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Offline Jerry D Young

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JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« on: September 06, 2013, 04:12:29 PM »
Percy’s Mission
Copyright 2012 by Jerry D Young
All Rights Reserved
The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual names, persons, businesses, and incidents is strictly coincidental. Locations are used only in the general sense and do not represent the real place in actuality.

Think about the events in this story as you read it. You may agree or disagree on the premise, but think about what you would do if…

Percy’s Mission - Chapter 1

“Percivale George Jackson,” said Percivale George Jackson. The look on his face brooked no attempt at humor based on his name.

The DMV clerk carefully input the information into the computer fighting to control his grin. Percivale was bad enough, but the vehicle being registered was called a Unimog. What the hell kind of truck was a Unimog? Sounded like a character in Lord of the Rings. Or four of them. Percivale was licensing four Unimog trucks.

Cutting his eyes up to the tall, skinny, middle-aged man, the clerk barely managed not to laugh, again, as he took in the sight of the worn felt hat partly covering the longish, mostly brown hair. The overalls Percivale wore were nearly new. And the green plaid shirt looked new, too. He managed to keep the comment a silent statement to himself. “Must be his Sunday-go-to-Meetin’ overalls.”

He came to the purchase price of the trucks and his eyes widened and he whistled under his breath. “Wait a minute,” he said then, picking up the purchase form in his hand and looking once more at Percivale. “Is this some kind of joke? This says the trucks are Mercedes-Benz trucks. The other papers say Unimog. There is no such thing as a Mercedes truck.”

“Mercedes-Benz does make trucks. Mercedes-Benz is the parent company that makes the Unimog line of vehicles. Is there a problem or something? It usually doesn’t take this long to register and license a vehicle.” Percy maintained his calm demeanor despite the smirk on the young man’s face. The smirk had appeared the moment Percy had stepped up to the counter.

“I suppose nothing is wrong. I just have to be careful. Registering a vehicle is an important procedure. It must be done correctly. This is a somewhat out of the ordinary vehicle. I’ve never even heard of one before.”

That was enough opening for Percy. He was proud of the versatile vehicle. It had taken him almost six months to get them, once he discovered they were available. Telling someone, especially this twerpy clerk about them would be a pleasure.

“Sort of a cross between a tractor and a giant jeep,” Percy said. He realized his mistake immediately. He stopped the explanation as quickly as he’d started it.

“Tractor?” asked the clerk. “We don’t license tractors.”

Percy groaned. “It’s not a tractor… I… ah… was just kidding.” It sounded lame to Percy.

The clerk got even snootier. “I’m afraid the DMV does not appreciate such jokes. This is a serious business.”

“Yes, sir. Sorry. Sometimes I get a bee in the ol’ bonnet. It won’t happen again.” Percy heard whispers behind him after he had spoken. He turned around and looked to see what was going on. Percy groaned again.

He touched the brim of his hat. “Mornin’ Mrs. Applegate. Lovely weather we’re having, isn’t it?”

“Percivale, the weather is atrocious and you know it. That sense of humor you just told that clerk you had is just as drab as it’s ever been. Please don’t waste his time, or mine. I’m in a hurry.”

“Yes’m,” Percy said softly, turning back to the counter. Mrs. Applegate had been his third grade teacher. She was in her eighties and still scared him.

She scared the clerk even more. He knew her as the wife of a state representative. Somebody important. He quickly finished the process for Percy and handed him the four sets of license plates. He was already apologizing to Mrs. Applegate for Percy having kept her waiting as Percy stepped out of the way.

Percy sighed and headed out to the Suburban. At least the task was done. It had been a rough morning. Bernard’s wife was sick and he had to stay home to take care of her. On top of that, two of his other hands that were due back the previous day were still in Minneapolis because of yet another terrorist attack security clampdown. It was going to be at least another three days before they could get back from visiting their mother.

“Oh, well,” Percy muttered to himself, “such is life. Time to go see if Hector wants that tractor.”

He’d sold the Case tractor that one of the Unimogs was replacing to his nearest neighbor for a fair price. Percy began to grin as he climbed into the customized Chevy Suburban. “Old Hector wants that John Deere bad. I bet he’ll come across. And I got to stop talking to myself. People think I’m crazy as it is.”

He touched the brim of his floppy felt hat as Mrs. Applegate walked past, her nose in the air. “Maybe I am. Maybe I am,” he muttered before falling silent. He started the Suburban and, just to show off a bit, grabbed the joystick mounted on the special console at his right hand and activated the crab steering on the six-wheel-drive, six-wheel-steer running gear of the truck.

There was plenty of space in front of him so he just edged the truck out, parallel to the curb until he was in the street. Percy straightened the wheels and flipped the switch to go back to normal front steering. As usual, passers-by had stopped to gawk at the event. Percy tipped his hat, grinned, and headed toward Hector’s place.

An hour and a half later Percy was talking to himself again. “Yep, Hector wanted that tractor bad.” Percy had two more stops after leaving Hector’s, before he headed back to the estate. He needed to stop and collect from McAlister for the two bob trucks he’d sold him, then go back into town and deposit the checks in the bank. “And probably should stop at Jimbo’s Emporium and pick up some gold and silver out of the accounts.”

It had taken Percy a long time to get Jimbo to agree to the arrangement. After Percy had kept track of the transactions he would have done if Jimbo would do them, and Jimbo saw what he would make by doing them, he agreed. With the way the precious metals markets had been for the last few years, Percy was able to withdraw significant amounts of the gold and silver in coin form on a regular basis and still maintain trading stocks to keep accumulating more.

Grouchy old McAlister reluctantly gave Percy the check he’d promised. “Things are going to cost me a fortune with the way gasoline prices are, you know,” McAlister complained as he handed over the check.

“I know what you mean, Hiram. Diesel is almost as bad.”

“Not telling me anything I don’t already know,” replied McAlister. “Fuel for my diesel equipment is over a third of my operating budget.”

Percy’s eyebrows rose slightly. He wouldn’t have thought that Hiram McAlister even knew what a budget was.

“According to Cynthia… she’s doing my books for me now… I’m going to have to go up on my harvesting prices.”

“That explains the budget,” Percy thought. “His daughter is doing it for him.”

McAlister frowned. “I’m not so sure I should have cut that deal with you on the trucks. Even short as I am on cash, giving you two forty acre harvests, plus what cash I am giving you, I’m beginning to think I should have just done all cash.”

“Well…if your prices are going up, Hiram, I guess it’s only fair to renegotiate.”

Before he could continue, McAlister interjected, “I ain’t got any more cash to spare, Percy.”

“I know,” replied Percy. “I was thinking I’d do the hauling for one of the fields. Would that make up the difference between the old price and new?”

“You’d do that? My pricing always includes haulage. That’s why I’m buying your two trucks. I need more hauling capacity.”

“You’re a good guy, Hiram. I want you to stay in business. We made the deal before you knew you had to go up. I’m okay with absorbing some of the difference.”

“Well, gee, Percy… Thanks.”

“Sure, Hiram. Tell Cynthia I said howdy.”

“Sure thing, Percy. Sure thing.”

There was a long line at the bank. Since the federal government had restricted cash withdrawals to no more than ten percent of available balances, people were hitting the bank as often as once a day. Even with additional tellers, the line was usually long. At both banks in town. Percy kept half the money he kept in banks in each one and alternated deposits and checks. When he deposited the two checks, he withheld the allowable ten percent in cash.

“Hey, Percy,” called Camden Dupree, the assistant manager of the bank. “I hear you have a real truck farm now.”

Percy smiled over as he continued toward the door. “You could say that, I suppose, Camden.”

Several people laughed. It had become common knowledge that Percy had sold the tractors, both the bob trucks, and three other smaller trucks and planned to replace all seven units with the four Unimogs. It was a running joke. No one seemed to think the Unimogs would be able to do the work.

“Little do they know,” muttered Percy as he went through the glass double doors.

“Hey, Mr. Jackson,” said Andy Buchanan. He was a delivery driver for Wilkins Oil. That was his full time job. Andy also did quite a bit of side work. “When you gonna let me bring out the semi and fill up that tank?” With a note of pride in his voice he said, “I’ve got my CDL now.”

Andy was a good kid. “Good for you. And one of these days, Andrew. One of these days. Just my regular load this week. Five hundred gallons diesel, hundred gasoline.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Jackson. Be there Thursday as usual. Any oils or anything?”

“As a matter of fact, I was going to call and request cold weather additive. I’m afraid it may be hard to get this winter. I want to get some now in case you can’t get treated or blended fuel.”

“How much you want? A drum?”

“Enough for... the whole tank, I think. In drums. Whatever it takes to treat ten thousand gallons for thirty below.”

“Thirty below? It hasn’t been even twenty below since I was a kid.”

Andy was twenty-five. Percy remembered the last time it was twenty below, when Andy was ten. Half the equipment in the area had stopped because the diesel fuel jelled. The weather seemed to be hitting extremes the last few years. “I know, Andy. But you know me. Be prepared.”

“That’s good, Mr. Jackson. I was a boy scout. It’s a good motto. I’ll let the boss know and bring it when I come Thursday. I guess you’ll put it in yourself. You don’t want the whole batch in with just a couple thousand gallons in the tank like you usually have.”

“Oh, I know. I don’t want to waste it. I’ll add it as needed.”

“Okay, Mr. Jackson. I’ll take care of it. Uh… Would you consider loaning me one of your Rokon bikes for hunting season? There’s a spot up on Six Point I can get to on foot, but it’s too far for me to pack out a deer unless I make four trips. I doubt I’d have time… Susie said the Rokon would handle it easy.”

With a stern look on his face, Percy said, “You know I’m not much of a loaner, Andrew.”

Andy hung his head. “Yes, sir. I know. I just… uh… never mind. Sorry.”

Percy grinned. “But I tell you what. You give me a shank of whatever you get, and a couple of mallards, if you get any, and you can use one of the Rokon’s.”

“Sure, Mr. Jackson! Sure! And… gee… I always get a few ducks during the season. Two is guaranteed. Thanks.”

With a wave of acknowledgement, Percy turned toward the Suburban.

“Oh. Uh… Mr. Jackson? Would you tell Susie I… uh… said hello?”

Another grin split Percy’s face. “Sure thing, Andrew. I’ll tell her.”

“Thanks again, Mr. Jackson.” Andy walked off with a jaunty step.

It didn’t take long at Jimbo’s place. He kept Percy’s precious metals holdings in plastic coin tubes. He always transferred enough for his commission to his own set of tubes when he made a transaction for Percy.

“I still can’t quite figure why this works,” Jimbo told Percy, as he handed him a tube of tenth ounce gold Eagles and a tube of pre-1964 silver quarters and two tubes of pre-1964 silver dimes after Percy had checked the accounts. Percy did his own tally every day when he checked the commodities markets on line. Jimbo’s numbers always matched his.

“I’m glad it does, though. I make a nice little commission off you. Plus, it’s allowed me to increase my gold and silver stocks quite a bit for the business. I’m selling the occasional bullion coin to other people besides just you. What do you do with yours, anyway?”

It was a very impolite question, but Jimbo was Jimbo. “I just like gold and silver. Do give a few away as presents on birthdays and Christmas.” It was the truth. Just not the whole truth. He had given a few away, but not very many. Most were in several different stashes and caches he had here and there.

To divert Jimbo, Percy asked, “What’s the future look like, Jimbo? Things going to drop or keep climbing?” It didn’t matter to Percy. His system was based on the differential in price between the metals, not the actual price. But Jimbo fancied himself as a gifted predictor of the metals market.

“Up, Purse, up. At least for some time. The way the world is now… well… you see the news just like me.”

“Yeah. Well, Jimbo, keep that trading stock stashed for me, if you will. Never know when I might need it to bail myself out. You know what they’re saying about me and my trucks.”

“Yeah. Well, I don’t care if you are crazy.”

“Uh… Thanks, Jimbo. I’ll see you later.”

“Okay, Purse.”

Percy shook his head on the way out to the truck, the gold and silver in his pocket. “Jimbo sure is Jimbo, no getting around it.”

It was just after three in the afternoon when Percy got back to his estate. He checked in with his housekeeper, Mattie.

“Nothin’ going on, Mr. Jackson. Smooth as silk all day. When’s the twins getting back? Need a little help with moving the furniture for spring cleaning.”

“Another three days. What are you planning for supper?”

“Meat loaf. That okay?”

“You know I love meatloaf. I need to go out and check with Randy. See how those equipment modifications are going.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll leave things ready for you. I need to leave at five. Susie has to get in to the city to do a little shopping.”

“Okay. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Percy walked out to the equipment barn. A one-ton truck set up as a welding truck was parked amidst what looked like a jumble of equipment. Percy knew the jumble was organized to Randy’s satisfaction, even if Percy couldn’t quite see the logic. Besides the four Unimogs, a whole array of agricultural equipment was there.

Seeing Percy come up, Randy stopped the motion to drop his welding hood into place and sat down on the piece of equipment he was working on.

“How’s it coming, Randy?”

“Fine, Mr. Jackson. I’ll be finished tomorrow evening. Most of this was easy. I checked every piece of three-point hitch equipment on all the trucks. Everything works perfectly. I’m almost finished with the adapter for the hoe. No reason it won’t attach and work just fine on the ‘Mogs, too, like it did on the Case and JD. They have plenty of hydraulic power for it. With the other stuff you bought for them, I’m surprised you didn’t just buy a backhoe made to fit ‘em.”

“Already had this one. No need to buy something I already have.”

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

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« Last Edit: September 08, 2013, 11:32:38 PM by Jerry D Young »
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Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2013, 08:45:35 PM »
Randy surveyed the equipment. “Yeah. Right.” He’d been very skeptical of using a truck as a farm implement for anything except as a tool to haul things around. But having worked with the Unimogs the past few days, he’d changed his mind. Once he’d installed the three point hitches on the trucks, which had been shipped separately, and tried some of the farm equipment, he became convinced that the combination would work. And work well.

There’d only been a few modifications to make on some of the equipment. Mostly for the PTO powered equipment. Some of them needed lengthened shafts or adapter shafts to hook up properly to the rear PTO on the trucks. Adding big mirrors to some of the implements to improve visibility of critical operations from the cab of the truck had been easy. Just a lot of in and out of the cab to make the angle adjustments after the mirrors had been installed.

Part of the reason everything had been so easy was the Unimog trucks themselves. With the set of attachments Percy had for them, like the front forks to lift things with, he’d never even rigged up the A-frame on his welding truck. And that didn’t even consider the contribution that Percy’s Utility/Service truck made to the operation.

It had an articulated, telescoping aerial man lift with a ladder back and material handling winch, in addition to all the other normal equipment. The lift could reach almost fifty feet at maximum extension. Not to mention the fact that with the articulation, it could reach below ground level. Randy wasn’t sure why Percy might need that feature, but it was inherent in the design of the lift.

For anything the material winch on the arm couldn’t lift, there was a fifteen-ton capacity hydraulic boom mounted on the right rear corner of the bed. The bed had significant open area, though that was reduced somewhat with the mounting for the aerial arm. There were plenty of toolboxes and room for the lube and fuel hose rack and barrels of lube. Randy wasn’t sure why the diesel and gasoline fueling tanks were so large. They were five times larger than normal for a combination mechanic’s and lube truck.

Of course, there was no doubt the truck could carry everything efficiently. It was a long Kenworth chassis with tandem steering axles and three rear axles. Unlike most similar trucks, which had only a single steering axle and, at most, two rear driven axles, this one had driven steering axles as well as having all three rear axles driven, which were also steering axles. Also unlike most similar trucks, that used duals on the real axles, Percy was using the same high flotation single tires on the three rear axles as were on the front axles.

As for power, the big Caterpillar engine developed five hundred horsepower. More than adequate for everything the truck was capable of doing. Even with a full load, Randy was convinced that the ground pressure would be half of normal and the truck still could run at highway speeds.

Percy had several trailers for use with the utility/service truck, including a heavy-duty three-axle equipment trailer. It was equipped with the same tires as the truck. It was a tilt bed, and had a winch. It could be used to haul the Unimogs around, if one of them broke down. That didn’t seem very likely.

“Okay, Randy. Keep up the good work. And be thinking about that trade I was talking about.”

“I really need cash, Mr. Jackson. But I will think about it,” responded Randy. He flipped the welding hood down and struck an arc as Percy headed into the equipment barn.

Checking over one of the four Rokon two wheel drive motorbikes racked against one side of the barn, Percy selected one, pulled the starting rope and headed out of the barn. He entered the fenced pathway that connected the animal barn with the four pastures that Percy used in turn to feed and work the animals. He rolled up to the gate at the third pasture, opened it, went through, and then re-closed the gate. He could see Susie and the Bobcat 5600T Toolcat utility vehicle she was driving at the far side of the pasture. It looked like the entire pack of Airedales was with her. She must be letting the adults train the pups in stock handling. He noted as he went past that the salt and mineral blocks were in the rack near the pasture entrance to the animal barn.

Since he wasn’t wearing a helmet, Percy kept the speed down as he went to meet Susie. He swung wide and came around to approach Susie from the front, stopping next to the pipe fence several feet ahead of her.

Susie swung clear of him and stopped the Bobcat. “Hey, boss. What’s up?” The adult dogs and older pups flopped down to rest. The pups cavorted around the Rokon, seeking Percy’s attention.

Percy patted each in turn as he spoke. “Just passing on a message. Young Andrew Buchanan asked me to tell you he said hi. So hi from Andrew.”

A pretty blush covered Susie’s cheeks. “Thank you, Mr. Jackson. I’ll tell him you told me. The next time I see him.”

“Okey Dokey. Go ahead and knock off early if you want. Your mother said you needed to go into the city. Looks like all your major work is done, anyway.”

“Yeah. I was heading out to do some training with the dogs. I kind of wanted the pups to watch the adults do a little herding. The cattle and horses saw me coming and headed for the far end of the pasture. Ornery rascals seem to be able to read my mind.”

“I think that’s a two way street. You sure have a way with the animals. I appreciate you working for me. I know you could get a much better job in town.” Queenie got up and came over to him. He scratched the dam behind her ears just the way she liked it.

“Better is relative,” replied the young redheaded woman. “The money is actually very good. Thank you again for that, by the way. But this is giving me great hands-on experience with animals. It’s a big help in my studies for vet assistant. And since Doc lives next to you, and you let me go over every time he says he has something interesting that I might like to see, no matter what I’m doing, I’m quite happy here, thank you very much.”

Percy grinned. “Okay. Have it your way. I never argue with a woman. Well. Almost never. Just let the dogs’ move the animals to the barn end of the pasture and you and your Mom go do your shopping. I’m going out to dig the post holes for the surround for the irrigation pump.”

“You want the 5600 so you can take the poles with you?”

Percy grinned again. “No thanks. I’ll use the A300. I wouldn’t deprive you of the opportunity to learn how to put up a real fence tomorrow, since the boys aren’t back till this weekend.”

“You are so kind, boss.”

“Yeah. I know.”

Susie whistled for the dogs, to get them to follow her instead of Percy. The adults would have anyway. They knew they were out to herd the stock. The pups would follow the adults. Percy headed back to get the companion machine to the two Bobcat 5600T Utility vehicles he owned. It was a loader/utility vehicle made by Bobcat. Bobcat also made the utility vehicle Susie was using. Both were four-wheel drive, four-wheel steer units. The Bobcat A300 could also be used as a skid steer, though they seldom did.

Like the Unimogs, the Bobcat 5600T utility vehicle had a dump bed, rear attachment points, and front lift arms. The Unimogs didn’t have the lift arms as part of the permanent structure, though he had two sets for the trucks that could be quickly attached and detached when needed to carry part of the variety of attachments useable by the Unimogs. The 5600T was just a lot smaller than the trucks.

The Bobcat A300 was a bit shorter than the 5600T. It didn’t have a cargo bed. It could handle a wider variety of attachments than the utility vehicle, though. One of the attachments either could use was a hydraulic posthole digger, which is what Percy quickly hooked up to the A300 when he returned to the equipment barn. He waved at Randy as Randy coiled up his welding cables in preparation to going home.

It didn’t take long for Percy to get the holes dug. The weather was fine at the moment, so he hadn’t bothered bringing tarps to cover them. By the time he got back to the building complex and put away the Bobcat, then checked on the animals, it was somewhat past suppertime.

But no matter if he was a little late. There was no one there to scold him. He’d almost married once, but the potential wife had decided she didn’t want to be a conventional farmer’s wife. “I’m not really all that conventional, you know,” muttered Percy as he thought about what might have been. “Just ask anyone. Oh, well. Water under the bridge. Man, this looks and smells good.”

After his meal, Percy had one pipe of tobacco on the roof deck of the earth-sheltered dome that was his house. He enjoyed a snifter of cognac in the library/den as he watched the news. He turned in early, feeling a bit uneasy at the world situation. Terrorism might have replaced the cold war in most people’s minds as the big danger in their lives, but it sure looked like there were still some warlike leaders in a few nations. And the weather wasn’t looking too good, either. He wasn’t going to be able to wait until the twins got back to start ground preparation for spring planting.

Percy’s alarm went off at four-thirty the next morning. Knowing Mattie would be there by six he showered, dressed, and went out to check the animals. An hour later the four milk cows were contentedly finishing their feed after having their udders’ stocks of milk reduced.

The milk was in the chiller, ready for pick up by Brian Epstein on his way in to the city. So were the fresh eggs from the hens. Brian got a calf from Percy every year as payment for stopping to pick up Percy’s milk and eggs to take to town with his own. He made a daily trip to the local dairy and went right by Percy’s place on the way.

Percy had tilled forty acres with the one of the Unimogs before he stopped to have breakfast. There was a big grin on his face when he entered the kitchen of the house.

Susie cut him an impish grin. “Musta’ worked, huh, Boss?”

“Like a charm. And you knew it would, just as did I, Missy. Hand me the eggs.”

Mattie Simpson and Susie had their breakfast at the main house, with Percy, as was their usual custom. Percy had insisted, since they started so early. “There’s no reason to cook for two, then for just one. It’s easier to cook for three. I’ll supply the food as part of your wages. How’s that?” he’d asked the day Mattie started working for him so many years before. At the same wages as he’d intended, even without the food thrown in. She was a newly widowed single mother. He figured it was the least he could do. And it had worked well over the years.

The Simpsons lived in one of the three other houses that were part of the building complex of the estate. The twins lived in another and the third was vacant at the moment. Two of Percy’s other hands lived nearby so didn’t need the third house. Bernard lived in the bunkhouse when he was working. The housing was part of their pay. They took another part of their pay in estate-produced goods, in addition to cash. All the hands did, getting truck farm produce, items from the household garden that Mattie tended, and meat and dairy products from the cattle, pigs, and chickens that were part of the estate animal population.

Percy had fallen into bartering many years earlier, when he was a very young man trying to hang on to the family farm. He was a natural born horse trader, as the locals told him. He’d been quite successful in his barters and other endeavors, pulling the farm out of debt and turning it into the estate it now was.

About the only thing original from the old place was the ground itself. His mother had inherited three hundred twenty acres from her grandparents. He’d traded for and bought more.

Percy now owned a full section that was the estate. One square mile. Six hundred forty acres in one parcel. He had almost another thousand acres in forty and eighty acre plots around the county but he leased them to other farmers for the cash flow and some trading of stud services for his animals. He liked to maintain genetic diversity in his stock and outside stud services was one way to accomplish that. He also traded for products he didn’t produce himself.

All the buildings were earth-sheltered structures. Even the six big green houses were bermed up to where the polycarbonate panels started and they were connected to an earth-sheltered barn. His utility bills, except for liquid fuels, weren’t that much more than they’d been when he took over the operation after his parents’ deaths thirty years before.

Percy was thinking about early retirement now, at only fifty-one. He’d built the place to what he’d dreamed as a young man it could be. He had a good crew and the operation was turning a nice profit even after deducting the operating expenses and the principle and interest of the few loans still outstanding for the improvements he’d been making almost from day one. He also had a very nice nest egg.

His parents had not been into preparedness and self-sufficiency, being more the squandering type. They’d let the farm go to pot, after they’d inherited it. They preferred just collecting income from leasing the arable land. When they died in a car crash caused by his father’s drinking and driving when Percy was barely twenty, the bank account was empty.

Percy dropped out of college and came back to the farm with what little money he’d saved from working while he was at Iowa State. Not until he got the first monies from one of the local farms leasing the land was he able to start making the changes he wanted. This included farming the land himself, including cultivating some non-traditional crops for the area.

Percy began a truck farm on the few acres of land not under lease. Then, as the leases expired, he didn’t lease the acreage out again. Instead, he took over the farming himself, hiring one, then a second hand. By the time he bought and traded for the additional land he now owned, the estate was beginning to take on the look it now had.

Most in the area considered him totally eccentric. They couldn’t fathom how he’d been successful enough to gain some of what they considered his toys, as he’d heard many a time. Things like the customized Suburban. He’d had the axles replaced with heavier ones, and added a third, all steerable, to create the six-wheeled rig he privately referred to as Rufus.

Not that many had even seen the Kenworth truck based motor home he only used occasionally. The vehicle was similar to the mechanic’s utility/service truck as far as the chassis, running gear and power train were concerned. Where similar converted motor homes costing millions of dollars were equipped with queen sized beds, marble counters and tubs, fancy faucets and fixtures, Percy’s was a lot less luxurious and more utilitarian, therefore much less expensive and very maneuverable.

As one person who had seen his house and the motorhome put it, The Beast was like his home, only without the dirt walls. A bit austere, but very comfortable. And with the custom-built barge trailer The Beast pulled, it was amphibious. It took less than ten minutes to unfold and rig up, back it into the water, un-hook, then back aboard the barge, ready to go. The wheels of The Beast normally powered the barge, though it had a pair of Mercury outboard motors that would propel it empty at speeds of twenty miles an hour or more.

The Kenworth utility/service truck would also fit. Since The Beast could tow the trailers the utility/service truck usually pulled, at least for short distances, the trailers could be transported on the barge, too. So could the semi trailers used with the third Kenworth truck Percy had. He had dollies so the utility/service truck and The Beast could pull the semi trailers using their pintle hitches.

The semi tractor was set up the same way as the utility truck and The Beast, with five steerable axles with single high floatation tires rather than duals. It had a large sleeper suite and was equipped with an equipment winch, rolling tailboard, pintle hitch, and interchangeable fifth wheel and king pin plates so it could tow any type of large trailer.

Percy had a reefer trailer, tilt deck equipment trailer, flatbed trailer, a stock trailer, two convertible floor trailers that were useable as box trailers or grain trailers, a live floor canvas top box trailer primarily for silage, and a curtain wall trailer. All were three axle trailers with high flotation tires, except the equipment trailer, which had four axles. It too had the same tires the other trucks and large trailers used.

Knowing that the fuel situation was going to get worse, Percy had ordered two additional dollies and two seven thousand gallon tank semi trailers, set up the same as the other trailers. Both tank trailers were stainless steel, with multiple compartments. It wasn’t necessary for the fuel, but Percy intended to use one for water and it was easier to order identical trailers. He’d received a significant discount. Percy had already used his smaller three-axle pull behind water trailer to haul drinking water to both drought and flood victims in recent months.

Percy finished his breakfast and headed out to meet his other two hands while Susie helped her mother with a few chores before she headed to the animal barn. Randy was at work again, but didn’t need any of the Unimogs for a while, so Percy trained John Jacobson and Smitty Smith on the use of the Unimogs for tilling. They’d have all the ground they intended to put into cultivation that year ready by the next day, excluding the ten acres they were working with the animal teams this particular year.

Susie would have the ten acres plowed and disked in a few days working the four Clydesdale draft horses in teams of two on alternate days. They wanted to break the teams back in slowly after the light work they’d done over the winter. The plan had been for Jim and Bob Hansen to work the teams together, but the work required doing now, before the weather changed.

The way the weather was shaping up, the Hansen twins might be getting back in the middle of a late blizzard. Somehow, that didn’t seem that unusual any more.

Percy took care of the small chore work as the day progressed, lending Randy a hand from time to time, as well. As he’d promised, Randy had completed his work by the end of the day. Percy gave him a check, and the barter slip he printed up on the computer for the bartered items Randy had finally agreed to take in partial payment.

The slip had the value of the items listed for tax reasons. It was up to the people he bartered with to report the income or not on their taxes. He made it easy with the three part barter records. He gave one copy to the barter partner and kept two copies.

When whoever it was redeemed the item in question, Percy signed off one of his copies and gave it to the person for their tax records. He kept the third slip and the one they turned in to claim the barter, if they had it. He’d never reneged on a barter because they’d lost their original copy. That was the reason for the third slip. So he’d have one to keep for his records if they lost the first copy.

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2013, 11:32:57 PM by Jerry D Young »
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Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2013, 11:32:16 PM »
Randy had decided to take nine tenths of the pay in cash and the other tenth in produce over the next few weeks. Food shipments were getting sporadic, with everything going on. There was plenty of food, just not necessarily what you might want, especially fresh produce. Most of the farms in the area were production farms, mostly corn, milo, oats, and rye. His was one of the few truck farms still left that sold all its products locally. His greenhouse produce was much in demand during the winter. It all went to the local grocery stores, a specialty store in the city, and the co-op outlet, as did much of his commercial truck farm produce.

Some of his other property was leased out on shares and grew commercial crops, using his equipment. Conventional farming equipment. Each place had a barn and the equipment needed to farm it, except for harvesting. That he contracted for those fields.

The next day, after he’d milked the cows and collected the eggs, Percy tilled the three acre plot that would be this year’s outside garden plot. He then prepped the next section of growing containers in the second green house. While things grew year round in the greenhouses, like the open fields of the estate, Percy insisted on rotating use of everything. Some areas lay fallow, others were pasture and hay fields. Other fields were planted with cash crops and estate use crops, mostly animal feed and bio-diesel oil crops.

Even the garden plot rotated on four sections of ground, a different three acres being used for the garden; while the other three lay fallow, grew ground cover, or was the recipient of estate produced compost, mulch, and animal waste, each plot in turn, just like the big fields.

It didn’t take long to till the three acres using the Bobcat A300 with the tiller attachment. He switched to the bucket and spread the winter’s accumulation of compost from one of the three compost bins. They’d start letting that bin accumulate again. The second bin had ready to use compost in it, too. They’d use it as needed. Prepping the greenhouse beds took even less time than tilling the outside garden.

It was barely noon when Percy was done with those particular chores. The rest of the day he spent transferring the animal waste from the barn storage bins to the fallow fields using one of the Unimogs to pull the manure spreader and honey wagon. He also had time to fire up the Kenworth utility/service truck and use the aerial bucket to prune the trees that needed it.

The nut trees needed a little work. Percy kept the fruit trees in good shape, so they needed only minor touch up pruning that spring. It would have been easier with another person to drive the truck after he let the bucket down, but he climbed out of the bucket and moved the truck every eight trees, working four trees on each side of the pathway as he went between two rows of trees.

John and Smitty cleaned up the trimmings afterwards and ran them through the chipper, adding the material to the mulch pile that was building. He distributed the garden goods to the four at the end of the day. Part of Mattie’s duties was preparing the bounty for distribution each day before everyone went to their respective homes.

Percy took the dogs up to the roof patio of the house with him for his evening smoke. The adults lay contentedly on the bedding that was set out there for them as Percy and Susie put the pups through their training. They were coming along nicely. The two older pups were essentially fully trained. The four younger ones from this year’s litter were weaned and taking to the training as well as their older siblings. Percy had already decided which two of the four he planned to keep, but wanted all of them trained to the best of his ability before he sent them to their new homes.

The Airedales he bred were known far and wide for their intelligence and physical attributes. He kept the best of each litter unless that particular year was an outside stud year. Often as not, he wound up keeping the best of the litter anyway, in his opinion.

The other breeders he cross-bred his dogs with often took a pup that he felt was second best. But they often chose on coloring and confirmation only, as they showed their dogs. His were working dogs. They hunted and worked the herds equally well, in addition to the companionship they provided for those living on the estate.

He’d had to put Eda down the previous year. She’d been a prize dam, throwing good pups. The two older pups were both females, out of Eda, from an outside stud dog. He’d breed one with Rip and the other with Lion when they were ready. That would keep the diversity he liked in his animals. With two females from Queenie, also by a different outside stud, he’d be able to produce several litters before he needed outside stud services for the Airedales again.

Lion, Queenie, and Rip had the run of the estate at night. They kept the pups kenneled at night. Susie took the pups with her to put in the kennel when Mattie called up that she was done and ready to go to their cottage.

Percy passed on the cognac that evening, concentrating on the news and weather channels on the satellite TV system. The world situation sure wasn’t any better, and the weather forecast for the Midwest was worse. Percy suddenly wasn’t sure the boys would make it back that weekend. On sudden impulse he checked the Internet for car dealerships in Minneapolis. It took only a few minutes to decide on a used Jeep nearly identical to the one the boys owned.

He called them and told them to go down to the particular dealership and pick up the Jeep and just drive back. Percy would pay for it with a credit card over the phone the next morning by the time their mother could drop them off at the dealership. “You should be able to get a refund on your tickets because of the mandated flight shut down,” he told them. “Pick up what you need with that money and I’ll reimburse you for your expenses on the way down, since I’m asking you to do this, and I’ll be keeping the Jeep.”

Percy went to bed feeling a little easier about things. It’d be Sunday by the time they got home. At least he knew they would get back. Sunday would be the first day they could fly, and that wasn’t a sure thing.

