Gary Cooper

by MysteryWriter

Copyright© 2016 by MysteryWriter

Action/Adventure Story: A big city police sergeant retires and starts a new life on the mountain. A life he had no idea would happen to him.

Tags: Ma/Fa  

I really do not like parties, especially ones given for me. The one I was forced to attend on that late May afternoon was the worst one of my life. I have to admit it was just plain embarrassing.

For one thing I was the oldest person in the room. I was the last of the old bull cops, as we were known at some point in my career. Almost all the cops today are gym rats or nerds. Cops with real street instincts were not in demand by the H. R. people. So we had a room filled with women, gym rats, and computer nerds wishing me farewell.

My last day as a cop in the large northern city had actually been on a Friday. I thought I had managed to keep it a secret, but when I came in to sign the papers in the H. R. office. The woman led me into a conference room where I saw them all assembled.

I suffered through the toasts, then through the hand shakes from people who were for all intents and purposes strangers. The air in that room was filled with cliches and fake interest in my future plans.

The cake was decorated with a replica of my badge. It tasted a hell of a lot better than all the crap I had to eaten during my years as a cop. I ended my career as a detective sergeant with Lieutenant’s bars awarded during my final months. They were purely to make my pension a livable amount. My attitude for the last ten years had been, if you want to get rid of me, make me a lieutenant. That’s exactly what happened. The Commissioner couldn’t fire me for cause, since there would surely be a scandal. Best he could do was force me to retire.

The truth was I had been looking for a way out for at least a year. I used the time to prepare my landing site. A little more time would have been nice, but not essential.

I planned to move into a hunting cabin. One which I had bought almost ten years earlier. To prepare I watched all the survival shows on TV. I felt confident that I could learn what more I needed to know quickly.

What no one at the party knew was that I was having an estate sale at my condo. It started on Saturday and would run through the next week end. On that next Monday there would be a give away of anything left over. On Tuesday a truck and two men would be at the door to collect anything left from the give away. I had a feeling there wouldn’t be anything other than garbage.

Since I was still in good health, I lived in a downtown condo. I had sold my car on my forty-fifth birthday to purchase a bicycle. When he noted I had gained ten pounds. the police doctor had suggested it. Actually he suggested regular exercise, but since I would have had to hire someone to chase me, in order to make me run everyday, the bike seemed a better alternative.

I did plan to buy a truck or something like one as soon as I had a chance. Probably after the party and during the estate sale. The party only lasted an hour and the paper signing was over in less than twenty minutes. I was back home in time for lunch.

I knew that I should start making plans for retirement, but I really had no desire to plan past one day at a time. Tuesday would be buy a motor vehicle day. I began researching cars with off road capabilities.

It took all Monday afternoon, but I narrowed it down to an older American vehicle. I decided I wanted a Dodge rear wheel drive ram truck. I spent the last of the afternoon and the evening calling around to the ‘for sale by owner’ listings on Craig’s list. I made appointments for the next day to look at three different trucks.

I rode my bike to a Uhaul rental store near my house. I got a van with Uhaul plastered all over it. I drove to the three houses of the three truck owners. Only one of them impressed me. His was a five year old truck purchased new for his retirement.

“I bought it a pick up to haul a boat out to the lake,” he informed me. “It proved to be a hell of a lot less fun than I thought it would be. The boat was an easy sell. The truck has proved more difficult. It has been used very little and has been scrupulously maintained. I think it is worth the asking price, but most guys don’t feel that way.”

“I can see both sides,” I replied. “Do you have the original paperwork from your purchase?”

“I bought it stripped down but it still cost me almost 30K,” he said. “I have been offered 15K and turned it down.”

What will you take,” I asked.

“The Kelly blue book is18k and change. I want20K,” he stated firmly.

“Just so we don’t waste too much time. I can go on line and have my bank transfer the funds to your account right away. But it won’t be for twenty thousand. I will transfer the blue book value plus five hundred dollars because the body is so straight on the truck.” It didn’t look as though anything had ever been inside the bed of it. The red paint didn’t even look faded.

The older man stared off into space for a second then said, “Let’s do it, but I want a bank check to hold in my hands. No offense I don’t trust computers all that much.”

“If you have the title and we can do it right now,” I replied. When he returned, I checked the title against the vehicle’s serial number then we went to the bank. I arrange for the bank manager to remove the money from my regular savings account and write the check only after he notarized the title.

