It was a beautiful fall Saturday morning and Sam was out doing what he normally did on the nicer weekend days while he was at college. Well, he was doing what he did if he wasn't at his normal job. He was making his way from place to place, first on Frat row, then touring the local student bars. Hell, no, he wasn't drinking. It was nine in the morning. He was out trying to earn another few dollars to put in his college fund. He stopped his little Ranger pickup in the alley behind the first Frat house on his route. He looked around the yard and smiled. The yard was covered with empty bottles, cans and plastic cups. Looks like I'm in luck, he thought. At least this Frat had a nice party last night from the looks of things. He hoped the rest of his stops were as messy as this one. If they were, he would have a more profitable day than normal.
Sam grabbed a couple of large black trash bags and bailed out of his truck. He quickly walked into the yard and bent to begin picking up all the empty aluminum cans. Well, he stepped on them first to flatten them so more would fit into the trash bags that way. After cleaning up the cans in the yard he checked out the trash barrels. BINGO once again! The barrels were loaded with empties. By the time he finished this house he had three large 55 gallon trash bags of smashed aluminum cans.
Sam made his way from stop to stop, frat house to frat house collecting cans as he went. After making his normal stops on campus and some of the party houses just off campus Sam went on to the student bars. He almost had his little Ranger's bed filled with bagged cans even with the cab high racks he built for it. He hit the first bar and found four more bags worth of cans even after he smashed them. Off to the second bar on his route. What the hell??? There were almost no aluminum cans in the dumpster. Had the bar owner began saving them himself? He only found about a quarter of a bag and most of those cans were filled with cigarette butts or other junk so he couldn't use them. Oh, well, on to the next bar.
Crap. This dumpster was almost empty also. Sam moved on. Shit. When he got to the next bar he saw a small body bobbing up and down in the dumpster, throwing cans out of the dumpster into the parking lot. Soon a young woman climbed out of the dumpster and walked around smashing cans then she put them into bags. After the bags were full, she stuffed them into an older car. The trunk was already full of bags full of cans and she was filling the back seat now.
Sam drove up beside her car and rolled his window down to watch her work. She looked up at him guiltily, almost as if she was scared, but continued working on the cans. Sam just watched. After she finished loading her cans she glanced at Sam once again then drove off and turned into the next bar parking lot. She immediately jumped from her car and once again dove into the dumpster.
Sam followed her into the lot and stopped once again. This time he could see the fear on her face. He got out of his truck and she stopped to watch him warily. Sam looked into her car then turned his attention to her once more. He took a deep breath and said, "So, you're the one that's been taking my cans out of the dumpsters. I thought the first bar owner had began saving them himself. Then when I got to the second one and found those cans gone also I began to wonder. You've been hitting the dumpsters off and on all semester haven't you? I've noticed sometimes there are very few cans in them when I check them."
"What do you mean your cans? I've been getting the cans from the dumpsters now for almost six months. How do you get off saying they're yours? They're just going to the dump if I don't take them and sell them."
"I suppose you're right as far as it goes. I guess they're anybodies cans if they get to them first, but I've been picking them up now since I started college almost two years ago. I sell them and use the money to help live on and pay tuition. I only usually hit the dumpsters Saturday and Sunday mornings though, because I work most evenings and Saturday afternoons."
"Oh. Well, I've been doing the same since I transferred here this fall from a community college. I got a partial scholarship and I work most Saturdays and part time during the week at the book store. I can make $40 or $50 dollars a week if I hit the dumpsters Saturday and Sunday. I bet you're why I don't find many cans some days aren't you?"
"Yeah, probably. I'm a little later today than I usually am so you beat me to it today." Sam looked over at the girl's car and said, "You're making a mess in your car with all the leaking cans. Don't you have something to at least cover the seats? I can hardly stand the stale beer smell coming from my truck bed. How do you manage to drive with the cans inside? And aren't you afraid of getting stopped and getting a ticket for all those open containers?"
"They wouldn't. They couldn't could they?"
"Yeah, they would and they could. I know a woman back home that was doing just what you are. Well, maybe not just what you are. She had her back seat filled with bags of empty beer cans and got stopped at a sobriety check point. They wrote her up and she got a hellacious fine out of it. The Judge said the law had no qualifier to excuse garbage bags full of cans. It was plainly written that ANY open alcohol container in the passenger compartment was a violation of the open container law."
"You're just bullshitting me. Aren't you?"