The next morning Percy put on his best suit, the charcoal gray one, after getting the cows milked and the eggs collected. He gulped the juice Mattie handed him, but declined the rest of the breakfast. “Too nervous to eat,” he told the grinning Mattie and the giggling Suzie.

“You’re gonna do just fine, you old codger,” Mattie said, handing him his gray fedora. “This isn’t the first time you’ve spoken before the state Emergency Management Agency.

“Yeah,” Percy said dryly, “But this is the first time they might actually be listening. Always before they just thanked me and sent me packing. There’s meetings scheduled for after my presentation already.”

Suzie quit giggling. “Mr. Jackson, what you’ve been saying for years… it’s starting to make sense to a lot of people. I never think about that stuff very much, because I live here and grew up around you. Everything you do has an element of preparedness to it. I know people still make fun of you for some of your ways, but don’t let that stop you. People need to think about this stuff and start doing something. I had the news on when I was getting ready this morning and Pakistan and India are into it again over that border issue. It’s scary.”

Percy frowned. “I know. I watched several reports early this morning.” He forced a smile. “But don’t worry, Susie. You’re right. We are about as prepared as we can be here.” With a bit more of a sincere smile on his face he said, “If you want to talk to Andrew about having a place out here if something were to happen… even weather related, like last winter… feel free. He can stay here if you or your mother aren’t comfortable with him staying at your cottage.”

Susie blushed, “Oh, Mr. Jackson! I couldn’t!” She glanced over at her mother. “Could I?”

“You’re twenty-three, sweetie. Old enough to make up your mind about such things,” replied her mother.

Suddenly Percy was grinning mischievously. “If there’s anyone you want to talk to about staying out here in times of trouble, feel free, Mattie.”

Mattie didn’t and she wasn’t going to let Percy get away with the teasing. “Oh, no one really special. But I was thinking, since you brought it up, about talking to Sara McLain to see if she needs a safe place… just in case, you know.”

Again Susie giggled, due to Percy’s sudden look of panic and very red face. “I… uh… don’t think that would be such a good idea…”

“True,” Mattie said, quite matter-of-factly. “Probably should come from you. You being master of the estate and all.” She grinned.

“You just make sure you don’t annoy her in some way.”

Mattie continued to grin. “Of course not, Mr. Jackson. I would never do that.”

“Just see that you don’t,” Percy said, rather gruffly. “I don’t need any help with… anything.”

Both women were chuckling when Percy headed out the door.

“Are you okay, Boss?” Susie asked when Percy came in a little after noon. “You look a little funny.”

Percy did look a bit dazed, Mattie decided.

“Yeah. Yeah. I’m fine. It’s just… Well, they asked me to put together some more comprehensive recommendations for the Agency with some other people. They want it within two months. Shouldn’t take us that long.”

The two women saw a bit of red come to Percy’s cheeks.

“And… well… Sara’s office was closed because of the rolling blackout so she came to the meeting, too. She volunteered to be on the committee.”

“Won’t that be a conflict of interest since she’s Equalization Agent for this district?” asked Susie.

“Not since she is an official state member of the committee. There are a couple more state employees.” Percy sighed then. “A couple more local citizens. Jeb Canada and Abigail Landro.”

“Ooh,” responded Mattie.

Susie looked at her mother. “What?”

“Jeb’s the one that tried to foreclose on the farm right after Mr. and Mrs. Jackson died. And Abigail… just sort of… doesn’t like Mr. Jackson.”

“That’s enough, Mattie. That’s all in the past. We’re all just citizens, trying to do what’s best for the majority without hurting anyone. Now, I need to change and check the fields. It’s shaping up to rain.”

“Don’t you want some lunch?” Mattie asked, not bothered in the least by Percy’s minor admonishment.

“Sara and I grabbed a burger after the meeting.”

When Mattie and Susie grinned at him, he harrumphed and left the kitchen.

Rain it did, but no snow. Springtime storms, but a notch or two more extreme than what used to be considered normal. Percy was glad he had gone ahead and prepped the fields. Even with the severity of the weather at the moment, the rain was good. There was some runoff into the collection canal that ran along three sides of the property, with each field being graded to drainage ditches that emptied into the canal. There wasn’t much water in the irrigation holding pond the canal fed. The fields had soaked up the rain like sponges. It had been a very dry winter.

The severity of the drought had been worse the last few years, interspersed with some of these downpours. Percy didn’t waste water. That was the reason for the canal around the property. To capture excess rainwater and hold it in a pond. The irrigation wells were only to supplement rain during the driest times.

Of course, the canal served another purpose, which Percy didn’t talk about much. With the pipe fence around three sides of the estate that had blackberry brambles growing along it, just inside the canal, and the thick stand of trees that also bordered the estate inside the brambles, getting onto Percy’s property was very difficult. A gated drive on each of the sides and back of the estate cut the triple barrier.

The front of the estate, along the highway, also had a fence, but it was an earth berm, faced with a concrete block and brick wall. Two sets of gates served the expansive circle driveway and parking area. The road ditch substituted for the canal around the other three sides of the estate. The front also had a stand of trees, though no blackberries. Instead, the berm was terraced and planted with strawberries, another cash crop for Percy.

Each of the front entries had heavy rolling gates that closed the driveway. They were on automatic openers, but Percy kept them open most of the time anyway. It would take a concerted effort to enter the property by destroying a gate. To get through the barriers would take heavy equipment, such as a bulldozer, and quite a bit of time. And all it looked like was good farm management. The trees were windbreaks and source of firewood. The blackberries were a major cash crop. The canal conserved a precious resource. Water.

Percy smiled as he surveyed the pond. If they got much additional rain the next few weeks, the pond would be well on the way to being full. He checked the well and pump at the edge of the pond. If need be, he could fill the pond, and the entire canal, with extra water for irrigation if they had another drought year, as they’d had the year before.

By the time Percy had checked everything, spent some time with the horses and dogs, it was evening. He paid everyone, in cash, and let them off early. Two days after the rain stopped they’d start planting.

The Hansen twins made it home on Sunday, the same day the rain stopped. Percy trained them on the new equipment Monday and Tuesday, waiting for the fields to be right for planting. Percy had the first committee meeting Tuesday evening, in a meeting room in the civic center, in town. It did not go well. Even Sara was a bit aghast at the scope of things Percy had in mind.

She supported the idea, but being a state employee, was very budget conscious. A couple of the others simply wanted some pamphlets printed. It was going to take the full two months to work something out among the group, after all, Percy decided.

“You… uh… want to get some dinner?” Percy asked Sara as they gathered up the papers that Percy had worked so hard on preparing for the committee. He put them in his briefcase, closed it, and snapped the latches.

“I can’t, Percy,” Sara said, watching his face closely. “Jeb needs an appraisal on some property tomorrow. I need to get back to the city and get some sleep. Having dinner will put me too late.”

A tiny inner smile formed when Sara saw the quick frown cross Percy’s face. It was quickly gone, the usual bland look back, as Percy said, “I understand.” There was a moment’s hesitation before Percy spoke again.

“I know this is quite a jaunt for you. We will have some of the meetings in the city, instead here in town, you know. It’s a shame you need to drive back, especially since you have to come back out tomorrow.”

“Well, tomorrow is on the state, of course.”

“Isn’t this?” Percy asked.

“Committee work like this isn’t on the expense account. I use my own car and have to pay for my own meals and things. That’s the reason I’m not staying at the motel tonight. I can’t spare the money.”

The words were out of his mouth before he thought about it. “You should come out and stay at the house tonight. That way you’d only have to make the one drive back and you could get an early start, finish up with Canada quickly, and get back to the city early tomorrow. Mattie’s making pot roast tonight.” He suddenly looked chagrinned at what he’d suggested. “I mean… you know… but if you need to go back…”

Sara cut him off, quickly. “Why thank you, Percy. That’s sweet of you. I’ll be able to expense the trip back, since I’m working here tomorrow. That will save me half my fuel expense for this meeting.”

“Oh. Uh… Thanks. No problem. I’d… uh… better call Mattie and have her get a guest room and bath ready.”

“It’ll be nice to see Mattie again. It’s been a long time since we’ve talked. How is Susie?”

“Fine,” replied Percy as they headed for the front doors of the small civic center the town boasted. “She is marvelous with the animals. She keeps insisting her ambition is to be a vet assistant, but I think she’ll go ahead and go to vet school and get her license. I hate to lose her, either way, but with her natural talent and intelligence, she’d make a fine vet.

“I doubt she’d stay here. The Doc is well established and I don’t think the area could support two large animal vets. Susie wouldn’t be satisfied with just cats, dogs, and birds. Plus, I think she’s getting the urge to get married. She’s… uh… never mind.”

Sara just smiled. Percy didn’t like conversations about marriage. She didn’t either, for that matter. At least she hadn’t. That was changing a bit now. Her first marriage had not gone well, but that didn’t mean all marriages were bad. Not when you had the right partner. When she took Percy’s arm as they left the building he didn’t pull away or comment.

Percy handed Sara into her car after opening the door and then shut it after saying, “Just follow me out. They’re working on a couple of intersections on the way out. Be careful of the construction zones.”

“I will, Percy. I will.” Sara wasn’t going to let anything interfere with this opportunity.

He used his cell phone to let Mattie know they were having a guest. He heard Mattie chuckle as she was in the process of hanging up the phone. “Lord,” Percy said, looking up at the roof of the cab of the truck, “don’t let Mattie get started on middle age marriages. She doesn’t have any room to talk, anyway.”

Mattie was the soul of discretion. Not one word was uttered about marriage of any kind during the meal. In fact, Mattie made herself scarce as soon as she served the meal. “Just leave the dishes. I’ll do them tomorrow. I… uh… need to do something at home. With Susie. Dessert’s in the freezer.”

“But…” That was all Percy had a chance to say. Mattie was out the door.

Sara smiled over at Percy and patted his hand where it lay on the table. “Don’t worry, Percy. You’re safe. I’m not the pushy type. You know that.”

“Yeah,” Percy said, visibly relaxing. “That’s true. You’re the nicest woman I know about stuff like that. About everything, actually.”

Percy was putting his napkin on his lap and didn’t see the huge grin that split Sara’s face. It was down to a smile when he looked up and over at her. “I could tell you were not comfortable with some of my ideas at the meeting, but you expressed your doubts in a very non-confrontational way.”

“Unlike Jeb and Abigail,” commented Sara, as she started to eat.

“They are just expressing their opinions, just like I was, I know. And I’m willing to discuss everything. I’m not trying to push my ideas on anyone. I just want to help.”

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.
Jerry D Young -
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
(There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch - Robert A Heinlein) Kindle Author page

Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2013, 03:55:56 PM »
“I know, Percy. I know. Don’t worry. The committee will come to some type of decision. It’s just going to take some conversation and negotiation.”

“I’m not too good of a negotiator,” protested Percy.

“Don’t give me that,” Sara said. “You are a consummate negotiator. You have ten percent of the local population bartering, Percy, simply because you are so successful at it. You make good deals that benefit you and the other party as well. That’s what negotiation is all about. Both parties getting what they want.”

“But everyone basically wants much more than they wind up getting.”

“Perhaps, but they are very satisfied with what they get or they wouldn’t agree to the barter. Now hush and eat your roast. I want to watch the news. My cousin Cliff is going to Germany next week. He’s in an artillery battery. I want to see what the situation is over there now. I keep hearing some bad things are going on in Europe.”

“Don’t worry. I’m sure he’ll be fine. The German situation… well, it’s not good, but I doubt anything will happen any time soon.”

“I hope so. I’m very worried about what’s going on in the world. More so the effects of global warming and the weather. That’s why I wanted on the committee. People need to realize the possible dangers.

This time it was Percy who patted Sara’s hand. She took the opportunity to move it and grasp his for a quick squeeze. “Thanks, Percy. You always make me feel better about these things.”

Percy didn’t hesitate. “You know, if things were to get bad, you will always have a place here on the estate. We’re fairly well prepared for most situations that are likely to occur.” Realizing what he was saying, Percy quickly added. “There’s always the third cottage. It’s not being used at the moment.”

It was good enough for Sara, even with the slight back pedaling Percy had done. “Why, thank you, Percy. That means a lot to me. I will definitely keep it in mind.” Sara wasn’t particularly worried about needing to be here because of the situations Percy was referring to, but it was a start to having a place here for other reasons.

The news wasn’t particularly good when they watched first one, then another of the news channels. German politics were drifting more to the right. They were becoming much more nationalistic and showing much less enthusiasm for the European Union. France was being even more obtuse than usual about everything.

Sara stopped Percy as they left the study and gave him a quick buss on the cheek after she thanked him for letting her stay the night instead of going all the way back into the city, then coming back the next day.

When she’d gone into the bedroom, Percy sighed and went back into the den. He’d put on a good front, but he was worried about the world situation, both politically and weather wise. There’d been a short report on a new study of the salinity of the North Atlantic. Percy knew the dangers that posed. If the North Atlantic became fresher, the heavier saline waters of the Gulf Stream would sink and Europe and much of North America would lose the benefits of the warm waters it provided.

Percy was a bit distracted the next morning. Sara and Mattie exchanged a quick look when Percy bid them good morning and headed out the door. He made a point to fill Sara’s fuel tank with gasoline. She was down to a third of a tank in the Honda hybrid she drove. She would have needed to fuel up in town before she went back to the city. Fuel was nearly seventy cents higher in town than it was in the city. It wasn’t much, but he was saving her at least ten dollars. On her salary, every dollar counted.

When he’d finished with refueling Sara’s car, he walked back to the estate’s tank farm. It was time to pump methane from the number two methane generator to the storage tank. When the transfer was finished, Percy drained the liquid from the generator and added it to the honey wagon, then transferred the solid waste to the compost pile. He was well into the process when he saw the hands head to the fields, ready to start planting. Percy knew the process was in good hands and turned back to his work.

He was transferring the depleted mash from number one alcohol still to a stock feed holding tank when Susie stopped by to tell him she was going over to Doc’s to help with a foaling.

“Okay, Susie. Let Doc know two of the cows are coming into estrus soon. We’ll need his bull’s services in a few days.”

“Okay. I’ll see if he has any semen ready or will need to get a fresh batch.”

“Good. Good luck with the foaling. I know that mare. She’s a problem.”

“That’s what Doc said. It’ll be good experience for me.”

Percy added the accumulation of animal waste from the barn to the methane generator and lowered the cover into place. It was ready to start generating methane gas again. He checked the number one generator. It was operating nicely. The cover dome was about halfway up. It’d be a few more days before he needed to transfer the methane from it and reload it with fresh material.

He refilled number one still with fresh mash and started it. Like the methane operation, Percy checked the second still. It was producing well and the second stage supplied by the two primary stills was running just fine as well. The thousand-gallon double distilled alcohol storage tank was nearly full. The methane tank, also of a thousand gallon capacity was about half. With the increased waste production from newborn animals, it would be full by mid spring and the compost pit would be full, too.

It was time to make another pickup run to gather the manure and liquid wastes from the dozen farms with which Percy had arrangements. Percy took the accumulated waste from the farms for it, so the farms wouldn’t have to deal with it. His only expense was transportation, and he had the equipment, anyway, including trailers to haul the waste. He already had most of the trailers he would be pulling behind the Unimogs from time to time. He’d only bought two new trailers for use with the Unimogs when he bought them.

Both were multi-purpose trailers he designed himself and had a trailer repair shop custom build for him. The trailers he used with the group of trucks he’d had before he bought the Unimogs were numerous. The list included two honey wagons, two manure spreaders, a fifth wheel horse trailer and a fifth wheel stock trailer, fifth wheel tilt bed equipment trailer, one fifth wheel and two pull behind box trailers, a stake bed trailer, and four roadside stand trailers he used to sell some of the produce he raised to tourists.

Most of his products went to local merchants and commercial enterprises, but he still liked to sell from the roadside. He’d done that when he first took over the farm. It had been good for him, and lucrative. He kept all proceeds. There was no middleman between him and the consumer. Many of the locals bought directly from the roadside stands despite the fact that he supplied both the local grocery stores in town and an organically grown produce specialty store in the city, as well as the local co-op.

Percy smiled as he thought of Organically Grown Only, the store in the city, as he hooked up one of the honey wagons to a Unimog. People paid twenty percent more in that store than what the local markets charged, even though everything he produced he produced without chemically produced fertilizers or chemical pesticides or herbicides. His fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides were all produced naturally right on the estate, or were mechanical in nature.

By Sunday Percy had retrieved all the animal and vegetable waste from the other farms. The early crops were planted. Everyone took the day off except Percy. The animals had to have attention every day, no matter what. The milking and egging done, Percy spent some time with each of his animals. Except the barn cats. He was seriously allergic to them. They didn’t like him anyway. He was a dog person.

He thought they were pampered a bit too much by Susie. He hadn’t seen any sign of rats or mice, but still… feeding barn cats went against his grain. Percy smiled. He knew he was just prejudiced against cats due to his allergy. That hadn’t stopped him from suffering for three days to help nurse one of them through a difficult birth one time.

Percy was careful to step around one of the kittens that was following him around. The kitten made itself scarce when he got to the hog pen in the barn. Betty Joe, his best brood sow came up to the fence and nuzzled him through the bars for a scratch behind the ears.

“You’re a pest,” he said softly to the animal, then gave each one of the sows the same treatment when they sidled over to see what was going on. Clyde, the boar, just grunted and lay where he was. He’d just made a new wallow in the deep dirt that covered the floor of the inside pen. Clyde was comfortable where he was. Besides, the human would be over shortly to scratch him anyway.

Percy went through the gate, careful not to make any of the piglets squeal. Despite their chummy appearance, it didn’t pay to be around a sow if one of her piglets wasn’t happy. “You lazy pig,” Percy said, squatting down to rub the boar’s forehead, then scratched him behind the ears, too.

With a slap on the flank that brought a grunt from Clyde, Percy stood and headed for the outside gate for the hog pen. He opened the inner and outer doors and most of the sows and all of the piglets headed outside. The sows led the way through the fenced path and turned into the pasture in use at the moment. Clyde considered it, then climbed to his feet and lumbered out. A little sunshine would be good, especially in the wallow by the fence next to the gate. He’d just got it the way he liked it. They’d changed pastures a few days before and he couldn’t get to the wallow in that one.

Percy turned out the cattle, milk cows, and then the horses. The horses wanted to play in the bright morning sunshine and Percy indulged them, letting them stampede up to him, stop and nudge him softly with their noses before they turned and ran some more.

One of the saddle mares, Herman’s Best, tried playing with a piglet the same way, but the piglet squealed in alarm and the mother sow came charging over. Herman’s Best sidled away gracefully, and then put her head down. The sow, placid now, ambled over and the two touched noses for a moment. Both snorted and went off to do their own thing. Percy shook his head and headed for the kennel.

Lion, Rip, and Queenie were lying near the outside gate, knowing someone would be by soon to let out the pups. The dogs rubbed up against Percy’s legs, in no hurry to have the pups taking Percy’s attention away from them. Percy spent quite a bit of time with each of the adult dogs, individually, before he let the pups out of their kennel runs to do the same with them.

He got out one of the Rokon bikes and took the dogs for a run toward the front gates, turning along the tree line when he reached it. When the young pups began to get tired, he slowed and finished the journey around the four mile perimeter of the estate at a slow pace. Percy gave each of the dogs a treat. The pups took theirs and lay down to enjoy them. Rip went to find a good place to bury his for a while, going to open ground in the kennel runs to do so, having learned as a pup himself not to dig up the grounds except in designated areas.

Queenie and Lion began to chew theirs, but stayed with Percy as he put away the bike. When he told them he was going back to the house the two dogs went to join the pups to enjoy the rest of their chew treats. As he headed for the bee barn, Percy saw Rip out cavorting with the horses in the pasture. The horses seemed to be enjoying it as much as the Airedale.

In the facility they all referred to as the bee barn, Percy checked the status of the hives. Everything was in order. He pulled two supers and cut the combs free. It took him only a few moments to get them boxed and ready to take to market. He added them to the case of other comb honey boxes.

He got one of the Unimogs, attached a box trailer and loaded up the case of honey. He moved the trailer over by the green houses and loaded the boxes of produce that had been gathered and prepared for shipment the day before. The twins were working on their jeep. Percy let them know he was headed into town, then the city with a load. He had the produce delivered to both the stores in town in plenty of time for the after church crowd to be able to pick up fresh items for Sunday dinner.

It was a bit after four when Percy finished unloading at Organically Grown Only. He made a couple of stops to do a little shopping and then headed back to the estate. He was pleased with the performance of the Unimog with the trailer.

Percy’s Mission - Chapter 2

Bernard was back in the bunkhouse early Monday morning. He told Percy his wife was okay for now and he’d start his regular routine of staying in the bunkhouse during the week. Bernard went to his home in the city on Fridays and returned mid-morning on Mondays.

The bunkhouse was used primarily for temporary workers Percy hired for some of the harvesting that required hand picking during the summer and fall. It could house up to twenty-four people in six dorm rooms.

Each dorm room had its own bathroom and there were two more off the common rooms. There was also a bedroom with its own bath for the person in charge of the dorm. Bernard used that room. Part of his duties on the estate was foreman for the temporary help when they were needed. That included being dorm boss.

In addition to the rooms already mentioned, there were two large living/gathering rooms, a kitchen suitable for preparing meals for forty people, and the dining room, which seated thirty at five tables. There was a large library and two entertainment rooms, each with a TV and music system. A game room contained a ping-pong table and a pool table, along with four game tables, and a dartboard. There was a fenced yard and large patio. The parking area for the temporary employees had a section set aside lined for a half court basketball court with a mobile hoop stand.

There was a second swimming pool that had originally served the cottages and the bunkhouse, but Percy had restricted its use to just the permanent residents of the estate. There’d been too many problems when the temporary employees had access to it. He’d hated the fact that the rest of the temps couldn’t use it, due to the problems caused by a few, but the risks were too great. The other pool was within the main house compound.

It took Bernard only a few minutes to settle in. All his regular gear was already in the bunkhouse since he’d moved in a few days before his wife had fallen ill and then gone home to take care of her. The Hansen twins, and Mattie and Susie, worked for him year round. Bernard, John, and Smitty worked only spring, summer, and fall. They all three took the winter off.

Bob, Jim, Susie, and Percy were adequate personnel to take care of the animals and do the work in the greenhouses through the winter. They still were able to rotate extra days off during the winter, since the operation was so efficient. Many of the process were automated. There were several generator sets on the property so the systems continued to work despite the regular rolling brown outs and blackouts caused by the overloaded power grid. That didn’t include the unintentional brown outs and blackouts caused by equipment failures and the weather.

Percy let the others train Bernard on the new equipment and hooked another trailer to one of the Unimogs. This was his multi compartment waste oil trailer. As he did with animal wastes with some of the area farms, he had arranged with several businesses that generated waste oil to recover it at no cost to either party. Quite a few restaurants that used significant quantities of cooking oil saved it for him.

More as a courtesy, since the small places produced only a few gallons at any given pickup, Percy did take the oils from many small operations so they wouldn’t have to pay to have it removed. They could no longer dispose of it in the old ways, due to EPA regulations. Percy could use it all. He produced biodiesel for his own use. He didn’t produce enough to run everything, but it was part of the reason he only carried approximately two thousand gallons of diesel fuel in the ten thousand gallon tank that Andy kept replenished for him.

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

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Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2013, 06:46:09 PM »
Andy didn’t know about the other tank farm. It, like the one Andy knew about, contained a ten thousand gallon diesel tank, second diesel tank holding a thousand gallons, thousand-gallon gasoline tank, and thousand-gallon propane tank. He had a supplier in the city that kept those tanks at similar levels to those that Andy kept in the one tank farm. Each of the tank farms had an earth-sheltered storage building for lubricants and other liquids, which he bought and stored in drums.

He had two one thousand gallon biodiesel tanks, the thousand-gallon methane and thousand gallon alcohol tanks, plus appropriate raw material tanks to make the three products. Percy wasn’t to the point of being able to produce all his own fuel, but he did produce a significant proportion. He liked having options. Getting fuel when you really needed it was problematic nowadays.

Producing the biodiesel and the alcohol took significant energy, but it was worth the effort to be able to make the liquid fuels. The methane production didn’t take that much outside energy. Much of the methane was used to fire the stills and the biodiesel process and he still had enough to use elsewhere and keep the tank nearly full.

Scrap wood from several sources in town and the city made up the difference in energy use. He got all the odds and ends of lumber from both lumber yards in the city, and contracted with every tree trimming outfit he could find to take their wood and wood chips. He also had arrangements with several of the builders in the area. He took all the wood scrap they generated, for it, leaving them much less to have to take to the landfills and pay to dump.

There were three sources of wood pallets he relied on. Two of them did not reuse or recycle the wooden pallets they received. He got them all. The other place gave him those pallets that were beyond reusing. Between all the sources, he had more than enough wood to burn to make the biodiesel and alcohol, and not touch any of the wood from his wood lots.

It would take him all day to collect the oils, but he considered it time well spent. He would stop and pick up the chemicals he needed to produce the fuels. He’d been buying ten percent more than he needed for each batch and now had enough of the chemicals he couldn’t produce himself to make nearly a hundred thousand gallons of biodiesel.

Percy had done the same with nearly every product and item he didn’t produce. There were extra tires for every piece of equipment that used tires. Spare parts for all the equipment were on storage shelves in the equipment barn. Fabrication materials were stored, as well. There was a well-equipped shop in the huge equipment barn.

Much of Percy’s equipment was old, though kept in excellent shape. Percy preferred tractor mounted or pulled, or in his current case, Unimog compatible, equipment over self-powered specialty implements. He used mounted and towed implements, including hay balers, combines, corn pickers, and silage cutters. Since his was not a huge production farm the mounted and towed equipment worked just fine for the scale of any given crop he grew.

Unfortunately, that type of implement was no longer common. Over the years, Percy had taken great pains to acquire the best of the types of implements he needed. Like every other piece of equipment he owned, he had numerous repair parts in stock and the materials to make most of the rest he might need.

The equipment used on the leased land was more conventional. He didn’t expect others to take the time and trouble to farm production farms the old ways.

Percy was tired when he returned home. It had taken three hours longer to make the run than normal. There’d been a huge accident caused by a car running bald tires. He had been stuck in traffic for over an hour on the way in. It seemed like every place he normally picked up used oil had some kind of beef they just had to get off their chest.

Finally, on the way home, only a mile from the estate, the road was blocked for almost twenty minutes where the DOT was having an intersection redone. A semi had dropped a wheel off the pavement where they’d cut down the shoulder to redo it and flipped the rig, tying up the one lane available for traffic.

Waiting patiently for the workers to clear the road, Percy radioed the house and told Mattie to just put his supper in the warming oven. He would be getting home late. Percy knew that he could have taken the ditch with the Unimog and trailer and gone around, but there was no real need and the authorities would have stopped the attempt, anyway. It just grated a little not to be able to use the full capabilities of the Unimog.

Percy had to grin when the wrecker dispatched to the scene was unable to right the tractor and the State Trooper asked Percy if he thought the winch on the Unimog could. It was the work of only minutes to position the Unimog, hook up, and right the semi tractor. It didn’t even strain the Unimog.

“Okay if I take off now?” Percy asked, since he was now on the estate side of the blockage.

“Sure thing. And thanks. It would have taken us another hour to get a different tow truck.”

“No problem,” Percy replied, slipping the Unimog into gear and pulling away, a smile on his face. “Unimog to the rescue,” he said aloud, and then laughed.

The rest of the week went normally for the estate, everyone working as they’d done for several years now. Susie took two of the cows to Doc’s to be serviced. The twins finished equipping the Jeep acquired in Minneapolis to Percy’s specifications, in addition to their normal work. It wasn’t until the following week that anything out of the ordinary happened.

The second committee meeting turned into a shouting match. Percy wasn’t involved, but his revised presentation triggered it. Both of the other state employees walked out. The county Civil Defense Director did, as well. Jeb and Abigail were glaring at Percy and Sara as they left.

“Well,” Percy said with a sigh. “That went well. At least no one hit anyone else.”

“That was a near thing with Jeb and Stanley. I still don’t understand why it all started. Your revised plan addressed every objection that was brought up at the first meeting.”

They were gathering up everything as they talked. “I thought so, anyway,” Percy said. “It’s only a tenth of what I think should be done. Do you think there’s any need to try to have another meeting?”

“There’s a need,” Sara said, taking his arm as they headed for the doors. “But when the planning commission gets all the versions of what happened, I suspect they’ll disband us. It’s a shame. I’m really getting worried something will happen and people won’t be prepared. It was bad enough last summer when the temperature was over a hundred for twelve straight days. People don’t know how to cope. I was out of power the last two days of the heat wave, then another day before they got the power back on.”

She smiled over at Percy. “I never did thank you properly for keeping me supplied with ice for my freezer. And to cool off with.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Thank you, Percy. You are a dear man.”

“Uh… Well… Uh… Anyway, uh… do you have any business you need to do here in town tomorrow?”

“No,” Sara said with a tiny smile. She was pleased at Percy’s disappointed look.

“I’m off tomorrow. They shifted our blackout day to Thursdays. I hate losing the money for these days off, but I was planning on taking it easy for the day.”

“You want to stay at the estate tonight? Sleep in? Mattie could make you a brunch and you could go riding, if you want.”

Sara kissed his cheek again before he could change his mind and said, “Why, thank you, Percy. That sounds wonderful. I was going to have to stop and get groceries. Knowing you is saving me bundles of money.”

She slid into her car and looked at Percy expectantly. “Actually,” Percy said, “I need to come to town tomorrow… You could just leave your car here. Ride out and back in with me. Save the gas. It went up another sixty cents this week.”

“You’re telling me,” Sara said, already out of the car. She pulled a small bag from behind the front seat, then closed and locked the door. When Percy looked at it, she said, “Some of us do listen to your ideas, Percy. Be Prepared is my new motto.” She didn’t really say what she was prepared for with the bag and Percy was afraid to ask.

When they’d finished supper and were in the den watching the news, Percy suddenly asked Sara, “Would you help me put together a proposal, like the first one, that I can send to Congressman Stevenson? I just have to give it one more try, Sara.”

“Why, Percy, of course I will. You’ve done all the work, anyway, but I’ll be glad to look it over again.”

“Thanks, Sara. I appreciate it. You are a good woman, you know. Putting up with the likes of me.”

Sara decided quiet was the best response to that. She turned her head back toward the TV and they watched a news report of the shelling of Indian positions by the Pakistanis in the disputed border area they had been quarreling over for years. Sara heard Percy mutter, “This could get serious.”

The next morning Percy kept himself busy, avoiding Sara the best he could. He talked to her a few minutes when she came out to the animal barn and she and Susie saddled up Herman’s Best for her to ride for a while. They settled on a time to go to town, and then Percy headed for the equipment barn to work on some equipment with the twins and Bernard. John and Smitty were helping Hector get his spring planning done. The arrangement was one of Percy’s barters.

Percy watched unobtrusively as Sara rode. Percy rode, but really wasn’t that good on a horse. He had a good hand with the teams, but let Suzie and the others do most of the horse-based farming since they enjoyed it so. He drew in a deep breath when he saw Best galloping toward the far side of the pasture, Sara’s long hair flying behind her.

The other horses were following along, as were the dogs. The adults and two older pups, anyway. The young pups gave up and flopped down to rest. Clarence, Percy’s stud bull, watched placidly, chewing his cud as the horse and rider went tearing by. He was calm now, but had been agitated the week before when two cows he’d been kept from for two days had disappeared, then returned, no longer ready for him. The memory had faded, so he was happy with his herd of cows again. He’d caught the first whiffs of another cow that would be ready soon, anyway.

His three hands pretty much ignored Percy and went about their jobs, since Percy was considerably more interested in the activities in the pasture than in the work being done on the hay bailer, replacing a set of bearings.

Percy didn’t think to say anything when the appointed time came near to head into town. He just walked out of the equipment barn, still watching Sara on Best. The three men exchanged smiles at the usually unflappable boss mooning just a little over a lady.

“How was your ride?” Percy asked.

Sara’s cheeks were bright and her eyes sparkled as she dismounted and said, “Wonderful, Percy! Wonderful.” She grabbed Percy in a hug. “Oh, thank you so much for bringing me out here! I haven’t had such a nice day in a long time.” After giving him a little kiss on the cheek, she stepped back. “I suppose I should head back, though.”

“I guess so,” replied Percy, smiling at Sara’s unbridled happiness. She wasn’t as old as he was, only forty-seven, and she was still trim and fit. The jeans she wore fit her like a glove, Percy noted as she turned to Best and helped Susie unsaddle her.

“I should stay and help Susie dress her down,” Sara said.

“That’s okay,” Percy said. “If we’re going to get lunch in town before you go back to the city we should probably go. You don’t mind, do you, Susie?”

“Of course not, Mr. Jackson,” replied Susie. She’d seen Percy’s eyes drop to Sara’s bottom and was grinning mischievously. “Mrs. McLain sure looks good on a horse, doesn’t she?”

Susie was amazed when Percy responded to her comment with one of his own. “She looks pretty good off a horse, too.”

“Why thank you… both,” Sara said, smiling at Percy. “I was going to change, but I suppose Rosie’s will let me in wearing jeans.”

“Of course she will,” Percy replied. “I go in there all the time in my overalls.”

Susie shook her head.

“Well, I am getting a bit hungry. I’ll grab my bag and tell Mattie goodbye while you get the truck ready.”

