Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chapter Sixty-Six

Chapter 66

December 11th – I really wish this weather would make up its mind. After being all cold and rainy it’s popping up into the 80s – OK low 80s but still – in the middle of the day. The mosquitoes may be doing the happy dance but I’m certainly not. I don’t mind it being warm at all; I just would like to have a better idea of what the weather was going to be from one day to the next. It gets frustrating trying to plan chores.

The weather, aside from the exploding bug population, has actually been good for Rand. He’s been able to sit out in the porch or lanai and soak up some sun. He’s nowhere near as pale looking as he was and his bruises have stopped spreading though there are still quite a few that look nasty. I think his lungs are finally clear too. Pastor Ken, looking rode hard and hung up wet, agrees but asked Rand to continue taking it easy for another week before even thinking about doing any heavy labor; not what Rand wanted to hear but he’ll mind or I’ll tie him to the bed posts for the duration. I still worry there is a relapse in there somewhere waiting to happen. This whole thing has scared me to death. I know in my head that Rand and I haven’t been together even a year but I don’t know how I would live without him and I can’t even bring myself to think like that because all I see is this huge black nothingness.

I know how real that real life can be. And I lived … sort of … after losing Daddy and Momma and Brother but, I don’t want to go through that again. And it is different too. Rand feels like he is part of me, the good part. Losing him would be like having my heart cut out and amputating both arms and a leg. I might still be me, but a lot of important parts would be gone and not growing back.

Pastor Ken came just in time for lunch today. I made bean bread with some fried squirrel. I shot the squirrel out in the orchard chewing around at the base of one of my peach trees. Thankfully Rand felt well enough to skin it. I don’t mind cutting our table meat up for cooking but I prefer not having to skin the furry ones, plucking that turkey was hard enough. Rand has all of the furry stuff from our hunting successes strung on what he calls stretchers. Some he is going to make into leather … gloves, gaskets, etc. … and some he is going to leave furry. I have come around to the idea of having a fur bead spread, we just may not get it this year; I hate trying to sleep in the cold. Rand says it will keep the amount of wood we go through at night way down too. Eventually the geese may give off enough feathers for a comforter but by then we might need to think about some type of mattress topper as the mattresses start wearing out. It seems we have to think more about what we’ll need in the future than what we can actually use today.

Bean bread is easy. It actually isn’t bread per se but more like a dumping or maybe in a tamale type thing. I took four cups of freshly ground cornmeal (wow is that stuff good) and mixed it with two cups of mashed, cooked pinto beans. Then to that mess I added two cups of boiling water that had one half teaspoon of baking soda in it. This makes a dough stiff enough to roll into balls. I dropped the balls in a pot of boiling broth left over from yesterday’s pot of green beans with some water added to stretch it out. It takes about forty-five minutes for the balls to cook through but they sure are good. Even better is that it doesn’t matter what kind of broth you cook them in, you can even use just plain boiling water though that makes them a little bland.

I split the fried squirrel between Rand and Ken despite their protests; I just wasn’t all that hungry, my stomach has been acting up again. I think it’s just stress; reminds me of finals week and all the pressure of trying to meet the expectations of people I’d never met.

Speaking of expectations I sure got a shock when we went to church services yesterday. I was willing to stay home but Rand insisted we go and it turned out a good way to get information on people. Momma O was there, not near as sassy as she normally is but better than I expected her to be. Except for the crying part. She cried all over me and gave me pats and hugs for “saving” Sadie. She wasn’t the only one; I could have dug a hole, crawled in, and pulled it closed after me. If some of those folks had had a microscope they couldn’t have stared at me any closer. A good thing Pastor Ken was preaching on grace and forgiveness and how it is a thing we are called to give even when the recipient doesn’t “deserve” it. I was trying to hang onto his words and not blow my stack at all the people who kept getting in my personal space and touching me. I didn’t feel right again until I had a chance to get home and wash up some. I know most of them didn’t mean any harm but there were a few I wanted to flatten with a hymnal. It was like being in a dog pack or being back in school; some people want to push you forward and some people want to push you down. I’m not crazy about having either done to me.