Since I had my bike in the rear of the van, I convinced the previous owner of my new truck to meet me at the van’s rental office to turn it in. It was after 8PM when I returned from driving him home. I did stop for dinner before pulling into the parking space near my house and taking the previous owner’s plate off the truck. I agreed to deliver it to the dept of motor vehicles office the next day when I did the paperwork to register it.

By noon on Wednesday it was all done. I was officially the owner of a five year old Dodge D100 four wheel drive pickup truck. I parked it near the house, then rode my bicycle out to an early dinner.

Once home I tried to remember the furniture inside the cabin. I knew the layout well enough. I had bought it from the estate of a factory worker who had died a few years earlier. The estate was handled by his forty something son.

I went to his estate sale to check for antiques. I went for two reasons, one I traded in antiques as a hobby business, and the sale was in a neighborhood, I could reach easily driving a small Geo Metro which I owned at the time.

I saw the advertisement for the cabin on an easel by the entrance of the condo. The cabin was three hundred miles south of DC. It was also in the Blue Ridge mountains near the Pisgah National Forest.

It was appealing because of it’s location, and price. The three acres were described as fit only as a patch to hold the earth together. It was also accessible and cheap. The last one was the real deal maker for me.

For the first six years I had spent at least one week and several weekends a year at the cabin. The under powered metro managed the county road fine. That county road was used to connect several fire access roads. The cabin’s drive connected to the fire road. Every year I was forced to clear brush from the driveway just to keep it functional.

When I switch to the bike for medical reasons, I gave the metro to my grand daughter. For the last two years I hadn’t visited the cabin at all. There was no telling what I would find when I moved in during the coming week. First of all let me say the cabin was not a cool log cabin in the woods. It was more a shack on a seldom traveled road.

“Dad bought it to get away from the family,” his son informed me.

The truth is I had done almost zero work on the place. The roof was a layer of very old barn tin roofing material. When it began to leak, the previous owner covered it with a lightweight plastic tarp. He did glue it to the metal roof. When it leaked a second time, I added a second plastic tarp and glued it down as well. Fortunately the bones of the shack were strong, so it stayed together. I had a feeling that I would be buying a trailer for the spot someday. At least if I did that, I would fit in with the very few others residents in the area.

I expected it to have been broken into every time I went there. I was seldom disappointed. I began questioning my sanity in moving there even before I started my packing to make the move.

Even with the new pickup truck, my cargo space would be limited. I had to have everything gone from the condo before the next weekend. The potential buyers were ready to start touring it, according to my Realtor.

The Realtor also planned to have an industrial cleaning crew put the place right before showing it. I planned to have everything I owned moved out by Wednesday and turn the keys over that evening.

According to the Realtor my timing couldn’t be better. It was the first week in June, the weather was going to be mild for a while, and the real estate market was again strong. I could take comfort in the fact that the place would be on the market quickly. My instruction to the Realtor was to accept the first reasonable offer. I needed the money to repair the damage to my savings account. It was still a viable account even though wounded. All the years of automatic deductions from my check had finally paid off.

The bank assessment was after the estate sale and after I bought the truck. A local second hand store appraiser had placed tags on everything. When the antique dealers finished picking over my stuff, I sold what I could to the public. It was down to thrift store trash on Sunday afternoon. I called the second hand dealer and appraiser for a lump some price on the left overs.

He sent over a truck to pick up my unsold items. The sob tried to avoid honoring our deal. He was supposed to haul it all off free. He tried to add a pickup fee. He agreed to the take it all away, but only after I told him to forget it. That last transaction left a poor taste in my mouth.

At the end of Wednesday I had one large backpack filled with work and casual clothing. I also had one fancy suitcase with a blazer and an assortment of slacks in the truck bed. I had a folding camp bed, two one inch yoga mats and a lightweight sleeping bag back there as well. I loaded some sheets and blankets in a plastic laundry basket into the passenger side of the truck cab.

I had slept on the camp bed until Wednesday morning. When I left the condo, it was for the last time. Everything I wanted to carry was loaded into the Ram. It was actually a small load secured with a tarp and bungee cords.

After a hardy Waffle House breakfast I headed southwest. The closest town to my cabin was West Jefferson North Carolina. I drove through West Jefferson and was reminded that it was a typical southern mountain town. It was trapped in the1930s. I had found that appealing on my first visit after buying the cabin. Of course by then I was already committed, so that might have colored my opinion.

