Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter 47

September 25th – Wow, just wow. Ram really came through. I’m mean totally came through. The “trash” was a bunch of stuff the government had transported down for the relocation centers. The problem for the military is that the relocation centers have all been disbanded. Ram said most people accepted a train ride back to where they came from so we don’t have to absorb too many new people into the area.

There are train car loads of stuff that was supposed to be handed out in those camps and now they have no one to hand them out to. How they get rid of the stuff has been left up to local commanders but it has to be done quickly because they need the train cars back for moving troops around, etc. We’ve gone back to a coal-driven industry base … or something like that.

OK, so none of it is food … that’s the lumps and Rand and I figure we aren’t doing too badly at all considering but I sure was happy to see some of the stuff he brought back. It’s also a double good thing that the RCs were dismantled because without food those places were going to turn into concentration camps the way things were going.

What there was though made me very happy. Soap and cleaners! Bath soap, laundry soap, borax, washing soda, dish soap, household cleaners, toothpaste, mouthwash, bug spray, etc., etc., etc. There were household goods and paper products … sheets, blankets, pillows, table clothes, miles and miles of toilet paper (good thing too since Rand and I were starting to resort to the yellow pages if you know what I mean), feminine products, sponges, brooms, mops, scrub brushes, buckets, toilet brushes, etc.

Clothes … oh my goodness … Rand must have brought back enough clothes to start up our own department store. He told me to go through it and what I don’t think we can use or won’t store or whatever he’ll give back so that it can go in the pile that is going to a community thrift store sort of thing the military folks are setting up that Bill and Missy will help … uh … administrate or something like that. People are just going to be allowed to come in and pick out stuff but not like Rand, Brendon, and Mr. Henderson and the Pastor did. Each of our families got a huge wagon load … in fact we got three if you count the fact that Brendon helped Rand bring two loads home in the big wagon and then they went back and filled up the wagon again for the folks at the Crenshaw place and Rand brought yet another load home in our little wagon. Mr. Henderson got quite a bit because he has so many folks working for him. When Rand told me at least fifty when you added in the workers families that they brought with them that was no exaggeration.

Rand mentioned putting some stuff together for Momma O’s family but Pastor Ken was already on it since he has taken to staying in a little apartment that is over their garage. That’s another story … somebody tried to burn the preacher’s house down out on CR51 and if it wasn’t for someone passing by he would have lost everything including all the pictures of his wife and son that died during the pandemic and all of his seminary books. Pastor Ken said he is taking it for a sign. He was having a harder and harder time going home to his empty house; he’d start sitting there dwelling on the memories rather than living in the here and now.

I will be sending some of those clothes back over to Missy to deal with. A lot of them are the wrong size … Rand just kind of guessed I suppose … and some of them I can’t imagine what on Earth I’d do with. And some of them are what my Momma would call "risky" clothes. I was in middle school before I figured out she meant risque instead of risky ... of course when you wear them I imagine it amounts to the same thing.

The clothes were just baled together by sizes … I mean literally baled together in big blocks with plastic strapping like you used to see on stuff stacked on wooden pallets. Some of the cleaning supplies were thrown into barrels and boxes and a lot of the contents didn’t match. For instance, there were two big cases of bath soap but the only thing that matched about the bars of soap that were inside were their basic shapes and sizes; they were different brands, different smells, different colors, that sort of thing. And there were a couple of boxes of what looked like grated soap flakes from all different types of soap bars. That’s when I really started wondering where all this stuff had come from.

Rand must have seen the confusion and stuff on my face because he came over and hugged me and said, “Don’t start making a fuss Kiri. Please. This is good for us.”

“But where did it all come from Rand?” I asked. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be comfortable with his answer.

