Saturday, June 11, 2011

Part 23: As You Sow

Part 23: As You Sow

The weather was changing
Cold and sleet were ahead,
The farmers were working very hard
To secure the crops in the old metal shed.
-J. Reed

“You’re WHAT?!”

I had already been worried about his reaction and his response definitely put me on my guard. I wanted to remind him that it takes two. I wanted him, no needed whether it was realistic or not, for him to play hero and tell me that everything would be all right, to alleviate my fears and say it wouldn’t be like last time. I wanted him to at least pretend to look delightfully surprised rather than horrified and upset. Instead I swallowed the words and the tears and calmly walked out of the house and then after seeing that the kids were swarming in the garden like locusts, including Nydia and Neeno who were happily following Lena’s directions, thus realizing that I’d get no quiet or privacy there I walked around the house and over to the old Trask place.

I had to push through the heavy overgrowth but I eventually got back to the workshop where I had found so much that had proven useful and helped me to save Nydia and I when we were most vulnerable. I’m sure there is a sound psychological reason why I chose that particular place as my destination but at the time why didn’t matter, nor does it today, it was simply a destination to reach. Then out of the blue it finally hit me as hard as it had been threatening to. I barely held on to the building while I puked up what little I had in my stomach and then just continued to heave.

It seemed that my whole body was turning inside out and that I couldn’t draw a breath that wasn’t immediately coughed up. I would have fallen to the ground if I hadn’t discovered familiar arms holding me up. Even after I had stopped throwing up the world continued to spin. When it stopped I found that I was sitting on the floor of the old workshop with my head between my knees.

“Go away.” I know it was a cruel thing to say but it came out of my mouth anyway.

“Mi Coraz…”

“No. None of that.” I was trying to push myself up so I could put some space between us but he wasn’t cooperating.

“Leah …”

“No. Just leave me alone for a while so I can figure out what to do.”

He started to get annoyed but I wasn’t in the mood to particularly care. “Excuse me? I believe we have something to figure out. The child is mine too.”

I interrupted him with, “Too bad you couldn’t seem to remember that a few minutes ago instead of acting like I was admitting to some heinous crime.”

The calming breath he drew in was intentionally noisy and afterwards I could literally hear him grinding the enamel off of his teeth. “Very well. I could have handled it better. But it was a shock and you don’t understand what this means to me.”

I could have clunked him in the head right then and there with absolutely no guilt whatsoever. I turned to him and gave him a look that should have removed the skin from every square inch of his body and he got very still. He knew right away that his mouth had dug him a hole and that I was feeling inclined to make it his grave.

The adrenaline rush from my anger suddenly made me nauseous again so with a swift – and not particularly kind – elbow to his midsection I got loose and then made a beeline for the bushes for a repeat performance. Bushes was a misnomer, the whole blasted yard was basically a forest of small trees and tall weeds.

I sensed him behind me but when he went to help I put my hand out to hold him off. Between heaves I told him, “I did this by myself before.” Heave. Breathe. Gag. Heave. “I’ll do it this time too.” Gag. Breathe. “You don’t need to ...” Heave. Heave. Gag. “… worry about a thing.” Heave. Gag. Breathe.

Quietly and a little too calmly, like he was dealing with a deranged person, he responded, “That’s not what I meant.”

“Yes,” I breathed, holding my sore stomach muscled. “Yes, it is.”

“No. Certainly not like you are taking it at any rate,” he denied.

“Well, whatever. Like I said, I managed by myself before, at least this time I’ll know what I’m in for.”

I was finally able to stand up straight. I turned to go back to the house to wash my face and get back to work. I couldn’t imagine at that point what else there was to say. It was worse than the worst-case scenario that I had imagined. I was shutting down my emotions just so I could do what had to be done. Except when I tried to leave Mateo wouldn’t let me. “We are talking about this.”

“I have work to do,” I responded with as little emotion in my voice as I could manage.

“No you don’t.” At my look he retraced and said, “Not any that cannot wait. Besides you are still shaking.”

“Mateo …” I started warningly. I felt cornered. In my mind he’d already made his feelings clear and all I wanted was to be left alone to deal with what I saw as my reality.