Not even seeing the grin on Susie’s face, Percy hurried to get the Suburban. He found himself having a nice time. They talked about the project a little on the drive in, then local events as they got a light lunch at Rosie’s Café. It was with a bit of reluctance that Percy said goodbye. He’d had to argue a bit with Sara about topping off her fuel tank from one of the cans in the rack on the back of the Suburban. He convinced her, filled the tank, and then told her goodbye through the open window.

He stepped back and Sara drove away, headed back to the city. With a sigh, Percy climbed into the Suburban and headed back to the estate. Before he got to the edge of town, Percy remembered the news report they’d watched the night before. He turned around, went to the local welding supply outlet, and tripled the quantities of welding gasses and other supplies he’d ordered the previous week for delivery this week.

Percy had two complete sets of extra tires for every vehicle he owned, including for the spares carried on each vehicle. He called the tire shop he used in the city and ordered a third set for everything. He also ordered several extra wheels of each type. Then he headed for Wilkins Oil. Percy caught Andy just as he was leaving and motioned him into the office.

“Time to stock up,” Percy told the manager of the bulk plant. Andy grinned. “Bring a full semi load of diesel today. Then bring a thousand of gasoline first chance. Three barrels each of every oil I use, and triple the order of greases.”

“You usually get taxed diesel, Mr. Jackson,” Andy interjected. “You want taxed or untaxed for this load? Big difference on seven thousand gallons.”

“Good thought, Andrew,” Percy replied with a smile. He’d been about to specify the untaxed fuel, which was legal for use on the farm. The trucks would require taxed fuel to run on the highways. He’d pump what clear fuel he had into the one thousand gallon tanks he had for that reason. It had been simpler getting taxed fuel for everything, considering the quantities. But there would be a significant savings getting seven thousand gallons of untaxed red diesel.

Andy walked out with him. “You didn’t do this just because I mentioned it the other day, did you, Mr. Jackson?”

“No, Andrew. Much as I like you, I wouldn’t spend money like that, just because you want to use that CDL.” Percy laughed, and then turned serious. “I’m worried fuel might get even scarcer than it is, with the world situation being what it is. By the way, did Susie mention it was all right for you to come out if there is an emergency? I know you care about Susie.” He added the last to give Andy a good reason to say yes.

“Well, she said something about it. I know you keep prepared, but I told her I have some supplies and stuff at my place. But thanks, Mr. Jackson. I really appreciate the thought.”

“Sure thing, Andrew. Just keep it in mind,” Percy replied, and then climbed into the Suburban. When he left Wilkins Oil, he got on his cell phone and put in an identical order to his other fuel supplier. The one that came out from the city on Tuesdays and filled the second set of tanks.

It was too late to go into the city now, but he made a mental note to call when he got home and make appointments to see both his medical doctor and his dentist. He needed minor dental work. Percy decided to go ahead and get it done as soon as possible. He’d get an extensive physical, too. Just in case. Percy was smiling when he headed out of town. Maybe he and Sara would have a chance to have lunch or maybe even dinner when he went to the city.

Things went well the next two weeks. Sara reviewed the material Percy wanted to send to Washington, D.C., to the Congressman he knew slightly. He incorporated a few wording changes and the suggestions Sara made to change the order of the presentation. Percy mailed it off and put it out of his mind. As Sara had suspected, the committee was disbanded.

The only negative event was the news from Germany. They wanted the United States troop contingent significantly cut. Only part of the sentiment was coming from the Neo-Nazi party that had gained one seat in the governing body. There were many other factions making the same demand. Percy shook his head when the report was finished and muttered, “Too many things in too many places…”

All the cows had been serviced that needed it. One of the milk cows to refresh her, and the heifers to produce beef for the market. Clyde would service the other three milk cows when they went dry and then went into estrus. The calves from the milk cows would also go to market. Percy usually kept a percentage of the meat the local butcher shop prepared for him. It went into his freezers or other storage. The rest of the meat sold through his regular local outlets, including the butcher shop that did the work.

He spaced the butchering out to have fresh meat available all year long. It was time to send in one of the two year old steers to the butcher shop in fact. Susie hated to do it, so Percy sent the twins in with the steer. It would be a few days before the meat and hide were ready. Percy had learned to treat hides to make leather and would do that with this hide, too. There was a good saddle shop in the city that could turn the hides into just about anything he wanted.

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.
Jerry D Young -
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
(There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch - Robert A Heinlein) Kindle Author page

Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2013, 05:01:21 PM »
Although he didn’t think of it in quite that way, Percy found himself looking for reasons to go into the city so he could see Sara. They’d had a pleasant dinner when he’d gone in for his checkup and dental work, and Percy wanted to do it again. He found an excuse, a very good one, when Mattie mentioned the gossip she’d picked up at the hair salon she visited from time to time. Pretty much monthly, actually.

Mattie was telling Susie at breakfast one morning that the town council had been trying to get a clinic going, with the help of the hospital in the city, for some time. They finally had a husband and wife doctor team interested. Now they were working on a building.

“They know where they’ll put it?” Percy asked.

“No. That’s part of the deal. The couple wants to be out of town a ways… kind of a back to the earth thing. The council is checking with all the real estate agents in the area looking for a suitable place. But you know how land is here. If it can grow anything, it’s being used to do so. Someone is going into the city tomorrow evening to meet the couple and bring them to town to take a look around.”


“Abigail,” Mattie replied, curious about Percy’s interest. “She kind of got roped into it. She’s not too happy about it.”

“Oh,” Percy said thoughtfully. It was several moments before he spoke again. Mattie and Susie waited expectantly. “Can you call someone and tell them I’ll get the people. I have a piece of property that… I’m trying to… I have a piece of property that might be suitable. I might be willing to just donate to the clinic if the people like the spot and they build the clinic and a house to live right there by it.”

Susie interjected, “Do you mean that forty acres Donaldson was leasing? I didn’t know you wanted to get rid of it.”

“Uh… Well… I just decided recently…” He left it at that, not specifying that it was as recently as that morning, after the subject of the clinic came up.

Mattie and Susie suspected as much but didn’t say anything about it. Mattie did say, “I’ll call Tom and let him know. I think he’ll be pleased, about not only the land, but also about Abigail not being involved. Her idea of fixing the problem is to buy a bus and haul people to the city at the town’s expense.”

“Sounds like her,” Percy muttered, and then said aloud, “Get it set up and I’ll go in and talk to Tom. I’ll get the deed to that property out.”

When he left the table, leaving the last bit of his breakfast behind, Mattie and Susie exchanged a look. “You think he’ll really just donate that land? You know how he is about owning property.” Susie looked at her mother quizzically.

“I don’t know. He is pretty generous, when it comes right down to it. But this…” Mattie said, her eyes on the kitchen door Percy had gone through. “Sure sounds like it. I’d better call Tom before he leaves for work.” Tom was a distant cousin of Mattie’s and the town Mayor. Also the only insurance agent in the town.

Tom was pleased with the idea. He asked a question, similar to the one Susie had asked, about Percy really donating the land. Mattie gave Tom the same response she’d given Susie.

Percy did donate the land, with the condition that the clinic be built on the land, as well as the housing for the couple. It would be a few months before the clinic was complete, even if they started immediately. Percy also contributed money to get the building process started. He’d liked the couple right off the bat when he picked them up at the airport.

Sara had taken the day off and gone with him when Percy asked. She was amazed when he offered to let them stay at the estate for the two days they were going to be checking on things in the area. He even loaned them the use of the Jeep the twins had brought back from Minnesota.

She quickly agreed to come out, stay both days, and act as guide for Melissa and Jock Bluhm. Jock was a family practice MD, while his wife specialized in obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatrics. Sara had to agree with Percy that the couple would be a valuable addition to the town. She heard about a few protests that the clinic was going to be a mile out of town, but they were quickly silenced when it was learned that there would be a shuttle bus from town to the facility every day it was open.

Sara looked at Percy a little askance when she heard Percy tell Tom to let people know about the state of the art facility and the clinic’s shuttle bus. When they had a private moment Sara asked Percy, “And just how is the town going to afford the clinic and the bus and the subsidized low income treatments you mentioned, pray tell?”

“Oh. That. Well…” Percy was looking down at his boots, hands clenched behind his back.

“Well, what?” Sara prompted.

“Well… that is… you see…”

“You set it up yourself! Percy, you sweet man, you!” Sara leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.

Percy turned beet red when Sara kissed him, right there in public and all. “All I did was offer to set up a little trust for them to use the income from. You know the farm is doing okay, now that I have it the way I want it. It wasn’t all that much. And I’ll help them get another grant for some of it. The committee already has one small one. You know I got those three to do the experimental growing in conjunction with the high school VoAg club. It’s not that difficult.

“And a few more people will contribute, I’m sure. Hector and even old Precious Randolph will pitch in. Precious has been trying to get a clinic in here for years. She hates going into the city. Besides, the clinic will eventually be self-supporting and I’ll get the trust money back. I just lose the income from it for a few years.”

“I know,” Sara said, tucking her arm through his and pressing firmly against him. “I’ll not embarrass you again by kissing your cheek, but you are a very sweet man. That young couple will fit right in here.”

“I had nothing to do with bringing them here. That was all Tom and the city council and the clinic committee.”

“Yes, that’s true,” Sara said, “But when I was showing Melissa around, she told me that they had a similar clinic offer from a small town in Indiana. Not too far from her folks. The initial deal was much more attractive than what we’d offered. They came out as a courtesy, to let the council down easy, and give them a couple more contacts for doctors that might come out here. If you hadn’t done what you did, they would not be setting up shop here.”

“Oh. I didn’t know that,” Percy said. “Well, good, then. That’s even better. Means they really want to be here and won’t leave as soon as the contract is up, probably.”

“With that grove of trees and pond on the property and a place to put a small horse barn, I don’t think so. Jock loves horses and this is the perfect spot. You going to give him a horse, too?” Sara was joking.

Percy was serious when he replied. “Certainly not going to give him one, but with Herman’s Best ready to take to foal this year, I might just see if he’d trade some medical services for a colt or filly.”

“Oh, Percy! You are incorrigible!” The others were turning to talk to them again, so Sara fell silent.

Percy studiously avoided looking at Sara when he offered to rent a mobile home for the Bluhms so they could move to the area and supervise the construction of the house and clinic. They would be able to use the old clinic, such as it was, and the county hospital, to start up the practice until the new clinic was finished.

With the deal finalized, they went back to the estate to drop off the Jeep and eat before Percy took the Bluhms and Sara back to the city. The Bluhms were flying out that evening at ten. Percy said a little prayer of thanks that the situation had turned out the way it had when he saw the news that night. He might not retire early, with twenty percent of his retirement having gone into the trust for the clinic, but that was okay. They were going to have two good doctors close.

The way things were going with the climate, transportation situations, and world politics, that might be important. It was just nice, no matter what. They were a nice couple and the report Tom had on their previous practice, though they’d only been in private practice for a year, indicated that they were excellent doctors. Only a surplus of doctors in the area where they’d done their internships then set up a practice had prompted them to look for a family clinic in a small town. Their patients had not been at all happy they were leaving.

Even if the Bluhms did leave when the first contract was over, with the clinic already built, and with associated housing, finding other doctors to work there wouldn’t be a problem.

Percy had a two bedroom, two-bath mobile home delivered to the property the following week. It took only three days to have the utilities installed. The water district line went right by the property, as did power lines. A septic tank and disposal field was installed and would be used for the new house.

It would be several weeks before phone service was installed, but both Bluhms had cell phones and were not worried about landline service until construction started on the clinic and house. They would be transferring their satellite TV and internet service from their current provider. The Bluhms were in residence within two weeks after the mobile home set up was completed.

Percy’s Mission - Chapter 3

“Are you sure you want to do this, honey?” Calvin asked his wife of three weeks.

“Yes, Calvin, I want to do this. I have to learn to drive this thing if I’m going to help out around here.”

“You don’t really have to, you know. I’ve got a good job. I know you don’t want to just sit around all day, but there are plenty of things you could do in town.”

“Calvin Stubblefield! We have already discussed this and you agreed that I could help with our side business. You even said you were looking forward to it.”

“I know, I know. And I am. Kinda. But I’ve been thinking… what if you get hurt or something.”

“You know I’ll be careful,” replied Nan. “And I agreed, just as you did, that we’d do the work together. All of it. So it would be safer. I’ve practiced at home, with you. You know I can do this.”

Calvin sighed. Nan wasn’t going to give in. They had discussed it thoroughly, and it had seemed like a good idea at the time. But now, with her standing there with the chainsaw in her hands, he was having second thoughts. Sure, she wore good boots and gloves, had on shin guards, a hard hat with face shield, goggles, and hearing protectors. Still, watching your wife getting ready to fell an old, twisted tree was unnerving.

She was right, he knew. Nan was just as capable as he was of handling the chainsaw. Calvin nodded. Nan pulled the starting cord of the chainsaw and it fired right up. A couple of test pulls on the trigger and the chain whizzed rapidly around the bar.

They’d checked the lean of the tree, and its weight distribution. The lay of the land, and the surrounding trees. Despite the deformity of the tree, it should fall well. Nan shifted the saw and stepped forward, after Calvin stepped back out of the way.

It took less than a minute to cut through the tree. Calvin had to admit, Nan had done both the front and back cuts as well as he could have done himself. The tree landed right where it was intended.

Nan looked over at him, a huge grin on her face. He smiled back and picked up the smaller chainsaw and started it. They began to trim the tree prior to cutting it up into logs. They worked for four hours, taking turns felling trees to thin the woodlot. They stopped often to drink from their water jug. It was hot work, despite the cool temperature, with the heavy clothes and safety equipment they wore for protection.

“That’s enough for today,” Calvin said. “Let’s clean this up and get things ready for loading.”

Nan smiled tiredly and agreed. Her arms, especially her wrists, ached from the vibration of the saw. It was a good saw, with some of the best vibration dampening available, but it still vibrated some. She helped Calvin load the chainsaws, fuel can, and axes into the trailer attached to the Rokon two-wheel drive motorbike parked close.

She climbed on behind him after he’d started the bike and seated himself. It was only a few minutes before they made it down to their truck, parked as close to where the trees needed thinning as they could get.

Nan unloaded the trailer and put the tools into the toolboxes of the service body mounted on their heavy duty, four-wheel drive, one-ton Dodge truck chassis. Calvin was setting down the log skid from the cargo box of the truck. Nan helped lift the Rokon trailer up into the truck after she’d unhitched it. As Calvin hooked up the log skid to the Rokon, Nan looped a pair of log chains over the rear seat of the Rokon.

They took a few moments to eat an energy bar apiece, and drink more water. When they were ready again, Calvin leaned over to pull the starter cord of the bike. Nan grinned at Calvin after he started the Rokon and she swung her leg over the seat. “I’ll drive,” she said. “It’s only fair. You drove us down.”

“Yes,” Calvin said, a wry grin curving his lips. “I did. Go ahead. I’ll walk.”

Nan laughed and began easing the Rokon up the same slight track they’d used to come down to the truck. It was the work of another two hours to skid the logs and all but the smallest of the trimmed branches down to the truck. The branches were bundled with the log chains before being moved with the skid. The very small stuff was piled in nearby small gullies and washes to provide cover for the wildlife in the area.

When the last load was added to the others at the truck, they loaded up the Rokon and skid into the truck. “Ready to go home?” Calvin asked Nan.

Wearily she nodded. “I’ll say.”

Calvin slid behind the wheel of the truck as Nan climbed in on the passenger side. “You did good today, sweetie. I knew you’d do fine, but you did better than fine.”

“Thanks, Cal. I have to admit it was more work than I was expecting. Handling the chainsaw and the log chains and such wasn’t that bad. It was all the moving over the rough ground.”

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.
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Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2013, 02:27:23 PM »
They were home in just a few minutes. Old man Peterson’s property abutted theirs, making the arrangement perfect for them. They were thinning his stand of trees for the wood, plus cash. Enough cash to pay their expenses plus a little. If Peterson was happy, they’d get a good recommendation from him. His opinion carried a lot of weight in the area.

When they got out of the truck both stopped for a moment to look at their house. Both were smiling hugely as they looked at the front. It had taken them three years to get it built, doing much of the work themselves.

Built back into the low bluff, only the front was exposed. And the front wall was a thick triple wall. An outer wall of reinforced natural rock and an interior wall of four-inch thick concrete were tied together with rebar. High R-factor board insulation faced the inside of the rock wall, with the rest of the area between the two walls filled with compacted earth. Two doors and three series of narrow vertical windows provided light and entry into the home. The doors and windows had heavy shutters to each side.

The front faced almost due south, and boasted a wide patio enclosed with a thick rock wall, four feet high. The second floor balcony deck acted as roof for the lower patio, and was, in turn, roofed by another concrete slab, it being covered with enough earth to act as garden area, as did the top of the bluff. The balcony and balcony roof slab were supported by rock faced concrete pillars.

A stairway cupola pierced the top of the bluff, opening onto a large patio centered over the earth-sheltered house. A weather instrument pack mounted on the top of the stairway cupola was hardwired to the weather monitor in the den.

Like the entry patio, the balcony and top patio sported four-foot high rock walls. The south facing walls of all three were covered with solar panels. Photovoltaic, solar hot water collectors, and solar space heating collectors.

A freestanding heavy-duty stepped antenna tower at one corner of the upper patio carried a large log periodic high frequency beam antenna and a VHF/UHF log periodic beam antenna on a side arm mount, both with rotors. A tall aluminum antenna mast with a variable base loading assembly was mounted above the HF beam. Three additional side mounts carried Public Service band vertical antennas The base of the tower also had a variable base loading assembly to turn the entire tower and antenna assembly into a large multi-frequency vertical antenna.

An identical antenna tower at the opposite corner of the upper patio carried a deep fringe TV antenna on a rotor. A side arm mount with rotor carried another VHF/UHF log periodic antenna, specifically for monitoring the Public Service Bands. There were a series of non-rotating beam antennas for specific TV channels and VHF/UHF repeater sites mounted on side arm mounts. As with the first tower, this one also had a loading box so the entire tower and antenna assembly would act as a tall vertical antenna.

A large C-band satellite antenna was mounted at the base of one antenna tower, and a dish satellite antenna with satellite internet capability was mounted near the bottom of the other antenna tower, along with a satellite radio antenna.

“You want to put the truck in the garage?” Nan asked Calvin after a moment of enjoying looking at their dream home.

“I think so. We could get rain tonight.”

Nan grinned over at Calvin. “You just want to look at everything again.”

Calvin smiled back. “Well… maybe.”

They unloaded the Rokon, trailer, and log skid from the Dodge. Nan opened the garage door and Calvin backed the truck inside. He helped Nan bring in the bike, trailer, and skid.

Nan watched Calvin for a moment, a smile on her lips as he lowered the garage door. Like the house itself, the garage was dug back into the bluff. It was impossible to tell, for, like the house, narrow windows provided light, as did the light tubes that came down from their exposed ends along the upper patio wall. With the white painted walls and ceiling, the garage was as well lit as any standard garage, and better than many.

Trailing his hand along the workbench top that was part of the well equipped home shop, Calvin joined Nan near the connecting door between the garage and house. “I’m going up to take a look around,” he said as Nan started to enter the house.

She nodded and said, “I’ll start supper.”

Calvin turned to the other inside door. He took the short hallway that connected the garage rear entrance to the stairway that went up to the top patio. When they’d helped design the house, both he and Nan had insisted on alternate means of egress in case of fire, despite the house and garage both having sprinkler systems installed.

That was why there were two entrances on the front, the stairwell to the surface at the back of the units, plus the ability to exit the second floor rooms onto the balcony and climb down. There were projecting rocks in the front wall extending out to create an adequate emergency stairway down from the balcony.

With more than a touch of pride, Calvin surveyed their property from the top patio. They owned twenty acres of old growth forested land. It had been only a tenth of the cost of adjoining properties due to the nature of the geography of the parcel. There were almost no level spots in the twenty acres. The only ones of any size were the one at the face of the bluff and the small area on top of the bluff. The hill that was the bluff fell off sharply to the north, though it wasn’t a bluff like the south side. The east and west side were more gradual, but still steep slopes. The rest of the property consisted of steep hillsides, valleys, and ridges, with many rocky outcroppings.

The surrounding areas were hilly, but nothing like their little piece. The real estate agent had been cooperative in the sale. The owner was making a mint on the other parcels of the three hundred or so acres he owned, so had been willing to let this parcel go cheap, since no one seemed to want to build anything on the up and down landscape.

It was at one corner of the large plot, bordering federal land on the back, the Peterson place on one side. The other two sides bordered the Calhoun property, with no easy way in. The only reason Calvin and Nan took it was the easement they got from the owner to get to it from the county road. They’d checked from the air, and used topographical maps to select the route in. It bordered the owner’s property line for most of the distance, then cut in toward Calvin’s and Nan’s place.

The Calhoun’s had not been too upset, since the easement for the track would service several more parcels, except for the last section, and it was on some more or less otherwise un-usable land. It was up to Calvin and Nan to turn the last section into a road. The section serving the rest of the lots the Calhouns paid a contractor to run a road-grader along the path to establish a minimal road. Additional work would be done as the properties were developed.

Calvin could see several sections of the road from his vantage point. He’d cleared specific trees during the construction of the house to enable the views he wanted. He turned around and looked down the steep slope that was the back side of the bluff. Quite a few trees and all the brush had been cleared around the house site, to minimize fire danger, though there were still plenty of trees around. Just none within fifty feet or so of the house.

They weren’t really concerned too much about actual fire damage, as they were lack of oxygen if there was a forest fire. There was a relatively large gulley that drained the flat area in front of the bluff. It was steep and long, mostly bare rock. It emptied into another wash that ran to the creek on Peterson’s property.

They were sure that it would act as a vent, bringing fresh air to almost the front door of the house in the event of a fire up where they were. Also during the construction phase much of the large rock excavated from the bluff to make room for the structure was used to create a series of step dams in the gulley to control the flow of runoff water and slow it as much as possible.

Though there was a good well that provided more than five gallons a minute fresh water flow, they had installed a solar powered pump with photovoltaic panel and battery at the largest of the containments. The pump was on a float switch and would pump accumulated water up to the large cistern under the front patio. The water went through a sand and gravel filter into the sump for the pump to keep the water as clean as possible. The water went through a high grade filter when it was pumped from the cistern.

Calvin walked over to the open garden plot. They’d plant their outside crop in a few more days. The seedlings were doing fine in the green house that bordered the garden plot. The big greenhouse beside the garage door was already providing salad vegetables and they had a good start on berries and melons, too. The greenhouse had been one of the first things finished during the construction.

Looking up, Calvin gave a little prayer of thanks. While they’d worked hard to achieve their dream, there’d been an element or two of luck, as well, and Calvin was appreciative. Finding the property when they were in the market had been sheer chance. They’d been scrimping and saving for five years, with both of them working, to be able to afford anything.
Both their families had been willing to present highly unusual wedding gifts, after they announced that they would be married three weeks after the house was finished.

The wedding registry had been a list of wants, rather than a list of stores. While they received a few conventional gifts, the families had come through with many of the things with which they wanted to equip, furnish, and stock the house.

Calvin was still smiling when he went downstairs to the kitchen. Nan looked up, saw the smile on Calvin’s face and her own smile broadened. She quickly stepped over to him, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.

“Hey,” he said, after the kiss ended, “what’s this all about?”

Stepping away, Nan replied, “Nothing special. I’m just happy. Being together the last few years was good, but being married is better. We have the house we want, in an area we love. You have a good job. We’ve got money in the bank. A little, anyway. And I just love you, is all.”

“I love you too, sweetie. You’re all a man could ask for in a wife.”

They kissed again, but Nan stopped them from going further. “Later,” she said with a laugh, removing his hands from her bottom. “We both need something to eat, and I want to go over the budget with you after that. Then we can get to the fun stuff.”

Calvin laughed, too. “Okay, baby. You’re right. I am ready for some supper.”

“You do the salad and I’ll do the entrée.”

“Sure thing. What’s it going to be tonight?”

The teakettle was whistling on the propane cook stove. “Turkey tetrazzini. It’s the last of the can.” Nan poured the boiling water over the freeze-dried entrée in the bowl on the counter.

“It’s a good one,” Calvin replied, taking out salad makings from the Servel propane/electric refrigerator.

“This finishes up the long term storage food that your Uncle Henry got us. The month supply lasted us a little over three weeks. We’ll need to increase the quantities when we reorder.”

“I know,” Calvin said. “I really didn’t think it would last us a month. Figured the way it is, for a sedentary person, the serving sizes just aren’t enough for active people. But the stuff is good.

“If we get that one-year supply the way we planned, and then add quite a few individual cases of specific items, we would be in good shape, long term. Then we could buy a four month supply… based on the same plan as the year supply… every month. We’ll use a fourth and store the other three-fourths and have a second full year supply in four months. We can keep doing that until we have the five-year supply we planned.

“With the supply we have now from the order we put in after we got married, that will give us a fifteen month LTS supply now, plus that from the month ahead.”

“Good idea,” Nan said. She was setting the table as the meal absorbed the water. “I wish we could do it a little faster,” she continued, filling glasses with water from the fridge.

“We have to watch the budget. If I get that bonus for the Tashman job, we can put half of it into LTS food and the rest in savings.”

“We need to get our savings back up, but I think we should acquire gold and silver a bit more quickly.”

“That’s what we’re doing with the tree thinning service money.”

Nan dished out the turkey tetrazzini as Calvin set the filled salad bowls on the table. “I know, but with the world the way it is, I’d like to increase our holdings.”

They both sat down and Calvin reached for his fork. “I don’t know sweetie. We really knocked a hole in our savings when we built this place. I’d like to get our cash level back up to at least a one year salary equivalent.”

“Me, too. I was thinking more about what you said today. I like helping with the tree thinning. It won’t be long before we have a five-year supply of wood stocked up. You were right about me being able to get a job in town. I kind of miss working, actually.”

A dazzling smile lit her face as she added, “With the design of this house, it only takes a few minutes a day to take care of it, and you help with that and the greenhouses and garden.”

“You really want to go back to a job? We are doing okay.”

“I think so. Something that it won’t be too difficult to leave, once I’m four or five months pregnant.”

Calvin’s eyes widened. “You’re pregnant?”

“No, silly. Not now. We have to keep trying. But we are trying, and it will happen. But in the meantime, I want to keep busy. I hadn’t really thought about it before. I really thought I’d have plenty to do around here, but the place is so efficient it just doesn’t take very long.”

“Your craft work?”

“We have plenty of afghans. And enough baby things for five babies.”

“Well, that settles it. It would let us build up things even faster, if you want to go back to work.”

“I do, Cal. I really do. With us doing the woodlot thinning only together, that still leaves me a lot of time when you’re at work.” She smiled. “As long as it’s not too hard. I am supposed to be living a life of leisure now, you know.”

Calvin snorted. “Like you ever could. Well, go with me Monday and check around. You can make a day of it and I’ll pick you up on the way back from the city. You did want something in town, and not in the city, didn’t you?”

“Oh, yes,” Nan said adamantly. “I’m tired of the city, except for the monthly shopping runs.”

“I know. As soon as we can, we’ll start a business in town so we can both work it. Like the tree thinning operation. Just too tight to try that now.”

“True. But it won’t be long, I’m sure.” Nan grinned at her husband. “You still want to do the toy route?”

Blushing just slightly, Calvin harrumphed. “I never should have told you that.” Nan laughed delightedly.

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.
Jerry D Young -
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
(There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch - Robert A Heinlein) Kindle Author page

Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2013, 01:11:45 PM »
“Come on, Calvin. You know I think it is a good idea. If Mr. Anderson retires, there won’t be anyone else to do small equipment work. What you have in mind should give you work year round. Work that people need. Especially as the other development around here takes place.”

“You don’t think it’s silly? I mean, I really do want to do that type of work because of the equipment. I loved construction toys when I was a kid. And I liked the construction work when I was in college.”

Rather softly, Nan replied. “Honey, I know they aren’t really toys, but tough, professional grade tools.”

“I know you do,” Calvin replied. “But they really are neat, as well as being extremely versatile. And they are expensive.”

“But you just said it. They are versatile. And you can start… well, not small… but with just the basics and add attachments as you go.”

“You really wouldn’t mind?”

“Of course not.” Nan grinned again. “And I have to admit, running the equipment does look like fun.”

Calvin grinned back. “Yeah. I’ll work up a serious proposal. See how good our credit is.”

“Good. The sooner you get out of the city, the better.”

They finished their meal in companionable silence. Nan had started some freeze-dried sliced strawberries soaking in fresh cream. They had those for desert as they watched television that evening.

Percy’s Mission - Chapter 4

The next day, a Sunday, they slept in, as was their custom. As they were getting dressed, Nan asked Calvin, “How many trips you think it will take to move what we harvested yesterday?”

“I think four will do it.”

Over breakfast, which was granola with blueberries from their LTS food stocks, Nan again spoke up. “That truck. The Unimog. That would make the wood harvesting a lot easier, wouldn’t it?”

“Sure it would,” replied Calvin. “Especially with a material handling arm. That would be one of the attachments I’d eventually like to get.”

Nan nodded. “It would take a lot of money to get started, wouldn’t it?”

This time Calvin nodded. He paused his eating and looked over at Nan questioningly. “Where you going with this? You know I don’t have plans to do it right now. That plan I was talking about is one of the long-range plans we always try to do for big stuff. Like this house.”

“I know,” replied Nan. She smiled. “I’m not ragging on you. Actually it is the other way around. I’m thinking we should make it a shorter-range plan. Wouldn’t the equipment be collateral for the loan?”

“Sure it would. But like you said, it’s a lot of money. And doing the tree thinning for Mr. Peterson, and even the Calhoun’s property, wouldn’t be enough to make the payments.”

“What about working with Mr. Anderson? Getting some experience. You said once that his old backhoe was barely able to do the work here, it was so worn out. Maybe he’d welcome a silent partner with new equipment.”

“I…” Calvin started to speak, but closed his mouth and looked thoughtful for a moment. “I always figured that if I did it, I’d do it independently.”

“I know you have some experience from when you worked construction when you were going to college, but wouldn’t some hands on work with Mr. Anderson be an advantage? Plus, it would be getting your foot in the door of a lot of customers.”

“That’s true.” Again Calvin’s eyes lost focus as the thought about things. “And you could learn it just as easily as I. I could continue to work at the bank during the week and work with Mr. Anderson on… say… alternate Saturdays. We could continue to do the tree thinning on the alternate Saturdays and on Sundays.”

Calvin looked over at Nan. “That is, if you wanted to…”

“I definitely do want to learn. If I get just a part time job in town, that would leave me plenty of time to work with Mr. Anderson. Do you think he’d take me on?”

Calvin snorted. “He lets Jimmy Hollister work for him. I can’t see him not letting you, even with your lack of experience. He was impressed with the work you were doing here when we were building the house.”

“Okay,” Nan replied. “Then let’s think about this a bit more, and check with Mr. Anderson. You can do your proposal for the bank after that and see if we can get the equipment.”

“This is a big step, Nan,” said Calvin. “As big a step as the house was, and getting married.”

Very seriously Nan said, “If something happens in the near future, we’d never be able to do this. You saw the news last night. Wouldn’t that equipment be invaluable in the aftermath of a serious disaster?”

Calvin nodded. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted to get it. We’re in good shape here, now, but as things get worse there are going to be many, many people needing help to get prepared. We need to think about this some more.”

“I agree. Let’s finish up breakfast and get to work. We can both think about it some more and then discuss it some more. How does that sound?”

“Good. It sounds good.”

With the tandem wheel trailer behind the Dodge, they had all the timber and trimmings cut up and stacked along the lower patio west wall. They’d been keeping track of the firewood they were gathering. This load brought them up to forty cords total. They’d only used a few pieces to test out the fireplace and wood stoves after they’d been installed.

For the moment, they were using the propane appliances, but would use wood when they had more time to manage it. The wood-fired appliances did take somewhat more time to use and maintain. It had been expensive to get the wood-fired hot water heater and the dual fuel furnace in addition to the propane/solar hot water heater, wood/coal heating stove with a useable cooking surface, and the fireplace. They felt the security of having the multiple options was worth it.

So was the expense of three one-thousand gallon buried propane tanks and the twenty one-hundred pound propane tanks they had as back up. The earth-sheltered house required very little heat and no real cooling to be comfortable. The thousand-gallon propane tanks would suffice for at least three years of cooking and heating with propane, perhaps longer.

There was already enough wood to last two years at least. They’d have triple, at least, that amount of wood, by the end of the year with the thinning they were doing for Peterson. Also by the end of the month, they would have twenty tons of anthracite coal. They joined with a few others that had coal type stoves to order a semi-load from a rather distant mine. The shipping on the coal was costing more than the coal itself, but the group had wanted anthracite, rather than bituminous coal for their stoves.

That Monday they took one of the two Jeeps they owned on the journey to town and the city. After a quick kiss, Calvin dropped Nan off at the post office. It would be some time before they would have rural mail delivery, even to the end of their road, where it met the county road. Calvin and Nan were inclined to just keep the post office box they originally rented rather than switching. It wasn’t that much more of a trip to go into town to get it than picking it up at the county road, when that service became available.

It was too early for the mail, of course, but Nan wanted to check the community bulletin board for potential jobs. When she saw the notice Mr. Anderson, or, more probably, his wife, had posted, she couldn’t keep the grin off her face. He was looking for some temporary office help.

