Chapter 1

I guess I was always sort of a mean shit ass, I never started many fights but when someone jumped on me they were going to pay for it. I had figured out way back in grade school that if you were going to fight, fight to win, and make sure that the other guy paid a hell of a price for messing with you. There was a Gym that taught boxing, karate, judo, and several other forms of fighting about six blocks from my home and I started cleaning the gym and washing towels there when I was about 11 or 12. I did well in amateur boxing, and before I left for the Army I could beat any of the instructors in any form of fighting they wanted to use.

I did OK in high school making C's with an occasional B. College didn't interest me and I guess it really didn't matter anyway because I didn't have the money to go nor the grades to get in with. Teaching at the gym paid by the number of students you had and nobody but the gym owner ever made any money at it. After graduation I spent three weeks looking for a job without even coming close to getting one. I had about three thousand in the bank and it wouldn't last long. My parents both worked and I had two younger sisters and a brother younger than them. There was no way they could support me and I wouldn't ask. They were good, but lower middle class parents. I talked things over with them and made the choice to join the Army.

I wish I could say that I did well in the Army but the truth is, I knew the first day that I was not going to be a career soldier. I didn't mind being told what to do but I sure as hell didn't like the way they told me. One day I thought I was going to get some pay back. The drill Sargent was being his usual loud, obnoxious self and asked if there was any of us that thought we could whip his ass, and dumb ass me told him I could and I did, and I paid for it. I did every shit detail in the whole training company, all by myself.

I was assigned to the Infantry, just a plain ole foot soldier carrying a rifle and a ton of supplies. I wound up in the sand box getting shot at by crazy people wearing rags on their heads. I guess I got a little crazy myself and I slaughtered a few of the sons a bitches and then I pissed on their dead raggless heads. That little trick bit me in the ass and I had to report to the company commander. He told me that he needed to explain the rules of war to me, and I listened to everything he said. Then I told him that with all due respect to his rank, that if there were rules to be played by, then it was a god damned game, not a war. He told me that as right as I was, we were still going to do it by the rules. I left without saying anything else. After that, I got sent on every one way mission that came up and when I was shot at, people died.

In my third year of service I was once again playing games in the sand box when a rag head got lucky with his wild full automatic fire, and tore a small chunk out of my knee. Unfortunately I had to kill him long before I was through punishing him because I was bleeding and we needed to move. They treated my knee at a field hospital and sent me to a hospital in Germany where it was determined that I was going to have some permanent damage and would probably be discharged. I figured they would send me to some place miles from home for rehab but I was reassigned to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio Military Medical Center and for the first time in almost 4 years I went home. San Antonio had not changed much, employment was still a problem and I knew I would have to look somewhere else for a job because the Army wanted to get rid of me the minute I showed up.

I hadn't spent much more than the three thousand I had when I enlisted so when the Army released me I had a few choices I could make. I bought a full sized van from a neighbor, he was behind on payments and the bank was trying to find it. I gave him three hundred and paid it off. It was five years old and just a plain cargo van but it was going to be my home for a while.

The day I was leaving one of my high school friends called and talked a while, he was broke, unemployed, and had a wife and kid. He was trying to figure out how to ask me for a loan and told me he had a pistol for sale, a 10 mm with about 30 rounds of ammo and two extra magazines for $200 so I told my folks I was going to stop and see him on the way out of town, and I drove out to where he was living with his in laws. The pistol looked to be almost new but very dirty. No problem, he just happened to have a cleaning kit he would throw in. I gave him the money and left before he hit me up for more. He told me there was a gravel road about a mile north and on the left and I could try it out there. I decided I better do that just in case I wanted my money back. I turned on the gravel road and found a place to turn around, I was about half a mile from the pavement and the brush and trees were so thick you couldn't see more than 30 or 40 feet in any direction. I backed into an opening and went around to the side cargo door. I set down on the floor of the van with my feet on the ground thinking I might be better off cleaning the pistol before I tried it. I had been there about half an hour and had the pistol clean and back together. I had just started to load one of the magazines when I heard a car coming down the road. My first thought was that I had been set up, and my friend was going to become my enemy. Since the pistol was not loaded, I picked up the tire tool that was laying in the floor and stepped into the brush.

It was a car and a large SUV and they went past the turn off that I backed into and stopped. I moved further into the brush and waited ... And that is where this adventure began.

They got out of their vehicles and looked around, then started talking. They were not looking for me, this was a drug deal, a big one. One of them had a large roll along type suitcase and he opened it. The other guy looked through a few packages of bills and then the other guy started checking the packages of drugs. Now I just don't like drugs or drug dealers so I decided I would just slip up and knock them in the head and call the law. As it turned out it was not the best plan. It was just getting dark but you could still see good enough and one of them saw me and reached for a gun. I ran at him and whacked him on the side of his head a little harder than I intended. The other guy rushed toward me so I whacked him a good one. It was quiet for a minute then the SUV started bouncing a bit and I could hear someone mumbling. I picked up the gun and went to the side and looked in.

And that is where I met Tori. She had duct tape over her mouth and her hands were tied with tape. I put the gun in my waistband and reached in my pocket for my trusty Old Timer and cut her hands loose. She pulled the tape off her mouth and asked who the hell I was, what was I doing here, and did I have a car. After we got that out of the way she said we better grab the money and go. She had a suitcase in the back seat of the SUV and she grabbed it and I took the suitcase full of money, we loaded up and left. She talked nonstop for 15 minutes before I could even ask her name. Her name is Victoria "Tori" Ramos, and I am William "Willy" Culver. She was full of information and on her advice I wiped down the drug dealers pistol and threw it away. Then took apart the pistol I bought, wiped the parts and threw them away because everybody knows that there are dozens of stolen 10 mm pistols floating around San Antonio and if you get caught with one your ass is going down for robbing the gun store. Thank you Tori.

Tori's family had been in the dirt construction and landscaping business. She was 18 and had a driver's license to prove it. Her parents had long been dead and she had lived with her brother and helped in the business doing whatever job needed done. Her brother started using drugs about two years ago and had become progressively worse. He had traded her to the drug dealer for drugs and helped the drug dealer tie her and tape her mouth. He was taking her somewhere to sell her. She could not go home and if she went to friends or relatives he would find her. So, as she explained, that is why she is going with me. I asked if she needed to go home to get her belongings and she said she had everything she wanted in the suitcase.

We talked over where we should go and she said she would like to live somewhere that was not a desert. We stopped at a truck center to eat and get gas and bought a road atlas. We bought an ice chest and some sandwich and snack food and got on I-10 headed west. The closest mountains were going to be in southern New Mexico so I told her to check the road atlas for the best way. We were about a hundred miles from San Antonio when we started talking about maybe going to Mexico when we went through El Paso and I remembered the vehicle check points and told her we needed to go north and not get within a hundred miles of the border. I really didn't want to explain to the Border Patrol just what I was doing with a suitcase full of money. The speed limit on Interstate 10 in west Texas is 80 mph and I set the cruise on 79. I bought gas in Fort Stockton but didn't see a motel. We went northwest from Fort Stockton to Pecos and stopped at a Holiday Inn, the sun was coming up and I was tired. I got a 10:00 wake up call, took a shower and went to sleep.

It seemed that I had just laid down when the phone rang, I got up took a shower, dressed, and woke Tori. It took her 30 minutes but when she came out of the bathroom my first thought was Wow! This is a very good looking girl. I had never seen shorts and a T shirt looking that good. Her hair had been in a ponytail and she was wearing warm up exercise looking clothes yesterday. I told her to put two thousand dollars in her purse and I got the same amount. There was a Walmart across the street from the motel and we bought another foam mattress, sleeping bag, pillow, and two blankets for her to sleep on. Then we got a dozen plastic storage containers of about two quart size, another ice chest, a camp stove and fuel, lighters, a lantern, two flashlights, and a shovel. We also added to our picnic supplies and Tori got some personal stuff while I gathered a few more items.

We decided we would bury most of the money in plastic containers somewhere in the mountains but it looked like we might need more containers. Tori spent some time arranging the back of the van and made an estimate of two million dollars in the suitcase. We tried for hours to figure out a way to legitimize the money but couldn't think of anything. We continued in a northwest direction until we got to Artesia, New Mexico and turned west. We finally got to the mountains and stopped for gas at a convenience store in Cloudcroft, I noticed that the forest ranger station was across the street so we went and played tourist. We got some maps of the forest roads and trails and Tori found out about places to see. One of the places was Sunspot where a solar observatory was located. It was too late to go so we checked in to a motel and went looking for a place to eat.

Tori talked to everyone she got close to and I was beginning to think that the duct tape might have been a good idea, but she did get information about the area. She had a list of things she wanted to see and I didn't have any better ideas so we wound up visiting everything within fifty miles. We had visited two casinos and used up 20 rolls of quarters, watched horse races, wood carving with a chain saw, and been in every curio shop we could find. We were staying in motels and paying for everything with cash. Other than the motels requiring that I have a credit card on file in case we trashed the room, the area was cash user friendly. On our second trip to Sunspot, Tori started talking to some people that lived in a community about 15 miles south on the same highway. They were there showing some relatives around the area. It was around 9:00 am and she wanted to go see the little town the people told her about. They claimed you could buy lots there for as little as $3,500 and she wanted to see a mountain lot that could be bought that cheap, so down the road we went.

The road was paved going into the community and it had a few blocks of pavement in what was the business area. We found the Post Office and a Real Estate office, we found the water department office in a big log cabin building and Tori stopped everyone she saw and talked to them. She said we needed to go to the Real Estate office and get a map of the place. There were gravel roads running all over the place and direction didn't seem to mean a lot, they wound around until I was dizzy. The lady that sold us the map was nice and drove us around in a 4 wheel drive pickup. We looked at a lot of lots, the cheaper ones came with rappelling lessons, they had a slope of at least 45 degrees and some were worse. There were a few flat ones with ravines and washed out gullies running through them. All the time we were looking Tori was chattering away with the lady. When we got back to the office I was ready to go but Tori followed her in and continued to talk. About five minutes later the lady told her she would call and ask so I started paying attention. I tried to interrupt their conversation to find out what was going on but Tori just kept motioning for me to be quiet. They were talking about 3 lots on one road and two on the next road and also two other lots.

The lady started filling out some papers and told me to sign where she had marked them with a high-liter. Tori went out to the van and came back in with a handful of money and I was still wondering what the hell I was getting in to. We got 7 receipts and Tori told the lady to talk to someone about the other lots and we left. When we got in the van she told me we had just bought 7 lots for $22,750 I was suddenly very glad it was not my money. Tori was wound up like an eight day clock and talking a mile a minute. She was going to clean that money for us by improving the lots and re-selling them. All we had to do is ... buy a small bulldozer, a skid loader an excavator, a dump truck, and a trailer.

