I got new neighbors.
They bought the old Henderson place, on the next road over.
They were rumored to be Yankees, and no one knew much about them. Apparently they were pretty well off, the Henderson place was a two story farmhouse, barn, outbuildings, and two hundred twelve acres.
It was a going farm until Mr. Henderson got too old. His daughters had moved away, and there was no one else to run it, so he put it up for sale and moved even farther south.
This pissed the girls off no end, they were afraid he was going to spend their inheritance before he died. He was of sound mind and body, so they couldn't do a damn thing about it.
I thought it was funny, I never liked the girls. I secretly agreed with my aunt when she sniffed and said they put on too many 'airs' to be proper.
That's old time southern speech for being snobby.
I met them by accident. Her car, a Cadillac, was sitting on the side of the road with steam coming out from under the hood. I stopped. It was what neighbors did.
Apparently she had seen one too many redneck horror movie, because she wouldn't open the door or roll down the window, just looked at me with eyes bordering on panic. It was pouring rain and getting colder, so I got back in my truck and drove away.
When I got to the top of Henderson Hill, I called the sheriff's department and told them about her. Everybody knows that you have to get to the top of the hill to get reception. Until then you were in a dead zone. Well, the locals did, anyway.
"Well, doggone it Will, why didn't you help her?"
That was our county mounties all right, protect and serve, unless it was too hot, too cold, raining, or there was a game on. In other situations they were johnny on the spot.
"I tried. Wendel, she wouldn't open the door. I can't just leave her there, come on out here and do something."
"All right, let me find my slicker, did you notice it's raining?"
"Yeah, and it's cold. It's also getting dark, and she's probably scared to death, so get a move on. If you hurry, I got some leftover barbecue from the Democratic rally, you can take it back to the station. Got buns and slaw too, you can have that to go with it."
"Got any baked beans or potato salad?"
"Don't push it Wendel. If you hurry, I might be persuaded to give up a couple pieces of fat back cake."
"All right, all right, don't get touchy. I'll be there in about ten minutes. That kind of cake got icing?"
Twenty minutes later he met me, and we rode back down the hill. She was still there, crying.
Wendel identified himself, and she rolled the window down a little bit.
"Ma'am, do you need help?"
"Yes, please! It started blowing smoke out from under the hood, and just quit. I couldn't get anyone on the phone. Think goodness you found me."
"I didn't find you ma'am. Will did. Why don't you pop the latch and let him look under the hood? He used to be a pretty good mechanic."
I was still a pretty good mechanic, until everything got computerized. Now, you need a Phd from MIT, or you were SOL. I couldn't afford the new equipment, so I stopped. It was a hobby anyway, not how I made my living.
It took about two seconds to see the problem. Her bottom radiator hose was split. Damn it, it was always the bottom one.
"You need a new radiator hose, ma'am. Call AAA when Wendel takes you home, and they'll come and get it. It's easy to fix, they should be done before lunch."
"Not tonight she won't. Billy went out of town, remember? His daughter is getting married Sunday, he won't be back until Tuesday."
Wendel looked entirely too happy saying that. She was back to panic mode again.
"I can't just leave it here. My husband would kill me."
I looked at Wendel, watching the gears that power his tiny little brain turning. Don't say it, don't say it ... damn, he said it.
"Hey, Will, why don't you go get one of your heavy duty trailers and haul it for her?"
It was late, it was cold, it was raining, and I was late to supper. But you don't leave neighbors, especially scared lady neighbors, in a bind.
"I guess I can, I reckon. I'll haul it back to my lot and keep it behind the fence for safety. That way whoever fixes it won't have to go get it to do it. Is that all right with you?"
"Thank you, we'll pay whatever you charge. Will you take me home, officer."
She said officer like it was the next best thing to God, and Wendel couldn't open his door fast enough. Then the radio crackled, wreck on route twelve, he was closest.
"Damn this rain. Sorry lady, Will gets to take you, I gotta go. Will, don't you eat that barbeque, I'll be by later."
