Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter 34

July 9th – Didn’t have a chance to write yesterday. I was just exhausted. I wasn’t just right about how much work trying to turn a garden without a rototiller or plow was going to be I had way underestimated it. I thought Rand was going to laugh at me or tell me I was being stupid for keeping at it but he knows what the garden is going to mean. It could be the difference between tightening our belts up one notch and tightening them up three, four or more.

So we worked, and even with leather gloves we both got blisters. And we both got exhausted. And I forgot to ask Rand what he’d been talking about with Mr. Henderson … I should have. It wouldn’t have made things any better this morning but at least I would have had more time to prepare for it.

I was actually interested in going to the fellowship but Rand seemed … determined. That’s how it seemed anyway. I just put it down to wanting to do the right thing and go to church even though we were both sore. He asked me to wear the jean skirt I made again – I guess he likes it – so I did but I wore it with a blouse-y jewel-colored shirt that was in the pile that Missy had sent to me. It wasn’t very practical but it was a heck of a lot better than pink, especially since the pink one wasn’t really fit for much anymore. It had been torn in several places that pulled it all out of whack when I sewed it back together.

We rode Hatchet again; and I had a bucket of fruit in my lap just like last time. There was also a pile of biscuits in a bag hung over the saddle horn. Rand tries to ride Hatchet more than Bud or Lou because one, he gets his feelings hurt if he is ignored and two, he gets frisky if he isn’t ridden regular. The mules have more sense. Rand was holding me even tighter than he needed to and I began to suspect something was really bothering him. I knew so when he started talking as we turned onto CR49.

“Kiri … “

“Just spit it out. Are you worried about me being out in public and causing a scene or something? I promise I’ll try real hard not to embar … “

“It’s not that at all. Don’t think that. Don’t ever think that. I probably should have said something before now. Kiri honey … Chase Peters died.”

I don’t know what I had been expecting but it hadn’t been that.

“It’s not your fault. You were defending yourself. He was twice your size and he had a gun and from what’s been found out since, you aren’t the first girl he’s … I don’t even know what you want to call it. Gotten obsessed with or tried to intimidate or stalked or … “

“I’m sorry Rand. I … I didn’t mean to. I knew he’d get burned but … but I didn’t … “

“Not … your … fault. And I don’t want to hear you apologizing for it again. No matter what Kiri.”

“What do you mean no matter what?”

“Chase’s mom … she’s … people have been talking. Chase didn’t die right away. Pastor Ken knew it was bound to happen, that’s why he didn’t rush him to the clinic. Shock, infection … he said it was inevitable. He would have been triaged anyway. They don’t have the medical facilities to take care of that kind of injury anymore. But he didn’t die quick. And his mother, who works at the clinic, only heard the details she wanted to hear and she’s refused to listen to anyone with sense.”

“How … how bad is this? Is she … can she … what happens … will I … is there still jail?”

“No! You’re not going anywhere. I dare anyone to try and take you from me. And if there was still a way to prosecute people we probably wouldn’t be going through this in the first place because someone would have complained about Chase before it got this far. Like I said, some things have come out. But … “

“But what?”

“His mom has been talking. And been talking to people who have done their own talking. And … Pastor Ken says that he is going to try and do what he can but he has to be careful. He can’t use the pulpit to … to try and … “

“Maybe he shouldn’t say anything at all. I don’t want him to get in trouble.”

“He won’t. Mr. Henderson has … well, he’s got a lot of pull and he’s given people a lot to think about too.”

“Has it been hard on your family?”

“Why would you ask that?”

“You said that Chase’s mom was friends with the Harbingers. Julia’s parents are friends with the Harbingers. And the situation with Julia and all … “

“Ha! Julia’s mother has been … well, from what I heard Mr. Winston laid down the law so to speak. He isn’t too happy that his wife knew about Julia and even aided and abetted her in some ways. Plus, they don’t dare say too much because of Julia. They don’t want her to be the center of attention any more than she is going to be eventually when everything comes out. They don’t even plan to be at the fellowship from what I understand. As far as the Harbingers go … what I hear is Ron Harbinger has had some kind of epiphany and hardly anyone recognizes the man. With Fred and Rick both gone that only leaves Old Jared … and he’s … off. No one is quite sure what has happened but the Pastor thinks it might have been a mini-stroke or series of them. He’s got the symptoms, or so they say. I don’t think we’ll see any of them at the fellowship to be honest. I just want you to stay close.”

