The Man at the Gate

The man was well dressed and nervous. He was standing on my lawn blocked by barking dogs as I stepped out onto the verandah.

“Alright if I give treats to your dogs?” He called out with his back to the shiny late model city slick car.the-man-at-the-gate-004

‘Down’  I signalled and both dogs dropped like stones to the ground and went quiet. Well Boo dropped like a leaf but his belly did meet the ground.The dogs both looked at me with their snouts still pointed at the man.

“Yes, I do mind actually,” I said. “We were taught as kids not to take candy from strangers so I see no reason why my dogs should.”

“It is not candy.” the man said helpfully. His car  salesman teeth flashed white and pointy.

“No?” I said “What is  it then?” His eyebrows shook at each other.  “I am sorry I just don’t like strangers feeding my dogs. I hope you don’t mind.” I walked down the steps to meet him. My voice was getting Terribly British. It does when I am annoyed.

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“Oh.” the man said, jamming his hand back into his pocket. I had the feeling he had already attempted to give them something, but Ton will never take a treat so this meant that Boo had scoffed the lot. Boo’s head went further down. I stood on the lawn and waited. The image of Ma Clampett and her shotgun running through my head. I was writing while I was making tomato basil jam. Everyone knows I don’t like to be bothered when I write.

“Well.”” he rallied. ” I was in the area and thought I would come and introduce myself.” He pulled a clipboard from the roof of his car and walked forward. Turning slightly so he could show me the page. Boo stretched and tasted his shoe as he passed.  The man pointed to my husband’s name on a list.

“Is this you?” he said.

” No. ” I answered. I paused “That is my husband’s name.” I smiled nicely at him knowing full well that he expected me to supply him with my name now and not doing so was just a teensy bit entertaining.

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The Big Dog limped around the corner and sniffed at the man’s flash car. The man reached out. Still full of fake bonhomie.  “Don’t touch that one.” I said. “He bites.” The mans hand froze in mid air which made Boo think he wanted to play. He didn’t. His pale soft hand went to stroke his goatee, maybe to reassure himself that it had not slipped and gone crooked like his pretend smile. He returned his hand to the clip board. His nails were very clean, trimmed. Ton smiled and rolled onto his back. Boo watched Big Dog pee on the tire then disappear back into the garden.

The man was wearing tan trousers and some kind of sepia casual shirt. His brown shoes fastened with black laces. Divorced,  I thought. Dressing country for the bumkins, I thought. What is he selling, I thought.

“Well, as I was saying I was in the area, we are offering folks a good rate this week on heart attack, and  stroke insurance.”

“Pardon me?” I said. Surprised. Insurance? We sell health insurance door to door? I thought.

He launched into his patter about how we were some kind of percentage more likely to have hear attacks and strokes nowadays so they had very kindly created an insurance all of its own to cover this. The costs  of care were in the thousands and every one needed this extra health insurance or they would go bankrupt.

“But I have health insurance”. I said.  He continued with his pitch undeterred. He had to get it all out before he could think on his own, evidently.

” But I have my own health insurance.” I said again. “Would you like to see it?”

He stopped looking confused. Then started again. Our offer, etc etc, blah, blah. I watched Boo try to crawl on his belly across to  Ton. “Down”. I said sharply. The man jumped, went silent,  his head ducking. Clouds reached across and blocked the sun.  It began to darken.  He looked up.

“Here.”  I said. My voice reaching clipped Kent level.  “I will show you my health insurance policy. Come this way. You can put down your clip board.” I told him.  “You won’t be needing that. Get in behind!” I called to the dogs.  The dogs leapt up, tripping the man in their eagerness to get in behind before him.

He followed me across the lawn, and down the path. We were passed by the four guinea’s hot footing it past us going in the opposite direction. They LOVE black cars and his was extra shiny. City shiny.  I did not tell him how much they loved extra shiny black cars, but I could see with a quick glance that Kupa the peacock was already there admiring himself in its reflection.