I did what I did out of personal necessity, not to be some kind of leader or hero. I don’t want people to see something in me that doesn’t exist. I’m just me. There’s no reason why any grown person couldn’t have done the same thing I did. I think the heroes, if there are any in this situation, were the men that took advantage of the fallen tower to grab the weapons and fight back against huge odds. Another example is the women that fought to keep the VRC from taking the young women and girls to that trailer despite knowing … knowing for sure … they would be hit and beaten for it. What I helped do may have been big and flashy, and it may have started the ball rolling, but it could just as easily have had a different result. What I did took the brake off of the windlass, but it was the machinery … the townspeople themselves … that actually got the job done.

I tried to tell folks that but too many of them didn’t seem to want to listen. The ones who wanted to make a big deal out of what I did were confused or hurt that I didn’t want their attention. The ones who weren’t impressed called what I said false modesty to draw even more attention to myself. Attention?! Yuck … attention of that sort I can do without. Me and pedestals … I’d rather jump down and land on my feet than fall off and land on my face.

December 12th – Ran out of ink last night and it was too late to make more. I guess it was a good thing because I needed a good night’s sleep. Rand and I even skipped listening to the radio for once. Saved us from going to bed worried or depressed. I was well rested when I got up this morning and I’m happy that I was able to get my work done without feeling like I’d wrestled a giant in my sleep. Most days lately I’ve been too tired to even hear Rand’s snoring.

Brendon and Clyde showed up unannounced this morning and helped do some of the fieldwork that has had to be pushed off because of circumstances. Rand refused to be left out of it. When I would have said something Brendon jogged my elbow and said, “Well if you feel up to it Cuz I’m glad. You ride the cultivator; the mules never listen to me when I try to drive them.”

I wanted to stomp Brendon until Clyde found me in the kitchen on the excuse of wanting something to drink and explained that it was one of those guy things again. They’d make sure riding the cultivator was the only thing Rand did by walking ahead of the mules to check on laid over grain heads. He’d be riding but the mules wouldn’t be pulling at his arms any. I suppose what they did worked but Rand was still exhausted by the end of the day. He was so tired he let me help him in the shower and then didn’t really fuss when I suggested he just relax in bed instead of the recliner for a while. This way I don’t have to wake him up to get him to come to bed and we only run the woodstove in the bedroom rather than both the woodstove and the fireplace. It may be getting up there during the day but at night it is still dropping into the upper 40s and it is damp. I can’t stand sleeping on damp sheets as it makes my legs ache like crazy. I swear, guys and their pride are going to give me an ulcer yet.

It is still early even though it is dark. Rand managed to finish his dinner but not much else and is asleep behind me in the bed. I’ve closed the bed curtains I managed to rig up to hold in the heat at night and the quiet is giving me time to go back over what has been happening. A few more bodies have been found, mostly families that lived way out that have been attacked by the few VRC stragglers that the military hasn’t been able to round up. Major Timble was able to track down a few more VRC and after interrogation I heard they were summarily executed. I’m not sure how I feel about that so I’ll turn it over to God. It disturbs me but at the same time there is a sense of Old Testament justice to it. I don’t know; it gives me a headache and upset stomach if I worry at it too much.

Sadie’s little sister is eating and sleeping normally again though she has a hard time sleeping by herself. She’s on a trundle bed in Momma O’s room for now. I think Hannah needing her is actually what has helped Momma O hang on and get better when no one expected her to. One day the Lord will call Momma O home but it looks like it is going to be a while longer than what people were thinking it would be. Hannah wasn’t … well, she wasn’t molested exactly but she witnessed some things that no little kid should.

I took her to the side and asked her flat out what had happened. Everyone was afraid to ask her I guess or was tippy toeing around it too much. I’ve learned from bitter experience that sometimes you just have to get it out no matter how nasty things are or it sits and festers and … well, things don’t go too well.

