It was a beautiful autumn morning in Central California in 1936. The rays of the sun began to cast a beautiful light on the fruit trees, which were beginning to bear their bounty.
Robert Hayes went out to his mailbox to fetch the morning paper. Robert loved the mornings, even though his love of the morning rarely showed through his usual grumpiness. This was his time of the day to read and catch up with the events of the world while his wife fixed his breakfast. Robert slowly sat down on his rocking chair stationed on the front porch of his modest home. The quiet morning was disrupted by the sound of a truck making its way down his driveway.
The Model-A pickup came to a stop near the front porch where Hayes was sitting. Over the top of his paper, he could see the truck was loaded down with furniture. Hayes could see several sets of eyes peering at him from behind the furniture stacked on every available inch of this old Ford.
“Good morning! I'm sorry to bother you sir. I wonder if you could spare some water. My radiator has run dry.” The man sitting on his front porch looked up from his newspaper and he looked the man up and down. “The well is right over there, help yourself.” he said with a grumble.
“Thank ya sir., My name is Chester, my friends call me Chet.” Chet took his bucket to the well and pumped it full of water. “I do appreciate your kindness.” The man on the porch replied with a surly grunt. Chet tried to strike up a friendly conversation. “Beautiful place you have here sir, everything is so green. It's been a long time since we seen such lush ground and those beautiful fruit trees.” Hayes grunted his agreement.
Chester swallowed hard “I hate to ask you sir but are you hiring fruit pickers? My family and I are good workers and we could sure use the money. We ain't asking for a handout. We work for everything we get.”
Hayes not bothering to look up from the paper said “Nope! We got everyone we need. Ain't hiring.” Chester’s heart began to beat faster. After clearing his throat the nervousness in his voice made it crack as he began to say “Are you sure Brother? My family and I are awfully hungry and we are nearly out of money. We could sure use the work.”
The redness in Hayes’s face began to show as he, in one motion threw his paper to the floor of the porch and he rose from his chair. “You damn Okies!” Hayes said in an angry tone of voice “You damn Okies ruin your ground, taking every single time of it growing wheat, not caring for the land you own and when the winds come and blows your soil to kingdom come you high tail it out of there!” Hayes tirade continued “I don't know if you are aware of this mister but the rest of the country is in a depression too. The local folk here are barely making it too and they need jobs too! You give me one good reason why I should turn away one of my neighbors and give their jobs to you and your brood? Then, to add insult to injury you have the unmitigated Gaul to call me your Brother! Mister I've never laid eyes on your my whole life and you think you can come in here and claim to be my family? The nerve you got!”
Chester lowered his head. There was silence for a second as Chester looked Hayes in the eyes, which were red with anger. “I'm sorry sir. I didn't mean to insult you.” As Chester’s shaking hands began to make a sign. “I seen the ring you are wearing” Chester said in a quiet, nervous voice. “I'm not sure how things are done here in California but back in Oklahoma this here is the way we signal distress. Theres some words that go with it too.”
Hayes face showed his surprise. “Are you telling me you are a Freemason?” Chester slowly nodded his head. “Yes sir, I am a Past Master and now former Treasurer of Guymon lodge 335 in Guymon, Oklahoma.“
Chet continued “Before the devil winds started I was an accountant. I had practiced for many years. I kept the books and did the taxes for most of the farmers and the businesses in Texas County. Ten years ago business was booming and all of us were doing pretty well when the wheat prices were high. We had a strong lodge and luckily we built up a large charity fund."
“When the stock market crashed and the winds came, our world was turned upside down. We tried to take care of each other and we did pretty well for several years. We made sure everyone had food and folks could keep their houses. We had hoped God would take pity on us and stop the winds but sadly, it wasn't meant to be. Banks began to foreclose on all the farmers and I lost my house. Eventually everyone's money ran out. We tried to hold out but we became nearly destitute. I traded our family sedan for this pickup and we took what little money we had left to join everyone else here in California.”
Chester lowered his head “I know eventually things will work out. Myself and my family have faith in the Grand Architect of the Universe. He will deliver us to the promised land. Thank you for the water sir. As soon as I get this water into the radiator we will be on our way” Chester turned around and began to walk back to his truck.
Hayes stood in his place. The redness of his face in anger began to be replaced with the redness of embarrassment. “Hang on. Stop right there brother.” Hayes lowered his head and began to talk in a hushed tone. “I need to apologize to you. Since the economy crashed we have had all kinds of hobos, sharpies and other sorts pull in that driveway. Everyone of them begged for a handout or money. I keep hearing on the radio all about you Okies coming in here trying to take jobs away from local folks. “ Hayes continued while gazing at his boots “Being a Mason I should understand about charity more than others. There was one point I found myself in a penniless, destitute situation."
The old man looked at Chester, a tear began to form in the corners of his eyes. “Tell you what. Pull your truck over by the barn and if you like set up camp. If you were just a typical okie with no skills other than farming I probably could help you but I just happen to know the local accountant in town, he is a member of my lodge. He is elderly and has been considering retirement but has been reluctant because there isn't anyone to take his place. If you can prove to him you know what you are talking about he might take you on as a partner and maybe eventually you could own the place. I'll also take you to lodge if you can work your way in. You get that truck settled and bring the youngins and your wife in the house. I'm sure the misses will be happy to fry y'all up some bacon and eggs. She might even have some biscuits. Come to think of it she has been wanting a housekeeper and a cook. Do you think your wife would want the job.”
Hayes actually smiled and began to laugh “A man of good judgment! I think you are going to do fine here! Get that truck pulled over and come on inside!”