Getting Away With It
There was no doubt in their minds that they would be able to get away with this. Everything was on their side, they had the power, the money, and the connections to go through with it. No one could stop them.
They thought they wouldn't have to worry about what the common folks around them thought, but they were wrong. A certain farmer had spent years working on his revenge plan, and now, he was ready.
This one chemical firm dumped all sorts of toxic waste on some humble farmers' lands. And even though their actions had heinous consequences, they didn't give a damn.
But among those who suffered the effects of their misdeeds was a farmer named Eric Wilson. He didn't have a fancy and expensive education or the power and influence to confront the firm. Still, he had the drive and the wit to come up with a plan that would make them regret what they did.
Eric Wilson, aged 67, has been living in Elberta, Alabama, for his whole life. He's a farmer there, just like most of his neighbors.
Elberta is famous for its agriculture; like in many other parts of Alabama, a big chunk of its population earns a living out of growing corn, soybeans, and wheat. This kind of life has its perks, no doubt, but it's not always easy.
Not An Easy Life
Farming labor usually involves a great deal of physical work and long shifts. It’s not unusual for farmers in Elberta to work from the break of dawn until the sun goes down.
Eric Wilson, despite his advanced age, was still able to maintain the work just as hard as any young man. The farming life was all he knew, and it was the only way he had to make a living. He wasn't willing to let anyone or anything jeopardize it.
A Life Of Work
Wilson had only gone to school for three measly years when he was just a kid. This wasn't unusual for people in his area or during the time when he was raised.
Back then, the priority for every young boy was to start earning money to help out their families. And after all, local agriculture provided everyone with a good way to make a decent living. But as years went by, things took a turn.
Several industries started flourishing around Elberta. At first, this didn't seem to be a problem; after all, the region's economy was thriving, and people could easily get jobs, which was a good thing.
But soon enough, it became evident that these industries were releasing some pollution that would jeopardize the region's main industry: farming.
Wandering Around Bookstores
Wilson spent years wandering around every library and bookstore in town and going through every legal volume he could get his hands on.
He couldn't even afford to buy them. He just brought a notebook and a pen with him and wrote down everything he thought could be useful. This was a difficult task, but something else made it even more complicated.
He Went To See What Was Up
When they were gone, he decided to come close to where the trucks had stopped and see what was going on. He had a bad feeling about it: he feared the worst.
And when he got there, he saw it. He couldn't contain a gasp: it was worse than anything he could have ever imagined.
Toxic Waste All Over
Acres and acres of the fields were covered with toxic waste! This would ruin their harvest not only for the time being but also for years to come!
Wilson was outraged. That couldn't be legal. But what could he even do about it? He didn't have the money to hire a lawyer and sue the company. But he had other plans.
He went to the authorities, but they told him that he would need to build a case against the company. He would have to gather evidence of the firm's actions and then bring a lawsuit.
Considering Wilson's limited resources, this seemed like a battle of David versus Goliath. But he had a trick up his sleeve. He wasn't willing to let the big firm get away with it.
Six Years Of Study
For the next six years, Wilson spent all his spare time preparing the lawsuit all by himself. It was a battle he had to fight and win. He just had to do it; for his village, for his neighbors, and for his own dignity.
And even though he couldn't hire a lawyer and didn't have more than three years of school education, he found a way to face the firm and make them pay for what they did.
Wilson Didn’t Like It
Wilson was no stranger to this, and he suspected that, sooner or later, it might become a problem for his livelihood. He would soon see that he was right all along.
One day, some trucks from a big chemical firm made their appearance near the fields where Wilson worked. Wilson stared at them from a distance; they just stood there for about an hour and then left. He wondered what they were up to.
It Was Hard For Him
Wilson had to carry a dictionary with him and look up the words he read in the legal volumes. He didn’t understand many of them, so he basically had to give himself an education in law!
One can only imagine how titanic of a task it was for this farmer who dropped out of school after just 3 years.
Even though the farmer didn’t have the smarts a lot of people from the city did, he was an incredibly ingenious man with the wisdom that a hard life had taught him.
He knew that this would be a monumental task. But if he wanted to get the reparations he sorely needed, he would have to make sure he knew exactly what he was talking about when he presented his case.
A Difficult Journey
Most people would have given up when they realized how difficult it would be. But there was something that drove him. It was his livelihood, after all.