"Nope. Sorry. So, you go to college here, too, huh? What's your name? I'm Sam Donovan."
"Traci Samuels. Yeah, I'm starting my Junior year. I transferred in from a community college near my home when I got a partial scholarship, like I said a few minutes ago."
"Well, it looks like we're going to be in competition for the cans now. I guess I'm going to have to get up a lot earlier to beat you out of them aren't I?"
Traci looked scared when Sam said that. She said, "Oh, please, don't do that. I really need the money I get for the cans. Maybe we can work something out like I get so many bars and you get so many, or something."
Sam stood and looked around for a moment. Hell, he never managed to pick up all the cans. He usually just hit the most popular bars where he knew he could make a big hit pretty fast and get back home. He could work all weekend and not get all the cans from all the bars. He said, "We could do something like that or we could work together. I never manage to hit all the bars before I have to quit and clean up to go to work. You can't get many cans in that car even if you use the back seat like you are. I have a small trailer I built with a rack on it also. We can work the best spots together and fill the truck and trailer then split 50/50 after we pay for my fuel if you want. Hell, it would be sort of nice to have someone to work with and talk to. I get tired of climbing in and out of the dumpsters all the time also. We could split that work."
The two students made an agreement to work together. To their surprise each of them had a couple of places that yielded very well indeed. They usually made around $75.00 each per weekend working cans together. While they worked together they found they became very good friends. They even occasionally studied together. They worked together throughout that fall semester and agreed to do the same during the spring semester after they returned to college after Christmas break.
During spring semester Sam and Traci managed to take three classes together also. They took Sociology, English Composition, and Business Statistics together. They were from similar backgrounds and found themselves drawn together more and more. They both grew up in the country on small farms. Traci's mother worked in town to supplement the family income. Sam's father worked in town and picked up odd jobs on the side. His mother worked on the farm raising broiler chickens in two older houses. Of course his father helped when he wasn't doing other jobs. Traci was working on a degree in Communications. She wanted to be an agricultural reporter. Sam was planning on a degree in Farm Management and Marketing.
Sam and Traci found they became very good friends while working together. Unfortunately, Sam's girlfriend didn't get on well with Traci at all. She mistrusted Traci and complained to Sam constantly about him working and studying with her. Several times during the first weeks of spring semester Sam or Traci caught Barbara watching them as they picked up cans or studied. She and her friends could almost be accused of stalking.
Traci and Sam were in the Library the last Sunday afternoon in early February when she once again saw Barbara hiding on the other side of the room glaring at them. She was surrounded by two of her friends. They made comments to each other then would glare at Sam and Traci once again. Traci nudged Sam and said, "Sam, she's at it again. I think we need to stop studying together or something before she explodes. I don't want to be the reason you two break up."
Sam sighed and said, "Traci you won't be. We've been sort of off more than we were on this whole year. I only saw her a few times last summer and I usually only have one date a week here. Most of the times I saw her this summer I got the third degree and got some weird vibes from her. Now that we're back here at college I'm getting more of the same. She's very controlling and has no trust of me at all.
"I'm just about fed up with her accusations about us, too. Hell, we both know she and her friends follow us around trying to catch us cheating on her. I have a friend that swears when one member of a couple accuses the other of cheating over and over like she is me that the accuser is probably the one cheating. I'm really starting to wonder if she isn't looking for a reason to break up and make it my fault. I'm almost to the point I just don't care. I almost hope she does break up with me. I've been thinking about dumping her to tell you the truth. I can't even remember why I started dating her to begin with now."
On the second Sunday in February the fecal matter hit the proverbial rotary impeller device. Barbara followed Sam and Traci into the library for their now regular Sunday study session. She stormed up to them and hissed, "I finally caught you cheating you two-timing asshole. I knew you two were cheating even if you did deny it. Well, we have pictures of you cheating now, asshole. What do you have to say for yourself?"
Sam and Traci looked up at the furious Barbara in shock. Sam said, "Barb, you know that's pure bullshit. I've never cheated on you. Can you say the same to me? I don't know what you've been smoking, but you can't have pictures of something that's never happened. You know what? I just don't care anymore. I don't need your shit. We're through. I don't ever want to see or talk to you again. Now get out of here so we can get our studying done."
"Yeah, right, asshole. We're history, but it's your fault, not mine. And I do have proof of you cheating. I have some of those pictures you say can't exist. See." Barbara threw two pictures printed on regular paper down on the table in front of Sam and Traci and stormed off.
