or her heart will dry up without tender care,

And if there’s too much time you spend away,

It’s possible for her weary heart to stray,

And should you get caught up in evil deeds,

Your love will eventually get choked by weeds,

Love is more than the emotions she holds for you,

It is the patience and kindness that you can do,

With loving care you’ll reap rewards from her heart,

She’ll love you forever from finish to start,

Faithfully protect and cherish to keep love alive,

Do your best for your garden and your love will thrive,”

“What it is, it is”…………………………………………………………..

Telling Lies at Christmas

Mark asked, “What’s your name?”

My son looked at him with a sparkle in his eye,

This was going to be a fun game,

George. If you ask me again,

I’ll tell you the same,”

My son was smiling and having some fun,

I couldn’t see how that would hurt anyone,

But Bill took exception and looked Richard in the eye,

“You’re going to hell for telling a lie,”

I was shocked at Bill’s words for they were so strong,

Did he really believe that teasing was so wrong?

Bill turned to Mark and quickly said,

“I think you’d better head on to bed,

It’s Christmas Eve, did you forget the date?

Santa won’t come if you’re up too late!”

“I’m sorry, dad, Mark whispered (because he truly believed).

Santa was still coming, Mark was so relieved,

Fantasy was one thing, and truth was another,

Bill’s perception of lies was between one and the other,

Despite Bill’s protests I left in a huff,

Friend or no friend, I’d heard enough,

On the way home I explained to my son,

“Our words should not be used to hurt someone,

Respecting others is one of our goals,

I don’t care if you believe in the North Pole,

A Christmas Fairy with a magic wand,

The Magic Kingdom or deer that can fly,

Is that all in fun or just telling lies,

Allowing others to dream and have some fun,

Why should we want to hurt anyone?

Santa is a fun story to tell to the young,

To see their eyes light up when stockings are hung,

When you were teasing I didn’t think there was harm,

Especially for Bill to shout an alarm,

I’ll be expecting Bill to apologize,

Unless he can prove that reindeer fly,

Otherwise he was the one telling a lie.”

Porcelain and Steel

Porcelain and Steel

You are porcelain, I am steel,

Delicate emotions let you tenderly feel,

Behind steel walls my feelings I conceal,

We’re from the same species I would say,

But how different we are; it blows me away,

You’re rough and tough until you build your nest,

While I continue to hunt or continue a quest,

What you wanted was someone like me,

Someone with a sense of adventure and mystery,

A bad boy persona who would bend the norms,

Who would fight to be with you,

Come hell or great storms,

If I tried, I could be really good,

But I don’t think you would respond,

Like I think you should,

You’re soft and sweet but I handle with care,

For sometimes I find a tigress there,

I don’t understand how you change on some days,

If I’m smart I just get out of your way,

We’re different and you have your need,

But a man is made to spread his seed,

You picked a bad boy and you’re to blame,

Now you’re determined I should be tamed,

So make a plan where you think and pause,

You can’t keep me with talons or claws,

I’ll help you out with two quick tips,

I’m much attracted to soft words and soft lips,

Inside this shell I’m tender as can be,

Be gentle and careful how you treat me,

And this bad boy will use strength and charm,

To hold you forever and keep you from harm.

Choppin’ Cotton

Choppin’ Cotton

 

 
A chance for self-respect comes but a few times during a lifetime and I have to seize those moments and choose the way I want to be. Once that decision is stamped indelibly on my heart, there is no turning back, nor would I ever want to change. Long ago as a teenager I made one of those decisions that shaped my life.

Shivering ever so slightly I slid out of bed and pulled on my faded work jeans. At 4:30 in the morning the irrigated desert land’s air was crisp and cold even in my room. I pulled my arms through the blue cotton shirt which earlier had been lying limply across the foot of the bed. After tightly lacing my cracked black shoes I stuffed my work gloves into my hip pocket and placed the straw hat with the torn brim rakishly on my head. I tied a handkerchief loosely around my neck.

Stumbling into the kitchen I reached into the cabinet and pulled out a bowl. I didn’t have time to make breakfast so my choice was made. Cold cereal in a cold bowl. That’s all I usually had while my parents, brother, and sisters slept. I made my sandwich, two slices of bread with a slice of lunch meat, no mayonnaise, no tomato or lettuce. I dropped the dry sandwich into a brown paper bag. There was no way to keep the sandwich cold without spoiling so I only used the basics.

I went into the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face. I was still groggy so I splashed again. I heard a soft knock on the door outside that brought me fully alert. “Dan, are you ready to go? We have to be there before five.” It seemed I had heard those words thousands of times and yet I jumped every time I heard them.

Rushing out I grabbed my lunch bag and my hoe, which I had placed carefully beside the door the night before. The hoe’s blade, which I had honed before going to bed, looked sharp and ready for the weeds. Wordlessly I walked with Bob to his gray dented sedan which was already packed with other workers.