I had planned to inspect the cabin and spend the night there if it was possible. That being the plan I drove directly to the cabin. I found the door open and hanging off the hinges. Sometime during the last two years the wind had done a number on the structure. The metal roof had been blown off more than half the cabin taking the plastic tarps with it. One corner of the building was flat on the ground. The Cabin was completely junk. I had expected the worst, but the sight was even more devastation than I had expected.

I took cell phone pictures, then went back to West Jefferson twenty miles away to make a plan B. One thing I had going for me was the season, I thought. I had time to do something. After more though I decided a quick and dirty build was in order.

I found a local building supply store just outside West Jefferson. I slept fitfully that night in a cheap motel whose lobby smelled of curry. On the way to the building supply I stopped for breakfast at the Downtown Diner. I was too antsy to pay any attention to the other diners. I just wanted to get on with it.

I drove straight from the diner to the builder’s supply. I noticed that inside of his gravel parking lot there were six storage sheds. They ranged from 4x6 feet to 14x24 feet.

The 8x12 was about ¾of the old cabin’s size. The quality of the build was questionable, but I needed fast not long lasting.

“What can I do for you?” a fat man asked. “You interested in one of these?”

“Does the price include delivery and set up?”I asked.

“Sorry no it’s a cash and carry price. We do know a man who can make a delivery,” the older man suggested.”

“I’m afraid I will have to clear a way in for him. Also clear some trees to get it into the place I want to put it. I might just need to pitch a tent for a few days. I am going to need a chain saw though.”

“We are having a sale this week on those,” he explained.

It looked at a saw, which at his sale price was only 20% more expensive than the same saw at Home Depot. I brought if from him. Since he took my debit card, I bought two ten by ten tarps as well. I also bought enough hand tools to demo the cabin. It was11AM when I arrived back at the cabin site. It actually looked worse in the bright sunlight.

I went right to work. I pulled the collapsed pieces of the cabin into a gully near the edge of my property line. The edges of the property were marked by an old, almost black, treated post. It and two others had been there when I bought the place. I wasn’t concerned with the property lines at the moment. I needed to build a temporary shelter first thing.

The light weight chainsaw made quick work of converting a piece of the tumbled down cabin into two A frame supports and a ridgepole for the tarps. The blue plastic tarps made a strange looking structure. Especially since it was surrounded by spruce trees. It was a quick and dirty build, but it would keep me dry and warm enough during the mild weather. I decided to use the wood stove from the cabin with one length of salvaged stove pipe for cooking and some heat. I placed it outside the tarps for safety reasons.

I was surprised but I actually slept through the night quite well. I decided I needed to find some way to make coffee first thing. I also decided that if I planned to stay at the cabin site, I needed to get some food. I didn’t want to invest any money at that moment into anything. Especially anything I couldn’t reuse later when I moved into my cabin’s replacement structure.

What I needed first was a reliable water source. I hoped by following the small creek on the edge or my property until I found it’s source I would find one. The hike was harder and longer than I wished, but there was an underground spring flowing from the rocks. I had brought along an empty coke bottle. When I looked at the water, it looked okay, but I recapped the bottle to carry it back to the cabin site. I wanted to be near my truck, if the water was contaminated. The hike back wasn’t as long, or as hard, but it was bad enough. I couldn’t imagine doing it every day just to make coffee.

Back at the camp I drank the water from the16oz coke bottle. It tasted fine so I hoped it wouldn’t kill me. I began my first shopping list. It began with a five gallon bottle of water and several assorted sized sealed plastic containers for storage.

I was hungry but decided to let my body suffer while went back to work on demolishing the cabin. Since it was on the edge of falling from it’s own weight, I had it on the ground in no time. By late afternoon I realized that taking it apart further and preparing it to burn in the wood stove would take much longer.

I noticed Rabbits and Squirrels running around all morning as I worked. I hadn’t sold the old .22 magnum rifle, I had owned it since childhood. I also had a .357 magnum revolver, which I had appropriated from a man while on parole. He swore the pistol wasn’t his, so I took it. I made sure it wasn’t in the national crime data base, before I removed it from my desk. I considered it found property.

Those two were the only weapons I owned, or had needed while living in the city. I kept them locked in the truck, even though I never saw another human while working on the homestead. Far as I could tell I was absolutely alone in the area.

