Ralph Nester: If I Had a Hammer (or two)

Mr. and Mrs. Sasso and Anna Bacchu Sasso were the owners of Penowa Farms where I was Farm Manager.  They were down coming from Burgettstown, PA, from their office. Mr. Sasso called me and said, “Ralph, Anna and I will be stopping by the farm, we need to go over some bills.”  Well, l  thought, “Oh boy, I’m in trouble…”

I was young and always afraid of losing my job, so I waited.  I had bought three new pickup trucks, a large hay truck and a new tractor, and stopped on the way home and bought two hammers.  We had two older gentlemen that repaired fences and did general farm work trimming fences and they needed them.  I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my boss. The next day, they were heading to Keeneland Fall Sales; this was about 1964 or 65.  So, I’m walking down the lane coming from mail box,  and up pulls the owners in this long Cadillac Brougham. Mrs. Sasso always drove, and Len, as she called him, (Leonard Paul Sasso), was a tough businessman.

Before the car stopped he said, “Hello Ralph, there’s something we need to go over with  these damn expenses.”  So he pulled out this ticker tape.  The ticker tape was about five feet long with a list of expenditures from various parts of his business.  He told me he’d be down the office in a bit.   They went in the house and in about an hour, here he comes in his big car and driving at a snail’s pace.  Well I was on a horse and gave him to a groom and quickly headed for the office.   He got out of the car, shook hands and we went in.  He pulled out this ticker tape and I saw two items circled and thought, “Oh boy, I’m gone.”  He put his specs on; he was always dressed immaculately.  He dealt with the likes (and was co-owner) of Globemaster with Paul Mellon of Mellon National Bank, and the Vanderbilts.

Mr. Sasso was  a blonde handsome man, clean-cut from northern Italy; he was really a nice gentleman but a tough business man.  Anyway, he said, “Ralph, I don’t know why you bought these two items, we have to watch the gd expenses on this farm.”  Pickups and tractors were running through my head and wondering if I could take them back.   Well, he floored me with next statement.  He said, ”Why the hell did you buy two new hammers?”   I was shocked at first, but cool.  I explained that we had two men repairing fences, and each needed a hammer.

hammer-2

 

We spent about 15 minutes going over how I had to watch expenses, and then he told me Anna was very happy with how I was running the farm. He said he thought one horse was a little too heavy.   I had about 65 horses on the farm.  He went back to the house and then he called me about 6 o’clock, and he asked me to drive him to Wilmington, Delaware to the Hotel du Pont so we could go to dinner.  I said sure.  I had bought a used 1960 black Thunderbird, it was a beauty.   Mrs. Sasso was using her car to go visit Allaire du Pont and Kelso.  Well, he got in my car and said as he was looking around, “Does this potato wagon have seat belts?”  I could have choked him, but I knew him and shrugged it off.

We got to the Hotel du Pont and we ate salmon that was whole and laid out in a self-serve table. It was fabulous. It was very fancy hotel.   After dinner, he pulled out that ticker tape and went to the dreaded, highlighted two hammers. I was young and embarrassed, silly I know.  I was working for a very, very wealthy man and I was young and green.

He said very loudly, not screaming, just talking boldly, “Ralph, I still don’t see why you needed two hammers.”


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