It was a lot to digest in a short period of time. The fellowship was being held at Hale Park and Community Center on Duval Street which meant we had to go back through downtown. We saw the horrible fire damage for the first time. It depressed me; it tore Rand all to pieces. We were both very quiet when we got to the park. He got down, took the bucket from me and had me half off the saddle when someone bumped into him. It hurt to get joggled like that because today was the first day I’d gone back to wearing my armor. It took my breath away but I couldn’t let Rand see or he would have taken off after the guy who had barely said “excuse me” in a voice dripping with sarcasm.

As clueless as I can be about people I knew that it might have been better if I had stayed at home. It was highschool all over again. They were targeting Rand – I guess as punishment or something – rather than me and I was getting angry. “I should have just stayed home.”

“No. You have as much right to be here as …”

“Rand, rights don’t have anything to do with it. There’s going to be trouble if they don’t stop picking on you because of me. I’m gonna lose it and just make everything worse.”

“No you’re not. “

“Oh yes I am. The next jerk that acts like a snot is going to get kicked in the … “

“Girl, you something else.”

Mr. Henderson was laughing. I hadn’t a clue how he could be laughing at a time like this. He slapped Rand on the back and asked me – louder than I thought was strictly necessary – how I was feeling and said it must have been God looking out for me that kept that bullet that that crazy Chase Peters had tried to kill me with from doing any more damage than it did. Not that I didn’t agree with him, but suddenly everybody and their sweetheart was looking our way.

“Fine Mr. Henderson, thank you.”

“You holding anything against his family?”


“You holding anything against Chase Peters’ family? I’ve got Mitch working for me and I like to keep on top of these things.”

“Of course not. Why would I?”

“Well … he hurt you pretty bad. You were fighting him off but … well … if we hadn’t come along no telling what would have happened.”

I felt like running away and hiding. It’s bad enough to talk about that sort of stuff in private with Rand but to have it being discussed with megaphones in public was near my worst nightmare.

“No! I don’t hold anything against Chase’s family. He was drunk and he was high. He made a choice to be that way and it had messed him up in the head. Why would I blame his family for something that Chase chose to do? Mr. Henderson I really don’t want to talk about this … please … “

I looked at Rand but he was growling at some people that were getting a little too close in their listening.

“Well, then I guess we won’t … but Mitch is bad upset and worried that you think he’s like that brother of his. If you could see your way to maybe … “

“I’d never blame Mitch for … “

“Thank you. I was wondering if you might, considering I was the one that introduced Chase and vouched for him,” Mitch said in a quiet voice coming up behind us.

“Don’t even think it. Chase made his own choices. I heard he had … problems. I’m not happy with what I had to do. It didn’t end well for either of us but I’ve thought and thought about it and I don’t know what else I could have done. Chase wasn’t listening to you … any of you … and I could feel his finger tightening … “ I had to take a big swallow and turned to Rand ‘cause I had started to shake. “None of us are happy about it Mitch. It happened. Drugs and drinking … His mom must be having an awful hard time of it. Rand can we take this stuff to Momma O. I see her over at the tables.”

I’d had about all I could take and Rand was happy to let me escape. Momma O wasn’t much better though. Had to rehash the whole story all over again in just about the same tones and words as Mr. Henderson only this time in front of a bunch of women. I was shaking so bad by the time the service started that Rand actually asked if I wanted to go home. But Missy who had arrived by then said, “She may want to but she won’t. These people need to see her and get to know her. That can’t happen if she is forever running away.”

