Friday, August 15, 2014

Chapter 20

"Teaghan, breathe. It's just the highway. Am I driving too fast?" Sloan asked half-jokingly.

I swallowed the lump in my throat. "No. You drive faster on the farm sometimes."

"Then what?"

"It's ... it's just been a long time. Things look the same yet ... not. I ... I hadn't realized so many places were ... were going to pot like this."

"How long has it been since you've been off the farm?"

"Didn't I say? I thought I had. I can't remember now," I told him looking around at what was once a thriving farm community but now looked more like I don't know what but something closer to what I saw in history books in what they used to call third world countries and what Gram would have called White Trash Ville.


"Huh? Oh ... uh ... before the pandemic. That's how we knew that it had to be the man that delivered the propane that brought the pandemic to our place when my grandparents got sick with it. More than likely it was the guy from the funeral parlor that brought it and gave it to everyone else on the farm during the second wave. He was a bill collector ... only instead of leaving with something he left us something."

"Hell ... has it really been that long?"

"Yeah." Looking around I asked, "How could things be like this and me not know it? How? I knew they were protecting me but what good purpose did it serve to not ... Sloan I'm not a child!! They should have explained things!"

Sloan pulled over and pulled me close. "Easy there. They were only doing what they thought best. And, God help me, you were still a child not that long ago. I may not have done it quite like they did but that doesn't mean I can't see what they were going for and why. Maybe we should go back home and ..."

"No!" I snapped pushing him back. Only I'd shocked myself and quickly apologized. "I ... I'm sorry, I shouldn't have yelled. I just mean ... no ... I need to see. No wonder you're always saying I'm immature."

Sloan pulled me back into his embrace and said, "Whoa now. Don't exaggerate. I'm not always saying it, I said it a couple of times and it's been a while since I said it at all so do me a favor and scratch that off your infernal list. Frankly now that I know more why you are like you are and understand you better I wish I hadn't said it in the first place. It sure as hell didn't help matters then and it didn't really apply, and it doesn't now either. You're ... just a little different in how you see things, and with reason. C'mon Sweetheart, don't hold it against me forever."

I looked at him in surprise. "I've never held it against you. It's what you think and you should be allowed to think things without me always telling you what those thoughts should be ... even if they are about me."

He kissed my forehead and put the truck back in gear and pulled back onto the highway. "Well I'm glad to hear it. But I still want you to forget I ever said it. And I want you to do it so we can go back to having a good time. C'mon," he cajoled.

I tried to smile like he wanted me to but I was still too busy looking around and seeing things that no longer existed imposed over the top of things that did. "This is just ... it is so hard to ... I keep expecting to see things that used to be there and now aren't and seeing things I don't remember being where they are."

I saw Sloan nod out of the corner of my eye. "Happens to the best of us. I'll go someplace on business, leave, and then come back at some point down the line and things'll be so different I'll have to pull out a map to make sure I'm in the right place. Reclamation has done some of it, so has population centers being moved around. Alot of municipalities are simply bulldozing down areas of town to push people into places that are easier to get services hooked up to."

Curious I asked, "What do they do with all the empty ground they leave behind?"

"Usually nothing ... it gets turned into 'green space' or empty buildings are simply left to rot. But sometimes they'll allow neighborhoods and communities to take the spaces over and turn it into a park, playground, community center, or garden. Sometimes that works and sometimes it just creates more headaches."

"They don't build anything to replace what's gone bad?"

"Nope. There's a moratorium on new construction in most places. You can build things for your personal use, assuming you can get a permit, but big construction projects are a thing of the past ... at least for now. There's too many empty buildings, not enough people willing or able to do the job of reclamation."

"That means you'll have your business still for a long time."

"Not necessarily. Heard just the other day that they are thinking of taking all the young men that would have been absorbed by the military and creating some kind of civilian workforce, similar to what they did during the First Depression. The problem is that it would have to be publicly funded until it could pay for itself and given how easily the government tends to screw things up I don't see that happening as quickly or as easily as the people proposing it see it. Not to mention the government tends to generate too much waste and doesn't stick with the principles of a market driven economy."

I could understand it when Sloan explained it but I've yet to be able to anticipate things the way he could. Then he caught me by surprise which he did pretty regularly with his latest idea. "What would you think if I told you I put a contract on the property that runs parallel to the road into the farm?"

"The ... the old Turner place?"

"Yeah. For no experience your brothers did a good job of reclaiming the house sight ... cleaned it up pretty damn good in fact which is something I don't see as often as I wished ... but it isn't the house site I want, it's the land."