"Sure, I'll put it in the fridge in the shop. You know where the keys are. Lock up behind yourself this time, I don't need another cat having kittens in there again."
"You ain't never gonna let me forget that, are you.?"
"Not as long as the smell lasts. Mrs. Hatfield, are you ready?"
She had finally told us her name, and I guess if a cop vouched for me I wasn't really a serial raping, homicidal maniac that preyed on older, attractive Yankees. She still sat just as far away from me as she could.
She was the owner of the Henderson place, along with her husband. When we pulled into the driveway, there were no lights on.
"Why aren't the lights on?"
"Because the power is out, haven't you noticed how dark it's been the last mile?"
"What am I going to do?"
"Do you have a flashlight, lanterns, that sort of thing?"
"Not that I know of."
"Well, Miz Hatfield, if you're gonna take up country living, they wouldn't be bad investments. Mr. Henderson used to have a generator in the shop, is it still there?"
"I don't know. We haven't had time to explore yet."
"Well, put your adventure hat on. If it's still there, it's got a tie into the power system."
She was lucky, it was still there and ran, just barely. A big diesel rig, it made a hell of a racket in the confines of the building. There was enough fuel for about four hours.
"If it don't quit, you should be all right until the power comes back on. It usually doesn't stay off long this time of year. If I were you, I'd get that thing tuned and invest in a drum of diesel, just in case."
She was nodding furiously, taking notes on her tablet.
"I'm going to get your car now. Here's my card with the numbers on it. You need anything before your husband gets home, call. Your car will be on my lot, the address is on the card. Good night, Miz Hatfield."
"I can't thank you enough."
"Don't worry about it. Good night."
After making sure she was safely inside, I took off, calling Sherry, knowing I was gonna get an earful.
"Where have you been? Why haven't you called?"
No are you all right, no I missed you.
I appealed to her finer senses.
"Sorry babe, got a call from the cops. Billy is gone for the weekend, and they wanted me to pick a car up off the side if the road. I'll be home in about an hour and a half."
"I hope you gouge the shit of them, making you work in this weather."
"I'll get my due, don't worry."
It was all about money with her. I didn't understand it, her parents were pretty well off, and I did all right. She never wanted for anything as far as I knew, but the way she acts make you think we were dirt poor. She hadn't been like that until about a year ago. I always wondered what sparked it off.
I got the trailer, got the car, and was home when I said I would be. She had already gone to bed, leaving me a note that dinner was in the microwave. A quick bite, a quick shower, and I was dead to the world until the alarm rang.
The next day was sunny and warm, making you forget the cold rain the night before. I didn't have much going on at the shop, so I walked down to Advance and got the hose, rolled the car down off the trailer, and fixed it.
Lunch time came and a man in his late forties, suit, tie, polished wingtips, and a harried look on his face walked in.
"I'm Bennett Hatfield. I came to make arrangements to have my wife's car towed to a garage. Can you tell me who the best mechanic in town is?"
He was talking to Charley, my assistant and general gofer. He, Bobby, and Myra were my employees and friends. I ran an equipment rental business, you know, backhoes, dozers, tractors, ditch digging machines, that sort of thing. It was a good business, nobody was going to give twenty nine thousand or more for a backhoe to do a few hours work when they could rent one for a few hundred. The tanked economy actually helped my business. More people were doing it themselves instead of hiring it done.
My equipment wasn't pretty, but they were all sound mechanically, and dirt don't care if you got new paint. I charged a little less than the chains, and did all right.
Charley pointed to me, and he came right over. He stuck out his hand.
I couldn't help grinning.
Myra was standing behind us, she usually handled the suits, and she thought he was there to rent something from our party supply section. She burst out laughing.
"Sorry, Mr. Hatfield, we're not laughing at you, think about it, Hatfield and McCoy?"
He stood for a minute, then smiled back.
"Well, I hope we're not going to feud. I left my shootin' iron back in Philly."
