The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Caleb and Henry - In a Taxing Situation

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1985

Issue: April, 1985

"Caleb, you don't mean to tell me that you ain't sent in your taxes yet! It's April 14th and they gotta be postmarked by tomorrow at the latest." Tax time always brought out the worst in Caleb. He always put it off til the very last minute and this year was no exception. This year he was especially cranky because of all the talk about taxing socitaxesal security.

"Hit just ain't right, Henry. I give my country everything a man ought to. You'd think by the time a man reached my age they'd let him alone. I fought in France in the Big War. I bought War Bonds. I've kept up my end of every patriotic duty, but a man has to draw the line somewhere. And last year was the straw that broke the camel's back, Henry," fumed Caleb. "Now I don't care what that fancy-dan tax man says, when a farmer loses a shoat, hit's a loss. Anybody ought to know that's one less pig that'll be a hog and a heap more'n a dollar less that'll be coming back from the market. Why, I put it down right there on their danged old tax form where it said business losses, just like it said to do, but no-sir-ee! They said that shoat weren't a loss.

They must have sent me a dozen letters about it," Caleb rumbled on. "Bet they spent over ten dollars trying to get $2.24 more outta me. You know yourself, Henry, that shoat was worth $35.00 if'n he was worth a penny! And them people in Washington wonder why they can't balance a budget! I could tell 'em right quick. If a shoat dies and you can't eat 'em cause he was sick, and you can't find nobody what wants to buy a dead sick shoat, then any danged fool knows you've lost money. That's the trouble with them blasted government pencil-pushers, Henry. They can't tell the difference 'tween losing money and making it."

"But Caleb, you got to file your taxes." Henry was beginning to frown with worry. He knew just how stubborn Caleb could get.

"Oh, yeah? What they gonna do with an old codger like me? Lock me up? Sell my farm out from under me?" Caleb sat back in his rocking chair and folded his arms firmly across his chest.

Henry didn't say another word, but went straight to the telephone and called Caleb's son, who also happened to be an accountant.

It was late afternoon when Caleb's son drove into the yard. After greeting his father and fixing himself a cup of coffee, he took a deep breath and began, "Dad, about your taxes...."

Caleb gave Henry a spiteful look. "You just had to tattle, didn't you Henry?"

"I just thought Tom here might talk some sense into you."

"Dad", Tom began again, "Just get me your forms and I'll fill them out for you."

Wouldn't be no harm in that, would it Caleb?" Henry asked.

"Do what you wish, but I ain't gonna sign." Caleb snapped back.

It didn't take Tom long to fill out the forms. Caleb's taxes were fairly simple. Because of several deductions, Caleb was actually going to get some money back due to helping Harvey Wilson part time over at his store last summer.

After a lot of discussion, Caleb was finally persuaded to sign. Henry quickly put the paper in an envelope and gave it to Tom to mail on his way home. Just in case Caleb changed his mind, Henry wanted it mailed as soon as possible.

Caleb and Henry stood on the porch and waved goodbye as Tom drove out of the yard. Henry sighed with relief. As they were turning to go back inside, Caleb said, "I wonder if they'll deduct that $2.24?"

"Caleb, you mean you never paid it?" The thought had never crossed Henry's straight and honest mind before.

Caleb just chuckled and said, "What do you think?"