After a deep sigh, “Don’t come unglued Babe. You remember me telling you about the early work days where we went house to house in groups and cleaned out abandoned houses of food and stuff? OK … well that type of work was, and probably still is, going on all over. The stuff pulled together around here stayed around here because the program was being run by locals, by people invested in the community. In the big cities and suburbs around them the government was more careful. They shipped in people that didn’t have any connection or sympathies within the communities and everything brought in by the work crews was boxed up and sent to some type of central warehousing system. Lord only knows what they thought they were going to do with it all. Ram says that there are warehouses up north with stuff just sitting around rotting, full of rodents and bugs, algae and mildew. They basically created hazardous waste sites that can’t even be entered anymore because of all the mold spores floating around. And they’re fire hazards too.”

“But this stuff is all still packaged … well, I mean most of it is.”

“They raided stores, warehouses, production plants, central distribution points; you name it and the government took the inventory in the interest of the public for redistribution. They just never seemed to get around to actually redistributing it. The people that were in the work for food programs would box like items up together or bundle them or whatever and it would go into storage. Items that came in as partials would be treated differently.”

I was having a hard time soaking this information in. I really hope none of this stuff belonged to people that still wanted it or who had it stolen from them.

“Let’s take this barrel of liquid soap and this box of grated soap for example. Ram said that anything salvageable was taken, even partially used cleaning supplies and open food items out of refrigerators. The open bottles of dish detergent would be set aside and someone would come to collect them, open them, and dump them in a big vat where it was remixed. Doesn’t matter what color or smell the soap was. That’s why those two barrels both look they have snot in them but each barrel has different colored snot in it.”

“Rand, that’s gross! And silly you big goof.”

Rand smiled and said, “I know Babe but I wanted to get the frown off of your face. As for the grated soap, used bars of soap were thrown in this big grating machines, mixed together, and then dumped into these garbage bag lined cardboard boxes. I figured you’d be able to figure out some use for them.”

“Well … yeah. It’s not rocket science. I can make my own laundry goop … Momma did and I showed Aunt Wilma how and she did it after that since it was cheaper than buying everyone their own bottle of laundry detergent. We all had to do our own clothes. With a little damp we could even press some of this shredded stuff into balls or bars to make bath soap.”

“See! What did I tell you? I told Brendon you’d figure something out. Look, there’s … well … there’s something else. Brendon got me thinking and … here’s the thing. We can try really hard to put it off for a while but … “ He took a big breath and then took me over to the stuff that was still covered on our wagon. “I probably should have asked first or taken you with me or …”

Rand pulled back the tarp and I must have gone red from head to toe and really it was sweet but I’m still kinda feeling sort of like I’ve got the shivers. There was baby stuff in there … a bed and a cradle and clothes and I still haven’t looked at it all. It is just sitting in the house in the middle of the floor with the other stuff until we figure out how we are going to store everything securely.

“There was stuff like pots and pans and dishes but I didn’t figure we needed any more of that.” He looked relieved to have guessed right after I shook my head in the negative. “And Ram said there is furniture and mattresses but I wouldn’t even know where we would put it but if you want … Good, because … well … there is some stuff that Brendon and I want to go through tomorrow that Ram is bringing in the next load.”

The way he was hemming and hawing I knew right away it must be tools and things like that. “Well, yeah, I mean spare parts and …”

I had to laugh. “Rand, I’ll tell you the same way my Momma told Daddy … as long as I don’t have to trip over it I don’t care. Is that a deal?”

Then Rand laughed and we actually had a good time bringing stuff inside but I have to say the house is an absolute mess again. I’ve been canning green beans all day today and haven’t even had time to do any pickles yet and there is no way I’m going to be able to do what I need to do in the garden, in the kitchen, and get all this stuff put away too. No wonder Momma would get frustrated with me when I wanted to go outside and play when she needed help inside. It’s too late to apologize now but I guess paybacks will come at some point. I can remember Daddy laughing when Mom would tell brother and I, “I hope you grow up to have one just like you.” Hmmm. If Rand is really serious about that baby stuff maybe I ought to be a little more worried than I am right now.