She headed down the sidewalk jauntily, on the way to the small office space Mr. Anderson kept for his various business endeavors. Nan recognized Mrs. Anderson sitting behind the desk in the office. Mrs. Anderson had brought lunch out to Mr. Anderson several times when he was working out at Calvin’s and Nan’s. She had enjoyed the trips, and the highly unusual house being built.

“Hi, Mrs. Anderson,” Nan said cheerfully.

A smile brightened Mrs. Anderson’s face. “Hello, young lady. It is very nice to see you again. How do you like your new home, now that you’ve been in it for a few weeks?”

“Oh, we just love it! It is everything we expected, and more. It is so quiet out there, and cozy.”

“Ah, but such a road!” replied Mrs. Anderson.

“True. The road isn’t much, but the service truck and the Jeeps do just fine. Going to be a little harder this winter, I know, but I believe it will be worth the hassles.” It just occurred to Nan that the equipment she and Calvin were considering getting would allow them to keep the road in much better shape. A good point to bring up with Calvin. One of his biggest worries was her getting stuck or stranded on the road.

“Well, let’s hope so,” replied Mrs. Anderson. “And what brings you to the office today. Perhaps an invitation to a house warming party?”

It had not occurred to either her or Calvin to have a house warming party, but Mrs. Anderson obviously wanted to see the completed house.

“Not exactly,” replied Nan. “I do want to invite you out to the house, but for a business meeting. Of course, we could do it here, but I thought you might like to see the house now that it is completed. Mr. Anderson was such a big help to us.”

“That would be wonderful, my dear! When, may I ask?”

“Why, at your earliest opportunity,” said Nan. “Tonight if you’re of a mind.”

“I’m sure Herbert and I can make it. What should we bring?”

“Not a thing,” admonished Nan. “We want to repay your kindness since we moved here.” Nan smiled brightly again. “We do kind of want something from you and Mr. Anderson.”

“Sit down, dearie, and tell me what this is all about.”

Nan took a seat across the desk from Mrs. Anderson. “Well, it’s really two things,” Nan said. “First, I’ve decided to go back to work, and I saw your notice at the post office and wanted to apply for the job. Now I know…”

Mrs. Anderson stopped her with a lifted hand. “You’ve got the job. What else is it?”

Nan wasn’t too surprised at the abruptness of the offer. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson were both rather abrupt types.

“Well, Calvin and I are thinking about starting our own business and we wanted your guidance and help. Mr. Anderson had told us he was retiring within a few years and we were thinking about doing some of the things he does.” Quickly she added, “But only when he’s quit doing them. We would never infringe on his work.”

“That’s good to hear,” replied Mrs. Anderson.

“Calvin has run some equipment before, when he was in college, but he needs more experience. We were hoping Mr. Anderson would let him work with him some, to learn what to do. Of course, we’d pay at least something for the training.”

Mrs. Anderson stopped Nan quickly again. “Don’t be ridiculous. Herbert would welcome someone to learn the business. He’s been worried about what the area will do when he retires.” Mrs. Anderson frowned. “No one wants to get their hands dirty anymore. That lay about Jimmy Hollister is about all the help Herbert can get, and he’s worse than useless, sometimes.”

Her next words echoed Calvin sentiment from that morning. “I suspect you could do the work better than Jimmy,” said Mrs. Anderson.

“Oh,” Nan said carefully, “I certainly wouldn’t mind learning that end of the business, too. Especially if I’m going to be working for the two of you. May I ask why you need the help. My understanding was that you took care of all the office work.”

“Of course, I do.” Mrs. Anderson sighed and lowered her voice slightly when she spoke again. “But I’m not as spry as I once was. I’m going to have to have both hip joints replaced pretty soon. I’m not going to be able to get around much for a time.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that, Mrs. Anderson,” Nan said sympathetically.

“Don’t you fret none, missy. I’ll be up and about better than ever when it’s over and done. I’m looking forward to it. Well, it being over, anyway.”

“That is a wonderful attitude, Mrs. Anderson. I admire you.”

“Just the way I’m built, dearie. Nothing special. Now, I’ll talk to Herbert about this. Let him know I’m hiring you for the office. He and your hubby will want to discuss it themselves, I’m sure. We’ll be out this evening. About six?”

“That would be fine, Mrs. Anderson. And don’t you dare bring a house warming gift.”

“Never tell an old woman what to do,” Mrs. Anderson said without malice. “It just makes things worse. Now. Come around the desk. We need to start your training. You know anything about computers?”

Nan spent most of the day with Beth Anderson, learning the ins and outs of Mr. Anderson’s various businesses. She went away somewhat awed at what the couple did in the area. She was waiting outside the grocery store when Calvin pulled up that afternoon.

“How’d it go?” he asked after kissing Nan and loading the few groceries she’d picked up for them.

“You will not believe,” she said. “Let’s get going. We have to prepare for company this evening.”

Knowing he would be thoroughly briefed, in time, Calvin nodded and climbed into the Jeep as Nan entered on the passenger side. They were well on their way back home before Nan excitedly told Calvin what had transpired that day.

“Wow,” he replied when Nan had finished. “You sure don’t let the grass grow under your feet. I don’t know what to say. At lunch time today I checked on all the equipment again and got updated prices and availability. I’ll be able to explain it all to Mr. Anderson, even without an official proposal.”

“I suspect they’d turn down an official proposal. Just talking it out will be better. What are the chances of getting the equipment soon?”

“The availability is there, except for some of the things I want for the Unimog. The Bobcats and their attachments are no problem. Just the money. I made a couple of calls to banks about business loans. They’re willing to discuss it. I’ll definitely do an official business proposal for them.”

As Nan had suspected from Mrs. Anderson’s words, Beth and Herbert had a house warming gift for them when they arrived. A nice Home Sweet Home embroidery.

“I’d rather not talk business till after we eat,” were Mr. Anderson’s first words, after “Howdy, folks.”

“That’s just fine,” Calvin told him, taking the coats to hang up in the entry way closet.

“It’ll be ready in just a few minutes,” Nan said, coming from the kitchen. “I hope meatloaf is okay.”

“Excellent. Excellent,” Mr. Anderson said. “I doubt it will be as good as Beth’s, but it’d take an expert cook to even come close.”

“I must admit I do make a prize winning meatloaf,” Mrs. Anderson said. “But I’m sure we’ll enjoy yours.” She took one of Nan’s hands in hers and patted it reassuringly.

Nan took it in stride, turning to sweep an arm toward the living room. “What do you think? Would you like a tour?”

As Mrs. Anderson was saying yes, Mr. Anderson told Calvin. “You can tell a lot about a man from the tools he owns. You got any tools, young man?”

“I do for a fact,” Calvin said, looking over at his wife and winking when Mrs. Anderson couldn’t see. They went their separate ways, Calvin showing Mr. Anderson the house starting in the garage, with Nan showing Mrs. Anderson the kitchen first.

Both the Andersons seemed somewhat impressed with the house, and the Stubblefield’s, too, when they gathered around the dining table. “It will just take a moment,” Nan said. “Calvin, could you lend a hand, please?”

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.
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Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2013, 01:32:28 PM »
It was a rather simple meal. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, whole kernel corn, and rather than a salad, sliced tomato, cucumber, and onion in peppered vinegar. The Anderson’s seemed to enjoy it, Mr. Anderson going so far as saying, “Not as good as Beth’s, like I expected, but fine. Mighty fine. What’s dessert?”

“Now, Herbert. You know you aren’t supposed to eat much sweets.” She cut her eyes toward Nan. “But I would be curious as to what you might have prepared.”

“I made up a batch of black walnut brownies and a quart of ice cream.”

“You made the ice cream?” Mr. Anderson said, his face showing his surprise.

“Strawberry,” replied Calvin.

Mr. Anderson shot a pleading look at his wife. She looked thoughtful, but took little time in answering. “Well, I suppose a bit won’t hurt you all that much. I wouldn’t mind trying your brownies… maybe just a scoop of that ice cream, to see if I can tell which recipe you used.”

Mrs. Anderson never really said what recipes she thought Nan had used, but seemed to enjoy the dessert as much as Mr. Anderson did.

“Mighty fine,” Mr. Anderson said, patting his stomach as Nan and Calvin cleared the table.

“Would you like to take your coffee to the living room where we can talk?”

“No more coffee,” said Mr. Anderson. “Might you have anything stronger?”

“Now Herbert,” admonished Mrs. Anderson.

“We have a small bar,” replied Calvin, when Mrs. Anderson didn’t insist on a no, and looked rather interested herself. Calvin went over to the built-in cabinets flanking the fireplace and opened one.

“We don’t drink much,” Calvin continued, but we like to keep a selection for guests. Is there anything in particular you would like?”

“I usually just drink sippin’ whiskey, but I’m a mind to try something new,” Mr. Anderson said, walking over to join Calvin and take a look at the offerings. “What’s that rounded bottle with the long neck. He squinted a bit. “Irish something.”

“Irish Mist,” replied Calvin. He opened the bottle and let Mr. Anderson take a sniff. “It’s very good,” Calvin said. “Would you like to try a snifter?”

“Yeah. That’ll do.”

Calvin poured a nice shot of the Irish Mist into a balloon snifter and handed it to Mr. Anderson. He turned to Mrs. Anderson. “Would you like one, as well?” he asked.

“Perhaps some sherry, or something like that,” she replied.

“How about an aperitif?” responded Calvin. “We have Galiano, Frangelica, Crème de Menthe…”

Mrs. Anderson interrupted him. “A Crème de Menthe,” she said. “That sounds nice.”

After pouring the drink he asked Nan, “Honey? What are you having?”

“I think the Frangelica,” she said.

He poured her drink and a snifter of Amaretto for himself. Though they hadn’t used it except to try it to make sure it worked properly, a fire was kept set in the fireplace. Calvin lit a match and started a piece of fatwood burning. He put it under the tinder and closed the screen.

By the time he took a seat on the sofa, Nan perching on the arm beside him, the fire was already catching.

“Dinner’s over,” said Mr. Anderson. “The drink here don’t count. What’s on your mind, sonny? Beth told me a little, but I need to hear it from you.”

“Yes, sir,” Calvin said. “Well, Nan and I have been thinking of starting a business, similar to some of the business you have. I was hoping you might give me a few pointers. Training, actually. On weekends.”

“Don’t work on the Sabbath. Ain’t right. At least not unless it’s a real emergency.”

“I meant on Saturday, Mr. Anderson,” Calvin replied.

“That would be okay. Don’t work many Saturdays, when I can help it. But have to some, because that’s the only time some people have to be home for me to do the work. And I bet, even though you haven’t got much experience, you’d be better’n Jimmy.

“You gotta understand,” Mr. Anderson continued, “my equipment is like me. Old and slow. I can teach you some things, sure enough, but it might not mean much in your own business. Unless you want to buy me out someday. I probably wouldn’t sell it to you. Wouldn’t be right. I can handle it okay. Wouldn’t expect no one else to make a living with that old hoe and the other equipment.”

“I appreciate that, Mr. Anderson.” Nan put her hand on Calvin’s shoulder in encouragement as he continued. “I’m working on a plan to go ahead and get my own equipment. If I can do that, you could train me on it. If you would.”

Mr. Anderson took a quick sip of the Irish Mist, thinking. Finally he asked. “Just what kind of equipment? It pays to buy good equipment, you know. My old hoe was a good one once. It was pretty hard used before I got it. Didn’t want to invest too much when I got it, ‘cause I didn’t know if I wanted to do that kind of work for good.”

“Actually,” Calvin said, “We…” he looked up at Nan for a moment before he continued. “We were thinking about getting a Unimog, and a couple of models of Bobcat equipment. Plus attachments.”

“I know Bobcats, but what in the world is a Unimog? And what’s this about attachments?” asked Mr. Anderson. “Those little Bobcat spinners got a bucket, don’t they?”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Anderson. But they can take a variety of attachments, such as a snow blower, tiller… roto-tiller, that is, back-hoes, trencher, rollers, tree transplanter…”

“Whoa, boy! Those little things can do all that?”

“With the right selection of attachments. I do have in mind one of the larger units. Two, actually. An A300. It can be used as a skid steer, but it can also use four wheel steer. Easier on lawns and such. The other one is the Toolcat 5600T utility vehicle. Kind of a small pickup truck with front lift arms to take a bucket or the other attachments.”

“Does sound interesting,” replied Mr. Anderson. He took another sip of the Irish Mist, and then asked, “New or used. I can take care of old equipment okay myself, but I wouldn’t want to deal with any more than I already got.”

“I plan to purchase new units, straight from the dealer.”

“That’s good. That’s right good. Now what’s this other thing you mention. Moogy something?”

“Unimog. U500 model. It’s a truck made by Mercedes-Benz. Where the Bobcat Toolcat is like a small four wheel drive pickup with front lift arms, the Unimog is like a giant four wheel drive pickup with, on the one I plan to get, front attachment points that can handle lift arms and other attachments. Can also mount or tow equipment on the rear, too. It has engine and transmission PTO shafts, as well as hydraulic connections front and rear.”

“Didn’t know Mercedes made trucks. Here in the US, anyways. Way back when I was in the service I saw some Mercedes trucks over in Germany. But nothing like a big pickup truck.”

“I’m not explaining it very well, I’m afraid,” Calvin said. “I’ve got some literature…”

“I’ll get it,” Nan said, getting up and heading for the den. She was back in moments with a handful of brochures and data sheets. “Here you go, Mr. Anderson.”

“That is an ugly sucker, isn’t it?” said Mr. Anderson, looking at the picture of the Unimog on the cover of the brochure. “Don’t really look like a pickup to me, though. Just a small flatbed…” He squinted a bit at the picture. “Not a flatbed, though, looks like a short sided bed.”

“It is,” replied Calvin. “The one I would get would have that bed with a three way dump kit. Plus the bed can attach and detach pretty quickly without much trouble. I’d get a couple other beds for specific purposes.”

“Hey,” said Mr. Anderson, as he leafed through the brochure. “This shows a bucket on the front. And a pair of forks. And…” He fell silent and looked through the brochure in more detail as his wife, Nan, and Calvin looked on.

Mr. Anderson handed the first brochure to his wife and went through the other papers. Mrs. Anderson looked through them with as much intensity as had her husband.

“I don’t know,” Mr. Anderson said, after going through all the papers. “Sounds like a good idea. But something trying to do everything usually isn’t as good as a specific piece of equipment.”

“I agree, sir. But for what I envision, I think they would serve the purpose.”

“Mebee.” Mr. Anderson looked thoughtful again for a moment. “Got to admit, Mercedes makes good stuff. Beth, remember that diesel sedan I traded for back a few years ago? Turned a nice profit on that, after driving it for a year. Really good car.”

Mrs. Anderson nodded her agreement.

“And Conrad has a Bobcat out on his farm. He swears by it.” Mr. Anderson frowned. “But he never said nothing about extras for it. He just uses the bucket for all kinds of things.” He looked at Calvin. “You say they can plow snow?”

“Plow or blow, Mr. Anderson.”

“Used to do a pretty good little business plowing driveways and such for people when I had the old Ford with a snow blade on it. Blew the engine and never got it fixed. We had two or three years of mild winters and I didn’t see the need. Way winters been the last couple, snow removal could be a big business.”

This time Mr. Anderson gave Calvin a hard look. “You really do this? This stuff can’t be cheap.”

“I’m pretty sure, but I can’t guarantee it. I don’t want to do half measures, so if we can’t do it the way we want, we won’t do it.” He looked up at Nan and she nodded her agreement.

Mr. Anderson drained the snifter of the last of the Irish Mist and set it down on the coffee table. “I tell you what, sonny. I’ll train you, Saturdays, on my equipment. If you can come up with the equipment, I’ll help you with it, too. This area can’t support a big contractor, but needs lots of work done on a small to medium scale. I been doing it for forty years now, but I’m ready to retire. If you work out, and can get the ‘quipment, I’ll put in a good word for you with my regular customers.”

Mr. Anderson stood, and the others did as well. Calvin held out his hand and Mr. Anderson took it in a firm grip and gave it a good hard double shake.

“Thank you, Mr. Anderson. I appreciate your faith in me. I’ll have a proposal for the bank by the end of the week. I should know if I’m approved a week or ten days after that.”

“Okay, sonny. I’ll see you this coming Saturday at nine at the office. We got a septic job to do for the Widow Hammond.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll be there.”

With that, the Anderson’s took their leave. When Calvin closed the door after they drove away, he turned to Nan and asked, “You think we’re doing the right thing?”

“I do, honey. Mr. Anderson made it pretty obvious that the type of service we plan on doing is needed. I think he’s only still working because there isn’t anyone else around here that could and would do those types of jobs.”

“I’ll get to work on that proposal. Do you think you could get some numbers from Mrs. Anderson that I can use to show the potential for the equipment?”

Nan put her arm around Calvin’s waist as they walked toward the den. “I’m sure they won’t mind. Mrs. Anderson didn’t show it much, but I’m pretty sure she is excited about the idea. I think she really wants them to be able to retire as soon as possible. She has a cruise line brochure at the office that is dog eared from being looked at so much. It’s for an around the world cruise.”

Calvin nodded. “Well, we’ll do our best to help them accomplish that, if that is what they want.” Calvin took Nan in his arms and kissed her firmly. When he stepped back he said. “I love you.”

“And I you,” Nan replied, stepping away from him. “I’ll go clean things up while you start working.”

Percy’s Mission - Chapter 5

Buddy Henderson wrote down the deposit in his checkbook. “Yes!” he said quietly to himself. He finally hit the goal he’d been shooting for. He now had ten thousand dollars in his savings account and five thousand in the checking account. The vendors were all paid off for the job just finished. So were the two apprentice plumbers he’d hired to help. The three thousand dollar final payment had been all profit.

He was going to have to take Charlene out to dinner to thank her for her help with the special orders. She’d done the orders for him and kept on top of deliveries and such while he’d concentrated on getting the job done. It was his biggest contract job to date.

The bank account contents were only one part of the plan he’d been working on for several years. He had paid off the plumbing truck, a large step van, the year before. Buddy owned free and clear the extensive stock the truck held, as well as the contents of the storage building behind the house, and the pipe rack beside it.

The house was free and clear. It was the first thing he paid off. It was a small two-bedroom tract house with a small den. But it served his needs nicely. He used the master bedroom and kept the second bedroom for personal storage.

The only thing left to pay off was his personal transportation. That consisted of a lovingly restored and customized 1977 Chevy three-quarter ton crew cab four-wheel-drive pickup truck. It had taken hours of work, some expert help, and quite a few dollars, to get it the way Buddy wanted it. But it had been worth it. He knew it was 100% reliable, and would go anywhere a wheeled vehicle had any business going.

Only one payment left on the engine work for the truck and he’d get the title. And the money was in the payment file already. He just needed to take it down to Hooper’s and give it to them. He just hadn’t had a chance this past week. It wasn’t even due for another week, but Buddy wanted it paid off.

Most of his emergency preparations were well along. But now he had the opportunity to get a few things he’d been holding off from buying. Instead he’d accumulated some expedient gear. He’d keep it, of course, but it would be regulated to back up status.

Buddy stopped at the house and changed clothes. He started a small load of laundry, and then went to the fire resistant, locking file cabinet in the den. Opening the top drawer, he removed the money from his haircut folder. It was about time for another haircut, anyway, and if he was going to take Charlene out, he wanted to look his best.

Another drawer held last year’s tax information. He took it out and put it in a manila envelope. He’d drop it off at his tax person’s place on the way to the barbershop. He’d run rough numbers himself and thought he’d get a substantial refund. The jobs had looked pretty good, so he’d paid more each quarter on his taxes than he thought he might need. Let the government use the money for a while and then get it back in a lump sum.

Some of his friends made fun of him for letting the government use the money, but Buddy liked not having to worry about coming up with a large sum to pay his taxes if he shorted the quarterly payments. And getting the refund was nice. He’d always saved money, but this was just one more way of forced savings.

Buddy grabbed his hard hat out of habit, then smiled and hung it back up and picked up his Ditch Witch cap. He’d rented the one machine enough lately that the rental place had given him the cap and a pair of work gloves in appreciation. Though he owned the plumbing truck, rental rates were low enough compared to maintenance rates that he was better off renting some of the necessary equipment as he needed it than he was buying it.

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.

Jerry D Young -
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
(There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch - Robert A Heinlein) Kindle Author page

Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2013, 02:39:47 PM »
After checking the fuel gauges in the Chevy, Buddy decided to top off the fuel tanks on the way to the barbershop. He dropped off the tax documents first, and then drove down the street to the station he used. He rotated use of all three fuel tanks in the truck to keep the gasoline fresh.

The rear tank, where the spare tire originally went, was almost empty. It held thirty-six gallons. He put twenty-one in it to fill it. The other two tanks, a pair of twenty-gallon tanks, one on each side of the frame, were full. Buddy flipped the auxiliary/main switch to main, then the right/left switch to left. He’d run on the left tank until it was about empty, then fill it and switch to the right tank.

Buddy was whistling softly as he entered the barbershop. He grabbed the paper and took a seat. There would be a wait. The shop was full. His good mood moderated a bit when he saw the headlines. The Department of Homeland Security had shut down the airport again. And gasoline prices were still going up. The two fuel cans on the rack on the back of the truck were full, but it had been a while since he’d emptied and refilled them.

He’d do that while he was running on the left tank. It was time to check with the surplus place and see if they had any more of the cans in stock. There were two more at the house, in the shed, but he’d like to get a few more. But he wanted the good ones. Maybe another water can or two, as well, for the truck.

The barber had to call his name twice before Buddy looked up from the paper, then rose to go to the chair. “Sorry, Bobby. Got caught up in the paper.”

“It’s a mess, isn’t it?” Bobby, eighty, replied as he put the cloth around Buddy’s neck. “Gonna be worse than the depression and the big war combined, I’m a’thinkin’, when it happens this time.”

“You really think so?” Buddy asked. He respected Bobby. Bobby had gone through the depression, and then served in both World War Two and Korea. Lost a finger to frostbite in Korea, but it didn’t slow him down any as a barber. Buddy wondered sometimes why Bobby still worked. He knew he didn’t have to.

“Do for a fact. Do for a fact. Won’t live through this one, I’m a’thinkin’. Was a hellion in my day, but my day is over. First cold night we have without heat and I’m a goner. Yes sir’ee. A goner.”

You’re tough as nails,” protested Buddy.

“Not any more. Doc said it’s just a matter of time.”

One of the other barbers called over. “We’ve been trying to get him to retire and take it easy. He’s got that property up in the hills just waiting for him. Put in a manufactured home, and he’s set.”

“Not likely,” was Bobby’s reply. “With the interstate going the way it did, that place isn’t going to get any utilities for years. I bought it more for the investment than to ever use. Ain’t no way I’m going be up there with no utilities. I lived enough days in the field when I was in the service. It’ll be a nice rest home for me till the end comes.

“I’ll find some sucker that’ll give me what I paid for it and it’ll be someone else’s headache. Without the utilities going in and the limited access, no one in their right mind is going to develop that area. I just made a bad call on that place. ‘Bout the only one I ever did, I’m a’thinkin’. Yes sir’ee. ‘Bout the only one. So I got no regrets. One of these young’uns will want one of them off-grid lock things I hear about. I’ll sell it or let the estate sell it if I die first. My kids sure don’t want it.”

“You really serious about selling it, Bobby?” Buddy asked thoughtfully.

“Sure am. Had it listed now for a year. Nary a nibble. People just don’t want in the sticks any more. Take a jeep to get to it, the way it is. Went up there when I bought it. Found the best parcel, in my opinion, they had up there. View for miles, but still lots of trees. Good flat spot for a house. Small one, anyway. Wind blows like the dickens, though. Don’t like the wind much. Can’t hear enough around you when the wind blows. Wind almost got me killed three times. Once in Germany and twice in Korea. Don’t like the wind much.”

“I might just be interested in it. Would it be okay to go up and take a look at it this weekend?”

Bobby was putting the final touches on Buddy’s flattop. “I’ll cut you a deal, I will. I don’t aim to go up there, but I got all the particulars and I can let the real estate lady know. She might go up there with you, though I doubt it. I think she just took it ‘cause she felt sorry for me.” Bobby laughed. “Real politically correct gal, that one. Me being a disabled vet and all. And old.” Bobby waggled his fingers, the one obviously missing, and laughed.

“Long as I’ve got good directions and a map, I can find it,” Buddy replied.

“Well, sure thing,” said Bobby, brushing the loose hairs carefully from Buddy’s face and neck. “Stop by Saturday morn and I’ll have those directions for you.” He removed the cape and shook it free of hair as Buddy got out of the chair.

“I will, Bobby. Here you go.” Buddy handed Bobby the money and waved away the change, as always.

“Stop by the realtors, if you want and ask about the property. They can give you their version of the details.” He laughed. “Then me and thee can sit down and discuss it after you’ve looked at it.”

Buddy nodded. “That sounds good, Bobby. Thanks.”

One of the things he’d planned on doing when he’d met his financial goals was to obtain a piece of rural property. Like Bobby, he considered it an investment, but more importantly, a place to go if things really got bad. A retreat, so to speak.

Maybe a place to retire. But mostly just a place to get away for the next few years. He’d done a lot of camping when he was younger and he missed it. Hadn’t had much chance the last few years, with staying as busy as he could with the business, and saving money, and getting the things he’d wanted. Not much time for leisure. Nor much of a social life.

Buddy thought of Charlene. They were friends. Good friends. Had been since high school. He’d dated her off and on even then. She was a good woman. Straightforward, intelligent. Kind of pretty, though not a flashing beauty. That was partly why he was comfortable with her. They were pretty similar in a lot of ways. He had his plumbing business and she had that little curio shop. She did all right for herself.

Checking the traffic behind him, Buddy quickly turned into the first parking lot he came to. He wasn’t about to get a ticket, much less the hassles now attendant with using a cellular phone while you were driving. He called up Charlene. It took only a few moments to arrange to pick her up that evening for dinner.

Percy’s Mission - Chapter 6

Buddy was showered and dressed in plenty of time to pick up Charlene. He was glad he’d started early, for he decided to change into a suit, rather than the sport shirt and slacks he’d initially put on.

Having learned the hard way about suits, Buddy always got shirts and suits that fit properly. No need to suffer with a tight collar when there was no need. He adjusted the tie and flexed his arms in the suit jacket. He was quite comfortable.

Having worn a flattop hair cut for almost all of his life, and having experienced a sunburned scalp at one time, Buddy always wore a cap or a hat. When he wore what he considered to be his bank suit, he usually wore the snappy grey fedora with it. Unaware that he was whistling softly again, Buddy went out to the truck.

He usually preferred to drive, but when he got to Charlene’s and saw the nice dress she was wearing, he was both glad he’d worn the suit, and a bit concerned about needing to help Charlene in and out of the truck. The Chevy wasn’t like some of the trucks around where you needed a ladder to get in, but it did sport a two inch lift kit and had tires two sizes larger than stock.

“Uh… Charlene…” Buddy said a bit hesitatingly. “Would you mind if we took your car? I’m not sure I want to be helping you in and out of the truck with you in that skirt.”

Charlene just chuckled and said, “Why, thank you, Buddy. And we may certainly take my car. You can even drive if you want.”

“No. That’s okay. It’s your car. You should probably drive. And why did you thank me just now?”

Her dimples showing, Charlene smiled over at Buddy and said, “It was maybe a bit left handed, but I took it as a compliment. You didn’t want to embarrass me by seeing too much when I climbed in and out of the truck. Right?”

“Well… yeah… I guess so,” Buddy slowly admitted.

“Then two reasons. I’m flattered you think I’m attractive enough to want to look, and pleased that you don’t want to embarrass me.” The smile was now a grin. “Or embarrass yourself.”
A sheepish smile curved Buddy’s lips. “I guess you know me a bit too well.”

“Not too well,” Charlene replied, still smiling. “Where did you want to go?”

“I know you like Red Lobster. Let’s go there. I’m celebrating, and this is for you for helping me with the Barbarosa job.”

“You already thanked me. Lots of times,” replied Charlene. “You didn’t have to take me out to dinner, too.”

“I wanted to. You were a big help. Besides, we haven’t done anything in a long time, except for getting together for the job. I need to get out more. You should too, you know. You need to find someone. Start a relationship.”

“I’m working on it,” said Charlene, without looking over at Buddy.

“Oh. Really?” Buddy looked at her a bit uncertainly. “I… didn’t know you were seeing someone.”

“It’s just casual right now. But I have hopes.” Again she was careful not to look at him. She knew the sparkle in her eyes would probably give her away. He knew her pretty well, too.

As much as he wanted to, he didn’t ask any more questions. He certainly wanted to know more, but was afraid of the answers. He wanted the best for her, was having a bit of difficulty dealing with the fact that she had someone in her life. He was silent the rest of the way to the restaurant.

Seeing a birthday party group when they walked up to the door cheered him up. He couldn’t help but laugh at the antics of the children, waiting anxiously for a table to open. Apparently it was a very special treat for them to come here.

Besides, it was nice to have Charlene’s arm curled around his as they stood near the door waiting to be called. Buddy looked over at Charlene after a moment and asked, “You want something from the bar? No place to sit, but…”

“That would be nice. A glass of Chardonnay. I think I’ll wait here.”

“Smart woman,” Buddy responded with a grin. He had to work his way to the bar through the crowd. He was trying to remember when he’d been in and it wasn’t crowded. He couldn’t think of a time. But it was always worth it.

He wasn’t much of a drinker, but wine with dinner was nice, so he ordered the Chardonnay for himself, as well. He got all of it back to Charlene, though it had been a near thing.

They stood companionably, saying little, sipping the wine while they waited. It wasn’t all that long and they were escorted back to their booth. “We’re splurging tonight, so get whatever you want. I deposited the final check to day. I plan on having lobster.”

“It is Red Lobster, after all,” Charlene said, perusing the menu. “I think I’ll have the same, since you offered.” She closed the menu and set it aside. “Something is on your mind. I can tell. What’s going on?”

Buddy set his menu aside as well, then arranged his napkin and flatware. “You know I’ve been thinking about buying a piece of undeveloped property…”

Charlene nodded, and then took a sip of wine.

“Bobby, down at the barbershop, has some he wants to sell. I’m seriously considering it. Oh. After I take a look at it, of course. But getting something.”

“Going to sell the house and move?” Charlene asked, slightly dreading the answer.

“Not right away.” Buddy looked up as their server arrived. He didn’t see Charlene’s sigh of relief.

They were occupied for a few moments with the server, and then when she left, Charlene asked. “Just investment property, or something you want to develop eventually?”

“Partly for investment, but primarily to have a place outside the city and suburbs. I miss camping. I’m ready to get away from the hustle and bustle from time to time, now. I’m financially secure enough to do it. Though there are a couple more large expenditures I plan to make right away. But those two apprentice plumbers I hired have a lot of potential. I’ve got two more large jobs lined up that will give me a similar payoff to the one I just finished.

“I’m more comfortable now handling the purchases of some of the esoteric items people tend to want now, since you helped me recently.”

Quickly Charlene cut in. “You know I don’t mind helping, any time.”

“I know, and I appreciate it, Char. You didn’t just help me get what I needed, but taught me how to do it myself.”

Charlene nodded.

“If I get just a few more jobs like the last one, over the next couple of years, I will be able to get another truck and put a couple of guys to work, full time.”

“That’s wonderful, Buddy!” Charlene laid her hand on Buddy’s. He didn’t pull away.

“That’s what I plan on doing, but in the meantime, I don’t want to get myself in a bind, with the way things are going in the world now.”

The conversation was interrupted for a moment when their appetizer arrived. But Charlene picked up the thread as they began to eat. “I know what you mean, Buddy. I’m worried about things, too. I got hit with the rolling blackout just the other day. I’m glad you suggested storing water. I have some at the house and the shop.

“And I’m keeping at least two weeks of packaged food all the time now. That was good advice. It didn’t happen, but I thought about what could have when they shut down trucking for a day for security reasons. It was only one day, but when I went into the store that evening, the shelves were half empty.”

“I know,” replied Buddy. “The rolling blackouts haven’t affected me much. I’m usually not home when the residential ones happen in my neighborhood. But I went into the store that day, too. There was fighting over canned goods when the store, not knowing when they’d get another delivery, put limits on how much could be bought by one person at one time.”

“I think it will get worse,” Charlene said, watching Buddy carefully.

“So do I,” he said softly, his eyes on his plate for a moment. He lifted them and met Charlene’s rather intense gaze.

“That’s part of the reason I want to get the property. Have a place to go to if things get too crazy in the city.”

Charlene nodded. “I’ve thought about it some. I don’t know what I would do. Since my sister died, I don’t have any place to run to if things get that bad. I think I should make more preparations, but the FEMA stuff on line really doesn’t get into it all that deep. Would you be willing to help me get better prepared?”

Buddy didn’t hesitate. “Certainly. And don’t worry about a place to go. If I get the property, you’ll be welcome. I’ve always planned to have enough to take care of my family’s needs. There would be plenty for you, too.”

“Your brother isn’t making preparations?”

“No. I’ve tried. Betty is inclined, but he refuses to acknowledge the fact that the government might not be able to help everyone if things really do get bad. You know him. He’s a horse’s behind of the first order. But he is my brother, and Betty and the kids are good people. I still plan on having room for them, no matter what happens.”

Again Charlene’s hand went to his where it rested beside his plate. “You’re a good man, Buddy. I’m glad I know you and that we’re friends.”

