State of the Burbanks

A stool scraping against the floor echoes around L & L pub. Another man at the bar decides it is time to leave. He pays Ralph and marches to the door. Alfred’s eyes narrow at the man. Alfred watches him all the way out the door as he passed all the empty tables.

My pipe refuses another light, so I empty it out. I put it back in my pack and turn back to my friend. We still sit at the table in the back corner. I close my eyes. “So, the kids are changing things on Papa’s farms?”

I open my eyes again. Alfred leers at me and flicks a thumb over to the bar. Only one man still sits there. The fire glows throughout the wooden building. Maybe its light hushes things even more than the small group still here. Alfred still seems concerned about being overheard. He pats the table with his palms and spreads them across the table. “In some ways, Joseph and Catherine change everything. The land is great. They can basically grow anything they want to grow. They try their hands at everything. We now have fruits and vegetables on top of the herds. Crops are rotated every season. The farm basically runs all year now. There are days when the variety overwhelms me.”

Alfred tenses again. That last line takes a lower tone than the rest. I want to call Rebecca over to get another round to toast the kids’ success. However, I don’t think Alfred is ready to celebrate just yet. “So, they have you running all over the place?”

Alfred leans his head back and forces a nod. “You got it. Joseph and Catherine have their aging uncle running errands between them and their workers. I am trying to keep everyone on the same page. I am glad for the growth.”

He pauses for breath with several forced inhales. I lean forward a bit. “But, you wonder if they are growing too fast?”

Alfred tosses his head from side to side. “Sort of. I cannot really argue with their success right now. They are doing great. Every plant they introduce grows beyond expectation. Remember that I told you they calculate for plant loss in the fields?”

I nod. So, Alfred continues. “The calculations are almost always wrong. The plants do far better than expected. We lose more plants because of overcrowding the fields than we do from climate. Even still, the plants yield more than we expect too. We plan for a certain production from each plant. These calculations fail too. We end up with almost more stuff than we know what to do with.”

I shrug with my palms up on the table. “That sounds like a good thing, Alfred.” I call Rebecca over to the table. She starts in our direction.

Alfred’s eyes widen, and he shakes his head. “Then there are the herds. Papa Burbanks focused on the herds. He had only enough crops to feed the family. The kids have grown the flocks too.”
Rebecca comes to the table. She smiles at the news of growth. “Yes, Edward, what can I do for you?”

I flick a hand between the two of us. “We want something a little fancier than we have been drinking. My buddy here has some success that needs a celebration. Though, let’s keep it whiskey for me and beer for him.”

Rebecca hesitates for a moment. “I got it. I’ll be right back.”

Rebecca walks away. Alfred just keeps going. “Edward, you don’t understand. The flocks breed at a rate that excels anything Papa tried to do. Both Catherine and Joseph have invested in new lands. More than less, these new lands are for the herds. The cattle and sheep clear the new lands brilliantly. The new lands are ready for crops in less time than you can imagine. They really have done better than I think even Papa expected.”

I put my elbows on the table and lean closer with a nod. “That sounds great, Alfred. I’m glad to hear that they have done so well. I think I remember you being nervous about that.”

Alfred rubs his hand over his balding head. “You’re right. I didn’t think they could pull this off. I mean I figured they could keep things going, but I never expected they could grow the farms. Papa worked on the farms for years and had only moderate success. He did very well with what he had. The herds fought him every step of the way though. He had to focus on those flocks, or they would just get away from him. So, yeah, the kids really have done well.”

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