“Sheila!” I called as we walked, we came to a gate. “Sheila!” A large wet hog shaped rock lay sublime in the wallow hole next to the chook house. Daisy plodded  across to see what was going on.  ” My milk cow. And over there is a  beast we are fattening for beef. You can see the chickens for eggs.  Vegetable gardens.” I pointed. “You people have got the wrong end of the stick.” I said. “Health insurance should be all about health. You know what my insurance policy is?” I said to him. ” I exercise and eat well. Pretty simple really. I look after my body. I only put food  and wine into it. No chemicals, no additives, no artificial ingredients. To rely on the likes of your company to keep me healthy would be silly wouldn’t it. I am in charge of my health.”

“Well, yes.” He said trying to get a handle on my angle. Marmalade cats began to twist around his legs.

“And you know that they make up the costs of hospital care. They are outrageous.” He nodded. He really could not argue with me on that one.

“You offer people permission to get sick. You tell them that’s Ok we will cover you.” I sighed.” Sheila! The mountain twitched. “I have an idea for you though. Offer a policy that includes people getting healthy for lower premiums. Then you could call it a healthy insurance. At the moment I think I would call it a rip off.”

“Sheila!” I called, the huge dirty rock  in the corridor paddock twitched an ear. Hairy MacLairy stuck his vast head through the fence as Ton very gently laid a filthy toy on top of the mans clean shoes.  Growling gently at Egoli, Don’t touch.  The man looked at the dripping orange toy and moved his foot ever so slightly.  Boo reached in, putting a filthy paw on one shoe and whipped the toy off the mans other shoe and the dogs and cats  ran off in  a tangled pursuit of each other.

“I know it is not for everyone but I prefer to focus on my health, rather than focus on a phantom illness that I have the power to avoid. Can you follow my logic?”

“I think so yes,” he said. “Yes. You are lucky.”

“Yup I am.” I said. “But you can be too. Only shop the outside  of the supermarket. Just buy food. The best that you can and less of it. Put that in your policy.”

“Sheila come and say Hullo.” The rock stirred and rose up in slow motion, the mud sucking at her huge body with great messy slurps as she turned her head  and looked over. She sat dripping with muck and looked for all the world like a monster. She snorted, snotty mud blowing – a filthy dragon. I am coming, she looked. Still sitting, she stacatto walked her short front legs around, slowly swinging her body  in a three point turn, lifted her vast bottom up and proceeded to lumber across the field.

“This farm is my health insurance policy.” I said to the man.” I am in control of my health. If I fail it will be my fault. I haven’t been to a doctor in 25 years.”  Sheila reached us and the salesman took a step back as she pushed her flappy ears  through the gate for a scratch. Mud dripped off her nose in swathes.  She backed up to have a good shake. Pigs shake like dogs. “Oh I’m sorry.” I said ,as little tiny dots of mud appeared on his clean creased trousers. He looked with dismay at his clothes as I wiped mud off my own face with my filthy hands. Oh dear.

He looked for a moment at the little dots of pig muck. Then he laughed out loud. Facades dropping from his face like relief.

“Do you want to see the piglets?” I said.

“Sure.” he said. “I think I like your health insurance.” He laughed again.

 

“Go quietly though it is nap time.”

I gave him a dozen fresh farm eggs and some tomatoes in a bag, with a couple of zuchinnis and told him to eat well and do me a favour and expunge my name from his list. It was never on there he threw back with a grin. “I know you have to work.” I said. “But I don’t believe in what they tell you to say.” I said.

Thunder rolled in and clapped its hands above our heads. I looked up. “But lightening insurance sounds like a good idea. Do they still call it an Act of God.  Tell your boss he is looking at it upside down – if he keeps his clients healthy he will make more money. Money for the hospital is not what they need, they need good food and movement. Add gym memberships and child care and vege boxes and books and  running clubs and real health food camps for kids to your policies. Has anyone ever thought of that? You would make millions. More millions.”

He scratched his head and climbed into his car. “Don’t forget your clipboard.” I said as I took it off the bonnet and handed it to him.