When I told her that I had heard that when you spent over $10,000 in cash it was reported to the government and they came asking questions, she told me to divide 22,750 by 7 and see what I got and that was why she paid for each lot and got a receipt for each of them. Yeah right, now we go to Alamogordo and see what we can find in the way of equipment. We got to Alamogordo and she changed her mind and told me to find a bank. She climbed in the back and got another handful of money. I told her you couldn't open an account without an address and she showed me the post office Box number of the real estate office and said that the lady told her if she had any trouble have them call her and she would explain where we were living. We have 7 addresses and we are living in a travel trailer that we haven't bought yet. Yeah Buddy, sounds simple to me.

I'll say this for the girl at the bank, she never had a chance. Tori had her convinced that we had a nice little place up the mountain a ways, and had just moved here from San Antonio and we used my parents address there. We now had $18,500 divided in separate accounts and we each had a check book. I noticed she had $500 more than I did but thought it wise to say nothing. The girl at the bank told us where a heavy equipment rental place was, so off we went again.

The guy at the rental place didn't have what Tori said we needed but we did get a lead on a guy who was wanting to sell some equipment. When we found the guy, I was not so sure I wanted Tori close to him, he sure was giving her a looking over. The sign on the window said he installed septic tanks, storm shelters, culverts, and half a dozen other things. He introduced himself as Grady and asked what we needed, Tori told him we wanted to buy some used construction equipment and the guy at the rental place said he had some for sale. He told her he would sell everything he had because he was going to have to go check into the VA Hospital in Albuquerque. He said he had a barn full of equipment and he would sell her the barn to go with it. I walked around and watched as she climbed into a Bobcat loader and told the guy that they had one of the same model before her brother sold it. She asked if she could try it out and he told her he would enjoy seeing her operate it. She drove it outside and then it looked like the thing had gone crazy. She had it spinning around and the bucket was moving up and down and going through all kinds of moves. She asked how much, and he asked her how much of this other stuff was she going to buy.

Tori played with all the equipment and asked me if I could drive the dump truck because she had no idea how to shift a 13 speed gear box. I told her I had a car once with a 5 speed and did that qualify me. Grady said he could have me driving it in 5 minutes, I had some doubt but just said I was willing to learn. I set in the office looking through some magazines and listened to them argue. She told him they needed to start writing it down because he kept changing numbers on her, He said bullshit you're using Meskin math. They called each other some more names and then came in the office and got a sheet of paper and a pen and argued some more It looked like they were having fun so I continued reading magazines. Grady called somebody in a town north by about 50 miles and asked if they were still trying to sell the small dozer and got a price, then told them he wanted the trailer they got with it for that price and they would have to bring it to him. He hung up and said he had to let the little bastard make $2,000 on it but it was worth it. He told Tori to add a Kamatsu dozer with trailer for $40,000 and he would go show her the travel trailer and house. She told me I could come along if I quit asking so many questions. They thought that was funny and it might have been, I wasn't really paying attention.

Tori got everything that Grady owned but his personal papers, clothes and enough other stuff that we had to rent a 6 X 10 storage building. He told her he would call his two kids when he got checked in to the VA and tell them where he was, she was to give them the keys to the storage unit and they each had a cardboard box about 6" square with their money divided the way he wanted it done. The boxes each had a name on it and they were wrapped in tape. He even had some papers they were each to sign before they got the boxes. We spent 5 days moving things as he went through them and going to the land title place and the courthouse to transfer the truck and pickup titles, and get a business license. The boxes went in the safe and we drove Grady to the VA hospital in Albuquerque. On the way he told us that he figured we might have come by the money in something other than a normal way and Tori told him the whole story and that she was sorry we had to pay him in cash. He told her it was his last payback to the two rotten ass kids that ran off and left him. I think leaving Grady at the hospital was the hardest thing Tori had ever done. They were both crying. He told her she had bought his whole life for $280,000 and if the kids didn't show up within 6 months to claim his personal stuff in the storage unit, she could consider the boxes a refund. He told her not to come back to the hospital and we got in the pickup and left.

Today was the day for moving some equipment up the mountain, right after we went by the title company to sign the paperwork on the 7 lots. They were officially ours and Tori could start showing me how we were going to make our fortunes. I still didn't see anything other than a lot of work but I had no where I would rather be. I could tell that the 30 minutes of driving lessons in the dump truck were nowhere near enough, I was going to be shifting a million times getting up the mountain. I had the excavator and the Bobcat on the trailer, Grady had told me the truck could pull it easy, just always make sure to lay the boom on the excavator as low as I could, but I wasn't having an easy time of it. Tori was behind me in the pickup pulling the travel trailer. Our plan was to leave it at the RV Park that was just outside the town or township, or community, or whatever you called it. The locals called Alamogordo, Alamo so we started calling them A-Town and T-Town. We got a spot in the RV Park close to the bathrooms for the travel trailer and got it hooked up, or I should say I got it hooked up while Tori talked to the couple that were running the place. She said we needed to stop and talk to her friend at the real estate office and got in the pickup and said she would see me there.

I parked across the street from the post office/real estate building, mostly off the pavement, and went looking for Tori. I could hear her talking to her friends about my truck driving, she told them it took me so long to change gears that I needed to shift back down because I had lost all my speed. When she got through talking we drove to our lot with the big ravine and we left the truck and trailer still loaded and got in the pickup and went to the five lots that were back to back. The elevation change between the fronts of the lots on one road was about 50 or 60 feet higher than the front of the lots on the other road. The lots were back to back and we had 3 lots on the lower road and 2 lots on the higher road, and I still did not know the plan so I made her explain what the hell she was trying to do.

We were going to use the 3rd lot for a ramp and make the center of our flat area about where the lines of the four lots that were back to back made a cross. We would have to move a lot of dirt and we will dump it in the washouts on the other 2 lots making them level. She didn't think we would be through with the 5 lots for a long time but we would have plenty of fill for whatever we needed it for. Before the day was over we had found the corner boundary markers which were rebar drove into the ground. The ones along the road were a bitch to find and on 2 of them we just measured from one of those we found and drove a wood stake. We tied orange engineer ribbon on all the stakes making them a bit more visible through the brush. She was going to use the excavator to cut and fill enough to get the dozer up to where the flat area would be, then she would push the dirt down the driveway and I would use the Bobcat to load the dump truck and dump it in the washouts on the other lots. See just simple as shit, Yeah Buddy. Two days later the ramp was good enough to get the dozer up, maybe. Tori gave me lessons on running the excavator but I made the action all jerky, when she used it the bucket never stopped moving. The bucket would grab a bite move and dump it and go for another bite just smooth as silk. She said she was in the first grade when she started running one. I asked how she reached the pedals and she said she couldn't if she set in the seat, she just kind of leaned against it. I think part of that story was bullshit but I didn't tell her.

The people that live in T-Town all have several different jobs and if you needed something done you just asked someone and they would tell you who to see. We were in the post office and the woman asked how we were doing on the project and Tori told her we were going to have to get a chain saw and take down some trees before we could get the bulldozer going. She told us to just go see Jackie and she and her husband would come take them down and drag them off. Then she showed us on the map where they had a little sawmill set up so, off we went to see Jackie. They were sawing, but when the cut finished they shut off the saw so we could talk. No problem, they hopped in their truck and followed us back to the lots. Tori showed them what we were doing and what area was going to be cleared, then said we were going to get the dozer tomorrow. They were going to get 8 big trees and a bunch of little stuff and said they would get it done tomorrow. We would get a 3rd of the cut lumber. Tori told her to go ahead and sell it, stack it, or whatever because we didn't need it right now but thought we would need some timber for a small bridge in the near future.

We left the pickup and took the dump truck down the mountain to A-Town. On the way Tori said we were going to need a small chainsaw for brush, some chain oil and a gas can for pre-mixed gas. Also she wanted to get a prepaid phone at Walmart so she could call her girlfriend Katrina. Then she sprung it on me, Katrina's family was in the concrete and brick business. Tori had worked for them quite a bit after her brother started running off all their business. Katrina's family paid her brothers twice what they paid her and even paid Tori more and she didn't know anything about the business when she started. Katrina could drive the dump truck, dozer, Bobcat, and excavator. She could lay bricks and finish cement. And here was the clincher, she could use a transit and level and figure grades. Then I made another mistake, I told her she could hire anyone she trusted.

We got the dozer hooked up to the dump truck then took the van shopping. We stopped at the bank to make a deposit and get small bills and rolls of change. Up in T-Town change was always a problem. Tourists always sprung large bills on the people at the little store and the sandwich shop putting them short of change. Walmart had a 14" chainsaw, oil and gas can. We also got more groceries and a phone. We had to get a battery pack, cable and a charger for the phone. You can plug it into the battery pack and talk without charging it. I left Tori talking on the phone and finished loading a few other things, an hour later and we were headed back up the mountain. The dozer is heavier than the bobcat and excavator combined and Tori told me it was about as small as you can get. All of our equipment is a little on the light side for what we were doing but it's what we've got. She said the only thing she would really like to replace is the excavator, it really needed to be bigger. It was fine digging but didn't have enough break out power to pull up big rocks. She had never had to deal with as much rock as what we had here. She thought it might just be learning how.

The dozer went up the ramp without any problem and she spun it around and started pushing dirt down the ramp. She backed up and got more dirt several times before she made it to the bottom. It already looked better than the road at the bottom. Some of the roads around here are real bad. If no one lives on the road, they don't grade it. The high road does not have any thing on it, and the lower one has one house at the end but no one lives there full time. The dirt she's pushing down looks sort of like caliche and large gravel that they use for road building. I moved the dump truck so she could push the dirt onto the flat area where I would use the bobcat to load the truck then haul it to the other lot and dump it. I struggled along for two days getting farther behind when the real estate lady drove down the cross street and honked. A pickup behind her pulled in and stopped in front of the truck and two girls got out. Tori pushed another load down the ramp and stopped, climbed down and started talking to them. I shut off the bobcat and climbed out.

The girls were Katrina or Trina and Julieta but you better call me Julie. They were happy to meet Willy the crazy bastard that takes a tire tool to a gun fight. I laughed and told them that guns make too much noise. We decided to shut down for the day and go to the RV Park and figure out how we were going to work things.

We got out the camp stove so we wouldn't have to cook in the trailer and the girls were laughing about Julie getting fired for dropping a scaffold board on a guy who had been giving her a bad time on the construction job she was working. She said she waited trying to catch him without his hardhat but finally dropped it on his shoulder. She said she had told him at least a dozen times to leave her alone. They seemed happy to be here and would stay as long as we needed them. I was thinking that forever would be fine with me. Tori and Trina started talking about the lots and what they could do with them to make them look the best for the least. Trina got a transit and several long scales out of the back of her truck and brought them over in the shade to show Tori how to set it up and how to go about figuring the difference in elevation between two points. Julie and I fixed potatoes, corn on the cob and my specialty, smoked spam. She told me that she could make some killer Beanie Weenies, and was also pretty good at Post Toasties. I told her she must have gone to the same cooking school as Tori, Oreo cookies and Coca-Cola was one of her best breakfasts.