What she told me wasn’t nice but I saw worse go on in the warehouse; course I was older too. Since no other of the adults seemed to know what to tell her I asked her if she, you know, understood what she had seen. Boy did she have things messed up and turned inside out. Part of the problem of course was that her dad was a real creep from what little bit I’ve heard. No wonder she had started acting like she didn’t like Paul and his father and absolutely wouldn’t let Pastor Ken examine her at all. Once she had things explained to her and she could ask some questions she didn’t seem so afraid any more. I’m not saying she is cured of what ails her, and it’s a shame that she had to learn about that stuff in that way, but she seemed a bit more … stable I guess you would call it … by the time the dinner-on-the-grounds was over than when she had arrived that morning.

Paul came by today while the guys were out in the field and asked me what I had done. I thought I was in hot water at first because he looked so serious but he explained what he meant after he got over his own embarrassment. Seems that Hannah had given a rather graphic explanation of events to Sadie and then explained how she now understood what she had seen and was sorry that she had been so mean to Paul and then insisted on making sure that Sadie actually liked … well, what Paul and she did. Apparently the walls aren’t quite as thick as Paul and Sadie thought they were. Makes me understand why they started making houses with split plan bedrooms. And why my parents built our house with the block walls on the inside as well as the outside.

Boy did Paul take the long way around in explaining things. After I finally figured out what he was trying to get around to asking I cut him a break and just explained. I don’t know if it is a guy thing or if Paul really is that easily embarrassed. By the time I finished explaining he was the same color as the beets that I took out of the jar for lunch. But at least it is all cleared up. I’m glad I was able to help Hannah; life is hard enough without going around with misunderstandings being taken for truth. I’ve had to iron out a few of my own this past year.

Wish I could say I was misunderstanding what we’ve been hearing on the radio. The whole world seems to be going insane or a reasonable facsimile thereof. The US, if I understand it right, is in a period of extreme isolationism right now. We aren’t trading with foreign countries, import or exports. All available food is being kept in-country which is hacking the heck out of places that used to depend on our exports of wheat, rice, and sugar. We aren’t importing stuff which is hacking the heck out of places that reached the developing-nation level because of all their junk we used to buy or all the people that our companies used to employ. We aren’t even importing oil because between what is in Alaska and in the Gulf states (Gulf of Mexico that is) we’ve got enough for the little bit of refining that is going on and it all being reserved for the US military and government agencies; or for keeping the big agricultural companies running so that the government has food to distribute, of course those places have been taken over by the government anyway so it is all the same thing.

Most of our troops have been pulled in from foreign countries with only token presences in countries that have been our allies for decades or in our protectorates like Guam and Puerto Rico. Just like people used to criticize the US for sticking our nose into everybody else’s business now people are claiming we aren’t doing enough to end the chaos that the world has descended into. According to some of the (few) American radio operators, they are just hacked off that our government no longer supports theirs and that America stopped pumping big bucks into their economies. Me? I think they all give me a headache. When I say that Rand gets grumpy and tells me, “You need to plug into what is going on out in the world more. It’s important.”

I told him I will, just as soon as I can get what I need to do now taken care of. The garden needs turning and prepping for the January planting. The seat of the pants of two pairs of his blue jeans are wearing through. The barn has a leak in the roof, thankfully it is small and not over where the grain is stored. The wood pile is a lot lower than I’m comfortable with. I could have kept going but I was making him feel bad. He knows that we are behind but I need to make sure he understands that I don’t blame him for it.

Frankly the whole country has enough problems to keep us all busy for a long, long time. Groups of people are trying to set up their own ethnic or religious states within the borders of the Continental US and it is a full time job just trying to keep from having things like the Islamic State of Massachusetts become a reality or the Congolese of the Mississippi Delta. Instead of dispersing, groups have been going to population centers and forming their own “governments”; more like warlord leaders is what it sounds like. The problem is that you would think people going to their so-called own kind and isolating themselves would cut down on the violence but it has done the exact opposite.

The government is doing what it can to prevent these states-within-states from getting a foothold but that’s like trying to put perfume back in the bottle once it has been sprayed. And this perfume stinks.

And those state-within-states stink too … literally. It seems like every time you hear about people congregating in large groups trying to recreate whatever type of lifestyle they had in their “homeland” you also begin to hear of things like cholera, malaria, dysentery, and other illnesses that really weren’t a problem in the US since the early 20th century. Starvation is also a problem because large numbers of people congregated into one area just adds more pressure on the already limited resources.