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I shut the door gently on him. “Sorry about the peacock poo.” I said nodding towards the roof of his car. “Maybe it will rain on your way back to the city. I hope so. The hay paddocks love it! Oh and I am Cecilia by the way! Bye.”

“Get in.” I called to the dogs. And we turned our backs on heart attack and stroke insurance and went back inside.

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Poor fellow. I am very sure I will never see him again. Do you think he will tell his boss my idea?

Good morning.

Yesterday my new (made in America) Excalibur dehydrator arrived so I must go and load it with apple slices again. Thank you so much for the idea!

Have lovely day.

your friend, celi.

108 thoughts

  1. Oh I do love this post… we actually have a health insurance here that gives you a gym membership which you loose if you don’t go to gym for so many days, they also reward you for not being sick… they have now added a reward for your driving at speed limits, by fitting a GPS to your car, or tracker should I say, that they check on monthly and you can get back up to half of your fuel bill for the month up to a total of R 700 .. not for old farts like Linda and I but the kids are doing well out of it, as they are very healthy, eat healthy, and never see doctors, their kids as well… so it’s working well for them…

  2. What magnificent storytelling. What truth you have spoken. Now, if only the government, the healthcare industry, health insurance companies, CEOs, etc., would listen.

    That said, I carry health insurance, although the price is outrageous. The hip I had replaced five years ago will need replacing in another 15 and I cannot bear the cost of that surgery alone. And, no, I don’t think I could have done anything to prevent the need for this hip replacement.

    • Though, I bet eating well and getting lots of exercise enabled you to stay in your own hip much longer than a sedentary person with the same predisposition to hip problems , in NZ they would give you a new hip for nothing, but here you have to pay so you do need insurance. I am just not sure of the emphasis health insurance has. It seems to me if they had a cheaper health insurance that rewarded good health it would be more sensible. PLus less people claim and more money in the pockets of the insurance people which is after all why they are doing it in the first place. It is not a public service,they do it for profit. c

  3. Loved the description of Sheila and her mud. 🙂

    Not quite so sure about the English accent bit and reference to Kent – what could you mean? I was born and bred in Kent, and on a pig farm too. He he!

    • I lived in Kent, England for a while in a very upper crust old home and when i get really posh i call it Going Kent, the woman who owned the house was very clipped and sure of herself. c

  4. Perfect post and I am sure even if he did not have your name down on his clipboard he will not soon forget it or you and your wonderful farmy!!! What a great story. You rock!

  5. Love this – may I share it? – with credit to you of course. I also have an Excalibur dehydrator – it’s the best – I’m drying minced pieces of last year’s onions – wonderful

      • If you have spare lemons, peel the zest off and dehydrate that. When it is dry you can grind it up in a spice grinder thingy. It makes a wonderful lemony powder that is good on both sweet and savoury things. I peel each lemon now and freeze the zest until I have enough to dehydrate.
        I love this post. My ambition is to be 25 years between doctor visits too 🙂

        • Now that is a very good idea, Oh how I wish I could grow lemons. I have also heard that you can just freeze the lemon and then grate a bit off when you need it. One day I am going to buy myself a proper zestor thingy. great tip janet thank you! c

    • And another Marcia pipes in … I’m going to post this on my Facebook page because it is an absolutely fabulous post … as are all of your posts, Ci … but this one is priceless! I absolutely love it because … it is the truth!!

  6. Thanks for the morning entertainment. You paint such vivid pictures. You will love your dehydrator. I did zucchini chips with homemade season salt last year. Yummy. I’ve heard people do kale chips also. I’ll be doing apples this week. Have a great day, Celi!

      • This recipe came from The Complete Tightwad Gazette.
        8 tablespoons salt-I use kosher
        3 tablespoons pepper-I use about half this amount cause it takes forever to grind 3 tablespoons!
        2 tablespoons paprika
        1/2 tablespoon onion powder-gonna try making my own this year 🙂
        1/2 tablespoon garlic powder-this one has to wait until next rear because our garlic bed is just going in this fall
        Mix and store in an airtight container. We love this on baked chicken cause I eat those skins! I usually double or triple the recipe.

