Jess Simpson walked out of the county jail into bright sunlight. He stopped and squinted his eyes against the suns glare. It was just past 11 p.m. and already sweltering hot. He watched the heat waves rise from the hot asphalt street in front of him. The grass was already dry and brown looking in the summer heat.
Jess looked in the small parking lot beside the jail then up and down the street. He sighed in resignation. He could see no one waiting to pick him up although in truth he had expected no one. He moved slowly to a bench in the shade of a tree beside the sidewalk. After one more look around he dejectedly took a seat. Jess watched the traffic moving slowly along the street for several minutes after he sat down. Even in the shade and gentle breeze he felt the heat. The rustling leafs overlaid the muted hum of traffic and buzzing of insects from time to time.
Jess sat with his arms on the back of the bench. Sweat beaded on his face and forehead before running down his cheeks. From time to time he wiped his face with his hands to remove the sweat. He could feel his clothes soaking up his sweat as they dampened in the sweltering heat and humidity. He was overdressed and knew it but he wore the only clothes he had available. It was January 24th when he had been sentenced to serve six months in jail for assault and battery. Now it was the end of July and the Midwest was sweltering in the midst of a normal summer drought. He heard a deputy say it was already 98 degrees outside while he was out processing from the jail. He believed it.
Jess merely sat and waited, watching traffic and the occasional pedestrian for the next 45 minutes. His mind was busy sorting through possibilities and wondering about his future. Finally one of the Sheriff Deputies came from the building and stood beside Jess. He looked at him for a moment and then said, "You need to move on outta here Jess. We don't want no trouble from you and want you gone. You've waited here long enough. If they were coming for ya they wouldda been here by now."
Jess looked up at the Deputy and glared at him for a moment. He really didn't have anything against him and knew he was just doing his job. He felt the anger surge through him once again though when he thought about what had led him to be sitting here. He was reasonably sure when he took his seat that no one would come for him but he still held out some hope. Now even that little amount of hope was gone, dashed and swept away finally with the Deputy's last statement. Jess knew he was right. With a sigh Jess stood. The Deputy stepped back a step and rested his hand on his taser when Jess moved.
Jess allowed himself a small smile when he saw the Deputy tense and prepare for an attack. Jess knew he was not going to attack the Deputy. He had never considered it but it still made him feel a little better to be thought of as that dangerous a man. For years Jess had just been one of the unseen mass. He was born, went to school and dreamed of a better future like many young people do. His future included one of the most beautiful women in his graduating class and riches beyond compare after he finished college. Well, that was his dream of the future in any event. Now, after his jail sentence he was unsure what his future would be. Certainly it did not include college any longer. Jess lost his full ride scholarship when he was convicted and sentenced to jail. It also did not include the most beautiful woman in his graduating class any longer either. She had made that abundantly clear while he was awaiting his trial.
Jess let his smile become more noticeable. He looked at the Deputy and said, "Relax Clayton. I've had enough of your hospitality. I'm not going to do anything today to get locked back up again even if I did want to and I don't. I suppose it gave you some pleasure to have me inside these last six months but I don't hold it against ya. I gave that sniveling little shithead what he had coming to him and his high powered lawyer convinced the jury to send me up for it. Next time you see him though ask him if a little piece of skanky ass was worth it all hummmm?"
Jess turned and began walking down the street. He neither wanted nor expected a response to his statement so was surprised when he heard Clayton say, "Jess I know we didn't get along in school. I never did like you and I know you didn't like me but for what it's worth the little shit did have it coming. You just went too far. He'll never walk well again you know and his right arm is crooked and weak. You got off easy as you did because of what they did to you. Who knows? If you hadn't fucked him up like you did you might not have even been sentenced to the 6 months."
When he heard Clayton speak Jess turned to listen to him. He stood for a moment in shock and watched Clayton return to the building. He muttered, "Shit" and turned to continue his slow trek down the street. He had no idea where he would go. Oh, he knew his immediate destination but even then he didn't know how he would get there other than make a long walk.
