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Chapter VI - A Depression Story

The depression was deepening and my husband had been cut to only three days of work a week. We were feeling the pinch. We were trying to sell all of our chickens so we were pleased when a man we knew slightly brought some people to buy some chickens. It seemed that he wanted to help us. The following week the same men came to buy more chickens. We treated them cordially because they had traveled from Newark to buy them. On the third week one of the men suggested to us that we should have some protection because we were in business during times that were hard. He told us that he had a very good watchdog that he would bring next week. I said, "I really do not need a dog."

"Yes, you do," he insisted.

The following week the dog came. He was a fierce looking animal and I did not want to keep him. When I told the men how I felt about this animal they gave me a mean look. One of the men said, "The dog costs $100.00."

"I do not have that kind of money," I replied.

He said, "You can pay us with the chickens."

I still did not want the dog but my husband said to give it a try. The men left.

I turned to my husband and demanded, "Nicola, why did you say that? You know that business is bad and we do not need a dog to watch a bad business!"

"Maria," he said, "we had to take the dog. Those men meant to harm us if we didn't."

The following days were one big nightmare. The dog was huge and barked continuously. I was afraid to feed him because he would jump against a fence and growl at me. My children were afraid. I was afraid of him too. I contacted the men and told them we were all scared of the dog. He said, "You have to keep it. I have my men to feed."

I answered, "That is your problem, not mine. I have nine children to feed and not many chickens to sell because the business does not pay for the food they eat. If I cannot feed my children I surely can't feed the huge dog!"

They came and took the dog with them and we never saw them again.

Right after this incident I received a call from our lawyer and he asked me if we were thinking of selling our place. I told him I would let him know after I talked with my husband. Nicola and I reviewed the situation and decided that if we could get a good price we would sell. We loved this place very much. After all, it was our dream house and would be hard to part with but it was hard to meet the payments. Finally, we called the lawyer and told him we would sell our place if the price were right. Three men and two women came to see the place. They looked at the house, the land, and the chicken coop. Sitting on our chairs, my husband and I explained to them how fertile the land was. The grapes were bearing in abundance. They told us they were not interested in the fertility of the land. The fresh air was what they really liked. When they left we had the impression that they liked the place and were interested. At that point human nature played a trick on us. My husband and I really did not want to part with our property. The next day we had no word concerning the deal. In fact several days passed without hearing from the lawyer. Nicola and I were not experienced in real estate and we did not know how deals were made, but we decided to tell the lawyer, if he called, that we would sell for $14,000. This was a fair price for a ten-room house with four acres of land. It also had 240 feet frontage and running city water.

Our lawyer did call and told us the people from Brooklyn were interested. The only drawback was that they would only pay $12,000. My husband and I considered the offer as too low and told the lawyer we could not sell for that price. A couple of days later the lawyer called my husband at his place of work and wanted to meet him. He had gotten $500 more from the people. It was still too low and we decided not to sell.

That night I could not sleep. I began to assess our situation. We still owed money for the chicken feed and we had no more chickens now. What my husband was bringing home was not sufficient to live on. My attachment to the beautiful house and precious land was strong but my common sense told me that the best thing to do was to sell. The next morning, after a sleepless night, I told Nicola about my fears and told him I thought it was best for us to take the people's offer. He seemed to agree with me and told me he would call the lawyer and tell him to close the deal. Although I did not know where we would live, I felt that we had made the right decision. That night Nicola came home late from work. The first thing I asked him was about the deal. He said that when he got to the lawyer's office he decided to ask for $500 more. The lawyer said that his client would not pay more and that we would lose the place. I became worried about the decision he had made. I told him to rescind his decision and call the lawyer from the phone at the schoolhouse. He had taken a job there, which consisted of cleaning the two rooms and tending the furnace. This supplemented our income. I wanted him to call and tell the lawyer to proceed with the deal at his clients' price but Nicola did not call. He thought we might manage to pull out of our difficulties even if we did not sell.

We later learned that there might have been some connection between the people that wanted to sell us protection and the people who wanted to buy our place. They wanted to install an alcoholic still in our chicken coop!

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Readers Comments:
bess38555    crossville Saturday, January 25 2003, 02:58 pm
I think you guys made the right the decision. The people who were trying to sell you protection only were trying to see how the dog would work out to let them know of law or anyone else that might be around at the wrong time.They wanted to let you guys try the dog first.

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