The girls decided that they could all fit in the bed and I could sleep on the fold out couch, we all walked to the bathrooms and I could hear the girls in the shower acting crazy. I finished up and waited for them and we walked back to the trailer. When I woke up, Julie was in bed with me. I woke her up getting out of bed and I grabbed my bag and headed to the bathroom. I showered and shaved and as I was leaving the girls were just getting there. I went back to the trailer and folded up the couch, cleaned up coke cans and empty cookie package and took them to the trash dump. The girls put away the stuff they had carried to the bathroom and we loaded up the transit in the big pickup, locked everything up and I headed to the little store to see if it was open and if they had coffee. The sandwich shop was about 50 yards from the store and there was 4 cars there so I drove on down. I told the girls that the sign on the door said the hours were from 10 to 2. We went in and the girl told us that anytime there were enough workers in the area they opened for breakfast. I told her the girls already ate all the cookies but I would have a sausage and egg burrito and coffee. I told the woman that we would be here for breakfast in the morning and lunch today and tomorrow but we would be gone over the weekend. We should be back all next week. The girls got a Coke and we went to work

I told Tori that the washout on the first lot was filled and she told Julie to take the bobcat and follow me and level up the lot. The dump truck was full so I took it and left the pickup. Julie looked at the lot and asked me what we were trying to do with it. I told her we wanted to get it where an RV could park on it, all the brush cleaned up, a drive way cut where I had been backing the truck in, and make it as neat as possible. She asked me if I had a chain in the lock box on the truck, I had no idea so we looked. Yep, we got a chain, some cables, ropes and some ratchet straps. She told me she was going to knock over the one tree and for me to back in and drag it out with the chain. Then she hopped on the bobcat went over to the tree, raised the bucket, put it against the tree and just pushed it over. I was still standing there watching and she motioned for me to get my ass in gear. She moved the bobcat and I backed up to the tree. I told her I had no idea that she could just push a tree over and she said the real estate woman told her and Trina that you could push one of these Ponderosa pines over with a pickup and it looked like she was right. I drug the tree out beside the road and left it.

Julie was working the hell out of the bobcat scooping up brush, filling holes and back dragging the bucket to smooth the dirt. She told me to bring one of the cables from the lock box. She was in a spot where she couldn't scoop up some scrub oak so she had me wrap the cable around it and she pulled it up. I told her I was going to put away the chain and cable and then go tell the sawmill people to come get the tree. She waved OK and I left. I stopped at the sawmill and told Jackie where the tree was and she said they would get it when they went to lunch and also they were moving the sawmill the middle of next week. She told me where they were moving it to but it didn't mean anything to me, I just said OK and left. I stopped by where Tori and Trina were working and they were just putting away the transit. I told them to come on over to the lot and we would all go eat. I drove the truck back to the lot and Julie was motioning for me to back in the driveway. She jumped on the step and told me to back all the way in and start the dump and be sure to spread it all the way to the road. I asked her if she could do it, she told me to scoot over and proceeded to explain how to do it. We made it all the way to the road and she backed in again and ran the truck back and forth a few times packing the dirt and said she would need one more load and one load of top soil. Then we would have a little shovel and rake work to finish it

At lunch the girls decided that Julie and I would finish the first lot and Tori and Trina would bring us the dirt and start filling the washout on the second lot. By Friday at noon the lot that Julie and I were working on looked like a park. We had hauled 3 trailer loads of brush to the burn pit, and there was not a weed on the place. The washout in the second lot was filled and we would finish it up next week. The girls had worked out some deal with the sandwich shop and they were going to pick up a few cases of canned soup, pork-n-beans, canned drinks and a whole list of groceries from Walmart. We took the smaller trailer and both pickups down to A-Town We needed a piece of the culvert pipe from Grady's business and Trina wanted me to start hauling a load of concrete blocks every week and it was decided that we would try to haul something on each trip so we didn't wind up making round trips just for materials. We had cleaned out and painted the office and needed to move the desk, file cabinets, and some other stuff that Tori wanted back into place. We also needed to go through the shop and clean it while throwing away a lot of junk. Grady was a pack rat and if there was not so much junk, the shop could hold double the amount of equipment that we had.

The girls were ahead of me in Trina's pickup and I had plenty of time to figure out what needed done before winter, Convincing them might be a real problem, that shop was a junky mess but we had way too many vehicles setting outside while the junk was inside, and the building needed a few changes because we were gone all week. We all got cleaned up and went to a Mexican food restaurant and I sprung it on them. Surprisingly enough Tori agreed with me but said we would just work through winter. I had to remind her that she told me she had never been more than 50 miles from San Antonio before we came here, and it wasn't going to snow and be gone 2 hours later. I could see the thinking going on in all three heads. I told them I had been places where it was hotter than hell but I had never spent a winter where the snow stayed for more than a few hours either. We needed to talk to people from here as well as those on the mountain to find out what we were up against. When we bring the equipment home we will power wash it until there is no dirt or oil on it, put it inside and paint whatever needs it and replace seals, change oil, and grease from one end to the other of every piece, and I don't want any squeeze out of grease left on them to collect dirt which wears out the rams. All the hydraulic hoses will need to be checked and all filters changed. Also we need to find a bigger excavator to keep Tori happy. We are going to have to buy, work, and sell at least 100 lots before we reach the break-even point on our investment. I'll bet that there are not 100 lots change hands in a year in T-Town and we have a long ways to go. We were too deep into the project to quit and I tasked the girls with finding ways to make our lots worth the most while spending the least.

Saturday morning we were all working in the shop when an old Grey colored Monte Carlo pulled up to the large overhead door and a girl got out. She was looking for Grady as he had told her he might have some work for her about now. Tori told her that we had bought the place, and Grady was in the hospital. The girl said she had really been counting on the work, then her bottom lip started quivering and tears running down her face. I told the girls to find out what was wrong and to fix it if they could. They all went in the office and I continued sorting junk. Tori came out and told me that the girl and her brother lived in a rent house and were behind on the rent, the guy won't let them get their things out of the house, the brother is working on a pistachio farm and they furnish his meals so he has been staying there. She has been selling things for people on e-Bay for a percentage but has about ran out of customers, and now the guy is demanding sex for rent. I just told her to unload both pickups and we would go get her stuff. I continued sorting the box I was working on until they got the pickups unloaded and we locked up the shop. I checked my wallet to see how much money I had. We went down a dirt road to, if you were kind, a shack next to a mobile home. Trina backed up to the shack and we all got out and started loading Briana's stuff. When Trina's truck was full I backed up to the shack and started loading. We were almost finished when a pickup with two guys in it pulled up to the trailer.

The guy that was driving came over and told me that I was not taking her stuff until she paid him $500. I turned to the girl and asked her how much she owed him and she said $200. I handed the guy the money and he said he had a little score to settle with the girl. I told him he could settle it with me. He started to push me out of the way, so I beat the shit out of him, picked him up and threw him onto the porch of the trailer and asked the other guy if he wanted to settle anything and he shook his head, no. I told the guy on the porch that they had discharged me from the army because I enjoyed killing people, and they were right, and if he came looking for the girl that there was nobody going to believe how bad I broke him up, it would mean wheel chair forever if he did. Then I made the son of a bitch give her a paid in full receipt and we left. Julie got in the pickup with me, she was quiet for a few minutes then she said she thought she was going to like having me for a work partner.

When the girls got Briana settled in the house they came back out to the shop and all of them started working. I asked what we were going to do for lunch and they decided to go get hamburgers and bring them back. Tori went to get them and Trina asked me where everyone was going to sleep when we went back to work. I told her there was two beds in the van and we would park it next to the travel trailer. I told her I was more worried about having decent food in the evenings. We were going to have to do something different anyway so we would check with Tori's friend and find a place to rent or buy. While we were eating Briana told us that her father was in prison and she had no idea where her mother is, she hasn't seen her in a year. Tori told her she would fit right in with us. She told us that she could assemble and trouble shoot computers, sell on e-bay and in school she had done a lot of work on website design. I asked if she could make one to sell lots in T-Town. She said she was sure she could but getting time on a computer at the library was getting harder to do. Tori asked her what all she would need to repair computers. She said 90% of computer problems are viruses and it just took knowing what was happening and getting rid of them. Then Tori asked her if the office was big enough for a shop and she said it would be if we put a workbench on the wall just outside the office so the customers wouldn't be in the way and asking questions.

I told her to give some thought as to what all would be needed and a ball park estimate on the dollars needed, but this week she was going with us to make sure her ex landlord couldn't find her. She would need to go shopping with the girls tomorrow and get some work clothes, they would also need to go see her brother and tell him where she was and how to reach her in an emergency. We would also need to leave her car with her brother, or if she didn't want to do that, we would put it in the shop. She said she didn't want to give him the car so I told her fine we would just lock it up. Then she said that she didn't want to go see him. No problem, was there anyone else she wanted to contact. I got a no there also.

Monday the girls loaded in the little pickup and Julie drove the van. I pulled the trailer loaded with corrugated culvert pipe and concrete blocks. They were going to stop and talk to Lisa at the real estate office about an estimate on our finished lots value and get her to sell it. I saw them leaving the real estate office so I followed them to the lot. We had a traffic jam. Lisa's pickup, Trina's pickup, my pickup, the van, two other pickups and a walk behind trench digger. That wasn't a problem but, there was shit stacked everywhere on the lot where Julie had worked her ass off, and she was pissed. She came out of the van yelling for them to get that shit off of her lot.

The man told her that when he bought his lot that it was for sale too and he didn't think anyone would care, and he had not seen it, so he had them unload the material there Saturday. He didn't get here from Lubbock until yesterday. She was still yelling for him to move it and rake all the marks out of the dirt. I told her to go with the other girls and deliver the stuff to the sandwich shop, then asked Lisa to give me an estimate on the lot. She walked around the lot and then said she thought it would bring $7,500 easy. The guy said he could have bought it for $4,000 and I told him that was before the washout was filled and all the cleanup was done. I asked him if he was interested in buying it and he said he would if he had not bought his. I told him I would trade lots with him for $4,000 difference or I could go get the girls and he could deal with them. I asked Lisa if she would handle the deal and she gave me a price. I told him we would split the costs and he agreed. He told the other guys he would be back in about an hour. We followed Lisa but I stopped and told the girls we had sold our first lot and to stay there until I finished the paperwork.