It was almost ten p.m. when Jess arrived at his parent's home outside Hollister, MO. He walked the entire distance from Forsyth, the county seat of Stone County to his parent's farm outside Hollister. In the nearly twenty mile walk he had been unable to get one ride. He was passed by four vehicles driven by people who he knew and none of them stopped for him. Every one of the drivers ignored him.
Jess tiredly walked onto the porch of his father's home and tried to open the door. He was not too surprised when he found it locked. He was somewhat more surprised when he found his key would not unlock it. While he was fumbling with the key he heard footsteps then the porch light came on. Jess looked up and stepped back when his father opened the inside door. He was surprised when he saw him holding his pistol.
Jess's father looked at him for a moment then said, "Well, I see ya got here. All your things are in your truck over there. We got nothing here fer ya now. You just get inta yer truck and get outta here now boy. You disgraced this family and we want nothing else to do with ya. Now go on, git afore I call the law."
Jess looked at his father for a moment then moved his gaze farther into the house. His mother and younger sister were sitting inside watching. His mother's face was drawn up in her, to him, famous scowl. She looked as if she had been sucking on a lemon. His sister Clara looked sad and seemed to have been crying. Jess clenched his jaw, glared at his father and walked away.
Jess got into his truck and sat behind the wheel for a moment. He opened the door so he could see to put the key in the ignition. When he did that he saw his check book and other personal papers in the passenger side of the truck. It looked as if the drawers of his desk had just been dumped in the seat and floor boards. The extended cab behind the seat was filled with his clothing and other personal effects. When Jess got into the truck he saw that the bed contained other larger items such as his tools, fishing gear, camping gear and so forth. His small 14 foot camping trailer was already hooked to the bumper. He had taken it in trade for cleaning up a neighbor's yard last summer. It took him three weeks of backbreaking work to earn the thirty year old trailer. Almost all the rest of his summer's work had gone to purchase the twelve year old Ford Ranger 4X4 it was attached to.
Jess put the key into the ignition and closed the door. He turned his head to see his father watching from the porch. He was still holding his pistol. Jess looked at his father once more in hurt and anger then started his truck. As he drove from the yard he thought about what had just transpired. He was hurt but totally unsurprised. His father had always been a hard bitten sanctimonious and petty man. He was pastor of a small offshoot sect of the Church of God and had no use for anyone friend, family or otherwise who strayed from his concept of the straight and narrow. He was judgmental to extremes as were most of the people in the church. No, Jess wasn't surprised at his reception. Now he had to figure out where he was going to stay and how he was going to live though.
Jess drove slowly toward town and his uncertain future. He pulled into the small city park and crawled into the lumpy bed in the trailer. He was exhausted and fell asleep almost before he was completely laid down. It was after 9 a.m. before he woke. He was starving. He had not eaten since early the previous afternoon in Forsyth when he purchased one quarter pound hamburger and fries from McDonald's Dollar Menu. He finished filling up on the free ice water and carried one last cup out with him to drink during his long walk home.
Jess slowly got out of his bed and moved into the main part of his small trailer. He sat in a chair and pulled his wallet from his pocket. There was $27.00 in it. There was some loose change in his pocket as well but he didn't bother to count it. After counting his money Jess walked outside to the rest rooms in the park. After he relieved himself he took a deep drink from the public drinking fountain and moved back toward his truck.
Jess opened the passenger door of his truck and picked up his check book. He opened it to the register page and refreshed his memory as to the balance. It showed a little over $1100. Jess snorted. He wondered if he even had that much money. His father's name was on his account. He would not be surprised if his father hadn't cleaned him out. He was sure his father could figure some way to justify it if he thought about doing that.