Sam picked up the pictures and looked at them thoughtfully. He frowned then said, "OH, crap, of all the dumb shit. Look. They have a picture of us yesterday on Frat row. Remember we sneaked onto the porch to empty the trash can and we thought we were going to get caught? We ran off the porch and across the back yard. Just before we got to the truck you ran into me. When you pushed me I lost my balance and fell backward to lean against the truck and I grabbed you to try and keep my balance. I pulled you against me. Look. It does sort of look as if we were kissing doesn't it?
"Hell, she never even asked about it did she? She just jumped to a conclusion and exploded. To get this picture whoever took it had to have been there for a while. They couldn't have seen us in time to get their phone or camera ready to take this. They had to have known what really happened. Besides, we weren't parked more than three feet from the gate through the back hedge. This just had to be a complete set up. Screw it, we know we're innocent and if this is all she has to base her accusations on I don't need her ass in my life. She made it pretty plain she has no intentions of moving back to the farm when I graduate anyway so we were probably toast before long even if this hadn't come up. I am definitely not going to live in town and work nine to five all my life."
Traci placed her hand on Sam's forearm and gave him a weak smile. She said, "Well, I am sorry, Sam. No better than I know Barbara, though, I do think you're going to be much better off without her. Oh, well, I suppose we had better finish up on this Sociology paper if you still feel like working on it."
"Yeah, I think I can get back into the groove. We need to get it done anyway. We have to turn it in when class begins Monday morning."
Most of Sam's and Traci's class work was very easy for them. They were sailing through the courses and enjoying the classes very much. They both thought Sociology was sort of ridiculous but even then they could sort of see why knowledge of the discipline could be beneficial. That class gave them the most trouble, however, because of the discussions and opinionated students in it. Many days they both left class upset because of the ignorant opinions expressed during the class period.
As soon as Sociology class convened Monday the instructor collected the papers due. She immediately began her prepared lecture but before long she knew she was in trouble. Today's discussion was a doozy. The professor constantly had to restore order as the discussion she initiated took on a life of its own. When she initiated the discussion it was to make the point that poor people had little choice in life and needed the help of those more well to do in order to not only survive but to prosper. She hoped to show that the two separate groups—the poor and those who were better off—needed to pull together, understand their group dynamics, and build a better life for all. Never had she encountered one, much less two people in her classes that took such a vehement opposition to her statements. Of course, the other two students that immediately jumped on her dissenters didn't help much. Fenton Richards was the son of wealth and he made sure everyone knew it. Terrance Sanders was just the opposite. He was from an obviously very poor background. In fact, she didn't know how he even made it into college but he was there and for some reason he and Fenton were a team. Most of the discord in class came from them.
Paula once again tried to regain control of the discussion with no success. Finally she just gave up and listened to the statements flying back and forth. Sam said, "Bullshit. I don't care who you are or what your socioeconomic background is you can begin life with nothing and become very well to do if you are willing to work and defer your wants into the future. All that is needed is someone to give you a chance. We don't need more government programs. We don't need more handouts. Anyone in this country can obtain a good education and leave college nearly debt free if they are willing to work for it and if they don't spend extravagantly. With a good education, hard work, honesty, and good ethics you can succeed.
Fenton sneered and went on the attack, getting his statement in before Terrance. Fenton said, "That's a crock and you know it. Almost no one in today's economy can get by without help and handouts. That's all the balance of Americans want any more is a free ride. You can't convince me that anyone is willing or able to get by without more money from the government. Every time something goes wrong the drones ask, what's the Government going to do about it? Well, I, for one, am tired of seeing money wasted on people who will never amount to anything and refuse to help themselves."
Terrance jumped into the fray saying, "Well, the working people, the lower income people, deserve it. All you rich assholes pay the help low wages and overcharge on everything you sell. A working man or woman has no chance to get ahead without more government help."
Traci and Sam tried to speak at the same time. Sam looked at Traci and motioned for her to continue. She said, "That's a crock and you know it. My parents only have a high school education. They started out when they married at age 18 with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a few mostly used wedding gifts. Dad began working for minimum wage and mom worked for two dollars an hour and tips as a waitress for three years. They saved their money until they could rent a farm to work. They have worked together for thirty years and own their own farm and drive newer vehicles. It can be done if a person, or a couple, is willing to work hard and make the hard decisions and sacrifices. This is my third year in college and so far I am attending school full time and have no student loans. It can be done if you are willing to work and plan."
