When Andy was an eleven-year-old boy, he and his eight-year-old brother decided they were old enough to buy some calves to raise. This meant feeding, watering and daily maintenance - freezing temperatures or blazing sun, all of it was still going to be their responsibility. Their dad talked to them about not only the physical commitment and tasks they were taking on, but also the financial obligations. (Two fairly big words for two little boys to understand.)

After that serious man-to-man talk with Dad, they still wanted to try. So he took them to Grandad’s farm and helped them select a few calves for their “ranching operation.” Grandad priced some calves to the boys, Dad taught them to haggle a little bit, and they finally reached an agreement on the amount.

But then, they had to pay for the sixteen hooves they had just acquired. Gulp.

Dad told them he was taking them to the local bank to meet with the bank president, so they could borrow the money needed. His advice was straightforward, “When I introduce you, look him straight in the eye, shake his hand firmly, then speak up like a man and tell him what you are needing. Not little boys, you are learning to act like a man.”

So with shaky knees, and a knot of excitement and anxiety in their young throats, the boys followed their dad into the president’s office. He introduced his sons to the banker and left the room. After hearing them out, the banker sat down at his huge desk and proceeded to explain what they were getting into. In short order, they learned they were borrowing the bank’s money to buy their cows. That they had to care for them very well, so the bank could be REPAYED all that money. With interest.

In shock and with a newly found sense of responsibility, each scrawled their little boy signatures on the contract the banker slid across the desk to them. They felt like they had signed their lives away when the man re-emphasized that they now owed him a great deal of money, and it had to be repaid. As they shook the man’s hand, Dad returned and instructed them to wait in the truck. They walked out, their tiny chests puffed out and their little chins jutted forward in pride and determination.

Of course, they had no way of knowing that with a broad grin, Dad stayed behind to also put his signature on that contract… on the official line. He then thanked his old friend for taking the time to help teach his two sons the valuable lesson of being responsible for money.

They raised their cows, sold them for a profit and then marched back into the bank to repay the banker everything they owed. Proud to have accomplished what they saw as a “man” thing.

Learned what seems to be in short supply these days. Personal responsibility. Keeping your word. Becoming a man who can be counted on.

Coffeetimecolumn.com

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