Friday, September 6, 2019

The Shrewd King 7.5: Price seeking

Quinn and Miguel hunted woodchuck holes until they had four rabbits in the two, fifty-pound dog food bags.

“Now what?” Quinn asked.

“Now we sell them to Steve.” Miguel said.

The bags were a pain to carry. They were slippery and too stiff to easily grip.

“Why don’t we kill them? They would be a lot easier to carry.” Quinn asked.

“Steve doesn’t buy dead animals.” Miguel said. “He said they need to be killed hallal or something.”

Quinn thought it more likely that it was because an animal-on-the-hoof does not require refrigeration but he kept his thoughts to himself.

After Steve weighed the rabbits and entered them into his account book, Quinn and Miguel started back to the observation post.

They were most of the way back when they heard the camp dog baying.

“We gotta hustle.” Miguel said. “Chernovsky is coming.”

“I thought that was a heron cry.” Quinn said.

“Depends on which direction Chernovsky is coming from.” Miguel said.

Miguel slid into the brushy woods beside the road. Quinn ghosted in behind him. Miguel was pleased. Quinn had more woods sense that he expected.

A path ran about twenty yards inside the tree line and paralleled the road. Miguel picked up the pace to an eight-minute mile trot. Quinn was hard pressed to keep up. His left leg was still healing up and some of his muscles had been severed in the shooting. It would be a while before the other muscles would strengthen enough to pick up the extra load.


The farmers were playing cards at Earl’s place. Earl was a generation older than the two other farmers and the mechanic. His house was also a generation older.

The men paid no attention to the worn linoleum or the fact that the patterns on the Formica counter tops had worn off decades ago. It was like a second home to the guests.

The night was not going well for Don. Don usually ran the table but tonight he was getting thrashed. Lady Luck was not smiling upon him and his card playing was stupid and distracted.

After his stash of washers was wiped out, Don went to the washtub filled with well water on the porch and got a beer to nurse while watching the others play.

He was in for some good-natured ribbing.

Earl started out the kidding. “So, what is biting you in the ass?”

“Whaddya mean?” Don asked.

“Last time I seen you play that bad you had just had a fight with Darlene.” Earl said.

Darlene was Don’s wife.

“Darlene and me are doing just fine, thank-you.”

Don cracked the cap on the beer bottle just the tiniest little bit and let the carbonation slowly hiss out. Then he started a count in his head. He had never had one vomit on him, even a warm one, if he gave it a count of ninety before totally removing the cap of the homebrew.

“So what IS bothering you?” Ken asked.

“Same old story.” Don said. “The farmer gets screwed by the bank.”

“Ain’t no banks any more.” Ken observed.

“Well, there sort of is.” Don said. “Kate is our bank.”

That got the other three men’s attention.

“What are you saying?” Earl wanted to know.

“I like Kate.” Don said. “I like her a lot. She is a good lady, always worried about folks and such.”

“But I don’t see that she is very worried about us getting a fair shake.” Don finished.

The men chewed on that for the rest of the hand.

“You talking about the price we are getting for our corn?” Earl asked.

“Yup.” Don said.

“It does seem like she could be getting more for it.” Ken said.

“It is not just that.” Don said.

“The store has two solar panels and she is charging batteries and running a refrigerator. Darlene even noticed that she cobbled up air conditioning. She is pumping well-water through a radiator and has a fan blowing through it.” Don said.

“Darlene said it felt like 55 degree air blowing out of that radiator.” Don said.

“She is selling our grain. She gets the benefits and all we get are some marks in her account book.” Don finished.

That very same thought had been in the other men’s minds as well.

They played a few more hands. The three men still in the game were evenly matched and the game might go on for a while.

“How would you fix that?” Earl asked.

“I wouldn’t be selling the corn in 500 bushel lots, I can tell you that right now.” Don said.

“How would you sell it?” Earl asked.

“Weekly auctions.” Don said. “I would sell it at weekly auctions by the twenty bushel wagon load with a maximum of two wagons.”

“Gotta have at least two bidders to make an auction work.” Ken said.

All of the men were addicted to auctions. It was cheap entertainment and a good way to pick up used equipment, if you knew what you were looking for and could keep your hands in your pockets when the prices got too high.

“We got at least two. We got Blastic. We got some guy from Delta Township buying. We are still selling a little bit to Eaton Rapids and we got the four stores.” Don said. “We got plenty of bidders.

Mike, the mechanic looked at Don over his reading glasses. “I hope you aren’t planning on screwing the locals.”

Don waved his hands in a dismissive way. “We will figure something out.”

“The thing is, if we start getting a better price for our grain than maybe each one of us can have solar panels on our houses. Maybe we can have refrigerators and charge neighbor’s batteries. I don’t see how that is screwing our neighbors...being able to charge their batteries.”

“When would you start this auction?” Ken asked.

“Kate made a couple of big sales. One to Blastic and one to the joker from Delta. I say we hold off until after they take full delivery. Then, when they want to buy more, that is when we start the auction.” Don said.

“Meanwhile” Don said, looking at Mike “you might want to spread the word with the neighbors that the price of grain is going to go up and they might want to stock up ahead of time.”


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