Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Tunnel vision (Cumberland Saga)

On Monday, Sally showed Blain the work that needed to be done to stabilize the approaches to the gully. Sally had Blain dragging logs and laying them down in inverted-”V”s or chevrons. Sally made a big deal of making sure the logs were laid parallel to the slope and leveled so high-water would spill evenly over the tops of the logs rather than be funneled to the ends where it would gouge two new gullies.

Not only did Blain have to cut and drag the poles, he had to pack clay beneath them and lay in stone on the uphill side. Then he had to pound stakes into the ground on the downhill sides to keep the water from floating them off in the event of another hurricane. 

It was hot just hard, dirty work. It was fussy to boot.

Sally make a grocery run after he got Blain started. The work was simple and did not require supervision.

Blain fumed as he worked alone. He had been looking forward to being able to vent that he had struck-out with regard to fertilizing the fields of Copperhead Cove. Instead, Sally had dumped the job on him and gone running off.

Sally was back a couple of hours before sunset and he was carrying a mason jar partially filled with a clear liquid. He smacked his lips after taking a long sip and handing it to Blain. “A working man deserves his wages” Sally announced.

Blain had a pretty good idea what it was. He took a very cautious sip. “I reckon you cut this with a little bit of water” he ventured.

“Yeah. I ain’t tryin’ to hurt ya” Sally agreed, pausing to take another long swig. “That is about four parts water to one-part sqeezin’s.”

After passing the jar back-and-forth a few times, Sally asked, “So, didjya talk to Sig about the fertilizer?”

Blain sadly shook his head. “Yep, I did but it was a no-go. He said they tried it twice before and it was a disaster.”

Sally nodded his head. “Yep. I sorta remember that now. The corn blew over.”

“If you knew that, why did you send me on a fool’s mission?” Blain asked angrily.

“What did Sig say about the potatoes?” Sally asked, changing the subject.

“Potatoes?” Blain asked, mystified.

“Ya did ask him about the potatoes, dinchya?” Sally asked.

Blain shook his head “No. What was I supposed to ask him?” 

"Fertilizer, ya dummy. Ya coulda asked him about fertilizing the taters."

“I didn’t even think about it” Blain admitted. Then, after a pause “Why, would fertilizer help the potatoes, too?”

“Damned straight it would” Sally said. “A trailer load an acre might not double the crop but it sure wouldn’t hurt it any.”

Blain's shoulders slumped. “Sig said not to bother him until I got all the details figured out. Said he didn’t have time or energy to hold my hand on this.”

“Sorta sounds to me like he is doin’ ya a favor” Sally said.

“How do ya figure?” Blain asked, bitterly. From his viewpoint, Sig wasn’t doing him any favors at all.

“Yer's to manage. If you get it all figured out it is yer success. Its yer's to sort out if ya fall on yer face. At least ya won't have nobody else stirring the pot screwin things up” Sally said. "And the way I see it, he is treating you like a grown-up man."

“But I don’t have a truck or a trailer” Blain said. “I don’t know where to get the ground limestone. I don’t know none of that stuff.”

“Stop lookin’ at what you ain't got. Do you know people who have trucks-n-trailers?” Sally asked.

“Well, yeah. I know you. You know that” Blain said, exasperated that Sally was asking questions with obvious answers.

“So what do you have to trade?” Sally wanted to know.

“I got a little bit of money saved up?” Blain said, thinking of his bank-roll from doing odd-jobs in town.

“That ain’t what I asked. What do you have to trade?”

“My time?” Blain guessed

“Now yer cooking” Sally informed him. “Lotta widder-wimmin in these hills. They got chores that need doin and I ain’t gonna get up on no ladders or runnin’ no chainsaws for them.”

“You-n-me take care a them widders for a day and I will let you borrow my truck and trailer for a day. Even-steven” he said.

That got Blain to thinking. If he could convince Lliam to help him, he could run back-and-forth from the chicken-farm to Copperhead Cove. The two of them could shovel the chicken-shit into a farm trailer and Lliam could drive it out to the field and unload it into a pile to be spread later. Between the two of them they could move a lot of chicken-shit in a day.

“What about the limestone?” Blain asked.

“You go with me and load the bags for both of us and I will truck them for free. But I will let ya buy your share with some of the money you have” Sally said.

That seemed fair.

“So now all I have to do is to convince Sarah and Sig to let me work for you for a couple more days” Blain said.

“That ain’t too hard” Sally said. “Next time it looks like an all-day rain, tell them you and me gonna fix leaky roofs for the widder-women. Can't find leaks when it ain't rainin' and you can't be workin' in the fields either. Unless it is a Sunday, they will let you go.”

The more Blain thought about it, the more possible it seemed.

“So how do I convince Sarah and Sig?” Blain asked. “They pretty much slammed the door shut.” 

"First of all, ya keep yer yap shut until everythin is set up and ready to rock-n-roll. They say "Yes" ya wanna be able to make it happen 'fore they can change their minds" Sally advised.

“Once yer all ready ta pull the trigger, tell’em you been thinking on it. Ask them if they ever had a problem with anybody fertilizin’ the taters. Knowin’ Sig...tell him you wanna run an experiment and maybe just fertilize some of the tater patches.” Sally said.

Sally insisted that Blain fill a gunny-sack with the hard, winter pears from the tree in his yard. "We ain't gonna eat-em all." Sally said by way of explanation.

Blain suspected that Sarah would be in a good mood when he brought home fifty pounds of free food. The frosting on the cake was that Sally gave him a ride home in truck so he didn't need to figure out how to balance the gunny sack on his bike.

Next Installment


  1. Part of maturing is learning to be resourceful (or at least work with the resources that one has). It is learning to trade linear thinking for a more expansive way of thinking.

    I will say to Sally's comment on success or failure: there is a third version in the modern world, that where you do all the planning and work and others claim the credit. Not that Sig and Sally seem that type, but it can burn out one's enthusiasm.

  2. Question. Do writers give the bad guys in the stories names of people they already don't like? And the contrary, do the good guys get the names of people that they do like? ---ken

    1. Sarah was named after the book "Sarah Plain and Tall".

      Sig is named after a blogger who I have the privilege of knowing. Sig is what his friends call him.

      "Sally" is that crazy, zany uncle who is a bit like Kenny Lane over at Knuckledraggin.

      Blain...well, Blain is one of those confused man-child types who was agreeable and a bit too gullible. He accepted what his peers said at face-value and never questioned WHY they might be selling the snake-oil they were peddling.

      In one story the bad-guy was named after the worst boss "Shotgun", my fishing buddy ever worked for.

      One bad-guy was named after the worst boss I ever worked for and his two opponents were two of the best bosses I ever worked with.

      So, yes, I extract (petty) revenge by naming bad-guys names similar to real people.

      -ERJ wrote

    2. Ken, I may not always use names, but I do use their characteristics.

  3. Keep it coming I look forward to every story

  4. This story could go on and on. Just the way I like them.


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