Being diane, p.1
Being Diane, p.1Dennis Adkins
Copyright 2013 Dennis N. Adkins
I awoke earlier than usual that momentous morning and walked out the back door to see the sun rising slowly over the lush verdant fields of eastern Arkansas. The neat clean rows of cotton and soybeans awaiting the warm life-giving rays of the sun. The plants stretching to receive the mornings blessing from Father Sol. The rows beckoned me to come and grow with them and stretch my arms to receive the blessings of the Sun also. I walked out to the fields and stood among them warming myself as the Sun rose higher and higher over the horizon. The coming of the day was always exciting to me making me feel as though I would have another chance at being the best I could and today, like any other, was a chance to be what I wanted to be. I had made the decision to myself to realize my life’s dream, now I had to find a way to do it. Luck was with me for once and the way came, however not without a price.
I lived on a farm and while it wasn't one of the biggest, it was a good size to support my Grandfather and Uncle Will. I guess that it was about five hundred acres of excellent cotton and soybean land. Uncle Will worked hard to keep the farm going since Granddaddy was retired due to his health. There were two other girls besides my Mom, but they didn't have anything to do with the farm, but I suspected that they wanted to divide it up if Granddaddy died and take their share and sell it. I knew that would be the kiss of death for the farm.
My Dad was an over the road truck driver and he didn't get to come home very often. Mom worked in a clothing store in town and what little we had seemed to me to be enough to live on. Dad when he got home didn't seem to me, to know what to do with my brother Ralph and I. He really seemed to like Ralph but mostly all he did was yell at me. You see I had decided to let my hair grow out and I played in the band, not on any of the sports teams because I sucked at sports. I, according to him, sucked at everything and the older I got the more I seemed to be getting worse. My grades were starting to drop and I was having a lot of trouble with Ralph and Mom. I really didn't seem to be adjusting to anything. I stayed angry all of the time and while I was not very good at fighting, I seemed to stay in one all of the time. However, I did love farming. To see the seed planted and watch it grow into tall cotton and soybeans was amazing to me.
Mostly all I did was grunt work because I wasn't old enough to operate the machinery that Uncle Will and Granddaddy owned. The insurance would not cover me to drive a tractor or operate the machinery so I had to lift and tote. That was all right because I still loved being on the farm, out in the weather and able to have a little freedom. I got to hunt and fish when we were not working, even though all I did was watch the rabbits and squirrels when I went hunting, not even trying to kill them and I was by far the world’s worst angler. I’ll bet I drowned more worms than anybody I knew without ever catching anything. We had our own swimming hole even though I questioned the water quality safety because every now and then I would find empty chemical barrels around the edge. Later I found out that one of the chemical companies was dumping hazardous waste in our pond.
My favorite part of living on the farm was my Grandfather, William Jordan, he was a lot of enjoyment for me and I learned a lot from him. He taught me how to sharpen a knife and how to clean a fish. He loved to watch wrestling on television and he would get excited and start yelling at the wrestlers and the referees and would spill his coffee on the linoleum floor. Mom would tell him to calm down or he was going to have a heart attack to which he would respond, “I need to after seeing that man cheat like that.” I just couldn’t understand how he could believe that it was real.
Most of the time he just sat in the living room and read the newspaper. I remember one time he was sitting in his chair by the stove and someone came up to the door, we had a front door with a large picture window in it so you could see who was there. Now you have to understand that he was very hard of hearing and my Mom usually answered the door. However, on this day he saw them, got up, walked over, opened the door, and let a man and a woman in. He pointed to two chairs and they sat down. As it turned out, they were from an unpopular religion that came around asking for donations. He sat back down and since he had his hearing aid turned down, he couldn't hear them giving their speech. He kept right on reading his paper and finally as they got 'in the spirit' and got louder he started realizing what they were. It was about that time they announced, “If you make a donation you won't go to hell.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a dime, tossed it at them, rattled his newspaper, and went back to reading. The preacher looked at the woman with him, picked up the dime and left. I thought I was going to fall over laughing at them.
There were days when Granddaddy would want to tell me stories about when he was a boy and then there were days when he just wanted to sit in silence. He was in a talkative mood one day and he told me about having to march up and down a parade ground with a full pack on because he didn't make up his bunk right while he was in the army. He laughed and said he always made up his bunk right after that. I was amazed to learn that he had been in World War 1 and fought in the trenches in France. He only mentioned it once and had a distant look in his eyes and shivered after telling me. I guessed that war was 'Hell' as the saying went.
One day I decided to be nosy and try to find out what he was planning to do with the farm after he died, God forbid. “Granddaddy do you mind if I ask you what is going to happen to the farm after you die? I mean I don't want you to die or anything, I would like to have you around all the time. Anyway have you thought about what will happen to the farm?”
He looked at me in a rather harsh way, “Boy, did your Uncle put up to this?”