This time he squeezed back, at least a little. “So am I, Charlene. And don’t worry too much about things. I’m planning on doing quite a bit more to be prepared. I’ll be glad to help you get ready, too.”

The rest of the meal was spent in lighter conversation as they enjoyed the food and service. When they got back to Charlene’s house, she asked Buddy, “Do you want to come in for a drink before you go?”

Buddy shook his head. “No. The wine was enough. I still have to drive home.”

“Coffee, then?”

“I have to be up early in the morning. I’m giving my proposal on the next project after the one I’m starting next week.” On impulse, he leaned forward and kissed Charlene on the cheek. “Thanks for going with me tonight. I had a nice time. You’re great company. And just figure out a good evening for you and I’ll come over and we can start planning on how to get you more ready for the future.”

“Okay, Buddy. I’ll do that. Good night.”

“Good night.”

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.
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Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
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Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2013, 01:58:54 PM »
Percy’s Mission - Chapter 7

Charlie groaned and rolled over, and then gathered the newspapers on which, and under which, he’d slept, back around him. He was cold. He’d lost his long wool overcoat two days previously when two other homeless men and a homeless woman had taken over the drain culvert he’d been using to sleep in for the most part of the winter. He’d been able to sneak back and get both of his stashes, but the woman had glommed the coat. It would have been a fight to get it back. One he knew he’d lose anyway.

At least spring was here, though it was hard to tell sometimes. The weather the last few years had been more unpredictable than usual. Maybe it was time for him to head somewhere down south. Though he really couldn’t tolerate high heat and humidity. Maybe in a year or two, if he didn’t find something soon.

Of course, he knew he wouldn’t. He really wasn’t even trying anymore. He’d cut back the drinking, but he hadn’t stopped. A good part of the money he made from odd jobs went for cheap booze. But he had been hanging on to some of it for emergencies. That’s why getting his stashes back had been so important.

He was always careful not to have all of his money, little as it was, in only one place, whether on him, or stashed.

“Might as well get up,” he thought. He wouldn’t go back to sleep now, anyway. The sun was up. At least it hadn’t rained. He would have had to leave the culvert if it had rained during the night, or drown.

Bones aching and ligaments and tendons popping, Charlie crawled out of the culvert and looked carefully around. Nothing stirring, except some birds. He had put out two rat traps the evening before and he decided to check them. Nothing in one, but the other had killed a pigeon. Breakfast.

It didn’t take long to set up his tin can stove and start a few sticks burning using newspaper as tinder. He contemplated his future as he grilled the pigeon breast. He took a drink from one of his two bottles of water. He’d been able to keep them filled from partially full ones he often found in trash bins.

Things were getting bad in the city. More homeless than ever, and they were getting meaner. So were the cops. Not much tolerance anymore. The shelters were full, and he’d had to shave his head and privates after the last time. He’d wound up with lice from the blanket in the shelter. He’d borrowed a pair of scissors, and used his last disposable razor to do it. At least he’d been able to take a shower afterwards, but he’d immediately left the shelter afterward and hadn’t been back.

Maybe along the border between the city proper and the ‘burbs. Enough city stuff to keep him fed and housed, but close to good handyman work. He checked his cash. The stash in the hidden pocket inside the sleeve of his jacket, above the elbow, held a twenty in a zip-lock sandwich bag.

He had three dollars in his wallet in his left hip pocket. He never kept much in his wallet in case he got rolled. But he always kept a little in the hope that they would take it and not search much more. There was a five in the bottom of his left shoe.

Two fives were wrapped around his hickory walking staff, hidden under the leather handgrip. A ten was folded and in the palm of his left hand, under the fingerless, skin tight, leather glove he wore to hide the burn scars on the back of that hand.

Not much, but more than what many had. He still had a half of a pint of whiskey in the pocket of his jacket and the water, but no other food left. The others had got what little he’d had when they chased him from his other spot. At least he’d had his bottle of vitamins in one of the stashes.

His kit was divided between two 5-gallon buckets that had once held drywall paste. He’d made a couple of bucks helping clean up that construction job, got the buckets with lids, and a perfectly good closet rod they were going to just throw away. One of the carpenters had drilled quarter-inch holes an inch from each end for him. He bought two quarter-inch J-bolts from a discount store, two extra nuts, four washers, four feet of light chain, and two S-hooks.

With the J-bolts mounted and the middle of the rod wrapped with cloth padding and duct tape, he had an over the shoulder carrier for the two buckets. Had to be a bit careful with his pace to keep the buckets from swinging on the chains and throwing him off balance, but it let him carry and use them easily.

There was a pretty decent set of Dickies tan work clothes in one bucket. It also contained an extra pair of underwear and a tee-shirt, and two pair of socks in a gallon zip-lock bag. That bucket also held his tin can stove when he wasn’t using it like now, a lidded pot, steak knife, spoon, a zip-lock with his small stash of toiletries, the bottle of vitamins, and one water bottle.

The other bucket contained the two rat traps, a small roll of duct tape, the other drinking water bottle, another pot, several pads of toilet paper in a zip-lock bag, a small box of zip-lock bags, coil of mechanic’s wire, multi-tip screwdriver, pair of water pump pliers, a very good carpenter’s hammer, and a hacksaw blade. There were a few odds and ends of screws, nails, and bolts. Another one-gallon zip-lock bag held his other change of underwear and socks, two bandanas, and a half roll of quarters for the Laundromat.

Along with the clothes he was wearing, a-bit-worse-for-wear set of Dickies work clothes, tee-shirt, insulated shirt, boxer shorts, insulated long handles, three pairs of socks, insulated gloves, stocking cap, heavy jacket, and boots, with a bandana around his neck and another one in his left hip pocket, and the contents of the buckets, were the sum of his worldly goods.

Fed, morning ablutions taken care of, and buckets repacked, destination in mind, Charlie headed out.

Percy’s Mission - Chapter 8

Edward Baumgartner had it made. A luxury SUV, a Mercedes sedan, and a Corvette. Paid off house with a pool. Money in the bank. In two banks. Both of which he owned. Of course, he did have a wife and two bratty kids. He grinned as he drove the SUV toward the bank that he considered his base of operations. There were other positives, though. His secretary was ambitious and beautiful. More importantly, she was willing to bargain her way up the ladder. He had a standing arrangement with her for a weekly frolic at an out of the way hotel.

His grin faded as he listened to the news. Things were getting bad. Maybe he should get out of some of his growth stocks and put the money in blue chips. T-bills, too. And that one teller, Angela, was always talking about being prepared. Like she was a boy scout or something. But still… He’d do a search on the internet and see what he could find.

When he saw the hobo walking along, looking like a coolie without the hat, checking trash receptacles as he went, Edward frowned. This was a decent part of town. They didn’t need his kind around. Along with the other things he planned for the day, he would write a letter-to-the-editor of the paper and give his opinion on the situation. It was important for people like him to help keep a handle on the goings-on in the area.

He winked at Courtney as he went past, and then frowned at Angela. There were two people standing with her and they were looking at some kind of catalog. Probably one of her survival equipment catalogs.

Edward changed course and headed for the three. Things were set up for opening time, but he couldn’t let them just stand around like slackers. “I’ll take that. You can have it back after work. All of you find something to do until opening.”

Angela didn’t protest. She knew it wouldn’t do any good. She was looking for work at another bank, but things were pretty tight. The pay was decent here, the working conditions were good, and her workmates were great, except for Mr. Baumgartner and Courtney. She sighed and went to count the money, again, in the till at her teller station.

Dropping the catalog on his desk, Edward went around the desk and sat down. In moments his computer monitor was up. He checked the banks accounts for the night’s transfers. Everything was fine. After a look at the clock on the wall, he got up again and made his usual inspection of the bank just before opening.

By ten he’d taken care of all the routine business and nothing special had come up. He picked up the catalog he’d put on his credenza when he was working on bank business. It was a survival equipment catalog. Edward noted that it was listed as preparedness items, but he knew they really meant that survivalist nonsense.

He thumbed through it, stopping here and there as particular items caught his eye. Edward noted a year supply of food for a family of four and whistled. But he thought about it for a moment, mentally calculating how much they spent in a year on food. Not that much difference, he decided. Something to think about. It was getting hard to find some items when he wanted them. He’d had to get on to his wife more than once for not bringing home the foods he liked on what was now a regular basis.

Of course he knew he was too smart to fall for the ads. No way it would be as good as the pictures looked. But still… He tossed the catalog aside and turned to the computer. He pulled up the internet search engine he used and typed survival and shelter into the search bar.

He was amazed at the number of entries that came back. Pages of them. Suddenly one particular one caught his eye and he clicked on the link. This had to be what that banker from Tennessee had been talking about at the last convention to which he’d gone. Edward had forgotten about that until he saw the company name.

The man said he’d bought one of the pre-packaged shelter deals. If he remembered correctly, several of the other bankers had expressed an interest. Maybe this might be the thing to do. If other bankers were doing it, there had to be some merit in it. He’d hate to go to a conference and have to admit he’d prepared for a financial emergency, but not a physical one. “Hum…”

Courtney buzzed him and Edward went back to the bank’s business.

Percy’s Mission - Chapter 9

The three weeks went quickly for Percy. Aside from helping get the Bluhms settled, and working on the grant paperwork, Percy also kept busy working in the greenhouses on spring harvest. Two of the roadside trailer stands were set up on the weekends and Percy hired four high school kids to staff them. Many locals looked forward to Percy’s early produce every spring.

Percy was tired that Monday evening in late April. He had worked the day as usual, giving the others the extra day off after all the hard work they’d all been doing. Everything was going well, but even with the automated systems, caring for all the animals for two days was still a strain.

He ate a small potpie that Mattie had left prepared for him. Percy ate in the den, watching the news channels. Halfway through the chicken potpie, Percy quit eating, his attention taken by the news report from the disputed border area between India and Pakistan.

The conflict was worsening. There were exchanges between ground troops now, in addition to the artillery exchanges. As yet, no air strikes, but Percy figured that was just a matter of time.

Reports from Germany were continuing to show strong nationalistic bent. The talk of withdrawing from the European Union was stronger than ever. It seemed the talks of individual treaties with Poland and Czechoslovakia were coming to fruition. New talks were beginning with Hungary. US forces were being isolated from the German population, with new restrictions on fraternization being imposed.

France seemed to be going back to the imperialistic expansion ideal from the turn of the previous century. Many of the former French colonies were having troubles. France was sending troops to many of them, apparently not just to assist in keeping the peace. They were not requesting UN help for the efforts and were taking steps to emplace French rule it seemed to many in the international community.

There were talks in the UN about both situations. Great Britain played only a small role. With their new energy independence because of the oil fields in the North Sea, they were becoming somewhat isolationist. There was a move to bring as many of her subjects back to the islands as they could persuade.

The British Navy was in a building phase, with many of the current vessels being used as convoy escorts as the trade between Great Britain and other nations was more and more being conducted with British merchant marine vessels only. With the problems of piracy and terrorism, the ships needed protection.

There had been several confirmed reports of a rogue submarine preying on shipping in the South Pacific. It was still not known from which country the submarine originated. No country admitted to the defection of any submarine crews. The rogue was stopping lone ships on the high seas. They were taking over the ship and selling the cargos in the small ports of the Pacific. So far, no ships had been sunk, but a few crews had been massacred when they tried to resist.

When the news was over, Percy turned on the computer in the den and pulled up the lists of emergency supplies he had on hand. All the items were up to the levels he had kept for years. The items were all used in rotation, the oldest being used as new stocks were added to the stores. For essentially everything they used that they didn’t produce themselves Percy maintained a minimum of a six month supply. He decided to extend that time to a year, minimum.

By the time he went to bed that evening, Percy had a long shopping list. The next morning he went to see the Bluhms. They were doing some minor medical work at the old clinic, but the facilities weren’t the best. They were seeing people in the old clinic three days a week, and then working at the county hospital in the city two days a week taking care of patients they couldn’t treat in the clinic, which were many.

Percy talked to the couple for a long time. By the time he left and headed for the city, he’d arranged with them to allow him to stock an extensive line of medications, almost a small pharmacy, at the estate. In addition to the medications, they were willing to have him stock some tools and equipment for their use, in case of emergencies. Percy gave them permission to check on the status of all of it at any time, so they would know he wasn’t using any of the items. They were strictly for the doctors’ use in emergencies.

He’d done something similar with his regular doctor in the city, but to a much lesser extent. The pharmacist wasn’t that surprised when Percy took in the prescriptions to have them filled. While that was being done, Percy filled a cart with the over-the-counter items the two doctors had recommended.

Percy added a few choices of his own, plus plenty of standard first aid supplies. He already had an extensive first aid kit, trauma kit, and what he called his Only-Aid aid kit, at the estate. Each licensed vehicle had extensive first aid and trauma kits as well as a pair of ten-pound fire extinguishers. Bernard was a trained extinguisher service technician. There were supplies and equipment in the equipment barn to refill the extinguishers in the vehicles, and the others placed around the estate.

When he stopped at the medical supply shop, they wouldn’t fill the prescriptions for the dozen bottles of medical oxygen, two sets of regulators and masks, and two oxygen concentrators. It took a few calls, but when Jock had called the hospital and the hospital administrator had called the supply house, Percy was finally able to pay for the items and arrange for delivery to the estate.

Percy included a few items that didn’t require prescriptions, which the shop was happy to sell him when they saw that it was a legitimate sale for the oxygen supplies. Very happy. Percy dropped a bundle on medical equipment. If things went well, he’d just donate it to the clinic when it was finished and write the expense off on his taxes.

Feeling a bit better, Percy headed for one of the big discount stores, saw the nearly full parking lot and changed his mind. “This would be a good job for Mattie, Susie, and the twins,” Percy muttered to himself. Having decided to let the others do some of the shopping, Percy impulsively went by the state building to see Sara. She was delighted to go to lunch with him and insisted on paying, despite his strong protest.

Mattie looked at him strangely when he entered the house that evening, whistling cheerfully. “You sound cheerful, boss. What’s going on?”

“Hey,” protested Percy. “I’m cheerful a lot. You make it sound like it’s a rare occasion.”

“You’re avoiding the issue.”

“Well, if you must know, I accomplished a few things in the city and had lunch with Mrs. McLain.”

Mattie smiled. “Well good for you. What should I expect to be getting delivered?”

“How do you know I ordered anything for delivery?” Percy asked.

“You’re on another buying jag. Because of the news. I remember what happened when the first Gulf War started. You did the same thing.”

Percy had to acknowledge the truth of the statement. He’d had similar feelings of possible trouble at the time and nothing had come of it. They’d just rotated the extra supplies through the normal course of consumption until the stocks were back to the normal six-month supply. He’d started the bee barn and orchard barn at that time, come to think of it, Percy thought.

“I guess you’re right,” he said. “You know me too well, Mattie. Uh… Try not to give all my secrets away to Sara, okay?”

Mattie’s mouth dropped open in surprise. That sounded like Percy was actually getting serious about Sara McLain. He was out the door before she could think of anything to say.

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.
Jerry D Young -
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
(There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch - Robert A Heinlein) Kindle Author page

Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2013, 11:57:36 AM »
Percy went out and looked around the property. He’d always meant to have another barn and shop. The equipment barn was relatively full now and it’d be nice to have a larger shop area. There was space between the product barn and the equipment barn. Also over by the animal barn. “It wouldn’t hurt to have a utility barn to use for whatever,” Percy said aloud.

Percy went back to the house and into the den. It took only a single call to order the two reinforced concrete dome structures. Another call got a promise from David Reynolds to start moving sand, gravel, and dirt from his pit to the estate. It would be used to build up the areas slightly, then mound over the dome structures when they were completed. Like the other structures on the estate, a large walled patio would be built atop the mounded over buildings to provide additional useable space.

Percy made another call, this one to a concrete supplier in the city. He ordered enough sections of pedestrian underpass to connect the new buildings to the existing tunnels that ran between all the buildings. He’d get the trenches dug and the tunnels installed before work began on the domes. It wouldn’t take long, or much in materials. One tunnel would tee off the tunnel to the equipment barn and the other would tee off the tunnel between the animal barn and the bulk storage barn.

There was no problem getting the financing for the estate additions. Percy had great credit and he was only financing half the cost, as he usually did, for this type of major project. Just a call to the bank whose turn it was this time to get the business and the papers were going to be prepared for his signature the next day.

Percy began the site preparation that day. He attached the big backhoe to one of the Unimogs and had Bernard attach the hoe for the Bobcat. Between them, they had the trenches for the tunnels dug by that evening. There was still a small stockpile of sand from the last project and he and Bernard dismounted the backhoes and attached buckets to the machines. The next morning they had a bed of sand in place when the first sections of the pedestrian underpass arrived.

Jim Hanson had taken one of the Unimogs with the stake bed on it to pick up drainpipe and several bags of Quikrete. They installed it along each side of the tunnel sections and tied it into the existing pipe system that drained off any water from around the tunnels to minimize the chance of leaks. The joints of the sections of tunnel were sealed with bitumen, but Percy wanted them as dry as possible.

The tunnels, besides being access from one structure to another during severe weather, was a conduit for the cabling that linked them with power, phone, computer, intercom, and video. Each structure had its own set of environmental sensors for temperature, humidity, and such. The information was available at any of the networked computers the estate boasted.

Sensors mounted on one of the antenna towers sent data to a central weather station, also tied into the computer, to collect site weather information. The towers also carried, besides the television, business band, shortwave, and amateur radio antennas, four cameras mounted to give three hundred sixty degree views of the estate from each of the three sixty foot tall freestanding towers. Those images, like the environmental data, were viewable on any of the estate’s computers.

Bernard and Percy back filled the trenches around the tunnel sections as they were installed, using sand against the tunnels for the drainage and with the rest of each lift of fill the dirt that had been excavated from the trench. Percy had Bernard using the 5600T with a bucket for backfilling while he used a Unimog. Jim used the A300 Bobcat with a sheep’s foot roller to compact the backfill.

It didn’t take long to build the forms around the ends of the tunnels to form the entrances into the new buildings and the joints to the existing pipe. They had the old forms from previous building projects.

Using the concrete mixer attachment mounted to the A300, they mixed the Quikrete with water and poured it in the prepared forms at the tunnel junctions. They would be allowed to set for two days before the forms were removed and that section of the trench backfilled. The entrance sections would be poured when the small partial basements and the floors were poured for the domes.

The next day they stripped the topsoil from the areas the new structures would occupy and stockpiled it nearby. They used the material that David Reynolds began delivering to build up the areas to two feet higher than the natural ground level. A little water was sprayed onto the fill and Jim ran the A300 with the compactor over and over each four-inch layer that was laid down.

By the time the dome builders arrived a week later, the sites were ready for their forms for the perimeter ring and floor. Percy had a carpenter come out and install the forms for the small basement rooms that connected with the tunnels.

The ready mix company delivered and poured the necessary concrete. It would be another week before the dome bladder could be attached to the perimeter ring and inflated, in preparation for blowing on the foam insulation. Rebar would be attached to the foam, and then shotcrete would be blown onto the rebar until the dome was complete. The dome builders would leave and Percy would have crews come in to finish the interiors while he and his hands mounded the dome with earth.

Another crew would install the four-foot high patio walls and the slab when the dome was covered, and then Percy would add more earth up to the tops of the top patio walls. It went pretty much as planned, except Percy had David Reynolds do quite a bit of the earthwork. He and the hands were too busy with truck farm business to finish the project as quickly as Percy wanted it done.

By the end of May, the basic structures were finished. Percy found himself at a slight loss as to how to finish them out. He did decide to move the shop from the Equipment Barn to the one dome, expanding its scope in the process. The other structure, with things a bit more stable on the world political scene and the weather behaving more or less normally, Percy decided to simply paint the interior and leave it as it was for the moment. The fixtures for the large bathroom were installed and electrical outlets and lights were added near the entrance panel, but that was the limit to the additions.

Construction was well under way on the new clinic and the Bluhms new house. Percy checked on them from time to time and had the Bluhms over at least once every two weeks to get an update on things.

He was beginning to feel a little foolish by the middle of June. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened and he had huge stocks of pretty much everything, a new empty barn, and a fantastic new shop, with more room in the equipment barn than the vehicles required.

Percy was being both lauded and joked about. He was accustomed to the joking. The praise about his contribution to the clinic was not so familiar. The Bluhms made no bones about the fact that they and the clinic wouldn’t be, if it hadn’t been for Percy.

Despite all that, Percy didn’t allow his level of preparation to go back to where it had been. He kept buying at the same levels as he had before, including fuel, keeping the diesel tanks topped off at almost ten thousand gallons of red, untaxed diesel, and a thousand gallons of clear, taxed diesel, in each of the tank farms. They continued to buy household and estate goods at the usage levels, keeping the level of the stocks where they were.

The tank semi trailers were finally delivered, after a delay due to material shortages. As summer came and the droughts started, Percy hired Andrew Buchanan to take one of the trailers to a town across the state with a load of potable water for the residents when their well gave out. Andy stayed in the area and shuttled water for two weeks until a new well, already under construction, was finished. Andy made it back in time for the Fourth of July ribbon cutting dedication ceremony and open house for the clinic.

With the help of Sara, Jock, and, Melissa, Tom finally convinced Percy to make a short speech at the dedication. It was a very short speech. It surprised a few people, not for its shortness, which was expected, but for its eloquence. The main reason Percy had done what he had wasn’t mentioned at all, preparedness in terms of the global situation. Instead, he spoke of small town cohesiveness, family values, and the pleasantness of small town life.

Good a speech as it was, it probably wouldn’t have been a standing ovation, except everyone was standing outside the entrance to the clinic, anyway. The clinic wasn’t finished, but the building was. Some additional equipment required installation, but that was all for the clinic to be ready. There had been a concerted effort to get the clinic finished in time for the Fourth of July Celebration. A brand new big-city-style shuttle van with a wheelchair lift was parked in front of the clinic.

Percy had been instrumental in getting the grant that paid for it, as well as one that helped finance the clinic. He might still be able to retire in another year or so. The trust could be dissolved in a year.

Susie brought up the team of Clydesdales, hooked to the decked out farm wagon, and Tom, the doctors, Percy, Sara, and a handful of the city council and clinic committee members rode back to town in it, with Susie driving. When they arrived back in town, the wagon led the Fourth of July parade from that side of town to the town’s park.

Percy took the team and wagon back to the estate rather early. He wanted to see the news. A report he’d heard when he was getting ready for the dedication had him worried again. There’d been nothing on the satellite radio news station, but it had sounded serious.

It was. When the wagon and horses were put away, Percy hurried into the house to check the news. It was India and Pakistan again. The skirmishes had not been going well for Pakistan. They had issued an ultimatum for India to withdraw from the border area and resume talks to resolve the issue. So far, India had not responded to the implied threat of the use of nuclear weapons in the conflict.

Mattie, Susie, and Sara showed up a few minutes later. Percy was already back outside, checking the estate’s state of preparation. The city TV station was forecasting severe thunderstorms for that evening and night. This was the first chance of heavy rains since early spring and Percy wanted the gates open on the irrigation canals to collect all the rainwater in the system that he could. The pond was almost empty. They’d used the wells the last time the fields needed irrigation.

“Are you all right?” Sara asked Percy when he came back into the house, her hand going to his upper arm, her eyes searching his face.

He forced a smile. “You know I don’t like giving speeches like that. Come on, let’s cut that watermelon I’ve had on ice for two days. It should be a prizewinner. The crops are doing well this year, despite the drought conditions.”

Sara could tell he wasn’t being completely open with her, but she let it pass. They’d become closer over the past few months. He’d open up to her fully one of these days.

Concerned about the weather, Percy rushed Sara off back to the city early that afternoon. She had to work the next day. As always, now, he topped off the fuel tank of her car. Mattie and Susie drifted over to their cottage a bit earlier than planned when Percy went out to take care of the animals for the night after Sara left.

“He’s worried about something, isn’t he?” Susie asked her mother as they entered the two-bedroom earth sheltered dome home they’d lived in since Susie was a baby.

“Yes. Did you see anyone say anything to him at the dedication or the park?”

Susie shook her head. “He seemed to be having a good time. I was a little surprised he came back as early as he did. He was having a good time giving rides to the kids with the team and wagon. Everybody loves those Clydesdales.”

Mattie had turned the TV on when they entered the house. “Uh-oh,” she said softly. “I think I know what has him upset.” She motioned to the TV and turned up the sound with the remote.

The two watched a similar report to that Percy had seen. They exchanged a look after the report was over. “I’m glad we live here on the estate, Mother,” Susie said. “I feel safe here. I never thought about it much those other times.”

“Yeah,” Mattie said, pulling her daughter in for a hug like they hadn’t shared for a long time. “Me, too.”

Before Percy turned in that evening, he checked the news channels again. Things didn’t look any better. He wracked his brain for additional preparations he could make. He couldn’t think of any. He was as prepared as he knew how, for whatever might come. “Natural or manmade,” he said aloud as he climbed into bed.

Percy’s Mission - Chapter 10

Calvin knew the proposal he’d but together for the bank was a good one. He should know. He looked at similar proposals nearly every day. It was part of his job at the bank where he worked. Of course, to avoid any chance of a conflict of interest, though he had an account at the bank where he worked, he went to the other bank he used for the loan. Knowing the banking system, he always kept two bank accounts. Each bank had to be under completely different ownership.

He definitely knew how to put things in the best light, which he did, while keeping everything very straightforward and above board. It took only three days to get the initial okay from the initial loan officer, but it would have to go up a step, since the amount was large.

Apparently his and Nan’s backgrounds checked out. So did the worth of the equipment. Nan told him that the bank had called and talked to Mr. Anderson for quite some time one day. The loan was approved and the money deposited in the account he kept in that bank. A few more days and the equipment was ordered.

Since they would be using it mostly in town, and the road was marginal to their place, Calvin had it delivered to the Anderson equipment yard. The delivery driver unloaded the Bobcats, and then used the A300 to unload the attachments.

The Unimog was delivered the very next day by another truck. The same procedure was used. The lift arms were already in place on the Unimog. The driver used it to unload the attachments he’d ordered with the truck. The other attachments showed up one at a time over the next few days.

Mr. Anderson tried not to show his wonder at the equipment, but was not entirely successful as Calvin tried everything out the weekend after the major pieces had arrived. Everything worked as advertised. They used the A300 with backhoe to install a septic system for one of Mr. Anderson’s regular customers. The Toolcat was used to do the backfill work. The Unimog pulled the equipment trailer with the two Bobcats and associated equipment without a problem.

The branch of the bank where Calvin worked was closed for the scheduled rolling blackout. Calvin took advantage of the weekday and he, Nan, and Mr. Anderson made some major improvements on the road, particularly the stretch from their house to the section on which the Calhoun’s would provide some maintenance.

Calvin and Nan had talked it over and decided they didn’t want it too easy for people to get to their place. As long as the road was passable, that was all they wanted, at least on the county road end.

Even though he’d used it only a few times, Mr. Anderson quickly mastered the A300 and the other two pieces of equipment. Nan had picked up the nuances quickly, as well. It was early afternoon when they called it quits and drove the equipment back to the house.

“You did good, boy,” Mr. Anderson told Calvin as the parked the equipment. “You too, missy. We got more work done today… good work… than I could have done with my equipment in a week. You made a good choice.”

“Thank you, Mr. Anderson,” replied Calvin. “I appreciate your help on this. Why don’t you call your wife and tell her that Nan and I are taking the two of you out for dinner in town.”

“Well, that would be nice. Diner has fried catfish and hushpuppies as the special tonight. It’s always pretty good, considering how far we are from a good catfish river.”

“That sounds just fine to us,” Nan replied. “We’ll meet you there, say about five?”

“That’ll be good. Yep. You did good, boy.”

With a wave Mr. Anderson climbed into his beat up old Dodge and headed back to town.

Nan put her arms around Calvin’s neck and leaned in against him. “Going pretty good, I’d say,” she said. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

“I certainly would. I knew intellectually how well things should work, but the last couple of weeks have been an eye opener. There is a huge amount of work available for the equipment. Things that Mr. Anderson never bothered to do since he didn’t have a good way to do them. There is going to be plenty of work to keep us busy, especially with the woodlot thinning business.”

“Why don’t you put in for shorter hours now? I know we weren’t going to do that ‘til next spring, but with what we’ve seen, I think it will be okay.”

Calvin kissed her, his hands on her hips, before he replied. “I think you’re right. And I want to help Mr. Anderson. His health is a lot worse than I realized.”

This time Nan kissed Calvin. “Good. That’s settled. Let’s get cleaned up and get ready to go into town.

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.
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Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
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Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2013, 09:11:33 PM »
Percy’s Mission - Chapter 11

Buddy was surprised when Charlene called him early Saturday morning. “I don’t have anything planned today, Buddy. I was wondering if you wanted some company when you go up to see the property.”

“I hadn’t thought about it. But sure, if you want to. I don’t mind. I’ll pick you up in a little while.”

Charlene smiled when she hung up the phone. Her part time clerk had been willing to work one Saturday. The emphasis on one. It took her only a few minutes to dress in jeans and a flannel shirt and her walking shoes. She grabbed a light jacket and hurried out when Buddy honked his horn.

She had no trouble clambering up into the truck on the passenger side. As she belted herself in Buddy said, “Have to stop at the barbershop to get the directions. I got a map from the realtor, but she wasn’t much help otherwise. I don’t think she cares if it is sold or not.”

“Who is the realtor?” Charlene asked.

When Buddy told her she frowned. “That’s who I bought my house through. They weren’t very good, in my opinion.”

“I sure wouldn’t use them,” Buddy said. When they pulled up in front of the barbershop Buddy parked the truck and said, “It’ll just be a minute. I’ll be right back.” He hopped out of the truck and went into the barbershop.

It took three minutes rather than one, but Charlene didn’t mind. Buddy had a sheaf of papers in his hand when he re-entered the truck. He handed the papers to Charlene to look through as he headed out of town.

“Thirty-seven point three acres,” Charlene said. “That’s a pretty large piece of property. “You really want something that big?”

“If it’s mostly wooded, yeah, I think so. It is going to depend on exactly what the land is like. I know basically what I want. I’ll just have to see what the property looks like and if I can do what I want with it.”

They rode in silence for a while, Charlene reading the next set of directions when Buddy asked. They left the city on the state road, then another, then onto a paved county road. They had been climbing slowly as they went. When they turned onto the graveled county road the climb became steeper for the most part, though there were ups and downs.

“That must be it,” Charlene said, pointing to a rather substantial gate in the fence that paralleled the road on their left. The gate was set back somewhat from the road to allow room to pull in and stop to get out and open the gate. Charlene handed Buddy the key that had been in an envelope that was part of the packet.

He came back to the truck without opening the gate. When Charlene rolled down the window Buddy told her, “Locks rusted solid. Bobby thought it might be. It’s a cheap lock. He said to cut it and just bolt it back up. The land owner will need to put another on.”

“This isn’t where Bobby’s land starts?”

“Oh, no. Look at that next page of directions.” Buddy went to the tool box in the back of the truck and took out a pair of bolt cutters.

When he passed the window on his way back to the gate Charlene told him, “I see what you mean. We still have a ways to go.”

Buddy nodded, and then went to cut the lock. When he had the gate open he looked back and motioned to Charlene. She quickly moved over to the driver’s seat and drove the truck through the gate opening. She changed back to the passenger seat as Buddy closed the gate and wrapped the chain around the post, fastening a long bolt through the end links and tightening it finger tight.

It was only a few moments more and Buddy had put the bolt cutters away and was back behind the wheel of the truck. “Okay,” he said, “Let me take a look at that last page of directions again.”

Buddy studied the handwritten directions, looking up occasionally at the heavily wooded hills before them. “Okay,” he said, “I see the first landmark.” He pointed to a dead tree leaning against another still growing tree. “We jog north just past that dead tree. When we get there, remind me again what the next landmark is.” He handed the directions back to Charlene.

There was a hint of a pair of tracks leading to that first landmark, but by the third landmark they had faded to nothing. Even with Charlene acting as navigator and helping watch for the landmarks, they had to backtrack twice before they got to the Bobby’s property line. Some of the way had been over grassy terrain, but much of it was bare earth with outcroppings of rocks. The truck had no difficulty with the terrain.

Bobby had insisted on a survey when he bought the property and one of the benchmarks was obvious when they got there. Buddy found a decent place to park and stopped the truck. The two got out and looked around. There wasn’t that much to see. They had come through a stand of trees, the path just wide enough for Buddy to navigate. All they could see was the small open area and the trees around it.

With yet another sheet of paper in hand, this one the plot of the property, Buddy pointed toward what might be another open area in the trees ahead and started in that direction, up a slight grade. Charlene quickly moved up to his side, zipping her jacket as she went. It was cool in the forest.

When they stepped into that next clearing both stopped. The clearing was large and nearly flat. They had to scramble up several feet to get on the meadow proper. Though there was a thin layer of soil that supported grass, it was obvious trees couldn’t grow. There were outcroppings of rock all over.

Though the site was relatively flat, as they journeyed across, it was quickly obvious they were on a slope. When they reached the tree line of the other side of the meadow both turned around. “Oh, my!” Charlene exclaimed softly.

“Yeah,” agreed Buddy. Almost due south of where they stood, past the drop off, the land fell away quickly. The tree tops were below their line of sight, exposing the vista of the distant river and the city built on both sides of it. A couple of distant small towns were discernable, as was a long stretch of the interstate.

“Is that… is that the gate?” Charlene asked, pointing off along the left edge of the low tops of the trees.

