I used to work for a big life insurance company in the city. They started a little property casualty company just for the staff and when I left and moved out of the city in 1988, they let me stay on the rolls. I’m sure it was the only farm they insured. Over the years, one fish gobbled another fish and the little casualty company fell into the hands of a hedge fund. One day a letter came in the mail:
Dear Mr. Needles:
As per our recent examination of your policy it has been noted that you have livestock; i.e. twelve sheep, three goats. Please advise purpose of same (farming, other) as soon as possible.
Also please note that coverage on all farm equipment and barn is now excluded. Your policy will follow shortly incorporating these changes.
Acme LLP Insurance Company
Imagine a company that does business on three continents wanting to know more about my sheep. My wife glanced at the letter and said: “Don’t give them any detail.”
“What should I say?”
“Just talk the way you do, but don’t say anything.” And so I wrote the following:
Acme LLP Insurance Company
Dear P. Rider,:
Thank you for your kind letter of Feb. 5. It sure is nice to know that no matter how busy things get down there, you can still take the time to write a chatty note full of news and gossip to an old customer.
You were asking about the sheep and goats. They are all fine thank you, although Mrs. Trotter is getting up in years now and has a tendency to bloat on heavy feed. There are actually four goats here this week because we have a billy goat named Bingo visiting temporarily. As for the purpose of same, I can’t for the life of me think what the purpose of these animals has been or ever will be. The total wool clip for the flock this year amounted to $7.50 minus the beer for the shearer. And the expenses over the last ten years are creeping up over $25,000. No, the only one left with a sense of purpose around here is the billy goat and he goes home on Monday.
It’s an interesting story how Bingo’s people got into goats. They had a baby girl who had a milk allergy and if you have any familiarity with babies you will know their digestions can stop a household like a clock. Fortunately, their doctor steered them onto goat’s milk and the story has a happy ending. But they got tired of being held captive by the grocery store, bought themselves a nanny and the rest is history. I find that a moving story, don’t you?
Getting back to your first question. We’re supposed to get a lamb crop in the spring but until then the only revenue we’re likely to see will come from the odd sheep rental. You might ask why a person would rent a sheep, indeed it surprised me at the time, but I assure you it happens, and for legitimate purposes, too.
I sincerely hope that settles the sheep and goats question for you. I think the company would be ill-advised to have anything further to do with them. In fact, I would reconsider the safety of my policy with you if you were to pursue this line of inquiry any further.
By the way, my new policy came in the mail this week. I have been reading it steadily ever since, pausing only for sleep and prayer, and I still cannot determine if my house is insured. Please advise immediately.
Yours truly, etc.
A month later I got a call from a steely fellow at Acme asking if I farmed. I told him you couldn’t really call this a farm. I started in on the details of my attempts to incubate chickens for the henhouse when he interrupted.
“Does any heavy equipment come onto the property at any time during the year?”
It was hard to squirm around that one. My neighbour Bill rents 20 acres and his machines visit for twenty minutes in the spring and twenty minutes in the fall. But that was enough for the insurance inspector.
“We don’t insure farms,” he said. “You have 30 days to find another insurer.” And then he hung up.
Like the baby and the goat milk, the story has a happy ending. We did find the Western General based in Woodstock and the agent turned out to be one of my readers. We have settled into a cordial correspondence that is now in its 20th season.