April 3rd – I didn’t feel like writing yesterday, I was simply too overwhelmed. Geez, listen to me. I sound like that what’s-her-name … Scarlet O’Hara in that movie Gone With the Wind. “I can’t think about that right now. If I do I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about it tomorrow.” Oh please, I’m not normally this much of a drama queen but witnessing what I did yesterday was just too much.
I made some bad assumptions. I left it up to others after I’d done my part. I thought that doing my part was enough, that I’d finally acted enough that the problem would go away or at least no longer threaten Rand and I personally. Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Yesterday morning Mr. Henderson rode up with Mitch and Hoss and asked to speak with Rand and I together; Austin as well since he was a witness despite still being a young boy. SueLinda and that other woman … Cali something or other … had been turned over to the military for their crimes. Unfortunately on Sunday morning they were being released because some blood sucking lawyer had proved that the military didn’t have any jurisdiction over them in this particular case.
A citizens’ group … basically a glorified posse … captured them just beyond sight of the military compound and brought them to Mr. Henderson to ship them out of town to get rid of the problem since the military wouldn’t. Mr. Henderson’s concern with that was that the two women would only hook back up with the criminal element and come back to haunt us all at a later date.
Mr. Henderson wanted to know whether I would agree to appear before a community trial and accept whatever was decided rather than seek my own revenge against SueLinda. I looked at Rand who had a very hard expression on his face.
“Rand? I … I didn’t plan this .. I …”
“I know Babe. SueLinda did this, now she can sleep in the bed she’s made for herself.”
So that’s how we all wound up spending the rest of the day outside of what is left of City Hall and the old County Jailhouse. The trial such as it was didn’t last but two hours. One hour and fifty minutes was all of the testimony regarding SueLinda’s activities, her threats against the community in general and Rand and I in particular, and how even under the current circumstances she continued to make death threats to anyone aiding and abetting their jailers. The other ten minutes were spent by the jury trying to write up an official sounding verdict and figuring out who was supposed to read it to the court.
It’s not that I hadn’t expected SueLinda to be found guilty; what I hadn’t expected was how swiftly “justice” would be carried out. Every time I think of it I want to lose my lunch. I’m pretty sure that SueLinda and that other woman didn’t expect it either. They were screaming and hollering right up to the bitter end. Within thirty minutes of the verdict being read they were swinging from the limb of an old oak tree that had grown from the acorn of another oak that had been used for that same purpose a hundred years before. The other woman died immediately. SueLinda took a while because her neck hadn’t snapped as it was supposed to have done.
Rand took us home; I walked in the house, laid down and pulled the covers over my head. A few minutes later Rand came in and lay down beside me and held me while I cried like a baby. “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
“I know Babe. I know. But it had to be done.”
I sat up, “Had to?! What’s this had to stuff?! People chose to do this. I never thought I’d see someone hung in my life Rand. That’s Old West stuff reserved for horse thieves, bank robbers, and murderers for crying out loud. I can’t believe I was a part of this.”
“And what? How did you think this was going to end? Life in prison? Who would be the jailers? Who would support that system? Where would the jail be?”
“I … I …”
“Babe, look at me. SueLinda had a choice and she made it. We as a community could not allow her actions to go unanswered.”
“But look at all the things I’ve done Rand. Am I going to find myself swinging from that tree one day?!”
“No!! No. You … look at me Babe … self defense is completely different from what SueLinda was punished for. You know it. I know you still feel guilty for some of the lives you’ve taken, so do I. But we only did it when we were faced with no other choice, generally because we were facing death ourselves. This is a completely different situation. SueLinda premeditated her actions and they were designed to destroy us. When she couldn’t accomplish what she wanted through the actions of others she finally did the dirty deed herself … and now she’s paid for it.”
He held me and then I asked him more quietly, “Where do we go from here?”
“Us or the community?”
“Well, we just keep doing what we’re doing, harming none unless harmed. Defending ourselves when necessary. We’ve always stayed out of other people’s business and I don’t see that changing. As for the community, hopefully this will get people to think. We’ve got a lot of folks that have just been going along, letting things degenerate into a free for all. We’ve got some people who like it like that. But we’ve also got people in this community that need protection from those that would take advantage of them … widows, orphans, old folks, and the like. All communities need rules to live by, and if you have rules you have to have consequences if those rules get broke.”
“But where does this end? I don’t want to go back to the days where people like Mr. Harbinger rode around on horses telling people what they could and couldn’t do.”
“No one does … well, no one with any sense does. Look Kiri, it didn’t get broke in one day and it isn’t going to get fixed in one day either. Hopefully what happened today was an anomaly. Most people don’t want to hurt other people just for the sake of hurting them. Most people around here don’t steal either. This was just an extreme example of what could go wrong and what our community could be facing here on out. And it might not have been a bad thing for it to happen now. Set the precedent and those refugees that are coming in might think twice before pulling a similar stunt in our community.”
