By: David L. Souers

Chapter 10


At seven-thirty a.m., Gary and Danielle usually were a couple of hours into their day, but after finishing their chores and putting all their new acquisitions away, they had taken a communal shower, and caught up on their, “snuggle time”, as they liked to call it. Later they spooned their way into oblivion, and for a change, woke totally refreshed.

Sipping at cups of hot, boiled, “cowboy coffee”, they heard the dogs barking at a vehicle coming down the driveway. Gary stuck his head out the door, and Danielle heard him yell at the dogs, “Lay down, and be quiet.” Then she heard, “C’mon in sheriff Brownlee, those dogs won’t bother you now.”

“I’m coming Gary, but I sure wouldn’t if you weren’t right here. Those Rotties of yours are sure tough, to say the least!”

“Well sheriff, we sure never have to lock the doors, huh?”

They were still chuckling over Gary’s little joke when they got to the kitchen.

Danielle was already pouring him a cup of coffee.

“Morning sheriff Brownlee, pull up a chair, I’ve got a nice hot cup of, ”Joe”, for you. You’re out and about awful early today.”

“Mornin’ to you Miss Danielle. That coffee sure smells good. Ain’t had but one small cup this morning, and it was that watery stuff at the Magnolia Inn. I swear they dip three coffee beans in a gallon of hot water, and call it coffee. Mmmm, now that’s real good! I was telling Jake that we should get after Miss Emma to put a little more muscle into her coffee. Poor Jake! He was so out of it, I don’t think he heard a word I was telling him. He kept saying he owed you one for sure, Miss Danielle. He’s on his way to buy an old truck right this minute, and here he just bought that pretty new one. Then he said he’s gonna fill it to the top with flour and sugar and lots of canned goods so’s he will be ready for a long winter. Feature that! When he told me to get over here and stock up on my sinus tea, just like I might not be able to do it later, I figured I’d just come over and see if you folks could tell me what the heck was going on. Now, what do you make of all of that, Miss Danielle?”

Glancing over at Gary, she knew that enough of the story was out that she would have to fill the sheriff in on the details.

“First, I want you to understand that this ain’t none of my doing. It’s just something that I stumbled on, and knew how to understand what I saw. I think a very big change is coming to the whole planet. We can’t do a damn thing to stop it, and all we can do is get ready, and make the best of it.”

Putting a big slice of homemade cherry pie on his saucer, she began to put the whole story together for him. He never said a word, and as he was finishing his second cup of coffee, she finished her soliloquy.

“Whew, that was the best pie I’ve had in a good spell, but I’ll tell you the truth. That story scares the hell out of me!”

“Just so folks know it’s something I saw coming, and that I didn’t have a thing to do with bringing it here. Down through the ages my kind have taken some very bad hits for events that we had nothing to do with, and we’ve had enough of the, ”Burning Times”, which is what it was, and what we call them.

“Don’t worry yourselves, folks around here know you never done anyone no harm to them. Anyway, you are gonna be more than handy to have with us, if what you’re saying comes to be true. Red and his cronies are headed to the state capitol to buy supplies. Don’t know how they found out, but they got a regular convoy headed north. Quite a few of the townsfolk are headed that direction too.”

“Can’t say as I blame them sheriff, you might want to consider it for you and yours too. Being without won’t be fun for anyone.”

Staring at the wood stove on the porch that Gary was going to install that very morning, sheriff Brownlee reached into his inner coat pocket and produced a six-inch damper. The shiny bluish disc of thick steel had a heavy pin that went through the center. With a grin, he commented, “Mac, from over at the hardware store, asked me to bring this to you, while we were all drinking coffee this morning, if I was coming this way anyway. He forgot to give you one with your order yesterday. Claims you’ll burn a ton of wood a week without it. Trust me, he’s right on that one.”

Reaching across the table, Gary took the damper. “What do we owe you sheriff?”

“Well, I’ll tell you what. I gave Mac five dollars for it, but instead of the cash, how about making up a bag of that sinus tea of yours, OK?”