Sam looked at Traci and smiled then said, "Absolutely. There is any number of jobs out there and numerous ways to make a few dollars IF the person is willing to do it. And they are LEGAL too, not some shady job or pushing drugs or stealing."
Fenton stood and glared at Sam and Traci then said, "Yeah, right. I'm sure you would stoop to doing some of the work we have to import Mexicans to do. There is no way you would live like you would have to live to get by without another government handout that comes from taxing the people willing to work and provide employment for slackers like you."
Paula sighed. She could sort of understand Sam's, Traci's and Terrance's position but she just couldn't figure Fenton out. She was pretty sure he was only arguing because he liked to stir up trouble. He was well to do and should be against government programs and taxation to support lower income people yet he argued that government programs were the only way people in the lower classes could get by. Of course he made his statements in a disparaging manner as if he didn't approve. Perhaps he was arguing as he was because he didn't approve and was angry about the handouts. Perhaps he was one of the benevolent rich and actually felt as if they owed help to those less fortunate. She chose to believe that, to give him credit for being kind and thoughtful.
The discussion continued until finally Fenton stood and said, "I'm sick of your damn statements. If you really believe what you say, put your money where your mouth is. I'll make a bet with you to prove you're wrong."
Sam looked up at the looming Fenton and almost snarled, "Oh, yeah, how're you going to do that?"
"My family owns an old abandoned farm down in the sticks. I'll bet you that farm against all the money and property you own now or obtain during the course of the bet that you can't succeed alone with no help from our great society. You have to make your way in life with no help and no full time job. Running the farm will be your full time job. You can take part time jobs off the farm but you have to live on it and make your own way for the next four years or until you make a yearly income that is at least twice the U.S. poverty level income, whichever comes first."
"That's not what I was arguing about here. I said there was always a way for an individual to make more money than they had and to better themselves in our country without government help. There is always another way to pick up some honest income if a person is willing to do it."
Fenton laughed and smirked as he looked around the classroom then replied, "Yeah, that's what I thought. You're taking back your statements now and trying to welsh. If you truly believe that you can make your living easily by doing several of those jobs and picking up the extra income you wouldn't think twice about taking this bet."
Traci looked up at Fenton and said, "No, he's not. You're purposefully trying to muddy the waters. What you are saying can be done, though. A person or couple can not only survive but they can prosper if they are willing to work and save instead of spend money foolishly for immediate gratification."
Fenton laughed and said, "I always thought you were as stupid as he is. Why don't you join him in the bet?"
"You know, I think I will. It'll be fun sticking it to you."
"Fine. I'll have my attorney write up the agreement and we'll sign it after our next class meeting."
"Whoa, there stud. We'll look it over and have OUR attorney review it first THEN we'll sign it IF it contains every point we have discussed here today. Now, tell us more about this farm you want us to live on for the next four years. We also need to know what we are allowed to bring with us in case we take your bet."
Fenton sneered once again and said, "You can bring anything you own and use any money you currently have in the bank or in cash. That's all. You will not accept any handouts, government or private assistance, free food, medical care, or unpaid help from any source to live. You must pay your own way completely, accepting no federal or state assistance or assistance from any private source or individual."
The next two class periods all resulted in another confrontation with Fenton. After the class Friday Sam and Traci walked from the room and building together. She said, "I'm really getting tired of his crap. We only have one more lecture today since Jones cancelled her class. It's Valentine's Day today besides. I think we need to do something to unwind a little tonight. You up for it?"
"Heck, I suppose. Since Barb bailed on me I don't have a date. What about you though? You can't convince me you don't have a date for Valentines."
"Nope. You know I don't have a steady and I guess no one wanted to ask me out in case I got the wrong idea. I don't want to sit home alone either. Both my roommates have big dates and it would be pretty depressing to watch them. I'm really not looking forward to them coming home later tonight, either. I just hope if they do come home they come alone. The last thing I need to do is listen to love making all night long. Come on, let's go out for a while."
"Hell, why not. I'll pick you up say about six?"
"I don't care. You can come earlier if you want. What are we going to do?"
"I don't know. You asked. You have anything you want to do?"
"No. Let's just get a bite to eat and hit one of the hang outs."