How could he be expected to live now that his harvest each year would be a fraction of what it used to be? His farm was his life, and that couldn’t be taken away from him.
A Long Road
After researching enough books to fill a room, Eric could tell that he was out of his depth. Law was a complicated thing, and as a mostly uneducated man, he knew it would take a lot more dedication to understand what he was getting into.
But he didn’t give up. He drove to every major library in the city to find the books he wanted. But that’s when he’d be noticed.
Eric stuck out like a sore thumb when he was in the big city. He was used to the rough rural farmlands and never had to dress fancy. He wore tried and true but ragged jeans with a button-up shirt that had seen a lot of hard work.
This meant that one person, in particular, noticed Eric walking around in the law section of the library. He caught their interest in a strange way.
His Usual Routine
Eric had developed a routine by now. He’d go straight to the law section and pick out all of the books that he thought would be relevant before sitting down with them. He’d always make the most of his time with them since he couldn’t take them home.
He’d usually spend hours reading up on everything he could. But today, he’d be interrupted by the least likely person.
A Strange Meeting
The stranger snuck up behind Eric. He was intrigued by him. What could a rural man want with law books? But his watching was now over.
He approached the table Eric was sitting at and sat down. He flashed a smile as Eric had his nose in a book. But when he looked up at him, he had no idea what was about to happen.
Eric felt anxiety wash over him. The peculiar man who had sat down in front of him was wearing a black suit and tie. This only ever spelled trouble in the past since it could have easily been an attorney for the company he was battling.
Corporations always tried conniving ways of getting what they wanted. Was this man here to buy him off with his Hollywood smile and perfect suit?
Eric’s mind was racing with the thoughts of whatever trouble would come from this. Maybe they were about to serve him a cease and desist? Or maybe they were going to find an equally devious way of stopping him.
The man in the suit stared at him for another few seconds before opening his mouth. But the offer he had for Eric would be something he could never refuse.
The man introduced himself as just Harry. This “Harry” told him that he had been watching Eric and wanted to offer him some kind of assistance. He saw that he was struggling with the books, and he was in a position to help.
Harry further explained that he was studying law and came to the library for the very same reason as Eric.
A Helping Hand
Harry knew a lot more about law than Eric did, and he wanted to help. Eric was understandably suspicious and told Harry about his predicament with the dumping of waste on his land.
Harry seemed almost as disgusted by this as Eric was and seemed more motivated to help now that he knew what the stakes were. But would Eric accept the help of a complete stranger?
Making A Deal
What Eric lacked in book smarts, he more than made up for in wisdom. He didn’t trust strangers easily and decided to make a deal with the studying lawyer to make sure he would keep his word.
He explained the deal to the lawyer so that he could trust him. But would he accept the proposal?
The deal was that the lawyer would sit with him and help explain some of the terminologies he had been struggling with. If he stuck around until Eric was finished for the day, he’d accept his help.
Eric expected him to leave immediately. Then he could carry on working on the books. But the lawyer did something completely unexpected.
To his surprise, Harry agreed and sat with him and explained everything he didn’t understand. He still didn’t expect him to last very long. Eric was a very motivated man and spent up to 6 hours studying sometimes.
But to his amazement, Harry stayed with him the entire time, patiently helping him wherever he needed it. A deal was a deal.
The Start Of His Tutoring
After gaining Eric’s trust, Harry made the ultimate arrangement with him. He agreed to tutor Eric every week to help him build his case against the chemical firm. Harry was an incredible help, but what about his opinion?
Harry had good news, the thought that the case was easy to win if Eric played his cards right. They just had to bide their time.
Eric and Harry became friends over the course of their tutoring. After six months of teaching Eric everything he knew, Harry had to leave the rest to the farmer. They were both confident that he could win the case.
But Eric still had a long road ahead. It would be a long time until he actually got his case ready, and he still had no idea how it would turn out.
6 Years Later
After 6 years, Wilson finally managed to complete and present the lawsuit. And after that, it took the courts 8 years more to process it and get the trial started.
Little is known about why this happened, but it seems to be related to the big firm's connections to the political and judicial powers. But eventually, Wilson got a court decision about his case.
Finally, the court ruled that the chemical firm would have to pay almost more than $800,000 to Wilson and his neighbors in compensation for the damage done to their farms!
It seemed like Wilson had won a battle that seemed impossible. But shortly after the court's decision, the chemical firm appealed. Wilson’s battle had just begun.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.