After Rand was through carting stuff in he dug up the leach pipe. It was full of roots. We were very lucky that the roots came in from the septic tank lid and not in from the leach field side. It is still going to be a major mess. The pipe was so plugged up there was no cleaning it out, Rand had to cut the pipe in several places until he got beyond the roots. And when he cut the lines it was a disgusting mess as the liquid came pouring out of the tank … just nasty looking water because the solids had settled but still, how majorly gross.

The septic tank is going to have to remain open until enough liquid runs out that Rand can fix the plumbing. Plus he has to find some schedule 35 PVC along with things he calls couplers and PVC glue to piece the leach line back together. Looks like it is still going to be the bucket for the next couple of days, I hope he can find what he says we need. I always feel like someone is watching.

September 26th – Argh! I hate yellow-jackets. I got stung all to pieces on my back and it hurts to lie down. It hurt so bad I cried even though I tried not to and when Rand came home after his second run over to Ram’s rendezvous he nearly didn’t go back because of it. I felt stupid and told him he’d better get before I got really upset. That made him smile a little bit but he still brought back a surprise in the last wagon load he brought in and insisted on helping me soak in the bathtub tonight even after I told him I could do it myself. He said it was a test of the new pipe he glued in. Right, I'm really that gullible. Not.

Why I ran into the nest of yellow-jackets is because I was chasing after Woofer who had caught a coyote slinking up to the house. It was either after Fraidy or the chickens but Woofer caught its scent first and lit off after it like he was going to tear it to ribbons. Maybe that fence around the homesite isn’t a bad idea after all. I think it is kind of weird for a coyote to strike in the middle of the day so I’m wondering if it was either really hungry, really bold, or diseased and none of those made me want Woofer tangling with one so I went tearing after that crazy dog.

I must have disturbed a nest as I was running through the bushes because it just felt like one or two pokes with a hot pin at first and then my back was on freaking fire. I ran, stripping out of my shirt … maybe not the smartest thing to do … but I managed to get back to the house in one piece without a sting any place else except one on my … uh … sitting spot that made it through my jeans. I couldn’t see much in the mirror at first but within about fifteen minutes my back looked deformed. About the only place they didn't get to was where by bra straps were. I put on a loose shirt and Woofer came back having chased his opponent I don’t know how far. That dog is seriously deranged. He came back with my shirt in his mouth like we’d just played the best game of catch ever.

Pain or no pain I still had more canning to do. I got forty quarts of green beans done yesterday and my fingers are so sore that I just started cutting the ends of the beans off with a paring knife instead of pinching them off like you are supposed to. The chickens and goats liked the bean stuff that is left over.

That billy is evil I tell you, this morning he stole my bucket as I was trying to dump pieces of green bean in their pen for them to eat and there was no way I was climbing over in there to get it back. Then the stupid thing got it hooked on his horn and kept trying to sling it off. I let Rand get it off when he came home for a bite of lunch before heading back out. The goat and I really need to have a discussion about what is acceptable behavior. And he smells too which is another mark against him. I wonder if there is a way to give him a bath. I asked Rand tonight and he started laughing so hard he fell off the sofa. I still don’t get what is so funny.

I just realized what I wrote: “I got forty quarts of beans done.” Done. I’m slipping and slipping bad. Maybe I should pull out the ol’ school books and finish my education. Like my English teacher would say ad nauseum, “Turkey’s get done, people get finished.”

That also brings to mind the fact that Rand said Uncle George is worried that Charlene, Janet, Mick, and Tommy are going to grow up ignorant. He’s started teaching them lessons three days a week using their old school books and the Bible. I mentioned my own goofs to Rand and said that I was worried that I was sliding and he replied, “Babe, you’re a walking encyclopedia of memories and what you don’t remember you know how to look up. That’s called being a researcher. You take your research and you put it to use in your own experiments, keeping track of the progress from beginning to end like lab notes, that’s science. You inventory what we have, estimate what we need, and create a plan on how we are going to get it and that’s math, accounting, and just about the rest of it. You want me to keep going because I can. We all slip every once in a while. You’ve heard what I sounded like after spending a week with Mr. Coffey. It weren’t no easy task finding me education agin’ after losing it for so long lil’ gal.”

