Inherited Wealth

Inherited Wealth


           My 6 year old fingers held the nickel at the coin slot of the school’s candy machine.  I wanted so badly to release it and pull the lever for the candy bar.  I knew that I shouldn’t do it, because the coin was a refund from over paid milk money that my 1st grade teacher had given me to take home.  I wasn’t really going to put the money into the machine.  It was just my way of drooling over the candy while waiting for the school bus to take me home. 

Suddenly my friend, Austin, smacked my hand and the coin tinkled down into the machine.  I was frozen in shock as he pulled the lever which dispensed the candy bar.  I couldn’t have felt worse if I had just robbed the local bank at gun point.  I knew that the money should have gone back to my parents.  They were the ones who had provided the milk money in the first place.  As I stood and held that candy bar, I wanted nothing else but to put it back into the machine and to get my nickel back… my parent’s nickel.  I wouldn’t let Austin have any of the candy bar.  I didn’t eat it either.  I didn’t want it anymore.  I just stood and tried to figure out how to get my money back. 

I had a long wait for the bus because first grade got out much earlier than the older kids but we all rode the same bus home.  I was still sitting next to that candy machine when a man came and opened it up to refill it.  He thought my glum demeanor was because I wanted a candy.  So he offered to give me one for free.  As I held up my own candy bar, I told him that I didn’t want the candy, I wanted my money back.  I think he thought I was greedy and unthankful.  He was obviously disgusted with me.  I didn’t care.  I was still feeling full remorse for stealing that nickel from my parents.  Clearly, they had done a wonderful job teaching me honesty by the time I was 6 years old and going to school. 

In spite of my parent’s policy of strict honesty, over the years we had seen many examples of dishonesty on our small farm.  One of my earlier memories of it was when one of Dad’s loyal employees, Wanda, came to him and warned him about some of the other ladies who worked on our egg candling crew.  Dad had made it an employee benefit to “just take the eggs you need for your family, home.”  Wanda told Dad, “They’re robbing ya blind.  They must be taking eggs for every relative they have.”  But Dad seemed more concerned with honoring his promised “egg benefit” than he was about some of the employees taking advantage of him. 

In our little farm egg store, we had an old (even back then in the 60’s it was considered old) cash register.  This cast iron monster must have weighed 200 pounds.  At night the till was locked, but I guess at least sometimes the money was left in it.  One night, the whole cash register was stolen.  Investigation showed that the thief walked in the half mile through the back fields leaving light foot prints in the snow.  The foot prints back out through the fields sank into the snow much deeper as he carried his loot to his waiting get away car.  The thief made off with several hundred dollars.  Several weeks later, the sheriff found our broken open cash register where it had been dumped off along with some checks.  Of course, all of the cash was gone.

Once a farm employee, Greg – a college student who worked for us part-time, reported that one of our egg delivery money bags had been stolen.  In the ensuing investigation he finally admitted that he had taken the money.  Dad got the money back, and he didn’t press charges.  In fact, he even let Greg continue to work for us, just not around any of the money.  Dad wasn’t in a hurry to condemn someone who had made a mistake.

Another employee was one of many who ran home delivery routes for us.  She had worked for years when there was a disagreement over loading her delivery van in the morning for the day’s route.  I was too young to know the details of what her grievance was, but when she quit, we started getting calls from customers that we had no record of.  She had many cash only customers on her routes who were delivered our eggs as she pocketed the full amount of the payment. 

Our little farm store also sold a few other things along with the eggs.  Milk and other dairy including ice cream was a logical tie in.  We also had a nice display of candy, which was popular with the neighborhood kids.  Once we discovered that certain candies were disappearing along with the coin in our cash register.  (We now pulled all the currency out of the cash register every night, but left maybe 5 or 10 dollars of coin in the open drawer.  Dad said if someone broke in to steal the cash, he wanted the drawer open so they wouldn’t destroy the cash register trying to get to the few dollars that might be inside. So we always left it open at night.)  So we tried to stake out the farm at night to catch our thief, but he had been so inconsistent that it took a week or two to get any good leads.  One night while out on patrol, we found a neighbor kid in our yard.  Allen would hang around a lot anyway, so when he said he was just out for a walk (1/2 mile from his house and in our farmyard at 10:30pm) we were suspicious but didn’t have any real evidence that he was our “cat burglar.”  Then finally, we found where he must have been getting through our “Fort Knox” nightly lock-up.  Our egg processing building had a small freight door rather high up on one wall.  This 2 foot square door was our obvious “Achilles heal.”  We took great pleasure in blocking the door from the inside including a sign that Allen would read by flashlight when he tried to enter.  “Ha, Ha, Ha Allen.  No more free candy.” 

Down inside, Allen was a good kid who finally got it right.  He actually came to my Dad several years later with an admission of guilt, an apology, and several hundred dollars in restitution. 