"Good, I melted mine into a plowshare. What can I do for you?"
"I came to make arrangements to have my wife's car towed to a garage. I don't know anybody in town yet, could you recommend someone?"
"Don't bother. I had a little time on my hands this morning so I fixed it. All it needed was a new hose and a little antifreeze. Bring your wife by anytime before six and she can drive it home."
He seemed surprised.
"Well, okay. How much do I owe you?"
"Forty bucks. The receipt for the hose and antifreeze are in the dash."
"That's not right!"
"Yes it is, check the receipt."
"No, what I meant is, how much for your trouble?"
"Oh, I couldn't charge you. I don't make my living as a mechanic, and it wouldn't be right. We're neighbors, I live on Howell Road, you live on Henderson Road, our houses practically back up to each other. Down here, you don't charge your neighbors for a kindness, it just isn't done."
He looked confused so I tried to explain.
"Now, if you wanted to rent a backhoe, I'd charge you. Your wife told me you were a lawyer, so if I went to you for legal advice I'd expect you to charge me. But if I asked you it I could borrow a tool, or if you needed a ride somewhere, if money was offered somebody would get offended. Understand?"
"I think so, it's just going to take a little used to. Well, I can't thank you enough."
He was back in forty five minutes with his wife. She was more attractive than I realized, and younger too, but not enough to be a trophy wife. Maybe forty, she looked early thirties. I guess a life of luxury doesn't wear you down as hard as working for a living.
Her husband just dropped her off, too busy with lawyer stuff, I guess.
She thanked me repeatedly for helping her, until I finally told her to stop.
"That's enough, Miz Hatfield, it was nothing really."
"Maybe down here, but where I come from it's pretty outstanding. And since we're neighbors, call me Angie."
She held out her hand.
"Will, and this is Myra and Charlie."
They were practically breathing down my neck trying to find out about her. She smiled, shook their hands, and instead of leaving she had Myra take her on a tour, stopping to look at various pieces of equipment, asking a million questions.
She was particularly appreciative of the party supplies and rentals, especially the castle.
The castle was a circus size tent, complete with turrets and flags. It could be divided into different size rooms as necessary. It was very popular for weddings. At one time it had been an actual circus tent, but the circus folded and I got it for next to nothing at an auction.
With it and some of the smaller tents, I could convert a field into a fairy tale in twenty four hours.
Sherry was on one of her binges again. She wanted a new car, a Cadillac like the one our new neighbor drove.
Her Chevrolet Impala, that she just had to have two years ago, just wasn't good enough anymore. I tried to remind her if we got it for her she couldn't trade for four years. That was the only way I'd agree to get it.
"That thing is nearly worn out[it had 39,000 on it], I NEED a new car. Why are your fighting me on this?"
"Because you don't need a new car, you just want one. We can't keep up with the neighbors, Sherry, he's a lawyer for goodness sakes. Your car will do just fine for right now. If you don't think so, you're welcome to get one on your own, as long as my name isn't anywhere the paperwork.
I had her there. Her credit score was terrible. She had defaulted on a car loan and some credit card debt while we were dating. I helped her get her car back, but wouldn't help with the credit card. She refused to pay it.
"Something you need to understand before the wedding, I don't believe in credit cards. They're a trap, and wasteful."
"But you have two."
"That's right, and they're both business related. I only use the American Express when I have to, and use the other twice a year just to keep it active. I use them if I find a good deal on a piece of equipment, and that's about it."
I had her sign a pre-nup to except my house and business from community property. The house had belonged to my parents, and when they retired they went to see my sister in California, fell in love with it, and moved, leaving me the house. We hadn't even done the transfer of ownership yet, couldn't see the hurry. Sherry thought we had and I never thought to bring it up. The paperwork was all filled out, just in case.
I kind of fell into my business. I was subcontracting work for builders, site prep mostly, and was tired of going forty five miles away to get the equipment I needed.
