I was excited to see my parents – it had been two weeks since their last visit.  I had offered to help an older couple on their farm.  I was just fifteen but I was willing to learn and work hard.  Besides, they were willing to provide room and board on top of the ten dollars a week they were paying me.  I knew I could save my earnings and get some nice school clothes when the summer was over.  I felt like I was in tall cotton.

Room and board may sound good but their home was anything but modern.  The house had running water and electricity, but they cooked on a wood stove that also provided the heat during the winter months.  Washing each night was done in a large basin in my room and the “facilities” were up a small knoll from the house.  That’s right, they still had an outhouse.

The two cows had to be milked twice a day – by hand.  I got pretty good at the process – the cows even stopped kicking the bucket over on me.  Of course, once a week I had to clean out their stalls and then spread the manure in the garden – being careful not to damage the many vegetables that were growing.  Once the garden was fertilized, the excess was forked into the spreader to be spread on the big hay pasture so the cows could graze.  Chickens were fed – eggs were gathered – coops were cleaned and repaired as necessary.  Lawns were neatly mowed and I would trim the bushes and pull weeds while Mrs. Smith supervised to ensure I did not pull up a flower.  I learned to drive the tractor and Mr. Smith’s work truck – tending to fence posts and barbed wire to keep the cows and their calves safe.  I was sore at the end of the week but each Saturday, Mr. Smith would thank me for my hard work and hand me a crisp ten-dollar bill.

Sundays were the day of rest.  We would attend their small church and return home for fried chicken and home-grown veggies.  It was normal for my parents to come and visit on every other Sunday.  This particular Sunday, they brought my little brother along – he was amazed at the rustic farm and had even worn overalls to the visit so he could “fit in”.  We sat on the long front porch, talked about things back home, and drank homemade lemonade.

Suddenly, my little brother motioned for me to follow him.  I excused myself and headed his way.  “Where’s the bathroom?”

“Follow me,” I said as I headed up the hill toward the little building.

“You have got to be kidding me!”  his eyes as big as saucers.  “I have to… you know, sit down.”

I opened the door and ensured there was toilet paper in the building.  Before he could notice, I also grabbed the air freshener and hid it in my back pocket.

“No problem, but let me give you a warning.  Every once in a while, snakes get in the building.  I checked and did not see any but if you hear any hissing, I would get out of there as fast as possible.”

He stood there refusing to move, “Suit yourself.”  I started walking back to the house. That was when I heard the door close.  I smiled to myself – that evil smile that only a big brother can produce when he is about to make his little brother miserable.  I turned and went behind the outhouse and pulled the air freshener can out of my pocket.  With just the right speed, I pressed the button on the can in three short bursts – hiss – hiss – hiss.

I moved to the front of the building as fast as I could and saw the door fly open.  Screaming loud enough to wake the dead, my little brother was running down the hill trying to pull his overalls up.



Len Bernat
Len Bernat
LEN is a leader groomed by 20 years of molding and shaping by some of the finest leaders in the United States Marine Corps. Their guidance helped Len realize his full potential as he moved from an enlisted Marine to becoming an Officer of Marines. Len became known for being the leader who could turn any lackluster organization into a strong, functional unit. Upon his retirement, Len worked in several positions before finally starting a second career in governmental procurement. His experience and leadership skills enabled him to be recognized as the 2011 Governmental Procurement Officer of the Year for the Governmental Procurement Association of Georgia and opened doors for him to teach at many of the association’s conferences. Len was also called to the ministry and was ordained at Ashford Memorial Methodist Church in November of 1999. Today, Len is the Pastor of Maxeys Christian Church in Maxeys, Georgia. Len has been married to his wife, Hazel, for 36 years and they have three daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Grab your copy of Len's new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.

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  1. You’re one evil brother but I can’t stop laughing. He was probably constipated for the rest of the week. Great story.. The only thing better than reading it was to have seen it. Great Storytelling. Please place this on Dirt Roads….Lol!

    • Johnny – I am so glad you enjoyed this story – being a big brother had it’s perks. But help me out – with what do you mean by “…place this on Dirt Roads”?