I couldn’t help it. Between being embarrassed by his praise and surprised by his silliness I busted out laughing. He makes me feel good about myself in a way I haven’t felt since I lost Daddy. I don’t mean that how it might sound. I don’t look at Rand like a … a … father figure or anything like that. I just meant that he makes me feel secure. Yeah, I think that’s it. Rand makes me feel secure inside and out. Even when there are problems he’s solid, a … rock … a good foundation. I’m so glad we worked things out. Every day I find things that make me even gladder.

It doesn’t hurt that he likes my cooking either. I cooked a pot of green beans today and they sure were good. I wish I had had a little bit of bacon or meat to stick in there but I didn’t so there isn’t any use in making a big fuss about it. I made biscuits, mashed potatoes, and pan fried more squash with some onions. I sent a five gallon bucket of stuff home with Brendon and sent over a basket of goodies for Ram too. Rand laughed when he said Ram was fighting off some of the other guys who spotted the jar of jam and the apples and the sorghum cookies. If Ram is anything like he used to be he’ll wind up sharing them willingly later; he just likes to make a fuss about it first. And he probably wants to save some for his wife. I hear from Rand that she is very, very quiet … like something happened to her quiet … and Ram is very protective of her. He saw her yesterday but not today. There’s a story there but I don’t know if it is any of my business to know it.

Today I canned Dilly Beans, Dilly Pepper Beans (which is a lot like Dilly Beans only you add a good dose of cayenne pepper), and Spiced Green Beans (you can do beets or carrots like this too). This only amounted to a canner full. Mostly what I’ve been doing today are pickles.

When Momma O wrote on the envelope that the pickle vines would make more than I could keep up with she wasn’t kidding. Wow. I have these growing up a trellis and for two days I’ve picked everything ripe and there will be more to pick tomorrow. Maybe I planted too many.

For the pickles I made Ice Water Pickles, sweet chunk pickles, bread and butter pickles, mustard pickles, sour pickles, kosher dills, lime pickles, curry pickles, garlic pickles, ginger pickles, hot-and-sweet pickles, and sweet-and-sour pickles. I know it sounds like a lot but really with both fire pits and the pot belly going I was able to keep up with no problem because I had prepped all the cucumbers first thing this morning. Tomorrow I’m going to make some cucumber relish and cucumber catsup. And I’m also going to try drying some pickle chips and cucumber chips just to see if it will work. I also plan on blanching and drying a lot of the green beans.

I’ll have company tomorrow because Rand said he has to get back to work around our place. I asked him if he needed to go to his uncle’s pretty soon and he said he might in a couple of days. With Mr. Winston and JR over there helping he feels like he’d be one set of hands too many especially when we have so many things that need doing here.

The oats look like a carpet of green grass where they are coming up. The rain we had the other day did them a lot of good. Rand is worried about all the deer and tomorrow Clyde is coming over and I’ll probably need to be ready to preserve some more venison. Doing all of this on my own is a lot of work. It makes me realize why women were so happy to have lots of daughters … or daughter in laws. Or neighbors. Melly is coming with Clyde tomorrow if Roo is up for it and we’ll see what else we can get up to.

Oh, before I forget to record it, the surprise Rand brought back with him was a load of … well, it wasn’t really food but it sort of was. Ram said it had been buried under bales of clothes and after they’d gotten them out of the way they found them. I got eight gallons of white vinegar, a case of 24 quarts of cider vinegar, a barrel of white sugar, a half barrel of brown sugar, a half barrel of regular salt and a whole barrel of coarse grained kosher salt, a big jug of vanilla flavoring, and wrapped up careful was a gallon of pickled pigs feet, a gallon of pickled eggs, and a gallon of pickled sausages. I was way beyond happy to see everything but the pickled pigs feet. I am sorry, I may be Southern, my Daddy may have loved them to pieces, I may even have helped my Memaw make them … but I just cannot bring myself to eat them. It’s like frog legs; I know they are good and that they are considered gourmet treats by a lot of people … but they still look too much like what they used to be. Ew!