“Leah, this is nonnegotiable. Now sit.” Mateo was getting a little testy too. I gave him a look that asked him where in a way that told him I was short on patience as well so he pointed to the floor we had been sitting on a few minutes before. As I sat, knowing he was right even if I didn’t want it to be right then, he asked me, “How long have you known?”

“For sure? This morning when the smell of the frying tortillas almost made me sick when I normally love the smell.”

“But you’ve suspected before now?” At my nod he asked, “For how long?”

“A couple of weeks. After the false alarm where we decided we wanted to … to … wait … I just didn’t want to worry you.”

“So you kept it to yourself.”

“Yes.” What was I supposed to do? Lie? Explain I had kept it to myself because Mateo had made it pretty clear that he didn’t consider another child in our best interest? He had the whole thing all planned out and we both counted days like religion.

“How could this have happened?” It was a rhetorical question but I looked at him like the answer was obvious. He had the grace to look sheepish. He sighed and shook his head, “You know what I mean. We were very careful.”

“Tell you what, why don’t you take that up with God and then get back to me with His answer. It’s not like He can’t know how little you want another child.”

“I never said I never wanted another child Leah.” His reply was stiff with indignation.

“Geez Mateo, you couldn’t have made it any plainer. You can’t tell me you weren’t relieved every time I put that red X on the calendar. I saw your face.”

“It isn’t a matter of wanting another child Leah, I didn’t want another child now.”

I knew it, I’d even said it, but hearing the words still hurt. I refused to let him see how bad they hurt. “Then don’t. I told you …”

“Not that again. You know I wanted to be with you while you were pregnant with our son.”

I wanted revenge, wanted him to hurt too, but not badly to actually act on the impulse so I quietly admitted, “I know.” Then I shook my head trying to stave off my conscience pushing me to be more conciliatory. “But you weren’t. That was my reality then. And I’ll deal with this reality now just like I’ve dealt with everything else life has thrown at me.”

I stood up and wrapping my pride around me walked to the door. I didn’t make it two steps.

“Leah, we aren’t through.”

I shook my head sadly, “Maybe not, but we are through for right now. I’ve had all I can take and I need to get back to Neeno and Nydia.”

I brushed passed him and didn’t give him any choice but to let me go. I went back to the house and saw to my children and then got started, albeit late, on my gardening chores. I thought I was doing a good job keeping my problems private but Annie sidled over to me as I was pulling several small hornworms off the pepper plants and said, “I didn’t think you and him ever fought.”

I looked at her and had the grace to feel bad realizing that whether we wanted to or not, we now had more accountability for our actions or lack there of. “We don’t, not often anyway.”

“Must be a pretty big deal.”

I shook my head. “Annie, if you want to know if it is about your family in some way just ask.”

“Well … is it?”


“But it’s a big deal.”

Stopping for a moment, uncomfortable sharing such personal information, I nevertheless was honest. “Yes. We usually have more sense than to argue about stuff that doesn’t mean anything.”

She nodded and that was that. I continued to work, made lunch though I had no appetite, and then went and worked some more. Luckily for me Lena had volunteered to cook dinner. Throughout the meal I listened to everyone speak about their day, answered where appropriate, and pushed the food around on my plate before feeding it to the children as surreptitiously as possible. Lena hustled the kids off as soon as dinner was cleaned up and I took Nydia and Neeno into the house to bathe them and tuck them up.

“I’ll do it,” Mateo said.

I just wasn’t in the mood to appear like I was pouting so I kissed the children goodnight and then went to take care of my own ablutions. I only meant to sit down at the table long enough to plan out the next day and instead groggily opened my eyes sometime later as I felt a hand gently shaking my shoulder.

“Great. Drool on my notes,” I said irritated at myself while wiping away both spit and ink transfer from the side of my face.

“They’ll dry.” I turned to look and saw Mateo with a small smile on his face. The smile died a quick death and then he sighed. “Our rule is we are never to go to bed angry at each other.”

I shrugged. “I’m not angry, not anymore.” And I wasn’t. I wasn’t too much of anything. I’d been on overload and had, subconsciously or not, decided to compartmentalize my emotions off for a while. I got up, organized my papers neatly, put them where they belonged and turned to leave.