Missy was right but I didn’t like it. And I didn’t like her little jab at the fact that I had left from her dad’s house to escape the pressure I’d felt there either but I didn’t say anything. It took me a while to pay attention to what Pastor Ken was saying. He was going on about how there was a significant problem within the community with drinking and drugs as a means of dealing with depression, anxiety, and other stuff. He said folks were allowing themselves to go down a dark path that changed them and had them doing things that they wouldn’t do if they hadn’t been under the influence. He urged folks to find strength and support in the Good Book and in fellowship and not in the fleeting courage that the other stuff provides. He spoke of other things that were making inroads into the community, including complacency and apathy. I haven’t got it all down, I had a hard time hearing every time someone close by would start whispering, but those were the highlights.

I stuck close to Rand the whole time and throughout the fellowship that came after the service. A few people seemed to go out of their way to come up and say hello but it would be a fairytale to say that the support of a few important community members suddenly made things all better. Most people decided to just wait and see which story they’d heard was the truer one but there were still a couple of people that were really hostile. Luckily they kept their distance for a time, most of them anyway.

I was helping to clean up … Rand was off with the men but Missy was close by … when Momma O (I think she is a little hard of hearing) wanted to know who taught me to make biscuits. “I don’t know. I think it was Momma but it could have been my Memaw or my Granny … I was real little. All of us girls got to play kitchen when we were little. Memaw even had a little fruit juice can biscuit cutter that was all ours to use.”

“Well, if that don’t beat all. DeLois … you hear that?”

“Yes Momma. I think the whole county heard you.”

“Don’t get smart with me. You just mad because Paulie said the biscuits reminded him of mine.”

Ms. DeLois just rolled her eyes and patted me on the shoulder and said, “Watch out. She’s full of vinegar this afternoon. Her arthritis is acting up.”

Momma O looked like she was going to swat her daughter with her fan but just humph’d instead and leaned on her cane a little heavier than I’d seen her do before.

“Girl, I been getting those buckets of fruit you been sending. I’ll have your seeds directly.”

“Yes, ma’am. I know. You said you would.”

“Just like that.”


“Just like that. You send them buckets and you believe I’ll give you some seeds.”

“Well, ye ma’am. You said you would.”

“Well a day … and so I shall child, so I shall. Help me up and let’s get these plates over to the dishpans. The sooner we get things cleaned up the sooner we can get on home. I feel rain comin’.”

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky but as soon as Momma O said rain was coming everyone started to clean up and load up to head home. I was looking around for Missy to see if there was anything else we needed to do when I spotted a knot of men way on the other side of the playground. There was a fight and I knew just as sure as I stood there who was in the middle of it.

I went walking over there just as fast as my skirt would let me and banging guys out of my way with my bucket. I finally got to the center where there was a regular brawl going on between Rand and one of the guys that had tripped him while we were walking. I was just in time to see the guy who had banged into Rand while he was helping me down off of Hatchet step up and try and pull a dirty trick.

“WHAM!” Plastic bucket hit him square in the face and his nose started bleeding. But I wasn’t done. I was so mad I kept swinging at him but kept missing.

“Stop moving when I’m trying to hit you doggone it!”

That made a couple of the guys standing around start to laugh, including Paulie, Momma O’s grandson. I asked him, “What are you looking at?!”

“A little spitfire that’s gonna be the end of Joiner’s pretty hair that all the girls liked so much.”

“I don’t know what in the world hair has got to do with this but real women don’t like men that do more primping than they do. And besides, I don’t think Rand is the type to be vain. Why are you laughing now?!”

I suddenly realized Rand and the guy weren’t fighting anymore but were both on the ground and looking up at me. They were a mess. Rand was smiling though and the other guy looks like he can’t believe something then looks over at Rand and asks, “Is she crazy?”

And he says, “Don’t know, don’t care, whatever it is I like it. Come here darling and help me up and let me introduce you to Jake.”

“I’ll help you up!” And I did but I felt like shoving him down again when it seemed like the fight had cleared the air and everyone was best buds again.

“I swear Rand Joiner! Every one of y’all suffers from terminal testosterone poisoning!” And I stomped off leaving the guys to laugh even harder. I was in a huff but glad no one was fighting any more. I swear, if I manage to live to be a 116 I’ll never understand guys.

