Monday, May 30, 2011

The Kudzu Clearer

Bobby Ray Butcher owned and operated Bobby Ray's Kudzu removal.  As the name stated, his business specialized in kudzu removal.  The pesky plant grew everywhere in the South, and it could grow up to a few inches a day if the conditions were right-- lots of sunshine and humidity.

Kudzu sprung up all over the place from vacant lots in the city to property in the country.  And it needed to be removed to develop property.  In the real estate boom from 2004-2008 Bobby Ray made millions because developers needed hundreds of lots cleared in order to build houses, stip malls and condos.  Bobby Ray's Kudzu Removal was the business of choice in North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.

When the real estate bubble burst Bobby Ray's business slowed up considerably.  He had spent most of his money made during the boom on women, houses and boats.  This meant he started cutting corners in order to save money.  He hired illegal aliens off the books and paid them in cash.  Also, he stopped carrying workers' compensation insurance, which was a violation of North Carolina law.  But Bobby Ray didn't care.

"Mr. Bobby Ray.  I'm worried what will happen to me if I am hurt on the job.  This is a dangerous business.  Is there any way you can pay our workers' comp insurance?" asked Hector Valdez, one of Bobby Ray's illegal alien workers.

"Shut up Hector!  I don't have the money.  You are lucky to have a job.  If you keep pestering me, I will get you deported."

"I'm sorry Mr. Bobby Ray.  I won't ask you again."

Bobby Ray never worked clearing kudzu in the boom years.  He worked as an administrator running the business.  Since times had gotten hard, however, he had to help clear kudzu.

One summer afternoon Bobby Ray climbed to the top of a ladder in order to clear kudzu off some power lines in a vacant lot his business was clearing.  Because the lot was in the city the phone company had not made much effort to clear the kudzu.  So a minority owned development company hired Bobby Ray.

He pulled at one gnarly strand of kudzu when he lost his balance.  Bobby Ray fell 25 feet to the ground.

When Billy Ray came to he was in a hospital bed.  He couldn't feel is legs or move his arms.

"I'm sorry Billy Ray, but you are paralyzed," the doctor told him.  "You fell off a ladder.  You are lucky to be alive.  That's why people have insurance."

"I don't have workers' comp insurance, and I never bought health insurance."

"That's a problem, but I don't address those kinds of issues."  The doctor walked out of the room.

"Billy Ray Butcher?"

"Yes," Billy Ray said to the tall man in a suit who had just walked in the door.

"I am from the NC Attorney General's office.  You and your business are under investigation for violating the Wokers' Compensation Act.  I'd like to ask you a few questions.  Is this a good time?  By the way, I am sorry about your injuries."

Billy Ray didn't know what to say.  So he didn't say anything, but he wished he had paid for workers' comp insurance.

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