Sam and Traci both enjoyed seafood so he decided they would go to Red Lobster for supper then move on to one of the student bars near campus. Maybe they would see some of their friends there.
The food was good at the Lobster but the visit itself was depressing. It seemed as if the place was filled with couples celebrating Valentine's Day. When they decided to leave there was a short but heated discussion when it came time to pay the bill. Traci insisted on paying for her own meal and drinks and Sam didn't want her to do so. Finally he gave in and let her pay half the bill and they left. As they were leaving the restaurant Sam felt Traci grab his arm tightly and begin moving faster toward his truck. He turned his head toward her in surprise and saw her glaring at a BMW nearby. She quickly turned her head away from the vehicle and pulled him rapidly toward his truck.
Just as Sam started to turn his head away from the car he saw what Traci didn't want him to see. Barbara was sitting in the car kissing a young man. Her hair was mussed and the man's hand was down the top of her low cut dress. Sam knew from experience she wasn't wearing a bra because the dress wouldn't allow one. As they walked past the car Sam saw Barbara's nipple. Knowing Barbara as well as he did he was sure this wasn't her first or even her second date with the man. At least when they began going out it took him almost two months to cop a feel and he had never done so in a parking lot.
When they got to his truck Traci looked at Sam. Somehow she knew he saw Barbara. She wrapped her arms around him and said, "I'm sorry, Sam. You saw didn't you? Are you ok?"
Sam gave Traci a quick hug and smiled. He said, "Yeah, I'm fine. You know it really didn't bother me at all. I've seen her a time or two on campus with one boy or another even before she dumped me and I just don't feel anything at all. I mean, I know we used to date and I had some feelings for her, but even then I didn't think we were in love. I had my doubts you know? Tonight all I saw was a skank playing around in a car, you know?"
Traci smiled and tightened her hug briefly before letting him go. "Good. That's exactly what you saw, Sam. I know you and I know a little about her. You are a good man and you can do a damn sight better. You deserve better too. Now come on. Let's see if we can find some of the gang somewhere."
Sam and Traci both got just a little plastered that night. He was smart enough to choose a hang out near his apartment so he left his truck in the parking lot and he and Traci walked, well, really, they staggered back to his place when the bar closed. Sam offered to call a cab for Traci but she refused. "No, Sam, I really don't want to listen to the lovers banging away at my place. Can I just crash on your couch? Please?"
"Yeah, no prob, Trace."
Saturday morning they got a later than normal start picking up cans. They took a quick shower, then hit Denny's for a good breakfast before starting work. Sam looked at Traci while they were picking up cans on Frat row and said, "You know, you're dangerous. I haven't been drunk like that since I graduated from high school. You are evil to lead me to drink, woman."
Traci laughed her trademarked musical laugh and hip butted him and smiled. "I don't remember having to force even one of your many drinks down your throat, Stud. You done that all by yourself. But I do know ONE of us is dangerous. SOMEONE led poor little ol' innocent me down the path of Bacchanalian excess."
"I think we need to agree to disagree on this one. Maybe we led each other down the path. Anyway, Trace, I had fun even if this morning wasn't so much. I'm glad you talked me into going out."
The two friends completed their mornings work and went their separate ways for the remainder of the weekend.
It took two more weeks but finally they ironed out a contract all parties could live with for what was now being called 'The Bet' by the students and faculty on campus who heard about it. After class one day Sam and Traci met Fenton at his attorney's office and they signed the contract with Fenton. It was written into the contract that the couple could use anything found on the old farm in any manner they wished. They were allowed to utilize the farm as if it was theirs exclusively and to sell anything found or raised on the property as if it was solely their property. Items found on the property and sold were specifically excluded from going against the contract as free items or help from others so selling them would not cause Sam and Traci to lose their bet. They also were allowed to bring any personal possession they owned with them when they moved to the farm and use them as they saw fit.
They did negotiate and write into the contract that they only had to make taxable income equal to the Federal Poverty level for a couple (which was $15,730 for 2014) for two consecutive years or live successfully on the land per the contract specifications for a period of four years. The contract further stated the land and any improvements or other property owned by Fenton and or his family that was on the land as of the day of signing the contract became the property of Sam and Traci if they successfully fulfilled the contract. Since she lost control of the discussion Paula decided to use it and the ensuing bet as a teaching tool and as the basis for a paper she would write for a professional journal after the bet was over.