Jess locked his truck and trailer then took off walking down the street. His first stop was the bank where, to his surprise he found he had a little over $1300.00 in his checking account. His last paycheck had been deposited from the part time job he worked during his Christmas break from his first year of college. Jess quickly closed his account and opened a new one with only his name on it. He was upset at the charge made for his first supply of new checks but he had no choice other than to pay it. He had them mailed to him general delivery at the local post office.
Jess's next stop was the post office to set up delivery and forward service from his parent's home. Finally he could take it no longer and went to find something to eat. He really, really wanted pizza but with his finances he decided to economize. He went to the local grocery store and purchased sandwich makings and some lettuce for salad. He also purchased some ice for the little cooler in his trailer.
After eating his brunch of two sandwiches and a little lettuce Jess sat in the shade of the park and thought about his circumstances. He needed a place to stay and a job. He could live in his trailer but he did need a place to park it. Renting a spot was not in the cards. The campsites in the area catered to tourists and charged exorbitant fees for the privilege of parking in them.
Jess walked up to his truck and stood leaning on the bed looking at his possessions. All at once his head came up. He saw many old tools, some of which were not his but were the same as he owned. None of his yard tools were there. He owned an older push mower and riding ZTR mower as well as a chain saw and weed eater. They were conspicuously missing. Before he entered college his summer work had been mowing yards for people in the Hollister and Branson area. He personally purchased the mowers because his father refused to let him use the family tools. Jess knew he needed to get home and get his yard tools as soon as he could.
While he was looking over the items in his truck bed a city patrol car drove up and stopped. The patrolman got out of the car and walked up across the truck bed from Jess. The patrolman leaned his arms on the bed rail, looked at Jess for a moment and said, "Jess I suspect I know why you're here but I can't let you stay. We ignored ya last night but you know you're not allowed to camp here in the park. I need you to move on now before we have to take you in. With your record that wouldn't go well for you ya know."
Jess looked over at the older patrolman. He had been one of the more lenient officers when the kids were letting off steam when Jess was younger. Jess said, "Yeah I know Tater. I been trying to figure out where I can go all morning but I can't come up with anywhere that I can afford. I need a place to park my trailer and I need a job bad. Don't suppose you know where I can do either?"
Tater leaned on the other side of Jess's truck bed for a moment with his head down. He looked up at Jess and frowned. He said, "What about your Uncle's place down by the lake? Why don't you go there? I know there's no electricity or water but you could at least park your trailer there."
"Can't do that Tater. Daddy ran me off and told me not to ever come onto his place again. You know how he gets when he's riled. He met me at the door with his pistol last night and ordered me off. I'm lucky I have any of my things. He kept my lawn care stuff and I have to go back and get it as soon as I can if he hasn't sold it. At least he didn't clean out my checking account. I suppose he never thought about it or he would have."
"I thought your Uncle was going to leave that place to you Jess. What happened?"
"Don't know. All I know was when Uncle died Dad began talking about his place down at the lake. It's not much but it would be nice to be able to park there. Hell it's almost straight up the hills are so steep."
"Jess your Uncle and I weren't great friends or nothin' like that but he used to talk about giving ya that place when we were in the coffee shop before he retired. You really need to check on it. Now I gotta get back on patrol. I might not see ya here the next time I come by but you have to be gone before dark."
Tater looked back at Jess just before he got into his cruiser and said, "Wasn't old man Harris your Uncle's lawyer? He might know something."
Jess watched Tater drive off then sat back down and thought about the small parcel of ground near the lake. After the government took the farm for the lake it was all that had been left. Jess didn't know how much land was there but it was just a small amount of the original farmstead. Most of the old farm his mother's parents used to own was under the water of the lake. That was when Uncle Taylor came to town and was elected Sheriff. With an oath Jess stood and walked once more toward the business district. It took him almost 20 minutes to walk to the attorney's office. During that walk he got several glares but not one person spoke to him.
When he walked into the attorney's office the receptionist gave him a cheerful greeting and asked, "How may I help you today sir?"
