Monday, August 26, 2019

The Shrewd King 6.1: Many moving parts

Kates Store and Pray Church were abuzz with excitement.

The Wilder family volunteered to underwrite a Spring Fair a week after they left quarantine. It was their way to say “Thank-you” and to start to know their neighbors.

The challenge was to find party foods that would be up to the challenge. Very little was available from the gardens; the earliest snap peas, lettuce, green onions, strawberries, asparagus and rhubarb were about all that was ripe.

The bluegills would be on their beds and easy to harvest. For years, pond owners had been begging people to harvest the bluegills and sunfish so they would not stunt. It was not going to be a problem this year.

The Wilders purchased an old, cull cow from McGarry’s Dairy. The shortage of antibiotics meant that when a cow got mastitis she was likely to lose the use of her udder. That was the case with this cow. Bossy was a skinny, tough old cow but she would stew up just fine.

Root cellers were cleaned out and all of the potatoes, carrots and turnips that were sound, shriveled but sound, were contributed to the effort. People planned to eat until they burst and then nap and then eat some more.


Mo Patches was having his weekly coffee klatch with Mrs Treadwell.

She said, “I want to ask a favor from you.”

Mo was in an expansive mood. “Sure. Ask away.”

Mrs Treadwell danced around a little bit. “I have a lot of neighbors...had a lot of neighbors who were into fiber arts. Many of them survived but they are really struggling to get by.”

“I am not asking for charity. I am suggesting that we have lots of wool and maybe Mr Wilder can hire them to make some prototype wool coats.” Mrs Treadwell said.

“Why wouldn’t we just use a razor blade to cut apart a work coat and use that as the pattern?” Mo asked.

Mrs Treadwell pursed her lips. She didn’t know how to explain it.

“Wait here.” she said.

She came back about a minute later. “Put this on.” she directed him.

He slid the old, battered work coat on. “I swim in it.” he said.

“You wouldn’t if you were wearing a couple of sweaters.” Mrs Treadwell said confidently.

“Now take it off and lay it on the table.” she said.

Mo complied, mystified.

“Show me where it is worn.” she said.

Mo turned it over a few times. “Here.” he said, pointing at the sleeves. “Here and here.” he said, pointing at the bottoms of the forearms and the elbows.

Turning it over a few more times he said “Here.” as he fingered the pockets.

“You missed a place.” she said.

After poking at it for a few more minutes, Mo said, “I give up. Where else is it worn?”

Mrs Treadwell held the quilted material that stretched over the shoulders. “The insulation is all packed down here.” she said. She did the same for the bottoms of the forearms. Not only was the material worn threadbare but all of the loft in the insulation had been pounded out of it.

“Wool isn’t going to be as friendly as the cotton duck and synthetic batting used in this coat.” Mrs Treadwell said.

“What is the answer?” Mo asked. What had seemed so easy and straight forward suddenly seemed much more complicated. “Can we add more insulation where it is flattened out?”

“It is not that simple. You would be better off taking the areas that are pounded flat and start with felt...maybe even two or three layers.” Mrs Treadwell said. “That is the only way to pack enough wool in those places to do any good.”

Mo had wool felt insoles in his winter boots and he could attest to the durability and warmth.

“Ok. Is that hard?” Mo asked.

“Not hard, once we have patterns, but that is something that you sneak up on over multiple iterations.”

“Same thing with the stress points. We need a leather industry to make patches for elbows and pockets.” Mrs Treadwell said.

Mo Patches smiled in spite of himself. He had a flash of inspiration, the coat would be called the More Patches coat. He had to see if Wilder would buy the idea.

“I see your point about a leather industry. We will have the hides. I guess it will fall to me to figure out how to get a tannery going.


Blastic stewed about his abortive meeting with Seraph.

His aspirations to be the preeminent warlord in the region was based on the belief that he would start with at least twenty square miles of territory and, leveraging the horses that he could expand from there.

Well, there is more than one way to squash a bug.

He would start his own store and undercut their prices and put them out of business. He knew that they were paying through the nose for freight and he could do it for free because he had the horses.

“Get me La-Loyd.” he bellowed.

La-Loyd was his childhood sidekick. Small where Blastic was big. Cunning where Blastic bulled ahead. Quick and darting where Blastic was slow and ponderous. La-Loyd tolerated Blastic’s mocking of his speech impediment and general bullying as preferable to the abuse he would endure outside of Blastic’s shadow.

La-Loyd’s first wife asked him why he tolerated it. La-Loyd flash a quick grin. “Over the years it cost him far more than he will ever know.”

Blastic did not have any friends. He relied on La-Loyd as his go-fetch-it man and never attended to the details of how much various supplies cost. La-Loyd was bleeding Blastic’s accounts on a weekly basis.

“La-Loyd!” Blastic said when La-Loyd came into the study. “Stop what you are doing. I have a job for you.”

La-Loyd could barely contain his glee at the prospect of running a store financed by Blastic. He saw it as the best place to have leverage with no risk and he kicked himself for not thinking of it himself.



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