• Thomas A. Wilson

Requiem For Dawson Earl Bolus

Updated: Jan 22, 2020

A combat veteran and Baptist deacon, he just needed a little extra coin, something to fall back on. So, he ventured into the exciting world of insurance. Early in his new career, he was called upon to adjust a crop insurance claim. More on that in a minute.

The insurance industry has been around a long time. In the second millennium BC, Babylonian merchants financed transactions through lenders who offered to cancel the loan—for a fee—if the shipment was lost at sea. The merchants, like today’s consumers of insurance products, were willing to take a small predictable loss in exchange for protection from catastrophic loss. The lenders, in the Babylonian example, offered multiple merchants the same financing, believing that they’d come out ahead in the long run. Mostly, they were right.

In Genoa, circa the 14th century AD, insurance separated from financing and risk alone became the substance of the transaction. Banking and insurance, over time, joined government and religion as examples of social contribution that separated from the dirt. Lawyers joined the team as elaborate systems of codified expectations were written in stone, clay, vellum, and paper. Farmers, miners, and artisans got their hands dirty in the production of wealth. Not so for the purveyors of system management, they worked the system—not the land.

Over time, the necessary division of responsibilities produced classes of people. Unfortunately, this distinction, all too often, gave one group an economic and legal advantage. Poor people have less success in the educational and legal systems, and they have less opportunity for actualization since they are focused on survival. A simplified three-tiered version of Maslow’s hierarchy explains why.

At the base of the continuum is personal security. Food, water, air, and warmth comprise some things humankind can’t live without. If these needs aren’t met, people cannot navigate to the second tier, which is social esteem. When survival needs are met, people naturally gravitate toward being a meaningful part of a family, clan, tribe, or group. And when they do, access is opened to the third tier, which is self-actualization. At the third level, people are free to figure out why they’re alive—what their special purpose is.

So, for individuals trapped at the first tier (usually the people who get dirty making a living), the likelihood of trauma increases. Trauma, then, wires the mind for protection. The resulting paranoia produces an even more acute us-versus-them mindset. (Someone once said, “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you!") The resulting division, in opposition to cohesion, weakens and detracts.

It’s unlikely that society will become less specialized, so what’s to be done? Some cross training, I think, is the answer. Cooperation, understanding, resources, and empathy flow when people are connected in multiple meaningful ways. Every clerk should work a garden and every laborer should have a stake in the market.

And nobody is going to provide those opportunites from the outside. Authentic men in either camp must carve out a niche for themselves. Then, those who make the trip should lend a hand to others in their sphere of influence. I have a doctor friend who does just that. He regularly rolls up his sleeves to help the poor in Nicaragua. He cross trains—if you follow my drift.

That’s what happened to the insurance adjuster. He gained a little insight while investigating the crop insurance claim. The claim was for a lost tobacco crop, and sure enough, as he drove onto the impacted farm, the crop was horribly blighted. It was a total loss. But the new adjuster couldn’t help but notice that the adjacent property’s crop was lush and green. He was immediately suspicious. Why would a pathogen honor a fence line?

As he approached the porch where the affected farmer (with a bulging pack of Red Man chewing tobacco in his overalls pocket) was leaning on the handrail, the insurance man smiled disarmingly. After greetings and pleasantries, he broached what was really on his mind. “I have question," he said, “Why is it that the tobacco over here is blighted, but the tobacco over there is lush and green—separated only by a fence?”

“Well,” said the farmer, pausing to spit over the rail, “that’s because that tobacco over yonder is soybeans.”

The adjuster granted the claim.

Sometimes all it takes is a little understanding to keep the system running.

Rest in peace, Dawson. I remember you fondly.


Real men, men who are fully alive, are both aware and engaged. They dream, plan, execute, recover, reorient, and then they do it again.

Affirmation of the Week: As an authentic person, I seek to understand—and to be understood—in all of my ever-expanding relationships.

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