I had some money saved, my parents loaned me a little more, and I was in business. I plowed almost all the profits for the first three years back into the business, gaining new equipment. I paid my parents back the fourth year. By the time I met and married Sherry I was pretty proud of what I had accomplished in such a short amount of time, and didn't want to lose it.
We met at a Christmas party given by one of the contractors I did a lot of business with. I usually avoided affairs like that, people trying to impress themselves and each other held no thrill for me. But that night I was bored, so I went.
Of course all the women were dressed to kill. There were some really pretty ones there, and I am a guy, so I danced, flirted, had a good time. Sherry was there with someone else, but I did get a dance with her.
The spark was there, we both felt it, but she was with someone so I didn't pursue it. As I was leaving, the hostess slipped something in my hand.
She kissed my cheek, I shook hands all round, and left. I looked at the paper when I got in my truck. It was Sherry.
I put it in my dash, really meaning to call, but Christmas was a busy time for the party supply side of my business, so I kind of let it slide.
A week before Christmas, she came into the store, talked to Myra, and she pointed to me. Myra giggled and wrote her a receipt.
She came over.
"I'd like to pick up my rental."
"Sure, what is it?"
She handed me the paperwork.
"Man, good looking, as escort to a Christmas party. Term: five hours. Responsibilities: pleasant conversationalist, reasonable dancer, kissing ability to be determined. Inability to dial a phone, overlooked if willing to be trained. To be delivered at address provided."
What could I say, she was about five eight, great ass, pretty face, and breasts that seemed to defy gravity.
"Miss, I'll personally see to your rental. Also we offer a money back guarantee if the services aren't acceptable. Fair enough?"
She offered her hand.
"Deal, but I warn you, I expect to be satisfied, or I want my money back."
She finally broke down laughing, we went for coffee and discussed further terms and conditions.
Myra insisted I get a new suit, and not trusting me, made me take her with me to the mall. Her husband went to, saying entertainment like this was impossible to pass up.
"Just want to be able to see her make a man miserable that isn't me."
Four hours, I mean come on, I would have taken the first one, but it just wouldn't do. Eight suits later she declared it 'the one'. I breathed a sign of relief but her husband just laughed.
"You don't think you're done, do you?"
Hell no we weren't done. The perfect shirt and tie, even the socks had to stand inspection. It took another forty minutes to pick out the shoes.
"You're not going to pick out my underwear, are you?"
Myra didn't blink.
"Navy blue boxers, silk. You want to feel as good as you look, and I already took care of it. You're welcome."
"Remind me to fire you sometime soon."
"Only if my severance pay includes you modeling the suit, and I expect to see those drawers, too."
"You're rehired. If I beg you on my knees at the food court, will you let us go home?"
"Maybe, if you give me your word you'll get your hair cut tomorrow."
Her husband just laughed as we got into the car.
I figured what the heck, I was dressed to the nines, might as well ride in style, so I rented a Cadillac Escalade for the weekend.
I felt pretty snazzy when I arrived to pick her up, but when I saw her I knew I was over matched.
I would have loved to been the artist that painted that dress on her. Shimmering green, slit almost high enough on the side to see the top of her seamed hose, neckline plunging almost to her navel, I had no idea how she kept those puppies restrained[double sided tape, I discovered later], and despite the daring of her attire, she looked elegant. I did get a glimpse of her garters when I helped her into the car.
I'm pretty sure we held a conversation on the way, but to this day I can't remember a word.
We danced, we mingled. I was introduced to people who I forgot instantly. She was the hit of the party, and was asked to dance constantly. She always looked askance, but it was up to her. She did dance a slow number with a guy who was getting a little grabby, and I was halfway across the floor when the song ended. She grabbed my hand and left Mr. Octopus standing.
"No more slow dances with anyone but you." She hissed in my ear as we went back to the table. It worked for me.
She snuggled to me as close as she could on the way home, Nibbling my ear. Every time we hit a stoplight I kissed her until cars honked.
