Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter 27

June 12th – I’m still snuffy but am feeling much better than I did. But for some reason Rand acted like I had lost my marbles when I asked him to show me how to chop down a tree the right way. Boy did he cut up a fuss when he found out about the cedar tree. He squawked even louder when I told him I chose the cedar tree because I was trying to stick to the promise I made him about staying close to the house. Sometimes he is really hard to reason with. I don’t know what the fuss is about, nobody ever complained when I did guy stuff before. Not a single person at the diner said anything when I helped empty the delivery trucks or moved cases of frozen chicken, or fifty pound bags of flour and sugar or other stuff like that. In fact, Aunt Wilma was always on about women’s rights and discrimination and that sort of thing.

I’m beginning to think that maybe Rand is just kind of old-fashioned about some stuff. In other words he can be perfectly sane one second and a flaming chauvinist the next. And I told him so to his face. After his jaw stopped swinging in the breeze he started laughing. I haven’t a clue what he was laughing about, I was totally serious. He said we’d make a trade, if I fed him for a couple of days then he’d cut me some wood. I wasn’t going to pass that kind of deal up but somehow it still feels like Rand got something over on me and I’m not quite sure how.

I’d already fixed omelets for breakfast, this time with chorizo and cheese. I also fixed pan biscuits and he ate them with sorghum that I had added a little bit of powdered butter to. It wasn’t quite the same as mixing real butter with good old Briar Rabbit but it wasn’t a bad substitute either as far as taste went. While Rand finished the last biscuit I put a jar of sun tea out on the porch.

Right after breakfast he took off to the fallen tree and I decided to play with the solar dehydrator. I had admired it yesterday but I finally got a chance to really look at it all put together today. The frame of it is made with 2 x 4 lumber. The side walls and the back wall is made of plywood. It has a chimney on it that is painted black that looks like an old piece of metal duct work from out of a house. The Plexiglas is in three pieces; the first piece is angled for the roof, the second piece is the front of the dehydrator and the last piece Rand explained is part of the air inflow chamber at the bottom of the dehydrator and runs at the same angle as the “roof” piece of Plexiglas. At the tallest the dehydrator is a little over seven feet tall if you didn’t include the chimney that is another two feet above that. At the shortest place (the front) the dehydrator is just a tad over five feet tall. It holds five big racks; that’s what Rand needed the screen for. He said he could have used small gauge rabbit wire but stuff would have fallen through the holes as it dried. The whole contraption he had stained a really dark mahogany color, nothing light colored was allowed, Rand said it would reflect the heat rather than absorb it if it wasn’t dark. There were even a couple of parts, like the chimney, that he spray painted a flat black color.

The way he explained it worked is that dry outside air is drawn into the dehydrator at the bottom through the air intake. The sun beams down on the Plexiglas and heats the air as it circulates inside the dehydrator. Hot air rises so it will escape from the dehydrator through the chimney taking some of the moisture from the drying food with it. As the day heats the air flow in and out of the dehydrator will speed up, taking more and more of the moisture with it.

I filled two trays up with blackberries first thing this morning and by the time things cooled off … well, relatively cooled off … I could tell the berries had shrunk quite a bit, but they weren’t all the way dry. I’m going to try letting them dry another day and see if that is enough.

After I played with the dehydrator for a while it was time for me to work on my end of the bargain. It is getting to be so hot during the day that I don’t like to do any kind of cooking where I have to stand over the top of things. Just messing around putting the blackberries on the screens I had sweated what felt like a gallon of water. I was glad that Rand had taken a big jug of water with him. I knew that the opened jar of mayo wasn’t going to last in this weather even if I did keep it in the coldest water from the well. I decided to make a big batch of mayonnaise biscuits for lunch and dinner with maybe a couple left over to in case Rand got the munchies.

