Pete entered the office with trepidation. Kelly’s outburst was beyond the pale in the culture he was from.
“I understand that I need a line of credit to buy corn next week.” Pete started.
“Yup.” Ken said. “Either horses, solar panels or promissory notes to be paid off, in-kind, when the field south of your store is harvested.”
“How much credit will you extend on field south of my store? It makes a difference on what I can pay for corn.” Pete said. He was no stranger to haggling.
“Right now, I cannot extend you any credit on that field.” Ken said.
“But you said it was secured by the next harvest.” Pete said.
“Yeah, well about that.” Ken said. “The three of us took a ride around and looked at that field. Except for one or two small patches, it is choked with weeds and you aren’t going to get any corn off it. We cannot extend credit when we don’t have confidence that you will have a harvest and be able to pay it back.”
Pete blinked. He was not a farmer and had assumed that the neighbors were taking care of business.
“What do you propose I do?” Pete asked.
“I can’t tell you what to do, but if it were me I would continue to sell to the the one-or-two people who are taking care of their share and to stop selling to the people who expect ‘somebody else’ to do the work.” Ken said. "Slackers are generally pretty quick learners, once they get hungry."
That was going to go over like a turd in the punch bowl.
“And if we get the field acceptably weeded by next Sunday, then can you extend us credit?” Pete asked.
“If me or Don or Earl looks it over on Monday and we like what we see, we will give you credit.” Ken said.
“Can one of you come over tomorrow so you can coach us on just how perfect the weeding needs to be?” Pete asked.
That sounded perfectly reasonable to Ken so he agreed that one of them would show up about 10:30, late enough for Pete to assemble a work crew.
“Can you give me a hint about what the reserve will be next week?” Pete asked.
“Lemme ask you a few questions. Then maybe you can figure it out for yourself.” Ken said.
“Where did you come from, Pakistan?” Ken asked.
“Close. Western India.” Pete replied.
“Manual laborers, men with no particular skills, how much money did they make a day?” Ken asked.
“Maybe two-hundred Rupees a day.” Pete said.
“How much rice would that buy?” Ken asked.
“About ten pounds.” Pete said.
“You can expect to pay at least that much for corn.” Ken said. “We don’t have fertilizer. We don’t have pesticides. India did.”
Benicio was the next person Ken met with.
Benicio, more than anybody else, understood exactly what Ken was doing. Benicio’s former business, at its core, was really no different than Ken’s current business. Both were retailing and both were virtual monopolies.
“I know you cannot predict next week’s prices.” Benicio said. “But do you think six, 600W panels with controllers will provide sufficient credit for next weeks bidding?”
“I can almost guarantee that it will.” Ken said.
“I will send them tomorrow to give you time to verify that they work. Where do you want them sent?” Benicio asked.
“Send them here but tag them ‘Collateral for grain auction’ so nobody is confused about why they are here.” Ken said.
The next person Ken met with was the rude, fat man.
“Do you know who I am?” the fat man demanded as he barged through the door.
“I expect you are Dennis Blastic.” Ken said.
Ken could have worked in a factory or gone to college. Rather, he chose to farm because he found a certain class of humans to be unbearable. He could kick a tractor and there was no harm done. The tractor never tried to stab him in the back.
Denny was the kind of human that Ken had the least patience with.
“Then you know that I don’t have to apply for any credit.” he said. “Kate already cleared us.”
“This ain’t Kate’s rodeo.” Ken said. “In fact, before you can bid you need to settle-up on your previous loans with Kate.”
Denny’s mouth gaped open in mock amazement. “You mean to tell me that 22, prime breeding horses aren’t enough collateral for you?”
“Not only that, but I have four-hundred tons of prime, grass hay.” Denny said.
“Yeah” Ken said, “me and Earl been meaning to ask you what you plan to do with that Canarygrass you cut. The other thing we wanted to ask was ‘How much did you lose in the barn fire?’ I am thinking you don’t have four-hundred tons now.“
“Whaddya mean ‘Canarygrass’, you rube. It is prime bromegrass hay. The best there is.” Denny demanded.
“Have you tried feeding it to your horses?” Ken asked. “Lemme know how THAT goes.”
“But we ain’t here to argue about hay.” Ken said.
“You want to bid next week, you settle up what you owe Kate and you bring a couple of horses for us to inspect. And if we agree they are worth enough, you can bid if you leave them for collateral.” Ken said.
Denny’s face grew even redder beneath his sunburn. He shook his head like a gill-hooked bullhead. Sure-as-hell he was going to feed that hay to his horses, he just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.
Denny would play along, for a little while. As soon as he got the chance he was going to jam it up the prissy farmer’s backside and break it off.