“Leah …,” Mateo said quietly. He shook his head, more at himself than at me and then dropped the hand he had been reaching out. “Leah we need to talk about this.”

“I realize that,” I told him. “And if you want to talk about the logistics fine; as you say it needs to be done. But I see another part of the equation as well and right now I’m not sure that I can handle any … any more regrets,” I finished lamely not knowing how to tell him that the way he had reacted had hurt worse than I would ever willingly admit. I wouldn’t be a hypocrite and demand honesty and transparency from him then tell him there were exceptions to the rule. At the same time I no longer felt in a place where I could be honest and transparent with him. I wouldn’t lie, but I decided to keep my emotions to myself to avoid any more pain for a while.

So we spent the next two grueling hours plotting a calendar and adding and subtracting plans to those we’d already had. He asked more questions about “the birth” than he ever had before; so many in fact that I finally stood up and took my “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Book” and a couple of the other even more graphic ones off the shelf and tossed them in his lap. “My notes are in a folder in one of my dresser drawers but you’ll need to read them some other time.”

“Why?” he asked, mildly irritated when I didn’t make a move to add them to the stack in his lap.

“Because the lamp is running low and it is getting too hard to see. I’m going to bed, I’ve got a full day of canning tomorrow and so do you.”

“Leah …”

I stopped and turned to him. “What?”

He looked at a loss for words then he shrugged, “We still need to talk.”

“That’s what we’ve been doing. I’ll go through Neeno’s and Nydia’s old things in a few weeks after we finish this next round of harvesting and preserving. There’s months to go yet … almost seven … and ….”

“That’s all well and good but we need to talk about the other.”

I shook my head. “No, we don’t. For one I’m too tired to do it properly if there is such a thing and two, quite frankly I don’t want to. I’ve got my emotions under control and that is where they are going to stay. We are working on the things that you are concerned about … resources, work hours, and such … and that is going to have to be enough.” And kicking myself for the crack in my defenses I nevertheless added, “At least for now.”

In times past we might have lain there tossing and turning and perhaps eventually turning to each other for comfort and making up. But no longer. To be blunt we were both just exhausted, staying up those extra two hours used up much of our reserve energy. Gone were the days of luxury when we could stay up late and sleep in the next day. Every scrap we put in our mouths came from some type of work we had to do ourselves. Every stitch on our body required meticulous care so that they would stay on our body. Every drop of water we used had to be processed in some way by us, how much work there was involved in the processing depended on its ultimate use. Cleaning, cooking, sewing, pumping, hauling, hunting, building, gardening … you had to do work before you could start your work and stopping your work and putting it away was also work. We went to bed, we went to sleep, and we got up; we were barely rested but could function.

There was no time to ruminate on the might have been’s. There was no time for my bad habit of wishing. There was even less time when Mateo, Roy, and Robert came back with something besides the alligator Lena, Annie, and I had been expecting.

Robert, usually more quiet than the other boys, came running into the yard doing some weird tribal-looking dance and saying, “Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah … we did it.”

Roy came staggering into the yard with a pole on his shoulder that was the other end of the one that Mateo was carrying. “What do you mean ‘we’ meat head? I don’t see you helping to carry this thing.”

All I could do was stand there and stare. They had a carcass that was generally deer-shaped but was still noticeably different; and to my knowledge deer do not have long, spiral horns. They also aren’t generally as big as this thing was; even field-dressed it looked huge and heavy.

I just stood back wondering why the alien thing still managed to look familiar while the kids and Lena asked all the questions. Roy and Robert were proudly answering them which allowed Mateo to walk around to me. “It’s a kudu. Escaped from Busch Gardens or Lowry Park Zoo would be my guess.”

After a moment it clicked. “We saw them when we took Nydia. The zoo person was saying something about the horn being used as a shofar by some Jewish populations.”

He nodded, “Yes. And they’re edible. Remember how the man beside us was irritating the zookeeper by making a big deal about the different hunting safaris he had been on?”

“Big guy? Read headed and red faced with a really loud voice? Three obnoxious teens in tow that seemed to trip every few steps over those ridiculously low riding jeans they were wearing?”

