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VII.  Family Disbursed

 

Weekends were different for Steve and Sandra.  When the kids were young, they would go over to Mom and Dad’s.  Walter and Dessie enjoyed being around the children.

 

Mom made her famous Ranger cookies and the kids would run into the house searching for a cookie as soon as they got there.  The joy on Mom’s face giving each of them a cookie was a memory that Steve did not want to soon forget.

 

Dad would get on the floor and give John rides on his back even though John was too old for rides.  It did not seem to bother him or his back and I figured that if he wanted to do it so be it.

 

“There was going to have to come a time though when Dad would have to give that up,” reminisced Steve.  The kids getting older and bigger lead to a natural order of things less strenuous.

 

Sandra and Mom would go to the outside patio and talk about what was going on in town.  “I used to call it ‘gossip time’, but Sandra and Mom both did not like that as they said as long as it was the truth, it was not gossip,” he remembered and smiled sadly to himself.

 

Steve thought it would be good for everyone to maintain a matter of continuity by going over to the home place even though Mom and Dad were not there.  It would be a way for the family to understand that life changes and we all have to learn to roll with the flow.

 

Though John and Sarah were much older now and in college, they could not help themselves.  It was a very emotional time for them.  They remembered how they would get out of the car and run to the door to see Grandmother and Granddaddy waiting for them.

 

Steve considered that it might be tough for the kids at first and it was the first time they went back alone after the funeral.  They both grabbed each other when they realized that things had changed.

 

“But now,” he thought, “it seems it has become a place of therapy for everyone.  They talked about what they used to do here and what Grandmother and Granddaddy used to do for them.”

 

“All the happy thoughts and times became the order of the day.”  This is what Steve wanted for them when they assume the control of the home place after their education. 

 

“If I can instill in them,” he thought, “what this place means to them right now, it will be forever be etched in their minds when Sandra and I are gone and they will see that it should remain as a monument to Mom and Dad’s legacy.”

 

And just remembering how much fun John and Sarah used to have going there, made the place a haven for Steve and Sandra.  They could go over, sit and read in the parlor or out on the patio and for that brief time each week; it was the same again.

 

Steve remembered, “When John and Sarah were only 6 or 7; I would notice them sitting on the veranda looking bored.”  His Dad knew they were not interested in hearing about cooking or great food.

 

Walter would ask them, “Y’all want to hear me about the close encounter I had with the Bonnie and Clyde.  They were some mean desperados.”

 

Bonnie Parker and the Clyde Barrow were the leaders of a bank robbing gang.  John and Sarah would jump with excitement.

 

Steve remembered that his Dad told this story every time he could find a listening ear.  John laughingly said, “Yeah, Granddaddy tell it again.”

 

As John got older, he knew that every time, his Granddaddy told it, he always added something to embellish the story.”  They seemed spellbound as Walter would add emphasis to the terror and fear from the outlaws that gripped Lebanon.

 

“Well,” Walter would begin, “Bonnie and Clyde had come into town late in the afternoon on a Thursday in their shiny new car.  That car brought a lot of attention.”

 

He laughed and said, “Most of us did not even know it was Bonnie and Clyde.  Many who had seen them come in were talking about how fast they thought the car might run.  They had no idea it was the notorious Bonnie and Clyde.”

 

“Most agreed that the car could probably outrun all the local ‘moon shiner’s’ cars,” he continued, “Moon shining was the local sport of running illegal whiskey through the Tennessee hills avoiding local law officers.

 

The ‘moon shiners’ avoided the law by outrunning them.  That same sport today is called NASCAR.”

 

Steve’s Dad would go on, “Clyde was dressed in a suit and tie with a fedora hat.  It made him stand out in the crowd.”

 

Describing Bonnie, “She was less inclined to dress up.  That day she had a simple white summer dress open at the neck with a red ribbon around her neck.”

 

Walter now knowing that he had their attention, “Clyde laughed and sat on the fenders of that car — proud to show it off and bragging about its speed.”

 

He said, “Bonnie sat in the car filing her finger nails and smoking a cigarette.  As the crowd began to dwindle, Bonnie and Clyde left for the evening to go to Nashville for a night of fun.”

 

Walter then would lower his voice for emphasis and repeat, “The next morning, I was opening the door to the bank, when up drives this car just ‘swirling in the dust’ from the street.  We didn’t have asphalt or concrete streets back then – they were all dirt.”