I was going over to Hatchet to wait when Missy came over to me before the Crenshaws all left. “I know you don’t understand this honey but this is actually a good thing. Guys work things out differently. Rand stood up for himself and stood up for you and the rest of them respected that. The thing is Rand is going to be in a really good mood. A really, really good mood. A good fight always leaves them in the mood for a good tussle. Take advantage of it Sugar and have a little fun.”

She laughed and took off and all I could do is lean my head against Hatchet and pray the ground would open up and swallow me. Did everyone think Rand and I were … ?!

Sure enough, Missy was right. Rand was in a very good mood despite another bloody nose and a bruised chin and scraped knuckles. He put me up on the horse and away we went. People were smiling and waving and I tried to nod but all I could think of was what Missy had said. I didn’t want to spoil Rand’s mood. I can understand now why some girls just give in because they’re afraid of messing things up if they don’t. But on the other hand … I’m not some girls, I’m me and I did not want to wind up like Julia.

Rand’s mood was so good he didn’t notice that my smile and hmmm’s to answer his questions were about as genuine as a three dollar bill. I really was happy for him. He was talking about how he grew up with those guys but had lost touch with them and now everything hunky dory blah, blah, blah.

Then he noticed that I was being quiet, more quiet than usual. “Hey Babe, did the fight really bother you that much?”

“It’s not that. I didn’t like it but I’ve been around enough guys to know y’all are different animals and like to handle things your own ways.”

That made him laugh, “OK, then what is it?”

“I just don’t like how everyone keeps thinking … and rushing me … and …”

“Thinking what and rushing what?”

“Oh well … Missy said … “

“Uh oh, what’d she say now?”

“Rand, it’s not … well … bad or anything. It’s just …. I know you’d say people would talk and think what they’d want to think but I didn’t think your family would. Missy said something that made me think and I don’t know what to say about it.”

“Hey, no sacred cows remember? Can’t fix it or deal with it if I don’t know what it is.”

“Well, she basically said that you were going to be feeling good and … frisky … and that it was fun and I should take advantage of it.”

He started having a coughing fit and asked, “She said what?!”

“I told you she said … “

“Honey that was rhetorical, I heard what you said. I thought we had this all talked out. You know I’d never push you.”

“I know that. I just didn’t know how to tell her that. The problem is … well … I understand the feelings I’m just not ready for the responsibility yet. I’m already feeling rushed about so many things and now here people I thought would get it are rushing me about this too.”

“Sugar … look we’re almost home, let me take care of Hatchet and we can talk …”

“It’s OK Rand. I don’t want to spoil your mood. I feel like I already have.”

“Kiri, you haven’t spoiled my mood.

We got back to the house and he helped me off the horse and instead of letting me down all the way gave me a kiss first … a real kiss. I went into the house and changed gratefully back into the sundress. I was a lot more sore than I had thought I would be.

Rand came in and said, “Next time, don’t listen to Missy. Don’t listen to anyone else but me. Didn’t we have an agreement? I like Missy but she’s always giving out advice. Just because she does things a certain way or thinks things run certain ways doesn’t mean that its … What did she say anyway?”

“She said that when guys have a good fight they um …”


“They get in the mood for a good … tussle.”

“A tussle? OH … a … “

“Yeah. And Rand I really …. I mean I know one of these days you’re going to get tired of waiting but … I’m just not … I mean part of me wants to … but at the same time … I don’t want to be like … “

“Be like?”

“What happens when we, you know, do it? And then some time after that maybe you don’t want to you know, be more than my friend anymore? What do I do then Rand? What if something, you know, happens? I don’t want to wind up like Julia.”

There. I said it.

“Kiri, I think Paul is right. I’m going to be bald before I get too much older. I’m going to sit beside you so don’t freak out. I’m going to say this one more time. I’m not leaving. I want you on whatever terms we work out together. Yes, I want to. And sometimes I want to really bad. And yes, last year after a fight I might have … expected … a certain outcome. But it isn’t last year. And things have changed … a lot. You are you and not Julia. We don’t have to make the same mistakes that Julia and I made together. We can do things our own way.”