  7. I am just rolling on the floor! This is the funniest thing I’ve read in ages! It was funny before you got to Miss Sheila, but that was the frosting! He will remember his visit to you for a long time. Maybe he’ll come back for a visit. Maybe he will decide to invest in the same kind of health insurance.

  8. What a great story! I’m sure that young man will never forget you. (And maybe, just maybe, you helped to change his life.) I dried apple slices last week in the oven, with good results (I can set it low enough to do that). I want to try kale chips, too. You rule, Celi!

    • I have tried Kale chips in the oven with varied results, it is like eating salted tissue paper. I wonder how they would go in the dehydrator, then break up, bottle and shake them over food in the winter.. what do you think?.. c

      • The only time I’ve tried making kale chips, I did them in the oven, and like you, I wasn’t impressed. I thought I might try them again using the dehydrator feature on the (newer) oven. If well seasoned, I think they might make a delicious “sprinkle” over other foods. Let us know how that works! And when I try making them again, I’ll let you know if they STILL taste like tissue paper (or dried seaweed?!).

  9. I love it that you sent him off with gifts from the farmy Celi!!! This story is one that would go wonderfully in your memoir!!! I’ve been dying to ask how it is coming along, but haven’t as I know this is definitely the busy, busy season. But, reading that you are writing as you put up tomato basil jam makes me wonder if it’s for the book. 🙂

  10. Man, the only thing that could have made that better is if you trained your dogs to “ACHTUNG!” instead of “get in line”! I hope that man learned something today. I also wish I knew your dog training techniques… Mine never listen that well.

    • I really should write a post on training the dogs. But the most important is to choose one command at a time and train them at least five by five. Five times a day for five minutes. Doing the same thing over and over until they get the hang of it. And at the end of each training say, That’ll Do Dog. and walk away. Always let them know when training is over. Training your dogs is a chapter in itself! c

      • Yes! Any dog training tips will be appreciated, for sure! Even thrown in here and there in the blog!!! I marvel at how well trained your dogs are Celi! It’s wonderful!!! I’m still working with mine, but not the 5 by 5. I need to start that!

  11. Well said.
    I wish I could have said that, but unfortunately, I’ve got every single health complaint from both sides of the family plus more that my ancestors never heard of. I guess you can’t always escape the genes (no matter how healthily you eat and how much you exercise).

    100% agree with your philosophy though which is why I follow your blog. You live the life that I can only dream about.

  12. If only I could have been fly watching it all…what a hoot! Lovely jubly! Thoroughly agreeband I enjoyed reading every word.I even read it to my hub who managed a smile (not often a smile at the same things as infind hilarious).

  13. I’m laughing my wee socks off. (Wait, I’m not wearing any. Ah well, you get what I mean!). I think you handled him beautifully and respectfully, I love your logic. And you never know who you’re going to affect how or when, first rule of being a teacher. 🙂

  14. Brilliant!! And I so love the references to going British and Kent! I have been told so many times here (in southern Virginia where the accent isn’t heard too often) that I should sell real estate as with the accent everyone would believe every word I said LOL. Not into selling that kind of stuff and certainly not Insurance! I do have health insurance that costs me a fortune as if God forbid I have a car accident or something, I don’t want to lose my house to pay hospital bills. I know I am healthy with the food and exercise, it’s the accidents that maybe I have no control over that I try to be prepared for.
    As for dog training, I am so glad to hear of someone else that takes it seriously. I have Border Collies and training is part of their ‘job’. I have one command that is used to scare off sales men at my gate “See them off” which causes both dogs to bark quite aggressively! Comes in handy some times LOL The other one is “Big Bird” again which sets the dogs off as I have hawks in my area and afraid they will go after the chickens. But Sam especially goes crazy if he sees a big bird in the sky!

  15. Yep, he sure got sent away with a flea in his ear! Lucky man also got a Farmy tour and real food take aways too! 🙂 Laura

  16. Absolutely great story and the last photo is indescribably delightful and whimsical and must be very zen to watch when it’s raining.

