Pete Potter ran to the end of the lane to check on his corn crop.
It being a week after Labor Day, he was expecting to see healthy rows of feed corn for the Tri-County Co-op.
Money in the bank, he thought, slowing to a brisk walk.
And, as he could clearly see, the corn he had planted down in the “bottom 40” of his 240-acre farm in southwest Michigan was promising to pay all his family’s bills and then some.
But Pete, who was wearing nothing more than a Notre Dame t-shirt and green running shorts, saw another crop flourishing in his bottomland ‘” cannabis.
“Pot,” Pete popped. “they’re growing pot again in my cornfield!”
Pete didn’t carry a cell phone when he ran, so he turned to run back to the house so he could call the police and report this latest infraction. Pete Potter did not have a permit to grow marijuana for medical use in Michigan, as allowed by law, and he doubted that whoever had done this did either.
But he did have a good sense of just who they were.
A nasty bunch, to say the least.
And speak of the devil, here they all came on their four-wheelers looking to take stock of their cash crop.
Pete could run marathons, but he knew he couldn’t go three rounds in the ring with a featherweight, so he braced himself for the encounter with Jimmy LeFabre and his two knuckle-dragging cousins, Tommy and Chip.
Last time Pete had found their pot growing in his field they had literally run him off his
own land. He had called the police, and they had come out and talked to Jimmy and Tommy and Chip and it quickly turned into one of those “who you gonna believe, us or that skinny little runt?” kind of things.
Charges dropped for lack of evidence and marijuana crop duly slashed and hauled off to the county incinerator ‘” minus a few particularly ripe stalks.
Case closed, except Jimmy had called Pete and his wife Donna every night for two weeks afterward.
Well, there was no saying it was Jimmy, because Pete’s Caller-ID showed that the call was coming in from a payphone at Skipper’s Lounge in town. Could have been anybody.
And there was never a word said. Just heavy breathing and the expected click.
Just to let Pete and Donna know that Jimmy LeFabre knew they lived out on the edge of civilization with the nearest neighbor no nearer than a mile.
Well, there had been Big Ed Jorgeson down the lane in that dilapidated farm house he and his wife Bonnie lived in before he died of the cancer of everything. But Big Ed, who had come by his nickname honestly, had been dead for three years, and Bonnie had moved in with her daughter after he died and they scattered his ashes in his garden. So the Jorgesons’ place was just sitting there empty with weeds choking out Big Ed’s garden, and all the windows in the old frame house busted out and the old, disconnected wind mill turning uselessly in the wind.
Big Ed was dead and scattered, Pete Potter knew he could be likewise as he watched Jimmy LeFabre and his evil cousins come roaring down the dirt lane to his cornfield to check on their crop.
Pete could see at once that they all had machetes and knives on their belts and he didn’t doubt that they had a gun or two stashed in the cargo well of one of their four-wheelers. Kind of guys who wouldn’t leave home without some heat.
And oh did Pete swallow hard as the three “gentlemen farmers” ground to a halt on his ground, dismounted and came stomping up to him.
“That your marijuana out there, Jimmy?” Pete said, pointing.
Jimmy LeFabre was a big, ol’ Michigan hillbilly with a jet-black goatee and a heart full of hate for anyone who dared to stand in his way. And this pip-squeak of a schoolteacher was definitely standing in his way of bringing in the best marijuana crop ever.
“What if it is?” Jimmy said, signaling to his cousins to get ready for action.
The big galoots flanked their ring-leader and casually fingered the buck knives they carried in holders on their belts.
“This is my land,” Pete said. “You’re trespassing. You can’t'””
“I can, and I will. And how do you know I ain’t got me a permit to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes?”
“Even if you do, Jimmy, and I doubt that you do, you and your crop are still trespassing on my land. You hear me?”
Jimmy just laughed. And so did his cousins, Tommy and Chip.
And then they stepped forward to put a serious hurt on the impediment to their profitability.
“I’m warning you,” Pete said, backing up into the corn.
“Yeah,” Jimmy said, “you and what'””
“What the Sam Hill’s that, Jimmy?!?”
That last line was delivered by Tommy LeFabre, and he was already hopping back on his four-wheeler and firing it up.
Chip LeFabre was too frightened to say anything, so he just followed his cousin’s example and got to skee-daddlin’ out of there.
“Where’re you two goin’?”
They pointed toward Big Ed Jorgeson’s garden and fled in one hell of a hurry.
When Jimmy saw what they were looking at, he did too, after first peeing his pants.
Pete closed his eyes and waited for the sound of their leaving to recede. Then he opened his eyes and turned around to see if some SWAT team from the DEA was converging on his cornfield.
No, it was just Big Ed Jorgeson, come back from the grave in the authentic garb of his Viking ancestors and bearing the biggest battleaxe Pete had ever seen in any book.
“Problem here, Pete?” Big Ed said in the breathy way of the dead.
Pete just shook his head and thanked his dead neighbor for his timely intervention.
“I owed you from that time you tilled my whole entire garden,” Big Ed said. “A debt is a debt, on both sides of the grave, and they gave me some time down here for good behavior, so ‘” well here I am. Last time I was too late, but I got it right this time. Takes a little practice. You’ll see. Well, as long as I’m here, how about I cut down that little weed patch they planted in your corn and burn it all to hell.”
“That would be good, Ed. Real good.”
And don’t you know, Big Ed was as good as his word, dead or alive.