 

His Dad would lift his tempo and shout excitedly, “Out jumped a man from the back seat on one side of the car and another on the other side before the car ever stopped rolling.  They both had some kind of long guns and were shouting for me to open the door and get out of the way!”

 

“Clyde, who was driving, stopped the car and came out dressed in that his suit and tie with that fedora hat.  He did not even try to disguise himself or Bonnie for that matter,” Walter would declare making John and Sarah’s eyes wide open..

 

“Clyde ran through the door pushing me inside as these two other men came to the front door and watched.  They were the lookouts.”

 

Bonnie ran in with a big bag,” excitedly he continued.  “I was told to open the safe.”

 

Then his Dad, noticing that John and Sarah were listening to his every word, said, “I was so nervous that my hand was shaking.  It was hard to open the safe.”

 

  Moving on with the excitement of a true story teller, Walter shouted, “Clyde hit at me toward my head with the butt of his gun, but missed.  He landed the blow on my left shoulder.  The pain shot through my left shoulder to my rib cage.”

 

“He said that if I did not get that safe open, he would kill me.  I was scared to death that he might just drop that if I could not get it opened.”

 

Steve remembered his Dad leaned back more relaxed now and said, “I whirled that combination lock back and forth and it stopped right where it was supposed to and the door opened.”

 

He would finish the story, “They swooped in and just swept all the money off the shelf right into the bag that Bonnie had.  Then as quick as they had come in they went out.”

 

He concluded, “I ran to the door and saw them driving off with the fellows in the rear firing their guns up in the air as they drove off.  They had gotten away with over $10,000 dollars.”

 

His Dad always finished with a moral to the story, “We never saw them after that, but I did hear that two of them got killed up in Indiana later that year,” exclaimed Walter.

 

“Later we heard that Bonnie and Clyde got killed the next year down in Louisiana.  That took care of the Bonnie and Clyde gang.  But I want you to know that I was scared to death as they robbed me that morning, he remembered.”

 

Steve’s Dad would then would close out the story with a warning, “Kids, I want you to know that robbing a bank is never good business and that you can get killed as they did for doing it.”

 

John, totally enmeshed in the story, would always come back at the end as he did the first time he heard it when he was only 7, “Granddaddy, you do not have to worry.  If I rob banks when I get old, I will not kill you either!”

 

Everyone always enjoyed the story as if it was the first time they had heard it.  His Dad had a way of making even the stories everyone knew better.

 

When Steve shred this with John the first weekend after the funeral, John laughed that as a young boy, he had missed the point of the story.  Steve joined the laughter thinking, “How great this is just sitting around remembering Mom and Dad and the good ole days.”

 

Steve was assured that there would be other times he could tell the story as his Dad told it, but never with the same enthusiasm that his Dad could muster.  But if it were John or Sarah’s kids – they would enjoy it as much as John and Sarah had many times.

 

Sitting and looking out across the front lawn, it was as if Mom and Dad were hustling about.  The kids were young and enjoyed being under foot.  The solemn silence spelled a different chorus to the wrong song on this Sunday afternoon, however.

 

It was pleasant though.  Quiet and comforting all in the same package.  Steve used to wonder why Sam never came over on the weekends.  “Sure he had Joan.  And Joan had all her activities but to not see Mom and Dad?”

 

Sam had bought a wild motorcycle.  Folks had been talking about his riding it around town.  “I, for one, was sure,” thought Steve, “Sam must be going back into his second childhood.”

 

“Maybe Mom had kept herd on him growing up and would not let him buy one.  Joan, on the other hand, could not keep him from doing it, so now … well he has one,” Steve laughed at his brother’s senility.

 

Junior did not come around the home place at all.  He spent his weekends renting tractors, bull dozers, and playing with his land by the city park.  Even though the probate was not yet final, no one saw any problems with him working the lot.

 

So Junior just automatically assumed ownership and set about to see what he could do with the lot.  “Folks were wondering what he was going to build, but I don’t think he had a plan.  He just pushed dirt from here to there and then back again,” thought Steve.

 

He put the paper down and turned to Sandra.  Steve asked, “What are you reading about?”

 

She replied, “Nothing, just reading.  They are having a fundraiser on the town square.  They’re selling BBQ plates with all the fixings or so they say.  We ought to consider buying some for tonight.”

 

She confessed to him, “I don’t have a thing to cook in the house and you might just want to eat.  It will be good for the community for us to come by and help support the family with burial expenses for their loved one.”