After they signed the contract Traci looked at Sam and said, "Well, now comes the hard part of this mess."
"Well, yeah, I suppose it will be sort of difficult but it won't be as bad as you think. I mean, look how much we made just picking up cans here in town. We have a whole farm to use for income plus whatever we can pick up elsewhere. We'll be fine."
"No, Sam. The really hard part is telling my parents I'm quitting college and moving away to a farm with a man I've only known for a short time and to whom I am not married."
"Oh. Yeah, I suppose that might be just a tad tough. I hadn't even thought of telling my parents or what I would tell them about this. At least they knew I always intended to return to farming. I suppose they will be slightly upset with me about living with someone I'm not married to also but I don't think it will cause any trouble. Are you going to have serious trouble with your family?"
"No, probably not serious trouble, but Dad and Mom will be upset I'm just moving in with you. They'll immediately think the worst and will probably give me some grief about it. The old 'living in sin' routine, you know. Heck, they both know I've been with boys before but they can pretend I'm still a virgin if I'm not living with a man."
"Do you want me to come with you when you tell them? Or are you just going to phone them to tell them?"
"Oh, hell, no. This is something I have to do by myself. Besides, I don't want you killed before we stick it to Fenton. I think I'll go home this weekend and get it over with. Wish me luck."
When Traci told her parents that Friday night at supper what she and Sam were going to do it was not received well. Her father looked angry but her mother stared at her in shock. She said, "Oh, Honey, NO. You can't do that. You can't move over 150 miles away and live with a man we've never even seen. How can you just drop out of college and move off to live with someone like that without even discussing it with us."
"Mom, it's not like that. Yeah we're going to live and work together but that's all. This is purely a business arrangement. If we fulfill the contract we'll be given title to the farm free and clear. It will completely pay for our college education and maybe even a master's degree if we decide to sell the land."
"What do you mean IF you decide to sell the land? You don't mean you are thinking about living on the land with this man forever, do you? I thought you said this was only for four years."
"It is, Mom, but we haven't discussed what we'll do with the ground for sure. We might rent it or farm it ourselves or sell it. We have to see it and win the bet, uh, I mean fulfill the contract first."
"Well, we don't like it at all. When do we get to meet this young man, anyway? He can't be much of a man if he sent you home to face us alone."
"I don't know when you will meet him, Mom. And he offered to come with me when I told you about the deal but I told him I didn't want him to. Ok?"
Needless to say, the rest of the weekend was strained for Traci and her parents. She was very glad to get back to college and Sam. When she saw him that Sunday evening she ran to him without thinking and hugged him tightly.
Sam held and caressed Traci for a moment before saying, "I take it the weekend didn't go well?"
Traci shook her head no, "Well, it wasn't horrible. They were upset, of course, but I think they have the anger out of their systems and are on the way to accepting my decision. They want to meet you, though. Will that be a problem?"
"No, Trace, you know that won't be a problem. I wish I had gone with you to help explain. When do they want us to meet them?"
"I told them we'd come down in a couple of weeks if you agreed to come. Was that ok?"
"Yeah, whenever you want. Just let me know."
Two weeks later Sam and Traci went to her parent's home so he could meet them. They drove his little Ranger rather than her car. Unfortunately, that might have been a mistake. The truck was mechanically very sound but I had spent most of its life as a farm truck and showed it. There were a few dents; it was dirty as only a farm truck can be—straw, grain and grease everywhere and the good cleaning Sam gave it before they left didn't get nearly all of it. There were several scratches in the paint. It had mud caked underneath. There was even a spot or two of rust in the usual places over the rear wheel wells. In short, it looked like what it was—a work truck that had been used for its entire 12 years of life as such.
When they were about ten minutes from Traci's home she called her parents and told them they were almost there. Her mother and father were waiting in the yard for them when they drove up. After they parked, Sam got out of the truck and started around it to help Traci out. She didn't wait for him, however, and climbed out before he got around the front. She met him in front of the truck and took his hand. She led him to her parents and said, "Mom, Dad, this is Sam Donovan, the man I'm going to work with for the next four years. Sam, these are my parents Trevor and Wanda."
Sam stepped forward to shake Trevor's hand. As he moved, he said, "I'm pleased to meet you both."
Trevor took Sam's hand and applied just a slight amount of excessive pressure. Sam was surprised but responded with pressure of his own. Trevor's face showed a slight amount of shock when Sam added pressure to the shake instead of trying to pull away. He looked into Sam's eyes for a moment then relaxed his grip and nodded.