“That’s the one.” We both smiled at the common memory without thinking about it and something inside me loosened just a bit.

“As I recall he claimed they tasted like venison, only wilder,” I said pondering exactly how we were supposed to deal with the carcass. “Where did you find it?”

“It and a couple of other young males were grazing that field that used to be Nye Park.”

Startled I asked, “You went that far? I thought you were only going to the retention pond at the other end of the canal?”

He stepped close and with a glint in his eyes whispered, “Worried for me?”

I rolled my eyes and just shook my head. Why is it a good hunting expedition does that to men? It gets their testosterone all riled up. On the other hand it was kind of funny and the knot inside me loosened just a little bit more. Until I heard Robert fuss, “Hey! I carried the crabs! See! Look!” and he opened the flap of his back pack and showed me a large plastic container with holes punched in the top and inside the container was some water and lots of scuttling blue crabs. The problem was there was a distinct fishy odor wafting up out of the container that I hadn’t been prepared for. That’s all it took.

I covered my mouth, turned and ran for the barn. Only problem was when I got there the ripe smell from the hog pen made it all so much worse and all I could do gag and stumble away. It seemed to go on forever. Every time I thought I had it under control I’d take a breath and the smell would hit me again. All I could do was go with it. Morning sickness hadn’t been that bad with Neeno, but then again I hadn’t been dealing with animals then either.

I can’t even really remember how I made it into the house. The next thing I do remember for sure was waking up from a fitful doze to a darkened room with a cool cloth on my forehead. I groaned involuntarily because of my sore stomach muscles and someone rushed out of the room. Next thing was brisk food steps and a kind but firm voice telling me to sip some fragrant ginger tea that was being put into my hands.

I shudder and Lena told me, “You’ll drink this or I’ll know why. Why on earth you haven’t said something before now instead of …”

“I wasn’t sure until yesterday,” I interrupted understanding she meant that she knew about the pregnancy.

“Hmmmm. Well, that explains why Mateo looked like a house had fallen on him all day long. Now listen to Leah, you may have been forced to lone wolf the first time with your little boy but there is no need for that this time. Now drink up. Dehydration only makes the nausea worse.”

It turns out that even after her husband retired Lena continued to volunteer at the clinic he helped to establish, especially in the midwifery area. “I was not a midwife but I was often called on to assist, especially if there was a language barrier. I even helped deliver a couple of babies while we were at the camp … and helped with a couple of miscarriages. Stress, starvation, violence, and dehydration are the enemies Leah. Things had not yet turned completely upside down when you were in your initial trimester or so your first pregnancy. But things have changed. You are going to have to make more of an effort to keep your calories and nutrition up. You weigh less than the first time around as well, am I right?”

We talked for a little while and when she caught me glancing toward the door through my lashes she said, “Mateo and the boys are processing the meat. Your man is bound to get it all cut so that you don’t have to look at it.”

I shook my head at that foolishness. “I still have to preserve it.”

She laughed good naturedly. “You know that. I know that. Mateo is just avoiding that knowledge until he has to admit defeat. Such are the ways of men. They want to protect us but rarely are they able to as much as they would like.” We both looked at each other and knew the truth of what she said. She continued, “Annie has a good head on her shoulders. Her other grandfather was a cook and sometimes picked up work as a carnicero – a butcher - and he taught her how to cut meat correctly. I’ve seen her do amazing things even with the cheapest and fattiest cuts of meat.”

“Annie?” I asked, surprised.

Lena tried to hold back a laugh, “Yes, I know. She is such a mixture of little girl and old woman. Now are you sure you feel like getting up?”

I was sure and I was even surer that I was not going to be any more embarrassed than I already was by what happened. She handed me a toasted tortilla which I nibbled as we walked through the house towards the lanai. I finally thought to ask, “Where on earth did those crabs come from?”

“Your husband is quite the businessman. He bartered them from a group in trade for helping them to dress and load another of the large beasties into the back of their truck. I’m boiling the crabs now; they wouldn’t have survived the night. We’ll eat crab tonight and can the rest along with the … the kudu meat. Oh my,” she chuckled. “I just can’t get used to saying that.”

