Andrew Jackson stepped out of his pickup truck, slammed the door behind him and then paused for a moment to look around before heading into the shop. Banks of snow ringed the yard and lined the driveway, shrinking daily in the sunshine and zero temperature, but still several feet high. The cattle in the pasture stayed near the shelter, there being, as yet, no green grass showing through the snow. A single pair of geese winged their way northward honking noisily overhead. Andrew wondered what they were saying. Probably arguing about the trip.
“I told you we left too early,” one of them was no doubt saying. “It’s freezing cold here! There’s no open water! What the heck are we doing?”
“It’ll be fine,” the second goose was most likely replying. “We’ll have such a head start when it warms up. It always warms up eventually.”
“Yeah but probably not till June. Remember 2004? There was a snowstorm on May 12! What if there’s a snowstorm on May 12 this year? I told you we should stay in the South for another month at least! But no! You’re too impatient. So now we get to freeze to death!”
“What do you know about snowstorms in 2004? We weren’t even alive then!”
“It’s commonly known goose folklore! Everyone knows it!”
Andrew nodded to himself. “We’ve all had arguments like that,” he thought. He watched the geese disappear over the trees north of the farmyard, then he opened the door to the shop and stepped inside. He was greeted by a pleasant aroma of wood smoke and a less pleasant aroma of dried manure. Andrew’s son Randy looked up from the workbench, on which lay a couple of hydraulic hoses and an assortment of tools.
“Hey Pops,” said Randy.
“Hey kid,” said Andrew. He surveyed the contents of the shop, which included a John Deere tractor with its loader propped up on wooden blocks two feet high. “Didn’t you fix that loader just last year?” he asked.
“I did,” said Randy. “Now I’m fixing it again. Next year I’ll probably fix it for a third time.”
Andrew nodded knowingly. “They don’t make hydraulic hoses the way they used to,” he said.
“How did they make them back in your day?” Randy wanted to know. “Out of sheep intestines and canvas?”
“Probably,” said Andrew. “I have no idea.”
Randy picked up one of the hoses and studied it briefly. “This is not the one that blew last year. This is the one from the other side of the loader.”
“Really?” said Andrew. “Both factory hoses already blew? That’s weird. They must have been defective.”
“Yeah. I’m thinking of sending a strongly worded letter to the John Deere Corporation,” said Randy.
“I’m sure that will get results,” said Andrew. “They’ll send you a thank you letter and a model of a 1972 4020 tractor.”
“I wish,” said Randy.
There was a momentary pause while Andrew headed over to the counter to pour himself a cup of coffee from the pot that stood steaming on the warming element. He reached into the old fridge in the corner and pulled out a container of cream.
“I’ll have a little more of that brew,” said Randy, “if you don’t mind. My cup is right there.”
Andrew picked up the cup and looked at it. “How come it says husband number one?” he asked. “Is Jackie expecting a husband number two?”
“It says number one husband, not husband number one,” said Randy.
“Ah yes,” said Andrew. “I see that now. I was reading it wrong.” He set both cups down on the old card table that stood next to the workbench and sat down in one of the available chairs. Randy wiped his hands on a nearby rag and then sat down as well.
“Cheers,” said Andrew, raising his coffee mug.
Randy raised his cup in response.
“How’s the quarterly report?” asked Andrew.
“So far so good,” said Randy.
“All right then,” said Andrew. “Meeting adjourned.”
Randy smiled. “My kind of meeting,” he said. He took a sip of coffee. “You know we haven’t lost a single calf, right?” he said. “First time ever, I think.”
“Not quite,” said Andrew. “Nineteen seventy-nine. Fifty cows, 50 calves, didn’t lose one. That was a very good year.”
“Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come,” said Randy. “And hopefully we don’t end up in a full-on trade war with the United States. That would kind of ruin the moment.”
“Let’s not worry about things that are out of our control,” said Andrew.
“Worrying is very effective though,” said Randy. “Ninety per cent of the things I worry about never happen.”
“Oh well, if it makes you happy, then worry,” said Andrew.
“Thanks,” said Randy. “I will.”