There was no band playing on that cold December day. At that moment it was just me and an Air Force Chief Master Sergeant in the squadron office. The office was located inside a much larger windowless concrete block building near the flight line. That building held my squadron's complete operation. We were a small squadron almost completely independent of the larger base.
"This is your last chore Robbie, sign the official secrets act waiver and you are finished here. You still have to go by the personnel office, but when you sign off here, you are out the squadron door. The rest is just bullshit.
"Sarge, getting paid is never bullshit," I said.
"The last ten years you lived in one barracks or another, so I bet you have a chunk or money saved?" he asked. "You shouldn't need that last partial payment."
"Not nearly enough," I said.
"You still headed for the North woods?" he asked.
"Sergeant Major, I'm keeping my next home a secret. I've had all the visitors I ever want. My big plan is to be a hermit."
"Remember Robbie, everything in this life comes with a price tag," The first sergeant said it as if it some great insightful advice.
"I'll keep that in mind Sergeant Major. Now if you would sign my clearance, I'll be moving on."
"Well Robbie over all it's been a pleasure," the First Sergeant said.
"Likewise," I said. "All things considered." The chief master sergeant out ranked me by two pay grades, but he had always treated me an equal. Probably because I had been the highest ranking non commissioned officer living in the barracks.
I ran a few more places on base, but in the end I finished up back at my room in the barracks. I went there simply to pick up my two duffel bags. I had already given away the travel bags I used over the years. Nobody carried their clothes in the clumsy duffel bags anymore. I wouldn't have either, except they easier to manage than five or six back packs.
At looked at the two of them stacked in the back of the small SUV and thought, in the last twenty two years, I managed to double the size of my belonging and to purchase a cheap Ford SUV to carry them inside. I shook my head in disappointment. Well I was about to change all that, I thought.
I stayed the two extra years in order to walk away from the USAF with the two duffel bag and the SUV, which was paid off. I had no other debt at all, so life should be easy, I also thought.
My big plan was to purchase everything with my savings, then live simply on my small retirement income. If that wasn't enough I might find something else to do as well. But I never planned to be part of another organization like the Air Force.
I had burned my accumulated leave the year before searching for the right place. I found it in Mississippi, ten miles north of the town of Mossy Point. The piece of property was located off a picturesque dirt farm road. The place's only advantage was that my land butted up to the small Pascagoula River.
It was my plan to set up house keeping in an eight by thirty six metal shipping container, which I had purchased on line from pictures. It would be my home at least for a while. Yes it was small, but I could add more area as I needed it.
The drive from New Jersey to my land took two days. The drive was mostly on one of the interstate highways systems. The roads were crowded as hell at that time of year. The Christmas travel season was about to begin.
On the evening of the second day, I made it into Mississippi. I was only twenty five miles from my place when I pulled of the less traveled state highway and into the older mom and pop motel. It was the same motel where I stayed, while I search for the new pieces of my life. That was almost exactly a year ago. The motel was conveniently located between my land and the town of Moss Point Mississippi. That made absolutely no difference it was just a passing thought.
The first thing on my mental list was to find someone to scrap the existing road into my land. It was an old abandoned farm road even when I contacted him the year before. I caught him at his office, which was on seat of the grader. Since it was an existing farm road, I had been assured that the grading contractor could level it. It needed that in order to make it passable for the trucks I needed to enter the building site. He looked at the digital picture and the GPS coordinates of the beginning and end of the road. Then we came to an agreement. There was no way to shake hands over the internet so we would we were both working on trust.
Before I left for dinner at a fast food restaurant, I left word on his cell phone for Tommy to call me back. After leaving the message, I went to dinner at a burger joint a few blocks from the mom and pop Paki motel. Of course Tommy called while I was eating.
"Tommy remember we talk a few months ago about you leveling out that dirt road from Smith Farm Road to the river. It hasn't been used in sometime." I said.
