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The Jacksons

By Rollin Penner

Winter has finally arrived in Manitoba. There’s been talk in the coffee shops about the possibility that it might not come this year, but most people are smarter than that.

Like death and taxes, winter is non-negotiable. Actually, taxes are negotiable, to a degree. Certain, but negotiable. Winter is also certain, and entirely non-negotiable. We get what we get, and this year we’ve been exceptionally fortunate.

Even the cold snap of last week was relatively mild compared to the cold snaps of past winters. A few days of -25° weather doesn’t qualify as a harsh winter, and this winter seems destined to go down in history as one of the mildest ones on record, and unless something changes, one of the least snowy as well. Of course that could all change in a moment.

Andrew and Rose Jackson sat at the breakfast table on Saturday morning by themselves, enjoying the rare peace and quiet of an empty house.

“It’s warmer out this morning,” said Andrew. “The sheep seem happier.”

Rose nodded. “It’s hard to tell with sheep though,” she said.

“True enough,” said Andrew. “They are a little harder to read than cows.” He stared out the window for a moment. “I’ve been thinking,” he said.

“Good for you,” said Rose. “And how does that feel?”

“Scary,” said Andrew.

“I found that too, the first time I tried it,” said Rose. “It gets better,” she added reassuringly.

“Very funny,” said Andrew.

“I know,” said Rose, picking up her coffee cup. “But do tell, what have you been thinking about?”

“I have been thinking,” said Andrew, “about selling the farm.”

Rose paused, her coffee cup suspended in mid-air. “To whom?” she said.

“To Randy, of course,” said Andrew. “Who did you think?”

“Randy would have been my first guess,” said Rose. “And after that I would have stopped guessing.” She took a thoughtful sip of coffee. “You think he’s ready for that?”

Andrew shrugged. “I’ll probably never think he’s ready for that,” he said, “so I don’t think I’ll base anything on that.” He took a sip of his own coffee. “And anyway, I’m not planning to sell tomorrow.”

“No?” said Rose. “When then? Next week?”

“Yeah maybe,” said Andrew. “Or next year. Or the year after. Something like that.”

“Maybe we should do one thing at a time,” said Rose. “This year we get Brady married off. Next year we sell the farm to Randy. And the year after that we can do something with Jennifer. Take her out for ice cream or something.”

“Yeah,” said Andrew. “Although that doesn’t seem entirely fair.”

“You don’t think so?” said Rose.

“Not really,” said Andrew. “Randy gets stuck with the farm, Brady gets married, and Jennifer gets ice cream? What makes her special? Don’t you think the boys will be jealous?”

“Well, when you put it that way,” said Rose.

“Seriously though,” said Andrew, “Jennifer is an issue.”

“It’s always been an issue,” said Rose. “What to do with Jennifer?”

“I used to think she and Randy would take over the farm together,” said Andrew, “but I’ve come to the conclusion this farm ain’t big enough for the both of them.”

“You don’t think so?” Rose seemed surprised. “I think Randy and Jenn get along just fine.”

“That’s not what I mean,” said Andrew. “I mean the farm literally isn’t big enough for both of them.”

“Oh, I see,” said Rose. She pondered that for a second. “It’s working for you and Randy though,” she said. “Why not for the two of them?”

“Well, the thing is,” said Andrew, “we’re not going to give them the farm, we’re going to sell them the farm. Which means they’ll have more debt to carry, and that means less profit for quite a few years. Not enough for two.”

“Perhaps we could give them a super good deal,” said Rose.

“Perhaps we could,” said Andrew. “But that would mean we might not be able to spend two months every winter in Arizona.”

“Forget that,” said Rose.

“Exactly,” said Andrew. “It has to be a fair price. I’d hate to end up like old Milton Brown.”

“Milton Brown?” said Rose.

Andrew nodded. “Milton sold his farm to his son for half of what it was worth, back in the ’80s, and two years later his son sold it to some rich German for twice what it was worth, and guess which of them gets to spend two months every winter in Arizona?”

“The German?” said Rose.

“Maybe,” said Andrew. “Definitely not Milton.”

“Well Randy would never do that,” said Rose.

“I know he wouldn’t,” said Andrew. “Especially if we make sure he can’t.”

“I do look forward to winters in Arizona,” said Rose.

“So do I,” said Andrew. “Believe me, so do I.”

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