Jason, Miguel and Squirrel were getting worn ragged by the hikes, so Quinn decided to make the next one shorter.
They were hiking out to potential staging area one to develop relationships with some of the residents. It was very much in Quinn's mind that his first engagement against the zombies had a good outcome because Chernovsky had been tipped off beforehand by a local resident.
“Why don’t we just put somebody in some of the deer stands?” Squirrel asked as he pointed to one of them they were passing along the way.
“A couple of reasons.” Quinn said. He was glad to have a chance to explain what they were doing. Squirrel’s asking meant that Jason and Miguel were also probably wondering.
“The biggest one is that we don’t have the warm bodies to do it” Quinn said. “Another reason is that there weren’t any deer stands close to where we need eyes.”
After walking a bit farther he added “Sometimes there were deer stands on the edge of fields when we ambushed zombies. The zombies always assumed there were shooters in the deer stands and shot at them. They were magnets for the return fire. Never saw a wall on a deer stand that would stop a bullet.”
It wasn’t too hard to figure out which houses still had residents. There were tracks through the tall grass leading to the doors.
Quinn had the three young men stand by the road and he went and knocked on the door. Quinn had his rifle slung across his back.
Only one resident in three chose to answer their door. Perhaps the others were out foraging. Perhaps they were timid.
Quinn introduced himself as part of the Chernovsky’s Annex, Pray Church, Kates Store defense force and offered them one of Dysen’s 900 Calorie cookies. They always took the cookies.
The resident of the second house where somebody answered the door furrowed his brows when Quinn introduced himself. “Oh, you mean ‘Capiche’. Nobody around here calls it Chernovsky’s Annex and all that other stuff. Mr. Spagnolo shortened it down and it stuck.”
Quinn asked where Mr. Spagnolo lived since he deserved a cookie.
"What I wanna know," Jim the resident said "is when will Pete's store have more corn to sell?"
"Folks around here been living hand-to-mouth and it is hitting us bad." Jim said.
The young men went home after the supply of cookies was exhausted. It was Quinn’s expert opinion that a much higher percentage of the residents would answer the door the next time he knocked.
The Amish communities Milo was delivering ground limestone to were very interested in events happening in Kates Store and the surrounding area.
Learning of the farmer’s belated attempts to get fertilizer on their fields and the struggles the community of non-horse people were having with using their horses, the Amish loaned Milo six sets of horse harnesses. It was not as big of a sacrifice as it seemed at first. The Amish community had suffered 50% losses from the Plague and while the horses survived, there were not enough adults to drive them. The harnesses really were “spares”.
After dropping off his last load of the day, one of the teenagers offered to go back to Kates Store with him to show the locals how to fit the harnesses and whiffle-trees to the individual horses.
Di and Ms. Sheridan questioned him very carefully and had him pick out the one to use as the pattern for the harnesses the seamstresses and carpet layer were making. The young man had a good eye. He recognized that the “English” didn’t have any true draft animals. But he also recognized that they would likely start “breeding up” the size of the animals they did have. Since a well cared-for harness can last for decades, he advised that provide enough adjustment for the future.
Wood-tick heard of the manure brigade from his brother who lived on Gun Road and quickly implemented the same. Wood-tick was not democratic in how he allocated the manure. Only the cleanest plots got the fertilizer. Wood-tick’s reasoning was that fertilizer also makes weeds grow faster.
After half a week, it became abundantly clear that only 1/3 of the families had gotten religion about weeding their plots. Two-thirds of the plots were still overgrown with weeds.
Wood-tick had never been accused of being indecisive. He unilaterally gave the untended plots to the families who were doing an adequate job of tending their own plots. When they complained that they were barely able to care for their own, Wood-tick told them to hire the slackers on a per-diem basis.
One of the slackers challenged Wood-tick’s authority. That particular slacker happened to have an advanced degree in political science and his nose was out-of-joint that he was not running the show.
After informing the slacker that it would be far simpler to kick his ass than explain anything to him, Wood-tick said that life was about choices.
None of the old geezers had any doubt that Wood-tick could whip the young upstart with little effort, a possibility that eluded the slacker.
The slacker had many choices when the seeds went into the ground. Due to some of the choices the slacker made earlier, some people had futures that were no longer available to people who talked a good story but don’t work.
The political scientist was sure that he was on the high, moral ground. “Who appointed you to be God?” he challenged.
“Your belly.” Wood-tick responded without hesitation.
That response was met with a baffled look. That was not the intellectual plane the “scientist” expected to joust upon.
“I beg your pardon?” the political scientist asked to buy time.
"You wanna eat. You do what I say. Actually, you do what Mr and Mrs Mead tell you to do.” Wood-tick said. “You are detailed to support their new, expanded holdings.”
“That makes me a serf!” the political scientist exclaimed, truly horrified.
“Whatever.” Wood-tick replied. That was one of the few useful things he had learned from his grandkids. The all-purpose, throw-away response.
“You had every chance to not be a serf.” Wood-tick said. “You turned your nose up at every choice.”
“You and your family wanna eat. That land’s gotta be worked. The Mead’s get it done. You don’t” Wood-tick said. “What is so hard to understand about that?”
“But you don’t have the authority to do that.” the political scientist wailed.
“Tell that to your belly. Tell that to your kid when they are crying themselves to sleep because they are hungry.” Wood-tick bored in. “I don’t care. You can live in your house. It is yours. But if you don’t do EVERYTHING the Meads tell you to do, you don’t get any of the harvest.”
“If you think you are going to steal food, then we will horse-whip you in public, in front of your family.” Wood-tick said."You think you are not going to do your fair share and then eat as much as everybody else...well, in my mind that is the same as stealing."
“You don’t like it, just start walking down that road” Wood-tick said pointing at M-99. “Take your family or not. I. Don’t. Care.”
“You got three choices” Wood-tick said. “Pick up your hoe and start on the row Mr Mead tells you to start on, or start walking, or get horse-whipped.”
"Do you understand?"