It only took Danielle a few minutes to put over ten dollars worth into an airtight plastic bag and carry it back to the kitchen from the shop. True to her nature, she’d given twice what the damper was worth. She didn’t like to be beholding to anyone, not even the sheriff.

Hearing their voices out on the front porch, she walked out and gave the baggie to the sheriff. As he accepted it, she couldn’t help but smile and quip. “It’s a darned good thing you’re the sheriff, or some of these folks that are peeking out their windows right now, would think I’m selling the wrong kind of herb out the front door.”

He replied, “If things get as bad as you say they are going to get, we might just need some of that stuff for medicine or something. My grandson told me that before the big oil companies had it outlawed in the thirties, they used it for clothes, paper, medicines, and lots of things. Seems the big oil companies didn’t want any competition for their nylon and that stuff. Well they’re not going to be running our lives much longer, so well see what happens, huh?”

He was still grinning from ear to ear, as his pickup made the left turn, back towards town.

Standing on the porch, holding Gary’s hand, with a totally bemused expression on her face, Danielle remarked, “Well I’ll be double damned!”

Three hours later, they had the big stove placed in exactly the right position, just to the left of the double sink. Gary had already cut the hole in the wall, and was busily assembling the chimney. Danielle had a large framing hammer in her hand and several slightly bent finishing nails in her mouth.

When they had taken the trim down, she had started to throw the bent nails into the trash, when Gary had said, “ We can’t keep living in our throwaway world anymore. Give those to me, and I’ll show you how to straighten them without whacking your fingers. My grandpa showed me how to do this years ago.”

Three minutes later he handed her the semi-straightened nails, and sat nursing an injured finger. Looking up with a sheepish grin, he quipped, “Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve tried that, ya know.”

She’d been elected to replace all of the door trim, as well as the door itself. They would never have gotten the big old stove into the house without some creative carpentry, a liberal dose of good luck, and Bill’s muscles. It was a good thing that the claw foot legs were put on with bolts, and the back portion was also removable where the chimney was going to be attached, or they would never made it through the doorway, even after enlarging it several inches. They had removed everything from the top burner plates, to the fire grates, and the big water heater tank on the back to make it as light as possible, but had to get Bill’s assistance to stand it on it’s side, and slide it through the door. He had seen that the stove was going to be a real hassle for them, and had arrived just about the same time that they realized their predicament, and were just about to call for some help, when he came through the door. Danielle exclaimed, “How did you know I was just about to call you?”

“Ha! I didn’t need your abilities to know that stove was going to be a real terror to get in here. So when I figured you’d be about to this point in the installation, I decided to come over and see how you two were doing. Did the sheriff get his sinus medicine? I see you got the damper for the chimney.”

Gary looked at his wife, and quite literally broke up. They recalled the statement about everyone in the area peeking out their windows, and the confirmation had just arrived.

“Hey you two, what’s so funny?”

It took them a minute to settle down enough to tell the tale of the baggie, and the sheriff’s comment about his grandson’s enlightening information that had seemed to impress sheriff Brownlee so much.

“You’re right about everyone watching you though. Emeril John was watching you give the sheriff that baggie through his binoculars from his side window. He called to tell me all about it before the sheriff was even out of sight.”

Danielle said, “I can understand that everyone saw me give him the baggie, but how in the heck did you ever know about the damper for the chimney?”

Bill chuckled, “That’s easy. Mac from the hardware called me to tell me that he had found a nice Atlanta style wood burner for me, and mentioned that the sheriff was going to bring you a damper for your wood stove that he forgot to add to your order yesterday. He sure feels bad that he forgot to give you one on your order. Does it all fit better now?”

Gary quipped, “Heck, I’ll bet that half the population in this area knows about his sinus medicine, and that damper by now. Speaking of information Bill. You did get the word to lay in some supplies? Lots of them, I hope.”

