…Sam watched what was happening over at the big house with some degree of interest.
Sam and his family had had to leave their previous home because of personal differences. His family disowned him when he decided to marry his wife. They had been squatting, so to speak, in the woods down by the river behind Ben’s property for some time. They had been hunting, trapping and scavenging to sustain themselves.
Ben walked over to the barn where Sam was standing and said, “How ya doin’?”
Sam said, “I’ve been better and I’ve been worse.”
Ben said, “know the feelin’. What can I do for ya?”
Sam explained to Ben about how he and his wife had been living in the river bottom and how they had been subsisting.
Ben knew all of this. Matter of fact, Ben had instructed his kids to try to make things easier for Sam and his wife without it looking too obvious. Things like leaving some vegetables behind when they harvested, or shooting a coyote they saw wandering around that area. But, other than that, he left the next move up to Sam.
Sam said, “I was wondering if you and I might do some trading.”
“What kind of trading?” Ben asked.
“I catch fish and hunt squirrels and such” said Sam.
Ben replied, “I can do that myself.”
“What if I saved you the hassle and brought a doe to you already dressed and quartered?” asked Sam.
Ben asked, “what would you want in return?”
Sam said, “syrup and salt…maybe some tobacco. You know, things that ya kinda have to buy.”
“I think we can work somethin’ out.” said Ben.
They were content with their arrangement and, even though they came from different backgrounds, they became friends. They kept an eye out for each other. Ben refused to tell Sam how he needed to do things, he let Sam make the decisions he felt he needed to make for he and his wife.
One day, the people who owned the property that Sam was living on sold it to a commercial outfit that was just acquiring stuff in the area. The new owners began to hassle Sam. Ben went to the people and said, “how about I just buy that property from you and you won’t have to worry with Sam any more?” After a bit of back and forth, an agreement was arrived at. Ben, though he now owned the property, let Sam and his wife stay there and continue as they had been.
Sam’s wife came to him one day and said, “I’m pregnant Sam.” This changed alot of things for Sam. They were content living in the woods but it wasn’t the best environment for the raising of a child. Sam decided to talk to Ben about it.
Sam walked up to Ben and said, “can I talk to ya for a minute?” “Sure.” replied Ben. They walked into the barn in the shade and sat down in a couple of folding chairs facing out the doors looking across the pasture.
“We are going to have a baby” Sam began.
Ben smiled at him and said, “congratulations.”
“Thanks, but…” Sam began, and then stopped.
“But what?” asked Ben.
“Well, we have been happy where we are but it’s not really the best way to raise a child” said Sam.
“I see what you mean” Ben replied, “What do you have in mind?”
“Well, that’s what I came to ask you” Sam said as he brushed the dirt back and forth on the barn floor with the toe of his boot. “I don’t have any money. I don’t own any property. I don’t have a trade unless you consider huntin’ and fishin’.”
“Those are pretty good trades when applied right.” Ben said, then added, “and it is evidence that you ain’t afraid to get your hands dirty, which is a start.”
“Tell ya what, we can put something together here in the barn” said Ben. “It’s not much but it is out of the elements and it has running water.”
“Are you serious?” asked Sam.
“Sure. Y’all keep this area straight, help around the property and lend a hand at harvest and we will call it even” Ben said. “You can even keep your huntin’ and fishin’ goin’ if you want.”
They put some bunks in a corner of the barn near the fireplace and made them a bathroom.
And so it went after that. They all worked well together, the kids played together, and it was an all-around good arrangement. Ben helped Sam peddle the hides he gathered and, together, they looked out for the common good.
Al around the corner wasn’t so hype on how well Sam and Ben were getting on. After all, Al was one of the main ones that had been trying to run Ben and his family off…