During the late afternoon of my first full day at the cabin site, I drove back to West Jefferson. I went directly to what I thought might be the closest grocery store. I found the large five gallon jugs of water, then put one in my buggy. I also filled the buggy with canned food and basic cooking utensils. I found a 24 pack of twelve ounce bottles of water. I planned to reuse the bottles so I tossed it in as well. The gourmet coffee making device was located close by. The coffee maker featured a funnel to hold the ground coffee. The directions insisted that I pour boiling water through the funnel.

Before I left I had two buggies at the checkout. I filled the bed of the truck with food and water. I knew there were still food questions I had to figure out, but I did have a start on it. When I returned home the sun still hadn’t gone completely down, so I continued to remove nails from my wood pile. Most of the wood pile would burn quickly since it was very dry.

It was almost dark when I went to sleep. I slept like a man who had done physical labor all day, because I had. Because I had muscle pain too severe to ignore completely, I took two Aleve tablets the next morning.

I began to rethink my cabin plan while I waited to feel better. I thought that I could build a small tent frame building with mostly salvaged wood. If I cover the frame with plywood and tarps, it would be the ultimate quick and dirty build. It would for sure be a cheap, and very much a survivalist type dwelling. My projects had all worked out pretty well so far so that became the build plan.

I had demolished the cabin completely in less than a week, so I felt as though I was doing well. At least as well for a city boy with almost not building skills could. I planned to spend most of the next day in West Jefferson, but hoped to wrap up the demolition in the morning before I left for town.

First I stopped at the post office to rent a post office box. I didn’t plan on needing anything larger than the letter size box. I also added a change of address form for my old condo to the new box.

“It can take up to a week for the mail to be forwarded,” the older lady informed me. I nodded.

My next stop was a cafe for a very late breakfast. I was told that not only did they not have an internet connections, but the only one the waitress knew of was the county library. I digested that with my eggs.

At the public library I sent a change of address form to the city of DC, and also one to my bank. When I looked up, I realized the I was in the designated reading room. The only difference was the staff had added a WIFI hot spot. I went online to check my email after taking care of the future snail mail. I found some information from the realtor and my bank. There were reports in my email from the retirement and police union boards. I had very little interests in them. I was counting on the sale of my condo to, in part, to finance my retirement. The email from my Realtor I was very interested in seeing. I got no good news from it, so I deleted it immediately.

My first week’s work plan was complete and I still had a day left. The building lot was organized chaos, but the old cabin structure was down. It was at the point I had to decide where to build my fast as dirty tent cabin.

I had a choice to make. I could rebuild on the same spot, since I had moved the remains of the cabin to clear it. The second option was to clear a space for the new tent house I had planned to build. I chose to take the path more traveled. The faster and easier option was to reuse the original site. It was already fairly level, I decided.

I used the city’s WIFI connection at the public library to research tent frame builds. I knew that I needed all the help I could get. I found a method of construction which I felt comfortable undertaking before leaving the library.

With all the information in the memory of my tiny laptop, I was a confident shopper when I got to the home improvement warehouse store. I did that shopping at a Home Depot located in the regional shopping area of Statesville NC.

On the way back to my homestead, I stopped for gas and to fill up the ice chest. The ice was a total waste of money, but a cold soda would be a treat. I also felt like I had earned a treat. I noted that I had come to appreciate some pretty small things after only a week of roughing it.

I returned to the homestead with a truck filled with tools, a chest filled with ice, and a bag-o-burgers sack. After dinner I used my new roll of mason’s cord and the new level to meticulously lay out the tent house area. I also made sure it was square by using my new fifty foot measuring tape.

After I got the space for the tent house laid out, I was able to see just how small it was. The plans called for a space two feet narrower and ten feet shorter than the cabin had been. Since it was just a temporary shelter, I convinced myself it wouldn’t matter. I probably could have hired someone to help me and been finished with the tent frame in a day, but I chose to go it alone. I had no good reason to do that. I guess I was getting into the self reliance thing. I needed to do some things for myself while I still could.

On the first day of the build, I installed the flood of the tent. It was made from beams and joists reclaimed from the cabin. The sub floor was made from boards also reclaimed from the half rotted cabin. It hadn’t take nearly as long as I expected.

