| A wealthy landowner,
driving through the valley his family owned,
rounded a turn in the road just in time to
see a large, dry-rotted bin full give way,
spilling a huge heap of unshucked corn out
onto the ground. Pulling in to
investigate, he noticed an angel-faced
little sharecropper girl, in pigtails and
overalls, kneeling crying beside the hill of
He didn't recognize
her but she immediately recognized him as
he walked up, jumping to her feet and
stammering through her tears, "Good
afternoon Mister Goldman sir!" to
the man for whom her Pa worked, who was
hence just slightly below God in her
"What's your name,
little girl? And why are you crying?"
"My name's Rebecca,
sir, but folks all calls me Becky.
Sir, th-that corn just came a-tumblin'
out, it weren't nothin' I done wrong,
honest, sir, and-"
"Well," boomed Mr.
Goldman, charmed by the little girl's
comely features and her impeccably
respectful manners, "Becky is a very
pretty name. Pleased to meet you,
Becky. Now you wipe those tears
away. There's no use crying over
spilled corn, is there! Of course
it's not your fault. I should have
replaced that bin five years gone."
"But Mr. Goldman, sir.
"Don't you worry about a thing,
Becky. I'll get some of the hired
hands down here later today and take care
of this whole mess. But first I've
got to have some lunch. I'm
starving. Are you hungry
Becky?" Becky had been brought up
never to interrupt her elders, and always
to answer a direct question from her
"Well, yes sir. I reckon
I'm at least a little bit hungry pretty
near most of the time, sir. And sometimes
more than just a little bit. But-"
"In that case, Becky, I'd like
you to ride up to the Big House with me
and have lunch with me and the
missus. What do you say?"
"Thank you very much, sir.
But my Pa wouldn't want me to do that
Becky's hardscrabble, tenant
farmer Pa, was not of much account in the
world. But whatever respect he didn't get
from the rest of humanity he strove
to make up for as much as possible with
his young'uns. Becky and her
brothers and sisters addressed their
parents as "sir" and "ma'am", did as they
were told the first time they were told
without complaining, and never dared sass
or disrespect their parents to the least
degree, or else Pa would haul them
straight to the woodshed for a pants-down
lickin' with a hickory switch.
"Don't you worry about your Pa,
Becky," chimed Mr. Goldman. "If
there's any trouble for you with your Pa,
I will take full responsibility."
Becky's mouth began to form the word's "no
thank you sir" but before her words had a
chance to take voice, Mr. Goldman jovially
added, "I insist!"
Becky froze inside. The
most exalted adult she had ever met had
just given her a direct order. All
of her upbringing left her with only one
permissible response. "Yes sir," her
lips whispered, as if of their own
accord. And as if of their own
accord, her legs carried her over to Mr.
Goldman's Volvo and obediently sat
her in its passenger seat, despite her
inner turmoil. As Mr. Goldman
steered his Volvo back onto the road
towards his mansion, Becky looked back
anxiously over her shoulder. "Mr.
Goldman, sir, I am mighty
appreciative... powerful grateful
to you for invitin' me to lunch and
all. And I don't mean you no
disrespect, honest I don't! But my Pa-"
"Becky, I don't want to hear one
more word about your Pa." said Mr. Goldman
in a kindly but firm tone. "You just
leave that kind of worrying to me.
Relax and have a good time. You're a
sweet kid and I know my wife is gonna love
the heck outa you."
The most powerful adult in the
whole valley had just forbidden her to say
anything more about her Pa. Becky
responded in the only way she believed she
could. "Yes sir," she murmured, and
looked down at her lap, her face still
creased with worry.
As they drove up the switchbacks
to the head of the valley, Mr. Goldman
gradually manage to coax Becky out of her
shell, getting her talking about her
school, her brothers and sisters, and her
interests. She was awed by the
Goldman mansion once they'd arrived, never
imagining how big it truly was up close,
although she had seen it from afar.
The bathroom where Becky was sent to wash
up for lunch, (which was one of several)
was bigger than Becky's family's living
room and kitchen combined.
Mrs. Goldman adored Becky, as
predicted, and fussed over her at lunch,
filling her with more different kinds of
unfamiliar delicious food than Becky had
ever seen at once. The Goldmans,
charmed by Becky's unfeigned expressions
of childlike wonder and delight at
their home, ended up giving her a grand
tour of their house and grounds. But
just under the surface, little Becky was
fearful and ill at ease, and her anxiety
grew and grew as the afternoon wore
on. Finally, when Mrs. Goldman asked
Becky what the matter was, Becky burst
into tears and sobbed and sobbed in Mrs.
When she'd recovered to speak,
she said, "I'm plumb grateful to you, Mr.
and Mrs. Goldman, for bringin' me here and
all. But I just got to be
a-gettin' back. I'm powerful scared 'cuz
I'm already in for the most awful lickin'
of my life from my P-... from... Oh Mr.
Goldman, sir. Please please just
take me on back where you found me!"
"Of course," said Mr. Goldman,
kindly. "I'll bring you straight
back there now. And don't you worry
your pretty little head about a
lickin'. I'll just have a few words
with your Pa and straighten all that right
out for you. Do you know where your
Pa is right now?
"Yes sir. He's back there, sir,"
"Under that pile of corn!"