Jess told the receptionist what he needed. He was surprised to get a pleasant greeting from her. Most of the people in town who knew him shunned him since he got out of jail.
To Jess's surprise Mr. Harris came from his office to greet him before he was seated in the reception room. The old man looked at Jess and frowned slightly then smiled and reached out to shake his hand. He said, "Jess you look a lot like your Uncle. Come on in and sit down."
After Jess and Mr. Harris were seated in Mr. Harris's office the attorney looked closely at him. He leaned back in his chair and said, "Not only do you look a lot like your Uncle but from what I hear you have his temper too. I suspect he would have responded just like you did when you had your little trouble. It took him a long time after he got elected Sheriff before he could control his temper. Now most folks just remember Sheriff Andy Taylor as a mild mannered man but he was a ring tailed terror when he was younger. Now young man what can I do for you? You're not still having trouble with the law are you?"
"No sir, nothing like that. When I got out Dad told me I couldn't stay with him and ordered me off his property. When Uncle got sick he told me he was going to leave me what was left of his place out by the lake but he never did. Tater said he was sure he was going to and suggested I come see you to see what the deal was since you were Uncle's attorney."
Mr. Harris leaned farther back in his chair and laced his fingers together. He rested his hands on his upper belly and looked at Jess. He said, "Yes I was your Uncle's attorney. I was his friend also and what Tater said is true. That's been several years back though. I remember we read the will and probated the estate about a year after he died. I sure don't remember what all was done with his things but you're right, I'm positive your Uncle left you the land."
Mr. Harris turned his head toward the door and yelled, "Hey Trina look in the files and see if we have anything on Andy Taylor. It might be in the dead files."
Jess and Mr. Harris visited for almost ten minutes before Trina came into the office carrying a thin bifold folder. She put it on Mr. Harris's desk and quietly left the room. The attorney opened the file and sorted through the papers. He made several notes as he went.
Mr. Harris finally raised his head and said, "Jess your Uncle left you the entire 13 acres out on the lake. He also left you his remaining funds in the bank after his final expenses were paid. I have a receipt here from your father for the money. There was $4317.92 left for you plus the land. Your father signed for the money because you were just 13 at the time we settled the estate. Are you telling me you never got that money or the land son?"
"No sir. As far as I remember I never got anything from Uncle's estate. Dad and mom always said the land was hers because she was his closest relative after Opie died. They never mentioned any money at all."
Mr. Harris leaned over and picked up the phone. He dialed it and leaned back in his chair. Soon he began talking. He introduced himself and asked, "Can you check on the ownership of a piece of property for me?" He sat up and pulled the will to him then read the legal description of the land to the person he was talking to.
"Unh Huh. Still recorded as belonging to Andy Taylor huh? Thanks. Can you transfer me to the Collector's Office now please?"
Once again Mr. Harris introduced himself and then asked, "I need to know about back taxes on a piece of property please." Once again he gave the information and waited for a moment. Then he said, "So the taxes are paid up to date? Mr. Taylor is deceased can you tell me who has been paying the taxes please? Unh huh. Reverend Bart Simpson huh. Ok. Thanks."
Mr. Harris looked up at Jess and said, "Well boy I think I have this figured out and it looks bad. I already told you we disbursed the money to your father for you. He never took the deed to the courthouse and recorded it in your name. The land is still in your Uncle's name and your daddy's been paying the taxes on it. He's done that now for the last six years son. The law says if he pays taxes on the land of a deceased person for seven years and the rightful owner doesn't show up to claim it he can petition the court to deed the land to him. He would have to go to court and get a ruling of ownership but if he did it quietly since your mother is next of kin it would be almost a done deal if not contested. I suspect he will have the land deeded to your momma after next tax season and you'll lose it. You might be able to get it back if you go to court but it would be an expensive battle.