So far we don’t have any problems from bleed over from locations like that. Atlanta is too big a mess for anyone to want to take over although folks claiming to be an offshoot of the Nation of Islam appear to be trying to organize some of the gangs in and around Fulton County. Good luck with that.

We haven’t said anything to anybody about what we are hearing which can be stressful in and of itself when you don’t have anyone to discuss stuff with. News is leaking out into the community but not from us. No one knows we have the radio. I’m pretty sure that not even Mr. Henderson knows and it may be the one advantage we still hold that he doesn’t know about. We’re pretty sure he suspects we have hidden resources but we are also pretty sure that he does too. At the moment he hasn’t made an issue of anything but Rand and I feel we are entitled to some privacy and don’t need to run to him for every little thing. We could probably make a killing peddling the information in exchange for stuff; I think that Rand is waiting to talk to Bill about what we’ve been hearing on the radio before trying to decide what, if anything, to do with it.

Speaking of Bill and Missy, Bill is on the mend but Brendon says his age is starting to catch up with him with all the injuries he has suffered over the few months. I know he is several years older than Missy but I never really asked. I guess to Brendon anyone older than their twenties is “older.” I hope I have more sense than that. I like Bill and Missy well enough but I’m just as fine keeping them at arms length. I mean … well, I’m not sure what I mean exactly. I guess I’m still holding a little bit of a grudge over them not standing up for Rand more. Rand thinks I’m overreacting. I’m trying not to hold onto stuff so much but I’ve learned to watch my back family or not; not because they out and out intend to be hurtful but because more often than not people just don’t think through the consequences of their actions. I might look impulsive but not as much as some people think. There is usually a reason behind my weirdness.

And I guess I’m thinking of other people because something has started up that is driving me up a wall. It’s called “visiting.” I guess they used to do it in the olden days. The ladies would go “visiting” on certain days of the week to each other’s houses. OK, first I’m not a real people person and the idea of sitting with a bunch of other females sipping tea and gossiping makes me cross eyed. Secondly, when you visit you are expected to return the hospitality. Oh my gosh, I just can’t handle the idea of having a bunch of people coming to the house. I know that’s kind of stupid but people – or so say some of them at the church services – are starting to remark on the fact that I never go “visiting.” I suppose I should make more of an effort to at least get over and see Momma O more but I just can’t imagine handling a bunch of people in our house.

What worries me even more is that maybe Rand has been holding back his own preferences to make me comfortable. I’d ask him but I’m not sure what I’ll do if he says that yeah, he’d like people to come visiting. I suppose I could give it a try but I hate the idea of doing it just to be polite.

December 13th – Managed to get most of the mending finished today, even the socks which seems to be a never ending task. I told Rand he needs to start trimming his toenails more if for no other reason than I’m going to run out of darning thread if he doesn’t.

Rand felt well enough that he wanted to try milking this morning. He gave me a scare when he rang the bell on the inside of the barn door; it’s usually reserved for emergencies. I go running out there with the rifle and he said, “Won’t need that just wanted you to see this.”

The boar was eating a rat … or what was left of a rat. I didn’t know they did that and Rand said, “Babe pigs, especially half wild boars, are omnivores. They’ll eat just about anything that doesn’t move out of their way fast enough. They eat fruit, roots, fungi, grasses, earthworms, snakes, and rodents. Don’t get between a pig and its dinner, they can get nasty. From now on, before you unhitch that gate I want you to look inside to make sure Taz isn’t munching on a snack. I know we’ve had some mice moving in, I didn’t know about the rats though.”

Rats! Oh yuck. I asked him if we could set traps and he said he had seen some live traps in Daddy’s stuff so he would try. “We’ll have to be careful though or we’ll catch one of your stupid hens in there instead.”