“You bet. That’s what I was doing yesterday, and that’s why I’m headed for the hardware to get my new stove as soon as this is done. Do you think I can use the horse trailer to haul it home?”

“Sure thing. We won’t need it until later this afternoon.”

When the big stove was in the door, and close to it’s final resting place, Bill bade them good-bye and headed for town with the old trailer in tow, and ready to go back to work.

Call after call came in. They left a message that said they were indisposed, and would get back to the caller as soon as possible. They did answer a few that they felt they absolutely must, and all were the same. “What do we do about this wave thing were hearing about?” The answer became standardized. “Stock up on food and fuel for a long hard winter.” They kept it brief, citing the need for time to prepare their own house. You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the word was moving at the speed of light amongst the locals, and on outward to their friends and families in an ever expanding circle, much like the expanding bubble of energy that was soon to envelope them all. They left the, “closed”, sign in the window of the shop, and gave the dogs the run of the fenced front yard. Needless to say, this went a long way, towards discouraging unannounced company.

Finishing both jobs at nearly the same time, they declared lunch, and took a well earned break.

Gazing lovingly at her new stove, Danielle commented, “Honey, where are we going to find enough wood to keep a fire going in that beauty for the long haul? We’ve got lots of trees around here, but if the weather is going to be so bad, we won’t want to have to haul or cut it in the snow. We need something that’s not green too.”

“I’ve been thinking about that. Do you know where that hardwood sawmill is, up on the river road, north of town?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. I drove by there a few weeks ago on my way to a horse show.”

“Did you notice anything at the turn off?”

“Now that you mention it, there was a sign that said, “free slabwood”. I remember it ‘cause I was going to have you get load so we could build a new hog pen.”

“I was thinking more in the line of firewood, but we can get enough for your, “honey-do”, projects too.”

Finishing their lunch with a little more haste than it was begun, they hooked up the horse trailer, that Bill had brought back while they were having lunch, and headed for town.

Danielle’s look of contemplation ended when she said, “We should stop in town and pick up some extra chains for the saw, maybe a box of sparkplugs too.”

“Sounds good to me. But why stop there? Let’s get ten gallons of chain lubricating oil, and some two-cycle oil too. Five cases or so should be enough. I’ve got a half a dozen chain files, so we’re OK in that department.”

Pulling up in front of the hardware store, they ignored a few stares, and greeted those who waved, or said hello.

“Afternoon Mac. Thanks for sending that damper over with the sheriff.”

“Afternoon to you folks. It was my fault for not adding it into your order yesterday, or at least asking if you were going to need one. I’m just glad sheriff Brownlee was headed out your way, and was willing to take it along to you. Now, what can I get for you today?”

They read the items off, and while Mac was putting it together, he inquired, “You folks fixing to cut a lot of wood or what? There are enough supplies to cut a hundred cords, written down here!”

“Mac, now would be a good time to have a hundred cords stacked up nice and pretty in the backyard, and a good wood stove to prop your feet next to.”

“I’ve heard about it. We’ve had a wood burner for years at our house, and you know that as LDS members we’re required to keep enough food on hand for a minimum of two years, just like the pagan community advises. Admittedly, some don’t do it, but I’ll bet that the locals that didn’t, are scrambling to fix that part of their religion right about now. They’re the luck ones that are getting a second chance, those that haven’t heard, are dead ducks for sure. Actually, we have enough for a lot longer than two years. We always figured that If two years is good, four years has got to better, if you get my drift.”

While the men had been putting the order together, Danielle had wandered into the back reaches of the old store, and had spotted an old-fashioned pitcher pump. It was still in its original box! Pulling it down from the third shelf, she nearly choked on the accumulated dust from the top of the carton that spilled down her front, as the heavy box tipped towards her. It weighed over twenty-five pounds, and she was glad to set it down on the counter after lugging all the way to the front of the store.

Staring at Danielle’s dirt besmirched face. Gary tried bravely, but unsuccessfully, to stifle a laugh. “Find a new brand of make-up Hon?”