"We still have time to take care of this though if you want to son. I can make out a new deed for you to take over there and record. I'll go along with you and we'll take the will and everything to get it taken care of."
"How much is this going to cost me sir? I don't have much money and no job."
"Won't cost you anything except the recording costs son. They charge $50 to record a deed. I'll do the rest of it for nothing. I got paid to take care of this when I worked on the estate. I guess I sort of dropped the ball when I didn't make sure the deed was recorded in your name but hell, I gave it to your poppa to take care of and I trusted him. I know your Uncle didn't trust him and they never got along but I never thought he would do something like this."
Within less than an hour Jess and Mr. Harris were in the Recorder of Deeds office recording ownership of the parcel of ground. After they left the courthouse they began the short drive back to Hollister. Mr. Harris looked over at Jess and said, "I feel bad about what your Daddy's done to you son. If he gives you any trouble about this let me know and I'll help you out with it. I won't charge you anything for that either. I can't believe a father would do something like this to his own son."
After they got back to town Jess shook Mr. Harris' hand and got into his truck. He slowly drove out of town and down the old roads toward his new home. He hadn't been to the place in three years and was saddened by what he found. The driveway onto the property was overgrown and so badly blocked he had trouble getting down it. There were some tree limbs fallen in it that he had to remove and a lot of young trees growing up in it also. Jess unhooked his trailer and backed his truck down into the driveway. He used a chain to pull the limbs out of the way three times. He hated driving over the growing saplings but he had no way to cut them other than use a small hatchet he had in his camping supplies. He didn't want to do that because of leaving the sharp stumps that would puncture his tires. He decided it would be potentially less damaging to just drive over the smaller trees.
Jess did use his truck to pull a few of the very largest saplings as he worked his way down to the point they used to camp and picnic on. It was between the lake itself and a small stream that flowed into the lake. The small clearing they used was grown up in weeds and young trees also but Jess finally got a trail into the area and pulled his trailer down to his chosen camping spot. By then it was dusk and he was exhausted. His clothes were muddy and wet from his sweat. He was almost shaking from dehydration, hunger and the heat.
It was almost full dark when Jess finally had his trailer leveled and unhooked from his truck. He quickly stripped and moved to the small stream to take a quick bath and cool off. His supper consisted of two more sandwiches and drinking water from the melted ice in his cooler. After his meal Jess quickly made his bed outside under the trees along the stream where it was cooler. He collapsed onto his sleeping bag and fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning Jess unloaded his truck bed and drove back to his parent's house. He started to go to the door then decided to hell with it and drove straight back to the open shed in which they stored his yard equipment. He loaded the smaller items in the bed of his truck then hooked the small trailer he owned for hauling the ZTR mower to it and started the mower. As he was loading the mower his father came out of the house with his pistol. He fired a shot into the ground and said, "What do you think you're doing boy? Are you going to add theft to your resume now? I'll give you one chance now. You unload all my equipment from that truck and get out of here and I'll forget this because you were once my son. Now get busy."
"This is my equipment and you know it. I'm taking it with me before you sell it or steal it like you did the money Uncle left me."
"That done it boy. Looks like you're going back to jail again. Now you just set down there 'til the law comes."
Jess looked at his father and reached out to begin chaining the larger mower down. He heard another shot and dirt flew up beside his foot. He looked at his father in shock and saw him waggling the pistol ordering him away from the trailer. Angrily Jess moved back and sat on the ground in the shade.
About ten minutes later a sheriff's car pulled into the driveway. Jess felt his stomach lurch when he saw it was Clayton driving the car. Clayton saw Bart standing holding a pistol on Jess and put his hand on his pistol. He said, "Sir put the weapon down."
Bart looked over at the deputy and said, "Not until you restrain this man. I caught him trying to steal my yard equipment. I told him if he unloaded it and left I would forget he was here but he didn't. I need him arrested before I put this weapon down. He's a violent man and I don't trust him at all."
