Friday, May 31, 2019

Seven Skinny Cows: Northward bound

Mark Salazar and eight-year-old Rosie Cowper started north a week after the rain stopped. Mark expected that they would have to hole up a few times along the way to wait for flooded bridges but he had a bad feeling about staying with the buildings.

The day before they left Mark filled the most isolated outbuilding on the east side of the property half full of firewood. He did not stack it, he left it jumbled. He wanted to have a good draft into it.

Then he brought Grumpy and Doreen’s bodies and gently laid them on the pile with about of foot gap between them. Then he arranged them so they were holding hands.

Mark read from Isaiah 35 and John 14.

He asked Rosie if she wanted to say good-bye. She did.

“I don’t know how to pray.” Rosie said.

“What would you say to God if he was standing right here in front of us?” Mark said.

“Do I have to say it out-loud or can I say it in my head?” Rosie asked.

“Either way works.” Mark said. “But my mom always said that saying it out-loud was to pray twice. That, and it feels more like you were praying.”

Rosie had a heart-to-heart conversation with God as she leaned into Mark.

Rosie wanted to know why God made the plague.

Rosie wanted God to keep her parents safe, where ever they were.

Rosie asked God to buy a stove like the one Doreen had cooked and baked on for fifty years. She asked that Grumpy have plenty of dead ash to split, cinnamon rolls to eat and coffee to drink.

“It is probably better if you don’t watch the next part.” Mark said.

Rosie went back to the house and stood by the two back-packs on the porch. Old Shep waited there with her as Mark started the fire on the windward side at the bottom of the woodpile.

He waited to ensure that the wood was catching before turning away.

“Fair winds, Grumpy and Doreen. Fair winds.” he said out-loud as he walked away.

They shouldered their backpacks and Mark opened the door to the chicken coop on the way by. He blocked the door open. Maybe they could make it as feral chickens. Maybe not. But at least they would have a chance.

They made it five miles the first day. Rosie lacked suitable shoes. Everything she owned was ‘fashionable’. They sparkled and had heels. Mark had to dig through the attic and find some of Doreen’s old shoes. For now they were too big but extra socks helped with that.

Mark and Rosie camped beneath some red cedar trees two hundred yards from the road they were following. He dipped water from the swollen stream that had served as the water source for the old pasture they were in.

Dinner was rice and chunked summer sausage.

It took three days to make it to the Michigan line. Mark breathed a sigh of relief.

A consequence of high school sports is that residents of the Upper Peninsula, four hundred miles away were more likely to have heard of ‘Eaton Rapids’ than Ohio residents a mere seventy-five miles south of Eaton Rapids. Eaton Rapids rarely had a winning football season but they were widely known for their wrestling and softball program.

The first challenge was at the East Branch of the St Joseph River.

The man had his gun trained on Mark and Rosie from fifty yards away. He had them stop five paces away and demanded that Mark give up his gun.

Mark said, “I don’t think so.” He had it hanging from a loose, tac-sling across his chest. The 16 gauge shells were loaded with #6 shot, a shot size typically used to shoot rabbits and squirrels. At five yards it would act like a solid slug.

“All we ask is safe passage. We are heading north.” Mark said.

“Where are you going?” the man asked, keeping his own weapon at low ready.

“I have family in Eaton Rapids.” Mark said. “My daughter and I are going to rejoin them. My name is Mark and this is Rosie."

Mark and Rosie decided that it would be far easier to explain away Rosie as being Mark’s daughter.

“That is a mighty long walk.” the man observed. Then as an afterthought said "My name is Dean."

“Well, Dean, we would have taken the bus but it seems as though they stopped running.” Mark observed, wryly.

“How far do you think you are going to go today?” Dean asked.

“We have been averaging about ten miles a day.” Mark said. “We are still toughening up after doing nothing all winter.”

“Where did you start?” Dean asked. Dean and all of his neighbors were hungry for information.

“About three miles south of here.” Mark said. “Can you recommend a high place for us to camp a couple hours north of here? That would be about six or seven miles.”

“Yeah, you might try the Pittsford State Game Area.” Dean suggested.

Mark winced. “Probably crawling with a bunch of city dudes that 'bugged out' thinking they are going to hunt for a living.”

“Any other suggestions?” Mark asked.

Dean frowned a little bit. He did not know it but Mark had turned him into a friend by the simple expedient of asking for advice.

“A couple of miles east of the State Game Area there are a couple of lakes. As far as I know, there aren’t any people living in them right now. Might be ‘OK’ if you were tidy and didn’t make a mess of the place. Most of them leave a spare key under the mat or a garden gnome.” Dean offered.

“Sound perfect.” Mark said. Where there were lakes there were likely to be ducks. A northbound duck would be a welcome change from the summer sausage. Who knows. They might even be able to turn up some vittles in one of the cabins that the locals missed.  Either one of them would be a welcome change from spaghetti, rice, Spam and summer sausage.