Tax Time Was ‘Stay Away From Dad’ Time
I can see it like it was yesterday.
He was sitting by the metal kitchen table in the little kitchen in that ramshackle farmhouse just a wee bit south of Leota, Minnesota. It was 80 acres of rented farmland, a '59 Chevy Biscayne sharing the farmyard with a few chickens and a goat roaming around scrounging for free food. The dog paid them no mind. The pigs were in the hog house, those 7 cows were in the rundown barn staying out of the cold Gopher State wind and LBJ was in the White House.
In front of him on the table was...well, kind of a mess. Big papers, little papers, folded papers, scrunched papers, papers that were pretty much undecipherable. Scraps here, tidbits there, and a hard plastic adding machine in the middle. A brown bag on the floor by his feet with...more papers. A pen in his hand, and a lukewarm half cup of coffee to the side.
It was tax time on the farm.
And I, of course, innocently would ask the one question that, above all others, he did not want to hear.
What'er ya doin'?
What he was doing was taxes.
I wasn't sure exactly what 'taxes' were, but I knew this. Tax time was 'stay away from dad' time. To put it mildly, he wasn't a happy camper that night (or nights, as it turned out).
It wasn't that he was a rich man who had an extremely complicated tax situation. No, he was more of a regular guy that had, well, an extremely complicated tax situation apparently.
I don't know all the particulars, just that he and mom rented 80 acres, she was a typical farm housewife in the day, and he did a bunch of different things through the years. Drove a rendering truck. Dug wells. Had a feed grinder. Sold Golden Sun Feed. With his 7th grade education, he was (like a lot of guys back in the day) what you might call a Jack of All Trades...or a Marvin of all trades.
But, back to tax time. It seems he would keep pretty much all his receipts through the year. It was just, well, he didn't exactly keep them in order...or in one place. And so that pile of stuff on the table were the receipts. At least most of it. OK, at least some of it.
And so it was adding this and subtracting that (I can still hear the clicking/clacking of that little adding machine), moving this and rearranging that. All the while Mom making sure I was anywhere except in the kitchen.
And the final result?
Well, as I can best recall, he would put everything together, bring it to Pete (he was the local guy that knew how this whole tax thing worked) and have him put the finishing touches on it. Or maybe sort it all out and put it in the proper order. I didn't ask.
Oh, and I don't recall any kind of 'refund', at least not of any size.