The deputy came closer to Bart and gently took the pistol from his hand. After he had the pistol in his hand he relaxed and looked over at Jess. He turned to Bart and said, "Damn Bart you're holding a pistol on your own son? What's really going on here?"
"I told you. I caught him stealing my yard tools and I want him arrested."
Jess looked over at Clayton and got slowly to his feet. He said, "Clayton this isn't what it looks like. This isn't his equipment. It's mine. I bought it and I can prove it if you let me get some paperwork from my truck."
"OK but don't do anything foolish now Jess or I'll have to take you in." Clayton followed Jess to the cab and watched while he sorted through the papers still in the seat and floor boards. Finally Jess turned from the cab and handed the papers to Clayton. The papers were receipts with serial numbers for the ZTR, push mower, weed eater and chain saw. Also included on the receipts were some other hand tools that Jess had not yet loaded into the truck.
Clayton walked back and checked all the serial numbers against the paperwork he was holding. Finally he stood and turned to Bart. He said, "Mr. Simpson Jess's name is on the invoices when these items were purchased. All the serial numbers match those on the invoices. It looks to me as if these items do belong to Jess sir."
"No sir they do not. Those items were purchased when he was still a minor. He was too young to own property like that so they are rightfully mine no matter what is on those pieces of paper."
"I'm sorry sir but that is incorrect. Now I suggest you just relax and I'll supervise Jess while he finishes gathering his belongings then I'll follow him off your place."
"You'll not! Them's my tools and he'll not take them." Bart turned and stomped back into the house.
About twenty minutes later a car turned into the driveway and the county Sheriff himself got out. He walked up to Clayton and asked, "What's going on here Clayton? I got an emergency call from Mr. Simpson alleging you were derelict in your duty and letting young Jess here take machinery that didn't belong to him."
Clayton glared at a smiling Bart then explained what was going on to the Sheriff. The Sheriff took the paperwork and once again checked serial numbers then he looked at the hand tools that were in the truck. He handed the paperwork to Jess and turned to Bart. He said, "Mr. Simpson my Deputy was absolutely correct in what he was doing. Those items in the truck belong to Jess Simpson and he is legally allowed to take them unless you can prove otherwise."
"No Sir they don't. I done explained to you why they don't and I demand you make him unload them and get off my property."
"Well sir if you come up with proof they do not belong to Jess you can get a court order for him to turn them back over to you. Right now however I am authorizing him to remove them from this property if he so desires."
A spluttering Bart turned and stormed back into the house. The Sheriff looked at Jess and said, "Son I really don't want to see you again. Now I suggest you get into your truck and get out of here before your Daddy tries something else."
The Sheriff turned to Clayton and said, "You follow him and keep your eye on things until he gets away from here."
Clayton followed Jess the nearly seven miles from his parent's home to his little acreage. While Jess was unlocking the lock he put on the gate into the property Clayton got out of the car and walked up to him. He looked down the brush covered lane then turned to Jess and said, "Aint this your Uncle's old place?" After Jess nodded his head yes Clayton continued, "We aren't going to have more trouble with your father over you being here are we?"
Jess stood for a moment and sighed. He looked at Clayton and said, "Yeah when he finds out I'm here and what I've done you might."
"Crap. Why don't you explain that to me now Jess." Jess explained what he had discovered and done that day.
"Shit. Wait here. I need to call in."
Clayton moved to his cruiser and called on the radio. He was back beside Jess soon. He said, "Jess I got the Sheriff before he got back to town. He's coming down to talk to you about this."
When the Sheriff arrived Jess once again told the story of his discovery that day. He delved into his paperwork in the truck once again and showed the Sheriff the copy of the will, the deed and proof of filing.
"Damn. Things just keep getting worse here. OK Jess I can't see where any of this is your fault. You need to keep your head down and stay away from your Dad. You're pretty far out in the sticks here but I'll try to have someone check around here off and on until we see what happens. You didn't say anything to him about this place did you?"
