May 28, 2015

Half a Herd

Well, this place has been dormant for a while, hasn’t it?

Dormant” might not be the right word because this was never supposed to be your source for breaking news. Maybe breaking views. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

I did publish some pieces I’m proud of, like The Future of Information and Radio Revolution. But by and large, career developments and other life matters got in the way. Excuses.

There are so many things I want to write about.

Like Grandpa.

That man. Worth writing a whole book about him.

My grandfather died one and a half years ago. Me, my father, and my sister were on a vacation when that happened.

In London. Two thousand miles away from Israel.

We couldn’t catch a flight early enough to make it to the funeral.

But this isn’t going to be a post about Grandpa.

There are parts of your life that are so significant, you can’t just write about them. Everything feels reductive. And you never want to settle for that. It’s like that bottom-most drawer that contains so many… things. You don’t just open that. How do you make sense of it all? How can you get any one thing out for strangers to see, leaving the others hidden, never to be shown?

It could never do this man justice.

So I’ve never written about Grandpa, and probably never will.

But I would like to tell you a story.

This is not a post about Grandpa.

My grandfather was born on the 13th of March, 1938. As a teenager, he was already working the land in a town 15 miles away from his small village. He had no car, so to avoid the commute, he often slept in the field, or in a nearby cave in the mountains.

He started out working for others, but before long had enough to buy his own piece of land. Landowners from his village found the commute and the hard labour too much. They preferred to work closer to home.

For twenty years, my grandfather worked close to twenty hours a day. When my father and his brothers were old enough, he gradually left the day-to-day management to them. But he never, in his life, missed a day of work. The fact his body couldn’t do as much anymore didn’t mean his head and heart weren’t devoted to the (now-expanded) business and its future.

Grandpa was a man of vision. He amassed all of his assets single-handedly.

He was also a religious man.

Any dollar you make by means of deception or with unclean intentions, you will lose ten against,” he would say, with a stern smile on his sun-beaten face.

He loved the land, not for its future worth as real estate, but for what it was now. My late father always told me, never trade a piece of land for something that air can pass under,” he once told me, meaning - never trade land for money or anything that isn’t land.

My grandfather was an agronomist. I’m a farmer, you can leave that fancy word to those with a diploma on their wall.” Okay, my grandfather was a farmer. He never felt it was a derogatory term, so neither should I.

Indeed, Grandpa’s clothes — plain jeans, khaki shirt, and Tembel hat — did well to camouflage his acumen. I owe much of my financial security — so scarce these days — to his sweat and tears.

But this isn’t a post about Grandpa.

So, the story.

My grandfather owned several herds of livestock. Some were his, and others were jointly owned.

One day, his partner in one of the herds informed him that he wanted to part ways. Okay, how would you like to do it?,” asked Grandpa.

I don’t know, friend, it’s a herd, you know. There are milk cows and there are calves, and sheep. They are all different ages and sizes. How in the world are we going to split a herd?”

Well, we could appoint a…”

I don’t want to spend no money on middlemen! I don’t have the money.”

Alright,” said Grandpa. He nodded his head towards two cups of coffee that were now in front of them, inviting his nervous partner to relax a little.

How could there possibly be a solution that would leave both men feeling they got a fair deal?

I’ll tell you what. You head to the field now, and you divide the herd into two groups. After you do that, call me. I’ll come by and choose the half I like better.”

The man was speechless.

Or, we can do it the opposite way — I split, you choose.”

And that’s the story of how you split a herd of cattle fairly.

It’s not about Grandpa.

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