“Uh, No sir. I was just thinking the other day how much I loved living here and how much I wanted to stay here the rest of my life. I … to be honest am worried that if you divide up the farm. I won't be able to keep living here, because if you divide it up four ways then Uncle Will won't be able to buy the other three parts to re consolidate the farm and my Mom and Aunts will sell their parts to the first person with the money.”
“I see. It looks as though you have given this a lot of thought.” He said.
“Yes sir I have and I think I have a solution to the problem.” I said. Here I was a twelve year old talking to a seventy year old like I was some kind of financial wizard. I really think Granddaddy was more amused than anything else and was enjoying the irony of someone my age talking financial issues with him.
“Okay, let’s hear it.” He said with a smile.
“Well, instead of dividing up the farm into four equal parts. I suggest that you give the three girls five to ten acres apiece in a good location. Then leave the farm to Uncle Will on the condition that he allows any of the Grand kids or heirs that want too, to work on the farm. The only thing is that the farm wouldn't be able to be broken up unless each piece was exactly the same size as the current farm area. That would give the ones that wanted to stay here an incentive to make the farm as profitable as possible. I also think that it should be converted into a corporation that reflects your name and it will be much easier to minimize the tax burden that way.” I said. Granddaddy looked at me, but wasn't smiling anymore.
“Get the telephone and bring it over here to me and then go on outside and work on the garden.” Ordered Granddaddy.
I just knew that I had made him mad with my wild idea, but it had been rattling around in my head for a while and I had to get it out. The garden needed to be weeded and I spent the rest of the day out there.
A few days later after I got home from school a big Cadillac car pulled up in the drive. I had to grab the dog to keep him from biting the man. I didn't recognize him, but he was carrying a leather satchel. He went on into the house and Mom came out and told me to stay outside and keep S
Therefore, Smokey and I took a long walk out into the fields and woods. Smokey was an English Shepard a big brown and black shaggy dog with a sense of loyalty to one family and one only. He was pretty smart, but very hardheaded and independent. I built a small fire and we sat down and stared at the sky staying warm by the fire and enjoying each other’s company. I loved living here. I climbed a tree to look and see if a bird’s nest I had spotted, had any eggs in it. I was about ten or fifteen feet up when I slipped and fell but my fall was broken by a limb that I managed to land on with my legs on both sides of it causing me to land on my testicles. Damn that hurt. I slipped off the limb and fell the rest of the way to the ground. I thought that I was all right since I could still walk so we just stayed out there and enjoyed the evening. It was a Friday so I didn't have to do any homework and I could stay out longer than usual.
When I got back, Mom was in a tizzy and I really didn’t want to have to be around her, so I slipped in and went straight to bed. The next day my groin was swollen, black, and blue. I still didn't say anything to Mom about it and thought it would get better. Things didn’t go as I thought they would instead after a few days I began to run a fever and felt bad all over. Mom took me to the doctor and he gave me a big shot in my butt, but I didn't tell him about falling.
I have to admit that the reason why I didn’t say anything was that I was where I was not supposed to be. I was in the back wood lot where Earl lived. Earl was this black guy that lived in an old house back there and Mom said he was crazy, that he had killed someone years ago and got away with it. Earl had never been mean to me and as a matter of a fact one day when I was cornered by a couple of bigger boys; Earl came up and saved me. He told me that he wouldn't let anybody hurt his friends and I believed it. I really liked Earl he would tell me stories about when he was a boy and some were amazing, a real view of life in the south forty years ago. His stories weren’t painted with race or sex and they seemed to be alive when he told them to me. I guess he just wanted someone to know what he knew.
The one that I liked the best was when he was a boy, all of his family went to the river to have a barbeque, because they couldn't go to the public parks. You see Earl was a black man and blacks weren't allowed to go where the whites went. Anyway, he said they were at the river and decided to do some hogging for catfish. They had all caught some good-sized fish and one of them who hadn't done it yet went out to a fallen tree in the water. They told him that wasn't a good idea but he went anyway. Feeling around under the tree, he started to holler that he had one but when he pulled out it wasn't a fish, but instead a big cotton mouth snake and there he stood with it in his hands one hand behind the head and the other on the tail and he couldn't let go. He was in fix, the snake could not bite him but he could not let go because the snake could bite him then, Earl said that was the funniest thing he had ever seen. The man could not let go and he was frozen with fear and could not walk out of the water. He didn't say whether he got rid of the snake or not but the mental image was funny.
Anyway, after a few days I got to feeling better and forgot all about the fall. School was going well and I was enjoying life all around. Granddaddy though was getting worse and worse all the time. I had to help give him breathing treatments and make sure that he had plenty to drink and eat. He talked more and more to me about his past and how he wanted me to have my dreams fulfilled. I listened to him and learned a lot about the past and how things were when he was a boy, it was great. On one of those days, he looked at me and I could tell he was hurting. “Dennis I want you to know that I don’t hold anything against you for becoming what you are, but there are those that will. That is why I have changed my will so you will have what you need to get by on.”
“Granddaddy what are you talking about?” I asked.