After assuring the Sheriff that as far as he knew his father knew nothing of the Deed being recorded the two lawmen left and Jess drove back to his trailer after first locking his gate.
Over the course of the next week Jess spent the cooler part of the morning and evening clearing his driveway and the area around his trailer. He also took some of his cash and purchased some plastic tarps to make a tent to park his lawn mowers in and to protect his tools. He used saplings and small trees he had cleared to build the frame for his 'plastic garage'. The hottest part of the day he spent looking for work.
After three weeks Jess had his driveway and yard in pretty good shape. He was getting tired of eating cheap food and his bank account was dropping at an alarming rate. He was becoming desperate to find any kind of work. Finally in desperation he began contacting some of his old lawn care customers. Every one of them he contacted had already hired a replacement for him. He left all of them his cell number and asked them to call him or give his number to anyone who might need him to do yard work or odd jobs.
Ten days later Jess got his first phone call. It was an old woman who knew one of his previous customers. Her husband had a heart attack and could no longer do their yard work. She offered him the job on a one time trial. She promised if he did a good job he could care for her yard the remainder of the season. That was Jess's start. He did a good enough job she kept him on. She had a large yard and he charged her $100 to mow and weed eat. Unfortunately for him it was late in the season so he there were not more than three or four mowings left. She did give his name to some of her friends and he picked up some odd jobs along. That provided a small income stream. Jess managed to replace the money he spent before and still have funds to live on.
When he was not working on yards and after the weather turned cooler Jess began cutting firewood for sale in town. He was pleased that he began selling wood almost immediately. He was cutting up dead trees and windfalls so the wood was fairly dry. Jess tried not to cut large trees and limbs that required splitting. All he had to split them was a splitting mall and wedges. That was hard work for little gain. He hoped to purchase a hydraulic wood splitter in the near future. That purchase depended on how much wood he could sell however.
In early December Bart was in the local café when one of the local men slapped him on the back and said, "Well Bart I bet you're happy with that boy of yours now. Looks like he's finally back on the straight and narrow."
"What do you mean George? I haven't seen him since he got out of prison and I don't care to."
"I've been buying firewood from him and so have a lot of other folks around. He gives fair measure and delivers quick. He even stacks it for you and most wood cutters just throw it off the truck and take off."
"I hadn't heard. He say were he's getting the wood?"
"I thought you knew. He said he was getting it off his Uncle's old place down by the lake. I think he said he lived there too."
"Oh. Well thanks. I need to be getting back home now."
Instead of driving home after talking to George Bart drove straight to the lake property. When he got there he stopped at the gate in anger. There was a new lock and chain on the gate. The driveway back to the clearing was clear of brush and well travelled. He could hear a chain saw close by and saw several cords of wood stacked alongside the drive or within sight of the gate.
Bart climbed over the gate and moved through the woods toward the sound of the saw. When he was about thirty feet away from him Jess saw his father. He put the saw down and stood facing his father. Bart began yelling as soon as Jess saw him. He said, "Get your thieving ass off this property right now. I told you to keep off my land and that I never wanted to see you again. Now git afore I call the law."
"No. You git. You know as well as I do this isn't your property."
Bart bent, picked up a club shaped stick and advanced toward Jess. Jess moved back and reached into his pocket for his phone. He dialed a number and talked as he moved through the woods. He headed toward the gate into the property with his father following carrying the stick. For the next several minutes they circled his father's car and traded comments.
After about fifteen minutes a sheriff's car came flying down the road ahead of a trail of dust with its lights flashing. The Deputy quickly got out of the car and stepped between the two men. Before he reached them they were all three enveloped in the swirling dust. He asked what was going on and Bart immediately said, "I came out here to check on my property and found this man trespassing and cutting my wood. I ordered him off and he refused to go. Thank the Lord you showed up to help me get rid of him. I want him arrested for theft of wood and trespassing."