Rand wasn’t being mean; those hens really do act stupid sometimes. Frankly I’ll be glad when spring gets here and we finish building them a real hen house and secure chicken yard, I’m tired of hunting for their eggs all over creation. The few chicks we’ve gotten really aren’t chicks any more … the one little rooster we had didn’t survive long enough to get all his feathers in, we’re not sure what happened … and the whole lot of them make an awful mess all over the barn. Not to mention Pretty Boy is kind of territorial and being cooped up (no pun intended) in the barn with all the other animals just makes him cranky. He’ll still let me pet him but he’s taken to flying at everyone else. Even Rand had to bat him down once but Pretty Boy hasn’t tried to take on Rand since. Fraidy and Woofer aren’t bothered by Pretty Boy either but they seem to sense he needs lots of personal space and leave him strictly alone.

Rand also said he worried about trapping too many of the rats and mice because that is what Fraidy eats. If we take all of her prey she might start looking at the chickens as more than feathered neighbors. Woofer too for that matter; so far I’ve never had any problems with him getting into the nests or chasing the birds but there was a few times he sure looked tempted. If the weather holds, tomorrow I’m going to give Woofer and Fraidy baths and let them stay in the house at night; but not until they’ve got some of the barnyard stink off of them.

December 14th – Thank goodness it was my left hand or I would be in trouble. Thank goodness I was wearing heavy leather gloves or something most likely would have been broken. Rand is really upset. I guess I’m better off explaining than just sputtering around about it.

Rand has finally decided that right now he doesn’t want the extra work of breeding and raising horses. The extra feed we would need is a problem. Frankly the grain crops don’t look so good right now. He says that later on in the year he’ll take our burros … the ones that came in carrying the stuff that Ram sent and that we apparently get to keep … and breed them for mules. The mules won’t be as big as Bud and Lou but they’ll still be mules with all those benefits. So anyway, a man that Ron Harbinger knows was looking for a mare for breeding stock. Rand took the mare out of the corral and had her walking in the yard and I was brushing out Lou. Then Rand asked me to put some oats in Hatchet’s nose bag.

I’ve done it I don’t know how many times without problems. Feeding time is about the only time Hatchet doesn’t give me some type of grief. Well, this time something really set him off and I’m still not sure what. I put the oats in the bag, put it where he can get at it, turn to go … I’m not even really near him at this point. He comes zinging over to the fence, leans his head out and snap! He has me on the outside of my left hand. It was the shock that caused me to scream and then the pain set in.

I didn’t know what I was doing but instinctively I wanted Hatchet to let go so I popped him on his muzzle and yelled, “Stop!” Amazingly he did. In fact he acted like I had hurt his feelings. Rand isn’t sure if he was playing or if he was frustrated or just what. Horses play rough with one another and Hatchet may not see me as a dominate mare. I’m not partial to the idea of being thought of as a mare one way or the other but I guess it might make a difference if you are a horse.

All I do know is that I was down on the ground and cradling my hand by the time Rand got there and Hatchet was on the other side of the corral nursing a stinging nose. I didn’t box him but I wasn’t exactly as gentle as I could have been. I’ll admit it. It hurt and I was leaking tears. The man, Mr. Houchens, said to bring me up to the porch and let him take a look since he was unfortunately familiar with horse bites having been a breeder for many years.

They took the glove off and my hand was already turning a nasty shade of red and purple, but thankfully no broken skin.

“No broken skin which is a good thing. Don’t think the horse really meant to do much more than nip you. If he’d meant to really bite you he would have and you could have lost a finger gloves or no gloves. Knew of a man who lost his nose to a horse. I don’t think you’ve got anything broken but it is hard to tell with them little bones like that. Hard for me to check, your hands are a bit on the small side and is already swelling so we need to take care of that. Looks like you might have a blood blister forming too. That’s going to be some kind of uncomfortable for a while and is gonna get real ugly before it starts healing. If you can, have Ken take a look at it but I doubt you need a splint but what do I know?”

Basically the treatment has been to keep my hand elevated and to put a cold compress on it for twenty minutes and then let the skin rest for twenty and then put a new cold compress for another twenty minutes. I’ve had to keep doing that for a while to see if I could keep the swelling to a minimum. I’ve also been eating Tylenol but it hasn’t been helping much. Between the fevers and everything else we’ve gone through one of the really big bottles of acetaminophen and there isn’t any more where that’s coming from as far as I know so tomorrow I’m going to dig out Momma’s book to see if I can find a herbal pain killer that I can throw together to save for sickness and fevers.