“That’s great Rand but for how long? No. Don’t say anything you’ll regret later. I just mean … things are just … I’m not ready Rand and even if I was I’m not so sure that … that … This isn’t gonna come out right but here goes. I was raised a certain way and even though people thought that I was kind of … weird … having everyone going around thinking that we’re, you know, doing it … it is making me feel … like I’m … “

“Kiri, I can’t stop people thinking whatever they want to think. Do you want me to leave? Would that help?”

“Rand I can’t even stand to think about the day you’re gonna leave. I know you have to … that guy stuff and all … but knowing it and wanting it are two different … I just know I can’t keep asking you to … Oh Rand, I am so messing this up.”

“You’ve got some kind of complex about that don’t you? You are not messing things up. Every time we get around people you get … Is that it Kiri? Are you ashamed of being with me?”

“No! I want to go around doing stupid stuff like singing it to the sky that you like me enough to stay with me.”

“Then if you feel that way why is it so hard for you to believe I feel the same way? You said you trust me.”

“I do! I told you, I’m just not …”

“Kiri, I haven’t said more because I don’t want to scare you. I know we’ve talked about this before but you are young and I understand that. And if you think that it doesn’t bother me that people would think that I would jump on you then you’re wrong. But … look at me please … but Kiri don’t you think I wonder if one of these days you’re not going to feel the same way about me as you say you do right now? I’ve been burnt once. I don’t want it to happen again.”

I hadn’t thought about it like that.

“And here is something else for you to think about. I’m feeling rushed too. But at the same time I feel like I have to hurry. Something just feels … I feel like time is slipping away from me Kiri. Like every minute that passes is a missed opportunity. This fall and winter … it’s gonna get bad. Henderson has talked to some of us. He feels like there is a good possibility that people from up north are going to start making their way south. If they don’t a lot of them are going to die of starvation or exposure. They’re going to land on our doorstep and there is going to be so many of them that we’ll be overrun, just like we were when people from the cities started looking for food and fuel. Not everybody thinks like that, some of them even complain that Henderson is trying to scare them for some reason. Even after everything that has happened some people still believe the government is going to step in and fix things. According to Bill they were beginning to have trouble keeping their own troops fed, how are they going to feed thousands, probably millions of people, who are going to be on the move? Think of it, possibly millions of hungry and angry people. It’s going to be a disaster.”

I couldn’t help but shiver. I missed all of that when I was locked away with the other kids in the warehouse but I’d heard the stories from Uncle George and the rest of them. I can’t imagine what that must have been like.

“And I want us to be fixed for it Kiri. I want us to be together. When we’re together anything seems possible. I want … I want us to build something together, here, and not ever think about it not being the two of us together. From the very beginning it’s been … amazing and crazy and … words, man I used to have all the right words. Kiri do you understand what I’m trying to say? Is it too much? Am I asking too much?”

“Do you mean that … that … you won’t get tired of being more than my friend?” I was afraid to step outside of the words and phrases we’ve always used. I was afraid to be wrong.

“I’m saying that I don’t want there to ever be anyone else and whatever that takes I’m prepared for it. If that means that we wait on … some stuff … a lot of stuff … I’m prepared to accept it being like that. Are you prepared to let me … feel like I feel? Are you going to get scared and shut me out?”

“I don’t mean to shut you out.”

“I hope not Kiri. You’re going to have to trust me. That’s all I can say. When we sleep upstairs in the same room and you don’t act all scared … that means something to me. Maybe it’s a guy thing. I don’t know. But the fact that you trust me to be that close and not hurt you, to wait, it makes me feel … it makes me feel like I never felt with Julia. OK?”

Well, I trusted him enough to have talked about all that stuff still give him a great big hug. He hugged me back but let up a little when he felt me wince from my ouch.