The sun stayed up until 8pm during the week of my tent frame build. Since there was nothing to do other than work, the building should move quickly I decided. It had quickly reached the point where I needed a long step ladder. I had no choice but to stop work, until I bought the ladder. I had the choice of buying from the more expensive local building supply store, or driving farther to the Home Depot again. I chose to drive straight to the Home Depot fifty miles farther away than West Jefferson. I left immediately.

There I bought a twelve foot aluminum step ladder and ten sheets of 3/8”exterior grade plywood. Before leaving town I checked my email at the Statesville Public Library. I used my laptop to check the email rather than their computer. I had nothing to hide, but still didn’t want to leave a trail.

I had an email from the realtor. She had received a low ball offer for the condo. The offer was laughable. I told the realtor exactly what I thought of it. I advise her to give me a reasonable estimated value and we would go from there.

I found a steak house then had a big dinner before returning to the homestead. It was after dark when I arrived home. I immediately turned in for the night.

I raised the wall frames I had built from reclaimed cabin wood before dark on the next day. I prayed that no strong winds came though that night to blow the frame down overnight.

First thing the next morning I worked on the walls. I had the frame ready in a short time because it was a simple nail together frame. Once I had the four walls frames up I worked on adjusting them. Working alone, it was a pain in the ass to get them plumb and square. I gave up and just did the best I could.

I spent the rest of the daylight hours nailing the plywood on the corner of the tent frame. It was slow going since I had to keep readjusting the plywood to get a square fit at the corners. I had been assured by my internet instructions, that it was crucial for strength.

I wanted the frame to last five years at least, so I had measured carefully. In the end the corners of the house fit tightly together as they should. I had to make a minor adjustment or two, but everything worked out.

I was thrilled. The sides were only partially covered by the plywood, but the corners were all covered. That was what gave the building some serious structural integrity. Nailing on the remaining sheets of plywood I left till the next day. They went onto the rear side of the house so I didn’t figure it would matter.

After breakfast the next morning I was again on the road. I drove to Statesville again. I stopped again at the home depot. I left their parking lot with the truck bed filled with cans and tubes of chemicals, some eight 8’ lengths of treated 2’x4’s, and a sprinkling of 1’x3’ batten strips.

When I got back to the homestead, I finished closing in the walls, then moved to the next project. I didn’t get the roof raised, but I did get the rear wall extension built, and laying on the floor of the tent frame cabin.

The next morning the really hard job began. I had to figure a way to raise the two 10’ by 4’ roof extensions. Then find some way to hold them in place while I nailed them. It proved to be impossible to do alone. So I scaled them down to four five foot lengths. They were more manageable and much stronger.

I used the fast and dirty building idea of nailing one end, then adjusting the other end of the extension. It made for a long slow process, but it did work. Before the job was completed I had to run one by two batten strips along the rear wall extension to reinforce it. I was also worn out before dark that night. So I fell asleep quickly. I didn’t even once think what the hell am I doing here.

The next day marked the end of my second week of work on the tent frame cabin. I did allow myself to celebrate the end of the tent frame build. It had been a not so quick, but still a very dirty build.

I stood back and evaluated the tent cabin. The frame was eight feet wide and twenty feet long. The roof slanted from twelve feet high in the rear to eight feet in the front. The only thing left to do was cover the frame with a few tarps to waterproof it. I also had to build and hang a door on each end. I was all simple and not very exciting work.

Just as soon as I got the roof cover glued on, I moved into the homestead. The doors and windows came during the third week.

After that it wasn’t important to do anything until I had to winterize the homestead. That could and would have to wait. I bought a piece of that fake grass, made from recycled coke bottles, for the floor. Hey it is a cabin, I thought.

When I put the tarps on the house, I had a choice of blue, yellow, or camouflage. Naturally in keeping with the cabin look, I went with the camouflage.

During my second month I did small but important things like buying a butane lantern. I could cook with wood, but I needed the butane lantern in order to work at night. I didn’t want to work after dark at the moment, but I did want to have the option. Some days I went into the West Jefferson’s public library and downloaded the local newspaper, or a novel to read on the computer at home by lantern light.

Since I hadn’t made any major expenditures by that time, I decided to do the finish work. I didn’t think too much, I just did it. I didn’t feel bad or second guess myself at all about the cost.

