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?"
.... There is more of this story ...