Friday, June 24, 2011

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter 21

We didn’t sit down and have a talk for a good while though I did have to give him chapter and verse of what happened that night and the next day. First it was the horses, then emptying the wagons. One wagon held feed and stayed in the barn but the other wagon held a whole bunch of gobbledygook that had to be brought inside; my little wagon must have had a couple of miles put on it just going back and forth between the barn and the house.

As we brought it all inside I just had to ask, “Dino, do you always go shopping like this?”

He gave a chuckle but then shook his head and got serious again fast, “To be honest I’m worried that I’ve underestimated things. I know I’m fine with the feed … it is mostly for winter when the animals will having trouble being free range. Come spring they may be forced to do more of that … it’s the household groceries I’m concerned about.”

I guess I still wasn’t understanding. “Dino, have you taken a look down in the basement lately and the root cellar? I’m not even done with the harvest and I already know there will be things that hold over past the start of next season.”

Out of the blue he walked over, grabbed me in a hug, and gave me one of them honest to goodness old movie style kisses where the guy bends the girl back over his arm. Holy mackerel, I near couldn’t breathe! “That’s just in case I have been remiss in expressing just how glad I am that you came along.”

Trying to stuff my curls back where they’d sprung from during the kiss I told him, “Well my goodness, your gladness is surely appreciated.” He chuckled the way men do when they’ve done something manly that gets noticed. “I still don’t get your shopping style though. None of your orders in Newton were anything like this.”

Serious once again he said, “That’s because I’m not sure how much ordering we’ll be able to do in Newton, or any place else for that matter.”

“Are … I mean … is the harvest …?”

He shook his head. “It isn’t a matter of money Riss. The contracts are still good and in a couple of days we’ll even have some couriers out here picking orders up.”

“If it isn’t a matter of money then what is it?”

“Supply. Any kind of violence – and from what you said that Sergeant said to expect it – will disrupt supply chains. In the rural areas of the country we are doing well enough to get by. We may not have some of the conveniences that the urban areas have – consistent if rationed electricity, consistent if rationed and expensive fuel, treated water from the tap, easy access in one central point for goods and services – but what we do have is rarely rationed by the government.”

“Well then, that’s a good thing isn’t it?”

He nodded, “Yes, as far as it goes. But we aren’t totally self-sufficient out here. It could be as simple as something like a lynch pin for a piece of equipment, rope, nails, rubber gaskets, even the material for clothes when the old ones wear out.”

“Then people will make do or do without.”

He sighed. “That’s a nice simple answer.”

“But true,” I persisted.

“Yes, it is. But there’s more to it than that Riss. Before you can make do or do without you have to get to a point where that is possible.” At my disbelieving look at the backwards logic of his statement he was forced to laugh. “Yeah, I know it sounds like an oxymoron but it is just as true as your answer is. Even as long as this war has been going on and what it has done to the economy and the population in general, a lot of people have just plain chosen not to learn the skills they need until they are absolutely forced to learn them. Your mother’s family was already equipped to withstand many of the changes. You came from a background and were of an age that when you were forced to move to the rural countryside you probably didn’t even consciously realize you were adapting, you flowed with your circumstances rather than fought them.”

I shrugged. “Well, what was I supposed to do? Sit around and have a pity party all day long? My mom might have been out of it a lot of the time but she never would have stood for that … and neither would my grandparents. If you wanted to stay on the farm with them then you had to be a contributing member in some way … or at least be willing to contribute.”

“See? That’s what I’m talking about. A lot of people in the urban areas though, they haven’t adapted. They’ve continued to try and mold their current circumstances to mimic their old circumstances as much as possible.”

“That’s the same problem a lot of the government contractees have when they first move out to manage a farm or harvest. They try and bring their old life and habits with them.”

“Exactly. The problem no matter whether you live in the city, the ‘burbs, or the country is that adaptation will only take you so far; sometimes you need to make a leap and … and evolve I guess you would say.”

Trying to follow his train of thought I asked, “Like … like how?”

