Jack Morgan's trusty old F150 bounced down the nearly impassable trail and bounced through the last dry wash before he reached his destination. He could see the trail of dust hanging in the still air behind. It was a typical mid August day in Southwest Missouri. It was hot and dry with no real chance of rain for some time.
When Jack had left home to go to college seven years ago he swore he would never return for more than a short visit. Now it looked like he might never leave again. He had everything he owned in the world with him. All his worldly possessions were inside the beat up old truck his family had purchased new in 1996. There were some clothes and personal items, a few dishes and a belly full of hate and sorrow. That was all he had to show for the last seven years of his life. There were a few memories but many of the pleasant ones had been overlaid with unpleasant ones.
If it hadn't been for his grandfather's forethought he wouldn't have even had the land he was planning to living on. Before he died he had set up an irrevocable trust placing the land in it along with the balance of his worldly possessions. The trust was for Jack but he would not become the owner of the farm until he had graduated college or turned age 31, married, and fathered a son. In the event these requirements were not met the trust passed to his grandfather's sister's family. Until Jack met the full requirements of the trust he was serving as trustee. He was thankful the trust was so worded or he might have lost even this little piece of ground in one of his two divorces. Here he was, 25 years old and already divorced twice.
The bad thing about the land was there were no buildings of any kind on it. The good thing was it had a well and septic system and was situated in a beautiful little valley with a small river or large creek flowing through. Another positive aspect about the little farm was it was almost 25 miles from a town of any size and the nearest neighbor would be over a mile away. There were three small towns within a few miles but only one of them even had a store. Well two did if you count the old mill at Wilson's Mill. An old retired Army man had reopened it and put in a café. His wife sold a small number of grocery items but they were mostly of the emergency or snack food category. There were fish galore and some deer and other game on the land. With what little money he had managed to hide from his last ex wife and her sharks he could at least eat for a while.
I suppose you might ask how someone who graduated from the University of Missouri with a BS in Agricultural Economics and who had owned his own firm could sink to such a state as had Jack. Jack would tell you he suffered from a nearly terminal case of stupidity.
While he was reminiscing he finally arrived at his destination. The small meadow that had the well and septic system was overgrown. There was a bluff about 30 feet tall in a bend of the stream with a deep hole beside it where the bluff forced the stream to bend. The rock caused water to swirl and keep the hole clean. There was a nice gravel bar on each side of the stream just before the hole. Jack smiled when he saw the old mill dam still held the water back and kept the hole even deeper than it normally would have been.
The bluff wandered away from the stream then became shorter as it curved north then back east almost into a protective cup. Before the rock outcropping disappeared it encompassed and protected about two to three acres between the protection of the bluff and the stream.
The light pole that should have had an electric meter installed was there beside the bluff's highest point about 65 feet back from the stream bank. Sometime in the past the meter had been removed, hence there was no power. Of course right now that didn't matter because other than a small lamp or two and a microwave Jack had nothing that needed electricity. Oh, well, he thought. Man heated with and cooked over fires for millennia so I suppose I could regress. Jack gave himself a small grin and remembered the many nights he and his friends had camped in this very location when they were teenagers. They would catch fish within walking distance of the camp then swim in the ole swimming hole. At dusk they would cook fresh fish and the rest of their meal then lay listening to the chuckle of the stream as it flowed on past this little slice of heaven. Hell, Jack thought again. I even got my first piece of ass right here beside the stream.
Jack pulled his truck under the trees beside the light pole and the concrete pad his grandfather had poured years ago. The pad was next to the bluff. There were steel hooks embedded in the rock to hang things on. At one time there had been a roof over the concrete pad but time and perhaps vandals had destroyed the roof. All that was left were the steel poles set into the concrete that the roof had rested on. Jack planned to use the poles and hooks as anchors and support for his tent when he built it.
After walking around the site he proceeded to set up his new residence. Jack made a tent out of some old plastic tarps stretched over the concrete. Then he set an old card table and two chairs under the tarp fly with his cooler beside it. Next he unloaded a small gas BBQ grill and was in business. At least he had a small camping cot with a pretty good foam rubber mattress to sleep on. He put this under the tent also.
By the time his new home was constructed it was almost dark. Jack made a sandwich and wandered down to the cooler area beside the stream. He sat on the ground and leaned on a log while he thought about what had to be done in the next few days. He could do without many items but did need to find a job of some sort so he could have a place to live when it turned cold. Until then he would camp here.
During the divorce proceedings Jack had managed to hide almost $5000.00 in cash. He didn't declare that money so when the property was split he ended up with $7300.00. A lot of that had been spent moving back home though. The last time he counted money there was just under $4900.00 left. The land was rented to a neighbor but the rent wasn't payable until January 1. Then he would only receive about $3600.00. No way could he live on that for a year. Of course in the spring he would plant a large garden and that would help.
Most of his possessions were left in the truck. They would stay dry there and except for a few clothes he didn't need anything except what had already unloaded. The first couple of days in his new home Jack prepared for the rest of the summer. He brought some firewood up and stacked it then covered it with a tarp. Some he cut into lengths with his chainsaw. He made a list of things that needed to be done and another of things he needed to purchase right now and things that he needed to purchase soon but could wait on.
Early mornings he sat and enjoyed the morning while fishing for his days meals. There was a spring running out of the bluff beside the camp that provided sweet, cold drinking water. It was better than any water you could get elsewhere in his opinion. The stream was fine for bathing. Considering what a pile of shit his life had turned into he was happy. Many times he was thankful he was debt free and free of the blood sucking, cheating skanky leech his second wife turned out to be.
The third day after returning home Jack drove to the nearest town with a grocery store and stocked up. He arranged for mail delivery with the Post Office. Another stop was at the electric COOP to arrange for a power meter to be set so he would have lights and could run electric appliances. On his way home he went to Wal-Mart and purchased a small apartment sized refrigerator. By the time the day was finished in town he had spent another $700.00 of his meager stash.
During the day Jack had left applications at several businesses. None of them gave him any hope of being hired. They had all told him they weren't hiring right then. Jack even made a stop at the library to see if the paper had any jobs advertised. No luck there either.
When Jack returned home there was an old 1984 F250 diesel with dents in every sheet metal panel parked beside his tent. The truck was even more beat up than was Jack's. There was a weather beaten, leathery skinned old man sitting in one of Jack's chairs beside the truck. The man had white hair and about a three day growth of white beard on his face. His clothes had holes in them and were threadbare. His boots looked older than he was and were caked with dry cow manure.
The man stood up when Jack got out of his truck and said, "Howdy Boy. I hate ta tell ya this but this here's private propity and ya' all cain't camp here. It's late though so I s'pose ya kin stay 'nother nite though then ya need ta move on."
Jack looked at the old fellow and held out his hand. He said, "I'm Jack Morgan and I'm not camping here really. I own this land and that is my home over there under the trees."
The old man smiled and grabbed his hand in his. He said, "You're little Jackie Morgan? God Boy, you sure growed up after ya left here. Ya don't remember me do ya? I'm Gregg Hill. I been renting tha place whilst ya was gone. Bettie told me ya was comin back but she didn't say when. Welcome back boy. So whatcha gonna do now ya come back home? They sure aint much work hereabouts fer a young fella like you."
.... There is more of this story ...