Mayo Biscuits are really, really simple but it meant heating up the box oven again. I was lucky that there were still coals left from breakfast so I used them to warm the box oven up to 375 degrees. I also warmed up water by sitting an old heavy metal dishpan practically down in the coals by putting the rack as low as it would go. While that was happening I mixed three cups of self-rising flour, three heaping tablespoons of the mayo, and a cup and a half of milk I made up from the powdered stuff. I mixed that all together and then dropped clumps of it into muffin tins and then put them to bake once the oven had preheated. In fifteen minutes they were done.

On the heat remaining in the other fire pit I threw a few scraps of wood and then made rice and lentils for lunch using some beef bouillon as the seasoning as the two were cooking up. I also threw a few raisins in there. It wasn’t fancy, but it was too hot to get fancy. I did remember to bring in the sun tea and set it in a pan of fresh cold water from the well. It wasn’t the same as having ice but at least it wasn’t tepid either.

It was getting a little past lunch and Rand still hadn’t come back to the house; I realized I had stopped hearing the thwack of the ax some time ago. I was getting worried so I grabbed some water and took off to where he said he would be. I met him coming back pushing the wheelbarrow. He must have come back for it earlier and I not noticed. As soon as he saw the water he put the barrow down and grabbed it and dumped some over his head and then shook like a dog when he felt how cold it was.

“Boy, it sure is hot.” Uh huh, he is the master of understatement. I offered to push but he said another time. We got up to the house and we walked around to the lanai. He laid out flat on the lounger and I brought him some more water. I know he must have got too hot because he didn’t feel like eating. After a bit he ate a biscuit but not with his usual gusto. I wasn’t sure what to do so I got a palmetto frond and trimmed it off so that it was like a fan. When I started fanning him he looked up surprised from the doze he had been in.

“You don’t have to do that.”

I told him I didn’t mind and kept doing it. He looked at me funny, like … like … like he was trying to figure something out. I wasn’t sure what it was but it must have been something important from the look on his face. I was too scared to ask ‘cause I’m not sure I want to know. I just want him to know that his friendship means a lot to me but that I don’t always expect him to work so hard for it.

Rand got up and said he wanted to go bring in the wood he’d taken off the fallen tree and bring it up to the barn where he could chop wood in the shade. He still didn’t look like he felt good but he didn’t look like I could argue him out of it either.

I just ate a biscuit and saved the rice and lentils for dinner. It saved me from having to cook again and that didn’t exactly break my heart. I’d just hung the sheets Rand had been using out on the line to air out and freshen a bit when I heard some horses on the road. I knew it was riders and not a wagon because there wasn’t any rattling; instead there was the clink-squeak from leather saddles and metal bits and pieces and the sound of horses blowing air out of the their noses.

I grabbed the rifle without thinking and went to look through the bushes when I heard Rand yell “haloooo” getting the riders’ attention. It was Mr. Henderson, Mitch Peters, a younger man that looked a whole lot like Mitch who turned out to be Chase Peters, and a girl that had to be his granddaughter that he had spoken of before.

I heard Rand say, “Things must be better if you let Cassie out riding.”

The girl answered in a laughing voice, “I told Poppy that if I didn’t get out of the compound for a little while I was going to kick over my traces and make a run for it.”

Mr. Henderson snorted at that but when he looked at the girl I’d never seen him so soft around the eyes. Cassie must be able to twist “Poppy” around her finger pretty good. Rand called me out and smiled with what I think was approval when he saw the rifle. Introductions were made and I invited them up on the front porch for something to drink.

I grabbed the sun tea with only a little regret at spoiling the surprise for Rand and ran it outside with enough clean glasses for everyone. I found them talking about the dehydrator and whether I had tested it or not. I was just about to say that I was in the middle of the first try when everyone took their first sips. Cassie automatically assumed that I had a generator and I looked at Rand for help when Mr. Henderson said, “Cassie honey, you’re running off at the mouth again. Just be happy to have something cool to drink.”

