Monday, February 6, 2023

Heller and Shannon: The will to use it

Shannon beat Heller to the job-site by almost two hours.

She craved getting to see him through the eyes of his family. She had met his sister, Suzanna, who had convinced Heller to re-enter the dating scene. Consequently, Shannon owed Suzanna a debt.

But Suzanna was now completely absorbed in getting to know one Garth, one of Shannon’s “buddies” from her group of professional friends.

There was no way in hell that Shannon was going to let the chance to spend some one-on-one time with Heller’s cousin slip by.

Shannon pulled into the farm-yard and saw that Clayton was still moving dirt with the skid steer. Off to the side, she saw a young woman who was holding a small child.

Parking, Shannon walked over to the young woman and introduced herself. “I am Shannon who…”

And the woman lit up like a Christmas tree “...who is dating Heller” she finished for Shannon.

“I have heard so much about you. I was hoping to meet you!” Krystal said.

And within a minute it was if Shannon and Krystal were life-long friends. The unspoken bond was that both women had rejected the path that had been put before them. Krystal came from a very affluent family and the default path was that she would marry, or at least become the “companion” of a doctor or lawyer. Shannon had been lower-middle class and been educated through the public education system and got her Bachelor’s degree. Her default was to pair up with a salary-man who was another interchangeable cog in the system.

Both women had rejected those paths and chosen men who radiated primal, male energy. And though the path had sometimes been bumpy, neither woman regretted their choices.

“What’s he doing” Shannon asked.

“He is shaving the ground. He wants a 1” in 20’ grade for drainage” Krystal said with a slight roll of the eyes.

“How can anybody see that?” Shannon asked, mystified.

“Don’t ask me” Krystal said. “But he can do it if anybody can.”

Heller pulled into the job-site ninety minutes later. “Wow! That looks great!” Heller exclaimed.

Clayton had been able to rough-grade, trench, dig footings and then finish grade between the footings with ten times more precision and in half the time that it would have taken Heller. Clayton had also strategically piled the fill so it would be efficient to push it back against the cinderblock walls after the mortar had set.

“I am curious about the footings you had sketched out” Clayton said. “But I dug-um like you drew-em.”

“Yeah, about that” Heller explained. “Mister Bockbeck was afraid that a 24’ long, cinder-block wall might buckle inward without a buttress about half-way. That is why there is an interior footing at the 12’ mark.”

“He says he plans to put potatoes in one half and apples in the other. Actually, I think he plans to ferment sour-mash in the back-half, but it ain’t mine to criticize” Heller said.

Bockbeck wouldn’t be the first to distill a little white-lightning on the side, nor would he be the last.

“How long do you think it will take you to finish the job?” Clayton asked. “Price of food shooting up like it is...and getting hard to come by, too. I know a butt-load of people who would be interested in putting up a root-cellar.”

“Crap. It will probably take me three weeks, if I am lucky” Heller said.

Clayton’s face grew thoughtful. It was a look Heller knew well since they had pretty much grown up together, taking turns week-by-week spending nights at each others’ homes through the summer.

“You know you could speed that up if you let Uncle Ed make the roof sections. You could lay up the block in about the time it would take Uncle Ed to bang-out the roof sections. Move them here on your flat-bed trailer and use the skid-steer to position them on the walls.”

Heller considered the idea. Uncle Ed was a pretty fair hand with a hammer. Even better if he had a template to position and hold the two-bys for the trusses.

And just-like-that, the idea of a business where he made and installed root-cellars in 8-by-8, 8-by-12, 8-by-16, 8-by-20 and 8-by-24 increments popped into his head. Just like LEGOS.

Heller mulled the idea over in his head. “Would you be willing to do the grading and moving the roof sections?”

“Hell ya” Clayton said. “As long as you pay decent and you work close to Uncle Ed’s”

“Lemme think about it for a while” Heller said. His current job paid “per-diem” but it involved four-hours-a-day driving to the job-site that was not on-the-clock.

Talk turned to other things. Shannon and Krystal and Madison had moved in closer after Clayton had shut down the diesel powered skid-steer.

Heller started playing rough with Madison. Shannon was alarmed but Clayton told her “Mattie loves it. And Heller would never drop her, so I’m not worried.”

Krystal had obviously watched Heller and Mattie play and she didn’t seem to worried.

“So, what’s it like out there?” Clayton asked.