In the morning mists I could see the car, hoes protruding from the windows, and could imagine a Viking ship with oars ready to explore the world. I leaned through a door and looked for a place to squeeze in.

“Well, you took your sweet time, Dan,” a voice called out good naturedly from the back seat. I recognized Jake Smith’s voice and turned to face him.

“You’re just lucky I showed up at all,” I countered. “Otherwise there’d be no one to help you finish your rows.”

We all laughed and continued the banter as I crowded in and we drove away. For a few moments we sat in silence as the car, trailing blue-black clouds of smoke, coughed towards our destination.

Someone finally asked, “Has anyone heard anything about the new boss, Laird?” We all shook our heads except for Bob, Jake’s older brother. “This is only rumor, but I heard that Laird chews nails for breakfast and he bit his dog last Friday.” We all laughed but Jake got serious again. “I’ve heard nothing but bad news from the boys down at the pool hall,” he said. “I’m inclined to take their stories with a grain of salt but I thought you ought to know.”

It was something to think about but as we turned off the pavement onto a dusty road I had already forgotten Laird. The car sputtered to a stop beside a field of cotton and gave two or three last shakes and coughs before dying. “You ought to get that car fixed,” I said to Bob. “It’s about to give up the ghost.”

We grabbed our hoes from the car and stared glumly at the field before us. The cotton was waist high and had been long neglected. There were clumps of Johnson grass, small white morning glories, and patches of Bermuda grass.

 

While we waited, three other cars pulled up behind us. Two black families and a Mexican family got out. We eyed the other groups cautiously and I wondered whether we could all work together peacefully.

A green and white pickup came racing up the dusty road past the four weather-beaten cars and slid to a halt. Covering my face with my bandana I waited a few seconds for the pickup’s trailing dust cloud to dissipate. Both of the pickup’s doors swung open. A young pimple faced boy crawled out of the passenger side. He slapped on a blue baseball cap over his unruly blond hair. His lean gangly body stretched too long for his jeans and his arms dangled a few inches too far beyond the cuffs of his sleeves. Although we were at first wary, his infectious smile made him an instant hit to our often ill-tempered group.

On both sides of the truck we noticed some fancy lettering. W.C. Laird, Labor Contractor, it proclaimed in bold black letters to the agricultural world. The boss man, Laird himself, worked his heavy body away from the wheel and out the door.

His stogie, a cigar tucked in one corner of his mouth, was moving in circles as he muttered. I could not understand him at first and I noticed the others were also beginning to look puzzled.

His already red face grew redder and I could see his small eyes squinting behind the wire spectacles.

He suddenly barked, “What’s the matter with all of you? Can’t you hear? We’re supposed to start this field at five o’clock and by gum, that’s what we’re gonna do. Now git your asses over to that edge of the field and pick your row. I’ll be along shortly to check your work.”

He removed his glasses, spat on them, and cleaned them slowly with the corner of his shirt. He watched us silently trudging to the corner of the field. He continued to stare until we began working our way down the rows.

 

The waist high cotton was wet from the morning dew and before we had gone twenty-five yards I was soaked from the waist down and feeling uncomfortable. Swarms of mosquitoes rose before us and began their relentless attacks, searching for exposed skin. I slapped at them occasionally but tried to ignore them, afraid I would be accused of doing more dodging and fighting mosquitoes than hoeing.

Quickly and efficiently I chopped out the Johnson grass and the morning glories with the corners of the hoe. I was not the fastest in the group, nor the slowest as I paced myself to last the morning. By eight the sun was already bearing down and the boss was there, checking each worker’s row in turn.

“I don’t think you’re worth a dollar and a quarter an hour,” Laird said to Preacher, one of the black men who was working close-by. “I think I’ll pay you a dollar an hour.” But Preacher just glared at him and began to work faster. After that I noticed that two women who were with Preacher would occasionally step over and help him catch up.

 

As the morning progressed all the groups began to work closer together and exchanged stories. Preacher began telling stories from the Bible and about a boss who was evil and went to Hell. Since he was looking at Laird, who was leaning on a hoe talking to a farmer who owned the field, we knew who Preacher meant. The two women would laugh at his stories and I could hear the older woman’s deep laugh boom out and the younger one’s laughter, which was more like the tinkling of bells.

Another man, Sid, was in Preacher’s group. He hung back, trying to be inconspicuous and out of Laird’s sight but he was clearly interested in what was going on. He appeared to be jealous of all the attention Preacher was getting.

“Preacher,” he said. “I’ll tell the boss man just what you’re telling us and he’ll fire you and you won’t find any more jobs.” Sid rolled his eyes and waited for us to laugh but we didn’t. We could see Preacher and the women getting upset.