My dad had been burned so many times that you’d wonder if his occupation was firefighting.  I was once using an old shovel to clean the floor in one of our chicken coops.  Dad was there helping with a push broom.  He said to me, “Be careful with that shovel.  I paid $1300.00 for it.  I look down at the old rusty shovel in shock.  He then told me that he had loaned a friend the money and had received the shovel as collateral.  Obviously, he knew he’d never see the money again.

Dad learned from these experiences and made adjustments.  One thing I remember him always saying was to keep the temptation for people to be dishonest to a minimum.  “Keep it out of sight.  Lock the doors.  Help keep the honest people honest.” 

As I reflect back on my childhood days on our farm, I want nothing more than to continue the legacy my parents perpetuated from their parents.  We always had enough money to meet our needs and once in awhile even a little extra for some fun, but we were never considered wealthy.  But the wealth of learning how to live honestly in spite of dishonesty all around me is a great treasured gem I received as a child.  It’s what made a six year old recognize whose nickel it really belonged to at the candy machine so many years ago.  My subconscious rings with maxims like, “An honest days work for an honest day’s wage.”  Like my dad, if I say I am going to do something, my honor is at stake.  So, “My word is my bond.”   

Truly, I have inherited a great wealth from my family.  The best part of this wealth is that no matter how trusting or gullible I am with other people who might want to steal my treasures, they can’t steal this one from me.  If I lose it, it’s my fault only.  More than money, land, or jewels, I want to be able to pass this treasure on to my children, and theirs.                

My Thankful List

My Thankful List


In this traditional season of Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking about how thankful I am for my Beautiful Wife.  Then the thought occurred to me that in all my years of researching and studying the lives of my ancestors, I’ve read very little of them recounting what they were thankful for.  To me, their “Thankful Lists” would be fascinating to read. 

Verbally, my parents freely express to me their gratitude for their many blessings.  And my sister, known in Spaces as Mitchowl, makes her “Thankful List” a regular monthly feature on her space.  So I thought it was time that I take a stab at making a thankful list.

I don’t know if it were how the stars were aligned back in September of 1981, or if Cupid was on vacation in Southeastern Idaho when his bow slipped and the arrow struck an unsuspecting Ricks College coed, or what… Actually I do know, it was a wonderful, gracious, gift… straight from God to me.  Nothing else could have enamored such a beautiful, fabulous, dame, to the all time socially klutzy guy.  But I am ever so thankful that it happened.  I’ve been continually thankful for this blessing for over 26 years now.

My childhood home was a charmed setting for my growing years.  Our big family living on our small farm, near our small town, has left me with big wonderful memories and higher values.  I am thankful for the life I lived as a child.  I could write volumes of stories of the character building experiences I learned in my youth.  I am also thankful that our small town college brought a Beautiful Redhead from Southern California into my life.   

I am thankful for the nine stunning children that my Beautiful Wife gave me.  Each one, bright, unique, talented, with a touch of my Beautiful Wife radiating from them.  The next generation, now two strong, have shown me that being a grandpa is also a wonderful experience.  Having my Beautiful Wife beside me as the Grandma makes it even better… our two little girls really, really love their Beautiful Grandma.  I rate pretty high just by association. 

Over the years, I have always had good enough work opportunities to support my growing family.  Even though it wasn’t always exactly what I loved doing, I am very thankful that I’ve always had work and the associated income to provide for my family.  But I am afraid that my work has come home with me too much, and even worse, I have brought my home to the work too much.  My Beautiful Wife has had to deal with many of my work problems and many times she has had to live where she didn’t want to live, because of my work.  I am thankful that she has been willing to do this for me… for us… for our family.  She is as Beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. 

I have taken good health for granted for most of my life.  Even today, I can work guys half my age into the ground with no problem.  Most of them have no idea that I’m twice as old as they are.  But my secret to such good health and strength is who’s been taking such good care of me with her always healthy lifestyle for the last quarter century.  I am thankful for my Beautiful Wife.

Music… I love all kinds of music (since rap isn’t really music) I even learned to love country when Sammy Kershaw came out with his song, “She don’t know she’s beautiful” – guess who I think of when that song is playing?

I’m thankful for today’s communication.  With my cell phone, I can talk to my parents daily no matter where I am.  Emails keep me in touch with friends and family and the internet connects me to family I am meeting all over the world.  Someday I might even try texting so I can talk to my teenaged daughters again.  My favorite communication blessing lately is my Beautiful Wife’s space.  When I am away at work, I am her most faithful visitor to read her diary style entries, watch her video blogs, and to look at her beautiful pictures. 

Food… no one likes, or is as thankful for good food as I am.  But then no one gets to eat my Beautiful Wife’s cooking as I do.

Home… I’ve lived in many, many houses in the past.  No matter what the circumstances, my Beautiful Wife has made each one a home, and a place I wanted to be.  But our new home is more special to me because it is where she wants to live.  I am very thankful for it. 

This essay style list is very incomplete but already too long.  Next time I’ll try to just do a simple list like my sister Mitchowl does.  Did I mention that I am thankful for my Beautiful Wife?