Jakob Hamburg was a small wiry man, except for his small and rather precise little pot belly. He had a strange sense of humour. He'd always wanted his parents to enhance his belly. So to make up for it he drank beer by the gallon, which ensured it grew, but his metabolism was so fast it never really got much beyond a small bump. He was head of the social farming union in the area and Duncan Anderton's father had been best man at his wedding.
His farm was more accessible than most, which was another reason why he was social secretary. The socials acted as an informal forum for exchanging information, settling disputes and rivalries (inevitable between farmers), borrowing equipment and networking with other farmers not only in Iowa but also across the United States. They got together once every couple of weeks. The heads of all the social secretaries reported to a county head and once a month all the social secretaries had a holoconference.
The whole Union got together annually and found that, like last year, they couldn't agree on very much.
But this was Sunday the 30th March and just a local area meeting. About twenty farmers were crammed into Jack's small living room. On such occasions, Jack's wife laid on plenty of beers, some food and then ran away. This arrangement suited both parties. Jack got pissed with the guys and so did his wife only elsewhere.
The usual jolly atmosphere had completely evaporated from this social. For once there was a cohesive reason for the occasion. They were waiting for an announcement on the local news channel. Jack only had a flat screen so they were all huddled around it.
"Tonight it has been made official that Chuck Ellephanie will be contesting the current Mayor's position. In an announcement made by Ellephanie’s officials earlier he said that relations between Duncan Anderton and he had got to the stage where they could no longer effectively communicate over the future of Hertferd.
He accused Anderton of blocking the expansion of Carlton for personal reasons and not taking into account the needs of the wider community.
Jane Willerby has been down in Hertferd assessing the chances for the two candidates.
Jane, hello. What's the feeling in Hertferd on this contest?"
“Well it's a battle between old and new, which is reflected in the way the two men are going about their strategy. Ellephanie has brought in Kelly McCoor, an experienced electioneer who was on the President's team. She's a lot of experience. Ellephanie seems to be handling the whole thing like a Presidential campaign. They went away to New Seattle to discuss tactics. Details of Anderton's approach are more sketchy at the moment."
"Who's the current favourite?"
Well, if you look at the figures, Anderton has a natural advantage in that forty per cent of the population depends on farming for a living. They will naturally support him. The number of people who rely on Carlton is about twenty five per cent. That puts Anderton at an immediate advantage, which is no doubt why Ellephanie has called in a team to help him out.
The critical votes will be the retired people in Hertferd and how they think each of the candidates will benefit them. I think at this stage you have to say that Anderton starts out as favourite, he is known and very, very popular with the farming community."
“Thank you Jane.
And now onto other news."
There was a stilted atmosphere in the room.
“Well we knew it was coming I suppose,” mumbled Elvis.
"It comes down to respect," said Hank. "My family were Dutch, they came over to Iowa, settled and we've been farming here ever since, I don't think these people can understand that, never will. They don't know what it means to own land.
I know I could sell my farm and become a millionaire tomorrow if I sold it to Ellephanie. My farm's right next door for God's sake. But that's it then, that's the end of the line, for my children or my children's children. They just don't get it these people, they think it's all about money: everyone has a price. Well I ain't selling. My farm's my farm. My land's my land. I intend to keep it that way. I can't believe this, can't believe he's doing this. Son of a bitch. "
“Couldn't agree with you more, Hank, couldn't agree more. Just can't believe it," Dan said shaking his head.
“I think we ought to do something, instead of just complaining about it, I think we ought to do something."
The babble of voices in the room came to an abrupt hold. It was Bob Plein, he was a laconic, phlegmatic man. He was well respected and generally liked a quiet life.
“Yes, that's right, you heard me, I said we ought to do something.
“I'm sick of hearing us all complaining and talking about complaining about government, 'bout seeds, fixing, Indian corn, weather and all that shit. Let's for once do something about it. Here in our own backyard, that's where it matters. I want respect too, I don't want all this to go unnoticed. Those people in the bar in Ronnie's, they've got no right, no respect to go saying the things they did, treating us the way they did.