He stopped and because his hands were full backed up to the corner of the barn and used it to scratch an itch he couldn’t reach making me laugh. “You look like an old boar. Be careful or you’re going to itch a spot full of splinters.”

“Then come help me woman.” Laughing some more I let go of the wagon handle and went over and scratched a spot below his shoulder blade. At the blissful look on his face I teased, “You need your belly scratched too boss dog?”

That snapped him to attention, “If you don’t stop talking like that I’m gonna get … distracted.”

I’m not normally a tease, being careful to behave as I ought so there would be no question in Dino’s mind that I was a woman with character … or at least only one spot on my character, but I was just so happy and relieved to have him back and in one piece that I was acting a little risky. Thank goodness for Kerry being underfoot.

“Why would you want your belly scratched? Have you got fleas Daddy?”

That sent me off laughing again and I scampered back to the pull cart knowing that if I didn’t there would be payback and I wasn’t sure in my current mood if I was anywhere near being able to avoid temptation.

“You were saying something about evolution,” I reminded him.

He snorted but obliged by explaining, “Not the kind of evolution you are talking about although you could say that there’s been plenty of ‘Darwin Awards’ handed out in the last couple of years. I mean more like … like making a jump in understanding. For instance, I took electricity for granted right along with everyone else. And I figured if the power ever did go down I had the farm generators and a supply of fuel that would last until we could get more. Haven’t you ever wondered why we don’t use the tractors more?”

I shook my head, “No, not really. Fuel is expensive and you seem to do well enough with the teams pulling the harvest wagons and for getting around.”

He smiled as he passed me going up the porch steps. “We do but the truth is Alec and I would be able to get twice the work done in half the time with even less effort if we could use the tractors. We used to have even more tractors – newer ones – than you see in the barns. Over the years we’ve had to cannibalize them to keep the older, more reliable tractors going. GPS and computer chips don’t do a bit of good if your drive shaft or hydraulics are toast.”

“So you made the leap from tractors to horses.”

He shook his head. “No. We were forced to go from mostly tractor work to mostly horse work. We didn’t have any choice. Our actions were reactive not proactive.”

I stopped and then said, “I guess I’m still not understanding what you mean.”

He used the porch rail to scratch the same spot as before and I knew I’d need to look at it to see what was causing the itch but got sidetracked by his explanation. “I’d give just about anything if I hadn’t talked Papooh out of putting solar power in the grape shed. At the time it was going to cost a ton of money and Yaya was dealing with some expensive health problems. I thought there would always be time for him to do his experimenting after they got other things taken care of. It was right before I headed out to basic and … and I thought I knew more than I did. I wasn’t thinking far enough down the road.”

“Your grandfather was a grown man with lots of experience Dino. You were … well … mostly still a kid. If it had been that important to him you wouldn’t have been able to dissuade him.”

He sighed as he got his scratching done and we went back to the barn for another load. “While that is true Papooh was old-fashioned and counted on Alec and I for advice on modernization. It was his way of drawing us … particularly me … into the business. I missed the mark that time and badly.”

“But … I mean … solar panels break, batteries wear out or go bad, and those converter thingies don’t last forever either.” I’d surprised him with my understanding of how solar energy worked. At his questioning look I said, “Harry.”


I laughed at the look on his face. “Yes, Harry. He may act foolish on occasion but sometimes it is just to hide how smart he really is. Harry was the only one besides Sol that I could talk to. They’d had to leave a lot of their books behind as well, but not all of them and when the boys found out it wasn’t a chore for me to understand them they’d share all of these projects they would have gotten into if money hadn’t been an issues. They also talked about the shortcomings of those projects. One of the reasons Harry wanted to go into the military so bad is because he knew his uncle would pigeon hole him into business and Harry is more interested in mechanics and engineering and getting more training in that area.”

Dino nodded his head, “You’re right, he does hide it.”

We both laughed. “So you’re sorry that you talked your grandfather out of solar but he could have put it in and you could still be sitting in the dark when the sun goes down. Solar has its limitation just like everything else.”