I agreed with her then girded my stomach to face the butchering. Luckily for me the hanging, draining, and cleaning out of the cavity were done. The smell in the yard wasn’t bad so long as I stayed away from the crab pot.

Mateo saw me and then stopped himself from rushing over when he realized he was splattered with bits of kudu. I walked closer but at an angle so I could judge if I was going to hurl again but it seemed the ginger tea had done the job. “That animal is huge; maybe not as big as Lena’s cows but certainly close. Even field dressed I can’t believe you and Roy carried it all the way back from Nye.”

“We didn’t. Did Lena tell you about the others we ran into?”

“Some but not much.”

He nodded. “There isn’t really that much to tell. A man and his two sons had gone to the coast for supplies and finding none they decided to go crabbing … blue crabs are in season. We crossed paths and gave each other a little mutual aid.”

“They had fuel to run a truck?” I asked surprised.

“Methane … they collect the droppings of all the wild ducks that hang out near the river. Apparently there are quite a good number of them. Toss the droppings into something called a digester and out comes a fuel.”

“Sounds like a smelly proposition,” I was forced to grin.

“Couldn’t tell, the crabs blocked the smell of anything else. They’d lined their whole truck bed with a water proof tarp and it was like an aquarium with way more crabs than I’d want to fool with. They must have a lot of people in their group.”

Concerned I asked, “Did they say exactly where they were living?”

He shook his head in the negative. “No, they were friendly but cautious. I’m guessing it can’t be too far from the river, the boys mentioned fishing almost every day. If I had to guess I’d say Zephyrhills or perhaps closer along the Hillsborough River. They said they still had a ways to go when they took off. They were kind enough to go out of their way and drop us as close to home as they could without getting off of the highway.”

“Mateo?” I asked, looking around to see if anyone was watching or eavesdropping.

“Hmm?” he asked as he concentrated on sharpening the butcher knife he was holding.

“I’m … I’m sorry.”

Surprised, he stopped what he was doing and looked up chagrined. “I was supposed to say it first. I would have tonight. I …” He stopped and didn’t look like he quite knew what to add.

“Forget it. I just don’t want to fight. I guess I’m just hormonal.”

He quirked an eyebrow and said, “Unfortunately I cannot use that as an excuse.” He looked around uncomfortably and then said, “I’ll say more tonight after the children are in bed. Suffice it to say however, I realize I could have handled things better.”

Mateo was a private person and I could tell he was uncomfortable with the idea of being overheard so I let it go. I also let it go because it was time for me to take a hand in things; as good as Annie was there was simply too much for her to do alone.

Roy, Robert, and Ray helped Mateo. I sent Ricky who was about give out trying to keep up with his older brothers inside for a book on animals of the Serengeti that I had left over from my teaching days. When he got back I asked him to read about Kudus to the younger children and to let me know if anything popped out at him about the animal that we should now.

Annie, Lena, and I took the carcass and started to cut the meat and process it. I wish it had been cooler but beggars can’t be choosers. The hide wasn’t our primary concern and we likely would have horrified a real hunter but it couldn’t be helped. We were learning as we went. First came the backstraps. As soon as Annie got those off we coiled them up and stuck them in a container to decide what to do with later. The backstraps from the kudu were much larger than the ones my father every got from venison. Backstraps are like filet mignon and to be honest, even with my stomach disobeying me I wanted some red meat so bad my eyes watered.

Next came the hindquarters. After that the forequarters. As Annie cut … and how she was doing all of this with just a four-inch blade amazed me … she had two bowls beside her. She would give Lena and I the larger cuts and in one bowl she would put all the bits and pieces that she cleaned off around the cuts she made. In the other bowl she put all the bits and pieces that weren’t fit for human consumption and we soon had those on the smoker for Genty’s consumption.

The neck meat was cut away and I sliced it thinly to be marinated and then dried for jerky. After both sides were cut the tenderloins came out. We stopped at this point and re-sanitized everything. A little powdered pool shock in water created a bleach solution that we used to scrub down all of the surfaces again. We also told Mateo and the boys to take the hide and do with it what they desired. Getting the remainder of the carcass out from underfoot meant there was less chance for hair or other debris to get on the meat.