“I don’t know. Maybe.” Buddy took a pair of compact binoculars from his jacket pocket. “I can’t believe it! That is the gate. Man, you have good eyes.” He handed the binoculars to Charlene.

Charlene smiled as she took a look through the binoculars.

“Get a little higher and you could see the first hundred yards or so of the trail, as well as the gate and the stretch of road. Man. And look at this southern exposure. And the trees all around. Plenty of firewood for years if it’s managed well. This looks great! What do you think?”

Buddy’s enthusiasm was catching. It was beautiful up here, for sure. She didn’t realize they had climbed so high until she’d seen the vista. “It is beautiful. I’m not 100% sure exactly what you were looking for, but you sure seem like you found it.”

“Too true.” Buddy turned and went into the stand of trees to the north. There should be another boundary marker somewhere in this direction. Charlene handed Buddy the binoculars and strode beside him as he roamed over the acreage.

She was tired, but exhilarated when they got back to the truck. Buddy had exclaimed about feature after feature of the terrain. It really was pretty, but that had been the least of Buddy’s concerns it was now obvious.

Buddy turned the truck around and they headed home. “I know it wouldn’t be suitable for most people, what with the lack of good access and utilities, but it has almost everything I want. For me, it would be worth double what it’s listing for. I’ll gladly pay the asking price.”

“Good,” replied Charlene. “I’m glad it’s what you were looking for. I must say, I haven’t been up in the mountains for a long time. I’d forgotten how much cooler it could be up this high. And doesn’t the snow hang around well into summer up here? I’m still trying to picture what it looks like here from the city.”

“Snow does hang around longer due to the altitude, but it’s on the other side of this range that really holds it, because it’s the north side. This south facing slope gets lots of sunshine. And Bobby was right about the wind. It’ll be perfect for a wind-powered generator. Solar panels, too, eventually. Photovoltaic panels, I mean. I’d build solar panels for space heating and water heating initially.

Charlene sat quietly, responding to Buddy as needed from time to time as he explained what he wanted to do with the property. It was late in the afternoon when they got back to the city. Buddy had brought along a couple of canteens, so they’d had water, but they were both very hungry when they got to town.

Buddy dropped off the papers at the barbershop. Bobby only worked a couple hours in the morning on Saturdays so he was long gone. When Buddy got back into the truck he looked over at Charlene and said, “I’m starving. You want to stop and get something to eat at The Steakhouse?”

“Sure,” Charlene replied, content to spend the time with Buddy.

Percy’s Mission - Chapter 12

Charlie took the ten dollars from the grounds man at the country club golf course. He’d helped him rebuild a storage shed on the back nine. He’d seen the ad for the job on the community bulletin board at the grocery store where he’d restocked a few food items with his small amount of cash.

There was a construction site nearby in which he’d found several large drainage pipes stacked out of the way with some pallets of stuff stacked at one end. There was a gap in the fence they didn’t seem too anxious about, so he’d started sleeping in one of the pipes. There were chemical toilet huts on site so he had a good bathroom. He was careful to only be around after hours. He left before the guys came to work and went back after they left.

The YMCA wasn’t too far away and he’d been able to get a shower and change into his good clothes before he went to the golf course. He carried one of his buckets with the few tools he had in it. It was a long shot that paid off. The grounds man had seen his professional grade hammer and hired him for the job.

“Charlie, why don’t you come back tomorrow. I’ve got a couple more projects I could use some help with until my helper gets over the flu.”

“Sure, Mr. Cunningham. I’d be proud to. Thank you.”

“Okay then. I’ll see you in the morning. I’ll let the gateman know you’re coming so there won’t be a problem at the gate. Oh. You won’t need your tools tomorrow. We’ll be using the course’s stuff.”

“Okay, Boss. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Charlie’s steps lagged when he saw the man waiting near the drainage pipes. Maybe he would at least let Charlie get some of his stuff. Charlie stopped a few feet away from the man, in case he tried something. Charlie would have a better chance of getting away with some distance between them.

The man dropped his cigarette to the ground and put it out with his boot. “You the one been staying here?”

The light was beginning to fade, but the man could see Charlie nod. “How long?” the man asked, hitching up his pants.

Charlie got ready to run. “A week. I’ll get my stuff and get out of here. I don’t want any trouble.”

“You take anything?”

Tense, still ready to drop the bucket and run, Charlie shook his head. “No sir. I’m not a thief. I’m homeless but no thief. I even worked today. Out at the golf course.”

“I see. You seen anyone else hanging around when we’re not here?”

“No sir.”

“How long you plan on being here?”

Charlie watched the man for a few moments. “If there wasn’t any trouble I was planning on moving on when they got ready to install the pipes.”

The man nodded and lit up another cigarette. “I’m not going to give you a hard time. But if anything turns up missing I’m gonna be on you like a duck on a June bug. You understand me?”

“Yes sir. Thank you. But I better just get my stuff and go. I don’t want to be in the middle of trouble if something does turn up missing. That’s not unusual in an operation like this.” Charlie began to gather the few things he left in the pipe each day.

“Wait. You’re right, I guess,” the man said. “Look. Just don’t cause any trouble and I’ll leave you alone. I can’t guarantee about anyone else, especially the cops, but nobody here will hassle you if you don’t cause the problem.”

“Wow!” Charlie said softly. “Thanks, man.” He held out his hand.

After a moment the man took it in a firm handshake. “I’m Clyde. Keep your nose clean and there won’t be any problems. Keep a low profile. I can’t say my bosses would do the same.”

“You’ll barely know I’m around,” Charlie replied.

Clyde turned and headed for his pickup truck, parked just outside the gate of the security fence.

Percy’s Mission - Chapter 13

Having another period of free time, Edward went to the website he’d been in before. He whistled when he saw the costs of the various shelter systems. It wasn’t like he couldn’t afford it. He could. But it was still a lot of money for something that would probably never be used. Though, with the things he’d been seeing in the news lately, that thought was changing significantly.

When he’d talked to the Tennessee banker, after finally recalling his name, the man had said he had purchased a top of the line six-person model. Edward frowned as he studied the specifications on the computer screen. The six-person would certainly work for him. It was only him, his wife, and the two kids. Even if he took in Courtney... Still… The other bankers weren’t anywhere near as well off as Edward. Edward owned two banks and was having a new branch built. The others only owned, at best, one bank. Most were actually just mangers at small independent chain banks.

Edward started to smile. His wife Emily would have a cow when Courtney showed up, if anything ever happened. But that scene would be minor when Doc Cutter and his wife showed up. He played golf with the doctor nearly every week. The last time they’d played, much of the discussion had been about the goings-on in the world.

Doc lived in a luxury apartment building downtown. Edward had been trying to get him to transfer at least a portion, if not all, of the man’s inheritance from the bank he was using to one or both of Edward’s. With the man’s concern about everything, he might just be willing to transfer some of his millions for a spot in the shelter.

Emily despised both the doctor and his wife. “She’ll just have to have two cows,” Edward thought to himself as he grinned. One for Courtney and one for the Cutters. “The ten-person, deluxe, with all the extras,” Edward said aloud. He began entering the information on the website to get an official quote.

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments section, not here with the story. Thank you.
Jerry D Young -
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
(There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch - Robert A Heinlein) Kindle Author page

Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2013, 03:19:38 PM »
Percy’s Mission - Chapter 14

They didn’t feel the effect of storms much in the earth-sheltered buildings they lived in and worked in, but it was obvious when Percy went out the next morning that they were in the middle of a bad storm.

He ran over to the equipment barn to see if the hands were there. They were, dry and secure. Bob Hansen grinned at him. “You’re all wet, boss,” he said, stating the obvious.

“Yeah,” Bernard said. “Why didn’t you use the tunnel? We did. That rain is cold!”

“Next time,” Percy replied resettling his hat on his head. He’d had to grab it when he ran over. The wind was wicked. Looking out one of the open equipment doors, he saw Smitty Smith and John Jacobson both drive up, then into the barn.

“Mornin’ gentlemen,” Percy said when the two had exited their respective vehicles. John a diehard Ford driver, Smitty in his Chevy. Bernard stayed with Dodges. His was parked in the parking lot at the bunkhouse. And of course, Jim and Bob loved their Jeep. Mattie had her old Volvo that was a bit ugly but ran like new, and Susie a Subaru wagon.

Quite an eclectic group of vehicles, particularly when you added Percy’s Suburban and the car he very seldom drove, a mint condition 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood Talisman. And that didn’t include Percy’s other light vehicles, the Kenworths, the Unimogs, the Rokon’s, and the two Bobcats. Though, the last two, the Rokon’s and Bobcats weren’t vehicles so much as pieces of equipment, even though the Rokon’s were capable of traveling almost forty miles an hour, though Percy had never had one of them up to that speed.

Percy turned his attention back to the group as Susie joined them. She, like Jim, Bob, and Bernard, had used the tunnels. Susie really didn’t like using them, but she liked storms even less, and it was storming violently now.

“Considering the weather… and the hail,” Percy added as golf ball sized hail began landing on the ground outside, let’s go through all the mobile equipment and service it. Rearrange things a little in here. Oh. And exercise everything a little. We haven’t used some of the equipment in a while, especially the features of the Kenworth utility truck.”

They’d quit using the utility/service truck in the orchards when Percy bought two three-wheel, hydraulically driven cherry picker style basket lifts. They worked much better in the orchards than the big truck. They were equipped with hydraulic outlets in the baskets to power trimming saws, pruners, and similar items used in the orchard. The operator controlled everything from the basket. The machines were mobile enough to travel throughout the orchard easily and quickly using a hydraulic drive system.

The tree fruit crops were going to be large this year, despite the drought, since they’d irrigated heavily. There had been a lot of thinning to do to ensure a high quality crop. Percy had owned a similar machine previously, but it had quit on him and he’d disposed of it about the time he got the Kenworth service truck. While it worked okay in the orchards, it was overkill for the tasks required. The two lifts were much easier to use than the Kenworth, as they only required one operator. The Kenworth really needed two to be effective.

Despite the fact that the greenhouses were constructed with extruded polycarbonate panels, Percy didn’t want the hands working in them with the hail coming down the way it was. So they worked on the equipment, having a rather good time doing it. There was no need to worry about the damage the crops might suffer. They were not able to do anything about the situation now. Percy would check the fields when the weather broke.

The forecast and Percy’s own weather instruments indicated the same thing. The storm system would continue to dump rain for at least another day. When they’d finished for the day, Percy told everyone they could take the next day off, he’d tend the animals. They’d done pretty much everything that needed doing in the equipment barn.

As he and Susie walked back to the house through the tunnel, Susie asked Percy, “Mr. Jackson, could I talk to you for a few minutes when we get to the house? I need some advice.”

“Sure, Susie. Anytime. You know that.”

When they were in the den, Susie started pacing when Percy sat down behind his desk. “What’s on your mind, Susie?”

“You know, you’ve been like a father to me, all these years. I kind of wanted to say thank you, besides just asking for more advice.”

“Well, thank you, Susie. I’ve never tried to substitute for your father, just be available when you needed something.”

“That’s what good fathers do,” Susie replied. She sat down on the large button tufted leather Chesterfield sofa, her hands going between her knees as she sat on the edge of the sofa. “It’s about Andy, Mr. Jackson.”

“Uh… Perhaps you should talk to your mother about this,” Percy said hesitatingly.

Susie turned red and said, “It’s not about that!” She started again. “It’s that I think Andy may ask me to marry him. What do you think I should do?”

“Susie, that is totally up to you. But if you want some advice on the subject, I suggest you make a list…”

Susie grinned. Percy was big on lists. He made lots of them.

“One side, list the positives if you decide to marry him, and on the other, the negatives. It’s a little clinical and cold, but since you know full well where your heart is, it’s about the only suggestion I can give you.”

“Would you help me?” Susie asked. She smiled again. “You’re really good with lists.”

“I suppose I could, if you want me to do so. Some of the items will be a little personal. You might want to list those after we do our list.”

“Like what?” Susie asked, sitting back on the sofa now.

Percy turned pink. “Well, there’s sex, for one. Is that going to be a positive or negative? See why you should do this on your own?”

Susie had turned slightly red herself, again. But Percy was right, she knew. Sex was a factor. “A positive,” she said after a moment. Percy was careful not to look at her for a while as they continued with the list.

“Do you both want children, or is there a difference of opinion there?” Percy asked next.

“Well, I kind of want to have… maybe two… pretty soon. Andy is more inclined to think a couple should wait until they are well established. Is there an in-between column?”

“If you say there is, there is,” Percy replied, adding another column heading to the paper on which he was writing. “What do you really want in a husband, Susie?”

Susie sighed. “I guess what every woman wants. Faithfulness. Someone that will take care of me, but not be pushy about it. Someone that can take care of me. I mean, I plan to work and all, for a long time, but having kids, now or later, is a big financial responsibility. Raising kids is a big responsibility. All those things. Oh, and he has to love me, of course.”

“Of course,” Percy said. “Do you think he does?”

“I think so,” Susie replied. “I know I love him. He’s so much fun to be around. He treats me nice, but doesn’t insist on paying for everything every time. He lets me contribute to the things we decide to do. And we do decide. Neither one of us just says. We discuss stuff.”

“Have you discussed this with him?”

“No, not really. It’s just been some signs recently… I talked to Mother, and she said talk to you. You’re a guy. You could give me some insights.”

“Yeah. Maybe,” Percy said with a wry smile. “You do know I’ve never had much success with women.”

“Mother mentioned that things didn’t go well with you and Abigail.” Susie hurriedly added when she saw the look on Percy’s face, “She didn’t say much, just that she didn’t think it was your fault. That’s pretty much all she said.”

“Oh. Okay. Well, anyway… You say you can talk things over with him. That should go in the plus side, don’t you think?”

“Of course.”

“His responsibility. Do you think he’s personally responsible and financially responsible?”

“Personally he’s very responsible. Financially… Well, he’s saving money. I know that. But every once in a while he gets the hots for some techno thing. He gives in to it part of the time. Right now he wants a Rokon so bad he can taste it. Part of the reason he wants to borrow one of yours is to see for sure if he wants it. I think he’ll buy one if it works the way I know it will. They are very good machines. And fun. But still…”

“So personal responsibility in the positive. Financial… Negative or in between.”

“In between,” Susie said immediately.

“What about the other side of financial responsibility. There’s spending, but there’s also earning.”

“Oh, he’s really good about finding and keeping jobs. He’s had a couple, I know, but he was laid off the one for lack of work, and the other… the guy wasn’t honest. He’s had the job with Wilkins Oil now for two years. And he got the CDL. He’s worked for you a couple of times before that, and since, driving the Kenworth tractor.

“And he’s taking correspondence courses for a business degree. He just couldn’t afford to go to college. I mean he’s smart, but he missed so much school his senior year when he broke his leg in that football game. He would have got at least a couple of scholarships, except for that. He loves to learn, but he loves working, too.”

“I know he’s tried really hard to make up for the lack of college. I know how he feels,” Percy said. “So that part of financial responsibility in under the positive heading.”


“Now I know you love him, you said so, but he’s like me. Not the most handsome of men. What about the looks of the children. You’re a pretty girl. You want your daughter, or even son, to look like him?”

“Hey!” protested Susie. “He’s not that bad looking. He got his share of dates in high school. I don’t think our kids will be that bad looking.”

“Okay. Positive or in between.”

“Well… in between, I guess.”

“You mentioned he had lots of dates in high school. You mentioned faithfulness. Do you think he’ll be faithful?”

There was no hesitation. “He will be. He looks at other girls, just as I do guys when a good-looking one passes by, but he hasn’t dated anyone but me, since we started going out. I’m sure of it.”

“Faithfulness in the positive column,” Percy said, marking it down.

They were laughing by the time they finished, the last few items on the list rather silly.

“What should I do based on the list?” Susie asked, the laughter fading.

“That’s still up to you,” Percy said. He tossed the yellow pad to her.

“Oh my,” she said softly, seeing the list. “I may just have to marry him, if he asks,” she whispered. She looked up. “I need to go talk to Mother. Thanks, Mr. Jackson, this really helped.” She jumped up and ran around the desk to give him a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek. She headed out of the den quickly, the pad still in her hand.

“They sure grow up fast,” Percy said softly, turning on the TV. The news wasn’t good. The situation between India and Pakistan was still in limbo. China was grumbling about the situation now, too. He decided to see what he could find out on the internet, but it was down again. There’d been a report of power outages in Chicago, one of the major hubs for the internet, though there had been no mention of the internet in the report. Percy suspected that the power outage was the cause of the internet being down.

He was quiet through supper, thoughtful, letting Mattie and Susie discuss Andrew. Percy made a mental note to have Andy come out and pick up the Kenworth and the other tank trailer the next day. He’d have it filled and park it at the tank farm. Start using out of it and keep the other tanks full until the world situation became calmer.

Andy was delighted by the prospect. He was there before noon and back with the load of fuel by two that afternoon. He hung around and helped Percy connect the hoses and top off the stationary tanks from the compartments in the trailer. “I’ll let you know when I need you to come out and fill the trailer again, Andrew,” Percy said

“You’re really worried about that thing going on in India, aren’t you, Mr. Jackson?”

“I am, Andrew, I am. I guess I’m pretty obvious about it, like with this fuel, huh?”

“Not to most. Most people think you’re a little strange, anyway.”

Percy smiled. They headed back toward Andy’s five year old GMC Jimmy. “Uh… Mr. Jackson, can I talk to you for a minute? I need some advice.”

“Sure, Andrew. What’s up?” Percy wasn’t surprised at Andy’s response.

“It’s about Susie. You know her really well. You’re almost like her father. I was wondering...” Andy looked down at the ground for a moment then looked into Percy’s eyes, a serious look in his. “What do you think Susie would say if I asked her to get engaged? And… Well… Do you think it would be all right if I did ask her?”

“Andrew, I’m not her father. If you wanted to get permission you should be asking Mrs. Simpson. As to what she would say… Andrew there’s no way of knowing until you ask. You obviously love her or you wouldn’t be asking me this. Would you say yes if she asked you?”

“I never thought about that!” Andrew replied. “I don’t think she would ask, unless I just waited way too long. I’m sure she loves me, but I don’t want to ask her if she’s going to say no.”

“Why not?” Percy asked, gently.

“Well, gee, Mr. Jackson! It’d break my heart if she said no.”

“What makes you think she’ll say no?” Percy asked then.

“I don’t think she will. But… I don’t know for sure. I think she’ll say yes.” He looked around quickly, and then pulled a ring box out of his pocket. “Susie is really practical. She’d certainly want a nice ring, but wouldn’t want me to get something I couldn’t afford. She’s good about keeping my head out of the clouds about stuff I think is neat.”

Andy showed Percy the ring, hunching over a little, to hide it from any point of view except Percy’s. “Very nice, Andrew. I’m sure she would love it. But you’re going to have to offer it to her and ask her before you know for sure. You’ve said you think she’ll say yes. Have you talked to her at all about marriage?”

“Well, kinda. We’ve commented on other people’s marriages a time or two. She seemed really non-committal.”

“In that case, next time the situation comes up, why don’t you ask her a leading question? If she seems inclined toward marriage more than before, that should tell you what you want to know.”

“Hey! That’s a great idea, Mr. Jackson! Thanks!” He put the ring box back in his pocket and climbed into the Jimmy. Through the window he asked, “Do you think you’ll ever need another hand, Mr. Jackson? Susie likes working here and I sure wouldn’t mind working for my father in law.” He was grinning when he said it, but Percy was sure there was an element of a real question there.

“You never know, Andrew. I don’t need a hand now, but I’d be willing to consider you if I did.”

Andy looked surprised. “Really?”

Percy nodded.

“I’ll keep it in mind,” said Andy. “I want to take good care of my family, and this would be a really good place to do it.” With that, Andy turned the Jimmy around and headed for the estate entrance in the now gentle rain.

The smile faded from Percy’s face when he went back inside the house. Mattie and Susie were in the house waiting for him. Both of their faces were white.

“Pakistan nuked India,” Susie told Percy, her eyes wide. “We saw it on the news over at the cottage while you were outside.”

Percy flipped on the main widescreen TV, plus the smaller monitors that flanked each side of the big screen. He’d installed the additional monitors to keep an eye on several of the news channels, the Weather Channel, the local TV station, and the networks, all at once. All of them were reporting the same thing.

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.
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Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
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Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2013, 01:23:40 PM »
Pakistan had used two nuclear devices to attack the cities of Jodhpur and Ahmedabad. One of the stations cut to the UN. The Chinese ambassador was speaking. The translation scrolled across the bottom of the screen.

“Oh, Lord!” Percy breathed out. “This is bad. Very bad.” The ambassador had just announced a warning to India not to retaliate against Pakistan. “China is just looking for an excuse to go into India. They want the resources to help fuel their building economy.”

“You don’t think they’ll really do anything, do you?” Mattie asked. “It’s unthinkable,” she added.

“The Pakistanis thought about it,” Percy replied. “There’s been a fanatic group trying to take control for months. I suspect they have. Holy Mackerel!” One of the news channel screens suddenly went blank, and then the main news desk set came into view. The newsreader was just taking his place behind the desk, putting in his earpiece.

“It is unconfirmed at the moment, but we have reason to believe that the capital of Pakistan was just destroyed by a nuclear detonation.” There was pandemonium in the background as the news staff tried to get addition information. Percy went to take care of the animals as Mattie and Susie continued to watch the news.

When Percy returned, they filled him in on the most recent information. “India hit back with three nukes,” Susie told him. “Islamabad, their nuclear power plant, and where the missiles were launched from, in case they have more, according to the experts.”

“Any response from China?” Percy asked.

“Nothing yet,” Mattie replied. She rarely used Percy’s first name, but she did now. “Percy, would it be all right if we stayed here tonight? I know the cottage is just as safe, but…”

“Of course you can stay here.” They heard the doorbell and Percy hurried to answer it. It was the twins.

“We just heard the news,” Jim said.

“What do you want us to do, Boss?”

“You can stay here and watch the news with us if you want, otherwise go back to the cottage and try to get plenty of rest. Tomorrow may be a busy day.”

The two exchanged a look. “We’ll go back to the house and make a couple of calls. Our mother is going to be hysterical. She was in Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis and is terrified of stuff like this,” Bob said.

“If you want, make arrangements to bring her down here to stay with you,” Percy said.

“Thanks, boss,” Jim said. “We’ll try to talk her in to it. It might be a little difficult.” The two exchanged another look, and then Jimmy spoke again. “We might have to go get her.”

“That’s okay. Whatever you need to do. We can handle the estate if we need to,” Percy replied.

As the two hurried off, Percy held the door open. Bernard was hurrying over. “Boss, I hate to ask, but my wife is frantic. She wants me to come home.”

“Okay, Bernard. You know you’re welcome to bring her out here. The other cottage is empty.”

“Thanks, boss. I’ll try, but she’s convinced there’s no hope once it starts. And it’s definitely started now.”

Percy waited until Bernard had left the estate, and then flipped the switches that closed the two pairs of heavy entrance gates. This was the first time Percy had closed them in months, except for their weekly test.

No one was hungry, so Mattie just fixed a light snack for them, and then returned to the den with it to watch the news with Percy and Susie. They finally all went to bed just after midnight, Susie and Mattie sharing one of the guest rooms that had twin beds.

As soon as Percy got up the next morning, he checked the news. Things were getting worse. Germany was demanding the withdrawal of all US troops. France had dispatched additional troops to several of her former colonies, stating it was to maintain the peace in these times of trouble.

The main news story however, was the incursion of North Korea into South Korean territory. The United States was warning North Korea to withdraw immediately. China was warning the world to stay out of the local conflicts. The conflicts were local in nature and the locals would handle them.

The UN Security Council was in emergency session, discussing the situations. According to the reports, the Council would make no announcements until they came to a decision. Percy moved a thirteen-inch TV to the kitchen so they could watch the news while they prepared and had breakfast. The twins came over in the middle of the breakfast to talk to Percy.

“Mr. Jackson, we hate to ask, but Mom doesn’t want to come. We need to go back to Minneapolis and try to talk her into coming. We hate to leave you in the lurch, but…” Jim’s words faded away.

“We really don’t want to leave, but it is our mother…” Bob added softly.

“You don’t need to explain,” Percy told the brothers. “Take what time you need. Try to get her to come here if you can.”

“Believe me, we will,” responded Bob. “Thanks, boss. We’ll get back as soon as we can.”

“Okay. Take care. There’s a lot of unrest and fear out there right now. Expect some delays.”

“Thanks,” Jim added as they headed out the door.

“I’d better get out to the barns,” Percy told Mattie and Susie. “I’m expecting John and Smitty to show up at their regular time, since they didn’t call.” He suddenly looked slightly alarmed. “That’s assuming the phones are working.” He went over and picked up the receiver of the phone in the kitchen.

He breathed a sigh of relief. “Phones are still working.”

“Why wouldn’t they be?” Mattie asked, clearing the table. It was obvious Percy wasn’t going to eat any more.

“Susie, you can stay in here with your mother if you want. Bring out any new information as it comes in.” Percy had stopped, his hand on the doorknob.

“I’d rather be working,” Susie responded immediately. “Mother, could you bring out any news? We won’t be able to hear a radio working in the greenhouses.”

“Of course,” Mattie replied.

“You really don’t have to come out, Susie,” Percy told her.

“I’d really rather work,” Susie replied.

“Okay. Let’s go see if the others are here.”

John and Smitty were driving up when Percy and Susie went out. They discussed the situation as they walked to the greenhouses to go to work. Mattie came out once to tell them that the UN had passed a resolution informing China not to interfere, the way China had warned the rest of the world, particularly the United States.

They worked through the day with no additional real news, just speculation and reports of the devastation caused by the five nuclear devices detonated in India and Pakistan. As they were cleaning up, Smitty Smith asked Percy, “Can I talk to you a minute, Boss?”

They stepped away from the others. “I’m sorry, Percy. I’m going to head for the hills. I have that place up by Yellowstone. Not really a real retreat, as in the Seventies survival craze, but I have a good rock cabin up there and enough supplies for a month. Plenty of game and the laws won’t matter if things get as bad as they might.”

“I agree with you on that last part,” Percy said, knowing he was talking a lost cause. “I’m not so sure that’s the best area to be. You know you and your family are welcome here, if things get bad.”

“I know, Percy. And I do appreciate it. You have the best setup of anyone around here. But I’m just more comfortable with my own preparations. I just hate to leave you shorthanded, especially if nothing comes of this.”

“Don’t worry about the estate, Smitty. We’ll manage with what we have. If the situation goes bad, it’s not going to matter much. We’ll just batten down and ride it out.”

“That’s my plan,” Smitty replied. After a moment’s hesitation he continued. “I’d understand if you said no, but if everything turns out okay, which I think is a good possibility, I’d like to come back to work when things settle down. If you haven’t found a permanent replacement. I really think things are going to be okay, as long as China doesn’t do something stupid. I just don’t want to take a chance.”

“I understand,” Percy said. “I feel much the same way, except I’m not as confident as you that China won’t involve itself in what’s going on. They want India’s resources. Either way, don’t worry about your job. You’ll be welcomed back.” Percy forced a grin. “You know there aren’t that many people that want to work for a crazy old man like me.”

Smitty grinned back. “It’s not that bad,” he said, “But you do have a point. I’m heading out tomorrow, but if things go the way I think they will, I’ll be back in time for fall harvest.”

The two shook hands. “Stop by in the morning. I’ll have your pay for you. In cash, just in case.”

“Don’t worry about that, Percy. Just hold it on account for me. I’ll be back to collect pretty soon. I’ll probably need it more when I get back than I do now.”

“In that case, have a safe trip and good luck. We’ll see you in a few weeks.” Percy didn’t add the “I hope,” he thought.

John came over as Smitty left. “Smitty heading for the hills?” John asked.

“Yes. I can understand. I’m worried, myself.”

“Yeah. We were talking about it the other day. He has that place up in Wyoming, by Yellowstone. Lots of water and game. His cabin has geothermal heat from a hot spring. He asked me to go with him to lend a hand, but I don’t want to leave you shorthanded. You said I could stay here. I hope that still goes.”

“Of course it does,” Percy said. “But if you really want to go with Smitty and think you’d be some help to him, which, of course you would, it’s not a problem for you to go.”

“I really don’t want to leave you short, Boss. I know the twins won’t be back for a few days and Bernard is gone for the duration. That leaves an awful lot for just you and Susie.”

“I’ve got a couple other options, plus Mattie can lend a hand. She has in the past,” Percy replied.

“Smitty really could use my help. You know they have that new baby and the two little ones. Charlie is a good boy, but he’s only twelve. And with me, my truck, and supplies, it would give them an extra margin of safety.”

“Sounds to me like you need to go, not just would like too. Honestly,” Percy said, earnestly, “I think you should go. We really will be able to manage. Don’t worry about your job, either. Smitty is sure this will all blow over. He just doesn’t want to take a chance. Don’t worry about your job. It’ll be here when you get back.”

“I’m not as sure of that as Smitty is. Okay. I’ll go help Smitty. I’m really sorry about this.”

“Don’t be. It’s a lot more important to take care of a family than it is our produce. I’m assuming Smitty wants to leave early so if you want to come back this evening I’ll have cash, instead of a check.”

“A check is fine. I should be able to cash it in town without a problem.”

“As long as you’re sure. Stop at the house and I’ll have it ready for you.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

As Susie and Percy walked back to the house, and John was getting into his truck, Susie said, “They heading out, too?”

“Yes. Can’t blame them, though I’m not so sure being that close to Yellowstone is that safe, under the circumstances. Got to admit, it sounds like Smitty has a nice, secure place there, and with John’s help, they should be fine as long as the volcano doesn’t blow.”

“Yellowstone doesn’t have an active volcano. I know there are hot springs and stuff, which means some activity, but not a real volcano.”

“Much of Yellowstone Park sits on the caldera of a huge past volcano. It’s been hundreds of thousands of years since it blew the last time. No reason to think it will again anytime soon. There aren’t any nearby targets to draw a nuke that could set it off. I need to get that check for John. I’ll be in for supper in the dining room in a few minutes. I don’t want to get too far off our normal routine.”

“We’ll go back to the cottage tonight. There’s no real reason to stay here in the house.”

“Up to you guys,” Percy said, turning into the den. “I don’t mind if you stay here.”

It took only moments to get John his check. Percy actually had enough cash on hand, but he made it a point to keep his personal books separate from the estate business books. He paid by check the estate debts, plus the bartering when he could, but he kept the same kind of paperwork for the estate barters as he did personal barters.

After supper they adjourned to the living room to watch the news. Things were tense in the Far East, but no additional action was being taken. The confrontation in Korea was at an impasse. North Korea was entrenched seventy some odd miles into South Korea and fighting was intense, but that was the limit of it.

Mattie and Susie were preparing to go to their cottage when they felt the first tremor. The earth sheltered concrete dome home was solid. You would never know a terrible thunderstorm was raging outside it was so quiet.

When they felt the first movement and the lights went out, Percy called, “Get down next to the coffee table!” It was a heavy, rather blocky table, the legs and rails being oak four by fours, with slate tiles inlaid on three quarter inch oak plywood.

While standing in a doorway was probably better than standing in the middle of the room, the best protection was to be beside something that would support anything falling downward. Many earthquake deaths were crushing deaths. Often ceilings and upper floors would fail and fall. The wall thickness of a doorway did not provide much protection from those types of structural failure.

It was common to find survivors in the cavities next to heavy, stout furniture that supported debris and prevented it from pancaking to the floor, crushing anything between. Percy had a heavy structural element or stout furniture in nearly every room in every structure beside which a person could crouch or lay during earthquakes. It might not even be necessary in the concrete domes, they were so strong, but Percy didn’t take chances.

Nothing broke or fell as the rumbling continued for well over a minute. When the shaking stopped, it was slightly over a minute more before the automatic switching for the generator that supplied the house in emergencies started the generator and fed power to the key circuits of the house.

The three climbed to their feet and Percy said, “I’m going to check on the animals.”

“I’m going with you,” Susie said. Percy didn’t object.

“I’ll check the house for damage,” Mattie added, turning toward the kitchen first.

It took a little while to calm the animals. The other generator that was on automatic controls was the one that fed the animal barn. The lights were on when they entered. As they were going from one animal to another, issuing soothing words and dispensing extra rations of feed, Percy called over to Susie, “Dollars to donuts that was the New Madrid fault letting loose. The local quakes here are usually much shorter and feel a lot different.”

“That’s such a long ways away,” Susie replied.

“Some of the eighteen eleven, eighteen twelve quakes were felt all the way to Boston, here, and in Kansas, too. This one just doesn’t feel like our locals. We’ll find out in a little bit from the news.”

When they had the animals calmed down, especially the horses and dogs, they went back to the house. Both were concerned when they saw Mattie. She was white as a ghost. She pointed to the TV in the living room.

A newscaster looking much the same way as Mattie was saying, “The reports are confirmed. A nuclear device has detonated on the San Andreas Fault in California, one at New Madrid on the fault in Missouri, and the third at the United Nations complex in New York during another emergency session.

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.

Jerry D Young -
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
(There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch - Robert A Heinlein) Kindle Author page

Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #15 on: September 21, 2013, 01:28:25 PM »
“These are believed to have been terrorist attacks. The devices were low yield. They were not missile or bomb attacks. The United States forces have gone to high alert, but no retaliatory attacks are being launched at this time, nor are any pending. The President is asking for calm and restraint. Aid is being dispatched to the affected areas. There is very little fallout from the San Andreas and New Madrid devices, as both were apparently deep underground detonations. It is believed the devices were dropped down irrigation wells.

