My father and grandfather were farmers. We lived with my grandparents in a house overlooking the Yadkin River until I was six years old. corn-892595_1280There was a large barn about a quarter of a mile from the house. This barn was used for the milk cows. The milking was done with milking machines. Milk was then stored in a tank with a cooler. It was picked up by the dairies that processed and marketed the milk and milk products. Cows grazed the pastures in the summer. Crops of various grains, hay, and corn supplemented their feed. These crops were grown on our farm. In addition to our family, there was paid help to milk the cows and another full-time person to help on a daily basis. During harvesting, we traded help with neighboring farmers and hired seasonal help as needed. My father and grandfather considered hiring another full-time worker.

owl-679774_1280I heard my dad tell Grandpa that he had found someone he thought would fill the spot and he wanted Grandpa to meet the man to talk with him. Dad described him as younger than the other workers and very strong. The story of the interview was that Grandpa met with Brock. While they were standing in the barnyard talking, Grandpa’s pet barn owl approached and headed in for a landing on Grandpa’s shoulder. This was the owl’s usual approach. He flew in quickly with his talons spread wide to grasp Grandpa’s shoulder.

Brock had never heard of the owl. When the owl flew near Grandpa’s face with talons spread, Brock thought Grandpa was being attacked. He reacted by knocking the owl out of the air before it reached Grandpa. When Grandpa picked his owl up it was dead. This was not a good way to start a job interview. Grandpa was very pragmatic though and decided Brock’s quick thinking, good reflexes, and strength qualified him for the job.

When my dad began managing the March farm we moved there. Brock and his young family moved into a house on that property. His wife was pretty and friendly. She took good care of their small kids. Brock was pleasant to work with. He had a sense of humor and joked a lot. This helped to make farm chores go by quickly. We were attached to him and his family. This was true of all the families that we worked with.

Brock and the others workers celebrated their weekends by playing poker and having a few drinks on Saturday night. They attended church on Sunday. One weekend the card game evidently got out of hand. Someone had struck Brock on the back of the head. He had been dragged into the graveyard of the church and left to die. They found him unconscious the next morning, but he later died in the hospital.

There was an investigation and a man was charged. We believed others were involved because Brock was too large for one man to carry. No further charges were brought. The man who killed him was sentenced to jail. Brock’s wife and children moved back with her family. This was the first time I had encountered violence of this magnitude. It was sobering to realize that a moment of anger could have such far-reaching effects on so many people.

This one act of violence left grieving parents and siblings, a young widow in shock, and small children with no visible means of support. It was probably fueled by jealousy, greed and the catalyst of alcohol.

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