MICHELE NORRIS, host:
With the dark news from Ford, many of its workers are anxious about the future of their jobs. Laura Ziegler reports from Kansas City on one of those workers about what he and his family are doing to cope with the uncertainty.
LAURA ZIEGLER: Troy Foote has worked at the Ford Claycomo Plant in north Kansas City for 15 years, and he's seen his pay reduced by about $20,000 over the last few years because of less overtime, among other things. He says he tries hard not to let his family see how much he worries.
Mr. TROY FOOTE: There's another bucket in there.
ZIEGLER: Last fall, he married a woman named Brandy and joined her four children with his four. They moved into a rural ranch house outside Lawson, Missouri. Brandy took a job driving a school bus to make some extra money. About a month later, she asked her husband if they could take in four brothers who rode on her bus. Their dad had just committed suicide.
Mr. FOOTE: We were struggling as it was, but I couldn't say no.
ZIEGLER: A rugged outdoors man, Troy's muscles swell as he splits a piece of walnut and two perfect triangle logs fly in either direction. Jake Hunter(ph) is the oldest of four brothers living with the family now. A 16-year-old in camouflage jeans, he grins as he stacks the wood that will be burned for heat in a wood stove. Troy says it will save the family thousands of dollars in heating bills this winter. As for food, they tried to be as self-sufficient as possible, a huge vegetable garden in the summer and 18 chickens for the two dozen eggs the family might eat in one sitting.
(Soundbite of chicken crowing)
ZIEGLER: The Footes buy practically no meat. Troy hunts deer. They raise and butcher some hogs and have several head of cattle behind the house for beef. As Jake rounds them up on a frigid afternoon, he stops to take a picture of a calf with his cell phone. The kids named him Drizzle because he was born in the rain.
Mr. FOOTE: You know, the kids they name him and (unintelligible). They are pretty acceptable, you know, they know what their purpose is.
ZIEGLER: On a recent Sunday, two of the boys, Tyler(ph) and Jake, are on eBay searching for a used vacuum cleaner. Vacuums break often here. With 12 kids, laundry is a daily routine. There's a mountain of white socks on the floor and a sofa full of clean, folded clothes. Austin(ph) Foote is proudly explaining the chore chart that tells each child what his or her job will be for the day.
(Soundbite of interview)
Mr. AUSTIN FOOTE: I did the bathroom.
ZIEGLER: You scrub the tub?
Mr. AUSTIN FOOTE: Not the tub.
Mr. AUSTIN FOOTE: Toilet, yeah.
ZIEGLER: Imagine a house that smells of French toast or pot roast and wood smoke. There's always someone to do homework with and play with. All and all, say the kids, it's not a bad life.
Unidentified Child: This is something fun I like to do, steal stuff from my brothers.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Unidentified Child #2 I like to carry Atticus(ph) around and give people wet willlies. It's fun.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Unidentified Child #3: And one of the things I also like is you have your own football team.
ZIEGLER: The Foote family is trying hard to play like a team on and off the field with all the unknowns at Ford these days. Brandy and Troy say they're making a conscious effort to keep their game faces on.
Mr. FOOTE: It's been tense at times, you know, but overall, it's worked out. .
Ms. FOOTE: Right now, we tell them your responsibility is to be a kid, to be 16, you 14, you 12, you 11, you know, and not to be an adult. We're here to take care of them.
ZIEGLER: Three of the four Hunter kids will go back to live with their mother next month, but finish up the school year where they are now, while their stepparents wait anxiously to see how Ford's financial crisis will affect them. For NPR News, I'm Laura Ziegler in Kansas City.
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