“The fallout from the UN detonation is, at the moment, blowing out to sea. Warnings have gone out to the area around the UN and to ships at sea. More in a moment.” The haggard looking newscaster was removing his earpiece. He looked like he was about to be ill.

Percy switched channels, and then said, “I’m going into the den to check the other monitors. I want you both to stay here tonight. Go get anything you’ll need for a few days. But hurry.”

As the two headed for the front door, Percy headed for the den and its bank of TV monitors. Even the Weather Channel was reporting on the situation, providing prevailing wind and fallout details.

Percy was at his desk, making a list when Mattie and Susie came in. “We put our stuff in the green guest room. Percy nodded but continued working on the list of things he needed to do the next day.

They stayed in the den all night, dozing on the comfortable sofas and recliners the room boasted, watching the rescue efforts that were already ongoing. When morning came around they were still on emergency power. They showered and changed clothes in turn, and then Percy and Susie went out to tend to the animals. They’d accomplished the needed tasks in the greenhouses the day before, so went back to the house after checking the other buildings for damage.

The structures were well designed and well built. There were a few things that had fallen off shelves, but no serious damage at all. The animals were all calm. Percy debated for a bit before he turned them out, which was the normal daily routine. If things got worse, they might be in the barn for an extended period. Better, he decided, to let them have as much outside time as possible.

The dogs stayed close to Percy as Susie and he made the rounds. The horses hovered near the pasture fence, as close to the humans as they could get. None of the animals seemed to want to drift very far from the entrances to the barn, including the chickens.

When Brian Epstein failed to show up Percy debated again before he decided to take the milk and eggs in to the dairy, instead of processing the milk and candling the eggs and putting them into the household stocks.

Then, when Susie asked him, rather hesitatingly, to stop and check on Andy Buchanan, he changed his mind slightly and sent Susie in. She took the Suburban, instead of her Subaru. The power came back on just as she was driving away. Susie didn’t have to stop and open the gates manually. The remote worked when she didn’t even think about the power being off and used it to try to open the gates.

When she returned two hours later, Percy was up the third antenna tower, removing the cameras from their mounts. He’d left one on an all axis remote control mount on this tower, but had removed all eleven of the other small cameras.

Susie watched him climb down the tower before she walked into the new shop building with him. “Why’d you take down the cameras? I thought you’d want them up for security.”

Percy shook his head. “I left the one up on number three tower on the remote control mount. I don’t have spares for these and can’t get them. They’re a discontinued model. If there is an electromagnetic pulse it will probably fry all of these. If I lose the one, I can replace it with one of the ones I took down.”

“Oh,” Susie said. “Uh… Mr. Jackson, I made Andy promise to come out here if things got any worse. I hope that’s okay.”

“Of course it is, Susie. I would have done the same thing if I’d gone in. I should have insisted that you do it when I sent you in. Also the Bluhms. I’ll go talk to them here in a little bit. Couple more things I want to make sure get done.”

“What do you want me to do, Boss?” Susie asked. “I can’t stand just sitting around.”

“Until this is over, I’d prefer you and your mother to take up residence in the main house. I’d like you and Mattie to bring over everything you might need for an extended stay. Go ahead and take two rooms so you’ll each have plenty of space.”

“Mother’s not going to want to do that,” Susie replied. It sounded like a good idea to her.

“I’ll talk to her. You might want to see if Doc needs some help.”

“I think I will. He has Stevens’ bull over there for pneumonia and it’s easier for two to medicate him. I’m surprised he hasn’t called me to come over and help.”

Percy immediately picked up the phone receiver. “Power’s on, but the phones are still out, I guess. I never even thought to check them last night.”

They both jumped when the phone suddenly rang.

“Hello?” Percy said, feeling a little foolish.

“Mr. Jackson, it’s Andy. Andrew Buchanan. I talked to Susie this morning and she somehow got me to promise to come out there if things got worse. I know you kind of said the same thing, but I wanted to check first, just to make sure.”

Percy cut his eyes to Susie. “It’s fine, Andrew. I was going to ask you again myself, but I sent Susie because I needed to get some things done here this morning. I don’t suppose you have time to do a little side work? You’re probably pretty busy with fuel deliveries now, though, aren’t you? People are going to want to stock up now, for sure.”

“They sure are, but that’s a real problem. We were expecting deliveries today, but our supplier called and said it could be as much as a month before we get another significant delivery. We’re supposed to get a couple tanker loads tomorrow or the next day, but that’s all. Mr. Wilkins thinks there’ll be some rationing going on by the time it gets here.”

“I could use some help out here, if it turns out Wilkins doesn’t need you for a while. Three of my hands are making preparations at home and can’t work for a while.”

“Yeah, I know. Mr. Jacobson stopped to fuel up and said he and Mr. Smith were headed for Wyoming and that Bernard Robert’s wife needed him at home again. I was going to see if you needed me to help when I wasn’t working here at Wilkins.”

“Thank you, Andrew. I appreciate that. I would like you to come out any time Wilkins doesn’t need you. We can discuss the pay when you come out the first time.”

“I don’t really need pay. Maybe some groceries, like you barter sometimes. I think things might get hard to get, with what’s happening in California.”

“We’ll come to some arrangement, Andrew. What about your father? Do you want to bring him out here?”

“No, Mr. Jackson. Whatever happens I couldn’t take care of him. He needs to stay in the rest home. I’ll do what I can for him there, but the daily care needs… It’s just really not possible. I was there last night when the quake hit. He’s upset that he can’t help, but knows he has to stay there. It’s all that’s keeping him alive. He doesn’t want to be a burden on me. Pop knows I don’t have the resources to take care of him.”

“Maybe out here…” Percy suggested, knowing the response he would get.

“You know Pop. He just won’t go for it. It’s okay his veteran’s pension is paying for the rest home. He wouldn’t take your help or anyone else’s.”

“I understand, Andrew. I just wish there was some way I could help.”

“I know. Thanks. Pop is where he needs to be, no matter what happens.”

“Okay, Andrew. Just come on out any time it suits you. Day or night.”

“I will, Mr. Jackson. Thanks. Say hello to Susie for me.”

“She’s right here, Andrew. You can tell her yourself.”

“Andy,” Susie said, “I’m glad you apparently agreed to come out here. Especially work for Mr. Jackson. But I don’t really appreciate you checking with him after I told you what I did.”

“I know. And I believed you. It just one of those guy things, I guess.”

“Guy thing, huh? It’s a good thing I love you or I’d hang up on you for that.”

“You love me? Really? I love you, too, Susie. I wish I’d told you sooner.”

“Oh, Andy! I do. I wish I’d told you sooner, too. Please, please, come out here if things look bad. Please.”

“I promise, Susie. I promise. I love you. Bye.”

“I love you. Bye, Andy.”

“Well. That’s nice to hear,” Percy said.

Susie threw her arms around Percy. “He loves me! He really does. He was asking these kinds of leading questions the other day. About marriage and all. But he didn’t ask me and I was afraid I gave him the wrong impression. I don’t think so now. I’ve got to go tell Mother.”

“Okay. But don’t forget about Doc and moving your stuff.”

“I won’t.”

“Tell your mother, too, that I’m headed for the Bluhms. I want to talk to them about coming here if there are more problems. That’s a nice house, but not good enough for anything as serious as what this may become.”

“Good. I really like them.”

Percy’s Mission - Chapter 15

It didn’t take all that much convincing. The terrorist attacks and the resulting earthquake had scared them. They were closer to town, but agreed to head for the estate if things got worse. He gave them a hand held radio and charger for it. “We’ll be monitoring that most of the time. If you need one of us, just keep calling until someone answers. It would make me feel better if you called just to check in so I know the radio is okay. A couple times a day would be fine, if you don’t really mind doing that.”

“No. That sounds like a good idea,” Jock said. “Will it reach all the way to the city? We may have to take Judy Franks in. She’s had some labor pains, off and on, the last few hours. It’s probably false labor, but we’re not about to take a chance, considering the circumstances.”

“It’s on a repeater system. As long as commercial power is on it should work. On the direct link, only about halfway to the city.” Percy hesitated a moment, then asked the doctors, “Do you want me to take her in using the Suburban? There’s plenty of room, and I do have an errand I need to run there, anyway.”

“No…” Jock said slowly, after looking at Melissa for a moment. “It’s not like the weather is bad or anything. But… If you’re going pretty soon, we might just tag along with Judy and her family. Just in case. You know.”

“Sure thing,” Percy said with a smile. “I have a few things to do in town, and then I’ll be ready. Meet me at Rosie’s when you’re ready.”

“Okay. I’ll call Judy now and make the arrangements. She thinks it’s false labor, too, but it is her first and she’s a little apprehensive. Her mother will take her in and we’ll take the Bug. We need to do a couple of things ourselves.”

“You know, I have a Jeep I don’t use, if you want something besides the Volkswagen and the Taurus. Winters can get pretty severe here, you know.”

“I don’t really like Jeeps,” Melissa said. “I had a friend roll one, one time. We’re thinking about trading in the Taurus on something like an Explorer before winter.”

“That would do you a good job. Okay then. I’ll be on my way and see you in a little while.”

The trip went well, until Percy stopped to see Sara. Percy tried to convince her to move out to the estate. He even offered to supply all her fuel to go to and from the city every day to go to work.

“Are you asking me to move in with you, Percy?” she finally asked.

“Of course I am. I thought that was clear. Oh.” He turned slightly red. “Not like that… Just stay in one of the extra rooms. I’m not… Sara, I’m just not ready for that next step.”

“I understand, Percy. And that’s okay. I just want to be sure. And I appreciate you offering to provide my gasoline, but it’s not quite proper, don’t you see?”

“Yes. I guess I do. But you will promise me to come out if things get worse. How did your apartment fare, by the way, during the quake?”

Sara frowned. “One of the plates my mother left me broke. I had it on a stand and it walked off the shelf and broke. It’s not as if I was all enamored of it, but my mother loved Elvis and that plate was her favorite. I hate to have lost it.”

“I’m sorry. I wish I could replace it for you. And I’m sorry if I upset you. I just… Well… I guess I’ll be going, then.”

“Okay, Percy. And Percy I’m not mad at you or anything.” She stepped up to him and gave him a long hug. “I appreciate you trying to look out for me, but I’m a big girl. And I will come to the estate if something worse happens.” She leaned back, her arms still around him and looked him in the eyes.

“I care about you, Percy. A lot. I want you to promise me you won’t do anything stupid if things do get worse.” She brought her face forward and kissed him lightly on the lips before he could protest.

“I… I care about you, too, Sara.” Then he frowned. “I don’t do stupid things. What made you say that, anyway?”

Sara stepped away from him and smiled. “Oh, Percy. Don’t worry about it. I was just teasing. Sort of.”

“Well… Okay. I guess I really should go. I want to stop and get a couple of things before I go back to the estate.”

“‘Bye, Percy.”

“Goodbye, Sara.”

Percy brooded about the exchange a little, but quickly put it behind him when he went to the medical supply shop. There were no delays this time when he picked up several more medical items. They were glad to help him load them into the Suburban.

When he met the Bluhms’ at the hospital again, they told him they were staying in the city to have dinner and thanked him again. Judy was doing fine, but was going to stay in the hospital overnight, then stay with a cousin in the city until the baby came.

He made another stop, at the larger of the two shopping malls the city boasted. He spent much of the early afternoon there and left with a dozen shopping bags. He’d made three trips out to the Suburban to take things out, he’d bought so much.

Percy didn’t particularly like firearms, though he did use them like the tools they were. He’d ordered a few items almost three weeks before. There’d been a waiting period and this was the first time he’d been in since the waiting time was up.

The clerk helping Percy carry out the ammunition and the reloading supplies and equipment asked Percy, “How’d you know so far ahead this was going to happen?”

“Know?” Percy asked. “I didn’t know. I just… like to be prepared.”

“Yeah. You’re definitely prepared now. You know good stuff when you see it. That is a cool Suburban.”

“Thanks. And thanks for helping me load. I need to head back.”

“Sure thing. Come back any time. Ask for me. I made a nice commission on this sale.”

Percy waved politely. He didn’t like that clerk much. He wasn’t bloodthirsty and out to hurt anybody. It was just prudent to have the most effective means available to protect himself and those in his care. The clerk was of a mind to just go out and shoot someone for sport, using the situation as an excuse.

With the Assault Weapon Ban not having been renewed for the moment, he decided to get a few things he couldn’t get while the ban was in effect. A pair of the old pistol grip, collapsible stock Heckler and Koch HK-91 .308 rifles and thirty twenty-round magazines, plus thirty thirty-rounders. The two collapsible stock versions would give him six of the HK-91s, including the four HK-91A2s he already had in the gun safe at home. He’d had those since well before the ban, along with four of the very rare, and very expensive, G8 50 round single stack drum magazines.

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.

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Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #16 on: September 22, 2013, 01:35:59 PM »
He’d picked up some thirty round Ruger 10-22 magazines. He had three of the .22 rimfire rifles. The shop had two Mossberg Model 590 12-gauge riot guns and a Remington 11-87 semi-automatic. He’d taken all three of the shotguns and an extended magazine tube and pistol grip stock for the Remington. They brought his total combat shotgun count to six, including two more of the 11-87s with extended magazines and a Remington 870 with pistol grip folding stock and extended magazine.

Again, since they were available once more, he’d added another thirty AUG thirty-round magazines to the order for the four Steyr AUG carbines he’d picked up when he got the original HK-91s. That gave him a total of a hundred AUG magazines.

He hadn’t ordered any additional handguns or hunting rifles. He had plenty of both, including five Para-Ordinance P14s, 3 Glock 21s, a Browning Hi-Power, three Ruger 22/45s, four HK-4s with all four conversion kits each, and an assortment of Ruger single actions, some with interchangeable cylinders, to handle a variety of other calibers.

His hunting rifles included Remington 700s in .223, .243, .270, and .350 Remington Magnum. He had a pair of the rifles each in .308, .30-’06, and .375 H&H Magnum. Percy didn’t really count what he considered his fun guns. He’d grown up watching re-runs of the 1950s and ‘60s westerns and had Marlin lever action rifles in .45-70 and .45 Long Colt. He had a pair of Stoeger 12-gauge coach guns and three Ruger Blackhawks, also in .45LC. He also had companion American Derringer Corporation derringers in .45LC and .45ACP.

Also mostly for fun, though they did have serious uses, each of his highway vehicles carried a Marlin Camp Carbine in .45ACP with half a dozen spare magazines.

As far as ammunition went, this order included ten thousand rounds each of .308 and .223 to bring his total up to fifty thousand rounds each. Also included two thousand rounds each of 12-gauge slugs, 12-gauge 00 buckshot, and a thousand rounds of various numbered shot. He already had similar amounts for the .45s, and over a thousand rounds each of the other handgun and hunting calibers he used.

When it came to .22LR he was just as well supplied. Another fifty thousand rounds, ten percent of which was BB caps, CB caps, and shorts.

Since he only expended a few rounds a year for practice and to do the little hunting he did, Percy had never really done much reloading. The twins were into it and provided him with some specialty ammunition he liked to keep on hand. They had pretty extensive reloading equipment and supplies and he’d just bought a complete set of reloading tools and components to reload every cartridge and shell he used, except the rimfires. He counted himself lucky to have found another three hundred 12-gauge brass empty shells. He’d ordered two hundred fifty of them once before and paid the twins to load them for him.

His errands accomplished, except for getting Sara to agree to move out to the estate, Percy headed back. He wanted to get there in time to help take care of the animals. He didn’t want Susie to have to do it on her own, though she was perfectly capable of doing so.

Percy smiled when, at four o’clock, he heard Jock’s voice on the radio mounted in the Suburban. “This is Jock. Radio check. Percy, are you there?”

“I’m here,” Percy replied, picking up and keying the microphone. You’re loud and clear.”

“We’re just going in to get something to eat and thought it’d be a good time to do the radio check.”

“Consider it a successful check,” Percy responded.

“We’re checking in, too,” Susie said. “Everything is fine. Have you seen the news?”

“Negative,” Percy replied. “What’s up?”

“Korea is looking worse,” Susie replied. “Oh. And we moved. I went ahead and moved the rest of our stuff to one of the rooms in the utility barn. That way the cottage is available for someone else to use if you need to.”

There was a hint there that Percy didn’t take to let them know if Sara was coming out to the estate. “You didn’t need to do that. But it might not be a bad idea.”

When he didn’t elaborate, Susie said, “Okay, Boss. I can take care of the animals if you’re running late.”

“Nope,” Percy said, activating the gate opener remote. “Be there in a minute. I’ll help with the animals.”

“Mom didn’t argue at all when I said you wanted us to move into the house for a while,” Susie said when she met him at the animal barn.

“I didn’t think she would, actually,” Percy replied as they worked to bring the animals in and get them fed and bedded down. “Your mother is a very practical woman. She knows I’m going to be pretty active ‘til this is all over and it’ll be easier for her to just be there around the clock to keep me out of trouble.”

Susie laughed. “She did actually mention something to that effect.”

They were silent after that, until they’d finished. When Susie went to help him move the things from the sporting goods store, she exclaimed, “Geez, Boss! You expecting a war?”

“Yes,” Percy said quietly.

“Oh,” Susie replied softly. “Maybe you’d better teach me to shoot something besides a twenty-two,” she added after a moment.

“I don’t want to do that unless you really want to. I don’t want you to feel like you have to defend the estate. That’s my responsibility.”

With a ferocity that surprised Percy a little, Susie replied, “This is my home, too. You’ve said so, Mr. Jackson. I’ll do what’s needed to protect it.”

“Well, if you’re sure, we’ll get you started at the first opportunity.”

Susie was grinning at him suddenly. “You didn’t say after we checked with Mother.”

Percy grinned back. “You’re a big girl now and can make your own decisions. Your mother said that herself. I should treat you more like the woman and lady you are, rather than the girl I tend to treat you like.”

“I don’t know. Sometimes it’s a lot easier being a little girl than it is a woman.”

“You can handle it just fine. Are handling it. You obviously got Andrew headed in the direction you wanted.”

With a fond smile Susie responded. “Well, not completely, but… yeah… I think he might just ask me to move in with him soon. Maybe even marry him.”

“He’s a fool if he doesn’t.”

“That’s so sweet, Mr. Jackson. You sound just like a dad.”

“Yeah? Well…” He let the words trail away, slightly pink. “I’ll get the rest if you can help your mother. I’d like to eat in the dining room. I can see the TV in the living room from my chair in the dining room.”

“Okay,” Susie said. “I’ll set the table for Mother.”

Percy moved the things he’d bought at the mall to his suite of rooms in the two story seven bedroom, eleven-bath earth sheltered dome home. He had a large bedroom with attached bath and large walk-in closet. The suite also included a small den slash home office. It was as nice as the estate office in the big den down stairs, just smaller. What was once intended to be a nursery adjoining the bedroom Percy used simply as a storage room. That’s where he dropped his recent purchases. He’d put them away later.

They were all a bit subdued as they ate. The stalemate in Korea seemed to be heating up. China was making noises about the fallout coming from Pakistan caused by the Indian nuclear attack. One report indicated that India was warning Pakistan to withdraw from the disputed area and acknowledge India’s sovereignty or they would renew the attack, the implication being with nuclear weapons again.

“This is bad. It might be all the excuse China needs to invade India,” Percy said. “I saw a report last night that indicates China is massing troops along their common border.”

“If China gets involved directly, there or in Korea, do you think the US will respond?” asked Mattie.

“Yes. Other reports are linking China and or North Korea with the terrorist attacks here. I think they might have been trying to keep the US at home with the disasters to take care of, plus put the UN out of easy commission. Not like they can’t meet at The Hague or something, but most of the ambassadors and their staffs died in the attack. Lot of embassies put out of commission directly or due to radiation. The UN is not going to be effective for some time to come, if ever.”

Suzie looked at Percy and said, “I’m afraid if North Korea uses a nuke in South Korea, the US will have to respond. Our troops are directly involved in that fighting.”

“Carolyn Mathew’s boy was killed over there yesterday, apparently. They got word today. I talked to Helen today and she told me,” Mattie said.

“Too many people are dying in too many places,” Percy said quietly. “Let’s just hope and pray it doesn’t come any closer to us than that. Uh-oh.”

The news channel changed to a shot of another mushroom cloud. There was no audio at the moment, but the words Seoul, South Korea were superimposed over the cloud.

“That tears it,” Percy said.

Another news channel was reporting that China was again warning all nations to stay out of the troubles in the Far East. The station showing Seoul now had another mushroom cloud on screen, this one listed as New Delhi, India.”

Yet another channel now had a translation of a Chinese announcement that due to the attacks in Pakistan by India, China was receiving fallout and therefore considered the attack by India on Pakistan an attack on China and had retaliated in kind. There were reports that the Chinese were massing an amphibious force on the coast facing Taiwan. Again China issued warnings to leave the Far East to deal with its own problems.

“No way is that going to happen,” Percy said. “Okay. It’s time to batten down the hatches. Susie, do you think you can use the Bobcat to move straw bales in front of the barn doors?”

“Sure, no problem. But why?”

“I want to put up a dirt berm in front of all the doors of all the barns. We’ll use the straw as a vertical backstop. I’ll use a Unimog to move the dirt from the stockpiles I had Reynolds build. This is the future construction I was talking about. Mattie, I want you to keep an eye on the news and fix us something to eat about midnight. It’ll be that late by the time we get finished.”

It didn’t take quite that long. Percy picked up speed on each circuit from the stockpiles to the barns. It was the same with Susie. She was good on the Bobcat anyway, but her speed picked up significantly as she took straw bales from their stack near the storage barn and stacked them in a curve in front of each of the barns where the doors were located. They didn’t need to do the houses. Susie realized that one of the design elements of the houses was a berm similar to what they were building, but as part of the total design of the structures.

She thought they should go higher, but Percy pointed out that any radiation coming over the berms from ground level would only hit the roof projection that covered the space where the doors were located. Susie had never seen the need for the awnings Percy had put on the projections. They seldom extended them. There’d been a few times when they’d worked under them in the heavy rains when they needed to work on a piece of equipment.

Their use in this situation became obvious when Percy finished the first berm. He’d taken one of the rolls of plastic from the shop barn and tucked one edge under the top layer of straw bales before he started piling dirt. Susie thought it was just to protect the straw. When he piled the dirt on the slope the tiered straw created, then brought the plastic up and over it, to tuck under that top row of bales again she realized that the awning would direct any fallout that would have fallen between the berm and the building onto the plastic covered slope of the berm.

There was enough room to allow the Bobcat 5600T to get through and into the barns. The only one they did differently was the equipment barn. They had to leave enough room to bring out the equipment. On that one, Percy had Susie build a row of bales two high about where the berm was on the other barns. He laid down a sheet of plastic between the berm and the short wall, forming a channel that would catch anything from the awning. With the slight slope he put on it, he would be able to wash any accumulation of particles to outside the area of the berm.

“Clever,” Susie said when she saw what he was doing.

“I’ve been thinking about things like this for years. Let’s just hope it’s a big waste of time,” Percy replied.


Mattie had the snack ready, despite their having finished by shortly after eleven. “Things still the same,” she told them as they ate and watched the news. “Just more posturing on everyone’s part.” She sighed. “And aid efforts. Everyone that can is sending teams and equipment. Or at least getting them ready to go. No way they can travel at the moment.”

“What’s the US response to the nuke on Seoul and the activity on the China coast?” Percy asked.

“Nothing,” Mattie replied. “At least nothing on the news. I can’t believe they’re just sitting there doing nothing, though.”

“They aren’t. Have there been any shots of the President’s helicopter landing or taking off from the White House?” Percy asked then.

“Why?” asked Susie after Mattie had indicated there had been.

“Probably means he’s headed for an airborne command post or a bunker. I’m glad we got things ready. I guess we might as well go to bed. Nothing we can do and tomorrow may be a long day.”

When they got up the next morning they saw the reports. Japan had asked for help, since some of the islands were in the fallout path of the detonation in Seoul. Two carrier battle groups were headed that way to support the one normally stationed in the area. There’d been three communist coups in the Russian republics and more seemed likely.

The Germans were demanding the US turn over the nuclear arsenal within their borders to them so they could protect themselves against the newly communist Russian Republics. France was rattling sabers at everybody. Great Britain had finally ordered her subjects to come back home, rather than the strong suggestions given before. Brazil warned all the involved nations to leave them out of the mix. They all but said they had nuclear weapons and would use them if attacked.

Little additional information came to light that day. The next day was different. They woke up to reports that the US Navy had used a nuclear cruise missile to hit Pyongyang and issued an ultimatum for North Korea to withdraw from South Korea and for China not to interfere further. The ultimatum included a warning that the US would help defend Taiwan if there was an invasion.

Percy was debating on whether to call Sara and try to talk her into coming out to the estate again. He didn’t have to. Sara called him. She was excited.

“Percy, have you heard? The federal government has announced a new Sheltering Plan. Information and instructions are in the process of being issued to implement it. It just came in a little while ago in the state offices. We’re supposed to start distributing as soon as we can. From the little I saw, it looks like they are following your advice.”

“That’s good,” Percy said, quickly adding, “Not that they’re following my advice. The fact that they’re doing anything at all. Let’s just hope it’s in time.”

“I know. Percy, would you have Mattie prepare a room for me? I’d like to start coming out there the way you suggested. I’m scared of what is happening.”

“Of course I will. She’ll have a room ready for you tonight. The gold room.”

“Not real gold, I hope,” Sara said, the humor evident in her voice.

“Just gold colored trim and accessories like the one we refer to the green room has green accessories and the…”

“I know, Percy. I was just making a joke.”

“Oh. Okay. Well, we’ll see you when you get here. You still have the gate opener I gave you? I’m keeping the gates closed now.”

“Of course I do. I should be there about seven. Do not wait supper for me.”

“Okay,” Percy agreed, fully intending to wait to eat until she got there.

“I heard,” Mattie said, after Percy put the telephone receiver down. “I’ll get that room ready shortly.”

“Okay. Good. I…” The phone rang again.

It was Melissa Bluhm. “Is that offer still good about coming out there? Jock and I are both worried.”

“Of course it is, Melissa. Figure on supper about seven. Bring anything and everything you want.”

“Thank you, Mr. Jackson. I love my new house, but we didn’t put a shelter in it the way you suggested we do. We were foolish. And I’m pregnant.” She was crying now.

“Don’t think about that now. Just bring what you need tonight, and we’ll take a truck over and bring everything else you want, tomorrow. We’ll put you in one of the houses here. You can stay until this is all over.”

“Thank you, Mr. Jackson. Thank you.”

“Another room. For the Bluhms,” Percy said. “Plan on supper at seven.”

“I heard,” Mattie said.

“It sounded almost like she was crying,” Susie said.

“She was, there at the end. She’s really worried.” Percy didn’t feel that it was his place to announce Melissa’s pregnancy. She could tell the others when she wanted.

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.

Jerry D Young -
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
(There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch - Robert A Heinlein) Kindle Author page

Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #17 on: September 23, 2013, 01:09:15 PM »
Brian Epstein called and said he wasn’t going to be able to pick up the milk and eggs again. Percy decided to take the goods in. He was fairly certain there would be plenty of days in the future where he wouldn’t be able to do so. They held out enough for their own use for several days, not just the one day they usually did, bringing their stock up to a two-week supply of fresh, rather than the week supply they normally kept. Percy took the rest into town to the dairy.

He didn’t stay long. He did stop at one of the grocery stores and pick up a few things Mattie wanted. Then he stopped at Jimbo’s place. He was glad he did. Jimbo was closing up shop and headed to the hills the way Smitty had. Only Jimbo was heading for the Ozarks.

“I was going to keep it up for you,” Jimbo said, “using my current stocks. Prices have gone through the roof. I’ve had more business in the last three days than I have the last three months. Gold and silver, anyway. The other stuff isn’t moving. How much do you want this time?”

“All of it,” Percy replied.

“All of it! But that’s most of my stock!”

“Jimbo, you knew this day would probably come.”

Jimbo sighed. “Yeah, I guess so. I should have done a little better keeping my own stocks. Yours has been like the reserves in a bank for me. It’s yours, and of course you can have it, but I sure need to figure something else than what I had planned.”

Percy suspected Jimbo had quite a bit more stashed than he was letting on. Jimbo had a habit of making things sound rather worse than they actually were, at least when it came to his finances. His little so-called coin shop dealt with a lot more than coins. Legal things like alcohol. His was the only source of anything except beer and a tiny selection of wine the grocery stores carried.

He had a thriving business of cashing checks. Doing that wasn’t illegal yet. Only the banks were restricted to the ten percent rule. He charged a minimum of a dollar and it was one percent on checks over one hundred dollars.

There were no feelings of guilt for Percy when he took the tubes of gold and silver coins. “Just keep the fractional ounces left and keep trading for me, if you will. We’ll settle up when this is over,” Percy said. “And just to say thanks for all your help, here’s a tenth ounce gold coin and a roll of silver dimes as a tip.”

“Well, thanks, Purse. You didn’t really have to do that, but I’ll sure take it. These are worth nearly eighty bucks now.”

“Take care of yourself, Jimbo. We’ll see you after this is all over.”

“You bet, Purse. I have a good little thing here. I’m stashing my tinkers stuff out back, just in case. Uh… Don’t tell anyone, though, will you?”

“Of course I won’t,” Percy said.

“I tell you what. If you kind of keep an eye on things for me, you can take a few things if you really need them.” Percy was probably the only person alive he’d trust with the secret of his stash. Jimbo showed Percy how to get down into the room off the basement of the small shop. It was filled floor to ceiling with all types of household goods. It was obvious why Jimbo had called it his tinkers stuff. They were all items an old time tinker would have dealt with in the historic past.

“Okay, Jimbo,” Percy said. You’ve got a deal. Anything I use, or if I think it’ll help someone and I can do a trade, I’ll get the best deal I can. If you don’t want me to do that, I’ll just promise not to let anyone know anything it.”

“I wasn’t figuring on you moving the stuff for me. I guess that’d be okay. You’re almost as good a horse trader as I am. Whatever you want to do. But I want gold and silver only. I trust you to make the best deals possible.”

“I will,” Percy said. “Or, better yet. How about I just buy you out? What would it take to buy everything you showed me? You still have time to convert.”

A crafty look came onto Jimbo’s face. “I’ve probably got ten grand tied up in that stuff. And to convert to gold, with the price what it is right now…”

“I’ll give you a check for twenty thousand, right now,” Percy said.

“Done,” Jimbo said immediately. The two shook hands and Percy wrote him the check before he left the shop.

He stopped at the clinic on the way back to the estate. Jock and Melissa were both there, getting ready to load some items into their small cars.

“Why don’t you just throw that stuff in the back of the Suburban? I’m headed back right now.”

“I guess it would be easier,” Jock said, looking from their two cars to the Suburban that dwarfed them. “We’d still like to take the cars. We’re going to need to get back and forth. And I haven’t had a chance to thank you, yet. This means a lot to me, you taking us in at a time like this.”

“Think nothing of it,” Percy said, opening the rear hatch of the Suburban. “You’re a valuable addition to this community. If things get worse I want to keep it that way.”

“You don’t really think they will, do you? They’ll stop this madness some way. Someone will. They have to.”

Percy didn’t respond, except to say, “I hope so.”

He was leading the way toward the estate, listening to the news on the radio. The radio went dead and he saw the two cars following him begin to slow. “This is bad. Really bad,” he muttered aloud as he stopped, and then backed the Suburban up to the Volkswagen. He realized that the vehicle that they would have met in a few seconds coming toward them on the highway had stopped, too.

“I don’t know what happened,” Melissa said, having popped the hood of the small car before she stepped out. “It just died. The radio went off, too.”

“EMP,” Percy said when Jock walked up, telling the same story. “Hurry. Let’s get them moved onto the shoulder and get to the estate. There’s nothing we can do about the cars at the moment.”

“What’s EMP? And can’t we at least try to get them running?” Jock asked.

“Come on, Honey,” Melissa urged her husband. “I think Mr. Jackson is right. ElectroMagnetic Pulse is what an atomic bomb does when it explodes up high. It zaps electronic stuff like computers. Like the ones in our cars.” She looked at Percy. “You must have a different kind of electrical systems.”

Percy didn’t try to correct the small mistakes in Melissa’s explanation to her husband. It was correct enough for the circumstances. “I do,” Percy replied. “I switched when I converted the Suburban to three axles and installed the diesel engine. Let’s get these moved. Melissa, you get behind the wheel. We’ll push.”

It took only a minute or so to move each car. As they were hurrying back to the Suburban, Melissa suddenly stopped. “Oh, my God!” She moaned. “I just realized! We’ve been attacked with atom bombs!”

Again, Percy didn’t try to correct the errors. “Yes,” he said. “Let’s get to the estate and into shelter. We’re not near a target, but you never know what might happen.”

They’d barely settled themselves in the vehicle when Melissa looked down at her stomach and wailed. “My baby! What will happen to my baby?”

“Your baby will be fine,” Percy reassured her. The houses at the estate… barns, too, are earth sheltered, as you know. A protection factor of well over a thousand. Any radiation we might get would be less than one thousandth of that we’d get out in the open. There are several places inside the houses double that protection factor.

Percy held up a meter so Melissa could see it from the rear seat. “We aren’t getting anything and I have it on the most sensitive range. That occasional tick is background radiation we get all the time. Normal.”

