Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Sweet to the Taste (08/23/12)
TITLE: Sweet Revenge
By Larry Elliott
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“Another one?” She asked solemnly.
Jackson did not say a word, just slowly nodded as he stared at the yellow and white checkered table cloth.
“Why? Why us? None of our neighbor’s cows are dying. It don’t make sense, Jack. We’re going to lose everything you’ve worked so hard for. This year was the best herd we ever had, and now we’re going to lose it all. It just ain’t fair.” She turned toward the counter and sobbed into a towel. Two huge arms, strong enough to choke a full grown bear, wrapped around her small waist ever so gently.
“It’ll be alright Mag. God knows what’s going on and He’ll take care of it, and us. You wait and see. Besides, who’s supposed to be the one here with all the faith, anyway?” He hugged his wife a little tighter and they swayed side to side together like they had so many times when Jack would come in from working the farm and sneak up behind his wife while she fixed supper.
He was about to ask her if the vet had called when the phone rang.
“Hello? Yes. Really? You’ve got to be kidding me. Well, alright. I’ll let you know if I find anything. You too, thanks.”
“That was the vet.” He answered before she asked. “He said none of our cattle had rabies, mad cow or any other disease.”
“But what about the foaming at the mouth, and the going blind?”
“That’s what he said. They all died of lead poisoning.” He reached for his cap.
“Where are you going? Supper’ll be ready soon.”
“Since all of the neighbor’s cattle drink from the same creek as ours there’s only one thing it could be, that pipeline the gas company ran through the corner of the back field earlier this spring. I got a couple of hours daylight left so I’m going to check it out.”
“Be careful, Jack. Take Billy with you. He’s feeding the chickens.”
Jackson had barely begun walking the pipeline when he heard his son yell.
“Hey pop, look over here.”
What Jackson saw was a hole four feet in diameter and filled with congealed orange paint, the same color as the pipe running across their property just a few yards away.
“Them pipeline people dug this hole then dumped their excess paint in it, knowing we had cattle in here. Look, you can see where they’ve been chewing and licking it. The vet suspected paint. He said it would taste sweet to the cows like sweet feed.”
He shook his head as he put a chunk of the orange goop in a handkerchief.
The next morning after taking the sample of the paint to the vet Jackson stopped by the diner for coffee. The news had spread and everybody had advice on what to do.
“Take them to court and sue their pants off.” said Matthew Higgs.
“Round ‘em up and hang ‘em all for what they did to them poor cattle.” added his brother Raymond.
“Now hold on. The Lord said vengeance will be His. Revenge would be just like that orange paint, it might taste sweet at first, but the consequences would bring nothing good.”
A few Sundays later a small crowd surrounded Jackson and Maggie as they left church.
“We took up a petition.” Matthew Higgs said. “Just about everybody in the county signed it. Then Ray and me handed it to the mayor while he was having coffee at Bob’s diner. Well sir, he faxed it to somebody he knows and, well, here’s a check to pay for your cattle, except the one that went blind but didn’t die, they wouldn’t pay for any that weren’t dead. And they’re going to dig out that whole area and reseed it with first rate alfalfa. Oh, and there’s an extra twenty thousand dollars there just because.”
Jackson stared at the check through wet eyes then handed it to Maggie.
“What are you going to do with all that extra money, pop?” Billy asked excitedly.
“Well, first we give God His part, then you can help Ray and Matt telephone every name on that petition and invite ‘em to biggest barbeque this county has ever seen.”
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