After he released Sam's hand from the shake he continued staring Sam down as he said, "So, you're the man who is to blame for Traci dropping out of college. I hope you know what you're doing, throwing away a chance of a good education for some pipe dream. Well, you're here, I suppose you had better come on inside."
Traci looked shocked and said, "Daddy! How could you say something like that? I told you Sam didn't talk me into dropping out of college. I explained to you two weeks ago why I am doing that. We can win ... uh, successfully complete this contract and have a small farm free and clear. It will be a resource to help both of us get an advanced degree or a better start in our life."
Wanda rested her hand on Trevor's arm for a moment as she said, "Now, Trevor, you promised to be nice. What's done is done and we can't change it. As I understand it, they have signed the contract and if they back out now they will literally lose everything they own."
Wanda smiled at Sam and said, "Just ignore him, Sam. He, we, both wanted to see Traci finish college. She would have been the first person in the family to do that."
"I understand, Mrs. Samuels. My parent's were a little upset also, but like Traci said, not only will we get to put that asshole, uh, excuse me, Fenton in his place, we can prove a point and make a substantial profit if we can pull this off and complete the contract. Truthfully, neither of us has all that much to lose if we fail. Where would this country be, or where would you folks be, if we or you had not dreamed and made an attempt to achieve that dream?"
"Humphf. Well, we do understand dreams, but Traci has just given up one of her and our largest dreams. We dreamed she would finish college and make something of herself. I see the chances of that happening rapidly dwindling, now. But never mind, come on into the house and let's get comfortable while we get to know each other better."
The next 45 minutes for Sam were filled with Mr. Samuel's grilling him about their plans and harping on them dropping out of college. Traci got a lighter dose of that while she helped her mother complete the evening meal.
While they were eating, the conversation finally moved to more relaxing subjects. Unfortunately, Mrs. Samuels made the mistake of telling Traci she talked to the mother of Traci's best friend and was told the friend earned her Degree that month. Then she said, "I had so hoped I could tell Martha about your degree also and now I don't suppose I ever will."
Traci noisily put her fork down and said in exasperation, "Mother, I've told you over and over I didn't drop out of college. I am only taking a little time off from going full time. Both Sam and I intend to enroll for Internet courses while we are on the farm so we can continue our education. Neither of us is sure we can get all the remaining courses we need for our degree on the net, but if we can't we'll at least be closer to the degree than we now are. We may not be able to finish before the contract expires but we will finish. Now, could you please just drop it?"
After the meal, the four wandered out onto the porch to visit longer and watch the sun go down. That was when Mr. Samuels moved on to the other topic that was bothering him. He turned to face Traci and said, "I just don't understand how you can just up and move in with a man you've known such a short time. What if you get pregnant and he leaves you. You won't be the first young woman who fell for a line like that. I thought we raised you better than that."
"Daddy, It's not like that. We're friends and study partners. Now we're also business partners. I'm not sleeping with him. We just have to live together to do the job here."
"Yet. You're not sleeping with him yet, but I know how these things work. He'll keep working on you until he gets what he wants then you get the short end of the stick."
Sam stood and glared at Trevor. He said, "Sir, I have never made an unwanted move on your daughter or any other woman. Like Traci said, we have not slept together and there is no plan for us to start. We are friends and business partners. That's all."
Sam looked at Traci for a moment before continuing, "Traci is a fine woman. You should be proud of her. I am proud to call her a friend. I would also be a liar if I didn't say she is a beautiful woman and one who will make a fine wife and partner in the future. If anything happens between us it will be mutually decided on, but right now nothing sexual is on the table or being considered by either of us."
Finally, the evening ended. By the time everyone went to bed that Friday night, the two kids were upset and exasperated with Traci's parents and the parents were upset because they couldn't talk sense into the kids. Sam was placed in a spare bedroom across from Traci's room upstairs in the old farmhouse. Traci's parents retired to their room, an addition made after the house was built, downstairs on the first floor.
As Sam turned away from Traci to enter his bedroom he said, "Whew. That was intense. I think they're really worried about you, Traci. I don't know how we can make them feel better about this deal. I'm sorry I got you into this." He also laughed as he continued, "I'm a little surprised they even let me sleep up here in the spare room. I thought they might make me sleep downstairs on the couch or outside so they could be more sure you'd be safe."