“You will realize it soon.” He replied and started coughing.
He would not tell me what he meant by that statement, but I soon found out, just like he said.
One Sunday all of the family met at our house and one by one each one of Granddaddies kids went into his office with him and then came out. Some were mad and some were sad, but Uncle Will came out and found me. He had his two oldest boys with him and they were as big as he was. “Dennis, I want to have a word with you if you don't mind.” He said.
I stopped what I was doing. “Yes sir.”
“Did you say anything to Daddy about the farm?” He asked.
“Yes sir last spring I talked to him about what I thought would be the best thing for the farm. I told him that you should keep running the farm and that he shouldn't divide it up.” I said and I swear you could hear me shaking.
“Whatever you did is going to keep the farm together. Thank you.” and he walked off.
Granddaddy died a few months later and I was sadder than I had ever been. Mom and Dad seemed to change and not for the better. Both of them began to be mean to me and blamed me for almost everything that went wrong around the house. Then one day I had to put my best clothes on and we went down to the courthouse with all of the other family. We met in the courtroom and I stood in the back with Will and George, Uncle Wills two oldest boys, George was doing as usual, picking on me. Will turned and gave us a stop that or else look so we calmed down and listened to what was going on.
I saw the man that came to the house that day come in the room and set his satchel down on the big table that all of the adults were sitting at. Then he spoke. “Good morning. My name is Edgar Rosenthal. I was engaged by Mr. Jordan to write his last will and testament. I was surprised by some of the things that he asked for but they make sense now that I have had time to consider them. He was adamant about doing it this way and keeping the will sealed until after his death. I questioned him in accordance with the law to determine if he was in a stable state of mind and was satisfied that he was.” Mr. Rosenthal pushed the wire rim glasses that he wore back up on his nose and continued. I had seen him at school one day when he came to talk to the social studies class about being an attorney. On that day, he became so animated that he forgot to push his glasses up and they fell off his nose and swung into his mouth. The whole class burst into laughter and he joined in.
Today was different he was serious and all in the room knew this and sat quietly. A sense of anticipation settled over the room like a fog. I was wondering why he was fiddling with the papers instead of getting on with it when I realized that he was purposely building the tension, like a magician doing tricks. I was suddenly amazed at how adept he was at manipulating his audience. “Alright let’s get down to it.” after arranging and rearranging the papers. “Mr. Jordan wanted these people present for the reading. “Reba Wilkes and spouse. Josey Baker and spouse. Rachel Allen and spouse. William Jordan Jr. and spouse. Also William Jordan the third, George Jordan and Dennis Allen. Is everyone here?”
“Yes sir.” Answered Uncle Will.
“Good then I will proceed with the reading of the will.”
“I William N. Jordan Sr. being of sound mind and failing body do hereby make my last will and testament...”
I was bored by all of the legal mumble jumble and did not understand most of it, but I understood what he was saying when he got to the part about dividing his personal property.
“Regarding my personal property and the division thereof, I bequeath five acres of land to Reba and Josey to be located in mutually agreed upon locations along highway one. To Rachel I leave the house she is living in along with five acres of land that surrounds it, to include the orchard and the outbuildings on the land that are designated by the accompanying map. To my son William Jr. I leave the rest of the farm for him to live on and work for the rest of his natural life. Should he so desire? I have one exception to this William III, George and Dennis Allen shall be co-owners of the land and farm operation when they turn eighteen years of age. They shall have the right to make decisions concerning the operation of the farm they shall also share in all of the risks
“Until the three minors turn eighteen, my son William Jr. shall have absolute control over the day to day operations and finances. He can at his discretion can give each of the three minors more or less input in the operation of the farm. At the age of eighteen, each will become a full partner in the operation of the farm. I would ask that they all learn to work with each other and listen to each other, to make the farm grow and thrive into the generations to come.”
Mr. Rosenthal stopped and looked at each of the three of us, chewed on his lip in thought, and then said, “Will, George and Dennis your Grandfather was very impressed with your courage to come and talk to him. He was also very impressed with the fact that you didn't want anything for yourselves. I can't impress on you enough that his decision to do this was influenced by the three of you alone.”
“I personally can believe that you are his grandchildren because it would take a lot of courage and wisdom to do what you did, he could be a little intimidating at times. I served in the Army with him, in World War One in France. Did you know that he won the Silver Star for leading the regiment in a charge that caused a general rout of the Germans after all of the officers were killed by artillery? He was a great man and I miss him very much.”
“Well that is all. If you have any questions, you can call, my office and I will be happy to help you as much as I can. My secretary here has some papers for you to sign and some copies of the will for each of you.” He started out of the room and stopped and looked at me and said.” Did you know that you look just like he did when he was your age? It is amazing.” Then he left before I could say anything.
I was so shocked by the turn of events, now I would be able to stay on the farm and do what I love to do. I was both happy and scared because now I was going to have to learn to be a farmer and a businessman and I was scared that I was going to fail.
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