We actually steamed the windows before we got out at her house. After about twenty minutes, she asked me to escort her to the door, offering coffee.
I sat on the sofa while she fixed the pot, then excused herself to get out of her dress.
I had almost dozed off she had been gone so long, and I heard someone clearing their throat.
I literally fell off the couch.
When she said get out of her dress, she meant get out of it and not put anything else on. She was standing there in just her hose and garter belt. I thought I would go blind.
She really did have boobs that defied gravity, with a really great set of nipples, big, puffy, standing straight out.
Tight tummy, neatly trimmed bush. He lips were swollen and glistening. I couldn't speak.
She got nervous when I didn't say anything.
"Here's the deal. I really like you. Normally, I would have sent you home tonight with blue balls and then try my best to kill the batteries in my vibrator. We would have dated maybe a dozen times, me letting you go farther a bit every date, maybe show you my oral talents around the ninth or tenth date. Then we would have had the big event, candlelight, soft music, maybe whipped cream and melted chocolate."
"But you really turn me on, so let's save ourselves about four months and stress test my mattress. If you bang me and bail, I'll just chalk it up to experience."
I did bail, about twelve hours later, to get us some breakfast. Other than that, the Escalade didn't move for two days.
She was insatiable, in turns demanding and submissive. We did everything I knew to do to a woman, and a lot more I had no idea about but she was glad to teach me. By Sunday, I had learned her triggers, the back of her knees, her nipples, the spot on the back of her neck just below the hairline. She showed me her toy box, and we tried everything in conjunction with everything. She scratched my back so bad I considered a tetanus shot, and I bit her right breast so hard it drew blood. It looked more like a fight than a bout of lovemaking. We both pretty much marked each other as ours, and I never looked back.
We moved in together in two months, married in seven. We agreed to have a few years together before we started a family, she was twenty five and I was twenty nine. Now it was three years later, and I kept throwing hints about starting the family.
For some reason, about a year ago she started changing, becoming more demanding, more materialistic. She decided we needed a new house to start a family. Our house had four bedrooms, and I just couldn't see the need for more.
Then she maxxed out the credit card she had managed to get despite her credit history, and didn't speak to me for two days when I cut it in two, after paying it off.
She had a job, made pretty decent money, but stayed broke. I paid all the bills, it was just the power, our phone plan, the cable, and the other normal household expenses, except groceries. She agreed at the start that would be her responsibility, so I let it be.
If you opened her closet you would see clothes with the tags on it she probably never would wear, and four or five pair of shoes that never saw the ground.
The silent treatment over the car episode lasted about five days. She came home on the sixth to find me taking her clothes out of the closet. She looked but wouldn't speak.
"I'm not gonna live like this. If I'm gonna live alone, I'm gonna live alone. I called your mother, she wasn't happy but agreed you could stay with her for two weeks. We should be able to find you an apartment or house by then. I'll pay the deposit, the first two months of rent, and have the power turned on and pay it for the same amount of time. That should give you time to learn to live on your own again, Better learn to budget, you'll have to pay your own way now."
She surprised me and fainted dead away. I moved her clothes and lay her down, getting a cold cloth and wiping her brow. She awoke with a start.
"Will, I just had the strangest dream. You were throwing me out, I don't remember why."
She looked at her side of the closet through the open door, noticed the clothes on the bed beside her, the suitcases on the floor, and started crying.
She started wailing, begging me not to make her leave, saying she would be better, please, please.
I let her go for a little while before telling her to wash her makeup off and meet me in the kitchen.
She slipped into the kitchen chair, not meeting his eyes.
"I'm serious, Sherry, I won't live like this anymore. The temper tantrums, the out of control spending, refusing to talk about starting a family, it's like I don't know you anymore. If you want out, say so. If you don't things have to change."
She finally confessed that the idea of being a mother scared the shit out of her, she kept flashing back to her childhood.
She was the second child out of three, all just a little a year apart. Being the middle child, she got lost in the mix, and when her parents split when she was twelve it affected her deeply.
