Friday, February 23, 2024

Sipping from the Cup of Joy (Cumberland Saga)

Roger woke up barely able to move.

Roger informed Gregor of the problem when he showed up to get the money for the day’s supply of limestone.

“I musta pulled a muscle yesterday liftin’ them bags” Roger said.

“Yeah, and the dummy kept lift’n um too. Shoulda asked for help” Alice added.

“Can you drive the skid-steer” Gregor asked Roger.

“Yeah, I think so. I just can’t bend-over and pick stuff up” Roger replied. Roger knew that the whipping back-and-forth would still be a challenge but he could be gentle with the controls and minimize that.

Alice gave Roger a couple tablets of Ibuprofen. Roger found it more comfortable to stand and to walk around than to sit and drink his coffe.

“Gonna take me about an hour to run to the elevator and pick up the bags of limestone” Gregor told the elderly couple. “Keep walk’n around and see if your back loosens up. See if you can line up a couple of kids to help Roger.”

Unlike the city, in Copperhead Cove it was not the least bit unusual to see a couple of six or eight year-olds carrying a fifty-pound bags of chicken feed with one kid on each end of the bag. They might have to set it down once or twice if it was a long way from the trailer to the barn but they could get it there.

Gregor’s mind was racing. He was trying to visualize where he could stack the bags of lime on the loading dock where Roger could get to them with a skid-steer and the kids would be out of sight and out of harm’s way.

Alice had given him enough cash for another 30 bags of limestone.


Sig was also having a rough day.

Blain tapped him on the shoulder. “I need to have you take some breaks.”

“I’ll be fine” Sig grumped.

Blain could see that Sig was shoveling at about 80% the speed he had been shoveling the day before.

“Tell ya what” Blain offered. “Because we are only going to have five minutes of dead-time while Lliam is getting another load, I want you to take a five-minute break when the trailer is half empty.”

That is when Sig had been switching sides. He shoveled from the left side of the trailer for the first half and then switched to shoveling from the right side for the second half.

“That ain’t gonna empty the trailers any quicker” Sig said.

“I’ll cover ya. You hop down and get a drink of water and walk around a little bit. Maybe you will see something I am missing” Blain said.

Sig was still ambivalent.

“Look, I need to have you anchoring this team all day long. But I am not sure you are going to make it if you don’t take care of yourself. Think of it as setting an example for the rest of the shovelers” Blain said.

Sig grudgingly nodded his agreement, handed his shovel to Blain and hopped down out of the trailer.


Shortly before noon, a dump truck showed up to load manure at the chicken-farm’s loading dock.

Roger surrendered the skid-steer while the ten-yard truck loaded up.

Gregor showed up about ten minutes later to pick up another trailer. Seeing that there was going to be an “air bubble” in the supply, Gregor called Sally who informed Blain. Blain told each tractor driver to stop where they were and to break for lunch.

Gregor called Sally again when it looked like the dump-truck was almost full. Sally told Blain and Blain restarted the spreading. Much of the crew was still eating but there were enough who had finished early that they could start spreading while the others finished up.

The wind picked up in the afternoon as the storm approached. The shovelers could not loft the shovel-loads and so the swath of manure and bedding shrank from 35 feet across to 25 feet across. Attempts to toss the fertilizer farther sometimes resulted in the fluffy, poop-contaminated bedding blowing back into the face of the shovelers.

The tractors very precisely cut over to the two-track as they approached Constanze’s farm plots to avoid even driving across them. Then they drove onto the plot on the other side of Constanze’s. The word was out. If she was not there with a shovel and helping...then she was not going to get any fertilizer.

The storm held off until 4:30 but the crew scattered at 4:00 due to the increasing winds and the unseasonal rumble of thunder. Living atop a plateau, the folks of Copperhead Cove had a healthy fear of lightning strikes.


The next morning, Peggy and Judith knocked on Constanze’s door.

“What do you want” Constanze demanded, recognizing Peggy as the driver of the tractor who had witnessed her dust-up with Blain.