 

“Seems there is a lot of that going around,” contemplated Sandra, “People getting killed or dying and their families cannot afford to have them buried.”

 

She continued, “That’s got to be sad and embarrassing for the family.  It is tough to have to experience that before the whole community.”

 

Steve answered, “Yeah, we have done numerous loans for families over the years to help them bury their loved ones.  Loans you never hear about.  In most cases people probably could not even get a loan if they tried.  We just did it knowing it was probably a loss to the bank.”

 

Steve explained, “Pace & Pace used to send people to us all the time to help.  We worked out a plan to back their play while letting Pace be the bearer of the loan.”

 

“Pace has a certain amount of leverage we do not have.  It is kind of an unwritten rule, “You don’t pay, you don’t get the next one down,” Steve explained smiling. 

 

Sandra was shocked, “You don’t mean that.  They would actually do that?”

 

Steve replied, “No, but most people don’t know that and they accept the unwritten rule – get the debt paid off so that the next family member who dies will be buried.”

 

Steve detailed, “As a bank our community good will would be eaten alive if we tried to foreclose or keep someone from being buried because of an unpaid funeral debt.  Can you see us as a bank involved with that – oh no – and that is why we back Pace as they work with the family.”

 

He continued, “It makes them the bad guys.  We skate by with the proceeds from the loan.”

 

“You do understand that there are some things about banking that you don’t ever want to discuss with others,” Steve laughed continuing, “It is just how some business is conducted.”

 

Steve shared, “We want to help all families.  We can help everyone if we follow the rules to make sure it is a win win for everyone including the family.”

 

He explained, “Before we started doing it this way, we suffered several loans that defaulted, but by going through Pace & Pace, the loan default ratio has dropped to zero and everyone is happy.”

 

“Pace performs the service; makes the loan with the family; brings it to us; we factor the invoice; the family gets a proper send off for their loved one; and the bank gets its money through Pace being the bad guy should there be a bad guy” alluded Steve.

 

He agreed concerning the BBQ, “It is a great idea to go by and pick up some BBQ though.  The Hooker boys do the BBQing and they are great cooks.”

 

 

At the end of the month, Warner completed the probate and the assets were disbursed by the courts.  He secured the final disposition of all the documents and assets for the family.

 

The meeting was set up in the bank since the primary principles were already at the bank.  Sam, Steve, and Junior along with their wives.  Sandra attended with Steve.

 

The liquid cash was divided between Sam and Steve with cashier checks.  The bank stock then was divided 29% to Sam and Joan, 29% to Steve and Sandra, 14% to Junior, and 28% divided equally between John and Sarah.

 

Warner, as executor of the will, prepared all the documentation including Power of Attorney agreements for Sam, Steve, and Junior to be signed off by their wives.

 

Steve had secured Power of Attorney agreements for John and Sarah when they were in for the funeral.  They did not need to be there.  With the internet, Junior set up a Skype hook-up with John and Sarah at their respective schools.

 

Junior, of course, signed for himself.  He was pleased that finally the property would be his to do with as he pleased.

 

Steve turned his documentation over to Warner to finalize for the title company on behalf of John and Sarah while Junior said that he would handle his property on his own.

 

Steve also gave his stock certificates along with Sandra’s, John and Sarah’s certificates to Warner for safe keeping in his office.  He thought it better to keep important documents in separate locations.

 

Sam had a safety deposit box as did Junior and they placed their stock certificates in their respective safety boxes there at the bank.

 

The will was complete – the division of the estate of Walter and Odessa Johnson was complete.  However, the distribution of the assets in no way diminished the presence of Walter and Dessie in the minds of the family.

 

Steve was relieved that it was over.  Now they could get on with the business of the bank and their families.  Any issues thought to exist were now null and void.

 

Turning to Sam and Junior, he asked, “Now that we have finalized the estate, am I to assume that both of you will continue working with the bank as we have since Mom and Dad lost their lives?”

 

He explained, “I’d like to think that the loss of Mom and Dad – though tragic – was only a setback in the road for the family and that we can now move forward.”

 

He continued, “I want to know that we are now a smooth functioning entity both as a family and as a working family bank?  It is important to the community.”

 

Sam spoke up and declared, “I have nowhere I want to go.  I am getting up in years.  I do have a bucket list of things that I would like to do before I pass on, but for the moment, I see no change.”