Cassie didn’t look upset but I didn’t know what to make of it. I looked at Rand and he winked. What the heck does a wink mean? They left after asking if I minded if they stopped and picked some of the blackberries at the gully because apparently Cassie had suddenly developed a craving for blackberry cobbler. I warned them about the snakes that could be found down there and they were off.

Rand just laughed and asked how did I like my first visitors and I told him I like it better when it is just him and Uncle George. That made him laugh some more. Rand obviously has a weird sense of humor.

I started coughing again and Rand told me to go lay down and I told him I wasn’t a little kid and didn’t need a nap. Somehow though I wound up lying down anyway and must have slept because I woke up and it seemed like some time had passed. Sure enough I had been asleep a little over an hour. But I have to admit I did feel better.

Rand discovered just how cold the well water was when he tried to take a shower before dinner. I heard a “yaa hooo” and then a little two stepping in the shower. When he came out a few minutes later we looked at each other and we both broke down laughing. I don’t know what is so funny but I’ve laughed more in the last two days than I think I’ve laughed in the last two years.

We ate the lentils and rice and then we both settled down … me with my journal and him going at my father’s books again. He just asked me if I know how to play checkers, I guess he saw the old board game sitting in the corner because I hadn’t found a place for it yet. I told him it had been a while but we are going to try and play so I’m done writing for tonight.

June 13th – Rand had to go home today. It happened so fast. Brendon came galloping up mid-morning and told Rand that Uncle George had fallen from a ladder and hurt his foot, possibly broken a small bone - Pastor Ken wasn’t certain - and he wrecked his wrist too. Then poof, Rand was gone.

It’s a good thing that I discovered the ripe plums out in the orchard or I would have gone into a blue funk. The tree is still full of unripe fruit but that just means that I’ll have more time to can stuff instead of trying to get it done all at once and a good thing too, I’m still not one hundred percent up to speed.

There were only enough plums to make two batches of plum preserves leaving me a couple to eat fresh for my lunch. The plums were tart; not the pucker up tart but the sweet kind of tart. I’ll probably leave some on the tree longer for fresh eating but the tart ones are good for canning. For each batch of preserves I took five cups of pitted plums, one cup of water, and four cups of sugar. I cooked this down for about fifteen minutes and had to stir it all the time to keep things from sticking and then put it in the jars and processed it. Each batch gave me five half-pints and they all sealed which is nice. After they are finished cooling I’ll put them away with the others.

I realized when I went in there that I need a better way to organize things. I have to think about jar size but I also have to think about what is in the jars. I figure it will be better to start the right way than get a closet full and then try and rearrange it. I hope one of these days to have enough vegetables to can but that means I have to get up the nerve to use the pressure canner. But the up side to this is if I can use the pressure canner Rand has promised me that he’ll go in shares and bring in a deer and maybe some pork or beef depending on how things go with the farm animals.

Rand told me that they’ve got one cow that is still giving milk but it is barely enough to give everyone some to drink and have for cooking. He said that the cow needed to be freshened. He acted like I should know what that is but I wasn’t going to reveal my ignorance by asking him to explain. I feel dumb enough as it is sometimes. I looked it up in a book on cows that either Momma or Daddy had bought and I think, If I’m understanding it, that sometimes cows need to be bred to keep up with their milk production. That would explain some other things that Rand said about why they are working with Mr. Henderson … if anyone would have a boy cow that they could use to freshen up their milk cow then it would be him. Only the book says not to call them boy cows, they’re called bulls. I knew that but I’m glad I didn’t call them boy cows when Rand was here. I don’t need to give him any more reasons to laugh at me.

When I checked the blackberries tonight they were still just a little bit sticky so I’m going to leave them in the dehydrator for a little while longer tomorrow and see if that takes care of it. Momma’s book said that the dried berries should feel dry to the touch but still be pliable. I guess that means if I let them get like little rocks I’ve dried them too long.

