Pulling weeds and paying taxes

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Dad was mad, really mad. Possibly the maddest he’d ever been. Stomping around the garden, he was grumbling and talking to himself while pulling weeds and throwing out rocks all afternoon.

By dinner time, all that grumbling, talking, weed pulling and rock throwing had left him out of breath with a red face dripping with sweat.

My three brothers and I watched and wondered which of us caused him to be so upset. Weeding and rock throwing were usually jobs he assigned us four boys, but not this weekend.

It was the weekend before taxes were due, and he said he needed to “work off some frustration.” Didn’t really know what taxes were or why they caused so much frustration, but I did understand one thing. Dad having to pay taxes meant we didn’t have to work in the garden all weekend long. Being only 8 years old at the time, paying taxes was just fine with me.

In 1976, I got my first real job. It was the summer between my graduation from high school and starting college in the fall. With shovel in hand, Yours Truly dug ditches for ten hours a day in the hot Alabama summer sun. The three-foot-deep trenching was for plumbing and electrical services to each of the twenty-nine trailers in the new park.

My work uniform was a pair of construction boots, cut-off shorts, and a bandana. Auburn, Alabama was experiencing a drought that summer, so I got to work on my tan most everyday. Young, strong and in much need of money, I thought the job was perfect. The foreman even paid me in cash — a whole three dollars an hour!

Unfortunately, about six months later, I was introduced to the taxman when I received a tax form in the mail.

That was my first experience with having to pay income taxes. And to be honest, I didn’t much like it. Frustrated with how much I owed, I called Dad for help. Unfortunately, he didn’t respond by sending me a check. Instead he gave some advice that has helped me through many taxing tax seasons.

“Start gardening. Won’t keep you from paying taxes, but pulling weeds and throwing rocks sure make you feel better.”

Growing up on Flamingo Street, I can remember Dad always having a garden. And as far back as I can remember, he’s complained about paying taxes. While throwing rocks and pulling weeds, he ranted about the government paying $600 for a toilet seat. I asked him why would anyone spend so much of their money for a toilet seat.

He answered loudly, “It’s not THEIR money. It’s ours!” He grumbled to himself for another hour while throwing rocks and pulling weeds.

Through my adult years, Dad has said many things about paying taxes. First, there is still the unresolved issue of $600 toilet seats. Second, it’s not what you make; it’s what you keep that’s important. Third, when it comes to deductions, things are black and white; you don’t want to be in the gray area. The gray area is where you get audited.

And lastly, the most important tax advice my Dad gave me was this, “You are going to have to file your income tax on April 15th every year …unless of course the world comes to an end.”

Today is April 15th and none of us have to file our taxes. Sure hope Dad was wrong.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]