In rustic rural Virginia, spread out along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, laid land that had been the heritage of a hardworking, God fearing family. The farm had been a part of this family’s heritage for generations. Records at the local courthouse show the farm had belonged to the family for over three hundred years. The old farmer had worked the land and tended the cattle with the same dedication and care as the generations of those who had handed it down to him.
As the old farmer transitioned into his golden years he recalled how his grandfather and father used to discuss, with great concern, the difficulty in finding someone to represent them in the fields, in an honest and dependable way. He could recall as a young man how the conversations on the subject became more and more frequent and with growing concerns over the character of those they relied upon to make the farm work efficiently.
His thoughts drifted to the people he had depended on to help him run the farm. He remembered Jacob. Jacob was a very likeable guy. He remembered Jacob’s politician smile and firm handshake. When he met him the farmer recalled feeling like he had found someone with potential, someone he could count on to get the job done. Every time he met with Jacob he was upbeat, encouraging and Jacob would tell him how his assignments were moving smoothly, “like clockwork” Jacob liked to say. But different information started to surface that didn’t support Jacob’s claims. Equipment he was supposed to have serviced began breaking down for lack of standard maintenance. Tasks he said had been completed were only partially done, or poorly done, or not done at all. Jacob always had a smile and a positive response, but he had a problem telling the truth.
He remembered the day in the early spring when he was short handed and needed help with the planting. Ed stopped by the farm and asked if he needed any help. The farmer hired him and put him to work that day. Ed showed up every morning and went to the area he had been assigned, but found it more convenient to piddle and play than to work. The farmer made use of him as best he could to pick up some of the slack, but Ed’s poor work habits, what his father called being lazy, set him behind so he didn’t get everything planted he needed to plant.
Old Joe, Old Joe was a man who had worked for him for a good long while, probably longer than anyone else he had on the farm. He had trusted old Joe and promoted him to supervisor over field production where he was responsible for the planting and harvesting of grain, and the production of hay. Old Joe was diligent and hardworking, hardly missed a day. But the farmer discovered that old Joe had been skimming the harvests and selling a portion of the harvest on the side for himself.
The farmer’s memory slipped back to the time when his children began to work on the farm. He had worked hard to teach them how to live ethical productive lives. He had worked hard to instill in them strong work ethics, a sense of right and wrong, of being honest and doing their best in everything. But as they worked alongside the other farmhands they began to pick up bad habits. One by one the children found the work on the farm too hard and took government positions. They found the traits they had learned from the hired help served them well in their new employment.
The farmer now old and unable to keep up the farm, and not having his children there to take up the slack, or hired help he could trust, watched his precious farm deteriorate. The barn wasn’t painted. The fences weren’t mended. The cattle had to be sold. The fields were not plowed or planted. He was only able to keep up little patches to grow the food they needed and enough to sell to pay the basic bills.
When the old farmer died his wife was put in a home, so she had someone to care for her, and the farm was sold to a corporate agricultural firm. They came in and refurbished the buildings installing all the new high tech equipment needed to run the farm remotely. They tore down the old clap board farm house and replaced it with a new brick corporate office.
The heritage of the homestead stood silently on a hill overlooking the farm; marked with simple sandstone monuments, engraved with the heroes’ names, dates of birth and death.