 

He pointed out, “Plus I just completed one of my biggest accomplishments with the bank with the re-branding.  It has been a great positive incentive for Lebanon.”

 

Junior spoke up and said, “Hey, this is all I know.  Everything I know about banking has come from Granddaddy, Dad, and you, Uncle Steve.”

 

“I don’t have the years of experience that Dad has but we have just come through a horrific changeover with the loss of Granddaddy and Grandmother and we made it.  It seems to me that we have all adjusted,” he concluded.

 

Steve was glad to hear their loyalty to the bank and looked forward to working with them.  “Well,” acknowledged Steve, “we have a new bank; a new face-lift; and thanks to Sam we are still getting comments from everyone who loves the ambiance generated.”

 

Turning to Warner, Steve said, “Warner, does this takes care of everything we need to sign?  If so then we are done with the legal stuff.  Glad to get that out of the way.”

 

Warner exclaimed, “Yes, I have everything I need and I should get back to you within the month with the proper deeds for the home place.  You know title companies and the time they need to process titles.”

 

Warner addressed Sam and Junior, “If there is anything I can do for you to help in any way, feel free to call on me.  Thank all of you for your cooperation.  I will let myself out.”

 

Steve turning back to Sam and Junior, “I have nothing else new this morning.  Y’all have anything?”

 

They waved their hands as if to say, “Nothing.”  Both Sam and Junior stood to leave. 

 

Steve said then, “I guess that’s that.  Have fun making money this morning.”

 

Sam and Junior turned and left the office along with their wives.  Joan, and June, left the bank and returned to their homes.

 

Sandra told Steve, “I have a few errands to run.  I’ll see you at home this evening.”

 

Sam and Junior went immediately to get a cup of coffee.  As they were drinking their coffee, they both looked knowingly at each other, but in no way were they going to discuss anything at that point.

 

With the 6 months they had set for themselves; they knew the clock was ticking.  Both wanted the best for the bank, but also for themselves down the road as well.

 

Junior was a bit conflicted.  He knew he had applied to the State Banking Commission for a new bank permit.  But it had not been approved.

 

He had been told it might take 6 months to get it through.  Junior thought, “I don’t want to bring it up until I know something for sure.  Otherwise, I will get a lot of people upset and maybe over nothing.”

 

Steve sat down at his desk and leaned back with a sigh.  “It is over.  Everything was disbursed; everyone seemed pleased; documents were signed; and the day is young,” he thought.

 

Sherry came in with a cup of coffee and a doughnut for him.  Steve thanked her.  “Sherry, this cup of coffee and this doughnut is going to taste better this morning than anything I have had in a long time especially since the passing of Mom and Dad.”

 

Steve continued, “Everything on Mom and Dad’s estate is now settled.  The probate is complete and Sam and Junior have signed off on everything.  Just between you, me, and the fence post, I now have control of 57% of the bank stock and whether the bank fails or succeeds, I now own it.  It’s on me.”

 

Sherry replied, “Steve, you are just like your dad – you will do well.  I have been here for over 3 decades and worked for you for the last 20 years.  If anyone can keep this bank together it will be you.”

 

Steve came back, “Sherry, you know and I know I would be nowhere if you did not keep me straight.  In the 20 years you have been with me, I would say that you are responsible for all that I have accomplished.  If it had not been for you – who knows?””

 

Sherry blushed, “Steve, thank you, but I know better.  I will just leave it there.  Anything you need right now?”

 

Steve got up from his desk and answered, “No, just keep watch on the loan applications in the event something looks a bit stretched or strange.  Junior is good but he pushes the envelope.”

 

Sherry leaving the office declared, “Will do.  Oh, here comes Mayor Jacobs.”

 

Steve saw Mayor Jacobs come in and left the office to get the mayor a cup of coffee.  Always good to speak to the mayor.

 

On the way home that evening from the bank, Steve noticed that Junior’s property seemed to be taking shape for construction.  There were forms and rebar being set for what looked like a parking lot.

 

“That’s strange,” thought Steve.  “Could he get it in shape for development this quick?  He just took possession of it this morning.”

 

“That looks like Extreme Construction equipment out there,” thought Steve.  Up till now, Junior was renting tractors and bulldozers and playing around every weekend when he was not playing golf.  “I’ll have to ask him about it in the morning.” Steve made a mental note to himself.

