Clark’s father didn’t answer when Brad asked him if he could go to his workshop with him, but that didn’t deter Brad. He was right behind him. He already knew the man’s name was John Sanders. In fact, Brad knew quite a bit about Clark’s dad.
“You stay here with your mother, Clark,” Brad said. “I’m going to spend a little time with your dad.”
The house the family lived in was large enough, but it hadn’t seen a coat of paint in years and the inside needed a lot of work, too. The yard was unkempt and void of flowers or trees.
On the other hand, the workshop was a different story. It was in pretty sad shape on the outside, but the inside was clean and well organized. It had varnished wood floors, and pinewood paneling on the walls. The windows were like new and let in just the right amount of light for this time of day. The projects that Mr. Sanders was working on were all at different stages of completion, and all of them showed the talent of a real craftsman.
“Your work is amazing, Mr. Sanders. I knew it would have to be considering the value others are willing to pay for your talents.”
Mr. Sanders looked extremely uncomfortable, but remained silent. He wondered how much Brad knew about his personal business. He began to work on a beautiful table that was almost finished. Brad could see the six chairs that went with it and they were all meticulously built. The chairs had the same intricate design carved into the backs as the table had in the middle.
“Now I know why buyers and others who need things to be restored or designed ask for you,” Brad said. “You’re very talented. You could make an honest living doing this. You could pretty much name your price…if that were possible.”
“Why are you here?” Mr. Sanders asked as he began sanding a little harder than he probably had to. “And why did you bring Butch with you. He was supposed to get out on his own, get a job and help out, but he left town with all his mother’s savings. He’s a loser. Butch is a real loser, but I’m going to give him one more chance, so you can go on and leave now.”
“I’m going to take Clark, or Butch with me. Mr. Sanders. I’m going to put him to work on the ranch and get him some help with school. That’s settled, but there’s more I want to talk to you about. I just can’t leave here knowing you have a wife and four more kids to mistreat.”
Mr. Sanders could barely contain his anger. “My wife and kids are none of your business, mister. Now get out of here and take that no good kid with you. He can go on one condition. He has to leave my pa’s guitar here. It’s worth a lot of money.”
“I just as well lay it all out here, Mr. Sanders. I’ve done a little checking and I know all about you and why you’re still mining coal when you could be making a fortune with your woodworking. You have to pay a very generous amount to a middle man don’t you? I know you signed a contract thinking it was a fair agreement, but it leaves you with a fraction of what your work is worth, All of this has befallen you because you can’t read or write.”
Mr. Sanders sat down in one of his beautiful chairs and put his head in his hands. “How do you know all of this?” He quietly asked Brad.
“Never mind how I know it. What matters is what are we going to do about it?”
“There’s nothing that can be done about it. That contract goes on for the rest of my life and I get nothing from it. It doesn’t take from the fact that I get a certain amount of satisfaction knowing that I’m good at what I do.”
Mr. Sanders got up from his chair and started working again. “I need help from those no good kids. I had to work when I was their age.”
“It’s not your kid’s fault that you couldn’t go to school. Don’t you know that for them to have a better future they need to have an education. They need to know how to read and write.”
“Are you finished telling me what I should do? It’s too late for Butch, anyway. He couldn’t add two and two when he was in school. I did him a favor by taking him out and telling him to move out of the house and support himself. He could have made enough to help us feed his brothers and sisters, too.”
Brad was getting exasperated, but he couldn’t leave the situation this way. “I’ll make a deal with you, Mr. Sanders. I have spoken with my attorney. He knows his stuff and he believes he can get you out of that contract. He also thinks he can sue the man that has been taking advantage of you all these years. With that done, you’ll be able to afford a better life for everybody, quit the coal mine and do what you love to do.”
Mr. Sander’s interest was peaked. “What do I have to do.”
“You have to be a good husband and father, and if you’re going to run your own business you better learn how to read and write. I bet your wife doesn’t even know what all has happened does she? If she can read and write, let her set up the books.”
Brad reached out to shake Mr. Sander’s hand and this time he got a firm handshake in return.
“Mr. Sanders…If I ever hear of you mistreating anyone in this family ever again, there will be hell to pay. Do you understand me?”
“Yes Sir,” was the meek reply. “Can Butch come for a visit every now and then?”
“Yes, of course,” Brad said. “But he’ll be keeping that guitar. Looks like he inherited something good from your side of the family. He’s very talented.”
On the way back to the ranch, Butch who intended to continue calling himself Clark, thought about Annie. He hoped she missed him just a little. She was the only one he felt comfortable singing to.