"You that soldier right?" he asked.
"Yeah that's me," There was no since trying to make the distinction now, I thought.
"Yeah I remember that road. When do you want it done," he asked.
"Tomorrow would be nice," I said.
"So you remember how long it was?" Tommy asked.
"You said it was less than a mile and a half of clay surface," I reminded him.
"Yeah that sounds about right. We can adjust if it is any different. You know I got to truck the scraper out there and get it nice and flat." he said.
"I get it Tommy. How much you want to do it?" I asked.
"About eight hundred ought to do it," he said.
"Well I got a six hundred dollar estimate, in writing, from last winter," I said.
"I was thinking since it was winter again it should be less not more," I said.
"Were you thinking five hundred," he said.
"I was," I replied then shut up. There was a lot of silence.
"If the job is like you say, we can do that. That is, if you are willing to help me." he suggested.
"Sounds fair to me. When do you want to start?" I asked.
"Not tomorrow for sure," he said. "The next day maybe. Call me tomorrow night and we will set the meet," Tommy suggested.
"Fair enough," I agreed. I couldn't make anymore calls so late in the day, so instead I drove into Mossy Point. I looked around for ten minutes, then drove to Pascagoula Mississippi. Looking around there took and hour. Even so I returned to the motel without leaving the car. It would have been a bust to anyone else, but to me it was simply recon.
Thursday morning I went to a diner in Mossy Point which I had spotted the night before. There had a large grill and a couple of burners behind a counter. That counter which seated ten patrons. There were also four tables with four chairs each inside. So the max capacity was less than thirty people.
When I got there at nine, there was less than five people. I didn't really pay that much attention, it just registered in my subconscious. There was a woman of about thirty something, with slightly wide hips who took my order. I order the bacon, and eggs with toast. The old black man at the grill was a classically trained chef at the state prison, I expected. I had no idea which of them was in charge. It didn't seem to matter it worked.
"That was very good." I said it to the young woman wearing Deloris's name tag. "Deloris could you tell me where is the nearest public Wifi hotspot?"
"I think there is one at the McDonald's in Pascagoula, oh yeah and the public library there," she informed me.
I thanked her, also I left her a 25% tip, then headed out the door. I drove my small SUV to Pascagoula's McDonald's parking lot. Their drive threw menu had coffee in a small cup for a buck, which I ordered. I found a space to park behind the building.
From that location I could see the cars come and go through the drive threw. Best of all I could piggy back the McDonald's WIFI connection while I drank my coffee.
Since the connection was public access. there was no password. My access to it was via a small tablet. I used it just to do pure research, so I didn't have any need for a real keyboard. Most of the sites I accessed had a drop down menu, so I used the thick wooden stylus. I had made those myself from a wooden dowel purchased from a New Jersey hardware store. I actually made several of them.
I found the site I wanted after only a short search. It was a business in Gulf Port Mississippi. A town of just a few hundred more souls than Pascagoula. It was also less than a hundred miles away. So rather than call, I just drove down the coastal highway.
I had this great view of the Gulf of Mexico out the driver's side window. I had been told that if I continued along the highway in that same direction that in a couple of hours I would make it all the way to New Orleans. I would have passed Keesler Air Force Base a couple of hours before I arrived in New Orleans. I did neither I stopped in Gulf Port. I stopped at the Sea/Land shipping hub.
I went inside and spoke to the yard manager. Sea/Land picked up containers at the docks in New Orleans then cracked the containers and repacked the contents into several different loads, sorted by destination.
"Weaton Evans," the long shore man, who hadn't loaded or unloaded anything in years, said. I was confident in that assumption since he was at leave fifty pounds overweight.
"Mr Evans I hear you are the man to see about having the storage container I bought last month delivered," I said that as I handed him the paper work for the metal box.
"How you planning to haul it off?" he asked.
"I hadn't really decided," I admitted.
.... There is more of this story ...