Percy put down the meter and put both hands on the wheel. The driver of the vehicle ahead of them was flagging them down by waving his arms in the air. Percy stopped and rolled down his window.

“My car just quit and I guess we’re out of range of the cell system. My phone doesn’t work. Could you call someone for me when you get where you’re going? You are local, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Percy said. “Normally I’d just turn around and take you to town, but this lady is ill and I need to get her home. What’s the name and number? I’ll try it when we get home. Can’t promise anything. We lose the phones out here occasionally.”

The man gave Percy the number of a hotel in the city and a room number. “Ask my wife to call Triple A and order me a tow truck.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Percy said.

“Why didn’t you tell him what was going on?” Jock asked.

“I doubt if he’d have believed me. And I’ve never tried to save the world, just my little piece of it. Your wife is more important to me. I’ll come back after I drop you off and take him into town.”

“Oh,” Jock said, looking at his still distraught wife. “I’m not thinking too straight right now.”

“I don’t like leaving someone like that, but I have my priorities. You two come first. You three.”

“I’m not going to argue your priorities. I’m not sure what we’d be doing if it wasn’t for you.”

“Don’t worry about it. Things are going to be fine. Don’t you worry. Either of you.”

Percy dropped them at the estate, leaving them in Mattie’s capable hands and headed back to where he’d left the man on the side of the road. The car was there but the man wasn’t. Percy assumed he’d been picked up by someone with a car that hadn’t been disabled by the EMP. He’d tried the phones at the estate and they weren’t working.

He tried the radio and told Susie he was headed back. He stopped in the act of turning around when he saw a yellow and black dirt bike approaching, the rider wearing the same colors. Percy was sure it was Randy Phillips on the bike. He’d seen him race at the Fourth of July Picnic.

“I’m glad I caught you, Mr. Jackson,” said Randy. “I was on the way out to see you. Look. I’m willing to give you free welding service for life if you’ll help me dig in my shelter. I converted an old tank into a shelter, but Reynolds is booked solid and can’t help me. I don’t know anyone else that can. I’d never get it done with a shovel. I’ve got to get my family into shelter, Mr. Jackson.”

“Calm down, Randy. I’ll help you. You go back home and get everything ready. And don’t worry about that for life welding thing. I’ll be in with one of the Unimogs to take care of it. It’ll take me maybe an hour to get there, but I will be there,” Percy assured the young man.

Percy radioed Susie and had her go out and mount the backhoe on the Unimog Percy had used to build the berms. The front bucket was still on it. He told Susie how to swap out the computer with a spare if the Unimog wouldn’t start. He breathed a sigh of relief when Susie radioed back and told him the truck started all right.

He had EMP protection on all his electronic equipment and it seemed everything had survived without damage at the estate except for the tower mounted camera and a couple of other minor items.

Susie was almost finished with the attachments to the Unimog. Percy checked with the Bluhms. They were settled in all right. Melissa was calm, cool, and collected now, all signs of her previous moments of panic gone.

“I’ll go with you,” Jock said when Percy explained what he was going to do.

“Your skills,” Percy said, “are too valuable to lose if something were to happen. I’d rather you stay here and help Mattie and Susie. You are a free agent and I won’t say no, but I’d like you to think about it. If things go the way they might, doctors are going to be of prime importance.”

Jock looked at Percy for several long moments. “Okay, Mr. Jackson. I’ll stay here. But I have to be doing something.”

“I expect you to lend a hand here, in ways that won’t jeopardize your ability to be a doctor. Susie knows what she’s doing on the estate. Just follow her orders, and speak up if she asks you to do something you can’t do, or shouldn’t do.”

He turned to Susie. “I don’t expect many, if any, people to show up at our doorstep. If it is someone we know, or someone with important skills, let them in. Unless it’s a really good vehicle, have them park in the field across from the gates. We can take up to thirty additional people. But we are not a public shelter. If this goes the way it might, this place is going to be very important to the community and I intend to protect it.”

“Yes, sir,” Susie replied. “I’ll do my best.”

“I know. I need to get going. Randy is good people. There’s a chance someone else will want some help. I have my dose and rate meters. I’ll work as long as there is no radiation. If we do start getting any, I’ll head home immediately. Mattie, you know where the meters are. Keep an eye on them and let Susie know if we start getting fallout.”

Mattie nodded.

“Doctor Bluhm,” Percy said then, looking over at the young woman. “If you could help Mattie, I would appreciate it. The same stipulation that I gave Jock goes for you, too.”

“I understand,” she replied.

“I’ll see you all later. Oh. Mattie, Sara should be showing up around seven. I doubt if I’ll be here. Make her comfortable and reassure her I’m okay. She should be able to get me on the radio. I’ll have one of the handhelds with me when I’m out of the truck. Keep an eye on the news and let me know of anything important.”

“I will. Good luck and take care of yourself.”

Percy was just pulling up to the gate when it opened. He’d added the circuit for the opener to the ones the generator for the house fed. Sara had opened the gate with her remote. Percy hopped down out of the truck. “You’re here. Thank God. I’m off for a little while. Mattie will see to your needs. I’m really glad you came out early.  I take it the EMP didn’t fry the hybrid’s computers in the agency's parking garage.”

“All I know is when I tried to start it, it did. When the power went out they sent us all home. There was no reason not to come on out. Where are you going?”

Percy was holding Sara’s hand through her open window. “Help out a couple of people. I’ll be back… when I’m finished.”

“Oh, Percy,” Sara almost pleaded. “Be careful. You like to help people. Don’t let that get you hurt.”

“I won’t,” Percy replied, “I promise.”

“I love you, Percy,” Sara said softly, looking into his eyes.

She saw it there before he said it. “I love you, too, Sara. I’m glad you decided to come. If you want, have Mattie put your stuff in my rooms. But only if you want. I want to marry you.”

“I want to marry you, too, Percy, but let’s wait until things calm down before we jump into anything.”

“I guess you’re right,” Percy said. “But the question, such as it was, stands. Will you marry me?”

“When you ask me again, after we know what’s going to happen, Percy. Now go help someone. I want to get settled so I can help Mattie.”

“Okay. Bye. I love you.”

“Bye. I love you too.”

Despite the slight delay, Percy made it to Randy’s within the hour he’d specified. It took only a few hours to dig the hole, place the converted set of tanks, bolt them together, then backfill and mound them over with three feet of earth dug from the trench.

“I owe you for life,” Randy said. I would never have got this done in time. It’s only a matter of time before we get some fallout from somewhere.”

“You don’t owe me for life. Just trade me some labor sometime in the future for this. That’s all I want. Do you need help getting your stuff into the shelter?”

“No. You’ve done enough. We can handle the rest. Thanks again, Mr. Jackson.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll be on my way, then.”

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.

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Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
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Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #18 on: September 24, 2013, 10:06:14 PM »
He’d barely hit the edge of town on his way back to the estate when someone was flagging him down. “Hey! You for hire? I’ll give you five hundred bucks to dig some dirt and pile it around my basement walls.”

“No money but you’ll owe me twenty hours of labor on my farm sometime.”

“Sweet. You got it. Just knock down the fence. You’ll have to pile some dirt at the one corner after you move what you can, and I can move it the rest of the way on the back of the house with a shovel.”

It took less than an hour. The man and the rest of the family stayed busy shoveling some of the dirt into emptied out dresser drawers and cardboard boxes to stack over one corner of the basement.

Neighbors were coming over to see what was going on. It was close to midnight before Percy got back to the estate. He’d done various excavations and earth moves for a dozen people.

Mattie and Sara were waiting up for him. They had insisted the others go to bed. “Any additional news?” Percy asked as Mattie handed him a sandwich.

“Not really. Just snatches here and there. The satellite seems to be working, but only a few channels are up, and that is intermittent. All we know for sure is that at least one device was detonated almost right over us.”

Before Mattie could say anything else they felt the dome vibrating. It was different from the quake caused by the nuke on the New Madrid fault line. It was enough to bring the Bluhms and Susie running into the kitchen. They were all in their nightclothes.

Percy hurried to the den and the others followed. He flipped a switch and a hollow rumble sound filled the room. The room began to shake even more and everyone crouched beside the heavy desk until the shake passed.

“Was that an earthquake, a bomb, or what?” asked Jock.

“Earth tremor, I think. But it’s different from the others. The roar became louder for a moment then faded away. The TV screens were all tuned to the same channels as they had been for the last several days. All were blank.

“I don’t know for sure, but it kind of felt like the movement was from the west. “I’m going to take a look outside. He checked the radiation meters first, then went to the front door and stepped outside. The others followed. All they could see was the night sky.

Percy’s Mission - Chapter 16

Calvin had been a bit worried about trying to cut his hours at the bank, but there were no problems. The bank actually welcomed it. They needed additional tellers with the heavy traffic due to the new banking laws. There were less of other types of bank work, so mid-level staff was being cut back, anyway.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays Calvin would work at the bank. At a significantly reduced salary, of course. But he did still receive enough to cover what few monthly payments they had with that salary. Everything they made with the equipment was available for anything they wanted.

The Stubblefield’s essentially took over the equipment based portion of Andersons’ businesses. It was easy to just continue getting many of the jobs through the Andersons and give them a cut. They got business on their own, too. Even Herbert was amazed at the additional work they were able to do with the new equipment.

There seemed to be a backlog of work that had accumulated, due to the fact that Anderson simply didn’t have the equipment needed to do the work. Fortunately, Anderson was willing to teach Calvin and Nan how to do most of the work that he had not been able to do due to lack of equipment.

One thing Anderson wouldn’t do was use the aerial bucket. One of the beds Calvin had purchased for the Unimog was a utility bed with a forty-foot reach aerial lift with material winch. Herbert didn’t like heights. He would direct the work from the ground, but refused to get into the bucket.

“Okay, Nan,” Calvin called up to his wife. “That looks good. You can ground.”

Nan let the hydraulic powered chainsaw rest on the edge of the bucket as she lowered the boom to bring the bucket to the ground. She unhooked the chainsaw hydraulic hoses and the safety cable and handed it to Calvin.

“This is cool, Calvin. I like the high work.” Nan parked the boom and bucket on the rack and climbed down.

Calvin grinned at his wife. “I know. You’ve mentioned it a time or two. But there is ground work, too. Come and help me with the chipper.” He walked over to the Toolcat. A limb chipper was mounted on the front. He fired up the machine and began feeding the limbs Nan had trimmed from the tree into the chipper.

Since the homeowner wanted the chips for mulch, Calvin had aimed the discharge to form a pile just inside the property line. With hardhat, face shield, and earmuffs on, Nan began to help. Calvin was likewise outfitted, including similar gloves to those Nan wore. It went quickly with both of them working.

“I love these toys!” Nan said, her enthusiasm obvious. They had loaded the Toolcat onto the trailer now attached to the Unimog. When they started to climb into the cab of the truck, a car stopped beside them. Nan walked around to join Calvin.

“Hi. My name is Joe Brenderman. I live on the other side of town. I was wondering… Do you install fallout shelters?”

“I’m sure we could,” replied Calvin, without hesitation. “Do you need one buried?”

“Yeah. Stubby said he could reinforce a shipping container and equip the inside. Now I need someone to dig it in. I was going to get Anderson with his backhoe, but he recommended you guys. He told me you were working over on this side of town.”

Calvin looked at Nan. She nodded. Turning back to Joe, Calvin said, “Let’s go take a look.”

They followed Joe back to his house. There was a forty-foot long shipping container sitting in Joe’s back yard. “Stubby said it would be better to wait to fix up the inside until after it was buried. He just finished the reinforcing yesterday. Can your stuff handle the thing?”

“I’m sure we can,” Calvin said. “How deep do you want it?”

“Two-thirds. We can use the dirt out of the hole to mound it over.”

Calvin shot Joe a price and Joe eagerly accepted. When Nan and Calving were headed home, Nan asked, “Are you sure the truck will handle it?”

“Sure,” Calvin replied. “The material hoist won’t, but the crane will be here tomorrow. It’ll handle it easily.”

“Oh. I’d forgotten the crane. I’m glad we ordered it, too.”

“This has gone a lot better than I ever imagined,” Calvin said. “Thanks for encouraging me for us to do it.”

Nan rested her hand on Calvin’s shoulder for a moment. “No need to thank me. This is good for me, too.” Her hand slid away. “It’s been helping me keep my mind off the world situation. Until today. That fallout shelter. I never think of our home that way, but it is, I know. We planned it that way. But it’s just home to me.”

“We are lucky ones, I guess,” Calvin replied. “Being able to do the things we’ve wanted.”

“Luck played a part, I admit. But it was our hard work and foresight that put us where we are today. I feel sorry for those that simply can’t see what’s really happening.”

“I know,” Calvin said. “The people around here have been good to us. Maybe we should thank them in some way. Say special discount rate for anything survival related. Like digging the shelter in for Joe. Other things. I’m not sure what. But there are bound to be things people will be doing. You’re right. The way we did things, I don’t think about individual aspects.”

“We can’t make people do things, but we could print up flyers say something like ‘for your preparedness needs.’ We could even order food and supplies for people. Where we’re getting the stuff we could even buy retail and make a little on it and it’d still be cheaper than what little you can find around here.”

“That’s true. Retail is a lot of work. You sure you want to take that on with the woodcutting and the equipment work?” He chuckled. “Of course, you don’t have to do much at the Andersons’ anymore.”

Nan smiled. The job hadn’t lasted very long, since they had started doing most of the work almost immediately after Mrs. Anderson had hired her.

The day didn’t start at all well. Pakistan nuking India was all over the news. They talked it over, and Calvin and Nan decided to go ahead and do the job they had scheduled for the day. When they got there, they kept the radio on all the time, to get updates on the situation.

They were stopped often, by people anxious for them to help with getting a shelter dug. There was plenty of work lined up for the next several days now. They were tired when they got home, both mentally and physically.

The next day was better. No additional bad news, just the ongoing situation with Pakistan and India. Not all the work was preparedness related. Most of the septic tanks had been installed at about the same time, as the area developed. There was a lot of heavy clay, and those that had not taken good care of their septic systems needed new drainage fields.

Shortly after they sat down to have their dinner Nan looked up and asked, “Did you feel something?”

Calvin responded questioningly. “What? Feel something? No, Did you?”

“Yeah. Something… I don’t know.” Nan got up and turned on the small TV in the kitchen. “Oh my God!” she exclaimed. Calvin hurried in to join her.

Supper out of their minds, they hurried to the living room to watch the reports of the terrorist attacks on the larger screen TV it boasted. They looked at one another. Calvin said, “It must have been the New Madrid quake you felt.” Nan could only nod. They watched the news coverage late into the night.

They were up at their usual time the next morning. The phone rang as they were having breakfast. Calvin opened his cellular phone. “Yes. Yes. We’ll be there this morning to take a look at it.”

“We’re getting the crane delivered today at the Andersons’ yard,” Nan said.

“I know. That was Audrey Blankenship. She wants us to berm up around their house. They’re going to build a shelter in their basement. I told her we’d take a look.”


Calvin’s cell phone rang again. He had a conversation almost word for word like the first one. “That was one wanting a hole dug to build a shelter.”

They didn’t need to print any flyers. Calvin and Nan stayed busy in the area helping people prepare shelters. From digging trenches and cutting timber for people to build expedient shelters as illustrated in Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson Kearny, to setting factory and home built shelters from the simple to the elaborate. The library had a copy of the Kearny book. The librarian was kept busy copying the various plans for people. She wouldn’t let the book out of the library.

After a short discussion, they took half of their assets and converted them to gold and silver, and bought a huge order of LTS food. They had planned to sell most of it to those who were having difficulty getting ready for whatever might happen. Only the fact that they’d been a regular customer did the company they used agree to send even a fourth of the food they wanted. The company wouldn’t guarantee delivery, but would not charge them if they didn’t ship.

Every other company they contacted refused the order. Like the company Calvin and Nan used, the other companies were only filling orders for regular customers. There were vastly more orders wanted than all the LTS food companies combined could now fill.

Nan was on the backhoe on the A300 digging a pit for Harley Jacobson to bury a septic tank he was converting to a shelter when the ground began to move. She saw Calvin and Harley both fall down then try to climb back to their feet, without success.

With the bucket curled and resting on the ground, Nan clambered down off the hoe. She wished she’d stayed on the Bobcat. The ground was still shaking and it was making her nauseous. The Bobcat had been moving, but somehow feeling the earth move under your feet was worse. She almost fell, but managed to keep her feet as Calvin and Harley finally scrambled back onto theirs.

“Crimeny!” exclaimed Harley. That was a hell of a…” The words faded, either because he quit talking or they were drowned out by the massive sound that throbbed in their ears.

All three covered their ears with their hands, the sound was so intense. It seemed beyond loud. Almost like a living being. And it lasted, like the shaking had, seemingly forever.

But fade it did, finally. Calvin took his hands from his ears, and when Nan did the same he asked, “Can you hear me?” He was worried he might be deaf, the silence was so total.

When Nan responded in a normal sounding voice, he was relieved. “I can hear, but that was loud enough to hurt. What was it? A nuke?”

Calvin was looking around. “Felt like it could have been, but I didn’t see any kind of flash and there’s no mushroom cloud. A nuke would have been close to cause that much shaking. Try the radio.”

Nan ran to the Unimog and climbed into the cab. “Nothing. Not even static.”

“Nuts!” Calvin called out. “See if the engine will start!” He breathed a sigh of relief when the engine turned over and started with nary a grunt. He looked over at Harley. “Harley, try your Ford.”

Harley went to his pride and joy. A brand new Ford F150. He tried to start it. It didn’t start, even after several tries. There weren’t even any clicks you’re prone to hear when a battery is just weak.

“EMP,” Calvin said. “There was a nuke.” He continued to look around. “But there is no sign.”

“Oh, my God!” Nan said quietly. What if it was a nuke at Yellowstone?”

Nan saw Calvin blanch. “That wouldn’t account for the EMP. But if there was a general attack there would be at least one high altitude blast as an EMP bomb.” He’d been staring off into the distance as he’d talked. Now he looked at Nan. “We need to get home.”

“But what about my shelter?” wailed Harley. “I’ll die!”

Husband and wife looked at one another. They’d read up on fallout and studied the possibility of Yellowstone blowing. “We have time. But that’s it.” Nan said. “We do this, and then go home.” Calvin nodded.

Working quickly but carefully, Calvin and Nan set the two piece septic tank into place. They took enough extra time to help Harley knock a hole in one end to act as the entrance. With the dirt from the hole mounded over the septic tank and the used railroad ties that were leaned against one end to make the right angle entrance they were finished.

Again, working quickly but carefully, they loaded up the A300 and Toolcat onto the transport trailer and headed home. Both were tense, afraid that someone would want them to stop and help. But no one did. They’d barely left town when dust began to rain down.

“Had to be Yellowstone,” Calvin said. He slowed down even more than usual. Volcanic ash was highly abrasive. He didn’t want any in the engine through the filters. He even preferred stopping occasionally to clear the windshield by hand rather than run the wipers and risk scarring it.

They began to breathe a little easier when they got to the section of road they’d improved. They’d be home in a few minutes. A few seconds later the NukAlert on the Unimog key ring began to chirp. Just one chirp, then another a few seconds later. But then the chirps came much more rapidly.

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

Please post any comments for this story in the Comments Section, not here with the story. Thank you.

Jerry D Young -
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
(There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch - Robert A Heinlein) Kindle Author page

Offline Jerry D Young

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Re: JDY Fiction - Percy's Mission
« Reply #19 on: September 25, 2013, 01:30:36 PM »
“Fallout, too,” Nan said softly.

“We’re almost home,” Calvin said, equally softly. “We’ll be okay.”

They were silent the rest of the way. It only took a few minutes. The NukAlert was chirping continuously when they pulled around the circle drive and stopped. Both jumped from the truck and ran to the house.

“Wait!” Nan said. “We need to decontaminate. The hose.” They stripped and took turns holding the hose for the other to thoroughly wash off the small amount of ash and fallout that had accumulated on them during the dash from the truck to the house. Leaving the clothing where it lay, Calvin unlocked the door and they entered the house, shivering slightly.

Nan went to get them some clothes. Calvin turned on the TV. The power light came on, but it wasn’t working. “Crap,” he muttered. “The EMP.” He put on the robe that Nan handed to him, then hurried to the garage. There was the box.

Calvin took down a storage box from the shelves lining one side of the garage. He opened the box and took out a 5” battery operated television. Carrying the TV he returned to the living room. Nan was using their survey meter to check areas in the room for radiation.

“We’ve got radiation coming through the door. Not much, but we need to stay out of the line from the front door to right here by the door out to the garage.

“Okay,” responded Calvin, going over to the big screen television. He swung one edge of the entertainment center away from the wall. It took only moments to unhook the antenna cable and connect it to the portable. “Get me some D batteries, Nan.” They didn’t have an AC cord for the little TV.

Nan hurried to, then back from the kitchen, carrying the batteries. Another few moments and the TV was on. It had been a waste of time. Calvin ran the dial up and down. Not a single channel was working. Nan went back to the kitchen and tried the radio in there. Also nothing.

Calvin joined her in the kitchen and they looked at one another for a few moments. “Finding out what is going on will have to wait. I could be wrong, but I think Yellowstone has blown, maybe because of a nuke. That’d be the ash. And the missile silos have probably been hit. The winds are right for them to be the source of the fallout. We in for some rough times, but if we’re careful, we’ll be all right.”

Nan stepped over to him and put her arms around him, her head on his shoulder. “I know. Thank God we’ve done what we’ve done. Let’s sit down a minute and think this through.”

Nan’s hands were shaking as she got water from the refrigerator for both of them. She had to hold her glass with both hands to be able to take a sip.

“Okay,” Calvin said. “You do what you were doing before. Survey the whole house and find where we’re safest from the radiation. We built this house with this in mind, so we have a pretty good idea where those spots are. Just confirm them.

“I want to go ahead and disconnect all the antennas from everything in case there is another big EMP blast. At least we’ve been keeping the other gear disconnected. I’m afraid to hook up the Shortwave receiver and other monitors. I think the one scanner we have hooked up is dead. It’s not scanning. Neither is the weather radio. I just hope some of the antennas are still okay.”

“We do have the backup antennas,” replied Nan, sipping her water as she tried to calm herself.

“True, but we won’t be going out for some time. Not with the radiation and ash coming down the way they are. I suspect we’re going to be cooped up in here for some time to come. You up to continuing? I want to check the rest of the communications gear and the power system. We’ve still got electricity, but I want to see if the rest of the gear is okay. At least we had thyristors protecting the power systems.”

Nan nodded and stood. She picked up the survey meter from the table and headed for the living room again.

Percy’s Mission - Chapter 17

Buddy didn’t waste any time. He wasn’t fearful someone else would buy the property. Buddy wanted to get to work on it. Every minute he wasn’t working, eating, or sleeping he spent on getting the place ready for whatever might come. The news seemed worse every day.

The plan was to build a nice place in the large clearing, to take advantage of the view, but he wanted something to live in while he was working there. So Buddy bought a thirty-foot fifth-wheel travel trailer. He thought about paying cash, but decided on the spur of the moment to finance it in order to conserve his cash. Besides, he got a zero-percent-interest loan on it.

He was a little worried about there being enough topsoil for an easy septic system, but it didn’t turn out to be a problem. Buddy went ahead put in the system so it could be used for the house when it was built.

For the things he was concerned with, living in the trailer as is would not be adequate. It was far too vulnerable to nature’s ravages and human kind’s efforts. He was going to need a garage and shop, anyway, so he built one to house the trailer and his truck.

Before he started work on the building, he contacted a well driller friend he’d worked with a few times on rural homes. He cut a deal with him to add a basement bathroom in the driller’s home to offset a portion of the cost of the well. The well was rather marginal at only five gallons per minute production, but the driller assured Buddy that, though low producing, the wells in the area were steady producers. He could pump five gallons a minute all day, every day, if he wanted.

“How is this going to work again?” Charlene asked when she got out of the truck and stood beside it.

“Okay. These arched pieces I brought up last week will be bolted together to form a Quonset type structure. I’ll build walls on each end, and then mound earth over the whole thing.”

“That’s a lot of dirt!” Charlene said. She followed him over to the stacked arch panels.

Buddy laughed. “I’ve got a lot of it! I just have to pull it from several spots on the property. It’s pretty thin in spots.” He’d had a loader delivered to the gate and roaded it to the site the previous week. It had taken a week of evenings to prepare an area the way he wanted.

The footings and floor were poured and cured enough to erect the structure. Getting the concrete truck up had not been difficult, though he did have to cut a few trees to widen the track. The cut up wood was stacked handy for the woodstove that would heat the building.

Like the loader, a small truck crane was rented and sitting ready for use. Buddy had used it and a trailer to tow a man lift up to the site as well. He gave Charlene a hard hat and showed her how to use the crane. It would all be simple work. Buddy was sure she could handle it.

Charlene wasn’t as sure as Buddy, but when he helped her lift the ends of the first two arch panels into place so he could bolt them together at the top, she realized she could, in fact, do it. And do it safely. She merely had to be careful and take her time.

They shifted the bases into place on the foundations and Buddy fastened a timber to it to act as a brace when they lifted it up. Charlene lifted the center of the arch into the air. Buddy spotted the brace, fastened it to the ground with a stake, then quickly added nuts to the bolts now projecting up through the base plates of the arches.

It took a while, but they had all the arches up by the time they finished that day. Buddy used the man lift each time they erected an arch panel to connect it to the previous one. When they were done they had a fifty-foot long, thirty-two foot wide, sixteen foot high tunnel.

Buddy drove the crane truck and towed the man lift back to the rental place while Charlene drove his pickup.

Over the next few days Buddy erected reinforced concrete block walls at each end of the tunnel, using scaffolding he had rented for that reason, and to do the high interior finish work. Charlene helped him when she could. She even took a few turns in the loader, when the task was simply moving dirt or gravel. When the end walls were done, Charlene helped him install the drain system consisting of perforated pipe laid in a gravel bed and covered with more gravel.

It took well over a week of loader work to do the mounding. Buddy didn’t want the berm too steep, so the berm was very wide. Though he lacked huge amounts of good dirt, he had plenty of rock available. There was one bench he had a powder monkey come up and blast. That provided more than enough fill rock.

The actual soil was only used next to the arches, on the roof section, and to fill in gaps between broken rock. The mounded structure then had sod laid on it. He’d built a four-foot wide tunnel with a right angle turn in it as a rear entrance and exit.

He did the same with the person-sized door on the front. The windows on each end of the garage he had heavy steel shutters made, and a shelf inside on which he could stack solid concrete blocks to provide radiation shielding. The garage door was different.

The trailer he simply parked inside before he put up the front wall. But he wanted to be able to bring the pickup inside, too. Buddy framed and built a heavy steel sliding door for the opening. Next he built a five-foot high concrete block wall, the width of the structure including the earth berming. It was out ten feet from the edge of the berm against the front wall. Then he built a thick berm in front of the wall.

The section between the wall and structure berm was a concrete slab with a shed type metal roof covering the section in front of the garage door. Between the wall, the half-inch metal door, additional solid concrete blocks to stack inside the door, and the sloped roof, which could be sprayed to keep fallout away from the door area, Buddy was sure he had made the structure as radiation resistant as was practical.

There was still plenty of room to get the truck in and out. Though he didn’t attempt it, Buddy was pretty sure he could actually get the trailer out, if he wanted. He wasn’t sure about getting it back in.

Buddy breathed a sigh of relief when he put the finishing touches on the building. There was time to get some shelving built to hold the extensive supplies he’d ordered earlier.

“Holy cow, Buddy!” Charlene exclaimed when she saw the rental cargo trailer hooked up to Buddy’s pickup. “You say that thing is full of food?” The trailer was a sixteen-foot tandem-wheel box trailer normally used for moving.

“Well, almost. There’s some water barrels and some other bulky stuff, too.” Buddy looked over at her as they belted themselves in for the trip up to the property. “You sure you want to help with this? We’ll be getting back late.”

“I’ll help. But you’re sure going to owe me a major dinner at Red Lobster.

Buddy smiled. “Sure thing. I’ll be getting a bargain.”

“Don’t be so sure. You know I love lobster.”

They talked companionably after that on the way up to the property. Buddy had picked up the load at the trucking terminal that morning. He wanted to get it into the shelter as soon as possible. The bed of the truck was filled with additional material he wanted to get up there as well.

There was plenty of room on the shelves for everything, with plenty of room left over. They stacked case after case of long-term storage food. Food grade fifty-five-gallon barrels were lined up on the wooden deck Buddy had made when he built the shelves. He’d bring up the generator and fill the barrels with water the next time he came up.

Charlene had brought a picnic lunch up and they had it sitting on the wall berm, watching the city. But it was a light lunch and they more than made up for it at the restaurant that evening.

The next morning Buddy was on the way to the driller’s home when the first news report came on the radio about Pakistan and India. A few minutes later Charlene called. She was obviously frightened at the implications. He was able to talk to her for a few minutes and she was calm by the time they hung up.

The driller kept a radio on all day as they worked. The driller was acting as Buddy’s helper on the job. When the report came in that India had retaliated, Buddy called Charlene.

“Charlene. Yeah, it’s me. You know that bug out bag I helped you put together? Yeah. I want you to go get it and keep it with you all the time now. Okay?”

Sure now that if something worse happened, Charlene had the means to get to the shelter. Buddy had insisted on giving her a set of keys to the locks that secured the place. If need be, she could get there and into the safety of the shelter on her own.

That evening he went over to her house and helped her select things to go ahead and take up the first chance they had. He added a few things to her bug out bag and went over a few procedures in case she did have to go up by herself.

Buddy sweated out the next couple of days. He’d ordered a windmill generator and a solar photovoltaic system. With the things going the way they were, he wasn’t sure if he’d get them before something else happened.

People were postponing jobs on him right and left, though there were a couple of rush jobs. Buddy had the time to do a little more shopping himself. Stores were running out of many things, but he was able to pick up most of what he wanted. Most of it was things that he would wind up using anyway, even if nothing more serious happened.

Charlene wasn’t getting much business so she took the day off when Buddy was ready to take another load of things up.

On the way home that evening Buddy was explaining the whys and wherefores of some of the items that Charlene had helped him shelve that afternoon when the radio station they had on, low, announced a special bulletin. Buddy quickly pulled over to the side of the road when the first announcement came of the tremendous earthquakes in California and Missouri and Illinois. Buddy turned up the volume and they listened to the report.

Charlene gasped when the reporter stated that terrorists had used nuclear weapons to create the earthquakes and destroy the United Nations building. She looked over at Buddy, her alarm obvious in her face. “Buddy…” she asked tentatively.

“It’s okay. Doesn’t sound like it’s a general attack. Just terrorists.” Buddy shook his head. “Did I just say that? Just terrorists? I want to get home and see what the news networks are reporting. I’ll drop you off so you can…”

Charlene cut him off. “Buddy, I don’t want to be by myself. What if there are more attacks?”

“Okay. You can stay at the house tonight. I’m not sure how much sleep we’ll get. Because you’re right. This could be the start.”

Buddy took Charlene home the next morning when there were no reports of further terrorist activity. He made her promise that if something really bad happened and she couldn’t get hold of him she would go up to the shelter by herself.

Buddy was finishing up a job, literally putting the final polishing on the sink he’d just installed when the lights went out in the house where he was working. Suddenly the room was flooded with light. When he hurried out of the room he yelled for the lady of the house to get away from the windows, but it was too late.

He dove back into the bathroom, into the bathtub. He heard the glass breaking and the woman’s scream, then the loudest sound he had ever heard. He gave it a few seconds, and then carefully made his way out of the bathroom.

There was nothing he could do for the woman. She was obviously quite dead. The blast wave from the nuclear explosion had shattered the window through which the woman was staring. The broken glass literally shredded the flesh from her bones before it threw her against the far wall. Buddy heard the house creaking. The blast and wind had damaged it severely. Buddy hurried out.

The mushroom cloud was still glowing with heat. None of the houses seemed to have been destroyed, but all looked like they had received moderate to major damage. Buddy tried to start the plumbing truck, but the starter wouldn’t even click. “EMP,” Buddy muttered.

It took only a couple of minutes to get out the mountain bike he’d taken to carrying in the truck. The bike was equipped with a handlebar bag, and panniers hanging on either side of the rear tire from a stout rack. On the rack was strapped a medium size duffle bag.

There was enough equipment and supplies on the bike, Buddy hoped, to get him to the shelter. However, when he climbed on the bike he headed for home, rather than the shelter. The bike would get him to the shelter, but if he could get there with the truck, and more supplies, so much the better.

Buddy cut his eyes toward the mushroom cloud. It was still growing. He stopped long enough to feel the wind on his face. It was from him toward the cloud. The weather pattern should keep it that way. But Buddy was unsure how the nuke blast itself might affect the local weather pattern.

It was a good bike, with good tires. Despite the occasional plea for help from those milling around outside their houses, Buddy knew that if he stopped to help anyone, much less everyone that might be helped, he’d never survive. He changed to a higher gear and sped up, weaving around obstacles.

It took a while, but he was only six miles from home. An hour later he was at the house. Buddy crossed two fingers of his left hand, and turned the key of his truck with his right.

He breathed a sigh of relief when the truck started right up. The EMP had not destroyed the ignition components. He wasn’t worried about any of the other electrical components. As long as the truck would run he was happy.

Copyright 2012
Jerry D Young

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Jerry D Young -
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and always remember TANSTAAFL
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