 

The Mexican family with their young children continued to work quietly but they stayed away from Preacher and his group. The father had talked to us for awhile and decided he could trust us. He had told us he and his wife were working without permits and did not want any trouble. If they were noticed by anyone they could be shipped back to Mexico. They had to earn money for some of their other relatives who were unable to make a living in Mexico.

All morning long Sid tried out new antics. He seemed to want any kind of attention. As we approached a heavy stand of Johnson grass Sid called out, “Hark, I see a lion in yon jungle. Preacher better use some of his religious medicine to rescue us.”

Preacher kept pretending to ignore him as Sid continued his tirade. Finally Sid realized no one was listening so he stopped talking but I could tell he was still itching to get something started.

By ten the heavy clothes were beginning to stick to our sweaty bodies. Some of my friends had taken off their shirts and tied them around their waists. I had blistered badly the previous time so I kept my shirt on. We stopped for a water break expecting to get cool water. In our experience most bosses put ice in the water to keep it cool. It satisfied our thirst and cooled us at the same time. But this time was different.

I gulped a mouthful and spit it out. “This water is hot enough to boil tea in,” I grumbled. The others thought I was kidding. Each in turn took a mouthful and spit it out.

 

Laird ambled over. “What’s the matter?” he sneered. “Don’t you like water?” As I tried to find words to adequately express my feelings, I heard the youth who had earlier climbed out of the pickup say, “Dad, this isn’t right. I told you to stop for ice this morning.”

Laird grinned as he chewed on his cigar. “Mind your own business, Steve. If they don’t like the water they don’t have to drink it.”

The sun broiled us slowly as the next hour passed. We began drinking the water out of necessity but warned each other only to sip enough to keep going. No one stayed by the water cooler. Once I saw Laird nudge his son and say, “Without ice the water gets warm and the workers don’t spend nearly as much time talking and standing around. The less time they waste the more money I make.”

As we finished one field we drove to the next field and started again. As the heat increased my head began throbbing and I could hear others complaining about headaches and nausea.

A Mexican girl of slight build and in her early teens said she was sick. She staggered to her car and lay down. Laird didn’t notice she was gone and the rest of us kept quiet about the incident. We didn’t want the girl’s pay docked. We were certain he was paying her less than minimum wage anyway and pocketing the difference. We also thought he might accuse us of slacking or playing sick to keep from working.

Laird blew a little whistle and we stopped for our thirty minute lunch. We hardly had time to eat and stretch our cramped backs before he was shouting, “Get off your lazy butts! It’s time to work again!”

We were soon back in the same routine with Preacher telling stories while all of us continued hacking away. By now I had learned that Paula and Hattie, the two women, and Sid were members of Preacher’s congregation. Together they had driven from a town five miles away when money had become scarce. By banding together, their chances of finding work increased.

Preacher, his leg gimpy from the war, was the shepherd, doing his best to protect the women and keep Sid out of trouble. In turn, they would finish his rows and help him keep up. Sid was always trying to get the attention from anybody who’d listen. I could tell he feared, admired, and hated Preacher, all at the same time.

In early afternoon the two brothers, Bob and Jake, had replaced their shirts because they were already lobster red. Laird’s son, Steve, was talking quietly with a cute Mexican girl of about his own age.

Laird walked over to them and tried to eavesdrop. Steve and Carmen, the Mexican girl, began speaking Spanish. Laird grew red and told Steve to “stay away from that dirty ‘wetback’”. “I don’t want any brown grandchildren,” he jeered disdainfully.

Steve looked up and said with defiance, “Go away and leave me alone. I’ll choose my own friends.” Laird began shouting that he would kick Steve’s rear-end all over the cotton field.

He saw us watching. He stormed away sputtering about Steve being a “snot-nose, smart-mouth kid“. Laird walked over to the water bucket and stared off into the distance. We had the opportunity to work quietly and to discuss the father-son relationship.

Sid, took this opportunity to start some trouble.

“Old preacher man is too old for any night action. I’ll take on either one of you ladies after work.”

Preacher, stung by Sid’s insinuations and feeling protective of the women, headed angrily toward Sid. The two squared off. But with all the dancing, shuffling, huffing and puffing, not a damaging blow was thrown. The excitement attracted Laird, who came over to check out the commotion.

Sid sheepishly explained in detail what had happened while Laird stood there mulling things over. He turned and looked thoughtfully at Paula. The top buttons of her blouse were unfastened and I could see him leering at the fullness of her breasts as she bent to hoe. His audacity surprised me when he walked over as she straightened, daubed at the perspiration that was at the base of her throat with his handkerchief.

“I’ve slept with a lot of women, both white and black. You interest me. I want to see you after work. We’ll drink a few beers and have a little fun. What do you say?”

