Reflections: Borrowed Help
(Originally posted Januqry 11, 2013)
Amos Riley and Bob Hill were known for helping poor folks out--often, not with their money, but with their knowledge about business.
A New Madrid entrepreneur, Amos Riley was known to lend money. Amos was careful about whom he lent money to, and that is one of the reasons he was successful. He had a reputation for honesty and being a wise businessman. He also helped people.
One Sunday morning there came a knock at his back door. When Amos answered, he found a distraught sharecropper, the mother of a large family. Clad in near rags, the woman was crying. Amos invited her in to his kitchen and offered her a chair at the table to calm her down.
"What's the problem," he finally asked as she regained her composure.
"Oh, Mr. Riley, I have to borrow some money."
"My husband is in the hospital and they won't let him out until we pay the bill."
She began to sob again, her hands shaking.
"We have to put in the crop or we'll lose the farm. Can you help us?"
Amos pondered the dilemma.
Finally, he looked at the poor woman and said he would be willing to help, but first, he added, he wanted her to try something.
"What can I do?" she asked.
Amos explained that he wanted her to go back home and pack all of her husband's clothes in some suitcases and take them up to the hospital. He told her to give the suitcases to the hospital and tell them that she didn't have any money, so they would just have to keep him until she could pay. If this didn't work, he assured her, he would loan her the money.
She left and did as he had instructed.
That afternoon she and her husband came by the house to thank Amos for his help. Amos had called the hospital's bluff, and it didn't cost him anything; the man put in his crop and worked out the hospital bill.
Bob Hill was also a New Madrid local. Bob didn't enjoy quite the reputation that Amos Riley did, but he was also known to help folks out--in his own way.
One Saturday a family came to his back door. A family member had died, and they didn't have money for a funeral. Bob knew the family; they lived close by.
"They won't bury him unless we pay them in full," explained the man.
Bob asked a few more questions about the death and the funeral home they were dealing with in nearby Sikeston. He told them to go home and he would come by to pick the man up and go to Sikeston to see about the arrangements.
Bob's wife owned a new white Cadillac automobile; she had her own money. Bob put on a suit, borrowed his wife's car, and put a few large expensive cigars in the front pocket of the jacket. He picked up the man and drove to the funeral home in Sikeston. Once there, Bob made arrangements for a very nice funeral for the deceased and wrote a check to the home to pay the bill in full.
The funeral and burial followed the next day--a Sunday.
When the banks opened on Monday, Bob's check bounced.
While Bob's wife had money, Bob didn't. Of course, the funeral home couldn't dig up the deceased. Soon enough a warrant was issued for Bob's arrest on the bad check. Bob had a lawyer friend who kept him out of jail and such troubles while trying to work out the bad check. After some delay, the family Bob had helped got the money for their crop and the matter was settled for much less than the full bill.
The charges were dismissed, and Bob waited at home for the next time he could help someone.