Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Shrewd King 18.3: Spackle

The argument had gone on for hours.

Rick Salazar had expected as much and had reserved a back-room at Gabby’s Pub.

Sides formed up quickly. One side, led by Wade Hawk, claimed that they owed Quinn Spackle nothing, that he knew the odds and his disability was due to bad luck.

The other side, led by Larry Tomanica and Chernovsky, claimed that they owed Quinn a future livelihood.

The linchpin of Hawk’s argument was that there was no money to provide a pension. Further, he was extremely leery of putting a taxing scheme into place.

The linchpin of Tomanica’s argument is that if they kicked Spackle to the curb then only the worst sort of people would volunteer for the defense force.

“Look, they got to sit on their asses the whole time we were rooting around trying to make a go of Capiche.” Hawk said. “I ain’t gonna hand them a life of sitting on a couch while I am busting my ass, barely making a go of things.”

Tomanica replied, hotly “The boys who did not join the defense force have been out there getting on with their lives. The MEN on the defense force put their lives on hold when they could have been out claiming a house, putting in a garden and dating girls.”

The crowd was about evenly divided.

John Wilder had listened in silence, only occasionally asking a question when something was not clear.

His first question involved the extent of Quinn Spackle’s injuries. The answer was not pretty.

Nyssa and Dysen assisted Doctor Fox in Eaton Rapids. The Doctor Fox was a D.O. and had done rotations through Emergency Rooms and Orthopedic reconstruction. He had none of the tools he really needed.

He cleaned out the wound and removed flesh that was so mangled that it was impossible to regain circulation. He pushed the larger chunks of bone into approximately the correct position.

The bones of the ankle are like a zipper. That allows the bones to move relative to each other but still able to bear load. Outside of a major hospital and multiple follow-up surgeries, there was no way to reconstruct the zipper. The best the doctor could hope for was to contain any secondary infections and to fuse the bones so Quinn’s left foot could bear his weight.

Quinn’s days of running for miles-and-miles were over.

It also severely impacted his ability to earn a living in a culture that had become supremely physical. Even in the best of times, Quinn was not a “thinker”. Quinn was a doer.

When Wilder asked why Dysen assisted, Rick told informed him that Quinn and Dysen were engaged and Dysen would be changing Quinn’s dressings and cleaning drainage tubes. Plus, it never hurt to have one more person with trauma skills in the community.

Wilder kept his counsel as the group argued their way around the topic. One thing led to another to another but little was resolved.

The third time they dipped their plow into soil that had already been churned to mud, Wilder spoke up.

“You know, this is not a new problem. Every society had to deal with it. Some societies failed. Some thrived, depending on how they treated their veterans.” Wilder said.

Hawk’s temper had not improved through the evening. He was hungry and he was used to getting his way. That, and he had an instinctive dislike of successful, educated men. “If you got something useful to add, just blurt it out. Ain’t got time for all this jibber-jabbin’.”

Wilder had his Bachelor’s degree in history and still enjoyed reading. “The Roman’s solution was probably the best” he said.

“When a career Centurion retired...if he lived long enough to retire, they gave him title to fertile land very close to the frontier. They required that he build a house and that he keep arms mounted beside the door.” Wilder said.

“That served several purposes” Wilder said. “It got potentially dangerous men out of Rome and provided a deep defense for when the barbarians broke through the Roman perimeter.”

“The other thing it did is it provided the equivalent of senior NCOs along the line. Training soldiers became more and more difficult as Rome recruited non-Romans as soldiers. It never hurt to have a half-dozen, grizzled vets to call up when a young upstart needed to be humbled or the line was wavering and needed to be stiffened.” Wilder said.

“So you are saying to just give Spackle a chunk of land? That is what I have been saying. There is unclaimed land all over the place” Hawk said. “We don’t owe him anything.”

“Not quite what I am saying” Wilder said. “It has to be choice land. Considering how small Capiche is, it should be within a quarter mile of our frontier. We need to give him a sovereign deed to the land. The other thing is that we have to sweeten the deal with seed money, livestock, free plowing for five years and maybe building a bunkhouse for help.”

“Bunkhouse?” Hawk looked mystified.

“He won’t be able to do all the physical work. That means he needs help. It also means he needs more than 40 acres because 40 acres won’t support several families.” Tomanica piped up. He could see where this was going.

“80 acres, minimum” Wilder said. “And he should get to choose it.”

“I commit to supplying bred ewes and a couple dairy heifers” Wilder said, putting his money where his mouth was.”

“I will supply the free tillage” Milo said.

Around the table the principles pledged various things. Wade Hawk pledged scrap iron and hand-tools.

The only person to not pledge anything was Denny Blastic. He pressed his lips firmly together when Salazar pointedly observed that the only thing Spackle lacked for a viable homestead was horses

Denny had crashed the meeting to complain about Capiche forces destroying La-Loyd's store. He demanded compensation. Instead, the group collectively told him to shut up or they would present him with a bill for throwing the invaders off HIS property.

Denny was thoroughly steamed and wasn't about to be helpful.

Waverly Road along east property line

Presented with the plan, Quinn had no problem choosing his 80 acres. He chose the plot south of the river and just west of Waverly Road. It had river frontage and the Skinner Extension drain had enough flow-and-drop to power a small sawmill in March and April when the fields were too wet to work. The drain also had a strong run of suckers.

Timber stood further back on the property. The bottomlands were thick with soft maple, cottonwood and a little bit of sycamore. The uplands had stands of sugar maple and red oak, beech and tulip poplars. Even now there was a shortage of planking for shelving as people dug root cellars and pantries for canned goods.

Quinn was also good with the idea of the bunkhouse. Miguel had visited him earlier and told him about “Uncle”. Sounded just like the kind of guy Quinn needed to hire.

Quinn hoped, that in time, Donnie would choose the 80 acres east of Waverly.



  1. A wise course of action.

    You could do worse than Rome as a model. The made it a long longer than we're likely to.

  2. Yep, well done on the Rome model!

    1. I wonder what it would cost to offer every NCO who retires after 20 years enough land within 15 miles of the southern border to run 100 beeves.

      Some walls are not made of concrete and steel. They are made of sinew, backbone and starch.


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