  17. Brilliant Cinders! I knew how this was going to go after reading the first paragraph or so….knowing how you deal with folks like that…cut them to ribbons without them ever knowing what happened or how! You know how to size someone up the minute you see them…Dishonesty, like fear is so easy to detect! It’s like the PInk Panther episode…my favorite line…I thought you said your dog didn’t bite?? He doesn’t…that’s not my dog!! 🙂
    I love that last photo of the rain catchers!!

  18. I wish I was so clever on my feet. I’m not even original with sales pitches on the phone. I had to sign up again on the no call website. I just hang up–no phone slamming, though 🙂

    • My favourite thing with the phone people is to ask them to spell everything, their name, the name of the company, the country they are calling from, their supervisors name.. everything – spell spell spell everything it drives them bonkers. It is my objective to get them to hang up on ME!

  19. Hilarious – I started laughing out loud when you came to this: “Sheila!” I called, the huge dirty rock in the corridor paddock twitched an ear. Hairy MacLairy stuck his vast head through the fence as Ton very gently laid a filthy toy on top of the mans clean shoes. … The man looked at the dripping orange toy and moved his foot ever so slightly. Boo reached in, putting a filthy paw on one shoe and whipped the toy off the mans other shoe and the dogs and cats ran…. off in a tangled pursuit of each other. fabulous; i’m going to reblog!

    • Thank you for reblogging. That is wonderful. Ton just wanted the man to play!! But often he drops his toys into the stock water troughs when he has a drink and they get a bit slimy!! c

  20. What a perfect post to start my morning with. I am not a fan of unannounced visitors on my doorstep selling anything but insurance would have to be one of my least favorite sales calls. You’ve given me a great laugh with your description of the salesman but I wish I could see a video of this man’s face when meeting Sheila.
    Years ago where I worked, there was a huge flock of geese next to our parking lot. They apparently love shiny gray Audi’s and had pecked off the paint completely around this guy’s car, all at beak height of course. I’d like to see the insurance claim form on that one.
    What a wonderful person you are for sending him on his way with goodies instead of a muddy boot to the back of his pants.

    • fancy those geese!! That would have given me a laugh. there is a big green native parrot in NZ whose favourite thing is the rubber around the windscreens of cars, and the windscreen wipers and that little black strip on the doors. They just pry them off!! They are very naughty on the ski field parking lots as you can imagine! c

  21. Epic. I would have loved to be a fly on a wall for this! Must say I’m a bit jealous of your dogs. I have wonderful dogs but once they start barking I could command until I’m blue in the face and wouldn’t make a lick of difference. And if there was a treat involved I’d be invisible. Sigh.

    • We were in a feed store once and the girl behind the counter asked permission then leaned over and waved a dog bone shaped treat at TonTon. He looked at me with his sorrowful eyes, then looked back up at the girl and allowed her to stuff it into his mouth. When she had gone back to work he turned right around, with it still held stiffly in his mouth, nudged my arm and then very carefully laid the offending morsel into my hand. He did not want to be rude and just spit it out onto the floor! Poor fellow. Though I certainly object strongly to people trying to bribe my own dogs in my own lane. They are barking for a reason and SHOULD be wary of strangers. Not looking for a treat from them.. c

      • What a great dog. So sweet. I wish my older dog Guinness would just bark at strangers. He goes bonkers when the kids come home at the end of the week! He is calm as can be on the walks and if it is quiet at home. Murphy on the other hand rarely barks at home but is a right nutter on the walks. Anything with wheels will set him off. I love them both but I think the next time round we’ll be trying puppies and proper training from the start.

  22. A terrific post. Almost as good as being there. And thank you for showing him the way with your generosity–I am working on converting my coworkers to a healthy way of life, one organic veggie gift at a time.

  23. I am so laughing! You are so right, knowing where your food source comes from is the key to a good life. We raise most everything. Over the years we have had many comments. The best all time favorite was “Why would you want to do that?” referring to us butchering. Will have to try out the “would you spell that ” when we next get a phone solicitation.
    What a great story, thank you for sharing.

