fun at the reunion


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At the family reunion yesterday I had two surprising conversations. The first was with  an eighty year old man whom I did not recognize but turned out to be a relative who had driven up from Florida via Kentucky. His name was Al Hatch. He sat down and almost immediately began telling me the story of his second career. His first career had been to be a police captain. The second was regional manager for someone who owned hundreds of thousands of acres of farms spread all over the US.



Six months into the job his boss sent him to Indiana to check on the corn, wheat, and soy beans in the silos in a farm there. His boss had called some local buyers to negotiate a sale of his crop locally. The buyer informed him that he had already purchased the crop. This aroused suspicion enough to send his new employee, my relative, Mr. Hatch, to investigate.

When he arrived at the farm, he went over to one of several silos there and tapped on it. Empty. Not a good sign. He didn’t look inside for fear that if it wasn’t empty corn would come pouring out. He went to the farm home and knocked on the door. A woman answered. Mr. Hatch asked to speak to her husband but she told him he wasn’t there and she didn’t know where he was.

Mr. Hatch took her and her baby over to the silos and opened up one. Sure enough it was empty. All of them were. He asked to see the farm checkbook. It showed about 62 dollars. The produce was worth millions of dollars. They then proceeded to the local bank to find out what happened. Mr. Hatch wanted more facts before reporting to his new boss.

The bank president pulled up the records on the computer to reveal that the farm manager had been systematically writing checks to himself draining the account of over 2 million dollars. Now both he and the farm truck were gone. It was time to call the boss.

The boss was of course not happy about this. The first thing he did was change procedures of sale so that buyers wrote checks directly to the larger firm not to the local farm. Then he asked Mr. Hatch to find the thief.

Mr. Hatch turned up the truck at the parking lot of a local airport. The keys were in it. But there was no trace or record of the departed manager. Even traveling under an assumed name, he wouldn’t be able to get far with that much cash. Mr. Hatch ended up in Costa Rica looking for him. He figured that the manager had transfered funds to a different bank in Indiana and then wired the money to himself in Costa Rica.

That’s the really the end of the story. The dude got away. Mr. Hatch returned and under instructions of the boss hired a replacement for the manager. He kept on working at this job for another five years or so. He continued to keep in touch with the owner after he retired curious to find out if they ever caught this guy. Each year the report was that they were on his trail but had not caught him yet.

Last year, he was seen in Columbia. The owner asked Mr. Hatch to come out of retirement and go to Columbia to look for him. Which he did. But the closest he came was a motel room where the guy had stayed a week ago. Of course, no forwarding address.

It was pleasant sitting on the porch listening to the soft southern accent of this gentlemen spinning his story.

Later after I was alone on the porch, I was joined by Lizzie Hatch, a young relative who sat down and began chatting me up. She explained that they were living in Ohio now and had been for a couple of years. She missed her Michigan friends. I was totally charmed and flattered that she was so at ease and seemed interested in conversation with me.

Lizzie is in the red dress on the right.
Lizzie is in the red dress on the right.

When she left, Lizzie hugged me and said, “Goodbye, Uncle Steve.” So I enjoyed the Hatch family reunion a little more than usual this year.

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