“You sure about that boss?”
Anders Johannson whirled and glared at the speaker. Two blazing lumps of charcoal sat in his head where normal men had eyes. Some of the boys said it was those eyes, as dark as night. Others said it was his flaming red hair, eyebrows, and mutton-chop sideburns. Everyone had their opinion as to why the boss could whip a man twice his size with just a look. But on one thing they all agreed, it wasn’t wise to question what Anders Johannson said.
“Are you forgetting what boss means boy? You question me again and I’ll be finding me another crew chief.”
Jim, with skin as black as the boss’s eyes, lowered his head and nodded, “Yes boss. I understand.” He turned to the group of twenty or so laborers and yelled, “You heard the boss. Tear it down, and be quick about it.”
Karrah Johannson had begged her husband to reconsider his decision to no avail. “But why,” she had asked, “do we need this? We have more corn than we could possibly use or sell. And now you are going to dismantle our house just to build more barns!”
Anders knew better than try to stare his wife down. While man and beast feared him, Karrah did not. Though he had never admitted it, he knew it was one of the reasons he loved her so. “It’s only for a short time my dear and we have never seen this much corn before.”
“Then give the abundance to your men and their families. Or perhaps to that poor group of travelers on their way to Oregon. Why can you never be satisfied with what God has given us?”
“Why must God always be credited with what I have worked so hard for with my own bare hands?” fumed Anders. “I love you Karrah but I would thank you kindly to save your church lessons for the children.”
On any other occasion he would not have spoken that way to Karrah. But this was different. Someone had to see the big picture. See what could be had if one grasped it tightly enough. Lesser men might be satisfied with a house and a barn but not Anders Johannson. That is why, unlike Jim, he would never have to call anyone “Boss” the rest of his life.
Both Karrah and the children cried as they moved back into the little sod house where they had both lived and stored their corn in leaner times. They would understand when they had an even bigger and better house. They would thank him for what he was doing. One day.
As the week passed, Anders watched his men’s progress from a nearby hill. The shells of three new, bigger barns took shape from the materials the men had been ordered to scavenge from the great house. Lines of wagons, brimming with corn sat covered near the barns awaiting their new place of safety.
From his throne on the hill, Anders watched as his children returned from school and entered the sod house. He turned from them to admire the framework of his new barns and congratulated himself on what a wise decision he had made. Only then did he notice a thin dark line across the horizon far past the barns and the corn fields stretching from north to south as far as he could see. Anders looked back toward the sod house and then broke into a run … toward his barns.
Jim met him halfway; fear in his eyes and panic on his face. “Boss, that looks real bad. We got’s to get these men out of here right now.”
The two lumps of coal blazed to an intensity that startled even Jim.
“No, I’ll not lose an ear of that corn, do you understand?”
“I understand boss but I ain’t gonna let them men die.”
As Jim and the men ran for the sod house safely built into the side of a hill, Anders screamed. He railed at the men, at the sky, and at the funnel cloud bearing down on his beautiful new barns and corn. The corn that ensured he would never have to call anyone “boss” ever again.
An hour later, Anders Johannson’s family and men emerged from the sod house. Jim was the first to take in the destruction before them. He shook his head and whispered, “I shore hopes he knew the real Boss.”
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