Monday, January 6, 2020
Your future is what you make it (fiction)
Chernovsky was as good as his word. Quinn agreed to accompany the
reconnaisanc mission and Chernovsky was making sure that Quinn’s sawmill was completed before the autumn rains.
Piles of building materials were stacked up next to the Skinner Extension Drain.
A few days later men started arriving at first light.
The big surprise of the morning was when Donnie Galligan showed up. He came in an Amish light buggy that clipped along at a spry fifteen miles per hour. The cart was driven by a middle-aged Amish man who brought a full complement of tools suitable for working with timber.
Donnie also brought a friend he had made over in Amish-land, a young man named Brett.
The work was heavy. The humor was rough and the companionship very up-beat. Spackle’s lumber mill promised growth for the entire community.
The crew dug a channel way from the drain and then followed the contour of the land toward the river.
Three crews were digging. One crew was banging together wooden sides and bottoms for the channel.
The Skinner Extension drained seven square miles and generally ran between five and seven cubic feet per second. Every cubic foot of water per second dropping eight feet of elevation generates one gross horsepower. That meant that most of the year Spackle’s mill site would generate five-to-seven horsepower around the clock.
But men cannot work twenty-four hours a day, day-in and day-out. The better plan was to close the spillway and sluice and let the water back up for sixteen hours and then flow fifteen-to-twenty horsepower and saw wood that much faster.
All that ignored the fact that in March and April, Skinner Extension would be flowing FIVE times the normal rate.
The upshot was that even though the water running down Skinner’s Extension was not very impressive in early September, the spillway and sluice had to be built to handle ten or twenty times that amount.
Eli, the Amish man, had a great deal to say about the construction of the spillway. The Amish often work with unsawn timber.
Eli directed the selection and digging of the channels for the cribbing. He insisted that the bottom of the cribbing be black locust, not only for its rot resistance but because of its dimensional stability and its weight would provide negative buoyancy.
Eli also recommended that the top of the spillway be tied together with three black locust logs spanning the entire opening. Eli drilled holes through the logs with a hand auger and the men drove concrete rebar through the holes to tie the cribbing together.
When one of the younger men laughed at Eli for his slow progress, Eli wordlessly stood up and offered the job to the young man.
The young man soon regretted his impudence as he learned the amount of effort it takes to bore a 9/16” diameter hole through the heart of a locust log. After he managed one hole, the young men took turns seeing who could drive the hole to the required depth the most quickly.
By mid-morning, the women started showing up with refreshments. Gardens were bursting with God’s largess and much of that bounty showed up at the job site.
Donnie introduced his friend around using only first names. At first, Brett was quiet. His eyes took in the fact that people showed up because they wanted to, because they saw a future.
Most of the men did not include Brett in their banter at the start. They assumed there were a lot of young men in Amish-land they had never met, and many of the Amish are not fond of “foolishness”. But as Brett laughed at all the jokes and was clearly putting his back into the work, the men quickly accepted him and soon he was included in the round-robin humor, including more than a few “yo mama” jokes which were popular at the time.
One inside joke that neither Donnie or Brett figured out involved four dogs that were on leashes. “What is his name?” Brett asked. The man who brought the dog said “His name is ‘Dog’.” to which everybody within hearing roared.”
Brett gave up after asking about the third dog and getting the same response. By the time he bent to pet the fourth dog, Brett knew to address him as “Dog.”
On the way back, before Brett fell asleep, he commented to Donnie “Some of those guys were fighters, weren’t they?”
“How did you know?” Donnie asked.
“I saw some of the scars.” Brett said.
“Actually, nearly all of them were.” Donnie admitted.
Brett thought about that for a few minutes.
“Why did you do that?” he asked. “Weren’t you afraid I would get information I could use to attack you?”
“It was a calculated risk.” Donnie admitted.
“We live in a new world. Things change in seconds, now. One second you have your whole life in front of you and the next second you can have your balls blown off of you. The future is what you make of it...what you have the balls to make of it.” Donnie said.
“In my book, you were just a guy following orders and taking care of your people.” Donnie said.
“You keep doing what you have been doing...helping the Amish in the fields and protecting them, and we will be your allies.” Donnie said.
"I wouldn't mind having guys like that at my back." Brett said. Then he closed his eyes and was soon snoring.