Paula gasped and stepped back, trying to avoid Laird. “No, no,” she blurted. A hoe was suddenly thrust between Laird and Paula. Preacher stood there, a mixture of hurt and anger in his eyes.

“Go away, old man,” Laird snarled. “If you give me any trouble or if she doesn’t come with me after work then both of you are fired and I’ll see to it that neither of you gets to work for any of these farmers again.”

Paula began crying and Preacher stood there stunned at this new turn of events. Then both of them, without meeting the eyes of anyone, turned and went quietly back to work as if nothing had happened. Laird glared at us and we started hoeing again, trying to look really busy.

He swaggered off in the direction of the pickup and I just leaned on my hoe for awhile and tried to sort things out. It was a real puzzler at first but gradually I realized that Laird would have his way because Paula and Preacher were giving in to his demands. After all, I guess jobs were hard to find if you were black.

We still had a few minutes before quitting time but I was burning up inside, full of anger, and trying to decide what to do. I saw him sitting inside, listening to the radio. I walked over to him and yanked open the door.

“Laird,” I said evenly, “it’s not fair for you to make demands on Paula like that. And then to threaten their jobs if they don’t cooperate.”

Laird turned and slid out of the pickup. He pulled a wet handkerchief from his forehead. “Mind your own business or you won’t have a job either. What I do is between me and whoever and I don‘t see where it concerns you.”

“Laird,” I began again, “you’re a mean and rotten sonofabitch. I don’t want to work for you anymore. I don’t like the way you treat people, especially people of color. I’m going to report you to whatever authorities that’ll listen.”

His eyes were squinting in that pig-like face. “They won’t even listen to you. You’re just a kid. It’s your word against mine. Those people aren‘t as good as us. They’re animals and we’re supposed to control animals. Can‘t you see that?”

I know sometimes I’m hot-headed and unChristian. When Laird started spewing words of prejudice and hatred I just blew up. I swung and connected with his belly, and then another to his chin. He toppled over into the dust. He started to get up but he hesitated and said, “You’re fired. I don’t want you to show up anymore.”

“Laird, I don’t want to work for you anymore. I want my pay and I want it now. I’ll make sure the authorities listen. You‘re not going to get away this easy.”

“I’ve a mind not to pay you at all.” I took a step closer. “O.k. I’ll give you your money but get out of here.” Nervously he wrote off a check and thrust it at me.

I grabbed the check and walked over to the car waving it high in the air. Jake and Bob started walking towards me. Laird yelled, “Get back to work! It’s not quitting time yet! You’ve still got ten minutes.”

 

They ignored him and listened to my side of the story. They approached Laird and a few seconds later were carrying their checks high in the air. The results were contagious. Our carload, and then the Mexican family, and finally Preacher and everyone but Sid had discussed the situation. As a group we confronted Laird and he reluctantly paid off the rest of the crew. Even Steve demanded his pay.

Laird seized Steve’s shoulders and said, “You’re not getting your money. You’re not going to be with these troublemakers.”

Steve stood there quietly and demanded his money again. “Dad, I’m going to report you because I think you’re a liar and a cheat. I don’t think you should treat people this way any more.”

Laird got nose to nose with Steve and called him every name in the book and a few choice ones I hadn’t heard. Steve turned and walked away. Laird started to follow but I blocked his way. “You’ll leave him alone, too,” I said. “I’m tired of you bullying people. If you take one more step I’ll hit you more than once and I won’t stop until that foul mouth of yours is silent.”

My determination cut Laird short. He rubbed his jaw and stumbled to his feet. We waited while he made out the last check. Before we could go he said, “Look, today I made a few mistakes. Let’s not have hard feelings. I want all of you back here tomorrow, o.k.?”

Paula, Preacher, Carmen, and Steve were standing close together and I’m not sure who spat first and I don’t really care. I remember looking at him, seeing the spittle clinging to his face, then I climbed into our car, Steve somehow in with us.

 

I still see Carmen sometimes with her family, working in the tomatoes or sugar beets. They avoid working in the cotton fields afraid they’ll run into Laird. Preacher and his group still work the cotton with me, Jake and Bob, and the rest of the gang. Steve has gone off to stay with an uncle in Arizona. I’ve heard Laird and Sid have moved on to better things like pruning grapes in Lodi with Laird still in charge of a crew. I don’t know if Laird’s behaving himself but I kind of hope he’s learned a lesson and I don’t expect him to show up around here again.

As for me, I’ve learned something about myself and human dignity. If you see others get cheated or trampled upon, you too, lose respect for yourself if you let things slide.

Wages are up to a dollar and a half now and I know I’m not as rich as some other people I know. In spite of not having wealth, I know that I can look into a mirror and be proud of what I see. And that, riches can’t buy.

 

 

 

 

 

Dan Roberson