Letter from Langdon: Anybody?

More than 207,000 acres of crops in Missouri have been lost in the 2011 floods. What steps are being taken to prevent future disasters?

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Note: Richard Oswald testified before a U.S. Congressional committee Nov. 30 on the inadequacy of current systems of water management and crop insurance and the effects of this year’s flooding on his farm. Here is his testimony in full.

Black and bitter; the smell in my mother’s kitchen when she baked German sweet chocolate cake. Bittersweet cocoa chocolate bars melted in 16 ounces of fresh brewed Butternut, all stuck together with icing into three layers of heaven.

Joseph Smith would approve. Put me on top please. Double icing. Celestial.

Day in the city. A good cup of coffee reminds me of home. I was happy to find it. All the other customers were too because the coffee place was packed while two panhandlers circled the mall outside.

“Gotta have some money, man. I’m hungry. How about you, ma’am? Anybody?”

Five people inside behind the counter, a couple of them not too far removed from the panhandlers outside. Two on the cash register, Number One taking orders, Number Two (oldest of the bunch) was there to watch the order-taker make change. “Supervisor” — I thought, then, “No, Manager: responsible party, answers to mid-level management, corporate hierarchy….” 

I had ’em figured out.

Number Three was pulling pastry orders from the big glass case to one side. When he took a coffee order, Number Two behind the cash register cut him off –“No no no.”

Go getter. First job. Low man on the totem pole. Make a good impression.

Number Four’s job was writing orders on the sides of cups as customers filed past. Number Three watched him, waiting for a chance to move up. I think Four was having trouble spelling because pretty soon Number Five, second in rank only to Number Two, had freshly filled orders backed up on the counter about as fast as she made them–no takers.  “Peppermint Cappuchino? Super Vanilla Mocha Mint? Anybody?” She kept her head down, pulling levers, pouring, steaming, floating whipped cream on top of sweet milky java no one ordered. Her eyes searched the crowd, then down again.

“Anybody?”

Indiana Wesleyan University, Sojourn
Coffee-counter workers at Indiana Wesleyan gear up for a local competition of the baristas.

Work hard. Make a good impression.

I looked at the lineup on the counter and tried to guess which one sounded most like mine. After customers behind me began moving up, sorting through the reject pile for a semblance of their hearts’ desires, I decided it was time to speak up. Number Five’s flying hands paused, two redtail hawks ready to dive on a field mouse as I spoke: “Got a fresh brewed back there?”

“Coming right up,” she said — then to Number Four, “Gimme a cup.” He paused from the impossible task of sounding out the most recent order, a blank look.

How do you spell that?

Five reached across Four, took a cup out of the dispenser. “Fresh brewed,” she said with about as much satisfaction as lowest level management ever feels. For a moment we shared triumph, she and I. The service economy was working.

She had her dead end job and I had my coffee. It smelled as bitter sweet as my memories of home and growing up on the river bottom. No more heaven for me. Laws once made to protect the hardworking honest now guarantee wealthy double-dealers a good return on sweat equity they can’t duplicate and sacrifice they won’t make.

What God giveth, man taketh away.

“Who’s order is this? Anybody?”

Richard Oswald
The Missouri River breached the Atchison County levee L550 in June. With advance warning but no remedy, Richard Oswald and many others had to move out before their farms were inundated.
So they commit robbery with a business plan instead of a gun, blow ethics out of the water, and plow the profits into off-shore banks and minimum wage jobs kept low to guarantee 10% profit growth while what little cash I have nets .05% in their bank.

Government defends my rights by fining part of the loot, paying it back with a tax credit. No one goes to jail except occasional low-level managers. Corporate officers collect a bonus. Spend what’s left on feel-good advertising.

Hush money. Shut me up.

Work hard. Make a good impression.

“Anybody?”

And they flood my farm and tell me only a damned fool would build a house there. Funny, other people lived there just fine, cradle to grave, until double land prices tripled.

Now I’m a fool.

Hold some listening sessions. Fine tune the plan. Offer mitigation. Hush money. Shut me up.

How do you spell that?

“Anybody?”

Richard Oswald, a fifth generation farmer in Langdon, Missouri, is president of the Missouri Farmers Union. His farm and many others in NW Missouri were flooded in July 2011, a loss of 47,000 to 60,000 thousand acres of crops alone.

 

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