The guy seemed pretty nice and said he was sorry he had upset the little girl. I told him it was her first lot to work and she was very proud of it and if he had moved his stuff that she would have had him raking it for a week before she would be happy. Lisa didn't say a word just filled out the papers for us to sign. He wrote a check for his part and I told her I would send Tori with a check in about an hour. I went back to the sandwich shop and told the girls that I got $4,000 and his lot. They wanted to go pounce on his lot and finish it right fast but I told them he would just fail to follow through and would get his lot cleaned for nothing. We took the van to the RV Park and then went back to the real estate office. They all laughed about the whole deal.

We asked about renting or buying a house preferably furnished to stay in up here. We talked about our needs and Lisa said she had a bunk house that a group of hunters had built and used a couple of times before they got over the hunting phase. It had a bunk room and bathroom at each end and a kitchen and dining room in the middle. It had a real concrete foundation, a large septic tank, community water supply and the phone and computer hook ups were there. They had insulated it to the max including the floor. All the water lines and drains had foam rubber insulation. It had a water heater at each end but she didn't know which one ran to the kitchen. None of us wanted to get under it so we decided we would just light one and find out that way. Just about the whole place was a driveway and you could park anywhere with room to back a trailer. I asked her how much and she said it was $45,000 firm and they would not take any lower offers. I asked her how we could do a cash deal and she said she knew one of them well enough to ask. I told her to tell them we would give another 5 for immediate access. The one she knew was a Dentist in A-Town and she would go call him. Tori asked what we were going to do with it in the winter and I told her that Briana was going to rent it to hunters on the new website.

At lunch I asked Briana if she could cook and she told us she was a good cook. The girls told her she would be our cook for one meal a day if we got the bunk house. The rest of the day was on the lot with the washout. The girls argued for a few minutes about how the driveway should be. They decided on a circular drive with the RV spot at the back. While they were doing that I looked for and found the box of work gloves and got a pair for Briana. Julie started showing her how she wanted the area around the trees cleaned and told her she would finish it with the bobcat when Tori and Trina finished loading dirt. Julie had a roll of orange colored string and she wanted me to run a string around the boundary markers and clean out any brush that the string crossed. Then she came back and told me to just drive some wood stakes in the ground to keep her straight and she would do it with the bobcat because we weren't going to save any time doing it by hand. Our afternoon had a lot of standing around bullshiting and waiting on the bobcat to finish loading dirt. Julie decided that two trees had to go so the curve of the driveway would be shaped to suit her ... I told them to hop in the truck and we would go see Jackie.

Jackie asked if we could get them down and drag them out to the road and leave them. She was trying to finish sawing what she had so she could move the sawmill. I told her we could handle that and I would trim the limbs because we were going to have at least 3 loads of brush to haul anyway. She said we needed to buy a chipper and just run them through and use it for fill. Julie asked her where we could get some cheap rock about a foot in diameter and she told us that we could get some free by driving along and picking up any that were larger than your fist. Anything smaller than your fist was considered part of the road fill. Then she told us where the most rocks were, about a mile or so outside of T-Town. I got out the map and she showed us which road, then showed us where the sawmill would be. She said she had a contract with the state to thin several acres of forest but there was not going to be much usable lumber, just lots of brush to drag out with the ATV and run through the chipper. She said if we needed any chips to bring the dump truck, she has tractor with a loader

I have been learning so many new things that I am starting to feel stupid. Julie said we needed to add two more five gallon diesel cans to the rack on the trailer and it would be a good idea to have one of gas also. We would need to pour it all in the equipment Friday and re-fill the cans. She asked if we had an extra 7 or 8 thousand because we were going to need a smaller bobcat to get around the trees to level and rake. It don't need a lot of power for that. She told Trina and Tori about the rocks and showed them what she wanted to do. They had it drawn out and I told them they would need a million rocks, all three of them told me it would not and then Trina whipped out her calculator and told me if all the rocks were 12" we would only need 200 for the circular drive. So, the morning found all of us picking up rocks along the road. Guess what, most of them were closer to 8" than 12" and I tried to keep the job as driver but they thought different and I was walking along throwing rocks on the trailer. They were the white looking rocks that are usually found with caliche type soil. They are not heavy, and not all that hard, so you couldn't just chunk them into the trailer. They did make the place look nice so I shut up. It only took us half a day to get them where everybody liked it. Tori went to take care of the $5,000 down on the bunkhouse and she took Brie with her to make a list of what all we needed to move in. Julie was running the bobcat and Trina and I were hauling the last load of brush, the lot looked real nice so it was time to move on.

I told Trina we might get a few days off and she told me not to count on it because Lisa had some more cheap lots that just needed a "Little" bit of dirt work We both thought that might translate to some she couldn't give, much less sell to sane people and she was going to dump them on us poor crazy folks, but this time I wasn't going to buy them until I had made some much lower offers. On our last deal it looked to me like we might have saved 3 to 4 hundred a lot by buying them all. This time I'm going to offer 50% less than the asking price and see if we can buy anything. Our lunch ran a little late because we started late and we had some serious discussions about how to go about our little business. It seemed to me that whoever sells the lots to us has to pay a real estate fee and if Lisa sells them for us, she makes an even larger fee because we improved the lots. We either need to get a fixed flat rate per lot sold or we needed to walk it through the title office just like Grady and I did the A-Town property. Either that or quit wasting our time, money, and energy. Tori asked if we could sell real estate without a license and I told her that if you buy something, you don't have to pay anyone to sell it for you. If you sell it for someone else, then you are probably breaking the law.

We went as a group to see Lisa and were able to get the paperwork done for $350 a unit because if she sold a lot for $3,500 she would only get $350 and it would take her the same amount of time. This seemed fair to me and I told her we would not cut her out of anything and would try to get some of the lots to salable condition. She gave us a list of lots with the asking price and we went without her and looked them over. I didn't see any reason to drag her away from other possible sales when we were capable of doing the looking and deciding without bothering her. There was one road where the lots on one side were three feet above the road with a ditch, and the ones on the other side were three feet below the road. Brie and I got a coke from the ice chest and watched the Three Mouseketeers point, wave their arms, make motions for higher and lower, and call each other crazy. Then one of the others would get an idea and it all started again. I asked Brie what she thought of the dirt business so far and she told me it beat the shit out of starving. They got through, grabbed a coke and piled in the pickup. I asked what they thought and they said the uphill side was OK but there was no way to push enough dirt to make a ramp on the downhill side because of the slope. We will need to keep the list so we know not to look at the downhill ones again. Trina took our map and marked the lots that were a total loss. We stopped looking after we had twelve possibilities and went by Lisa's and had her make offers on them for us. We took the small trailer, both pickups and the van and headed to A-Town.

While the others were shopping for the bunkhouse, I took Julie to the rental place to talk to the guy about a small bobcat. She told him she needed something like a S70 to get between trees. He said that was a switch, everybody was usually looking for the biggest they could find. We told him we wanted to buy it if the price was right, we wouldn't want a rent contract because we would be keeping it up the mountain and just use it once a week or so. He called someone in Las Cruces and got a name and number for someone in El Paso. He told the guy, he had talked to Las Cruces rentals looking for a small Bobcat, and they told him he had one that was way too light for what he needed. He looked at Julie and repeated what the guy said, it's only got a 36" bucket and it's a rock bucket. She said the one with the teeth on it and he came back with a yeah. She asked the hours, the year, and the money. Then asked if it was the original engine. 1,060 hours on the Bobcat and the engine has a little over 200, belts, hoses and seals are good, no leaks, $8,500. Julie nodded yes so I told him to tell him I would pay him $8,750 in cash dollars if he would haul it up here, subject to it being all he said, and a bill of sale with the serial number. He asked if I could have the cash in two hours and I told him yes. The guy hung up and said he's on the way. I gave the guy a hundred dollar bill and told him we would be back in plenty of time we had to go get the money. We went home and I got the money out of the safe.

I fixed us a sandwich and Julie said she had never seen a 36" rock bucket and she figured it was a regular bucket with the teeth bolted onto the lip and that would be better than a rock bucket because she could carry dirt with it and use it for a rake. She was even happier that she wouldn't have to wait on Tori and Trina to finish using the other one. I cleaned up the table and put our plates in the sink. Julie didn't offer to help but she did move out of the way. We went in the rental store and talked to the guy while we were waiting. He was full of information about what rented well and what didn't but not much we could use. Julie showed him how to fix a ditcher he was working on and our man from El Paso finally arrived. I don't think this was the guy we made the deal with, he was maybe 20 years old. He lowered the ramps on the trailer and told Julie he would show her how to operate it. She smiled at him and told him thanks. He got in and showed her what each lever did and how to start it. He backed it off the trailer and got out and told her he would show her how to check the oil and hydraulic fluid and where the filters were. He then told her to hop in and he would help her get going. She was still smiling and when she got seated she told him he better back up in case she did it wrong. He moved over where me and the rental guy were standing, the rental guy told him, I think you've been had boy. Julie put on a show for us, she did figure eights frontwards and backward got the thing up on the two front wheels and several other tricks. She hopped down and the boy told her that she would do, and asked if she had the money.

She started asking where he got that bastardized bucket. He told her that somebody had cut it down and his boss had pawned it off on us. He did tell her that there was a really good Bobcat dealer in El Paso and they would have a 60" bucket. He told her he brought the old motor and two filters for it and that they were not going to get another bobcat this small. He said the motor was just down on compression and probably rebuildable and had a few parts that would be expensive if we had to buy them. He asked if that was her truck and he carried it over and set it in the back, then drove his truck over next to ours and unhooked the trailer. He said that the previous owner had built the trailer special for the S70 and they would have to cut it all to hell to use it for anything else. His boss preferred flat trailers that could be used for anything they had. He told her if she was in a hurry to load she could run on the trailer, drop the bucket over the bar and drive off. He took the money and handed Julie the receipt along with a card he wrote his cell number on and told her there was a hell of a lot of equipment for sale in El Paso and somebody was always trying to sell them something. If we needed anything to give him a call and he could find it for us. He helped me hook the trailer to the pickup then ran and got on the Bobcat before Julie could get it, and that boy put on one hell of a show. He drove the loader on the trailer dropped the bucket over the bar, hopped off and said it was a pleasure doing business with us, got in his truck and drove off. The rental guy said, he was a nice young man, and Julie said, ah he's OK. The guy was still laughing when we left.