"I still see my mom crying. She had three teenagers, was alone, and the stress got to her. She started drinking, and pretty much ignored us. Dad never came around after the first year, he moved halfway across the country. I won't expose a child to that."
I held her hand.
"Honey, I'm sorry about your childhood. But I'm not talking about a houseful, just one. If we decide we want another, we'll wait at least two years. And this is a biggie, but I'll never leave you. I promise."
We walked around each other gently for about three weeks, but we gradually became the normal young couple we were. She stopped spending so much, and even opened a savings account. Three months later she showed me the balance, and I was impressed.
I told how proud I was of her. She laughed.
"Don't be too proud, it'll be empty in a little while."
I thought she was gonna tell me she was gonna buy the new car, but she said no, she had another use for the money, she was going to use it to buy furniture for the nursery, and I was gonna have to paint it, and did I like light blue?
It took a second for it to sink in.
"What? What did you just say?"
She had that smile women have when they know they've succeeded in turning your world upside down.
"I said in about seven months we'll have a son. The nursery needs to get finished, so you need to cut back at the store a little more, especially towards the end."
I had never cried in front of her. She had told me in my office, having just come from the doctor. She had stopped taking her pills, wanting to surprise me. Boy, did that plan work.
When the tears started it scared her.
"Did I make a mistake? I thought this was what you wanted. If you..."
That's all she got out before I smothered her with kisses. Pretty soon her tears mingled with mine.
Myra knew something was up when we came out later.
Noted for being sensitive and discreet, she blurted out.
"What the hell's going on with you two? You look liked somebody slapped the hell out of you and you both liked it."
"Myra, can you keep a secret?"
She nodded yes. The woman was better than the internet when it came to spreading information quickly.
"Myra, we're going to have a baby! Seven more months, it's going to be a boy. Promise me you won't tell a soul. We want to surprise my mother. Promise me?"
She mumbled "Un huh" while trying to pull her phone out of her pocket as she walked off.
I watched her, grinning, before I turned back to Sherrie.
"I hope you already told your mother."
She grinned back.
"I stopped by before I came here. Everybody in town will know before close of business today. I figured if we told her it'll take the burden off me."
True to her habit, by the time we went to lunch, people were stopping us on the street to hug Sherr and shake my hand. We almost didn't have time to eat because of the constant congratulations.
When we got back there was a huge banner over the counter, in white with blue bows.
CONGRATULATIONS WILL AND SHERRY! IT'S A BOY!
I looked at Myra and she smirked.
"Like I could keep a secret that big! You assholes knew I would explode if I couldn't tell anyone."
I laughed and went back into the office.
The pregnancy was a bad one. Sherrie was put on bed rest after seven months. I looked at her pale drawn face and knew we would never have another child. It would be too dangerous to her.
Sherrie wasn't a model patient. Her mom moved in, she was the only one who could stand the be around her, mostly because when it got really bad, she would tell her to shut up and leave her alone for a couple of hours.
The delivery took seventeen hours, before they finally did a C section. Sherry was past exhaustion. When she could finally talk she told me.
I agreed with her. She was already in the hospital, so she had her tubes tied before she left.
William Bryan Sanford weighed almost nine pounds, which explained a lot of her pain. He had a full head of thick black hair like mine. I was disappointed when the nurse said it would probably come out before his real hair color would appear.
She was wrong, he never lost his hair and it remained jet black.
If you've never experienced it, all the words in the universe can't describe the feeling of being a parent. It was breathtakingly beautiful and starkly terrifying at the same time. It's not about you anymore, and never will be again, even after they're grown.
They become your world, and everything you do becomes sublimated to their welfare. Spontaneous trips and romantic weekends become things of the past. Now, you have to plan everything, load the necessary equipment, even if it's just a trip to the grocery store.