She did not recognize Judith. Judith was...well, she was invisible. Judith was small for her age and quiet. She tended to observe and not talk. In a group of three people, Judith is the one who was there but you could not recall that fact a day later.

“We came to tell you that we think you committed the sin of being a false witness when you called Miss Sarah a fornicator” Peggy said as Judith solemnly nodded her agreement.

“How dare you JUDGE me, you stupid children? Get off my porch before I take a broom to you” Constanze shrieked.

The two young women hurriedly beat their retreat.

A half-hour later, there was another knock on Constanze’s door. This time it was Peggy, Judith and Alice.

“What do you want?” Constanze said. Her voice was much friendlier than when she had addressed the two young women earlier.

Constanze was sure that if she played her cards right that she would be moving into Alice and Roger’s house as soon as they died or it became “too much for them”. It would be a magnificent step-up in her living quarters. Since that was her plan, she was leery of angering Alice even though she though Alice was a feeble old woman who was taking too long to die.

“I was informed by five witnesses that you accused Miss Sarah of fornicating” Alice spoke. “Is that something that you personally witnessed? Did you see it with your own eyes or hear the event with your own ears?”

Even though illicit sex happened in Copperhead Cove, it was almost impossible to keep a secret. Walls were thin and most people used outside privies so there were always people slipping around after dark to “relieve” themselves and would note any unusual traffic of men slipping in through doors where they had no legitimate business.

“I don’t need to. Any fool can see that they are doing it” Constanze stated. "I can tell by the way she clings to him."

“So you admit that you are making claims that will destroy Miss Sarah’s reputation and that you cannot substantiate those claims” Alice kept pushing.

“She destroyed her own reputation by the way she is socialized with that man” Constanze with a dismissive sneer.

“You refuse to repent?” Alice asked. Outwardly, Alice was as calm and as serene as a pond covered with lily-pads. 

Inside, Alice was seething. The entire community worked very hard to protect the virtue of young women like Peggy and Judith. It would all be undone if the young women believed that their reputations would not be defended by the communities, if everybody believed "they were doing it". If that were so, then why shouldn't they taste the joys of that cup?

“I have nothing to repent” Constanze declared. “Now if you busybodies will leave, I have a house to sweep.”

“Very well” Alice said. Turning to the girls she simply said “We tried.”


That Sunday, Constanze noticed that there were very few people heading to Sunday worship, a fact that she attributed to the continuing drizzle of rain.

Arriving at the home where the services were held, she tried the door and found it barred from the inside. Rattling the door and calling, she got no response from inside even though she could hear people inside the building.

She knocked on the door and still got no response.

Thinking back, not only were there fewer people walking to the Sunday service, there had been NO people walking there.

Going around to a window, thinking her calls could be heard there, she stopped as she heard Sig’s “church voice”...

“….and Brother Blain, do you come before this altar of your own free-will? Are you free in the eyes of God to take the hand of Sister Sarah in Holy Matrimony…”

Constanze ran off. She was being SHUNNED!!!

Dashing home, she saw a pile of bills beneath a rock on the corner of her porch. There was a page torn from a spiral notebook what was covered in writing in Alice’s hand. It was the page where Alice kept account of the monies Constanze saved with them.

The enormity of it pressed upon her. She had no friends. She had no family. She had no neighbors who she could pay and would work for her. She didn’t have an tools or a cow. It was as if she had become a ghost.

She had no choice. 

She had to move to town!


  1. I bet you're having fun. I know we are. Probably feels like it's writing itself at this point. Boy, I wish I had your talent. For me, writing is like pulling my own teeth.

  2. Being shunned is very bad in the Amish community but may not be permanent.

  3. I assume you meant "5 minute break" instead of "5 minute load"?

    Wow, Blain and Sarah moved fast - it appears to be a big jump in the story.