When we got home there was a lot of activity in the shop. The girls were back and they had two men with them that were building a counter so that in the office where when a customer came in, they were confined to a small area. Tori said that the woman at Home Depot had called them and they were going to do the counter and a work area for Brie. We were also getting internet service in the office and the house, and oh yeah, we bought a computer repair shop and Brie is there with the guy packing it up. We left Julie with the carpenters and took both pickups to get the computer stuff. Brie had sorted into two piles, new stuff and old stuff and there was a pretty good sized pile of both. She wanted the new stuff in the little pickup so she could pack it tighter. She said the old stuff wouldn't get hurt by sliding around. Most of the new stuff was still in boxes and we wound up putting some of it in the big pickup. On the way back to the shop I told Trina it looks like we lost our cook and she told me they had it covered then changed the subject. They got the computer shop for the value of the new parts and got the store name and the used stuff free. She said Brie told them we would get the money back selling the used stuff on e-Bay. They were also going to sell anything in our shop that was not wanted, on e-Bay. So we are going to have computer sales, service, e-Bay store, and websites all in one. She said Tori told her she would get her a business checking account and put $7,000 in it, if she went broke, she had a shovel and a rake to look forward to.

A sign company was putting up an 8" steel pipe close to the street in front of the building. I walked over to check it out and he told me the sign would be up by tomorrow at noon. I just said OK thanks, and went to unload the pickup. Tori and Brie had the door blocked with the little pickup so I started unloading it and stacking it with their pile. Brie was just as happy as you could get, so I asked her what the sign was going to have on it. Brie's Computer Sales and Service. I asked her if she felt sorry for us Dirt Daubers out working in the hot sun with dirt all over us. She said none of the girls would trade places with her. I told her they would if they had to make money, then I told her that we would be real lucky to make $3,000 a lot and if she had seen the list that Lisa gave the girls, there were not enough lots on it to put us in the black and half of those lots couldn't be saved. She said she would look online and see if anyone else had lots they wanted to sell. I told her anything from Highway 82 south would be worth looking at and once we ran out of lots we would need to hunt work on ranches or anything that did not require a professional license. Right now all we can do is buy lots before we work on them, because it is not against the law to do landscaping on your own property, and it is not against the law to buy and sell it.

Friday morning the telephone and internet was hooked up, the sign was up and signs were painted on the big window. Brie's old junker car was gone and she had a 4 year old ½ ton pickup with a rear hard cover and a divider with heavy carpet so when you opened the tailgate the computer could be set in one of the three small spaces and the carpet kept it from getting beat up. She had a new digital camera for her e-Bay work and we had worked hard getting piles of junk looked through to give her plenty to sell. The office was set up with a counter divider with an opening that had a spring pin on it. You had to reach under the counter on the right side and slide the pin back before you could open the gate. Right beside the thing you slid was a 38 Special that had belonged to Grady and Brie said she could use it. She would enter by the walk-in door on the side of the building towards the back, go through the office, open the gate and then unlock the customer entrance. We had new surveillance cameras on the front and on the side that has the doors and two in the office. We finished out the weekend sorting junk. I had all the fuel cans full and another load of concrete blocks. We had the Little Bobcat behind Trina's ½ ton Ford, I told her she had enough motor but she really needed to take it easy on the brakes and start slowing down early. We really needed to trade it for a bigger diesel pickup but she had bought it with her money and was proud of it. I think I will trade the van in on another 1 ton 3500 diesel if I can find a used one with less than a hundred thousand miles on it.

We went straight to the bunkhouse, unloaded the S70 and dropped off both trailers. Julie stayed to clean a spot for the travel trailer and the rest of us went to get it. The people at the RV Park wanted to know where we were going and I told them we had bought a place and were going to park all of our equipment there instead of leaving it scattered out. Lunch time found us at the sandwich shop and the girls gave the woman what they called a thermal cooker. I asked what the hell it was and they said it's like a thermos bottle only bigger and has a pot inside it. The woman is going to cook dinner for us. Today we are having homemade stew and cornbread. She will leave it on that wood pile and we just need to come by and get it.

We stopped to see Lisa and she told us that so far she had 3 yes's, 1 counter offer, and 1 no. The rest she had not got hold of by phone, and sent them letters. We looked at the counter offer and it was one of the two on the high side of a road, but one of the OK's was the other lot so I told her to take the counter offer and get the paperwork ready. She said she thought that was what I would do and started handing me papers to sign. Tori went out to get some money and we had 4 more lots. The girls seemed disappointed but I told them that 4 out of 12 was not bad and she had not heard back from most of them. We drove by the lot we traded for and the crew that was building the little house was not working this week so we would all work on the trade lot and get it done, then we would all work on the double lot. We spent the afternoon dragging out brush and trimming a few cedar trees. Of course the girls decided that 3 ponderosa's had to come down to make it fit their idea. One of them was about to fall down but the other two would take a while to drop and wiggle through the other trees. We hooked all our cables and chains together and pulled them down with the dump truck. We still had to cut one in half to get it out. There are places around here that the trees are less than 6 feet between and other places where there are very few. I think if you spent a little time looking you could find anyone's idea of the perfect lot. I was starting to like the cedar trees better than the pines they had enough roots so they wouldn't fall on you

We picked up the pot of stew and it was still hot. Tori said the thermos cooker cost more than the truck, I guess Trina must have thought of it because she said it only cost $250 then they both looked at me wanting me to takes sides with one of them. I told them the stew was excellent. The three of them got up and left me to wash dishes but I grabbed each one of them and set them down at the table and told them that if they thought I was going to wash dishes every night we were going to have a my dishes and ya'lls dishes and if you leave yours dirty you can set them outside and then park your ass out there with them. If they didn't want to do that they could hire a maid but they were not spending over a hundred a week. So if you can find someone for $20 a day, fine, hire them. I went to the sink and ran some water and found the dish soap that I am sure Brie bought because these three would never think of it. Julie picked up the bowls and rinsed them on the other side of the sink and set them in the sink so I washed them, then washed the pot, cleaned the cornbread crumbs off the table and threw the Coke cans in the trash. The hot water was only on at one end of the bunkhouse and four beds were made on that end, and none on the other so I guess we were all bunking together like in the travel trailer. I took a shower and went to bed.

We got to the sandwich shop and all of us told the lady how much we liked the stew and gave her the pot she said it was going to be beans and chili today. Tori asked her who the girl was that rode the little motor scooter looking thing, and how old was she. It turned out to be Charlene or Charley, she was 17 or 18 and had graduated this spring, and yes she was sure she would like to get the work. Then she yelled at two women who were eating and asked where Windfrey's place was. There was a map on the wall and the ladies showed us about where it was and said that it was kind of a turquoise color on the bottom half and shingles on the upper part. They told us all about Leon Winfrey and Janice getting a divorce. Janice got the house and Leon got the Semi truck and payment book. Janice is working in Alamo and hardly ever comes home. Charley just does whatever she can, but she's a good worker and won't steal from you. I asked if she could cook and one of the women said hell anyone can cook. I had to chew on my tongue to keep from saying anything, and put my hands in my pockets to keep from pointing at the girls. I noticed a big smile on the lady that ran the place. We ate breakfast and went to find Charley.

We pulled in the drive and Charley came out on the porch and asked if she could help us. Tori asked her if she wanted a part time job doing a bit of housework. She sure would, when and where. I asked her if there was a chance that she could cook and she said sure anybody can cook. I told her she was hired. She got on her scooter and followed us to the bunkhouse. I looked at Tori and said anyone can ... and she told me to shut up and don't say another word about it because the problem was solved. I went in with Tori and told Charley that we needed the beds made, sweep when needed, clean the bathroom and if we left dishes in the sink to wash them. She looked around until she found everything she would need then we found a place on the porch to put the key. We went to the lot and started working, Charley showed up in about an hour, said she was finished then watched Julie. Julie waved her over and showed her how to operate the bobcat then put her in it and walked alongside her telling her what to do. After 20 minutes of instruction she was a Bobcatter and I was still loading brush on the trailer. Now that ain't no way to do me, maybe I'll join the union or something, or maybe I'll go haul this load of brush before Julie tells me to. When I got back from the brush dump they were ready to go to lunch. They wanted to finish here today and start on the double lot tomorrow and that would mean moving the excavator and the bulldozer. There would be a day's work for the excavator before the dozer was needed. We would also need two sections of culvert pipe. We went to lunch and Charley told everybody she was a Dirt Dauber and a Bobcatter. I told them I hadn't been promoted from Brush Hauler yet and when I told Tori I wanted to learn how to operate heavy equipment, she gave me a big shovel.

We worked a little late and told Charley to meet us at the bunkhouse, we went by and got the thermos pot. The table was set and we grabbed a box of crackers. Charley got a dipper and filled all the bowls and we shot the bull. Charley put away the leftovers and started washing dishes. She stayed until bedtime and was back waking us up the next morning. As soon as one of us would get up she started making the bed and she was ready to go when we were. She grabbed the thermos and said she would leave her scooter here. While we ate breakfast we made some half ass plans for moving to the double lots. Trina was going to take Charley to help her lay out the driveways. They were going to start on the outside of the two lots and ramp up toward the center with both driveways going up the center property line. That way they could get down and go either way. I told them yeah as long as they got along with the neighbor. Trina said if they didn't get along they could just go one way, she didn't give a shit once they were sold. Sounded like a good plan to me so we split up. I took the little trailer to get the excavator and the big bobcat with help from Tori and Julie. They were going to load the dozer on the big trailer and use the dump truck to pull it to the bunkhouse. There was a huge pile of dirt that had been pushed down so we wouldn't need the dozer here for a while. I left the excavator and took the big bobcat and the trailer to the bunkhouse and went back to the lots. I had to go back and get the culvert, Julie and Charley went with me and set on them to hold them down in the back of the pickup and of course Tori was ready for them when I got there. We have a 12" bucket and a 24" bucket for the excavator and she was having to use the little one because there was a lot of packed down rock from the road. We wrestled them in place and she drug down dirt to cover them then started up the drive with the bigger bucket roughing it out enough to get the dozer on it. The rest of us started dragging brush out to the road.

Julie said she was going to walk through the lot to the next road to see if she could get the S70 through the trees and Charley went with her. They came back in about 10 minutes and told us we needed to go look at something. She said she thought that someone was using part of our lot. Charley said that the guy who lived there ran a stop sign and almost ran over her on the scooter. She said he cussed her and threw a beer can at her and told her to keep that unlicensed piece of shit off the road. We found one rebar and it was obvious that two others had been moved the guy had cut down the trees and made a drive around the back of his yard for a log splitting operation and had taken 30 to 40 feet of one of our lots. He saw us and yelled at us telling us to get the hell off his property. I told him it wasn't his it was ours. He came to argue about it and pointed to the property markers. I told him that he, or somebody, had moved them and it looked like he owed me 10 or 12 trees also. He told me if I didn't like it I could call the law. I told him I wasn't calling anybody, I was just claiming all the split logs on my property and the log splitter and the gas powered giant saw blade. He told me if I touched it he would whip my ass so I reached over and touched it and told him to get with it. I wasn't very careful and his mouth sort of struck the edge of the log splitter and busted a few teeth out, and I'm not sure how he broke his arm in so many places. It was all very unfortunate but I still wanted him to move the logs or I was bringing my bulldozer up his drive way and push them over, onto, and through, his property. I told him I would give him until Monday and if he could dig up some help to bring them on. If they didn't want to move them I would let them fall down a few times and hurt themselves. I told him he might have that cut above his eye looked at, probably going to need a few stitches.