Disappointingly, Sherry didn't take to motherhood as well as I thought. Oh, it was plain she loved him, but just as soon as I got home she would hand him to me, and flop down on the recliner for an hour. She called it baby recuperation time. I didn't mind, I would walk around holding him, telling about my day, and what I wanted out of our lives together. I talked about little league, boy scouts, camping trips, girls, anything I could think a boy would be interested in.
He would watch my face intently, gurgling and smiling, not understanding a word.
It irritated Sherry no end that he never seemed to cry with me. I would come home, and he would be crying, especially if he didn't feel good. I would pick him up and start walking him around, and about ninety percent of the time he would calm right down.
I took two weeks off to be with Sherry and Billy after the birth. When I got back, there was a big sign in front of the building.
SANFORD AND SON EQUIPMENT RENTALS. NO JUNK!
Myra and Charley were standing there grinning. It brought tears to my eyes.
My screen saver was a slideshow of Billy, Sherry, and us together.
My friendship with the Hatfields began slowly. Angie came in one day and wanted to rent a tractor. I asked her what she needed a tractor for.
"I want to plant a garden. I've already ordered my seed from Bakers Creek. I need a tractor and equipment to prepare my beds."
I admired her determination, but wouldn't rent her a tractor. It surprised her no end.
"Because you don't know how to operate one. Tractors can be really dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. If I rent you one and you kill yourself, I'd feel really bad. Plus, I'd lose you as a customer and a friend. Don't want that on my conscience."
"Besides, you don't need to rent one, I saw that little Yanmar and all the equipment in your shed. You have everything you need already."
Mr. Henderson had a big auction when he retired and got rid of all his farming equipment. He bought the Yanmar later, because he liked having a tractor around, and he liked to garden. I bet it didn't have five hundred hours on it.
"It won't crank."
I saw the look of determination on her face. I knew if I didn't help her she would find someone else.
"The battery is probably dead. Look, tomorrow is Saturday, why don't I come by and look at it?"
"Oh, I couldn't take you away from your family."
"You won't. I'll have them with me."
So that Saturday I took Sherry and Billy over, and Angie cooed over the baby for an hour, holding it the whole time. It irritated Sherry that Billy was crying but stopped when Angie held her.
I had brought my batter charger and hooked it up to the tractor. While it was charging Bennett and I looked over possible garden spot.
"You sure you want her on a tractor?"
His reply was honest enough.
"No, but you have no idea how determined she can be. I'm asking you to keep an eye on her, and give her some guidance."
We talked about it while Angie and Sherry disappeared into the kitchen, coming out with a platter of sandwiches and a big bowl of potato salad. We ate, talking about her garden projects. They cleared the table, refreshed the drinks, and listened to me.
"Ben and I have talked about this. He's going to have a roll bar and a seat belt installed on the tractor before you do anything serious with it. Come on out to the barn, and we'll do your first lesson."
I pulled it out of the barn, and had her sit on it. I showed her the brakes, the throttle, the hydraulics, and the gears.
"I'm gonna tell you this, and I want you to remember and be careful. The gears in a tractor don't work like the ones in a car. Whatever gear you're in, the tractor will move when you let out the clutch. It won't bog down like a car does. So if you forget and start out in a high gear, you'll probably snatch the front end off the ground. If you're sitting on an incline or bad angle, you could end up flipping it over. That's why I recommend the roll bar. If you're wearing your seat belt, and stay inside the bar, you may have to change pants later, but you shouldn't get hurt."
I had her put it in the lowest gear and in low range, and had her drive it around the field. It was moving so slowly I could walk beside her, giving instructions. I had her stop and practice moving the hydraulic three point hitch up and down. I had put a turn plow on.
"Try to never run your tractor without a piece of equipment. That way, should yo pop the clutch or get on a steep incline, the equipment will hit and stop you from flipping over. It may jar the hell out of you, but it will be worth it, considering the alternative."
I had her lower the plow and make a few passes in the spot she had selected. She was grinning ear to ear while Ben snapped photos. She was upset when I pulled the tractor back in the shed and pulled the key.
