The heavy rain turned to hail. From the living room window Jeff saw pea-sized stones hit his front lawn. Elaine carried their little boy crying in from the bedroom.
“He’s terrified,” she said.
“Come here,” Jeff said, taking the frightened toddler in his arms and holding him up to the window. “See? This is why Daddy buys hail insurance.”
A similar scene was playing out across the farmyard at Jeff’s parents’ house. Dale was pacing, looking out windows in different directions every few seconds while Donna tried to watch a movie in the living room. “Don’t ask me to tell you what you’re missing in this movie,” she told her husband. “You can’t do anything about the hail, so you might as well just relax.”
“Listen to that, will you? Good thing I got all the vehicles in the shop before this hit.”
“Look,” Donna said. “We’re about to find out who’s paying the terrorist. Could you please sit down? Or at least be quiet. It’s hard enough to hear with all that noise outside.”
“It’s almost like I can see the future,” Dale said. “Jeff and I talked it over just yesterday and decided to buy hail insurance. A hundred and fifty bucks an acre. If we hadn’t done that, this could’ve been a complete disaster.”
“If you can see the future, tell me who hired the terrorist,” Donna said. Then the phone rang. It was Dale’s father Ed calling from his condo in town. “Is it hailing out there?” Ed asked. “It’s a real doozie here!”
Jeff and Dale were still patting themselves on the back the next morning when they went out to inspect the damage. Ed had driven out from town to join in on the crop tour.
“Can’t beat insurance like that,” Jeff said. “Buy it one day and it pays off the next night.”
“I just hope we get a fair settlement,” Dale said.
“I haven’t heard of anybody else around here having any trouble,” Jeff answered.
“Nobody down at Wong’s Café has mentioned any problems,” Grandpa Ed said.
“Huh,” Dale grunted. “If anybody’s going to talk about a problem, it’s going to be on Coffee Row.”
Most of the hail damage seemed to be in the half section north of the yard. The three men bent over the canola leaves, trying to assess the damage. Jeff thought it might be 70 per cent, but Dale thought the damage was closer to 75 per cent. “You’re both wrong,” Ed insisted. “It’s 80 per cent if it’s anything.”
Other than that half section, the Hansons had come out of the storm fairly well. They couldn’t see any signs of hail in any of their other crops, and if there was any damage to their buildings or bins, they couldn’t find it.
This was such a relief, the men decided to take a little more time and check out some of the neighbours’ fields, farther north.
“Yup,” Dale said as he drove. “We got out of this pretty lucky. And we sure got our money’s worth yesterday on that fuel you used to get to town to talk to that insurance agent.”
“Yup, sure did,” Jeff agreed. Then his head swivelled around on his neck, his eyes bulged open and he shouted, “What?”
“What do you mean what?” Dale asked, sounding a bit confused. Then he stopped the truck in the middle of the road. “What?!”
“I thought you were calling Ron to buy insurance.”
“No!” Dale said. “We agreed you were going to buy it.”
“That was not the plan,” Jeff argued.
The conversation went on like that until Ed piped up from the back seat. “You guys might want to take this argument back to the yard. The guy in that truck behind you wants to use the road too.”
Dale looked in the rear-view mirror and saw Brian Miller stopped behind him, probably out checking hail damage too. Dale waved absently, put the truck back in gear and drove to the next approach. Then he pulled off, made a U-turn and headed back to the yard, shaking his head and muttering under his breath all the way.
As they drove, Jeff took his iPhone out of his pocket and used the calculator app to figure out how much money this stupid misunderstanding had cost. It was a big number. He wished he hadn’t done it.
“Guess that phone’s not as smart as you thought,” Ed piped up from the back seat.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do now,” Dale said as they turned into the driveway. “We can’t go in the house. Those women will kill us when they find out what we just did.”
It wasn’t completely impossible. Dale’s wife Donna and Jeff’s wife Elaine often mentioned how important it was for everyone on the farm to communicate. Dale wasn’t interested in discussing his communication skills, but he had been trying as hard as he could to pass off business responsibilities to his son since Jeff had moved home to farm.
Only, as it turned out, sometimes it was hard for Dale to remember exactly which responsibilities he’d actually fully passed off, and which ones he was still taking care of himself.
The three of them trudged into Dale’s house. Dale and Jeff took their time taking their boots off in the porch. Ed went in ahead, looking for the coffee.
Jeff’s wife Elaine was already there. The toddler had wanted to spend some time with his grandma, and Elaine had made some saskatoon muffins from the bushes in the back pasture, and brought them over to share. “Try one of these, Ed, they’re delicious,” Donna said.
“Don’t have to tell me twice,” Ed said, peeling the paper wrapper off the bottom of his muffin. “Nothing I like better than saskatoons. I might as well have theirs too,” he said, nodding at Dale and Jeff. “I doubt they have much of an appetite.”
“Why not?” Donna asked. “Is something wrong?”
Dale tried to avoid telling her, but she wasn’t having any of that.
“Get to the point,” she said, giving him the eye.
Dale tried taking the slow route, explaining that communication was difficult, and that it’s easy to make mistakes. Finally Donna put her foot down.
“Just tell us,” she said. “What happened?”
“We didn’t buy hail insurance,” he said. “I thought Jeff was going to town to sign the papers. He thought I phoned it in.”
Then Elaine spoke up, for the first time since the men had come in.
“I did it.”
This surprised everyone so much, the room was quiet for at least 10 seconds.
“I can show you the contract if you want. They faxed it back right away.”
The men just gaped at her, open mouthed.
“I was sitting right here when you two talked about it yesterday,” Elaine said. “I’ve been doing the books. I just assumed buying insurance went along with that job… Doesn’t it?”
“Um, yeah.” Dale said. “Sure it does. We knew you’d have done it.”
“Right,” said Ed. “I could tell that’s what you were thinking.”
“I see,” Donna said. “Looks like we need to have that talk about communication again.” CG