“Its getting worse” Heller informed him.

“It was my turn to drive to Livonia on Tuesday. I went back to my truck fifteen minutes after I parked it at the job-site and there were crack-heads in the back going through my tools. I told them to get off my truck, or else!” Heller said.

“Did they get off the truck?” Shannon asked, horrified.

“Damned straight they did” Heller said, smugly. “I was pointing my Glock at them.” *

“Would you have shot them?” Shannon asked, horrified.

That is when Clayton chimed in. “You have to make the decision that you WILL use it when the time comes  BEFORE you strap on your gun. You have to decide that you will use it  without hesitation when circumstances force you to. The worst thing you can do is to pull your gun and then not have the guts to use it.”

“If you carry without the will to use it, then somebody will take your gun and use it on you. And then they will probably use it on innocent victims” Clayton said.

Shannon looked over at Heller who was nodding his agreement.

“There are a lot of places in a big construction site to dump bodies. Lots of deep holes in the ground. Lots of concrete being poured. Lots of buddies who have been ripped off or mugged and beaten within an inch of their lives when they fought back” Heller said.

"They got outta my truck but I'll tell-ya, I parked it in inside the fence right after that even though my foreman gave me hell about it. I didn't need them sneaking back and slashing my tires, me being 110 miles from home." 

*Heller was guilty of brandishing (a felony) which could have gotten him into trouble if the crack-heads had enough wits to call 911. Another good reason to move the truck as it would make it harder for them to point out which truck they had been pillaging. This is FICTION. Don't use the characters' actions as a substitute for training.


  1. In Michigan brandishing is considered a misdemeanor

    1. What does Michigan allow in defense of property?
      In many states, this is not a crime.

    2. I assume that Michigan is not an open carry state. Alaska is both open carry and concealed carry so if you are carrying concealed I guess that just showing a peek at a concealed weapon even if holstered can be considered brandishing but places that have open carry, no problem but only draw it if needed!

    3. Michigan is both an open carry state and a concealed carry state. Merely having the gun in a holster or even having a concealed gun being accidentally seen is not brandishing. In Michigan brandishing is the display of the weapon with the intent to cause fear or intimidation of another. IE even pointing to your holster and saying "^^&&* you want some of this?" would be brandishing, as would pulling it and saying "Get off my lawn", or otherwise displaying it to intimidate. Brandishing can be negated by a properly articulated self-defense reason and that gets complicated.

  2. Good thought on the center buttressing of wall. Wet soil, especially on uphill side can add incredible stress on a long stretch of wall perpendicular to the slope. Part of underground home wall construction is having a vertical wall of pea gravel along that uphill and side walls so water flows faster around that part of wall. Requires drainage fabric to prevent soil from flowing through pea gravel and clogging it up.

    Definitely a good potential rural job, building root cellars. Low tech method to keep food back economically without dependence on electricity.

    1.'s called hydrostatic pressure and it can collapse a tall foundation wall if there's no proper drainage.

      We had to repair a foundation wall for a client, that had collapsed into their basement crawl space. We had to dig out the dirt and block, redig a new footer and reset the block. That also entailed digging down to the footers on both ends of the home to install new foundation drain. We also filled the new block with concrete.

    2. In Mendocino land, when dope growing was a much more clandestine operation, I saw many attempts at burying 40' containers. It takes a bunch of bracing inside to keep them from squishing.

  3. Joe, was this a Freudian slip?
    "Both women had rejected those paths and chosen me who radiated primal, male energy."

    1. "Me": "Men" ...that would be "Me" to the nth degree.

      Fixed it, I think.

    2. That’s just pure punishment…

  4. Well, that tied together nicely. Well done ERJ!

    I would think that as things get less reliable, such things as root cellars and other low tech solutions become more viable. And a job making them? Absolutely - and undoubtedly once they establish themselves, more things will become available (this is the way it seems to work).

    The commute to and from any jobsite is never to be discounted as part of the overall job. I have had similar commutes and when one adds in the additional time, it can significantly cut down on the hourly wage.

  5. Good stuff. I took my niece to the gun shop a while back. She's closing in on the age of majority. We've had that talk a few times, and she's probably not going to be one to have the mindset necessary. But it's good to know that, too.

    I was talking to a Navy guy, and he was shocked at hearing the exact same Clayton speech from me. I figured he was already "there".

    Great story. You have me by the nose every time you post one of these. They are worth re-re-reading.

