…Al was looking at everything going on over there with Ben and Sam and he didn’t like it. He and his pals around the area had been trying to get Ben and his family to just give up and get out. The would like to have the property but it had more to do with their dislike for Ben that they were trying so hard. But nothing had worked yet.
Even as Ben and Sam were thriving, they still had to contend with malicious assaults on the property and equipment. A slashed tire here…a broken trailer axle there…a brush fire over there. Ben knew that it was Al and his buddies but there wasn’t anything that he could take to court being as the court wasn’t ever in his favor. The ‘jury of his peers’ seemed to always side with Al and them.
Al approached Sam one day while he was out hunting.
“Ya getting anything good?” Al asked.
“Here and there” said Sam.
“You know, you could make more money if you just sold the furs and meat yourself” Al said.
“Maybe so” replied Sam. “But Ben has been good to us and, besides, he does own this land.”
“You’ve been workin’ this land, it ought to be yours” Al said.
“I didn’t have the money to buy it and Ben did. He’s let me work it and make money off of it” explained Sam.
“But you still owe him. He will keep it that way too as long as he can” Al went on.
“What do you mean?” asked Sam.
“That’s the way it’s always been with Ben’s family and ours” Al said.
“What do you mean by ‘Ben’s family and ours’?” asked Sam.
“Well, me and you have the same lineage…Ben’s is different” said Al.
“Ben said we had the same great-great-great grandaddy or some such” Sam said. “I remember my mom talkin’ about him too so it seems to be true.”
“It is true but Ben’s side of the family thinks of us as the ‘black sheep’ so to speak” said Al.
“Anyway, I could sell your gatherin’s for you and give you a bigger cut if ya want” Al offered. “Think about it.” Then he walked off.
Sam started thinking about everything Al had said. It would be nice to make a better living. Owning this land and profiting from it sounded nice too. But he always came back to how good Ben and his family had been to them.
Al would come around more often. He would even help with some of the fishing and hunting. Sam would give him a little of what he earned for helping him out.
Eventually, Al began to act like it was his land too, and that he was not just a visitor. Once Sam started realizing this, he felt guilty about saying anything because Al had been helping him so much. Sam didn’t go to Ben about it because he knew Ben and Al didn’t get along very well.
Al’s rhetoric about the whole ‘this should be Sam’s land’ thing started getting more intense. Sam was becoming very intimidated by Al. Sam started seeing how Al was the one harassing Ben.
Sam now found himself in the middle between Ben and Al. He didn’t know what to do. He started seeing signs that Al just did not mike Ben at all and couldn’t understand it.
One day, Al was going to set fire to Ben’s back pasture at the edge of the woods. Sam said, “what are you doing?!”
Al said, “trust me.”
“What do you mean ‘trust you’?” Sam asked.
“I know what I’m doing. I’m just going to burn his pasture” Al said.
“What if the woods catch fire?” asked Sam.
“They won’t” replied Al.
As Al was setting fire to the pasture, Ben spotted him. Al took off running back through the woods and away.
Ben and Sam put what fire had been started out, then he turned to Sam and asked what was going on. Sam kind of filled Ben in on Al and the fact that Al had been helping him in his gathering. Ben told Sam how it really wasn’t a good idea to pay attention to anything Al says.
“Al doesn’t give a diddly about you or your family. You are just someone Al can use to get at me right now. Once the time comes where he doesn’t think you are useful to him any more, he will kick you to the curb and move on” said Ben. “And if those woods did catch fire? It’s really no skin off his back…this isn’t his property and it isn’t his livelihood that would be effected.”
Sam was even more lost now. On the one hand, you have Ben who had been really good to him and his family. Then, on the other hand, you have Al who is more blood kin than Ben was.
They could just leave and let Ben and Al just hash everything out themselves. But, one, they didn’t have anywhere to go really and, two, this has become their home and livelihood for so long, they hated to leave.
Sam knew, though, that he was eventually going to have to pick a side in this whole situation…