Bane of the Little Osage

This is my response to the Friday Fictioneers prompt for December 19. The challenge is to write a 100-word story inspired by the photo prompt. Play along by writing your own, reading others and/or commenting on the flashes we fictioneers create. The photo prompt this week comes from Douglas McIlroy.  My piece this week weighs in at exactly 100 words.

Copyright Douglas McIlroy

Copyright Douglas McIlroy

Bane of the Little Osage

Alice’s shoulders slumped as she looked out the window of the farmhouse to see another black blizzard on the horizon. She remembered how the elders of her tribe had warned of such times. Men like her handsome, blond husband had laughed. Prairie grass couldn’t be harvested for money. They declared war on the land, tried to domesticate it, planted acres of wheat. Then the drought came.

As the storm arrived, Alice held a wet handkerchief over her mouth. Even indoors she was not safe. The grit entered through every crevice. Alice closed her eyes and dreamed of escaping to California.

The facts behind this week’s story:

During the 1930s, an America already distressed by the Great Depression was plunged further into despair by a human-caused disaster. Over-farming the Great Plains created conditions for the Dust Bowl. I don’t know what my fourth great grandfather, the last Little Osage chief, John Horn, actually said about the habits of white farmers, but I am sure he would have warned against disregarding the earth. My story this week is a fictionalized account of a dust storm on the family farm where his great granddaughter, my great grandmother, lived with her pacifist husband, the son of a Ukrainian immigrant. In my story, names have been changed.

Memoirs of Hamilton B. Arnold

Creative Commons, marc falardeau

Creative Commons, marc falardeau

Since the incident several years ago, I seem unable to shake my reputation as a turncoat. Like every story of betrayal, mine has two sides. In writing these memoirs, I hope to set the record straight.

The incident took place during the Great Depression. My construction company, Hamilton Arnold Materials, hit the big time during the Roaring Twenties, and we were still turning a profit as pigs across America began tuning in to FDR’s Fireside Chats to boost their spirits. Across the country and throughout the world, dark times threatened to turn domesticated litters into sounders of desperate, wild boars.

About that time, the governing board at HAM held annual elections. I had no idea that Mrs. Dalloway, unanimously elected as chairperson, was Virginia’s Wolf disguised with an alias. The wool was pulled so snugly over my eyes that I didn’t realize the families of other board members were in danger if votes weren’t cast in Mrs. Dalloway’s direction. As pigs around the world began taking extreme measures to keep the wolves from their doors, I unwittingly welcomed the country’s most famous wolf into my inner circle.

Sales of bricks, HAM’s most popular commodity, hit an all-time low in late 1933. Board members began to hound me for solutions to boost profits. At the same time, impoverished customers began to petition HAM to offer more affordable building materials.

Board members never disclosed the origins of the idea to begin selling straw, sticks and mud in addition to bricks and stone. Proponents of the idea argued that offering the ingredients to make bricks would give pigs down on their luck a way a hand up. If we couldn’t spare a dime for our brothers in need, we could at least help them save a dime. Depression or no depression, pigs everywhere needed homes in which to raise their litters.

Creative Commons, EasterStockPhotos.com

Creative Commons, EasterStockPhotos.com

Although I had some qualms about selling products like straw and sticks, board members in favor of the idea convinced me it was our civic duty to provide affordable building materials. With Mrs. Dalloway at the helm, my company led customers straight to slaughter like so many sheep.

The three Little brothers had been long-time customers at HAM. After the two youngest fell prey to foreclosure, they each took advantage of our new product lines to build affordable domiciles for their families. Fortunately, these two had been training for greased pig races at the Virginia State Fair, where they hoped to change their fortunes by breaking the record then held by local legend Kevin Bacon. When Virginia’s Wolf came calling, each brother was able to escape, although one lost his sow and the other mourned three piglets who went down in history as the original “pigs in a blanket” appetizers.

Creative Commons, Arielle Layman

Creative Commons, Arielle Layman

As soon as I learned the plight of the Little brothers, I removed the offending products from the market, but HAM never fully recovered from it’s association with the tragedy. News reporters uncovered the complex conspiracy of the local wolf population to prey on local homeowners using substandard building materials, and rumors that HAM had facilitated the conspiracy circulated unchecked.

I sold HAM’s remaining inventory to local contractors and went to work with my younger brother. Together, he and I started a new sales company, The Brothers Arnold Construction Ordering Network.

Despite the success of BACON, my friends insist on calling me “Benedict.” I suppose they still feel that I betrayed them, but why refer to me by that horrible name? The “B” stands for “Benjamin.”