There once was a hired hand, a good hired hand. The old farmer found him in town one day looking for work. After a short discussion and several cups of coffee the hand was employed. He gathered his things and jumped into the truck of the old farmer. As they drove out of town with windows rolled down the farmer expressed a few more rules to the employment. He had already told him about the hours being from sun up to sun down and sometimes longer. He had already expressed that the wages were room and board and some spending money. As they turn from one dusty road to another the farmer pointed to the farm. There was a nice house and barn, several implements, and fields of grain for what seemed like miles. The old farmer stopped the truck and just short of the driveway and looked right into the eyes of the hand and told the hand one more thing. He said that once they crossed through the gate there was no turning back. The hand was so excited to have this job he never noticed the other farm across the road. He was so excited he did not care that he had to put on an ankle brace much like a cattle tag. No one had ever shown any interest in him until this old farmer came along. Why would he ever want to leave?
The next morning he woke early anxious for the day to begin. He dressed and went downstairs only to find nothing for him. The kitchen was dark and musty. The refrigerator was empty. He noticed a note on the table…chores. The list seemed endless and he found no tools to repair what he was asked to repair. The old farmer passed through and grinned at the hand with a sly grin. Day after day the hand worked hard but there was no joy in the labor, but what could he do? The ankle brace couldn’t be removed and if he ever walked outside of the fence the shock was so great he fell nearly unconscious.
Was there any hope?
One day the hand was working the fence line by the road when he heard someone hollering from across the road. A man was standing there waving at him with a smile on his face and twinkle in his eye. The hand seemed drawn to him but knew not why.
“How ya doin’?” he asked.
The hand replied that he was fine, though he and the man knew it was a lie.
“How’s the old man treating you? Gettin’ fed? Gettin’ paid?”
The hand looked down and kept right on working. He had not been getting fed very well and was not getting paid as promised. In fact, everything was horrible but there was no way to leave. He desperately wanted to jump right over the fence and run over to the man but could not because of the ankle brace. He had tried to just step outside of the gate one day and felt a jolt so bad he fell down. He tried to get it off but could find no way. In his excitement of all that was promised he didn’t care, but now he did. With no hope he gave a nod to the man and kept working.
“He told you there was no leaving. Once you crossed through the gate there was no turning back. He has not told you the truth. You have a choice. You are only bound to him as long as you want to be.“
The hired hand looked down…
“…even that can be taken of.” The man called for his son and sent him across the road. He told the hand that his son would remove the problem. The hand refused immediately. He couldn’t let that happen. He would figure out a way to get the brace off and cross the road.
But there was no way. What kind of person would he be to let the man’s son take the hit? How could he?
“There is no other way. He is the only one who knows how to remove the problem. Will you let him?”
The hand was confused. He couldn’t stand being with the old farmer any longer. The more he talked to this man the better he felt, the stronger he felt, the happier he felt. Yet, he was trapped. He wanted to be there but didn’t know if he could let the boy get hurt. The pain he felt inside was so overwhelming and the hope that was being offered felt so completely honest and pure he decided to trust the man. He looked down at the boy and agreed.
The boy reached down and as he skillfully released the shackle he took the shock and jolt that was far beyond his ability to handle. The boy lay motionless. The hand stood there mortified. He looked at the man and questioned how he could have done that to his own son.
“I know what you have been going through. I wanted to help. There was no other way. Trust me. Walk across this road and stay with me. Work my farm where the kitchen is clean and the fridge is full. We feast every evening after a long days work. You will rest in a comfortable bed. You will have everything you have always wanted.”
The hand crossed the road. He was saddened by what just happened to the boy but with each step he took there was a release of the burden of his past. Each step felt lighter and more free. As the man welcomed the hand onto the farm the old farmer came blazing up in the truck screaming obscenities at them both. He could not contain the rage and anger. When he looked over and saw the boy lying on the ground he smiled that same sly grin. He laughed cruelly and drove off.
As the dust settled the hand turned and began walking to the house when he felt something in his hand. He looked down to see the boy holding his hand and walking with him. Bewildered he looked at the father.
“His life for yours was the deal made long ago with that old farmer. He never said I couldn’t call my son back home. Let’s get you cleaned up. We have a new set of clothes for you and supper smells like its ready.”