I haven’t really done too much today but I’m already tired and with no reason to stay up I’m going to bed. Fraidy has been playing cat and mouse with me today and is pouting; I don’t think she likes Rand going home. I tried to tell her that it wasn’t my fault but there is no reasoning with a cat; they are going to think exactly what they want to think. She finally came in but she is still being standoffish. How does a cat that small stomp around that loud?

June 14th – Rand came by for just a few minutes this morning. He couldn’t stay long but he wanted to check on me. That was nice. He told me that his uncle also twisted his back and is in a lot of pain so he probably wouldn’t be back as often as he’d meant to be. I told him not to worry about it and that it was silly to think that I needed babysitting all the time. I told him I knew he had things to do and people he needed to see. I think he was going to say something else but didn’t which is good because I’m getting tired of people thinking that I can’t do this … making it on my own I mean.

I also told him if he didn’t stop trying to do too much he was the one that was going to get sick. That unpuckered his eyebrows and made him smile again for some reason. I swear, with all the boys that came and went from foster care you’d think I’d have some kind of handle on the way guys think. But no; they must all be a little on the crazy side or something because I just flat out don’t understand why they do some of the things they do or smile or laugh at some things and not at others.

I sent a jar of the three different preserves home with Rand as a thank you after I saw he had saddle bags on Hatchet this time. I hope the jars made it; I wrapped them in a couple of tea towels to keep them from clinking together. I also gave Rand the two left over biscuits from my breakfast which he all but wolfed down.

He got serious again and told me to stay around the house as much as possible. He said he knew he couldn’t ask me not to leave the house but to be careful if I went too far from it and to hide from anyone that looked like they were wearing uniforms … police, sheriff, military, anything. He said they’d heard stories of people using stolen uniforms to get people to drop their defenses and then … well you can imagine what happens. And also, to be careful of beggars that might come around though he thought my place was too out of the way from where most people were. He said he’d heard that people were starting to get hungry and that the fighting destroyed a lot of people’s food reserves if they had had any to begin with. The only sort of good thing was that the fighting also used up a lot of ammo but that was why people were starting to get sneaky, like with the uniforms.

He kept adding to the list of things to be careful of and I finally told him I wasn’t a nincompoop and did have some commonsense. The way I said it was supposed to make him laugh and when it didn’t I thought he thought I really was useless but then he said, “I know you’re not. But you are out here alone and I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place and … “

His voice just kind of trailed off so I don’t know what else he was going to say. He just kept looking at me and it made me feel funny so I told him to give me his canteen so I could fill it up. I did that and brought it back to him and he said he had promised to be back as soon as he could but he didn’t look like he wanted to leave at all. I had to promise him all over again that I would be careful and he finally left but he still looked upset.

As I watched him leave I realized that there is now horse poo on my road. I don’t want people to see the horse poo because then they might think that someone lives back here. I took the wheelbarrow and shoveled the stinky stuff … some of it is from Mr. Henderson’s group and some from the other people that have been around … and then took it back and dumped it on the compost pile. Nasty. It may look like mud balls that have hay and grass mixed in but it sure doesn’t smell like it.

Today I got quite a bucket load of plums. I can tell they are getting a little sweeter which is nice for me. When plums are too tart they make my jaw ache with the first bite. I made two batches of Plum Delicious. This is sort of like a plum puree but it can be made into a filling as well later on. Momma even used to freeze this in little paper cups for brother and I to have frozen fruit pops on hot summer days. Sometimes it is really, really hard not to cry when I remember things like that. My little brother was a brat but he was my bratty little brother and I’ll never know what he would have been like as a grown up. He never even got to be a teenager. It was very, very hard not to hate the drunk who stole my family from me. There are still some days that I get really close but he was just a pathetic kid – the same age as I am now - and his actions wrecked his own life as much as it did mine. I can’t even remember what he looks like; I never had to testify in court against him. I did have to talk to the prosecutor and the judge but that was it.