We pulled off all of the silver fat. I knew from experience venison fat didn’t render down well and would actually spoil the meat if you gave it a chance. The kudu was just as lean in that respect as a deer but there was still some fat that had to be cut away.

Most of the meat we cut into stewing pieces and immediately started canning using the raw pack method. It was a good thing I had stored so much salt and that I’d gotten more from Tag’s shipments; we used quite a bit of it. What we would do if we ever run out deserves some serious consideration. I can flavor with herbs but preserving requires the real thing.

After Annie finished with the kudu and cleaned up from the messy task of butchering she moved over to the crabs. She called Ren and the girls to help and she started removing all of the meat from the shells.

Lena said, “Let us can the crab meat – Mateo says you know how – and instead grill these backstraps and loins. I know it is a lot of meat but you and the children need it. We can chop and use the leftovers tomorrow.” I nodded without answering. The smell of the crabs was wafting my way and I had to concentrate and breathe through my mouth. Ricky was given the task of setting the BBQ grill to heat using some of the seasoned hardwood chunks that we keep for that purpose.

Even as the day cooled towards evening those of us that were working sweated through our clothing. We had large kettles going that were filled with soups, stews, chilis, and ground meat that was browning. In turn, as one load would come out of the pressure canner we would fill new jars with whatever was ready – or another load of raw packed meat – and set it to heating and sealing. I used a great many standard canning seals but I thanked God that I chose to give in to the temptation and buy all of those Tattler reusable canning seals and rubber gaskets, treated well it would be at least twenty years before I would be without a means of canning our food.

The only time Annie and I sat down was when the meat came off the grill and even then we took turns stirring what was still cooking to keep it from scorching on the bottom. My respect for the prickly girl increased immeasurably that day. Her strengths outshone her weaknesses and it was more than apparent that the stories of how much she had done and been responsible for had been understated even by Lena.

The meal was a memorable one – kudu mignon seasoned with just olive oil and salt and pepper; baked yucca fries; sweetened fried plantains; and omnipresent rice and beans. Lena had already taught Mateo and the boys how to make guaro, it wasn’t that big a leap for them to make cervesa. It irritated me a little that the liquor was being brought into our home but then again, Mateo had imbibed on occasion before we were married. I had managed to turn it to good use and I hoped it stayed that way. I used the cervesa … beer for us common folk … by making Beer Bread. I like sourdough as much as the next person and possibly more but you can get tired of anything and the Beer Bread was a pleasant change.

There isn’t any other bread that is so easy to make. You take an amount of beer equal to one can and mix it in the equivalent of three cups of self-rising flour. Once mixed you put it in a loaf pan and then baked it. I suppose the “beer” was more like a mead but it approximated the same effect.

As darkness crept in we lit tiki torch type things but my goodness the tar was pungent and we had to keep all the food covered. Mateo and the older boys also helped to feed a bonfire that lit our work area and knocked the chill down to a comfortable level. Lena was eventually convinced to take the youngest and go back to her house so that the children wouldn’t be horrible the next day. Mateo took ours and put them to bed at the same time. Roy refused to go and Robert had to do everything that Roy did so they helped with wood and then sat with Mateo discussing manly things unless Annie and I needed them to heft some object or other.

Finally about three in the morning we toe’d them awake where they had eventually collapsed and had them help us to carry the final load of filled and cooled jars into the house. I told Annie we’d divide things up the next day and surprisingly she said between yawns, “Leah, it might be better if we keep everything over here for a while. I love my brothers but they’re pigs when they’re hungry … and they’re always hungry. And this way we’ll be able to inventory it better too.” Hidden beneath that prickliness was a good helping of commonsense.

By the time I drug Mateo to bed he was so tired he slurred and using what was for him bad grammar. “We was supposed to talked tonight.” Despite myself I bit the inside of my check trying not to smile. I threw an old blanket over the bed to keep our dirty bodies from soiling the clean sheets. We were both asleep before I heads hit our pillows.

The morning sickness showed no mercy the next morning. It acted as my alarm clock which was what I went through for the next two months on a daily basis. Some days were worse than others but it never left me completely until just recently.

