The Weatherman

Charles Addams Standish the Forth.  My god, I haven’t seen him since ninth grade when we went to school together.  We both lived in the same Mainline township, he on the right side of the tracks and me on the opposite side.  Cas, as he was not  affectionately known, was a scion of that upper class society that values historical prestige, you know, blood will tell and all that.  When I knew him he had been slightly pudgy and under average height.  Cas was well mannered, had an impressive vocabulary, and a member of the Scott’s HiQ team for the junior high, captain, naturally.  My family had moved to the suburban Philly area, sorry, my lack of breeding and manners are showing, I meant Philadelphia.  Normally Cas wouldn’t have given me the time of day.  But I had “rescued” him from the hands of a couple of Garden City toughs and for some reason was deemed tolerable.  That or he found my southern accent amusing and wished to hear more of it.  All said, it was a most interesting year we spent, or should I say, I stood in his shadow.  The following year Cas would leave for some prep academy, Exeter I think.  Cas was destined for greater things for all I knew, myself, not so much.

From what I could tell at that young age Cas didn’t fit in well at school.  You know what I mean, he wasn’t one of the fellas.  His athleticism was poor and for a boy that is a great handicap.  I mean, you don’t have to be a jock and starter in three sports but you at least need to be able to dribble a basketball, catch a baseball, and throw a football, you know.  One out of three is okay, but being a cream puff means you have little standing with the adolescent male.  I mean, so you can do quadratic equations till the cows come home, so what?  On the other hand, say you have memorized the batting averages of the best hitters in the history of baseball.  Well, that is a respectable feat for us fourteen year olds, you know.  We respect those kinds of numbers.  But no, he always memorized the wrong things like historical dates and what a gerund is, and stuff like that.  I ain’t never heard no boys sitting around talking about the relative merits of gerunds, assuming they knew what one was.  Now I must admit that I could talk about Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson and a few of their battles but was expected of a boy who had a southern heritage and upbringing.  So I assumed due to his historical heritage he would be up on George Washington and the revolutionary war and the like.  I guess that was something his mom and dad had not expected from him.  Yeah, I heard about the Mayflower and all that, but that was so long ago, ancient history and not battles or anything.

Still, we would talk at lunch.  I think he was glad for the company and my being his friend tended to keep the Garden city boys away, not that I was un friendly with them but we kept a respectful distance so to speak.  But later on I would help a couple of them out of a jam as well as a couple of blacks that attended our school.  But another time and another story or two.  While my scholasticism was poor, I didn’t get good grades except in in shop class and geography, I think Cas saw through that outer shell and recognized that when I was interested in a subject I was capable of learning much about it.  He saw that I was a reader as I spent a fair amount of time in the library educating myself while I was failing in school.  But more than that, I was able to introduce Cas to the real world of work.  By that I mean, I would sometimes take him into the wood or metal shop the last period of the day and introduce him to screwdrivers and saws,  make him use one.  His proudest moment was when he was able to make a crude wood box with a lid by using hand tools.  I showed him how to stain it but he did all the work.  You should have seen the smile of satisfaction on his face.  But as I said, Cas was destined for greater things than using his hands.  I would be destined for the draft in three years and serve my time in the barrel.

On the last day of classes that end of May we said our goodbyes.  I told him that I was sad to see him go, funny duck that he was.  Cas shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, I guess I’ll have to check with the weatherman about the future.”  Just like Cas, constantly checking with someone about some future event or possibility.  He was a worrying soul if you know what I mean.  “Cas,” I said, “stop worrying about the future.  You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, just stick your head outside when you want to know.”  I saw the puzzled look upon his face and then a smile.  So we went our ways.  I had a job at a gas station pumping gas and doing oil changes for the summer.  Cas was going to take a couple of college classes on what ever it was that he needed to know.  The next three years I did get a Christmas card from him with a few details of his boarding school life but that was the last contact I had from him.  I joined the Army in due course and he went off to Harvard or Yale or whichever top tier university.

My time spent in the service of Uncle Sam was not the wisest since I came out with a non civilian skill, infantryman and there were not many openings in these fifty states for that speciality.  So oddly enough I spent some GI Bill money on education, mostly the basic education stuff and a few mechanical courses such as welding and metalsmithing, and such.  They were enough to get me jobs in the oil patch as a roustabout on drilling rigs.  Sometimes I though about Cas and what he must be doing now.  Maybe he was a banker or a lawyer in New York or Boston.  What the hell, our paths would never cross again in our lifetimes.  Meanwhile I was making decent money and socking it away.  I had no idea just what I wanted to do with my life.  I mean. at twenty-six what does one do except get a job and get married and have some kids and a mortgage on a house somewhere.

Well, I was courting a Miss Emmy Lou in a small west Texas town and she had her own ideas about what a man should want and was doing her best to convey to me just what I should want.  Funny how women put ideas in your head that way.  Her father owned an oil field supply company and needed a driver.  That was me.  Except he was only going to pay me half what I was making in the field now.  Well, he three in a small cottage, a gift from her grandma, so she said.  And a new pickup since mine was getting up there in mileage and mine needed just about everything to keep it running.  So Emmy lou and I got married and the deal was cinched.  I’m not sure about the love part but I will say that after twenty years that did come and unlike a whole lot of folks we managed to stay married.  Meanwhile Her father started to teach me about the business and I even took a few more college classes until lo and behold I had a bachelor’s degree in science in operations engineering.  I can still recall my oldest son, who was twelve at the time, bragging about the neighborhood that his old man had graduated from college.  Emmy even baked me a cake for the occasion.

Meanwhile the company had expanded and business was doing great and then the great recession hit and the oil patch business just sort of driveled up.  Of course I had my hopes, a nation moves forward on energy, can’t anybody manufacture without energy.  One thing I learned early was to keep inventory lean and accounts paid.  I also became a stickler about the people we did business with.  Slow invoice payments are a death warrant for any supply company.  As things stood, we were in good shape although emmy’s father had a heart attack shortly after the downturn in business.  So I stepped in and decided to take the company in a different direction.  There were a couple of electronic outfits that specialized in the oil drilling and extraction industry.  Only thing was, they needed capital to get going and make a profit.  Actually, they needed more capital than I could supply.  So I put out some feelers to some of the local bankers and wheeler-dealers.  Not much interest from that group and besides, they didn’t have much capital to spare.  but my name got forwarded to a Philadelphia banker and the next thing I knew there was someone waiting in my office when I came back from lunch.

Who’d a thought that someone would be Cas?  “You’re a sight for sore eyes, boy.  My god but you thinned down and look like you’ve spent a season or two in the oil patch.  What brings you to town?”

“I hear you need backing for a new venture or two, Bill.  We heard about your opportunities and plans and want to know more.”

“Well, Cas, that about sums it up.  I figure turn around in the patch might take three years max and the two electronic whizzes I want to back say we can earn a return in about eighteen months.  I’m a bit more conservative and think it might be closer to two years.   But if we push a few beta products before the start of production we just might lock up a significant portion of the business.  If you got the time then let’s go meet the boys and let them tell you all.”

“You know Bill, I have to examine everything.  All the records and reports, you know standard procedure.”

“Cas, we do business on a handshake out here.  When we know a man we take his word or we don’t do business.  Just so you know.  Everything will be in order.”

“I know Bill, I don’t need a weatherman to know which way the winds blows.”  We both laughed.

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