(Read Luke 17:22-37.)
            Bobby’s back was killing him.  He had to plow out one more terrace and then he could go home.  The sun was already down and he had turned on the tractor lights.  The evening brought some relief to the oppressive heat of late Kansas summer—but not enough.  Here, in the middle of God’s nowhere, there was just him and the roar of the engine.  His left hand held the wheel as he turned and kept his eye on the plow.  He forced himself to concentrate, to make the turns just right, to adjust the depth with the handle that operated the hydraulic lift.  His mind decompressed when the last pass was completed and he could plow his way to the corner where his pickup sat.
            He set his water jug in the tattered pickup seat and started her up.  He was on his way home.  It was really a rough looking old truck, a ’79 Dodge he had picked up for a thousand.  Nothing like the brand-new Ram he had been driving only six months before.  The brakes squealed when he slowed at the turn onto the highway.
            Just as he was turning, he saw Roger coming to the same intersection from the opposite side of the highway.  No way to mistake Roger in that big, blue four-wheel drive Ford pickup.  He gave him a “beep” and wave.  No use to stop and talk.  There would have been a day when they would have pulled alongside each other and have talked for thirty minutes about their day—what each had gotten done, who each had seen, equipment problems.  Two brothers who had farmed beside each other for ten years had interests that were twisted together like weeds caught up in a hay baler.
            But that was before The Venture had come along.  Now everything was different for these two brothers.  Roger passed him on the highway and gave him an absent-minded wave.  His pickup easily had hit highway speed and beyond.  Bobby was poking along about forty-five.  Shortly, as he came out of the last curve before town, he saw Roger’s pickup already parked in his driveway.  The driveway led to a fine, yellow-brick ranch home.  The lawn was manicured to perfection by Linda, whom Roger was proud to have as his wife.  The 30 MPH zone began just past Roger’s house, and just past that sign, on the opposite side of the highway, was a red-brick Tudor home.  Bobby hardly glanced at it.  He knew the Townsends had repaved the driveway since they had bought it from him this spring.
            At the blinking red light that announced the Courthouse square, Bobby turned right and drove out past the old hotel that needed to be torn down, the Co-op wheat elevator, and the Case farm implement dealership.  He made a left on a small dirt road and pulled up in front of the little frame house.  He wearily made his way inside, flipped on a light, and headed for the refrigerator.  He made himself a couple of hamburger patties and threw them in a skillet. 
            As his meat cooked, he went to the mailbox and pulled out a handful of mail.  There were circulars and bills, all of which he ignored.  He studied the return address of the large, clasp-closed envelope:  “Venture Enterprises, P. O. Box 200000, Topeka, KS.”  His fingers trembled as he fought to get the thing opened.  He pulled the pages out.  The top sheet was addressed to him. 
            “We have enclosed our latest plans for our Venture.  However, we do need assurances that you are as poised for action as we are.  Your Certificates of Deposit are sufficient to make you a Venture partner.  However, we need assurance of liquidity.  Transfer of funds from CD’s would be too cumbersome when the time comes for the Venture to be executed.  We request that you take the following actions:
            “1.  Transfer all funds to a regular checking account in one bank.
            “2.  Authorize our company to draft your account for the agreed-upon amount upon execution of the Venture.
            “3.  Send us proof of these actions with the next ten (10) days.”
            Bobby flipped his hamburgers.  He skimmed the other pages in the communication.  Mostly, they were plans he had already anticipated:  buyout of several feedlots, foreclosure on loans that had been bought from various mortgage houses, and other such plans.  The overall plan was a complex scheme that had been put together by a financial genius.  Bobby promised himself that he would look over these latest plans carefully later that night.  He had not been careless about this whole deal.  He had run down every detail.  But right now, his mind was on the latest instructions.  He was in this thing now.  Details of the plan were important.  But more important was following these instructions.
            He had gone to great lengths to become a part of The Venture.  The farm had been sold.  The house went next.  That was when Rhonda left him.  She was not going to give up a house for this Venture.  The divorce had hurt.  But Bobby was sold out to the Venture.  Roger thought he was crazy.  But Roger had troubles of his own.  He had mortgaged his half-section of land to buy into a trucking firm.  Now, the trucking business was experiencing equipment failures.  He had to borrow more money to keep the thing afloat long enough for him to back out of the deal.
            But Bobby had to act fast.  He knew old Fred, his boss he had hired out to after he sold his own farm, would never let him off to go to the bank for any length of time.  He would have to do it on his lunch time.  After his hamburgers, he called Jack Chrisman, the banker.  Jack and he worked out an arrangement:  Jack would get all the paperwork ready and Bobby would come in on his lunch hour and sign all the necessary papers.  Switching from CD to checking was going to cost him some interest, Jack warned.  Bobby did not hesitate—got to do it.
            He fell in bed after the shower.  He had forgotten to read the rest of the papers enclosed with the instruction letter.  Perhaps he should have, though one could not blame him.  There were dozens of details.  One little detail probably would have been missed by him—The Venture planned to “execute its foreclosure options” on loans previously owned by Seattle and Topeka Mortgage Company.  That happened to be the company which owned the mortgage on Roger’s farm.
            Three days later, Roger and Bobby met at the intersection with the highway again.  This time, for no particular reason, they did stop to chat.
            “This is the hottest__________summer we’ve had in a while,” Roger growled.
            “Yeah, it’s that all right,” Bobby said with little enthusiasm.
            “And if I don’t get some rain on my feed, it’s gone,” Roger moaned, staring between the spokes of the steering wheel.  “I guess you know Jennifer is getting married.”
            “Well, I figured,” Bobby answered.  He had a moment of pity for his brother.  “That wedding is going to set you back, I suppose.”
