Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Seven Fat Cows 6.6: Edwards Muck

Shadrack Shaw came into Kate’s Store lugging a five gallon bucket half filled with gray clay.

“Ma-am, Mr Ed on the radio said you were looking for limestone. I think I can help you out.” Shad said.

The Shaw family home-schooled their kids and the curriculum was eclectic.

Kate was in the process of cutting Carson Duckworth fifteen feet of 3/16” galvanized steel aircraft cable. Kate looked down, into the bucket and honestly commented, “That doesn’t look like limestone.”

“That’s because it isn’t.” Shad said. “It’s marl. Limestone and marl are both calcium carbonate.”

“You sound very sure of yourself.” Kate said.

“I did a unit on local soils.” Shad said. “Parts of Gruesbeck Drain cut through Edwards Muck.”

Kate’s face registered lack of understanding.

Edwards Muck sits on a base of marl. The spoils bank for the drain is topped with marl...pure calcium carbonate.” Shad said with the certainty of a fifteen-year-old.

Kate said, “I am certainly no expert on soils but I am more than willing to let local folks try this. They are desperate for something to strengthen their eggshells. For that matter, so am I. I can’t sell eggs with broken shells.”

“I can work with that.” Shad said. “Let me know if it works out and you want me to get any more.”

Shad left the bucket.

Kate’s customers gave her rave reviews for the marl. Adding five pounds for every hundred pounds of food went through a lot of marl but it also solved the problem with the breaking egg shells. Everybody was happy.

The next time that Shad came into the store, Kate said “We need to talk about what is a fair price for your product.”

“Aw, heck Mrs Salazar. I will just give it to you.” Shad said.

“That won’t work for me for a couple of reasons.” Kate said.

“For one, it isn’t fair to you. Digging up that marl is cold heavy work and it will get a lot harder once you mine out the spoils bank and have to dig for it.” Kate said.

“The other reason is that I need a lot of it. Maybe more than you can dig by yourself. You will need to be able to pay people to work for you.” Kate said.

“How much do you think you need?” Shad asked.

“Hard to say. I could probably sell twenty pounds a week but that could go way up if the other neighborhoods can’t get limestone. It might go up to a hundred pounds a week...dried marl, not wet.” Kate said.

Shad winced. “That is a lot of marl.”

“So, what do you think is a fair price for marl?” Shad asked.

“I have been thinking about that.” Kate said. “I get the equivalent of $4.00 for a dozen eggs. That is, ten dozen eggs trades for a face-cord of firewood. That works out to about $2.75 a pound. Seems to me that would be a good starting place for marl, $2.75 a pound. What do you think?”

“Sounds really high.” Shad said.

“Maybe so, to you. But think of all the work that goes into raising chickens and making eggs. It all gets wasted if the eggs break when the hen lays them or they break in the basket on the way here.” Kate said.

“Think of it as selling insurance.” she said.

Quite by chance, Carson Duckworth was in the store while this conversation was going on.

It was no big trick for Carson to walk Gruesbeck’s drain and see where Shad had been digging. Nor was it a big deal for Carson to throw a bunch of fence posts into the ground and string wire and put up signs declaring it was his property. After all, the drainage ditch cut through “common” property where the legal owners were not in a position to enforce their rights.

Duckworth’s audacity created a firestorm within the community.

Duckworth contended that Shad was a kid and did not have the resources to exploit the marl deposit.

He also contended that there needed to be a mechanism for turning “common property” over to private ownership to ensure it was properly looked after.

When families with far less property than Duckworth commented that they were counting on the common property for firewood, he said that they should make their claims. He also said that every adult member of the community should have an equal claim on the commons regardless of whether they were rich or poor.

By his figuring, that meant that every adult was entitled to three acres of “common land”. Between him, his wife and Cameron his nineteen-year-old son, they staked claim to the stretch of Gruesbeck drain that cut through the Edwards muck.



  1. Duckworth sounds like a 'choosing beggar'. Bet no one is allowed to take anything from his 'property' while he can always come up with a justification for him to take stuff off of other people's property.

  2. AND things start going left... sigh

  3. Shunning is a thing, and the penalty for claim jumping comes to mind.

    Kate doesn't have to buy marl from Duckworth(less)...

  4. I don't like this guy already. Are you sure that's a U and not an I in his name?


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