As the weeks went by we became friends with the man and his sons from the river group. His name was Mitchel McGee or “Mac” for short and the boys were Billy and Bobby but I could barely tell them apart they looked so much alike. The friendship was beneficial to both our groups. We traded some seed for more crabs in October. And it worked out that they had sows but no boar and we had cows but no bull; you can imagine what that trade delivered. We traded news of the outside world gleaned from our radio for news they collected along the river from various other groups. They offered wild rice they’d gathered from the river tributaries in exchange from some divisions from my herb garden. When the weather cooled even further and they began shutting down their bee hives for the season we offered cane syrup for a share of honey. Lena traded some freshly hatched chicks for several freshly hatched turkey chicks.

And then came the day that Mac asked Mateo if he would come with a couple of the boys and help his group hunt the nutria out of their bend of the river.

“I’m telling you those things are grazing the water ways to death. Now my brother Hank worked the river up in Lou-sianna and says that nutrias make good eating. He’ll get one every onct in a while and eat it but I’ve never been inclined ‘cause of the work involved in catching ‘em. But the damage they’re doing is gotta stop. And frankly I’m all for a benefit coming from the work we’ll have to put into it. ‘Sides, I’d like you to meet everyone else in case we have to send someone else out if I’m laid up for some reason.”

It was decided that Mateo would take Roy and Robert and start walking three days later to meet up with them closer to the old USF campus. Neither Lena nor I was completely comfortable with it but neither one of us could come up with a good enough reason for them not to go when it could mean so many good things later on. I was tense on the day they left, it would be at least two before they returned, so I set myself as much work as I could manage.

First off Lena and I agreed it was the perfect time to turn both houses out for a good fall cleaning. When I got tired of the houses I’d go into the garden and plant such cool weather crops as beets, broccoli, cabbages, salsify, turnips, burdock, lettuces, carrots, onions, and English peas. The younger kids were out of sorts with Mateo and the boys gone and I didn’t blame them, but I wouldn’t put up with them acting out either. They worked right alongside of us and make no mistake, they earned their bread and jam they had at break time.

By the third day my nerves were just about spent and so was I. By the fourth I was ready to bust. We had accomplished a lot of good but I wanted Mateo and the boys home where they belonged and worried at the fact they were gone longer than their worst case scenario of three days. Shortly after we’d finished and cleaned up from lunch Genty put up a fuss and sure enough, down the road came Mac’s big truck. Mateo was home but it wasn’t all good news that he brought.


  1. I was worried there would be some type of repeat! Thank you for the new chapter!!!

  2. I am still tring to comment dont know why it wont let me, I love your stories.sssaawolf

  3. I feel special when I get the story before the squirrels do! LOL Thank You very much!

  4. Great Chapter! Looking forward to more.

  5. I simply love your stories and this one just continues to be one of my favorites. Thanks Kathy

  6. To be honest, if I found out today that I was pregnant (even in perfect times), I would be HORRIFIED! I'd probably act just like Mateo. lol Poor Leah though, that had to cut deep. He was supposed to pick her up and spin around all happy and excited like.

  7. Excellent! Glad to have the ability to continue here. Thanks, Kathy!!

  8. I noticed the other day that you moved the story here and deleted it from the squirrel's site. Will you be moving all your unfinished stories the same way? Just curious is all.

  9. Kathy I've been truly enjoying and being educated by all of your stories. Thank you very much for doing all of this.

    Is everything OK where you are? You haven't posted a new chapter in a while and I was concerned. Hopefully you are swamped with a bumper harvest!


  10. Moar on this one soon, pretty please. :)

  11. I was so happy to discover the new home for your writing!
    Enjoyable, educational, and uplifting.
    Thank you.

  12. Thank you for continuing this story... So happy to be able to read your stories here. -nini2033a

  13. Hello Kathy I just caught and already I'm looking for the next chapter. Thanks again for all of your stores they are full of adventure and knowledge at the same time, while keeping you guessing what is going to happen next.

    With Christ Always

  14. I have been reading all of your stories and absolutely LOVE the recipes and forage tips! I Really hope to see more of your writings soon. Thank you for all of your hard work!


  15. Just a gentle 'bump' to let you know we are still out here w-a-i-t-i-n-g........ (smiley face, silly laughter and giggles).

    Thanks Kathy