Thanks, Elaine,” Donna said, watching her daughter-in-law clear the supper table while Elaine’s son Connor wandered off to play and the baby napped in the corner.
“You two need all the help you can get,” Elaine laughed, looking at Donna’s casted foot resting on a flowered pillow.
Dale hadn’t wanted to say, “I told you so,” when his wife flew home from Peru, exhausted, with her broken ankle in a cast. But when he saw how much pain she was in, he wished he’d never let her go away without him. This would never have happened if he hadn’t been so stubborn and had just gone on vacation with her like she’d asked him to do, he thought. But instead of saying all that, he’d accidently led with, “I don’t want to say, ‘I told you so,’” while he was pulling her luggage off the carousel.
Donna insisted that Peru had been perfectly safe. She’d broken her ankle tripping in a muddy parking lot. “It was the kind of silly accident that could happen just as easily on the farm,” she said.
“Well, it didn’t,” Dale said.
But then, the very next morning, after he’d insisted on helping Donna get dressed, Dale had an accident of his own right out in the yard. Luckily, Dale and Jeff had been working together to change the tank lid seals on the air cart, so Jeff had been there to drive Dale to the hospital when Dale slipped off the top platform and flailed down to the ground.
“At least it’s my left ankle,” Dale said when he limped into the house. “I can still drive.”
“I don’t want to say, ‘I told you so’ …,” Donna had begun.
“Then don’t!” Dale said.
That night, Jeff and Elaine had come over with the kids and a casserole to share dinner with Dale and Donna, and to talk about their plans to hire someone to work on the farm for the summer.
“It’s a good time for you to be out of commission, Dad,” Jeff said. “Damn road bans. I’ve got three guys waiting to clean seed, and I wanted to get that fertilizer picked up.”
The phone rang and Jeff got up to answer it. “That’ll be Grandpa. I said we’d put him on the speakerphone while we decide who to hire.”
Jeff passed the phone to Dale, who made small talk with Ed about life in Arizona while Jeff put the office phone on the table and figured out how to set it to speakerphone. Finally, they could hear Ed.
“Did you see my photos? Helen dragged me into a hot air balloon,” Ed said.
“For someone who once went 17 years without a day off, you’re really living the life, Dad,” Dale said.
“Let’s get to work,” Donna said. “Jeff, did anyone answer your ad?”
After the Hansons decided to hire farm help, Jeff had advertised in the local paper and on a couple of Internet sites.
“There’s 18,” Jeff said. “If you count the guy who wants to know if we’d let him work here while he collects EI. And the woman from Thailand who’s never been on a farm, but wants to move here. Once I narrowed it down, there’s three we could hire.”
“You know any of them?” Ed asked.
“One,” Jeff said. “Alan Chambers, from down by Estevan.”
“I knew his granddad,” Ed said. “That guy knew less about farming than the neighbour’s cat. Next.”
“Slow down, Ed,” Elaine said. “I’ve been reading some articles.”
“Oh, here we go,” Ed said.
Elaine’s husband defended her. “This is how businesses operate these days, Grandpa.”
They heard Ed snort in the background.
“Here’s a good one,” Elaine said, passing out photocopies of an article to Dale, Donna and Jeff.
“Sorry you can’t see this Ed.”
“I’ll get by,” Ed replied.
“See the first thing on the list?” Elaine asked. “Develop a job description.”
“Oh boy,” Ed said. Then they heard his muffled voice call into the background. “Helen, can you get me a drink?”
“I know this isn’t the way you usually do things around here,” Elaine said. “So I started with a draft. Jeff helped out.” She passed copies of another sheet of paper around the table, looking at each of them hopefully. “It’s just a first draft. We can make changes.”
“Job description?” Ed said. “This oughta be good.”
Dale and Donna looked over the list while Jeff went to the kitchen for the coffee pot to refill everyone’s mugs.
“Well?” Ed asked. “What’s it say?”
Dale read aloud from Elaine’s list. “Operating machinery. Often working alone. Basic machinery maintenance. Some manual labour.”
Ed snorted again. “You don’t know what he’s going to be doing. What if we need him to go to town for parts? Or pull someone out of a muddy field?
“It doesn’t have to include everything,” Elaine said. “It’s just a guideline.”
“Here’s a guideline,” Ed said. “Just have the list say, ‘Don’t be an idiot.’”
Elaine went on, undaunted, handing out more paper. “I’ve also made a list of the qualities we’d like to see in an employee.” Then she pointed. “See? It’s the next item in the article.”
Dale read aloud from the new sheet. “Mechanical ability… Shows initiative… Responsible…”
“This is crazy,” Ed said. “I’d never have gotten a job if everybody had a list like that.”
“Besides this farm, did you ever have a job?” Elaine asked.
“Well… no,” Ed said.
“That’s a good point,” Donna said, looking at Dale. “I guess the kids know more about what goes on in the workplace these days than we do. Do you have resumés from the three you’re looking at?”
“Resumés?” Ed said. “Best trucker I ever met could barely sign his name, let alone write a resumé. Why don’t we just have them all come out to the farm and show us how well they can back up the rock picker?”
“That’s not a bad idea,” Dale said.
“We have their resumés,” Elaine said. “All three look good.”
“So should we set up interviews?” Donna asked.
“Yes,” Elaine said. “Once we agree on the list of things we want, that’s the next step.”
“Could we set it up next week?” Donna asked. “I don’t know if you need me there, but you and Jeff and Dale should all make time for this.”
“You’ll have to do it without me,” Ed said. “Unless you want to send me videos of these guys backing up the rock picker.”
“One’s a woman,” Elaine said, knowing it would egg him on.
“Oh geez,” said Ed. “I’d better get home.”
After Ed had hung up and Elaine and Jeff had cleaned up and gone home, Dale and Donna picked up their crutches and tottered to the living room.
“Guess you were right,” Dale said, looking at his foot. “This could happen anywhere.”
“That’s nice to hear, but I am sorry you’re hurt,” Donna smiled.
“Do you think all these articles and resumés are going to get us a better hired man?” Dale asked.
“Hired person,” Donna said.
“I don’t know,” Donna said. “But we might as well give it a try.”