Mr. Grady had thoughtfully put his cow in with Ol’Bully before coming in for breakfast, an expedient decision, since Ol’ Bully would have kicked the fence to get to her in her enticing state. By the time the men got back, the deed was done and Ol’ Bully was bumping the gate, anxious to get back to the tall, sweet grass and his bevy of beauties. A fickle creature, he had no further interest in the fair lady he’d just won.
Though Robert was anxious to get to work, Mr. Grady pulled a can of Prince Albert Tobacco from the bib of his overalls. Stalling, he offered the tobacco and pack of cigarette papers. “Help yourself, Robert, lessen you got some ready roll you’d care to share.”
“No sir, Mr. Grady. I ain’t never got the habit. You go ahead. Me an’ the boys got to git to work. I hate I ain’t got visitin’ time today, but we got a long day ahead of us.” Robert had lived on the farm next to Grady for years and never been invited to call him by his first name, though Mr. Grady and his boys had always addressed him as Robert. It still stung a little, though it was the way he’d grown up.
”They is one more thing I need to ast you. My old mule died and I got to git my garden broke up. Kin I use your tractor, today?” Mr. Grady patted the fender of the red International parked by the barn.
”Mr. Grady, my tractor’s broke down. This one here belongs to Miss Geneva’s farm an’ ain’t mine to loan, but I can loan you my mule. I’ll catch him for you. He kind of feisty since he don’t got worked a lot, but I know them big ol’ boys of yours can handle him.” Robert offered.
”Naw, that won’t help me none. I done throwed my back out an can’t plow. I can’t count on them boys. Three ‘em is off workin’ somewhere’s, three’s a courtin’, and one’s down with toothache. I can’t never keep up with them fellers. I ain’t had time to teach young Tommy yet. You real fortunate, a colored man with a fine place like this to work and fine equipment you ain’t got to buy. Now, I ain’t saying you don’t deserve it, but you sure got a bird’s nest on the ground.” He didn’t look like he thought Robert deserved all that luck.
Robert knew where this was going. He’d endured Mr. Grady’s whining before. He had work to get to and knew it was best to stay on Mr. Grady’s good side. “Tell you what, Mr. Grady. I can be over about six in the morning to break up your garden, but if the boys show up sooner, just send them over for the mule.”
Things had worked out just as Mr. Grady hoped. “That’ll sure help me out. Tommy, fetch that cow and we’ll get out of the way. These folks has work to do. My ole lady will have coffee when you git there. Just tap at the back door and I’ll bring it out.” He shuffled off with Tommy and the cow a few paces behind.
Charley held his question till they were out of hearing. “Robert, why are you going to plow his garden? Didn’t seem like he treated you just right.”
“Charley, it’s best to git along with folks if you can. I end up plowing his garden ever’ year. Neither Mr. Grady ner his boys is bad about workin’ and I hate to see his womenfolk do without. You’ll see when we git there tomorrow. Let’s git to it, fellers. We burning daylight!” Their day had started.