· Introduction to Topsoil ·
A friend of mine shared one of her concerns by posting it on Facebook. Here’s a portion of that post:
“The ditches are being dug out along the county road by our house, and I’m seeing many truckloads of soil being trucked away to who-knows-where. Things like this should probably not bother me, but I feel sorry for the farmers of the adjacent fields who lost all that topsoil and will never see it again.”
After additional interactive posts by other people on the subject of erosion, about who owns the topsoil, and questions about if it would be against the law for a farmer to recover the soil, I started a fictional story. Here’s my introduction.
Deputy Tom Jennings Meets Rosannah Yoder
“How can this be happening to me?” thought Rosannah.
Only a few hours earlier Adam, her husband, had remarked, “We sure had a gully washer overnight!”
“How are my flowers?” she had asked, concerned about filling some business orders prior to the upcoming holiday.
“Those in bloom took a beating but the others may come around with a break in the weather,” he had replied. Then he added, the fierce storm had done more than damage her flowers; a corner of their new garden had suffered a loss of soil. Some of it had flowed into the nearby ditch.
Adam had left for town on the tractor, pulling a horse trailer, taking some pigs and chickens to the sale barn in Prairie Grove.
As soon as he left, Rosannah got to work. She knew how to use a shovel and a wheel barrow, and she had the muscles to prove it. After checking her flowers, Rosannah started collecting the garden’s rich topsoil from the county ditch. With each trip of heavy wet soil she strained to control the wheel barrow, especially when the wheel slid off the board path that she had laid down on the saturated ground.
On every wheel barrow trip, Rosannah promised herself that she would plant additional grass in order to prevent damaging erosion from future gully washers. As she turned back towards the ditch, she saw a county patrol car slowing down with its turn signal blinking, indicating the vehicle was preparing to enter her driveway. The side of the vehicle identified it as a “K-9 Unit.” Rosannah ignored the driver but observed the dog in the rear seat, a German shepherd.
She touched her right cheek.
Rosannah remembered growing up with occasional brief visits from deputy sheriffs. Her mouth dry, she wet her lips and swallowed, praying that God’s will included a safe Adam, one who hadn’t been in an accident. Then she considered her husband’s family in Pennsylvania. Had there been a death? Was the deputy here for a death notification? She almost laughed. Those days were over. Access to cell phones had changed the world.
The deputy was an extra-large man with a ready smile. His grin revealed a lot. Rosannah figured he wasn’t the bearer of bad news.
The obese officer struggled to dislodge himself from the car. For a minute, it appeared the steering wheel and safety belt would prevent him from ever exiting his vehicle, but winded, he finally pulled himself out. The canine stared at her and lifted his nose toward the partially open side-window, but he remained inside.
“Hello ma’am, I’m Deputy Tom Jennings with the Cottonwood County Sheriff’s Office.”
“Hello, sir, I’m Rosannah Yoder with the Old Order Amish.”
“Nice to meet you. Looks like you’ve got some work ahead of you,” said Jennings, observing the nearby mudslide.
Rosannah nodded but waited to learn why she was being visited by law enforcement.
“I’m here because I’m responding to a 911 call, said Jennings. “A county employee called the dispatcher and told her that there was a theft in progress, that someone was stealing dirt from this location.”
“I haven’t seen anyone stealing dirt around here,” replied Rosannah. “Did the dispatcher get a description of the vehicle?” she asked.
“The description was an attractive Amish woman wearing a dark blue dress.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Rosannah. “Me? . . . but I’m not stealing anything,” she replied. “May I call my husband? He’s in town.”
“Yes, sure, that’s fine with me, but I still need to talk with you. I need more information for my report. Would you like to use my phone?”
Deputy Jennings got his phone out and gave it a command: “Call Miller’s Sale Barn, Prairie Grove, Kansas.”
A minute later, once her husband was on the phone, he watched as Rosannah Yoder, an Amish woman wearing a dark-blue dress and a white head covering, both decorated with splashes of dried dirt, walked in her muddy tennis shoes towards the enclosed front porch. Jennings waited, already back in his SUV, working on his computerized report.
Rosannah’s call to Adam was brief. She explained that a deputy sheriff—polite enough—was questioning her about taking “dirt” out of the ditch. Adam told her there was nothing to worry about; her interaction with the sheriff would not be a problem; it was just a cultural misunderstanding.
“Adam,” Rosannah said, “. . . one more thing . . . he’s got a police dog with him. It’s in the rear seat of the car. It’s a German shepherd.”
“That’s all in the past,” Adam assured his wife.
Cottonwood County Deputy Tom Jennings had better things to do. He knew this was a waste of his time but he also knew he couldn’t ignore the call, especially from a county employee of the Road and Bridge Department. If the employee was concerned enough to contact the department, then there would most-likely be a follow-up call inquiring about how the investigation was handled.
Jennings planned to get some answers and return to the road. He didn’t want to make a federal case out of this call, but he also had to be conscientious about the work. He was trying to cover his big butt from any potential trouble from his psychotic supervisors. He wasn’t paranoid, but they’d been nitpicking his reports lately. The sergeants were on his case and he didn’t want to lose his work assignment with his partner, Yackel Von Baerenzwinger, the department’s K-9.
With one eye on the police car and the other on the sheriff, Rosannah explained: “The heavy rain caused erosion of our garden’s topsoil. I was just repairing the damage by collecting our soil.”
“Yes, I see that,” said Jennings, as he took some additional photos with a departmental camera, not his personal cell phone. “I don’t see anything wrong with you recovering your dirt. I’m just recording information for my report.”
“I don’t understand why you’re making a report if there’s nothing wrong,” replied Rosannah.
Jennings smiled and nodded.
Rosannah waited. Despite this obese, uniformed deputy sheriff, wearing a holstered gun, and a military mustache, she wasn’t frightened or intimidated by him, just confused. His dog was another matter.
“Sometimes we gather information that we don’t really think is necessary, but it’s collected because it might be important later,” he said.
Rosannah was listening. She was really trying to understand. Did he just say that he was collecting information he didn’t need? She waited for a better explanation.
Jennings tried again to make sense out of something that was nonsensical. “As officers, we’re given discretion to make decisions on our own. If I’d been driving by and observed you collecting dirt out of your ditch, I would have smiled and waved as I drove by. But when the public calls in to report something they think is suspicious, we need to learn what’s going on, in case of a follow-up call.”
Rosannah still didn’t comprehend. This was English, not Amish thinking. She had no choice but to cooperate. Who would call the Sheriff’s Office about her recovering God’s topsoil? Who would think this was suspicious? And when would her mother and father return with her children?
To be continued.
Until next time, happy writing and reading!