The latest Friday Fiction #41 asked for a 350 word story, based upon the following image:
Here is my story, but do check out the original location to read other entries:
“An Interview with the Wizard of Stratford”
by Dr. Mike Reddy (@doctormikereddy)
“I know why you are here…” is the first thing Frank says, pulling back the curtain that reveals his work space, but he declines to be photographed for the article. He is a wizened old man, dressed entirely in green; his favourite colour, he confides.
Baum’s farm is dead centre in dust bowl territory, getting hit by tornadoes and dust storms four or five times a year. For other farmers, trying to harvest wheat or raise cattle, these events are devastating. For Frank, the self-styled “Wizard of Stratford”, and his family they are a Godsend.
“So long as the farmhouse survives,” he jokes, “and it don’t end up in Oklahoma! I don’t, by God, want to live in Oklahoma!”
Frank hails from Kansas, another area renowned for tornadoes. His small holding is the sole supplier of industrial grit in the whole of Texas. Others have tried to imitate his success, but don’t have the almost magical Baum gift of harvesting and selling the frequent weather deposits. To be honest, few (if any) really understands who buys his grit, or how he makes money. Frank keeps his customers in the strictest confidence, for obvious reasons. And several attempts at industrial espionage have all failed. Probably due to the Baum Farm being exclusively tended by people of reduced stature: dwarfs, pigmies, midgets and munchkins are all terms used by the ‘normal’ Stratford population..
“These ‘little’ people are fiercely loyal, and ideally suited to harvesting the dust that settles here.” Jim explains, “They drop in all the time to help us send raw material to the Gale Processing Plant in Kansas, were it is environmentally treated before being shipped to its final destination.” Gale’s ecological motto is “Better Beyond the Rainbow”
This link to his Kansas roots in dust farming stretches back to his Great Aunt Dorothy. “A remarkably well travelled adventurer”, Baum fondly describes her. Business must be extremely profitable, judging by the number of exquisite jewelled artefacts on display in the family home.
“Dorothy was always fonder of rubies,” Jim remarks, “but I don’t, by God. Emeralds are my obsession.”