            “Oh, that woman!  She went over to Wichita last week, and her and Jennie were picking out bride’s maid’s dresses.  You know what one of them—I mean just one of them—costs?”
            “No telling.”
            “A hundred and seventy-five dollars.  I tell you, Bobby, if she doesn’t spend it on the house, it’s on the kids.”
            There was silence.  Bobby started to talk about The Venture.  “I got another notice about the Venture, Rog.  You sure you don’t want in?”
            Roger spat tobacco juice into the darkness.  “You and that               Venture.  I got stuff to do and think about.  What do I care about that thing?”
            Silence again.  “Well, I got to go,” Bobby said softly.
            “Yeah, see ya.”
            Bobby let Roger pull onto the highway first, then he followed the rocket trail of his older brother’s taillights.  Each of them went to their separate houses.  Each slept soundly after a long, hard day in the fields.  Each ate breakfast before dawn and entered the fields for a long, hard day of breaking the baked crust of the soil.
            The sun climbed mightily into the sky and evoked sweat from their brows.  The long, dusty afternoon was like ten thousand other such afternoons of crawling around the fields, following the curves of terraces, checking the fuel level, staring across the dusty expanse of stubble left from the harvest of wheat in early summer.
            The heat created shimmering mirages on the margin of the field, but one mirage was broken by a cloud of dust on the county road.  Bobby knew someone was driving mighty fast.  But then the vehicle stopped, and he could see a person exit a car and give a wave.  The wave seemed more than friendly.  It was a desperate wave intended to attract attention.  Bobby stopped the tractor.  Something told him that this was it.  He climbed down and walked toward the still-waving figure.  It was a peculiar wave.  It was more than just an arm:  it started at the waist and swung torso and shoulders and head and arm all in a great semicircle.  Bobby’s high-topped shoes broke the clods of the plowed field.  He could hear the tractor idling, but he did not look back.  It took him ten minutes to cross the wide expanse of field.  He reached a point that he could recognize Jack Chrisman from the bank.  Now he knew something was up.  Jack had stopped trying to wave.  He knew Bobby was coming.
            Finally, Bobby was within speaking range.  “Howdy, Jack.”
            “Bobby, I thought you would want to know:  They executed the draft on your account.  Don’t write any checks.  It’s all gone.”
            “I hope you know what you’re doing.  That’s a lot of money.”
            Bobby gave no indication that Jack was even there anymore.  He climbed into his pickup.  He had not brought his water jug.  He did not go back to get it.  He drove to town.  He stopped by old Fred’s house.   Fred was mad that Bobby quit him like that.  He grudgingly offered to pay him for the two days he owed him for that week.  Bobby didn’t even stay to pick up the check.  He just climbed back in his beat up old pickup and drove toward Topeka.
            He made Topeka about three the next morning.  He sat in a diner, sipping coffee until daybreak.  Then, he drove over to the address he had on The Venture.  It was an old two-story frame house on the edge of downtown.  When Bobby got there, lights were in the windows, and eight or ten vehicles were crowded around the front entrance.  Bobby knocked.
            He recognized Sidney Westerman.  Sid smiled and invited Bobby into the room that had once been a parlor.  Now, it contained two desks and three kitchen chairs with torn vinyl backs and stuffing spilling out.  Bobby knew a few of the people crowded in the room.  Everyone was talking excitedly.  Sid spoke into Bobby’s ear as he gripped his bicep.
            “This is it, Bobby!  We’re moving like mad.  I think we’ll have everything done by mid-afternoon.”
            “Anything I can do to help?”  Bobby saw this as a family operation.
            “We may need someone on an adding machine in the other room there.”  Sid said appreciatively.
            Bobby was given instructions and was put to work.  He hardly looked up the rest of the day.  By three that afternoon, his work was largely done.  At four-thirty, John O’Brien, the President, called a meeting of the investors.
            Mr. O’Brien was consulting hand-written notes.  His secretary was at his elbow rifling through files and whispering to him details.  O’Brien carefully outlined the events of the last few days.  In that brief period, The Venture had struck with lightning speed around the region and had become the most powerful and wealthiest financial institution in the area—possibly in the country.  The fifty-five investors who had come through with their assets now held immense wealth and means to wealth.
            Bobby was flush with excitement.  There was a great celebration after the briefing by O’Brien.  Everyone stayed until midnight enjoying the party.
            It was about midnight that Roger unlocked his gun case and loaded his thirty-eight revolver.  Bobby had heard the details from Linda.  The day had been just too much to bear.  The afternoon before he had heard from Jack Chrisman that Bobby had cleaned out all of his cash.  That seemed strange.  Then, old Fred called and cussed him out because his no-good brother had quit on him.  Rhonda called and said she had heard Bobby had left town.  It all seemed strange to Roger.  But he and Linda had a big dinner party that night.  He found the guests to be fun and stimulating.  He was enjoying being a big flirt—Linda could see that.  The party buzzed about Bobby’s leaving town, and Linda told Bobby how Roger got lit and began to turn it into a joke:  “Maybe he went to drag race his pickup!”
            The next morning, he needed to get to the field, but he told Linda his head hurt big time from his hangover.  Linda took a call—it was from the mortgage company.  She passed it on to Roger, who was in no mood to talk to them. 
            Linda listened in on the other phone, so she told Bobby how it went:  “It was a Janet Kroner from the Mortgage Division of The Venture Enterprises.  She told Roger we were two payments behind on our mortgage.  They were foreclosing—immediately.”

            Linda went on:  “Then, in the afternoon there was this lawyer showed up.  He had a briefcase full of papers.  We lost the house and the farm.  He told Roger he could stay on and work for the Farm Division of The Venture Enterprises.  About midnight, Roger got the gun out and shot himself.  He’s dead, Bobby.”

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