Rand laughed when he saw my reaction and said he’d just have to eat them all himself and I said he could go right on ahead and do so. Man! I had to rig up a skirt for the jar so I wouldn’t have to look at them every time I open the pantry door. I might eat them if it came down to starving or not … but I’d sure have to do a lot of thinking on it first.

The one thing Rand brought back that I'm reserving judgment on ... and I really have no right to say anything one way or the other as I refuse to boss Rand around like that ... is that he brought back a couple of cases of some high test liquor and some bottles of the fancy drinking stuff. He says that we'll use the liquor to make some homemade medicines; he's been reading Momma and Daddy's files at night to relax. I don't know a whole lot about that stuff yet although it seems like it might be back in the back of my brain where the cobwebs hang out. I knew what a tincture was and some other stuff that Rand mentioned althought I can't remember how I knew what that stuff was.

The last thing he brought back was a box of medical supplies. By unanimous vote everyone wanted Pastor Ken to take what medical supplies there were. Before I even had time to object to that through Rand said that Pastor Ken made up boxes of supplies that he wants kept at our houses. I looked in there and some of that stuff I hope we never have to use. But I'll probably be grateful for Pastor Ken's thoughtfulness if we do. He's a really good man although I have a feeling he'd deny it if it came up.

September 28th – Been too busy and tired to write in the journal at night. Melly didn’t get to come over as Roo has some kind of ear thing going on. Before Clyde left I gave him a small bottle of olive oil and told him to have Melly warm it up to a little over body temp and put some drops in the ear that is bother Roo. Hopefully that will soothe him if nothing else. Paulie came over too since they were going to make a hunting party of it.

Turns out deer wasn't what we needed to worry about, first thing that morning there was a couple of female feral pigs ... a momma and a gilt ... with eight piglets that were rooting through the easement field. They did a little damage but not as much as they would have if the guys hadn't put a stop to it. The mornings have cooled off but it was still a messy business to butcher the gilt. They caught the mother pig and then the piglets who are still too young to be seperated from her by using corn and got her up into the back of Clyde's high sided wagon where she was finally soothed enough that she calmed down. They weren't truly feral pigs but close enough. They probably aren't even a generation away from the farm, might even be escapees from all the recent disruptions. Some of the butchered meat is in our smoke house and some went home to Momma O and the live pigs went over to Uncle George to add to his pig herd. Given that he was looking to shrink the herd last I was told, he might not have been very happy about these new ones. I haven't heard.

I could do with a bit of soothing myself but I don't think olive oil or corn will do it. Rand made me lock everything up, including the animals and he walked to the end of our road and caught a lift with Ram. There was trouble overnight at the makeshift distribution point that had been set up for people to come look through the stuff off the trains. The story we got from Mitch was that people were upset that no food was brought in and then they started fighting over what there was. A lot of damage has been done and then they turned on the military guys who were just trying to keep the unrest from spreading. The malcontents got more than they bargained for. There are a lot of dead and wounded but the meanness has spread out and the military asked for community volunteers to try and get it re-contained. Rand has been gone all morning and I’ve been sitting here at the dormer window keeping watch.

I was OK until I heard a girl’s scream a few minutes ago. It shouldn’t have been so loud. I know it is still far enough away that it isn’t on our forty but something isn’t right. Dang it, there it goes again and it is closer this time, like the sound is channeling down through our road. Gotta go, hopefully I won’t have a story to tell Rand when he gets home.

1 comment:

  1. *smiles* I hate cliff hangers. Oh well. Looks like you'll be updating this again tomorrow.