“Of course, but it would have been another option. Redundancy is the key to surviving these days. Let me give you another example. I’m sorry now that Alec and I didn’t get into making our own fuel sooner. We could have already been set up and even making excess.”

“You mean your poop generators?” I said reminding him of one of our earliest conversations.

He grinned remembering as well. “Those … and ethanol or biodiesel for the tractors. And before you get started I’m well aware that each of those has their own problems not the least of which is the natural resources required to create them. But that’s what I mean … we could have already been addressing those issues and finding alternatives or finding ways to work smarter, not harder.”

“You and Alec look like you are doing all right from where I stand,” I told him in admiration. “Having indoor plumbing alone is worth its weight in gold to me. And that pump at the kitchen sink … there just isn’t enough good things I can say about it.”

He kissed my forehead as he passed me up again with a couple of burlap sacks riding his shoulders. “Thank you but all we are doing is building on what my grandfather created, and his uncle before him. I want to do more. I want to find some way to make my own mark and add to it rather than just living off of it. That solar would have been something not many people has, it would have made life … well, not easy but certainly easier in some respects.”

Thinking I said, “Well, Alec said it was your idea to branch out into the specialty wines and that they make up almost twenty percent of the income now because of what people will pay for them. Isn’t that making your mark … or making a leap to do things different?”

Still unsatisfied he said, “I suppose, but I want to do more. Alec has already made that leap with his methane set up. He figures by next spring Cheryl will be able to go back to cooking on a gas stove and he won’t have to spend so much time splitting wood.”

“Granddaddy said splitting wood is why you keep your boy babies rather than selling them to the gypsies.” When Dino stopped laughing at the look on Kerry’s face I added, “You’ll make your mark and knowing you’ll it’ll be a splashy one. For now be content with this great big ol’ house and farm the way it is … although if you could figure a way to make wash day easier I surely wouldn’t complain about that.”

“Is it getting to be too much for you?” he asked concerned yet again at me doing certain kinds of work when I was so far along.

I shook my head, “It’s not the work Dino, it’s the time. When I’m gardening and cooking and preserving the laundry piles up. When I have to spend a whole day doing laundry the rest of it piles up. And when the baby comes along I’m not going to be able to put laundry off to one day a week … dirty nappies just don’t wait. Oh what am I complaining about … at least I’ve got spare to wear; some people don’t. And I don’t have to chop my own wood anymore either. It’s just fine.”

“No it’s not,” he said quietly. “I know the summer is a busy time Riss and I don’t know how I would have got through this one without you. I can’t believe those bast …”

“Uh uh … little pitcher, big ears.”

He sighed. “You know what I mean.”

“I do. And I can’t imagine what my life would be without you right about now either … or … or about … about anytime any more. You are about the only reason that I’m not completely disgusted with my foolishness … if I hadn’t then I would never have … I mean … you … and … Kerry and ….”

“Hey … hey, you … you are crying,” he said startled. “Did that man … bother you and you’re just not saying …”

“No, not that. I mean it might sound horrible but I … I don’t think on him any more than that dog I put down. To me at that moment they weren’t much different.”

“Then what’s … Kerry, go play and let me talk to Riss for a bit.” Kerry was happy to get out of more toting and went to the tree where Stinky and the other dogs had commandeered the shade. “Now what’s wrong? Something is sure bothering you.”

I shook my head, “I don’t know. I just keep … worrying that something or someone one is going to come along and take away … just … just all of it. It has always been like that, why should now be any different?”

He took me into his arms real gentle and I just lay there needing and wanting him to be who I thought he was and not just a figment of my imagination. I said real quiet, afraid that saying it out loud might make it come true, “What if Sol takes it into his head that he wants the baby? Or tries to make trouble for … for us? He could you know. His uncle is some kind of big shot with money and connections.”

“Sol isn’t going to come near you or the baby,” he said forcefully.

“You can’t know that.”

“Oh yes I can. Come here and sit down, now is as good a time as any I suppose to talk.”

Something told me he’d been holding off on something and I wasn’t too sure I was going to like it.


  1. It's been wonderful having this story and the new chapters flowing all in a row. Thanks Kathy