"It wouldn't crank anyway, the battery is gone. I've got a friend that will be by Tuesday to install the roll bar and seat belt, I'll get a battery for you and he can install it. He'll give you the key and a spare I'll have made then. Still, you don't need to drive it while you're alone at first, wait until Ben is home. We'll be by next Saturday, and I'll show you how to use and change the equipment."
Hugs and handshakes, and we were gone.
Sherry was animated on the way home. "She has a beautiful house! It doesn't look like anything like it did when Mr. Henderson had it. She has prints on her walls that are probably worth thousands. She let it slip she had a trust fund when we were talking about art. Did you know they still own their home up north? It was her grandmothers'. Now it's hers."
"Good for them. They're a nice couple, they deserve it."
She was quiet the rest of the way home. I saw her later looking up the prints she saw, and looking at the cost. She was right, some of them were in the thousands.
Sherry went back to her job. She liked to work, and we weren't really to the point of not needing her income. Plus, I knew the thought of being home all day with no one to interact with would drive her crazy.
We had a good time teaching Angie to operate the tractor. Ben learned too, but wasn't as enthused as she was. She planted her garden, and bought a small tiller to use when the tractor wasn't necessary. She cried when she picked the first green beans she had raised. She kept expanding the garden. I warned her it would get to be too much for her, but she laughed.
"Ben leaves early and comes home late. There's only so much housekeeping I can do, and I'm not much for sitting around and watching television. Besides, it gives me something to talk about in my blog."
She had indeed started a blog, "Gone Country" to detail her experiences of learning to live in a rural setting. It was actually very popular. Humorous, entertaining, sometimes serious. There were lots of pictures and video. I was in a few because of my help. She described me as spiritual adviser in all things country. It was embarrassing, especially when Myra started reading it.
Angie decided early on she wanted to be organic as possible. I introduced her to a friend that owned stables and boarded horses, and he agreed to let her have some manure for her garden. The catch was she had to clean the stalls to get it. I thought that would be the end of it right there, but soon she had gloves boots, and thick clothes. She called it her shit uniform on her blog. There was even a picture of her on her blog all togged out, a bandana covering her hair. She cleaned three stall, twice a week. Her compost pile was developing into a mountain.
Sherry went with me every time I went over for awhile, then slowed until it was almost never.
"I've heard about all I can stand about manure, crop rotation, and organic pesticides."
I took Billy about every other time, putting his carrier in the shade where I could keep an eye on him. Those days Angie spent about as much time holding him as she did gardening. After we became closer friends I asked her if she had ever wanted kids.
"Yes I did. When it didn't happen we got tested. Ben is sterile, some accident when he was young. We talked about adoption, but it made him uncomfortable. I dropped the subject, he was my husband and soul mate, and I couldn't stand the thought of not being with him. Sometimes, when I'm holding Billy, I think about what I miss. Then he makes a mess in his diaper and I'm glad I can hand him off to his parents. Whew! Here, take him."
She held him out to me like she was holding a bucket of toxic waste.
Ben came out later and sat in the shade with us.
"Will, I want you to do something for me, if you can. My new partners and I are planning a get together. I want to have it here. An old style Southern barbeque. I want you and Sherry to cater it for me. And Will, you'll get paid or we won't discuss it any farther. This isn't a get together of friends, this is a business function. I would have to pay someone anyway, and I know first hand how good yours is. I want them to remember it for a long while."
I hadn't cooked professionally in a few years, and I missed it. I said yes.
He and Angie looked relieved.
"Thanks, Will. I'm gonna need some party supplies, tents, chairs, tables, etc. Angie will coordinate. Most of clients will be here, I really want to make a good impression."
Three weeks isn't a lot of time to set something like that up. Angie took to meeting us at our house every other day to coordinate. My first question was how many to cook for.
"We have eighty confirmed, but figure on a hundred, we don't want to run out of food."
"How many kids?"
"None. Adults only."
She saw my frown.