“Now listen, I can’t stop people from thinking and talking. They’re going to Kiri. That’s people being human. If I tried I’d be in fights constantly and I don’t want that any more than you do. But I don’t want you to stop talking to me about it if it bothers you. Stop worrying it to death. It’s our business and most likely things would have been different if we had met before this … but we didn’t and it isn’t. We have to deal with the way things are right now. You want to talk about embarrassed? I had to explain things to Mick and Tommy while Uncle George, Bill, Brendon, and a few guys from Mr. Henderson’s crew looked on. I wasn’t ashamed … but it definitely wasn’t the easiest I felt talking in public.”

“Oh Rand … “ I didn’t know whether to laugh or be embarrassed in hindsight.

“Mick thinks you’re something special you know and wanted to make sure that I was ‘treating you right.’ And Uncle George was enjoying himself way too much. But … it didn’t kill me and the boys seemed satisfied and that’s just life Honey. “

Sometimes you just have to stop, draw a breath, and say thank You for stuff, you know? But the other stuff he said, about feeling and needing to hurry … that put into words some of what I’ve been feeling. I didn’t know all of it … the stuff that Mr. Henderson had been talking about … but it helped me to understand why I kept feeling the need to get everything lined up. Fill up all the spaces and holes in my life … the physical ones and the emotional ones. And Rand filled … he fills something, some part of me, that I don’t have a name for.

July 10th – Rand and I have been going back over that feeling of being in a hurry. He worked on the smokehouse near where I was canning and there was enough brain space left that we could talk while we worked.

He’s been looking at my big calendar and wanted to know why I’d made it so big so I tried to explain to him that I needed to keep track of things so I didn’t get so stressed out and forget to do things or have something come up unexpectedly. It also helped me to remember when things happened so that if I was tracking something I could work forward. He understood after I explained it to him and it was a relief for him not to make fun of me. More than that he asked if we could put some other stuff on the calendar like the projects we wanted to do and how long we figured they would take. I said of course and it made it feel like there was yet another thing that we were doing together.

He talked to me about his worry that this area was going to get overhunted pretty soon, if not in the next couple of months then this winter when people got even hungrier … and that was assuming the hordes from up north didn’t run all the game off first. We talked about our options … the vegetable garden, the fruit I was putting up, the chickens if we can kept them fed, the shares that Uncle George had promised Rand on a cow and a pig. “I used to give Uncle George money that would help raise a beef cow and a hog then he’d sell the meat and I’d get a percentage of the profit from that. This year we talked about it and I’m just going to get the meat if I can get a couple of these smokehouses built.”

I told him I could pressure can some of the meat if he wanted me to so he asked me what that would take and I explained the process as I remembered it and tonight we’ve looked at Momma’s preserving books and recipes. And Alicia knows how too so if there is a problem I can ask her. Her father had this huge thing against buying food at the grocery store because he was paranoid the government was poisoning the certain types of men with salt peter and other “emasculating” chemicals for population control. Rand said, “I told you her family was weird. From what Brendon has let slip, Alicia’s dad was the problem and not her mom … you notice there is a few years between Alicia and Tommy. He had to blame somebody ‘cause he was mostly shooting blanks … uh … you know what I mean.”

I did but that led me to wonder, and there was no way I was going to ask Rand after the talk we’d had just yesterday, what Missy and Laurabeth were doing … to not get caught I mean. I figured it wasn’t like they could go out and take birth control pills … there weren’t any pharmacies around anymore and Pastor Ken had mentioned more than once how there was a shortage of everything. And I guess everything means everything.

Getting back to the canning I asked him when Uncle George thought he’d be slaughtering and when I’d need to be prepared to … to do whatever it was I had to do to help. “Maybe sooner than we normally would. Uncle George usually slaughters in October or November when it cools off but he may have to save some feed this year and do it in September or worse maybe in August. I hope not. I’ve had to slaughter in August and the heat makes everything about a hundred times worse and that’s with having refrigeration too. A 250 pound hog will yield about 130 pounds of meat … but that’s bone in and freezer ready. If we take the bone out of a lot of it you’re probably talking about a hundred to a hundred fifteen pounds. A single hog won’t feed us for a year that’s for sure.”

I just kind of blinked ‘cause he was talking about things that I’d never really thought about.