    1. He has been there for four months.

      Every incremental data-point contains incrementally less "new" information. The fact that humans change with time reduces the value of "old" information, in some cases to the level where we would have a better grasp of their character if we did not know them in grade-school or college or as a newbie employee.

      Blain had a lot of baggage to lose. Once he started shedding it, it went very quickly. A bit like Saul->into->Paul.

  4. Holy Cow! From holding hands to wedding bells in one week!!!

    The concept and power of shunning is largely lost on Western Civ given the multiple layers of social safety nets. However, once those nets disappear, an individual's existence in good standing among a close knit community will again become a matter of life/death.

    And at this stage of the game "moving to town" may prove to be a fate worse than death...

    1. "Shunning" can be life threatenting. And there was once a more severe form:

      While researching the origins of the word f*ck, I encountered a legal document regarding a ne'er-do-well in the 1500s (or 1600s, I forget) who was known to the community only by the name "f*ck by the navel". This fellow had upset the community to such a degree, that local judge, having no sheriff, police or other law enforcement, issued the most severe sentence he could: He declared that this person was outside the protection of the community and it's courts. Meaning anyone anywhere could do to/with him as they please without legal concern.

    2. Thus we have the concept, "outlaw."

  5. What does the notebook page from Alice mean?

    1. It is Constanze's account record from Alice's "bank".

    2. And now she has to explain to her husband she got them expelled from the Cove. Then explain why what he will hear at the Cove on his next visit will be opposite of what she will tell him. Constanze better be ready to start working, she's not going to have a husband for much longer.....

    3. It is not like she has much of a husband now. I would bet that her husband spends most of the "week" he is with her drunk, especially if it was near the Christmas season.

      She is going to drop from the story-line because she is not core to it. But she gets a ride into town with Sally and learns that her bank-roll will not go very far. She will connect with other "Amish-like" groups and attempt to join them. Likely, for a while, she will be on her best behavior.

    4. The scorpion can't hide her sting for long, and being a lazy entitled b****h is her nature. Now that she isn't Mrs Moneybags she will have a hard time.

  6. What they did with the Biblical method of two or three witnesses, then a church representative was perfect. An opportunity to repent was the icing. I'd say it was an excommunication. She's out and done. I think the next passage says to treat them like a tax collector and a barbarian. Tax collectors were traitors to their own people and barbarians were wholly unclean. Good stuff.

    I can attest to the power of shunning in a family.

    1. I doubled-up on the first contact because of Peggy and Judith's lower status. I could not see Peggy doing it without a wing-man. They both witnessed Constanze's transgression so they could both testify with authority, something Constanze could not do because her words were based on speculation.

  7. I can almost see Constanze doing something vindictive for revenge. She seems like that sort of person.

    1. False reports don't go far with the authorities either, and she doesn't have any idea Blain is on the run under another name.

    2. Mike, Agreed.

      My opinion is that Constanze would have to be executed. With a vindictive personality like that, I have no doubt that she would casue trouble in one form or another either by informing people such as the IRS, Environmental Agency or other agency which would cause big problems for the community.

  8. "Barely able to move" = reality of getting older.

    Really enjoyable and well written, ERJ.

    Shunning. That was not a thing I had even thought of, but makes perfect sense. The truth is that in our modern, electronically connected society, we do not really understand the meaning of "cut-off" the way people would in former times.

  9. The Matthew 18 'process'.

  10. Constanze = FAFO. Boom!


    1. Copperhead Cove is a world where money is not very useful. You have to leave CC to spend it.

      CC exists in a world where money is hyperinflating and becoming more useless by the day.

      In that universe, a person's reputation IS the only durable form of money. Any person who casually or maliciously damages another person's reputation is destroying that person's ability to make a living. The person whose reputation is destroyed cannot trade help, borrow tools or expect a fair-trade.

      People from that kind of culture tend to be extraordinarily prickly about their reputations and their "cred".

    2. Exactly the same type of culture that Matthew 18 was written from. The kind of culture that exists in every small town and farm community.


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