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Original Design - Small Change

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Maple Leaf Angus

Well-known member
Feb 10, 2005
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Southern Ontario
Column from a couple of years ago. Clarence's post about farming in the eighties over on Bull Session made me go dig it out.

Original Design -
Small Change

The stranger surveyed the empty seats as he walked into the local coffee shop and since it was obvious that none of them seemed to suit him, I motioned for him to sit at my table. Nodding his thanks, he pulled up his chair and it was then that I noticed his bunched-up hand come out of his pocket and in it was a sizable collection of coins. Pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, loonies and toonies.
"Goodday,"he said with a Francophone accent while sorting through the pile in his hand. "How much is a coffee?" he asked as the waitress headed our way with a mug and coffee pot in hand.
"Dollar," was the reply as the brew was served. He seemed to be preoccupied with sorting the smallest pieces of change into neat piles on the table. Five pennies per stack...let's see, coupla' nickels, some dimes and a quarter to make one dollar. "I like to use up my change before I get home" was his explanation.
He was a truck driver who worked for a farmer in eastern Ontario and, having picked up his return load, stopped for a bit of caffeine to help keep him sharp for the seven or eight hour trip back home. And, as happens so easily over a good cup of coffee in farm country on a rainy day, we were soon in a deep conversation which dealt with the dreadfully serious farm issues of the day. We came up with some stunningly simple solutions for many of them. Had his trailer been empty, it not likely would have held the cargo of candid suggestions we had for the folks who run our fair land from out his way.
We shook our heads in deep dismay at the mention of the horrendously high prices farmers were being forced to pay if they wanted to rent or buy land nowadays; why, corn was four dollars a bushel in the nineteen-seventies when a fella could rent land at sixty- five dollars an acre! How's it ever supposed to work at one-sixty -five or two hundred dollars? Or five, six, even seven thousand an acre to buy it?
Feeling the pain of those attempting to do so compelled me to share my own painful start-up experience in farming. "It was 1981 when I bought my first farm, 50 acres at twelve hundred an acre and interest at sixteen percent from Farm Credit. As Jim signed over the deed for the land he had just sold to me he said 'Johnnie, this year corn is four dollars a bushel and next year it'll be five'," I recounted to the stranger as I quietly relived that distant moment.
The truck driver leaned close and hoarsely whispered over the sound of the pounding rain, "And was it?"
" Nope", I replied in a low voice, " corn dropped to two-fifty and my operating loan jumped to twenty two percent. You see, he was a Liberal".
Shocked almost to the point of disbelief, he asked me, "How did you ever survive?"
"Same way everbody else did in the achin' eighties. The government kept sending out little trickles of money to keep the farmers going. Lots of us think they knew just how much it would take to keep the banks from losing too much money on bad loans. Those bankers got friends in high places, you know."
The stranger drained his cup and shook his head in amazement at his new-found understanding as he pushed back his chair. "Gotta go home,"he said.
"By the way, where's home?" I asked as he rose to leave. He swept the pile of small change into his hand then let it trickle onto the counter to pay the bill . "Ottawa" he replied."
The rain stopped and the sun burst out and it all suddenly made sense. I guess that is just the way they do it out there.
Thanks MLA for the story. The hurt is the same wherever a person lives.

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