I asked Julie if she could get the bobcat through and she said she could. We started walking back and Julie said well hell Willy we'll never get invited to any backyard barbeques now. I picked her up and gave her a quick kiss and set her down and Charley said that reminds me, how come all of you sleep in the same room. Tori said because we're Dirt Daubers and that's our nest. Charley said she thought we told her she was a Dirt Dauber too, so I picked her up and kissed her and set her down. She said not that dummy, I need a place to live and a job. Tori asked if she was sure she wanted to be a Dirt Dauber and she said yes, so she told her to climb on the excavator and she would teach her how it worked. Damn, she won't even let me set on it. Trina asked what was wrong and I told her I wanted my union rep because I keep getting bypassed on the operator jobs. She said she would call him for me, but to get my ass busy on that brush.

Julie drove the bobcat around the road and when I heard her coming from the back of the lot Trina and I went and helped move the brush toward the front. We worked hard for what seemed like forever when I looked at my watch and declared a lunch break. We were going to have to figure out which trees to take down but it was going to be 15 to 20 to clean the lots enough to get an RV on. These suckers were close together.

The lady at the sandwich shop was happy we had taken Charley in, and told us she had four others wanting to eat

three meals a day so with us it would be enough to stay open BUT, she wanted to leave there no later than six and if we didn't get there it would be no dinner for us. She said tonight was macaroni and tomatoes and homemade bread.

I told the lady that we had a little problem with a guy and she said they had heard about it. Bartlett had taken him to the hospital and stopped at the store to fill a Ziploc bag with ice. He said Ernest claimed I jumped him with a piece of fire wood but they knew better than that and thought they might get the story out of Charley. We told her the whole story then I asked her who Bartlett was, and he is a retired paramedic that everybody goes to for emergencies. I told her that there might be some more trouble come Monday because anything that was left was going to be ours. Charley said, and everyone agreed, that he was on disability welfare and working selling firewood and that was probably why he had hid it behind his house. His old house set way back from the road and when he parks his truck in the drive nobody can see what he is doing. Then Charley said there were a lot of disability people up here because they had figured out that the state was not going to come up here to check on what they were doing. I told Charley that it might be wise to not say things like that because I was sure that most of them were just trying to get by. I told her it would be perfectly alright for her to say anything she wanted to about old Ernest because he was a rat and I didn't think he had many friends up here. I told the woman that we were leaving early Friday because I needed to buy another pickup.

Before we went back to work, we went to see Jackie and told her we needed 15 to 20 trees taken down and she said they would come and look. We didn't get much done that afternoon because we had to spray a spot of day glow orange paint on the trees we wanted taken down. Jackie and her crew came and took down 3 at a time and chained an axle to them and drug them off. They were going to get 9 of them and get the others while we were gone. We mostly stayed out of the way and the girls took Charley to get what she wanted from her house and leave a note for her mother. She wanted to keep her little Honda Ruckus scooter and we told her we would load it in the pickup and store it in the building in A-Town. She moved in with us and was about as modest as the other girls which was, not at all. I've always enjoyed a good show so I never complained. I did start making my own bed as soon as I got up and the girls did too. Since we took the name Dirt Daubers I noticed that we seemed to be a lot closer and Charley was a permanent part. She was our source for everything that took place on the mountain. She knew every road and everybody, she knew what they did and who they did it with, who had what, and would they sell it.

We left early on Friday for A-Town and got there by eight. The girls had things to do and I wanted to trade the van for a pickup. I dropped the trailer and unloaded the scooter and put it in the shop. It looked pretty well used up but it deserved a place in the shop just the same. Brie was busy taking pictures of junk to put on e-Bay. She said that Trina, Tori, and Julie were taking the new girl to where her mother worked and said to tell me to try to be back by lunch. I told her that was so I could buy. Other than that, nothing going on, so I unloaded all the dirty clothes and bed linens, got in the van and headed to the big car sales place.

The guy I bought Brie's pickup from asked me if I wanted to trade the van in and I told him I didn't think so. He told me that a plumber was looking for one and he would give me top dollar for it. I told him I wouldn't have anything to drive and he told me to look around. I told him I just came by to see when I could get our 1 ton serviced but if he was serious I would look. He told me he was serious, he needed a van. He had four 3500 one tons with diesels. Two of them were way too new for me, one was a real doggy looking thing, and the other was a five year old silver Dually with worn out tires, brush guard, trailer hitch and a back window guard, It only had 73,000 on it and was real clean inside and out. I told him we could talk about it, the others I had no interest in. We went for a ride, it had the fancy interior and was a real expensive truck when it was new. My van might be worth $14,000. I gave the bank $9,100 when I got it. He wanted $36,000 for the truck and we finally got together at $24,000 difference and he was buying me 6 new tires. I told him we could do it if he would take cash again and I had to be back on the job at eight Monday morning. He called the tire place and they had the tires and could get right on it so I signed my title and handed it to him. He asked me if he could call the plumber. I told him go ahead. The plumber was on the way and we were still counting money. I could pick up my new tag next week. I stopped and filled up the tank and went to the tire shop. That took about an hour and I went back to the car dealer and told him now I had two pickups I needed serviced. He would make sure they had air, fuel and oil filters for them and I could bring them at 1:00.

The girls came back about 11:15 and I told Brie to lock up and we all went to eat. They had found Charley's mother she was working at a pretty good job but her car was broke and she was riding with someone she worked with. Tori asked her what she was going to do with the house in T-Town and she said she guessed she would sell it and the lot on either side of it if she could find a buyer. The house was a cracker box but all 3 of the lots were on pretty level ground and had a mix of pine and cedar trees. She said she gave Charley $500 to give to her mother so she could get her car going. It was a few years old but still a good car and the fuel pump was out. I asked what the house and lots were going to cost us and she said $30,000 for the house and $5,000 each for the lots. I told her to get Lisa to handle it and we would bring the papers next week. Charley was pretty quiet so I didn't ask her anything about it. I did tell her that I remembered when I graduated from high school, I couldn't find a job and wound up spending all most 4 years in the Army digging in the dirt, got shot, got out, and wound up a damned Dirt Dauber with a permanent job as brush hauler. They all let me know how sorry they were that I was being mistreated.

Brie wanted to pick up the T-shirts. She said she bought 50 and they were ready. I told them I needed a driver for the other pickup and Charley said she would do it. So we dropped them off and took the trucks to the shop. We got a Coke from the machine and set in a little room with a TV, they said it would take about an hour. I told Charley that Julie had to quit school at 16 and went to work as a helper on construction sites. Trina's family treated the sons like royalty and the daughters like hired help, Tori's brother sold her to a drug dealer, and Brie was just about to be forced into the sex business. I told her when we came together as a group, it just worked, and it would work for her too. She asked whose money we were using and I told her a drug dealer died and left it to us but not to repeat that. She asked if I had rescued Tori from the drug dealer, and I told her we rescued each other and we would have done it for her too. I told her it sometimes seemed like people were turning their back on you but they were really just finding their way so you needed to cut them a little slack.

The T shirts were just what we needed. Brie said they ordered some more when they picked them up. They said Dirt Daubers Land Salvage Team. The two "D" looked like they were made from dirt with holes in them like a dirt dauber nest and the dirt daubers were winged bobcats, dump trucks, bulldozers, and excavators, Brie had made the design. She said all she had to do was e-mail it to the T-shirt store and they did a little bit to the letters to make it easier to read and their shirt printer printed them from their computer.

We worked on cleaning the shop and sorting junk and sent Julie and Charley to Subway for sandwiches and to get a couple of large bags of chips. It took longer for us to decide what to eat than it did for them to go get it. I told them in the future, whoever went got to decide what we would have. Then I told them that tomorrow night I was going, and we were going to have pizza with little dead fish on it. That got them going and Brie asked if we would clean up behind the shop so we decided that tomorrow was a make the outside look nice day.

I think the paperwork on the property said the lot was 200 feet wide by 250 feet deep. The shop is 40 X 80 and sets back from the road about 30 feet and allows parking in front, or street side, of the building. It has about 5 feet between the property line and the building which gives us a lot of parking on the side of the building. The sides and back have a 6' solid metal fence. If you were at the street facing the lot the shop would be on the left and in the right back corner was our house. It's not real old but it is sort of small. It was either originally a metal building or a house built like a metal building and it's about 24 X 36. The lot was paved at one time but had seen a lot of heavy use around the shop. After a trip to Home Depot we had some new push brooms and gave the whole place some serious sweeping. We originally thought that the lot was dirt and gravel in the area used for parking along the length of the shop. We did need a pit of patching in the pavement but it could be saved. The neighbor let us dump all the dirt and gravel in his parking lot and we made 3 trips to the landfill with trash from the lot and building and that was using the trailer, and it is 28 feet long. I have no idea why anyone would save 3 old evaporative air coolers but we found them stacked up against the wall. Old equipment fenders and parts from things that we couldn't identify.

Brie was keeping watch on what was being thrown away and she saved some stuff to sell but, Damn! what a mess. When we were finished we piled everything that was left in the center of the floor and Brie called the guys that had built the counter. They came and looked it over, I wanted new lighting and plenty of it. I wanted the ceiling and the walls painted white, and the little bath room torn down and rebuilt with new fixtures. The guy said it would take longer to clean the dirt off the steel roof trusses than anything else. He couldn't do the electrical but knew somebody that could and would. He would also need some front money because he had to rent a man lift and a big air compressor to blow the dirt down. He said it would be a mess and they were going to have to seal off the computer shop with plastic sheeting. Brie said she could use her desk for a workbench for the week. He wanted to know if we minded him working on Sunday and I told him it was fine. He didn't know how to figure the job because of the dirt clean up and asked if he could just give me all the receipts and we pay him and his helper $800 a week each. He would guarantee it would be finished in less than two weeks, so I agreed to hire them for two weeks and just pay the bills. They left to the rental place and I told everybody to get cleaned up and we would go eat pizza.