“What about every place else.”
“I can’t deal with that Babe. Every place else is going to have to take care of their own just like we are doing.”
I could barely eat yesterday and what I did manage to eat came right back up when Ram, Clyde, and Bill came over to discuss their so-called business venture.
I heard Austin yell, “Rand! Kiri’s puking again!”
Rand came in, took a look at my face and said, “Bed. Now.”
And that’s where I stayed the rest of the evening. But you can’t hide from life if you plan on living it so I got up this morning and tried to not let the image of the two women swinging in the breeze get to me. Paul came over about lunch time and I overheard him and Rand talking.
“Just wanted you to know they took the bodies down about an hour ago. Some lawyer tried to drag the military back into it but didn’t have any luck because the base commander refuses to get involved with what he calls civilian affairs. The Judge had some people bury the two women out in that field behind where Walmart used to be.”
“Thanks for the letting me know.”
“Gran wants to know how Kiri is. She figures she is taking it pretty hard.”
“And then some. She wants to know where this is going to end.”
“Yeah, Gran has wondered as much herself but I don’t see as any of us were left much choice. They wouldn’t have stopped with your place. They’d just kept on and on.”
I hope that we haven’t taken the first step down a long hard road. What’s that say? The road to hell is paved with good intentions? I’ve felt that way more than a few times over the last year but now I’ve got a baby to think about. This is just my future that is being worked out, but his too.
April 4th – I’ve promised myself not to dwell on the hanging so much. It isn’t healthy. I don’t know that it is any healthier to ignore it but there has to be some middle ground where I can accept it and take precautionary note of what it could mean without it creeping into my nightmares which is what it did last night. I saw Rand and Austin and some little baby all strung up like SueLinda was. Each body had a sign that said “stepped over the line.” I could hear the creaking of the rope against the tree limb. I woke up so upset that even listening to Rand’s snoring couldn’t comfort me. I never did get back to sleep and was up and had breakfast cooking before the guys even had both eyes open. Rand knows it is still bothering me but this is something I’m just going to have to work through on my own this time.
Work has helped. The tomatoes are coming in and since I planted so many we’re going to have an abundance again this year. I also picked the first of the cauliflower, pearl onions, and sweet yellow onions. The pearl onions I pickled and canned. I braided the tops of the yellow onions together and hung them upstairs in the dormer room. I’m going to pull another row of onions tomorrow and slice them up and dry them to make dried chopped onion, dried minced onion, onion powder, and onion salt all of which I’m getting low on.
For dinner tonight I made homemade chips and salsa and bean burritos. The guys were in hog heaven but it didn’t set to well on my stomach. Guess the baby must not like the hot stuff right now. I think I’ll go to bed early and try and rest up. I haven’t felt too good today. Lack of sleep most likely.
April 5th – not lack of sleep. Stupid blood pressure.
April 6th – I’m starting to hate this bed.
April 7th – Free at last. I’m getting down right irritated at this blood pressure stuff. Ken said it was stress related. Who doesn’t have stress these days?! Just so tired all of the time. I can’t even move without running into stuff. You can see me coming around the corner before I even get there. And I’m getting this knarly stretch mark that itches all of the time. I’m putting lotion on it but Missy says that I can forget ever looking like I looked before. I didn’t want to tell her but I was no prize before I got big and fat with this baby.
But even if Ken hadn’t given the all clear I needed to be up and moving today. Tomorrow we plant peanuts and we’ve got family coming over to help. Austin is wound tighter than a top because the boys will be here. Brendon will be here too as will Clyde. Uncle George was going to be here but he’s got gout and is laid up and feeling as miserable as I did from what we hear. I’m sending home some blueberry juice when they go back. Blueberry juice isn’t as good for gout as black cherry juice is supposed to be, but it is worth a try. I looked it up in Momma’s files and Uncle George needs to drink lots of water, cut down on beans, lentils and red meat and raise his intake of dairy. Hopefully that will help. Grout sounds awful. Who wants to have a swollen and sore big toe?!
For the baking today I made several loaves of Irish Soda Bread to go with the beans, tomatoes, greens, fried corn, and venison meat loaf that will be tomorrow’s main meal. For the bread I took rough four cups of flour, one teaspoon of salt, three teaspoons of baking powder, one teaspoon of baking soda, and one quarter cup of sugar and sifted it all together. Then I used a pastry blender to cut in one quarter cup of butter which gave me a very crumbly dough. In another bowl I beat together one egg and on and three quarter cup of buttermilk. Then I stirred the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mixed well.
Once I got it to a decent consistency I turned the dough out onto my floured bread board … nothing fancy, it’s just a cutting board that I use to knead bread on and nothing else. I kneaded the bread for about two minutes or until it was smooth. Then I divided the dough in half and formed each half into a nice round loaf.