And that is all I want to think about that time right now. It makes me hurt and when I hurt I’m not … Dr. Kramer used to say that when I hurt I could lash out and be “less than constructive.” That about sums it up I guess.

So back to the constructive stuff I did. The Plum Delicious isn’t that hard to make. You start with five pounds of plums and then dip them in boiling water to split the peels and make them easier to get off. Then you squirt the pit out of the peeled plum. You dump the peeled and pitted plums in a big enamel pot on low heat. Low heat is one of the hardest things I have trouble with cooking on an open fire but I just pull the pot to the side as far as it will go and still get evenly heated.

Next you add a quarter cup of honey and a chopped apple to the mix. Now, I didn’t have a fresh apple but I do have dried apples and I just dumped about an apples worth in there after I had soaked the slices in some water to plump them up. You simmer this mess for 15 minutes. Then take it off the heat and drain off all the extra juice. I didn’t throw the juice away though, no way; it makes a good drink or juice to pour on a yellow cake.

Once you’ve drained off the juice you put the fruit part back into your pot and you are supposed to add currants to it. Momma said she couldn’t always afford the price of currants in the grocery so she would throw raisins in there instead. That’s what I did, five tablespoons worth. I also added a splash of lemon juice and lime juice, a quarter teaspoon of ground cinnamon, one cinnamon stick and another tablespoon of honey. Stir that all up and simmer it another 10 minutes. If you want it a little sweeter you can add about a tablespoon and a half of maple syrup but the honey had done its job and I thought it was sweet enough. After that you just can it like you would preserves.

I canned this in pints instead of half pints since I would want this mostly for pies. Besides, I need those half-pint jelly jars for other things later in the season. And I switched the blackberries out and put on some new ones. It gave me a chance to use Momma’s doo-hickey thingamagig called a Pump n’ Seal.

The Pump n’ Seal looks like a reverse miniature bicycle pump. Instead of putting air into something it takes air out. Over at the fourth salvage house I found these special Ziploc bags that had a little airlock like thing on the bottom that was supposed to allow one of those gimmicky air sucker outers to get the air out. I didn’t see the machine but you can never have too many Ziploc bags so I took them.

Well, it turns out the Pump n’ Seal works with those Ziploc bags too. I dumped the dried blackberries in the Ziploc bags, sucked the air out with the Pump n’ Seal and then put them in the fruit closet in one of those clear plastic shoe boxes. That was even easier than canning though I’m going to keep doing that as long as I can.

But that “as long as I can” thought made me sit down and think tonight about other stuff. I’ve started a list of things that I need to keep an eye out for because it is the kind of stuff that when it runs out I’m going to have to figure out how to do without it. Like canning jar lids; the rings are reusable but the flat seal is not … not for canning anyway but maybe for something else. Laundry detergent; I’ve still got a bunch, or it seems that way but what happens when that is gone. White sugar; I’ve got honey to sort of replace sugar but even that won’t last forever. Salt; I don’t even know if there is a substitute for salt. Spices, flavorings, and extracts; I know Momma sometimes made her own flavorings and extracts but I don’t know how (I’ll be looking through her notes) but spices are from faraway places like Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Spain, Turkey … not a single one I know of comes from Live Oak, FL.

I thought about all of this while I crocheted a lace edge on a pair of pillow cases for Laurabeth and Jonathon. I don’t know when they are getting married so if I have time I’ll cross stitch their initials and some flowers on there too. I could do the edging without paying too much attention to it because it was one of the really simple ones and it left me time to think some harder thoughts than just June weddings and roses. It made me wonder what my future holds.

Now I know there was a time when people didn’t have all the stuff I have right now and they survived but I’m not too sure I want to go back to living like ancient people did. It’s bad enough I have to haul water to the bathroom for the toilet to flush, take a shower by dumping a bucket of water over my head, or cook all my meals over an open pit instead of in a microwave like civilized people did. OK, the microwave bit may have been taking this too far but I know what I mean. I just don’t want to go back to only being a wandering hunter-gatherer. I like my bed. I like a roof over my head. I like walls to keep the boogerman out. And I like the friends I am making here. But if I don’t get some things figured out I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to stay here and not get sick because the only thing I have to eat is whatever fruit happens to be in season.