Sunday morning we went to a pancake place and had just got home when the builders got there. We hurried around and got all the computer stuff moved inside the office and they taped plastic over the door. The office had been built as an afterthought by the original builder and was basically a small box in the corner. On top was plywood and had been a junk storage area. I would guess that we had swept two five gallon buckets full of dirt off of it. It had a ladder made from 2 X 4's and 1 X 4's attached to the wall. They put a huge blower in the walk-in door and opened the overhead door. After an hour they were ready and fired up the air compressor and the blower. They had on paper suits and were wearing respirators. They motioned for us to get gone and the dirt storm started. It looked like the building was on fire for most of the day. They had gone over the whole thing twice and said it would probably take two more times to get it paintable. While they waited for the dust to settle they ripped out the bathroom. The tarp we put over our usable junk was covered in dirt and they even gave Tori an empty dirt dauber nest they had found. She told them thanks for the thought but she would let them keep it. We had the trailer loaded with concrete blocks and the last of the culvert pipe

We left Brie with plenty of money to buy materials with and headed up the mountain before daylight Monday morning. We stopped at the sandwich shop to eat breakfast and everybody was talking about Ernest getting arrested for several counts of theft. Jackie and her husband had called the Sheriff when they saw the log splitter. It was theirs. When they showed the Sheriff where it was he found an ATV under a tarp that was stolen from another community about 20 miles away. He got a search warrant and some other officers and they found several items they knew were stolen and a bunch of stuff he wouldn't have reason to have stashed inside the house. They moved his pickup so the splitter and ATV could be recovered. Jackie told him what I had said about anything left on my property Monday was mine and he told her he was not going to worry about firewood or a saw that looked like it would kill you by just starting the motor. I gave the blade to Jackie and the motor to some boys that Charley knew. We used his driveway to load the firewood and it about filled the trailer. Jackie told us there was a family that could sure use it unless we wanted it. We went to their house and a woman and two boys came out and helped us unload it. The woman was real happy to get it. One of the boys asked Charley if a dirt dauber was the same as a wasp and she told him that the color of them was a little different. I think we did the right thing with the wood and asked Charley if there were other families like them. She said there were a few but most of them were brought on by being lazy, drunk, or drugged and she wasn't in favor of helping those people. I agreed but told her we would help those who deserved it. She said we would be helping a total of 3 families then.

Charley and Trina measured out the lots and put the rebar corner markers in the right place. I was still a bit pissed about the missing trees because they would make a nice screen for whoever buys the lot. I was back on brush disposal and Tori and Trina were far enough along with the excavator that I had to quit and go get the dozer. It was still hooked up to the dump truck so I made good time. I got to thinking that since we now had a clear path to asshole Ernest's lot that I would just use his driveway I drove by and yelled at Trina to meet me on the other street and she drove it right up his driveway and to the front of our lot. I went back to the bunkhouse and left the big trailer and took the dump truck back for them to fill with whatever came out of the driveways. I watched Julie for a minute, she made the bobcat look like it was computer controlled. There was never any stopping just a continuous flow of motion. Charley was driving the brush truck so here I was dragging brush again. I'm not sure what you called the job Trina was doing but she was in front of the dozer watching the blade and moving her arms so Tori could keep adjusting the dozer blade as she went around the curve on the driveway. They were cutting the taper on the lot side in stair steps as they went, so they wouldn't have a vertical wall and the center between the drives was cut down as they went also. I parked the truck as far off the road as I could and there was room for traffic to get by, and I called lunch. We ate as quickly as we could to get back and clean up the dirt pushed down the driveways.

By quitting time both drives were cut and most of the dirt was over in our dirt pile lot. Tori drove the dump truck up one drive and turned around and came back down the other. She said it was not bad, just a little hard to see the drive as you made the turn. The drives tapered onto the lot for about 30 feet so we had a one foot rise for every 10 feet we went in. I didn't know if that was good or not so I just kept moving brush. The next day was a lot of shovel work on the stair step taper. The dump truck was now going up and down full of dirt so it was packed down solid. I took the pickup and trailer up it to get the last load of brush and Julie had to get it turned around for me. We got rid of the brush and hauled everything to the bunkhouse. We had two more lots from Lisa to finish then we would start on Charley's place. I was explaining how mistreated I was and told them that the next person we hired was taking the brush detail and I was going to learn how to drive the excavator. Trina patted my cheek and said we had a full crew and didn't need any more help. On the way to eat we stopped at two lots to see which one they wanted to do next. I suggested the one with the least brush but Tori said we wouldn't be able to finish it this week because it needed too much work so the other one would be next. I told her I was going to keep track of the hours and if she was lying to me I was going to spank her ass.

At lunch Lisa brought two guys in to meet us, Glen and Neal Brice, they were needing the road to their property rebuilt. It was west of T-Town about a mile. I told them that we were not aware there were any roads going west out of T-Town and they told me that it had been a road at one time but was in bad shape from erosion. He said a four wheel drive pickup could make the trip with no problem but he needed to get it in shape for some RV's. It sounded so much better than dragging brush that I told him we would be glad to look at it, but we were not really a road building crew. We were in my pickup so I followed them, Charley said she had been on the road they were talking about. We went by our dirt pile lot and when the road turned left, they went straight. We had seen the road before but thought it was a driveway. You could tell that it was cut when the other roads were done as it was the same 25 feet wide before it was overgrown and washed away. Half a dozen places needed culvert pipe to keep it from washing out once it was fixed, and it was going to need the complete width to get and RV around three of the turns. They had stopped so I pulled up to them and we unloaded.

Glen pointed to a place and said it would need to be made large enough for a 30 foot motor home and leveled up a bit. He asked if the back window guard on my truck was heavy enough to stand on. It looked like it was so we all climbed in the back of the truck and took turns looking over some cedar trees at the side of a rise that was maybe seventy five or a hundred feet higher than we were. He pointed out that it was horseshoe shaped. He said that their plans were to make a wide road around the inside of the horseshoe so several RV's could park there but right now he needed the road fixed so the engineer could park there while he was doing the survey and layout. I looked at Tori and could see the dollar signs in her eyes. I jumped in before she could and asked how good of a road did he want, and he answered, at least as good as the smooth roads through T-Town and maybe a bit better. He said he wanted the trees along the road left like they are but we could scoop up dirt almost wherever we wanted for fill. I asked if he was aware of the need for culvert pipe in a few places and he was, and he needed to know how long it would take. I looked at the girls and they were talking and came up with two weeks. He asked how many of us it would take and Tori told him all of us and all of the equipment we have. He wanted to know what we had and she told him. He asked if $20,000 plus pipe would get it done and she told him it would. He pulled out his phone and looked at the calendar and walked over to Tori and showed it to her. He said he was going to have his man here on this day and to please have it smooth enough for him to drive on because he charged a lot of money per day.

The girls were excited because they figured the best we could make on the lots was around four thousand a week and we were going to get twenty for this job. We spent the rest of the day moving equipment, filling the tanks from the cans, and measuring the length for the culvert pipe. The girls spent quite a while deciding who and how we would do the job. We all agreed that there was really only maybe a hundred yards of actual work, the rest of it just looked like hell because it hadn't been graded in twenty years. I was going to A-Town tomorrow to get pipe, fuel, deposit the check, and get food for the weekend because they wanted to work straight through until we were finished.

I left before the girls were up and got to the shop before Brie opened the computer shop. I went in the house and joined her in a bowl of cereal. I got some money from the safe and Brie told me where she had seen some corrugated culvert pipe, then we went to look at the job the painters were doing. They were finished painting and most of the mess was cleaned up. The bathroom was framed, it looked like they had been putting full hours on the project. I told Brie that we were going to work through the weekend and for her to keep the two guys doing something because we had agreed to pay them for two weeks work. I stopped for fuel and filled the truck and empty cans then went to find the pipe place. I told the guy the lengths that I needed and he sort of had a grin on his face as he told me I could get 20's, 10's or 5's. Then he showed me some corrugated bands. He explained that you slid the band over the end of a section, butted the next one to it, used a "C" clamp on the band flanges to hold it together, and bolted them. If it was too short you added another section, and if it was too long, it was tuff shit. I told him I could handle that. We loaded up twenty of each size and 100 bands, and four boxes each of bolts, washers and nuts along with two wrenches. He told me he had seen the Dirt Dauber girls at Walmart and they were some good looking gals. I agreed, paid the bill and went to the bank and grocery store. I was back on the mountain by noon and of course they wanted to know what the hell I had been doing and why I bought so much pipe. I left the truck and trailer and rode to the sandwich shop with them. I told them the next time we needed pipe I wouldn't be gone half the day getting it because I had it.

Charley had been digging the ditches across the road for the pipes and had two ready so I would be working with her after lunch. Tori, Trina, and Julie had been pushing dirt back and forth to get rid of the weeds and brush. Charley said that when somebody needed a road graded and it was close in they just went to the Lodge and talked to them about getting it graded. She said the road we were working on was shown on the T-Town map and might belong to the community. Since nobody lived on it, it might cost a couple of hundred to get them to do it. I asked if she knew who to talk to about it. She did and we went to the lodge to see them. She walked up to a counter and asked the woman if Fred was in, yeah, he was back there. She bullshitted him for a few minutes and then asked if the road was part of the community. It was but all the property out that road was owned by one guy and he didn't live there. Charley gave him a little fast talk about him moving a big fancy motor home in as soon as we got through with his long ass drive way. She told him we were putting in some culverts to keep it from washing out but there was no way he could get the motor home in without it being graded and we had a lot of driveway to work. She told him it was about a mile of road we were talking about and we would need it full width. He told her that they just had the one grader going and he couldn't pull him off the schedule and there was no money for Saturday overtime and it would probably take half a day. I laid four hundred on his desk and put another hundred in his hand. He yelled at the woman to write us a receipt for four hundred. I told him we didn't need a receipt and we would see them Saturday morning. I don't know if they wrote one or not and don't care.

We needed to get everything we were going to do finished before they got there. Charley and I started work on the pipe for the two ditches she had finished and Tori took the excavator and started working the others. Julie was running the dozer to make a level spot for the motor home, and Trina was covering our pipes with the bobcat and adding some extra fill over them. We drove two long stakes on each end of the pipe and tied orange ribbon on them so the grader wouldn't cover the inlet and outlet. We spent Friday finishing the culverts and hauled two dump truck loads of wood chips to cover the flat area for the RV. They didn't spread very easy and the little bobcat with the teeth on the bucket worked better than anything else. It really looked sharp when we finished. Our grader man showed up Saturday morning and Charley gave him a hundred dollar bill and talked to him for a few minutes, she told us it would be smooth as a new highway when he finished, and it was, he even filled the low areas and cut down some of the high spots making it a lot more level than it had been. We spent the rest of the day driving all our equipment up and down the road getting rid of the grader tire tracks and other traces of him being there.

They decided that we would bust ass on the two lots and then take off until time for the survey engineer guy to show up. I told them it was fine with me because I wanted Julie to call her boyfriend in El Paso to see if he had any leads on a bigger excavator so the little one could be teamed up with the little bobcat for cleaning lots. It would do a good job pulling brush out of ditches and ravines. I was surprised when they thought it was a good idea, I'm sure they would have thought of it had they been the one pulling out brush. After the lots were done we parked all the equipment and took both pickups and headed for A-Town. We were going to have 6 or 7 days off and were going to make a trip to El Paso. Charley said she had visited there often enough that she could find her way around. We had no idea what we wanted for an excavator nor what it would cost. We would call Julie's friend to find out where to look. We had a lot of dirty clothes and linens, and I wanted to wash and vacuum both trucks.