    • I hope you answer because I am not going to eat them alive! I have been asked “Wouldn’t it be easier just to buy it?” As though easier has anything to do with it! Morning Bev.. c

  24. What you describe is how our health insurance works. They even give you money to join a gym and give you discounts if you walk daily. There’s a discount for not smoking and they’ll call to counsel you, even if you are being treated, to ensure you’re getting what you need to prevent a disease’s becoming worse. Smart companies (like mine) have figured out it’s much cheaper to teach people how to be well than to treat them once they’re sick.

    And, in my opinion, any product you have to sell door-to-door, can’t be good. In the old days, they delivered milk that way, but this is a different century.

  25. What a fantastic story. I’ve started the day with a good laugh. You were exceptionally kind, given that his visit was unsolicited. I completely agree about the health insurance. Mine is investing in good organic food and a healthy lifestyle.

  26. Pingback: Re-blogging: The Man at the Gate | ardysez

  27. HEY CELI HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA LOL U SET THAT SLICKER UP GREAT THATS TOO FUNNY . AS TO HIM TELLING HIS BOSS NOT A CHANCE HE WILL MOST LIKLY WRITE IT UP AS HIS IDEA THATS HOW SPONGES WORK INSURANCE AGENTS ARE JUST THAT THEY PREY ON THE NEEDY. SORRY FROM CAL. AM A CYNIC AND I HAVE SEEN THE WORST IN A LOT OF PEOPLE. BE A BLESSING. MIKE

  28. “Poor fellow. I am very sure I will never see him again.”

    I wouldn’t be so sure about that , Celi . . . once he tastes your eggs, tomatoes and zucchini, he’s going to make a beeline back to your farm.

  29. Oh Celi: I am doubled over laughing and you are a far lovelier gal than I am under the same circumstances! I get furious at all the cold calling we get, both at door and on the phone [and but rarely tell the other party ‘I know you have to make a living’ 🙂 !] You are a fabulous teacher and I believe that guy will never forget the day. Or the eggs, tomatoes or zucchini . . And warn any in his league about the dogs and the pigs and . . . 😀 ! At the moment I get at least six phone calls/day to get me to change my phone or electricity server and, wonder of wonders, I too get ‘all posh British’ and very soft spoken!!! ‘Is that Mrs Carr?’ Oh, oh! ‘Yes, it is?’ ‘And how are we today, Mrs Carr?’ Me with THE most Brit accent :’Well, I do not know how we are but could you tell me what business is it of yours how I am?’ Yup, not very nice . . . but, oh boy, does it get them off the line 🙂 ! Actually sometimes I quite feel for them as most are poverty-stricken and working out of Asian call centers . . . . and reading from a preset text . . .

  30. This was the best read… I read it twice before I needed to go to work but have been thinking about it since. What a devious, clever, kind way to deal with a salesman – whose profession I pity and deplore in equal measure. Mr Salesman went back to his office with the best story to tell, and goodies. You never know what will sprout from that acorn of thought you planted 🙂
    And, so the 2012 harvest is bottled – lovely colour 🙂

  31. Absolutely Brilliant ! You certainly told him where to go. Maybe by now he’s converted to healthy living and to hell with insurance. Thanks for sharing this post was hilarious.

  32. Celi, Here, here!! That is the right way to be and so kind of you to share too–loved the pig and the mud. Thanks to Edna at Sorrygnat for sharing your wonderful blog–keep up the good living!! 🙂

  33. Celi, I’m new to your blog–thoroughly enjoyed it!! Thanks to Edna from Sorrygnat–keep living healthy!! I’m with you 150 per cent 🙂 (loved the pig in the mud!)

    • Yes , insurance is a funny thing, if they promised an actual person to drive you around, do your messages, do the chores, read to the sick one, cook you dinner the moment someone gets sick, I would probably buy it!! .. Hope Misty is starting to improve it is a journey.. c

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