June 15th -- Hah! Didn’t need Rand to figure out the firestarter thingy after all. I just needed to figure out the speed to scrape it at. The sparks are really hot, one of them hit my hand and I have this little red dot that still stings a little bit.

It rained overnight. I’m not sure if it ruined the berries drying in the dehydrator or not. I wiped off the inside of the Plexiglas because it was pretty fogged up but I think it should be OK. It may just take longer for the fruit to dry. But the fire coals were next to useless; I had forgotten to cover the holes with the sheet metal before I went to bed last night.

I finally figured out how to make the firestarter spark but couldn’t make it light up the little twigs so I tried to think of something fluffy. That’s when I saw the purple head of a thistle flower, and right beside it one that had gone all puffy like a dandelion. I gave it a shot and I have to admit surprised myself when it worked. The fluff lit up, lit up the little twigs I put on the burning fluff, so on and so forth. Of course I’m sneezing like a son of a gun now because of the stupid thistle stuffing. It’s worse to me than getting pepper up my nose because it takes its own time about going away. I nearly put the fire out the first couple of times I sneezed.

It was too close to lunch to bother fixing breakfast so I just left some big wood to settle down into coals and boiled some Mexican rice-a-roni out of a box that I had dumped some beef flavored TVP into. It made enough for lunch and dinner. While that was cooking I went out and picked more plums. And got stung about six times by wasps for my efforts. I finally got smart and put on gardening gloves and that solved that particular problem.

I may have gotten a later start than I wanted but I got quite a bit of canning accomplished anyway. Let’s see, two batches of Plum Jelly (I tried a recipe that didn’t require pectin so I hope it sets), a batch of plum butter (gosh that was a lot of cooking for a little bit), whole plums in white grape juice (used cans grape juice that I found at the last salvage house but there isn’t much more where that came from), a small batch of Chinese plum sauce (only three jelly jars worth), and a batch of whole plums canned in plum juice.

I noticed when I was dumping all of the leftover plum stuff into the compost pile that the pile was starting to smell a little … ripe, kind of fermented or something … so I dumped some dry leaves over the top of it and then some grass on top of that. I’m not sure if it was the fruit or the horse and mule poo causing the smell but I don’t suppose it really matters. Stink is stink.

June 16th – Bake a cake and someone will show up to eat it. I was in the middle of carrying a dustpan of dirt outside when I heard a wagon on the road. I grabbed the rifle and checked out through my hidey hole and it wasn’t a wagon it was a buggy … a Pastor Ken type buggy with a Pastor Ken riding in it.

I came around and said hello. He said he couldn’t stay long, but he didn’t refuse when I offered him a piece of yellow cake drenched in plum juice and he made out that he could afford to take a few minutes break. While he ate he told me he just wanted to know if I was going to be at the church service they are having this Sunday. I hadn’t known they were having a church service and he was surprised. He didn’t know what to say and then it came out that he is going to marry Laurabeth and Jonathon instead of having a regular service. It isn’t going to be a big fuss apparently but he thought I would like to go since it is not too far up the road. They are having it at the old Sheriff’s Boy’s Ranch thrift store since the church in town burned down. He told me the parking lot is big enough to accommodate horses and wagons and bikes. He talked a little more and I persuaded him to take some plums with him (he is looking thinner than when I first met him) before he left.

I was kind of numb, and I admit my feelings were a little hurt but then I told myself it was Laurabeth’s wedding and she didn’t really know me so I couldn’t have expected to get invited. I went back to work cleaning, dusting, and sweeping trying not to think about it too much.

