This weekend I witnessed first-hand, a snarky little snot-nose of a prep-school bellhop, at a high-dollar resort I was playing at - stand not 5 feet away and watch me struggle with a cartload of guitars and speakers that I was trying to across the plaza and on the hotel elevator, to take to my gig, one level up.
The older model Kia I drive and the hurricane hair-do I usually sport, apparently signaled some crucial information to him upon my arrival regarding my tax bracket. He wasn't about to move a muscle to help me. Looked at me sideways and actually smirked - the little prick smirked!
2 minutes later a quite lovely and, obviously-loaded, grande dame - with a sweatered Pomeranian and a Rolex on each ear- appears from out of nowhere. In a flurry of near-curtsies? and slobberin' ":how-do-ya's" - Rob Roy the door-boy just about breaks his neck to cut in front of me and put her on the elevator I had been waiting for , lick her Gucci ski-boots, and get a whiff of her Diner's Club Gold-card - all at the same time. He was grinning like a mongoloid chimp when she handed him a $10 tip.
I could'a rung the insolent little shit's neck - just for bad manners. That poor dumb kid doesn't know what he was missing in passing up the opportunity to open the elevator door for both a wealthy women - and a rich man.
For the record, having money and being rich aren't even close to the same thing where I come from.
Here's a little story about that:
He was honest as the day was long, fair to a fault, and everybody for 30 miles in every direction had at least one story about how George had done something or another for them, or their family, when they were in some sort of pickle. He couldn't seem to stand to see someone in a bad way, if he could help it. He offered his assistance freely and he never asked a thing in return either. Never even mentioned it, like he and his family didn't even need what everybody else seemed to.
Seemingly unflappable, He was always pleasant and polite in public, soft spoken, sharp as a whip. Given to few words - and direct conversation. He had served his country with distinction as a Captain in the U.S. Army during World War II. When it was over he put away his bad dreams, came home a hero, bought a used tractor and a 3-bottom plow, married the smartest girl he knew, and took up the yoke of a dry-land wheat farmer, just like his father and grandfather before him.
He was apparently above all that. Unlike a good many of the locals, the man didn't drink to any significant degree - The wine at communion accounting for the lions share of his alcohol intake.
He volunteered every August to work the American Legion hamburger booth at the fair, never missed a high school football & basketball games on Friday nights if he could help it, He always graciously attended the occasional funeral when someone died - or wedding when someone wasn't careful, and he wouldn't dream of missing Sunday Mass with his wife and kids at The Sacred Heart Catholic Church in town. These forays seemed to be his only indulgences or activities away from the farm.
George and Dorys taught their children well about all things financial. Taught them to save birthday and Christmas money. How to keep themselves from spending their pocket money on candy or other foolishness like other kids. How to set aside dollars for the collection plate at church, and how to open a bank account at Sidney National Bank with $10. How to patiently, with diligently frugal behavior, watch that grow into much, much more.
His sons and daughters all bought and raised at least one or two calves each spring, with their own money. Raising their respective critters to market weight, and then using the proceeds to bolster their bank books - providing themselves with "pocket-money" for non-neccessities such as a soda-pop at the ball games, or a movie ticket at the Fox theatre in Sidney once in awhile. They would all follow their fathers example in establishing a firm financial foundation for themselves.
His kids were all taught from their earliest recollection, , that there is no excuse for low intelligence. Taught to work hard and study harder. They were all exceptionally smart, and expected to excel in school - to earn substantial scholarships to good universities.
George had a "nearly new" Massey-Ferguson combine with a 30' header for harvesting his wheat and millet, and two John Deere Tractors for pulling plows, planters, manure-spreaders, and the occasional tree-stump. The newer of the 2 even had air-conditioning and an enclosed cab.
He changed his oil in his old pickup every 3000 miles and traded his family cars in for a "nearly-brand-new" 4-door - generally off the back row at the Chevy dealership in Sidney - every 4 to 5 years.Usually in coincidence with one of his 5 children either getting a drivers license, or going off to college.
When the news came that George was sick, it spread across the county like tear-gas. Everyone that knew him choked a little. He and Dorys had gone to a big hospital in Denver at the family doctors urging, over some irregularities in Georges yearly checkup. He'd been trying to shake a disturbingly worsening cough since late winter, with no success
The minute he wheeled into the admitting room in Denver, things started going downhill fast. Each test confirmed their worst unspoken fears. "Cancer" - "inoperable".
There was no way of knowing how horribly aggressive his cancer was. I can only imagine what the drive home from the city - 4 hours in a car alone with his wife of 40 years - must have been like.
With every centimeter that the wheat in the fields grew that spring, with every changing shade of vibrant green that turned daily toward the brilliant yellow-gold it would soon become under the hot June sun - Georges condition worsened.
In the coming weeks every member of his family publicly displayed their grief only sparingly - They sadly and proudly, all held their heads with the quiet dignity that George was so noted for himself. They comforted everyone else before themselves.
In our town, George was a leader and his wife, "Aunt Dorys", was a healer. They believed in God and the church, they believed in the goodness of each other, and they believed in the goodness of their children and their neighbors. All his life George had quietly believed it was his job to give all that goodness a place to grow in, and plenty of sunlight, . As a result of their stewardship, we all believed it too.
At his funeral, that's where you understood the full scope of Georges wealth. The church was full out to the sidewalk and packed up clear to the rafters. There wasn't a dry eye in the place and every single one of us had been given something at one time or another by the man. It looked like a hundred cars in that line that crawled away from the church that day. Out to our little country cemetery, small and lonesome, a quarter mile north of town on the same dirt road that led to Georges farm.
The wheat in the fields around the cemetery was tall and brilliant gold that day, and just hours away from the magic 13% moisture content acceptable for harvesting.
As soon as the final "Amen" was sang at the graveside, every farmer and able bodied hand in attendance went home, changed out of their suits, and without any significant discussion amongst themselves - immediately drove their own combines and grain trucks to Georges fields first, before their own.
They descended on the rolling fields of gold like a swarm of locust, the instant the moisture test at the elevator read 13%. Nearly 100 men, 20-30 combines and nearly twice that many trucks - made quick work of over a section and a half of wheat before the sun fell that day, and as soon as all the grain was in the elevator - the weight tickets handed to Dorys - everybody went home and began cutting their own fields the next morning. That's what George would have done for any one of them.
When he passed I don't believe George had any more money, than anyone else around town. If he did it didn't matter. He was rich - with or without it. He had the well-deserved admiration and respect of nearly every soul on legs from one side of the county to the next. He left more friends than he could count and he passed a legacy of dignity to his children and theirs. He lived simply and in doing so, through good stewardship and Christian decency, changed peoples lives around him for the better. A simple farmer.
You can't buy that at Wal-Mart
"Don't take any wooden nickels"