Mr. Houchens and Rand came to an agreement and he left and came back with his payment (a couple of chickens, some garden seeds, and an old hay baler that was in pieces) and then took the mare away leaving us with things we needed only I was having a hard time not letting Rand see how bad I was hurting. He was really mad at Hatchet but I swear, even though the beast bit me I didn’t want to get him in trouble. Rand spent the rest of the afternoon putting Hatchet through his paces. I don’t know who was more tired, my husband or the horse. The raw place on Rand’s back that we still have to keep dressed was irritated from all the sweating that was done.

Mr. Houchens saw Pastor Ken out on his rounds and let him know about my hand. He stopped by our place before heading home for the night and said it was far from the worst horse bite he had seen and the location is what made it so painful. Nothing was grinding when he messed with my hand but I got nauseous and the shakes just from delayed reaction. Pastor Ken was a little surprised by this which made me irritable. I asked him, “Who do I look like Wonder Woman?”

His answer wasn’t exactly comforting. “Well, you do tend to give that impression on occasion.” Great, just another continuation of what I went through on Sunday. One of these days that whole impression thing is going to get me into some serious trouble I’ve no doubt.

After Ken left I thought about what had happened. I wasn’t really angry at Hatchet, he’s just an animal though if he tries something like that again I might change my mind, but by the end of the day I was irritable that I couldn’t get all my to do list finished. Today was supposed to be cleaning day. It’s not like the house is really messy or anything. Rand isn’t your typical guy, thank goodness, having learned to pick up after himself after getting a dose of a couple of pigpen roommates at college. But, there are all those things that make a house feel really clean that didn’t get done … taking the rugs outside and beating the dirt out of them, dusting, freshening and plumping chairs and sofas, scrubbing the one bathroom we use, deep cleaning the kitchen, etc. I know I was being anal about it but it is stuck in my head that I didn’t get to clean the way I normally do and it is making me itch. Maybe I do have a bit of OCD in me on top of all my other anti-social issues.

OK, not going there. Don’t know why I am so down in the dumps. Maybe I’m having a hormonal moment or maybe I’m just stressed. On top of everything else Rand just mentioned that Brendon and Clyde told him that we were expected for Christmas Day. They are doing Christmas by couples this year and only the little kids are getting individual gifts.

Gifts. I hadn’t even thought about it at all. To be honest I hadn’t even thought about it for Rand for about a month but things have been so intense lately and my brain has been otherwise occupied. Time is slipping away from me and now I’m going to have to hurry up and finish the leather chaps that I measured out from a pair of Daddy’s chainsaw chaps. I made them longer in the leg of course and I’ve been using Momma’s leather stamps to add a few designs on them. I want them to be practical but I want them to look like I put some work into them too. Rand deserves something nice, he’s had it rough the last few weeks.

I’m going nuts trying to figure out what I can do for Christmas gifts. Gifts will be in the morning after chores and then around lunch time there is going to be a pig roast. They caught a wild boar over the weekend and have been fattening him up to save the domestic stock for slaughter.

And, if it is cold enough they may even start slaughtering later that day. Can things possibly get any more hectic? Rand started telling me about what we would likely need to do this year since there wouldn’t be any refrigeration and I nearly had a panic attack. It’s … it’s … I don’t know what it is since I’ve already used the adjectives crazy and insane. I’ve pulled out all of our unused jars and I’m getting them cleaned up and making sure they all have rings and seals. Makes me wish that Ram could pull some of that stuff out of his magic hat; I’ve still got a couple of cases of seals – thank You Momma – but not even that is going to last forever the way we use them. We’ll be OK for the coming year but I’ve already told Rand that we are going to have to start drying a lot more of the produce.

Rand asked me to start thinking really hard about what I would need to keep food on the table … from the ground onward. He’s going to do the same thing for all of the other tasks around our place. I think the grain underperforming has got him worried. I’m worried too. What will we do for bread flour after what we have in the #10 cans and the barrels is gone? And what will the animals eat if we can't get enough even for their feed?