I was beating a rug on the clothes line when Mitch and Chase Peters showed up. They too got a piece of cake and were asking me if I was going to be at the wedding. I think I’m going to nickname Chase the Cheshire cat; I don’t think he ever stops grinning in the silly, lazy way guys that are used to being admired do. After they left I was able to finish my house work.

I had decided to take a day off of canning but once I finished cleaning I kind of wished that I had more to do to keep my mind occupied. I was up in the bonus room looking for something else to clean or do when I saw a horse coming down the road. I recognized Hatchet but not the rider.

I ran down the stairs grabbed the rifle and had started out to the yard when the guy went, “Whoa! What did I do?!”

It was Rand but I’ve never seen him so messy and he had been out in the sun enough that his skin had gotten so dark I didn’t recognize him from the upstairs window. He had sawdust everywhere and a bandage on his hand. I apologized and told him I hadn’t recognized him at first. “Yeah, I’m a mess,” is all he said in a tired voice as he sprawled on the front porch.

The kind of tired he was didn’t look good on him. I could tell he’d lost weight just over the last couple of days. Before he could say anything he said, “I can’t stay long, I meant to come out first thing this morning but Jonathon is in such da … uh, blasted … rush that he started before I’d even finished my cup of coffee and it takes me and Brendon both to help lift the walls.”

He told me they had started to enclose the backporch to make another bedroom but then Uncle George decided it would be better to enclose the porch, turn it into a new kitchen area that wouldn’t heat up the house so much and turn the old country-sized kitchen into two bedrooms. “The problem is that when we started doing that we realized that we’d have to reinforce and even out the floor and completely reframe things and raise the roof a little. It’s been a mess and to do it we have to dismantle Jonathon’s old house to get the building supplies and that has taken even more time. This heat doesn’t help.”

I told him to sit and ran to get some water and I grabbed the cake pan and a fork as I was coming back through. I gave him the cake pan and he just kind of stared at it and then started wolfing it down. He mumbled something and then swallowed and asked could he have it all. I told him I wouldn’t have given him the pan if that hadn’t been the idea. It wasn’t anything but a little snack cake and it had already had three pieces cut out of it so there wasn’t a whole lot left.

He was mashing up the crumbs with his fork to get every bite he could when he finally slowed down and remembered why he came. He asked if I would like to go to church on Sunday and watch Laurabeth get married. When he said something about me not looking surprised when I said yes, I explained that Pastor Ken and the Peters brothers had been over and I didn’t get any further than that before he grouched, “What were they doing over here?”

I told him that I guess they had come to spread the news about the Sunday service but he didn’t look any happier. I don’t know what his problem is. I’m not exactly excited about having so many people dropping in unannounced either and I told him so. When he asked what about him I thought he was being silly and told him that too and that of course it wasn’t the same because he was a friend and I didn’t know the others very well. “Pastor Ken is OK but I’m always worried that he is going to start meddling and trying to do things for my own good. Mitch works for Mr. Henderson but that brother of his is silly and I didn’t have the foggiest idea what to say to him when he got that weird look on his face.”

Then Rand got the weird look on his face too and I nearly fell out of my chair laughing. I told him he had Chase’s weird look down perfectly. Rand looked surprised for a second then smiled and shook his head. Then asked if I had had any problems and if I still had plenty of wood. That taken care of I could see he was trying to judge where the sun was in the sky and I told him he better go.

He kept asking me if I was sure I was OK by myself and I reminded him that I had come all the way from Tampa by myself, actually having my own roof over my head and something to do was easy in comparison. That only made him roll his eyes and say “don’t remind me” but he left after I gave him some plums to snack on while he road home and after he promised to come pick me up after he had made sure the family got to the church Sunday morning.

I was glad I hadn’t acted like my feelings were hurt. Maybe I’m better than I used to be. He sure didn’t mean for me to get hurt feelings so I guess things worked out just fine. I’m going to stop now and try to get a little more finished on those pillow cases. I hadn’t thought I’d need to finish them so soon.

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