By The Reverend Mrs. Silence DoGood
Cows in the farming hamlet of Halo, Pennsylvania are animals. That is true except for the two cows from Big Al’s farm. Those cows are tax deductions. Big Al’s farm takes advantage of the County’s tax deductions by participating in the Clean and Green Preferential Assessment. If your property is agricultural use or reserve you get the discount. Big Al always made sure he got the discount. The cows are part of his plan.
Big Al’s full name was Albert Jonas McDonald. He had a huge personality and as President of the First Halo Bank and Trust Company he had considerable influence in our little community. He was also a large man both in weight and height.
Everyone including family and friends called him Big Al and we still do. The same familiarity is true with his farm. His Black Walnut Hill Farm with its 83 acres continues to be known as Big Al’s farm.
He lived as a widower in the large-estate-like-farm house after his wife died over a decade ago. They had been married for over thirty years. Big Al passed away two years ago.
When Big Al died his spinster sister Ms. Harper Cara McDonald moved from the cottage on the estate to the big house. She had lived in the cottage for the thirty years that Big Al and his wife owned the property. The cottage’s downstairs is open plan with a kitchen, dining area and living room. The center piece of downstairs is a beautiful wood-burning-stone fireplace. Upstairs are two bedrooms and a bathroom.
Big Al called his sister the “manager” of the farm but she always corrected him to call her the “caretaker.” She also quickly corrected people when they called her Ms. McDonald or Harper. “My name is HC” she would retort with a sneer. In addition to managing the helpers that took care of the big house, the cottage, the land and the cows she also took care of the huge barn which is now pink. She chose the color which she thought was red but in the sunlight the painted barn is definitely pink. HC aggressively changes the subject when the color of the barn is discussed.
HC is very frugal so she rented the cottage. One day when she was with Harriette Brewster our hamlet’s wonderful seamstress she mentioned that she was looking for a tenant. Harriette said that her niece was returning to Halo and was looking for a place. Her niece Sophie had just finished her college degree in sustainable agriculture specializing in fermentation science.
HC interviewed Sophie and loved hearing about her classes at Washington State University. HC saw aspects of her own personality in Sophie: intelligent, conservative, quiet and very moral. A perfect tenant.
Three months later I received a call from HC requesting that I see her immediately. “It’s urgent. You will understand.” I had made my usual oatmeal cookies and served Green Tea when she arrived at my parlor.
“She’s a ho. I have proof. These are the license plate numbers of the men who came to see her. I want you to help me get rid of her. She’s a tramp. She’s a ho.”
“Have another cookie.”
Being the Senior Pastor of The First Church of God’s Love in the tiny farming hamlet of Halo, PA where everyone knows each other is not easy.
Seamstress Harriette and her husband Ralph are active members of my Church. Last Sunday I pulled Harriette aside and asked her how Sophie likes her cottage. “She loves it. She is getting her master’s degree on line and paying for it by typing manuscripts for two local authors. She is also typing dissertations for several Ph.D. candidates.” So that explains the many men.
I told HC that she needn’t worry about all the men visiting Sophie. I sensed that she was relieved but I also sensed she was somewhat disappointed.
My lesson? I learned that everything at Big Al’s farm isn’t what it seems. Many men and two cows.
The Reverend Mrs. Silence DoGood
Choir Master (part-time)
The First Church of God’s Love