December 15th – Change in plans. Brendon came by and said that all the females in the area are going as crazy about things as I am. Some of the older folks got together and came up with a different idea. Instead of adults getting gifts there is going to be a church service, but you have to sign up ahead of time for the party afterwards. There will be a big dinner and the Christmas tree from City Hall is going to be set up and gifts for all the kids that have been signed up will be hung on the tree like ornaments. Most of the gifts will likely be practical … socks, scarves, gloves, hats, suspenders … but there will be some non-practical things as well like rag dolls, wooden toys, and the like.

When I heard what was up I asked if Rand minded if I went to see Momma O. He was strangely happy for me to go … I guess he worries that I don’t get out more … and told me to take all the time I wanted. He knew I’d be back well before dinner time and it wasn’t like I was getting much baking done with my hand the way it was; I couldn’t kneed the bread. The swelling has gone down – I followed Momma’s instructions for making arnica oil and used it as a topical treatment – but I still have to be careful not to hit my hand or it makes me want to do the two-step and say a few words I shouldn’t.

I used a stump to climb on Lou and then I went to “visit” Momma O. Sure enough she was sitting in the parlor and she had other visitors. She looked like she was holding court. I tried to turn tail, claiming I was too dirty to make a mess of Momma O’s nice, clean parlor but Hannah – that little stinker – put an old sheet over a chair so that I could sit down.

After hemming and hawing a bit I got down to why I came by. First I wanted to know if Brendon had gotten it right. He had. Then I wanted to know how Rand and I could help.

“Well, if that isn’t just like you,” Momma O exclaimed. “I knew we wouldn’t have to hunt you up to help. What do you think Willa? Food or gift?”

Willa was a middle aged woman growing old nearly before my eyes. “Hmmmm, we need both. We’ve only had the list out for a day and a half and we already have forty children signed up. We’ll like have closer to seventy once word gets out, maybe more. We really need some ideas for quick gifts for the little ones.”

I volunteered (yeah, I know, I know) that I have a treadle sewing machine and could make some aprons out of scrap material if someone else could dress them up since my hand wasn’t exactly in shape for fine sewing. I also asked them about making suspenders for boys or maybe belts. Or I could hook up Momma’s knitting machine to make quick scarves, knit caps, or baby blankets. All we needed was material and yarns.

“Don’t you worry about materials. The Ladies’ Auxiliary and the Quilting Guild had a bunch of stuff just boxed up that we’ve kept back. It is more a matter of willing hands. Pastor told us what happened to your hand child. Are you sure you are going to be able to do any work?”

I told her that the knitting machine was really basic and didn’t require much dexterity. It had been my grandmothers and I had both the “flat” and the “round” kinds. The flat one was long enough that I could crank out of a baby blanket a day if I put my mind to it. I had two round ones, the bigger of the two could make knit caps for children and the smaller one could make knit caps for babies or make scarves … I could crank out a couple an hour with that one. When they asked me how I was so sure I told them that Momma used to make stuff for the women’s shelter every Christmas when I was little.

I went home with a couple of bags of yarn tied over Lou’s saddle. I’ve already made a dozen baby knit caps and three scarves for small kids that are four feet long. Tomorrow I want to get baby blanket made and try to get a couple of bigger kid knit caps made.

While I worked at the knitting Rand and I talked some stuff over. We are going to donate some sorghum molasses so that the kids – both younger and older – can have a taffy pull. And we are going to make some popcorn balls too. We’ll add something to the main dish as well. According to the ladies at Momma O’s it is a cross between a burgoo and a mulligan stew and is usually a favorite at the big church picnics that were held when they were girls. Sounds good … and sensible; the meat is whatever the hunters bring in including venison, quail, squirrel, etc. and whatever veggies are the most abundant in the winter larder that people can spare. It gets cooked for a whole day in huge barrel sized tubs and you generally eat it with cornbread. Sure made me hungry just hearing about it.

I’ve got to do some laundry tomorrow but come heck or high water but I need to work on Rand’s gift too. After that I’ll get going on the other stuff. On Sunday I’m going to turn whatever I have come up with to Momma O and see what she has to say. For now I’m going to down a couple of more Tylenol then I’m going to bed. Rand has got the bed warmed up so the covers shouldn’t make my legs ache quite as bad as they have been.

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