 

Completing all of the day’s work, Steve left for home around 3 that afternoon.  Sandra met him at the door.  “Well give me all the details,” she inquired, “How did it go after I left?”

 

Walking in the front door, Steve gave her a kiss on the cheek and said bluntly, “Done.  As you know everyone signed off; we got the cash assets; the stock; and the property is divided as Dad wanted.”

 

“Warner is going to take care of the title company for John and Sarah.  Sam and Junior seemed pleased the whole day,” exclaimed Steve.

 

He continued, “Warner is filing the Power of Attorney forms for everybody.  John and Sarah had previously signed off when they were in for Mom and Dad’s funeral.  They can now concentrate on their school work and I will oversee the home place for them.  It is a done deal.”

 

Sandra breathed a sigh of relief, “I just thought that Joan might try to throw a fit prior to everything getting done but when she signed off – that took care of that.  Great.”

 

Steve came back, “By the way have you noticed Junior’s property lately.  He has been playing around with it for a few weekends pushing dirt here and pushing dirt there.”

 

“I thought he was just having fun renting those dozers on the weekend.  But today coming home, I noticed that the lot is taking shape for development,” he explained.

 

Continuing, “And my concern is not because of what he was doing, but Extreme Construction Company had their equipment there too.”

 

He went on, “They were dozing land for parking; laying ground work for what appeared to be a building; and laying curbs for drive way entrances.  Junior definitely has a plan.”

 

Steve continued to share his thoughts with Sandra, “He just took possession of it today and it has not even cleared the title company yet.”

 

“It is not a problem as such as it is his business land.  But I would like to know what he is doing.  I guess if you haven’t heard anything, then I can find out in the morning,” concluded Steve.

 

“One thing about that boy, he is not going to let any grass grow under his feet,” he recounted, “He will turn that property into money somehow.  You remember he would not let Joan change anything up when we met because he wanted that land.”

 

Sandra had their pastor and his wife coming over for dinner that evening and to play 42.  Steve told her, “I better get on back and take a shower.  Gotta wash all this ‘gold dust’ off of me.”

 

As he laughed leaving the room, Sandra scolded him, “Well just be on your best behavior.  It is the pastor and his wife and you don’t want to get upset if you don’t make your bid.”

 

Sandra further explained, “And while I am on the subject, remember, I will do my best so don’t ride me if I do not give you the double you want when you want it.”  She laughed as she knew Steve liked to lead without his double.

 

Sandra loved to talk and not concentrate on dominoes when she played.  To her it was fun to play, but she enjoyed the fellowship much more and she and the pastor’s wife were never at a loss for words.

 

She was afraid Steve might bring up some of the church issues like, “The church was debating on getting new choir robes and there were some who did not want to as they wanted to go the more contemporary route with the music program.”

 

Sandra thought, “A contemporary choir – if you wanted to call it that with a praise team – did not need robes since they just dress casual.  A lot of the churches in the area were doing that and it seemed hymns were on the way out.”

 

Sandra remembered growing up with the hymns; she had learned.  They had given her comfort as she could lean on the promises in times of distress.

 

The contemporary praise songs were changed every week.  She thought to herself, “I bet not one person can sing a praise song that was sung last week because they would not remember it.”

 

See remembered, “The hymn ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ spoke volumes in assurance – not for just one Sunday – but for all the years since it was composed.  How she loved it.”

 

Her thoughts continued, “Maybe I can share with the pastor my thoughts on this tonight.  He could at least consider a blended service with hymns and praise songs.”

 

But then Sandra decided that it might be good to just let it go, “Oh, well so much for this.  We are supposed to have an enjoyable time tonight and if it is not brought up, I might just let it go.  They are going to do what they want to anyway.”

 

Sandra went to the kitchen to check on the food for the evening.  At noon, she had put a pot roast in the crock pot and it smelled delicious.  She hoped that it would be equally delicious when she served it.

 

She checked the refrigerator.  The lemon cream pies she had made that morning were setting up beautifully.  She liked for her cream pies to have a certain amount of substance to them so that they did not run all over the dish when served.  They looked great.

 

The vegetables were ready.  The bread only needed warming and she could do that while serving chips and dips as an appetizer with coffee.

 

Sandra looked forward to an enjoyable evening, “I just hope that Steve can keep himself in check. He is so competitive.”

 

The door bell rang.  Steve was coming down the hall and said that he would get the door.

 

She heard Steve greet the pastor and his wife.  “Let the games begin,” she thought.

 

 

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