We had to park on our neighbor's parking lot, ours had a coat of black pavement sealer paint on it with ropes and flags blocking it. They had patched the holes and the place looked like new pavement. It was dry enough to walk on so we went to see Brie to find out what was going on. She said that when the painters finished the building they swept and washed the parking lot, patched the holes by the big door and then used wide push broom looking brushes to paint it with. They are supposed to come back and take down the ropes tonight. I had Julie call Clay Barkley in El Paso and he is supposed to call her back in the morning with a list of what's available. We got the clothes in the washer and started a list of what needed done before the next trip up the mountain. We needed more towels, bed linens, and a better ice chest for sure. One of the ranch trucks that stopped at the sandwich shop had an ice chest that was made from Styrofoam surrounding a regular ice chest placed in a wooden box. It had about 6" of foam all the way around, it was not pretty but hot Cokes suck. Brie knew a guy that could build it for us and she was going to get a new chest to take to him.

The guy called about the excavator and wanted us to come by their shop to talk to him because he thought one deal might be perfect for us so we all piled in the pickup and took a little road trip. It took us a few minutes to find the place once we got off the highway but we were real impressed with their rental yard. They had every tool and equipment you had ever heard of. He had some notes written on a yellow legal tablet and started reading off equipment and prices and I stopped him and asked which was the deal he had mentioned. The story was that a local construction company had sold off all their equipment and their building. A truck, trailer, and excavator was sold to a guy in Tucson and the check bounced. The guy took some mean dudes with him and repossessed them. He has the title in hand for the truck and trailer and will give a notarized bill of sale for the excavator, but he wants cash, $90,000 in cash. The excavator was 3 years old and was worth over $90,000 by itself; a Komatsu PC138 with 1200 hours on it. The truck was made from a 2005 Mack dump truck, the bed was removed, the frame shortened, and the fifth wheel plate installed. The trailer was made in their shop from some extra trailer they had, it was a lowboy style and made for the excavator. It may or may not be usable for other equipment, he didn't know. Pretty heavy duty stuff for us, Tori said it was bigger than she had in mind. We needed about half way between what we had and what it is, but it was for sure that we would not need a bigger one. We went outside to talk it over and Tori asked if it was OK to spend the money and I told her that she knew where it came from and it didn't bother me to spend other people's money.

We followed the rental guy to a place close to the turnoff to go to A-Town and met three guys at a truck repair shop. We walked through the shop into the fenced yard and there was the twin of the dump truck we already had, 13 gears and all. The girls went to the excavator and I went to look at the truck. It was sharp for an '05, and as clean or cleaner than ours. The guy was explaining that you had to drive the excavator over the rear tires on the trailer to get off. When loaded it set in front of the tires so that it was lower. He said it was 12' and 8" tall on the trailer. I remembered that the tunnel going up the mountain was 17' so that was not a problem. I heard him say that most state, and all interstate highways had a minimum of 14'. He folded down the end ramps and lowered the ramps over the tires. Tori unloaded it and tried out everything on it. They walked around it and he told them what to check and how often. The truck shop notarized the paperwork, he gave Clay Barkley a $1,000 and said he would follow us to A-Town to get the money and give us the papers. Julie rode with me in the Mack and I told Tori loud enough for the man to hear me, to go on ahead to the bank and get the money and we would see her at the shop. On the way to A-Town Julie asked how much money we had left. When I asked how much she needed she said that the road grader sure did a fast job.

The next few days were spent shopping, getting the titles transferred and tags for the truck and trailer and putting away the pile of stuff in the shop. We painted the work benches and everything else that didn't move. There was no way that we could get all the equipment inside this winter so we did some measuring and a lot of drawing. We wound up buying 4 aluminum RV carports with the side and end kits to line up at the end of the building. The water on the parking lot ran to the back and there was nothing behind us but vacant lots so we were going to use the back corner for a wash rack and let the water run under the fence unless someone stopped us. You really couldn't see that corner from the street very well so it would work.

All too soon we were headed up the mountain but this time Julie was driving the big truck and I was the passenger. The others were split up between the two pickups. We filled all the tanks and fuel cans and Trina said the next piece of equipment we needed was a fuel truck. I borrowed Tori's phone and had Julie call Clay Barkley the El Paso rental guy to get us some prices on a small fuel truck and if there was such thing, a small motor grader. She told him we would call back in about a week because our cell phone didn't work on the mountain. The first thing we did when we got there was fill all the equipment and really needed to go fill the cans again, we were still debating what we should start on next when Neal Brice drove up.

He told us we had done a hell of a good job on the road and that the survey crew was here and getting set up. He said it was good that we made the parking area larger than Glen told us to because there was two motor homes and two pickups pulling trailers with four wheelers loaded on them. He said they normally did new road surveying and because they needed to start a new job sooner than they thought, that eight of them had come to knock this little job out. He wanted to know if we would follow behind them with the dozer and build a rough road for the four wheelers and pickups to speed up the survey. Glen had approved $1,000 per day and if he had seen our road he would have probably given us the contract. It would be about ¾ of a mile long to avoid the worse areas. It would be for RV's to get to the new camping area. Charley asked him why they were building an RV park when there was already two of them here. He told her that he and Glen owned three naturist resorts and they hoped to open this one next spring. I told him Yeah Buddy, I always wanted to work in a nudist camp.

He showed us on our map how much land they had bought and said there would be separate contracts for the road in, the camp, and several hiking trails. He was sure that whoever got the camp contract would hire our dozer, excavator, and maybe the bigger bobcat as sub-contractors. Also if we could find one of those 4' wide trail dozers we could probably get the contract and the maintenance contracts for the trails as well as up keep on all of it. I asked how much the contracts paid and he said he would not know until the survey and engineers figured out how much dirt was going to move. He said that the head of that company had told them that they could figure it to within a few cubic yards of material within a couple of hours of entering all the survey information. Tori said that we could always go back to working lots, she wanted to give it a shot. So we took the $1,000 per day deal and would talk to Glen and Neal when Glen got here tomorrow. We left to get our equipment and Julie suggested that we take all of it to try to impress Glen.

Two hours later we had all our equipment at the job, lined up and ready to go. The supervisor of the survey crew talked to us and said that the road in was plotted on their computer and that they would just walk along with GPS units that were transmitted information from their main unit and would drive stakes. We could follow them smoothing things up as best we could while keeping up with them. We could improve it later, they needed to get a pickup in to the camp area as soon as possible. The route would wind around but would have the fewest number of constant elevation changes thus making it easier for the longer RV's

Trina was on the dozer and started pushing cedar trees and brush. Julie and Charley were on the bobcats filling holes left by the tree roots, and me, I was on the chain tying it to cedars which Tori moved with the excavator. We were busting ass trying to keep up but after a half mile they were about a quarter mile ahead of us with the stakes. Then we hit a flat section with few cedars and gained a hundred yards right quick. By then it was five o'clock and I told the guy in the pickup that if they were going to eat at the sandwich shop, they needed to get there and we were through for the day.

The next morning we were caught up with them before they started work and by ten o'clock we had reached the spot where they wanted a large level spot to set up a hydraulic tower that was made onto one of their four wheeler trailers. It was interesting, they folded down leveling legs and spent 15 minutes leveling it then hooked the pickup battery to it with jumper cables, hit the switch, and up it went. They drove some eye bolt stakes in the ground and tightened up the 1/8" cables that went to the top to steady and level it and they were ready to start staking the camp around the top of the small horseshoe canyon. I called lunch and we went to eat.

At lunch Trina talked to the surveyors to find out how their system worked and they told her that the tower triangulated on navigation satellites and knew exactly where it was. The golf club looking things that they ran along the ground had heads about 6" in diameter and about 3" thick and also triangulated and tied to the tower. The tower transmitted to the computer in the pickup and then would tell them where to drive the stakes. They would then establish a level line around the canyon. It would also calculate the amount of dirt to be moved. The bulldozer would cut level to the bottom row of stakes and into the canyon wall until it reached the top row of stakes and that would make a level road of varying widths around the canyon. She asked if the dirt would be trucked out and they said it would be pushed over the side into the middle and when it was finished it would hopefully be a complete flat area with very little fill or removal. He then said if we had around a million dollars to spend, he could build us a computer system just like it. He gave us his card and said if we ran out of work to call him because the sons a bitches he had been using to cut rough road had been dogging it because we had made them run to stay ahead, instead of waiting on us.

On the way back to work I explained to the girls that all that praise was due to my superior chain to cedar connections and they acted like they didn't believe a word of it. We started improving our new road and about 2 o'clock Glen and Neal Brice drove up and asked where the survey crew was and we told them that they were working on the canyon. They looked a bit confused but drove on down the road. They came back in about an hour and told us that the project was about 6 days ahead of the estimates and the surveyor was giving us the credit. He told us we could have the road contract if we would do it for $65,000. Tori said we would take it and he wrote us a check. I was beginning to like this guy. He said it would be nice to have it as good as the other part and she said no problem. We broke out some Cokes and talked to them about the trails and the maintenance contract. He said the only company he could get for the trails was located in Colorado. He said we would absolutely have to have a trail dozer of 4' wide and that he did not want them any wider or narrower. He had heard that they cost about 75 or 80 thousand and as far as he knew the only brand was Sutter and they made the one he was talking about and also a little stand on the back type, but the guy in Colorado said it would not work in the almost rock in some places, soil we had. I asked how many miles of trail he was talking about because once it was cut, there would be no need for the dozer because they could be maintained with a Bobcat. If he could lease one we could cut the trails and send it home, then finish them with a Bobcat, the little excavator, and shovels. I then told him that we were going to El Paso to look at some equipment and we could talk to the Bobcat dealer about the dozer blade attachment for their tracked bobcat. I knew it was 6 way adjustable which is the same as a dozer and it wouldn't hurt to ask. When he left, Trina said she didn't know we were going to El Paso. I told her yeah we were because Julie wants a road grader.

Because we had shown the surveyor how fast the rough road good be constructed, he laid out the trails with one row of stakes about 40 feet apart. It was amazing to watch on his computer. He could keep up with four of the transmitters at once and they didn't waste any time. He said the way they did the trails was only accurate within one to three feet. I told him that we would probably exceed that when we cut it so it was not a problem. They packed it up and left for their next job. We spent a total of five days on the road and culverts. We called Glen and he was bringing in two huge bulldozers and some other stuff. We were through for a while so we loaded up the fuel cans and headed to A-Town

For the rest of this story, you need to Log In or Register

Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Fiction /