First I did a quick and dirty install of two small windows. Then I custom built two doors to replace the tarp covers which I had been using during the last few weeks. I built a barn door style replacement for the tarp. It was a massive and heavy door but it was also secure and it even worked well.

By the end of the second month I had completed the homestead’s required work. There was still plenty to do, but it could happen slowly. Moving my meager belongings into the space had been the turning point. I left the wood stove outside for the summer.

Once I had the camp bed moved into the house, I was reasonably comfortable. On one of my expeditions into town I bought two more yoga mats for the bed. That brought the mats to a total of four atop my camp cot. It was reasonably comfortable for a camp bed.

It was hard to start worrying about winter in the blazing heat of August, but I knew in my heart that it would be on me way too soon. That being the case I started my winter preparations in late August. It began with two layers of insulation. There were rolls of fiberglass between the wall studs and inside the roof rafters. I also hung one inch sheets of Styrofoam on the interior walls. After that was all sealed with a kind of duct tape, I stapled a fire retardant canvas material over the complete interior. I was warned to like the color of the canvas material, since it should not be painted.

Since it was only me, all that work took time, but it wasn’t difficult. Since I figured I could build or buy some furniture during the cooler months, I didn’t waste time on shopping at that point. I needed to spend all my time on readying the homestead for winter.

Also there was no electricity at the homestead, and there would probably never be any house type electric service. That being said, I devised a simple 12volt system, which meant storage batteries were going to be a reality. It also meant I had to have a recharging system for them. The fastest and best way to set up my battery system was with manufactured elements. From those I could create my own integrated network. On one of my trips into town I downloaded several article about batteries.

The first important thing I learned about batteries was not to allow them to freeze or even be cold for long periods of time. So it appeared that inside the house storage was going to be a necessity. That dictated my first inside build. It would have to be a very strong shelf on caster I could roll under my camp bed.

Based on my projected battery usage, I bought two twenty amp hour batteries for the initial battery bank. If I kept the system small, I could use the two 12volt batteries for a while.

I knew how to use that 12volt system to charge my laptop battery. It was just a matter of wiring a car cigarette lighter to a battery and plugging in the laptop’s mobile charger. It was another quick and dirty solution come to the rescue.

I purchased a three hundred dollar solar panel charger on line. When it arrived, I took a day to install the panel, but it was up and running the same day. I had joined the renewable energy movement.

Fortunately the DC condo sold in mid September. Unfortunately I had to drive to DC to complete the paperwork. After a long drive and a night in a cheap motel, it took from 1PM till 3PM on a Thursday before my retirement account was refilled. I could definitely make it for a while longer on the homestead.

I stopped by a branch of the bank during my drive home to verify independently that the half a million dollar check had been deposited into my account. It was the only bank account I used. I moved all my money around through it on line. I had it all in the very secure account which paid almost no interest. It also charged no fees for moving money around. I also had a free one million dollar maximum ID theft coverage there so I was content with my bank.

With the money safely tucked away, I stopped in a rural Virginia town during the drive home. I stopped at a local diner for a greasy hamburger steak with a green salad. The homemade iced tea tasted strange after all the chemical Ice Tea drink mix tea I had consumed over the years. Still the food was good, so the pit stop was a good thing.

If I had gotten to West Jefferson earlier, I might have stop by the local building supply store for supplies. I didn’t want to deal with a loaded truck on the muddy drive in the dark. It wasn’t more than a hundred yards, but in the dark it could be treacherous.

I got home just as the sun set behind the mountain. Dead dark descended on the homestead shortly there after. Once I was parked beside the cabin, I carried the five gallon water bottle into the house. I lit a fire on the cook stove beside the house to boil some of the water for coffee. I did the cooking by the light of my butane lantern. I hadn’t used the new LED lantern yet. I needed to test it thoroughly before I gave up my butane lantern. The homegrown DC power system was just too new to trust. I wasn’t all that far from moving to full dependency on electric services. Since I just couldn’t decide to make the final move, it probably proved that I was not good with commitments.

Since my recycled wood pile was shrinking fast, I needed to find a new energy source to heat and cook which would be dependable. There were still two days left in August, so heat wasn’t a priority yet, but it soon would be.

The most convenient fuel for heating and cooking would be gas. Gas however was not a renewable energy source. For the amount of people on earth only solar seemed viable. That was not practical in my situation. The next best thing, without depleting my standing trees, would be to purchase coal. Coal would be another quick and dirty solution to a problem. Emphasis would be on dirty. I filed that information away for my next trip into town. First I had to locate a close supplier of coal. For that I needed the county library’s internet connection.

