“I guess I can’t stop you,” Mabel told George Mackenzie when he asked if they could use the new picnic table on the grass just beside the parking lot at Mabel’s Grill after he bought take-out coffee for the guys the other morning.
“I set it up just off the edge of my property so nobody could blame me if people did something stupid out there – like sit on each other’s laps or something.”
“I think I can guarantee we won’t sit on anybody’s lap,” said George.
“You’re not quite the demographic I was worried about,” said Mabel as George turned and left. Dave Winston was sitting at one end of the picnic table and Cliff Murray at the other end, on the opposite side of the table. George set the coffees on the table for the others to pick up then sat sideways on the front seat of his truck with the door open and his feet hanging out.
“Guess I’m going to miss my June property tax installment,” Dave was telling Cliff as George arrived. “The way things are going in pigs these days, I don’t have a lot of spare cash hanging around.”
“With all of the steers I can’t sell right now,” said George, “I was thinking of delivering one to the township for my tax payment – take it right into the office of the treasurer and say ‘Here’s my tax payment, can I have a receipt?’”
“Ha!” said Dave. “Guess I’d have to take a few pigs if I was going to do the same thing. That might even be more fun, a bunch of pigs running around the office.”
“It’s not bad enough trying to find the money to pay taxes in a time like this, but then we pay an even bigger share of the township budget because of the increase in farm property assessments,” Cliff said bitterly. “It’s nice to know we’re helping out those impoverished lawyers and doctors and school principals in town by keeping their taxes down.”
“Yeah, if only I was as rich as the tax assessors think I am,” said Dave. “I can only afford to pay the taxes they want from me if high taxes mean I have to sell the farm.”
“But who can afford to buy it under the current conditions at what the assessors think the land is worth?” wondered George.
A fly had been buzzing around Dave’s coffee and he deftly swiped his hand out and caught it, rolling it into a ball before throwing it down.
“Lucky that wasn’t one of those murder hornets from B.C. that are in the news these days,” Cliff said.
“Those things sound nasty – stinging right through leather!” said George.
“All this fuss because some invasive hornet might spread!” scoffed Dave. “I swear the reporters just like to scare the crap out of us and we’re starting to get used to this COVID-19 stuff so they’ve got to find some new scary danger.”
“Well, I suppose there was a time when we didn’t take the coronavirus seriously either,” admitted Cliff.
It was about then that Molly Whiteside came down the street with two children. “I didn’t even know you had kids,” Dave said when Molly introduced Jack and Missy.
“I had to get out of the house!” Molly said. “This trying to get kids to do school work at home is harder than working!”
“Yeah, I heard there was a survey of parents who are teaching their kids at home and 77 per cent said they now felt teachers should be paid more.”
“Yes, well, I’ll bet if teachers had to wait tables for a month or so they’d think waitresses should get more too, but do you think they’d leave bigger tips?” wondered Molly.
“There’s an idea!” said Dave. “If I could put consumers to work in my pig barn maybe they’d be willing to pay more for pork!”
“Yeah right!” scoffed George. “And if they really would pay more for pork, Galen Weston would grab millions more for selling it and Michael McCain, millions more for processing it and there’d be two cents left to help you pay your taxes.”
“Ah, George,” Molly laughed, “after two months at home I almost miss your being Oscar the Grouch.”◊