There's a reason I'm living in a disguised soddy in 2012. Big Rock Creek is a stone's throw away. It feeds into the Fox River over twenty miles south of where I am. I got caught up in something stupid--a gang initiation. Two guys, kids really, were given a couple cheap automatics and told to rob a grocery store.
Guess who was doing some late night shopping? Yeah, me. I heard all the yelling and screaming, then decided the old saw about living to fight another day. I dodged back into the prep area between the produce and meat section. When nobody was looking I picked up a big meat cutting knife and stuck it in my back pocket. Then I saw a big, fat fire extinguisher on the wall. I grinned and took it down, pulled the arming pin, got back just around the corner from the swinging doors and started making a racket.
Just as sure as God made little green apples one of those idiots bashed through the door, yelling for anybody and everybody to get down on the floor. It took me one step and a little pivot to be have that nozzle right in his face. I shoved it forward until I had contact with the bell and squeezed the trigger. I rode him all the way down to the floor. He fired two incredibly loud shots and relaxed. I have to admit, I was pretty shaky. Fool number two came to investigate the noises. I crouched down behind half of the door with that big honkin' knife in my hand. As soon as he stepped through I cut the backs of his legs, deep, then shoved him over onto his face. His head bounced and his gun skittered away over the concrete floor to under a packing counter. It was over.
Well, it was over except for all the depositions, the idiot detective that wanted to include me in his little brag sheet for busts that month and the grand jury. The D. A.'s office tried to hang me up to dry for murder. (The guy I attacked with the fire extinguisher died.) I was absolved of any culpability. That was it as far as the county was concerned. The gang? Not so much!
After the first attempt on my life I got the idea that I wasn't too safe. I already had an Illinois firearms owner's card, commonly called a FOID card. I owned a big S&W N-frame .357 revolver and a double-barrel 12-gauge coach gun. I hit a big local gun store for a bolt-action .22 rifle and a bolt-action .22 WMR (magnum) rifle. I bought a cheap but dependable name, Savage. Both rifles, slings and soft cases set me back about six hundred. Then I bought a bit under a thousand dollar's worth of ammunition. I put it all on my credit card as I wanted to keep as much money available as I could. I had plenty of room behind the seat of my pickup.
Luckily, when they tried to firebomb my apartment they hit the locking assembly rather than the sliding glass door. It sure got the fire department's attention though. I figured that I'd better move. Well, I pretty much had to as the fire bombing got the landlord pretty hot. Since I wasn't listed in any phone books somebody had access to my records that the gang could put the touch on. I couldn't even rent a trailer without leaving records somewhere. I didn't put a lot of effort into cleaning the place--namely, none. I also left all the stuff I couldn't use without electricity behind, along with my big queen-sized bed and the futon couch with the "vee" in the middle
I got let go at work, "for security reasons". Thanks for the stab in the back, assholes. I was fully vested with the state teacher's retirement fund, so I had some income headed my way. I found a mailbox place and laid out a year's worth of rent. Then I contacted the IMRF administration to tell them where to send the checks. When I left the apartment I lost my mail box. When I lost my job I lost my phone. Now I needed a place for me.
I had an idea, but it needed the cooperation of an old grain farmer that used to use my dad for his tax work. A different man used to run Angus cattle on a farm he leased from my great aunt. The telephone company ran a cable across the property and left some of the insulation from the buried cable in a pile. His cattle, being dumb bastards, ate it. Their hooves fell off, they went blind, hair came out in patches and they died. I remembered seeing that big black pile of dead cattle next to the road. He sued for damages, won and retired. The farm remained empty for several years, then my aunt died. The buildings were left to decompose and fall over at the whim of the weather. This old farmer bought the property as an investment. It was all tree covered grassland that shelved down to the river on one side of the road and corn fields on the other. A little north of there both sides of the creek were covered in heavy brush and trees. I'd camped down there as a kid. I knew about several sweet springs that fed into the creek, but there were bogs around them.
Adjacent to the farm, just to the north lay a five acre plot that had a contested title--it had been a boy scout camp. They'd used a bull dozer to cut a path for a car and a pad for a big bunk house and kitchen. They'd turned up a lot of rocks, then left them piled up. The camp had closed about the time of the Korean war.
Alfred gave me the time to tell my story, then agreed to let me live on the riverbank property for a hundred bucks a month, including allowing me to park out behind his machine shed. I thought that I got a hell of a deal. He even gave me permission to salvage from the old farm across the road. Alfred's nephew was working the grain farm in exchange for inheriting it when Alfred kicked off. He started to raise hell about our deal. I convinced him that if his fat mouth got me killed he'd be living with it on his back for the rest of his life. He reluctantly agreed.
I didn't have that much time to get my belongings out of the apartment. I bought a couple big polyethylene tarps to nail up inside the old machine shed. That gave me a place to temporarily store the stuff I owned, a place to sleep while my place was under construction and to store my construction supplies.
I found an abrupt shelf in the bank about a third of the way up the grade. I staked out a place for a 10x25 soddy, a long run for the doorway and a pit toilet. I made damned sure that the pit toilet was a long horizontal distance away from the spring I was going to use. The soddy was going to be about a half mile from Alfred's machine shed, right down the edge of his field. It was all dirt so it would be impassible to my truck after a heavy rain or during the spring thaw.
A hit on a hardware store netted me three bags of cement, a wheel barrow, a diamond point shovel. a pry bar, a bow saw, a crosscut saw, a couple big plastic buckets, four boxes of dock spikes and a piece of three inch gas pipe with a cap threaded over one end. A local builder's lumber yard stocked hundred foot rolls of fiber-reinforced 20 mil polyethylene. I bought a roll of that along with a case of adhesive and a caulking gun.
The trees at the boy scout camp had grown too closely together to thrive. It meant I had a good supply of small tall tree trunks. They were mostly maples. I used a bow saw instead of an axed to cut and trim everything as it was quieter. I trimmed the first batch out to ten foot long segments. Once I carried them across the creek to the cabin site I pointed one end. I used a cheap canvas tarp to hold the dirt as I dug out the living space. After getting an eight foot height in back I pounded those poles into the ground to keep the back wall stable. Each wall got a cribbing of vertical poles, then I dug out the entry tunnel and reinforced that. Then I nailed horizontal poles in a box frame. Once it was all firmly in place including the lining to the access tunnel I started roofing. I used a bow saw to square up all the log ends making up the walls. I notched the tops every two feet along the ten foot long walls, then cut heavier poles to fit across the notches. Then salvaged 4x4s were nailed to the tops of the walls as a cap rail. Next I cut twenty-five-foot long poles and laid them in place. Once I had coverage they got nailed down at the ends. It was awfully dark in there, so I found an unbroken window and cut a hole next to the doorway. The roof and all the inner walls got covered with 20 mil polyethylene and glued down.
For a floor I poured a little water on the clay, tied baggies over my feet, poured out two bags of cement and stomped it into a paste. I used a piece of barn wood to use as a screed and level everything out. It ended up being about two inches thick. Talk about a back-breaking mess.
.... There is more of this story ...