Friday, August 16, 2019

The Shrewd King 4.5: Denny Blastic

Denny Blastic should have been on top of the world.

His family had survived the Ebola epidemic and all the other diseases that gang-tackled the United States and the healthcare industry imploded.

He owned, free-and-clear 160 acres of prime, southern Michigan farmland just west of the Grand River. And most importantly, he owned a breeding herd of twenty Standardbred trotting horses. That made him a Very-Important-Person in the post-Ebola, post-oil least in his own estimation.

His neighbors did not recognize his new position. They asked to borrow horses for assorted errands. So far, he had always said “No.” claiming that they didn’t know how to handle high-strung racing horses.

That was about to change. He was about to let people borrow horses but at a ten-to-one exchange rate, ten of their hours for each horse-hour. The clause specified that they must work when he called regardless of other commitments they had. And buried in the fine-print was a clause that bound them into indentured servitude for a period of a year for failure to fulfill their end of the deal.

Not only that, but Denny was about to start welcoming refugees. He would offer them housing and food in exchange for a five year commitment to work for him. He had land. He had horses. He did not have labor.

He would not have been in this predicament if it had not been for the Amish and their incredibly long memories. Early on, when he first started raising horses, he had many dealings with the Amish.

Relations chilled after he refused to pay for the last load of hay he had trucked over from the other side of the county. He claimed it was moldy. They offered to come over and sort it out, bale-by-bale. He claimed to have already disposed of it. 

Of course, the hay had been fine. Denny resented having to pay premium prices for small bales of hay he knew they produced small bales far below “English” farmer’s cost of production for large, round bales. They did not have to make monthly payments on tractors and their kids worked for free.

His relationship with the Amish was completely destroyed when he sold a couple of young horses to a young Amish man and his father from Northern Indiana. It not an accident that they were from far away. He deliberately chose to not advertise locally.

Two of his mares had broken out and were bred by a neighbor’s mongrel stallion. He recaptured them and put them in with his prize stallion and made no mention that the sire may have been otherwise.

When the foals grew up to be other than expected, Denny claimed the problem was the mares, who he had purchased from the Amish. Denny claimed that the mare’s bloodlines were polluted by the Michigan Amish he had purchased the mares from.

Denny considered both transactions perfectly satisfactory. He counted on the fact that the Amish didn’t make reviews on Yelp and almost never pursued legal action in the court system. Furthermore, there were many more Amish in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois.

Had Denny been on good terms with the local Amish, they would have bent over backwards with tools and sound advice. As it was, they wanted nothing to do with Denny. Hence, Denny had to take matters into his own hands.

Denny’s labor shortage was about to change. He knew that there were hundreds of dispossessed families wandering the countryside looking for a way to avoid starvation.

He was about to offer them a deal that was too good to be true. Families that were in good health and whose children were all in the teens were going to be offered “three hots and a cot”. What they did not know was that they were to be crammed three families to a house and the food was going to be three meals of grits-and-greens in exchange for ten hours of grueling labor in the sun.

A few families fled once they figured out Denny's scam. Most stayed after signing the “contract” and turning over their property. They had no place to go.

Denny did not deal with the refugees himself. He subcontracted that to his three sons, ages fifteen-to-twenty. He was no easier on them than he would have been on the refugees. They lived in fear of this temper. 

His sons learned to be ruthless in their dealings with the workers...who they called ‘slaves’ in the privacy of their house. Better to have the slaves bleed than to earn a clout to the side of the head.

Trey was the oldest and had the easiest job. He ran the "fort".

Wesley was something of a mechanical genius and got along well with the horses. Of the three, Denny was most likely to leave him alone.

Vernon, his youngest, bore the brunt of overseeing the field help.



  1. Me suspects there will be a conflict soon between Denny's family and others, particularly those whose stories we have been following...

  2. Hehehe, this ISN'T going to end well... Nice foreshadowing!

  3. "They did not have to make monthly payments on tractors and their kids worked for free."

    This is not actually factual. By the time you buy the horse, stable and feed and care for the horse and breed the horse it can cost the average Amish family quite a bit of money. As well as having the "tractor" to go with the usual team of 4 to 8 horses.

    As far as having the children work for free? Well, they are a family and everybody in the family has a job to do to keep the farm running properly. A concept that is lost on most modern families of today, especially here in the U.S.

    1. People who cheat and steal don't let inconvenient math stand in the way of rationalizing their actions.


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