It was a normal morning for Tim. As he finished feeding cattle, a hydraulic hose broke underneath the cab of his tractor. Tim was sure that when they built the tractor it was the first hose hooked up, making it nearly impossible to repair. It would take the hands of a 10-year-old and the strength of a gorilla to reach into the tight spot.
The hose repair was just one more frustrating thing for Tim to deal with.
His patience had grown shorter and shorter over the last 10 months. His cattle and hog operation had taken a huge financial beating. His formerly friendly banker had become more and more concerned. Their last few meetings did not go well.
Tim knew he was in trouble. He needed more than $1.5 million to continue, but none of the lenders he visited seemed interested in loaning him the money.
As things tightened up financially, the stress in his home also increased. His wife seemed more distant, and his children seemed to annoy him with their demands on his time and money. He felt more and more like a caged animal awaiting his fate.
Even with the shop doors closed, Tim could hear the sound of a pickup as it drove into the gravel yard and parked outside the door. Through the window, Tim could see a yellow truck with the letters “LEC” in red on the door. The shop door opened and a middle-aged man walked around the side of the tractor. The man was well groomed and his hands looked as if he had never done a hard day’s labor.
Tim eventually worked his arms out of the hydraulic hose mess and wiped his hands off.
“What can I do for you?” he asked.
The man replied that he was from the Life Exchange Company and had been sent there to help Tim out.
Tim said, “I don’t need any more life insurance, my life is as messed up as it could be.”
The man said he wasn’t selling life insurance, but he had something he was sure Tim would be interested in.
Tim looked at him quizzically and told him he didn’t have a dollar to spend on anything, especially not on some newfangled insurance program.
Tim said, “Unless you have $1.5 million in your pocket, I don’t think you’ll be of any use to me.”
Much to Tim’s surprise, the man replied, “Just don’t be too hasty here. I might have that much money to give you.”
The man now had Tim’s full attention.
The man explained that the Life Exchange Company was an old company that had been around for a long time. He handed Tim a business card with the LEC logo and lightning bars on both sides.
Tim examined the card carefully and said, “I’ve never heard of you.”
“I am not surprised,” said the man. “Usually only people with financial problems like yours are interested in what we have to offer.”
“So what exactly are you selling?” Tim asked.
The man said he had solutions to all of Tim’s problems. The company takes the things people don’t like or want any more and trade or exchange them for something they find more appealing. Tim shook his head in disbelief.
The man asked Tim what he was so unhappy about. Tim explained how he was tired of all his debt. He was tired of the stress, and he was tired of all the bickering that went on in his family.
“What is it that you want?” the man asked Tim.
Tim said he wanted to be like his neighbor Joe. Joe has lots of money and no troubles. He doesn’t worry about debt or providing for his family.
“I believe something can be arranged,” said the man.
Tim watched the man pull out some papers from inside his coat pocket and lay them on the workbench. It was a simple contract that would get rid of Tim’s problems if he agreed to trade places with Joe. All he had to do was sign his name at the bottom of the page.
Tim was reluctant to sign papers without his lawyer seeing them first. The man smiled and said, “OK, I’ll tell you what we will do. We will let you have a test run. Tomorrow morning from six to noon we’ll let you trade. And if you’re not happy, you can switch back.”
Tim didn’t feel he had anything to lose, and so he signed the papers. The man smiled, walked out to his truck, and drove down the driveway. Tim stood there feeling a little odd.
That night Tim went to bed thinking about what the man had said.
The next morning at 6 o’clock, Tim opened his eyes. He was still in the same house and in his same bed. Nothing had changed. Tim walked downstairs into the kitchen and saw his wife at the stove. He was about to say good morning to her when she turned around.
“Good morning,” she said, “I’m glad you’re finally up. Are you feeling better?” It had been awhile since Tim’s wife had smiled at him and he wasn’t sure how to respond. She acted as if this was as normal as could be. She talked about the weather and the kids’ program at school that night.
She said she knew Tim had a busy day loading cattle and meeting with the contractors for the new hog building he was putting up. She asked him if they were still planning to eat lunch together in town.
Tim just stood there. He wasn’t sure what to say. Eventually he mumbled something about going to work and walked out of the house.
Tim’s confusion continued outside. The farm was different. His old truck was gone. In its place was a brand-new one. The cattle lots had new fences and a hired man was feeding cattle with a new tractor and feeder wagon.
As he put his hand in his pocket Tim felt the business card the mysterious man had left the day before. He pulled it out and flipped it over several times.
As he walked to the shop, he noticed his left knee started to hurt. His right hip was sore too. He kind of wobbled a little bit as he made his way across the driveway.
Tim knew something was not right and did not enjoy this new pain at all. He was about to open the shop door when his wife called out from the house, “You forgot to take your medicine this morning!”
Not sure what to do, Tim wobbled back to the house.
His wife met him with six pills of various colors and shapes along with a glass of water. Tim began to wonder if he was single-handedly keeping the local pharmacy in business. Not wanting to argue, he quickly downed them all and turned to wobble back to the shop.
As it turned out, Joe was not quite as healthy as Tim thought. He had some form of MS and was in a fair amount of pain every day. Halfway to the shop Tim stopped to take a break. After panting for a few moments, he decided to walk over to the new tractor instead.
As he opened the cab door and prepared to swing himself up, his left leg stopped halfway. Tim stood there looking foolish waiting for his leg to move, but it did not. It became apparent that the hired help was not just a convenience, but a necessity.
Throughout the rest of the morning, Tim’s desire to trade places with Joe decreased. At noon, the yellow truck pulled into the driveway and the same man walked into the shop again. This time Tim met him at the door.
Tim told the man he was no longer interested in the deal. Joe’s life was not the one he was looking for. Tim felt limited in Joe’s situation.
The man smiled and asked if there was something else Tim would trade. Tim thought for a moment and asked the man if he would come back at 5 o’clock. He would be ready then to make another deal. The yellow truck pulled out of the driveway and Tim planned his next trade.
Bob Dunaway and Associates offer estate and retirement planning. Gary Johnson can be reached at 563-927-4554 or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.