“A market weight beef cow is about twelve hundred pounds. Someone who knows what they are doing – and Uncle George does – will get between 450 and 500 pounds from a decently muscled beef cow. But different breeds will get you different amounts. For instance a Holstein steer with a good processor will only net you between 375 and 400 pounds. A lean and heavily muscled beef breed might net you as much as 625 pounds. Only planning on the 450 to 500 is a good place to start for us to estimate how much we can count on. Uncle George doesn’t raise Holsteins. His milk cows are Brown Swiss … the ones that look all gray that he keeps in that back paddock. Did you see it? The beef cattle are a combination of Pineywoods and Brahmans.”

I asked him how on earth he knew all of this and he laughed, “FFA, 4H, Uncle George … you live in a place like this you pick it up. And I was seriously considering going into Ag Business, there are – or were – a lot of dairies in the area. To make sure a farm was paying for itself you have to count every penny; where it is going out, where it is coming in. But … I guess that’s over with for a while. Now it’s how much you can put on your family’s table that is going to matter … unless the government gets even screwier and keeps trying to collect taxes. What they are going to collect taxes on though I don’t know.”

That led us to talk about how I owned the land and house free and clear and I told him the lawyer had set up some kind of secure trust that paid the taxes every year and even if it hadn’t been making any interest it would be a lot of years before I have had to worry about how the taxes were gonna get paid. He wanted to know if I knew which bank and the account number and a bunch of other stuff and I said, “Whoa Rand. The lawyer took care of all of that. There’s some papers in Daddy’s closet but I just … “

Then I got a bit of a lecture … sounded like the same kind of thing Mr. Barnes was always hammering into me when I had to sit and listen to him talk to me every year about what the expenses were and the money that had come in and gone out. I told him Aunt Wilma had been a bear for making sure there were copies of everything here and in Tampa so more than likely all the answers to his questions would be in that file. “Kiri, they should be your questions, not mine. Girl I know you weren’t … look, having a lawyer and all of that is fine but you still need to know what is going on or people are going to cheat you or one day they aren’t going to be there and you’re going to need to figure this stuff out on your own. What happens when all of this stuff starts clearing up? What if someone suddenly lies and tries to take your land from you? Or says you haven’t paid the taxes so they’re going to auction it off?”

That scared me so I pulled out those papers and I promised myself I’m going to read them a little bit each night. I wouldn’t know what to do if someone suddenly came along and tried to take Sparkleberry Ranch from me. This is all I have. Well … the land and Rand but you know what I mean.

July 11th – Got so hot today that I got sick. Stupid. Rand told me to give up the canning for the afternoon but I just feel nervous, twitchy and itchy. I canned the last of the raspberries I think. All the rest of it that comes in will get eaten fresh or will get dried. I told Rand again that I love the solar dehydrator he built and I made a big deal about the smoke “house” too. I’ve noticed he likes to be appreciated out loud.

It’s so hot that I have to water my containers three times a day; morning, early afternoon, and late afternoon. Everything is real pretty especially after I started using that Miracle Gro stuff from the second salvage house, you dissolve it in water. I let the water get warmed up outside before I put it on the plants too. Rand said that way the plants won’t go into shock from the extra cold water getting dumped on their extra hot roots.

We haven’t seen any people. Guess it is too hot for visiting. I honestly don’t mind but I think Rand is getting a little lonesome. He’s a people person and it would be selfish of me not to notice that. Tomorrow he is going to go check on his family. He’ll leave early in the morning to try and beat some of the heat and then will be back late afternoon.

He doesn’t like leaving me here at the house by myself but I’m not comfortable leaving things all out and about and it is too hot to keep the animals pinned up in the barn all day. Although there is one of the hens that has taken up residence way back behind a pile of stuff in the corner in one of Daddy’s old tool boxes and she won’t come out for nothing. I tried to get her out a couple of times and she pecked the heck out of my hand. I told Rand I thought she was sick and he laughed and said that she was just being broody and to leave her alone. I thought chickens had to have nests and stuff to get broody. She must be a little confused by the new surroundings if she thinks she’s going to be able to hatch a hammer or a wrench.

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