“Don’t be cute. I found a treasure, even if it was buried in dust. What do you know about this pump Mac?”

“Well, it’s been here since I bought the store from old man McKnight, and that was twenty years ago. I found it up in the attic a couple of years ago, and brought it down to see if I could sell it. The company that made it is still in business, so I sent off and got a new set of leathers for it, but never installed them.”

“What do you want for it, and the repair kit?”

“Gary, if you’ll give me ten bucks cash money, it’s yours. It’s not on any of my inventories, so we can just make it disappear, if you get my drift.”

Proving that the hand can be quicker than the eye, Gary had a ten in Mac’s hand so fast, the man wondered how it happened.

“We’re going to need some three quarter inch pipe, three ninety degree elbows, and a foot valve for the well end. Four each of, seven-sixteenths by two inch bolts with nuts, lock washers, and eight flat washers so we can attach it by the sink.”

“No problem. What are you two going to do, give up on your city water?”

“Let’s just call it our emergency water supply.”

“Nodding in the affirmative, Mac said, “I’ve been hearing some stuff about power failures, and cold weather coming, I guess you know what I mean?”

“You’ve heard that old saying, “believe none of what you hear, and half of what you see?” Well, Mac, this ain’t the time to wait ‘til you see it, ‘cause if you do, it’ll much too late by then.

Paying their bill, the couple put it all into the trailer, and headed for the river road. They saw a couple of townsfolk head into the store. Rumor mongers no doubt. Looking for the latest grist for the mill.

Gary honked the horn at Jake as they went by the feed store. He looked up from under the hood of his new, old truck and gave them a big wave and a smile.

Fifteen minutes later, they saw the free slabwood sign at the intersection of the river road and a small dirt track that let off into the woods. Less than a quarter of a mile down the rutted track, they spotted the mill, and several piles of slabs that were absolutely huge.

“No wonder they are giving the slabs away for free Gary. They’re going to have to move the mill if they don’t get rid of them pretty soon.”

A young man was sitting on a large front-end loader, so Gary drove over next to him. “Is this the slabwood you’re getting rid of?”

“Sure is. I’ll load the truck and trailer for ten bucks, or you can do it yourselves for free”.

It only took one quick glance at the jumbled pile, and an equally fast one at each other, to decide to hand the man a ten spot from Gary’s dwindling supply.

The loader didn’t have the usual bucket. It had been replaced by four large arms that dug into the pile, and came up with it’s maw full of wood in no time at all. In just a few minutes, they were on the way back home with many cords of good hardwood. A few days, and many trips later, their woodpile would look like the ones at the mill! Unfortunately, as others started to arrive at the mill with the same idea, the young operator took the hint, and their last four loads were twenty-five dollars apiece. At this point, they knew that they had less time than money, so they paid the man, and were glad to have the wood. Gary commented, “This wood will bring us more joy than his cash, I’ll wager.”

Both of them knew that the value of paper money could drop to the equivalent value of scrap paper, which was about twenty dollars a ton, and it wasn’t worth a damn in keeping the home fires burning either.

Danielle commented, “I remember reading that you couldn’t carry enough paper money in post war Germany to buy a loaf of bread, and in the era following the American Revolution, people used continental dollars to paper their walls. That’s where the term, “not worth a continental”, came from.”

“I’ll bet your dad was thinking of things like that when he said he was going to put his assets into gold. If we had anything besides our “maxed” out plastic, I’d be converting mine about now too.”

“Don’t worry Gary, we’ve got plenty of other things going for us. We’re well prepared with all of the essentials, and we’ve got the knowledge of how to use it. That will see us through it, I’m sure.”

On the way back to their place, they noticed several good sized piles of slabs in several of the yards in town, and a few on the farms they passed as well, when they got closer to home. None of the woodpiles were even a fraction of the size of the small mountain of wood in their backyard, but anything those people could their hands on, would help them to survive, and that was definitely a good thing.