In the mean time I drank my coffee sitting outside on a rock. When I went to sleep at barely 8 PM, it was already dark. I had no problem sleeping in the homestead’s reinforced tent, simply because I was tired and it was warm inside. When I cut the window openings, I had been mindful of the prevailing winds. Because of that I could count on good natural ventilation. I just had to open the glass on the interior and the exterior storm windows, the cabin always cooled off just before daylight. Just before daylight I was always glad that I had brought along the small blanket from the condo.

I decided to do an information run, before I settled into the homestead again. With that in mind I drove off early to West Jefferson. Along the way to the grocery store, I stopped for breakfast at the Downtown Diner. It was a good place to await the opening of the county library. The bacon and egg breakfast was just fine even though the biscuits were not crisp enough to be perfect. Even so they were also satisfactory.

Since I was familiar with the diner, and the community library, I had no problems. I walked into the library and signed on to the county’s WIFI. In minutes I was researching the things I felt I needed to know more about. I downloaded all the pertinent information by ten thirty.

On the way out the librarian asked, “Did you know that the Community Center has a new WIFI spot.”

“No I didn’t,” I said.

“They also have a small coffee shop there. You might want to take a look,” she said.

From the library I drove to the only business listed as a coal supplier. I spoke with the owner of the store. He gave me his sales pitch.

“We are close to coal country here. I expect we will be selling coal here for many years to come,” he assured me.

“Tell me the price now, and what it was five years ago,” I demanded. He gave me the figures and it sounded pretty reasonable, when compared to a gallon of heating oil.

“What do I need for storage of my cache?” I asked.

“You can store it almost anywhere. So long as it stays dry,” he explained.

I drove away after promising him that I would return in a couple of days to make a purchase. I explained that I needed to figure out some storage options.

I was in the truck when I thought the modern K1kerosene heater looked better all the time. I could get a 23,000BTU heater for less than two hundred dollars and it would provide heat and light during the long winter nights. Still I hated the idea of using a petroleum based fuel. I felt like the price of oil based products was just going to rise forever.

After all that research I went with a liquid petroleum based wall heater. I could attach it to the wall opening vent. I already had the vent it was just waiting waiting for something to be connected to it. It wasn’t hard, but purchasing the parts and installing it took almost all the next day. I bought two tanks of fuel and arranged to refill them from the dealer. It was cheap enough because the homestead was small and well insulated. With that in mind I hoped it wouldn’t be too costly to heat even when the fuel prices rose.

The homestead was coming together well. The things things I purchased early on needed some care. I had bought a composting toilet on day one. I had it sitting beside a tree several yards from the cabin with a shower curtain handing from a limb. I decided to buy or make an enclosure for it before winter.

The larger town of Statesville had a camping supply outfitter. From them I bought a portable building. It was just a little molded plastic building meant to protect the toilet from the elements. For me the main feature was keeping it out of the house, while still protecting me from the elements. I attached it to the corner of the cabin. Hoping that the placement might supply some heat through the walls. I wasn’t expecting much, but any little bit would help.

Next I built a three sided structure for my wood cook stove. When my recycled wood pile gave out, I could convert it to a cold storage outside building. For the time being the building had a heat resistant material nailed to the inside walls. Even so I had to be careful with fire. The roof was still a tarp attached to the front wall, then folded over the back wall. It was secured with roofing nails, rubber washers, and contact cement.

I heated food on the wood stove, which cost me nothing to operate. It also got all the cooking dangers and smell outside the homestead. Yes it was a bit of a pain, even so I could deal with it until cold weather or until I ran out of fire wood. Dead of winter would be a different story I was sure.

I had one more project. I wanted to end my reliance on store bought water. I wanted to do it before winter began. I had a stream of moving water which I knew originated from a spring. The flow was pretty good during the summer months and the width and depth of the stream led me to believe it might be a reliable source of water. If not the county might have a distribution method for their treated water.

I went into town to do my research. I spoke with a representative of the town of West Jefferson. She advised me that any county resident could pump thirty gallons of potable water for ten dollars from their plant every month.

After that the price was comparable to Walmart. The downside was that I would have to do it all at once. They offered the service one day a week. I just didn’t want to drive in one day every week.

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