    1. Well put! ERJ's fiction is so well-grounded that it makes for very pleasant lessons, even if slowly absorbed on my part.
      Boat Guy

  6. Good points all, and yes, get training!!!

  7. "....where he made and installed root-cellars in 8-by-8, 8-by-12, 8-by-16, 8-by-20 and 8-by-24 increments..."

    I have never known, not once, anyone who purchased or built a storage shed and almost immediately did not wish it were larger.

    Heller should forget the middle 4 foot increments and concentrate on the 8 foot increments. That reduces the roof modules to one, as well as the fixtures, fittings and placement/installation mechanisms, plus it standardizes and simplifies the dirt work and drainage configuration.

    I'm assuming, based on testimony not in evidence, that this venture is taking place in Michigan. Not all that far south is tornado country where smaller below-ground structures - such as a 8X8 "root cellar" have substantial value for other purposes, and based on capacity of the skid steer, a pair of 4X8 concrete panels, o4 a quad of 2X8, designed to be poured as a standard part with easily waterproof mating surfaces, could be another marketing opportunity, especially when positioned to offer a ground-level hard surface patio.

    Not to mention what Heller and Clayton are building is, essentially, underground one-car garages (8X24) which can also be replicated above ground, and expanded into 2-car garages with a little design work and construction effort, with the smaller sizes (8X8, 8X16) easily marketable as above-gound storage sheds; a good carpenter can assembly-line 8X8 ft stud walls, sheathed and studs drilled for electric (I'd wager it's possible to get the studs delivered already drilled), then stacked under cover, quite quickly between assembly jobs of rood panels.

    I suspect, should Heller cogitate a bit on the concept, Shannon's strong attention to detail, financial connections and internet expertise just might be the catalyst that produces a thriving Family Business in which success and joy can be found as futures are built. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if Shannon herself tumbles to the idea.

  8. Brandishing is a misdemeanor.

    But, by pointing the firearm at them he went beyond brandishing and straight to a felonious assault, which as it sounds, is a felony.

    In either case, not a proper method for protecting property.

    1. If what Heller did was against the law, then the law is effed up. He caught multiple criminals red-handed in the act of committing felony theft of his tools. Being outnumbered, it could be a split-second before he was attacked by them. I'd call it self-defense against a potentially imminent threat. The law should make a distinction between defensive and offensive brandishing. Heller's defensive gun use de-escalated the situation which otherwise could have become violent.

    2. That is indeed against the law and that;s why otherwise good people end up in jail. In Michigan and most states you cannot use deadly force to protect property which is what that scenario was. In short Heller introduced deadly force into a scenario where it was not warranted.

      Deadly force at least in Michigan can only be used legally for three things: 1. Imminent threat of death 2. Imminent threat of grievous bodily harm or 3. imminent threat of forcible sexual penetration. Having stuff stolen from your truck meets none of these requirements.

      Since criminals lie they could have called the police claimed crazy dude pulled a gun on them as they were by his truck for no good reason and guess who is likely going to jail?

      Now, had he, for example yelled at them first to get away from his truck and then they all started advancing on him, that would be potentially a self-defense situation as he could articulate that an attack by multiple parties, especially if any are brandishing a weapon would indeed be an imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm. Waving a gun around (or blasting a shotgun off into the air per Biden) saying get off my truck is not self-defense nor is it defensive, that's using deadly force as an offensive act to protect property and in fact escalated the situation by introducing deadly force into what was up to that point a property crime with no force being used against anyone.

      We may want the law to be different but as of now, you cannot use deadly force to protect property felony theft or otherwise. Again, this is why good people end up in jail or get a felony on their record when they use lethal force improperly. I understand the arguments that your property represents your time, money and lifeforce used to acquire those things, or that your life may depend on having those tools, but that's not the law now and you can't introduce deadly force into a non-deadly force situation over property.

      Now non-deadly force such as pepper spray could be used, but not deadly force.

      Again, had the thieves attacked him when he appeared and before he pulled his firearm, that would be different, but they did not. Had he shot them for being in the act of stealing his tools he'd be looking at a long time in prison, end of story.

    3. Well, that may be the law, but then, as I said, the law if effed up. I think that far too much "respect for human life" is afforded to criminals especially when they are caught in the act. By acting as he did, Heller prevented a violent outcome, for which he should be praised by the community.


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