Jess looked at his father in contempt and then turned to the Deputy. He said, "I just want him off my land. This is my land, not his and if anyone is trespassing it is him. The Sheriff knows all about this. If you will call in he can clear it up quickly."
The Deputy looked at the two men and moved back to his cruiser. After a short radio call he returned to the gate and addressed Bart. He said, "Reverend I'm going to have to request you leave immediately. Mr. Simpson is correct. This is his land and he is within his rights to be on it and to cut and sell the wood."
Bart spluttered then yelled, "No Sir. This is not his land. It was his Momma's Brother's land and when he died it was hers because she was his nearest relative so she should inherit. We been paying taxes on it proper like and it's her land."
"No Sir. The Sheriff has seen the will and the deed recorded that shows this land belongs to Jess Simpson. He has asked you to leave sir and I am afraid I will have to do the same."
Bart' face got deep red and he picked up the stick he had been carrying before. He jumped at Jess as he yelled, "You ungrateful whelp. How DARE you steal your Mother's inheritance? I'm going to beat you within an inch of your life then you can transfer this here land to your Mother and get out of here. I can see now we were too easy on you growing up. Spare the rod and spoil the child. I guess you done been spoilt and are working with the devil now for sure."
Jess ducked and the first swing slammed into Bart' car denting the sheet metal. That, of course, made him angrier and he redoubled his attack on Jess. The Deputy quickly moved and subdued Bart. He cuffed him and placed him in the back of his cruiser. He moved back to Jess and asked what he wanted to do.
Jess stood and looked at the bitter old man in the back. He looked at the dent in his parent's car then turned to the Deputy. He said, "Take him in. I'll file charges against him. Could you get his car keys first though and move his car so I can get out of my driveway? If you can't do that can you have it towed at his expense?"
The Deputy smiled and agreed. When he opened the car door Jess could hear his father ranting and raving in the back. The deputy had to force Bart to give up his keys so he could move the car. Jess just stood and watched.
The next morning Jess went into town and visited with Mr. Harris about his father. They discussed the situation and Jess agreed to drop the charges if his father agreed to stay away from his property and his person. They obtained a restraining order from the court as well. Jess did request Mr. Harris not to discuss dropping the charges until after his father was bailed out from the jail. He waited two weeks to see if his father would cause further disturbance before they officially dropped the charges.
By now the family drama was causing quite a stir in the little town. Shortly after the first of the year Jess heard that his father had been asked to leave his church. Of course that meant they could no longer live in the parsonage. When they were asked to move Mr. Simpson packed his family up and left the town, destination unknown. There was already a new Parson and his family living in the parsonage before Jess heard the news.
Jess was not getting rich from his small business selling fire wood but he was paying his living expenses. Jess's expenses were few. He purchased propane for his heat and cooking stove in his small trailer as well as fuel for his truck and saws. He owned a 22 rifle so hunted small game for meat. He also fished even if it was out of season. He purchased most of his food but still managed to save a few dollars every week. Most months he grossed $750 to $1,000. His operating expenses and living expenses usually only left $100-$200 to save but he did save that religiously. He finally saved enough money to purchase a hydraulic wood splitter to make his business easier. He had several tree trunks cut to length waiting on the splitter purchase.
The last week of January Jess got a large order for wood. He sold three cords to the same man for use in his small shop and home. The first two trips into town he noticed a young scruffy looking woman huddled on the sunny side of a building near where he delivered the wood. On his third trip to the same place she diffidently approached him while he was unloading his truck. When Jess looked at her standing beside where he was working she licked her lips. She looked as if she was about to run away. She was so skinny he thought a stiff wind would blow her away.
The woman licked her lips once again and said, "Please Sir. I need work bad. I been watching you haul this wood back here and heard you talking about needing to make six trips to get it all delivered. Do you need help with it? I can't find work anywhere and I need work bad."