It's always the way, farmers being bought. Well it stops here. Not here. We'll show this Ellephanie fella that enough is enough. He can't walk all over us. He can't buy us. He has to sit up and take notice. He has to back down. He has to know who this town belongs to once and all. He has to be taught the meaning of community. That's what we are. Now let's show him we are. Let's show him so he can't forget, every morning, every night, every day. Every goddam day. Let’s show him what we feel. Let’s needle this guy. Make him worry, make him flap. Make him know we care, and that even if he gets in, it won't make any difference. We won't let it make a difference. We will stop it.
Community that's the word. Well, let's bring the community to him. Let's block all the roads to his goddam plant with every piece of unused machinery we've got. Finally clear our backyards of things we've never had use for before. Let's put 'em right there on the road, remind him. Stop 'em getting to work.
And when we run out of old machines, let's use new ones. And when we have used all our new ones, let's put our crop on his doorstep, our cars, our beds, whatever it takes. Let's make enough noise about this so the whole goddam world can hear. What do you say? Are you in?"
“I really think I ought to have a word with some other people in the Union," Jakob said earnestly.
“Goddam it Jakob, have a word with whoever the hell you like, but are you in or are we gonna' have to ask one Jack shit to do all Jack shit? By the time all the Unions have talked and decided whether we can do Jack shit, Ellephanie will have forced through and bought half of our farms for his plant, for condos, for holorooms, for bowling alleys and God the · Lord knows what else. You know if he gets in, he's got them all in his pocket.
We need to make the guy look unpopular. That’s what politicians, Mayors or would be Mayors are scared of; looking unpopular, because looking unpopular becomes being unpopular, and being unpopular means you're out. Now are we going to do something or not? 'Cos if no one is with me, I might just as well leave now and do something on my own in the morning."
Bob Plein looked around at the stunned faces around him. He looked at them holding their beers scratching their heads and slouching.
The clock in the hall seemed deafening. Bob stared at his friends who were used to doing things in their own quiet way and being left alone and wondered if they would wake up out of their sleep.
Everyone turned around it was the new guy who had just bought a farm. New guy. No one knew much about him.
“Glad you spoke your mind Bob. Glad you spoke your mind. I haven't come to start farming up here only to turn around and go back again. I'm in. We can't just let this guy walk all over us. Goddam it guys you've lived here for a few days, you've lived here for life. Are we going to take this lying down?"
Everyone looked at him curiously. Henry Roydon had become Dave Rhobson and he pronounced his words in a perfect Iowa accent.
“I'm in," said Dwayne. "Goddam it, I’m in."
“I'm in," said George "And I know a whole load of others who'll be in too.
“So do I.”
“Let's show this guy."
“Let's show the son bitch who he's dealing with here."
The room erupted into excited shouts of “I’m in!” whooping and shouting.
Hands up who’s not in. Come in, if you're gonna bow out now, bow out," said Bob. No hands went up."
"Okay guys, I'm in," said Jakob. "Yep let's do it! Let's show him a thing or two. What time is it now?"
“Right, we're gonna' have to work through the night," Jakob said.
“Who cares, I feel young again," Elvis cried.
“Hank. Get on the wire. Do a call out. Tell 'em to bring all their junk machinery over here tonight. We're going to build us a wall that'll make the Wall of China feel ashamed.”
The room exploded into a babble of excited voices. For once they didn't argue. They formed teams. Jakob along with the new guy, Henry Roydon, who seemed to have an idea or two, devised a plan.
Henry Roydon put his arm on Bob's shoulder.
“I told you they'd listen," he whispered in his ear, "Well done."
"Only 'cos of your support," Bob replied.
The following day, Monday there was chaos in Hertferd.
All the traffic going into Carlton was confronted by a wall of twisted steel that was once tractors, ploughs, combines, rotary cutters, bailers, seeders. The traffic couldn't go forward and pretty soon it couldn't go backward because of all the other cars piling down to get into work. The farmers stood on the wall and laughed. Jane Willerby laughed. A lot of the retired people laughed. Even the guys from Carlton laughed because they had an enforced day off.All that unwanted farmers metal strewn around farmyards, had, probably for the first time in the history of the world, finally found a use for itself.