I put each round loaf onto a greased cake pan and pressed it down a tad to flatten it out. Then I took a sharp pair of kitchen shears and cut crosses in the top of each loaf about half an inch deep. I baked the loaves for 30 minutes, maybe a tad longer, at 375 F until they were nice and browned. I did this three times so I have six loaves. It used a lot of flour but we’ve been eating so much cornmeal lately that I felt the need to splurge since we were having company.
I am completely ready for bed. We have to get up earlier than normal. Tomorrow looks like it is going to be a long, full day.
April 9th – Was too tired to write last night and haven’t had time today until now. Thank goodness the Lord planned to have at least one day off a week or I can see a lot of people just dropping in their tracks from exhaustion.
Yesterday we planted nearly five acres in peanuts. There were three kinds – runners, Virginias, and Spanish. When I heard how many pounds we were supposed to get from each acre I thought I was hearing things. Rand and the other men claim we should get about two thousand pounds of peanuts per acre. I asked what on earth they expected us to do with all those peanuts and Rand said to think of George Washington Carver. I’m ashamed to say I had to go look that one up.
I wasn’t allowed in the field and it didn’t break my heart at all. The idea of bending to plant all of those little legumes just about gave me a back ache just thinking about it. Each see is planted about two inches deep, one every three or four inches, in rows about three feet apart. In about two weeks, the first "square" of four leaflets will unfold above the peanut field and I’m really anxious to see it. I’m not the only one. Several families are going to be counting on peanut production for everything from a protein sour to oil to animal feed and other stuff beyond. Mr. Coffey said that the meal that is normally made from the pressed peanuts (left over from capturing the oil) can be ground and used by humans as well.
Thirty to forty days after the plants bloom, "pegs" form and enter the soil. The peanut shells and kernels develop and mature during the next 60 to 70 day period. Depending on the variety, 120 to 160 frost free days are required for a good crop.
The noon day meal was a hit but the guys were back at it before I could even finish my own meal and I was left looking at a lot of empty, but dirty, dishes to wash. I was at that until it was time for everyone to leave. I managed to get in a few loads of laundry at the same time but I couldn’t bend over and pick up the blasted laundry basket so I had to carry a few pieces at a time from the rinse tub to the clothes line. I’m going to ask Rand to put a basket onto a rolling table for me when he can find the time. My balance is all out of whack and bending over can lead to some interesting problems.
All three of us went to be tired. Austin nearly fell asleep in his dinner plate and he hasn’t done that in a while. Even Woofer and Fraidy were tired. Fraidy was out hunting moles and Woofer was scaring off the ravens that kept trying to get to the peanuts. Clyde took care of the ravens with some birdshot. All I can hope is that their family doesn’t come looking for them.
The same topic was raised after the church service today only with regard to the friends in low places that SueLinda had. The girls quickly found other “protectors” and moved onto another part of the river much to some men’s chagrin. I don’t think I know anyone that was using their … uh, services … but some men from Columbia county sure got bent out of shape after finding them gone. They reported that the ship was empty and had been scuttled. Looks like the river rats strike again.
I expected to receive some censure from some people but the exact opposite was true. It was like I was being surrounded and protected from something. I didn’t have to wait long to find it out. Straight from the pulpit in Ken’s sermon came the message against treachery, that we had people in our community accused of unrighteous behavior, sending lions to slaughter the innocent. I started wondering what on earth was going on because I’d never heard Ken preach like that. Then I noticed a lot of people nodding like they understood exactly what he was referring to.
“Brothers and sisters, we have had a woman in our midst who admitted with purposeful intent sharing information that she had no business sharing. Her intent was to see others in our midst harmed, even killed, for revenge. She and her common law husband have left this area, going north to find their fortune elsewhere. Let us take this as a warning to gird ourselves against such a temptation we may one day find ourselves facing. Deuteronomy, Hebrews, and Romans all tell us the Lord has said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.’”
He went on like that at length but I had a bad case of acid indigestion by the time it was all over. Momma O and Mrs. Withrow never let me out of their sight during the dinner on the grounds and I was summarily handed over to Rand when it was time to go. He was silent almost all the way home.
“Rand? What … who was Pastor Ken going on about?”
We were turning onto our lane and Rand gave a deep sigh before replying. “SueLinda had been asking around but couldn’t find out anything about our location until she started manipulating Lucretia.”
“Lucretia?! No …. No, no, no. All of this was because …”
Rand pulled on the reins and turned me to look at him, “We are not even going down that road. Lucretia made her choice. She got herself in this fix. You can’t keep getting a complex over this stuff.”
“I’m not getting a complex.” When his eyebrow did a Mr. Spock impression I said, “OK so I’ve got a little complex about this kind of stuff but Rand …”
“No but Rand … period. Babe, let this one go. Just let it go. It’s over.”
I want to believe that but, I really do but something tells me that it’s not going to be that simple.