"What do you want the land for? You keep saying you aren't sure how you are going to manage what you already have?"

"I have to set up a separate company."



I gave it some thought. "My brothers wanted to do the same thing right after they removed the prohibition on growing the stuff but the BOCC blocked their permits. Do you think you can get around Mr. Burdock?"

"Got their permits blocked did they? Well that explains why they didn't claim the land rights." He grinned and I noticed a twinkle.

"That look on your face is saying something ... I'm just not sure what."

Sloan chuckled. "I think Burdock and his crowd are running into some problems they didn't foresee." I just let him decide when he was going to explain because traffic had picked up. Out of the corner of my eye I kept seeing people glancing at me and then doing a double take. It was distracting. "One, I think they overestimated the appeal of the way of life they are trying to set up. Pretty much why the worst of it has been confined to Brooker. Two, that state law on imminent domain is now working against them. That land, what you call the Turner place, was sold to a contracting company I know of. I also happen to know that company is in a serious cash crunch. I also happened to find out that they already got industrial hemp permits from the state. Met with the owner of the company when I was out surveying the next site and he'll sell me the land AND the permits if I'll pay cash within 30 days."

"That's ... that's got to be a lot of money," I whispered.

"Not as much as it could be and yeah, it'll stretch me but I've got five back to back sites lined up that are already paid for and contracted out."

It sounded like a done deal to me and he wasn't really asking my opinion so much as he was wanting to be told how good of a deal it was. When I told him that he looked like I'd surprised him but still asked, "You don't think it is a good deal?"

"If the numbers run anything like what Jeremiah, Jason, and Dad had me work out it is a real good deal even if you have to pay current prices on the land. The make or break will be how much it will cost to put it in the ground and how much it will bring at market."

"Not worried about labor?"

"No ... hemp can be combined so long as you set the blade at the right height. I know the older of the two combines will work so long as you use a shorter, early ripening variety. If you plant a dual purpose short variety then you can harvest for both seeds and fiber."


"What?!" I asked suddenly nervous that I'd said something wrong.

"Nothing Sweetheart, not really."

"Then ... then why are you upset with me?"

Sloan snorted. "Not with you. Dan and I keep ... aw hell ... the truth of it is I just ... you don't strike a person as ..."

Puzzling out what he was trying not to say all I could say was, "Oh."

"I didn't say anything, why the long face?"

"You didn't have to say anything. I figured it out. Sloan I can't help if ... if ... Look, I am what I am and who I am. I can't be the sophisticated kind of woman you are used to ... or at least I'm not yet ... but ... why can't what I am be good enough? I know farming. I know I'm not a man and you'd probably rather talk about stuff like that with a man but ... I do know things that could be useful to you. Didn't you agree to marry a farm girl for that reason instead of asking for a town girl that would know about ... sophisticated things?"

"Honey, the truth is I wasn't thinking with the head above my shoulders at the time. I was simply tired of being lonely at night and I thought that it couldn't be a bad thing to have a farm girl as a wife if a farm was what I was buying."

When his words registered all I could say was, "Oh. Ok." I can't say that I hadn't thought of that being the truth but at the same time in all the weeks that we had been together it had never been spoken of that way. But thinking about something and having it admitted out loud was different.

To distract myself I started looking at the scenery again. It was as depressing as my thoughts had suddenly gotten.



"That might not have come out ... well ..."

I shook my head. "No. It's ok. You know I'm practical. Besides, I know ... I've always known. What other reason could there be?" I gave a bright smile and I think it surprised him. "At least the 'pig in a poke' you bought has turned out to be useful. Right? I am that?"

He muttered, "Two steps forward and three steps back."

I was going to ask him what he meant but two cars started trying to run us off the road.


I'd like to be able to describe what happened over the next few minutes but it all happened in a blur. But the bottom line was Sloan was good. He'd had to drive through some rough areas - urban to rural - and knew all the tricks. He also knew where the county line was and where the Highway Patrol liked to hide.

We were all pulled over to the side of the road; us, the two cars full of young men, and what felt like eleventy dozen cop cars.

I was wiping blood off of Sloan's face when another of the State Patrolmen came over. "Sir, here's your license. Do you need medical assistance?"


"You're very calm."

Sloan pushed my hand away and then told me to stay in the cab of the truck. He shut the door so I couldn't hear what they were saying clearly but even with him turned away from me I could tell by the set of his shoulders that Sloan was really angry. And when I saw his face reflected in the windshield of one of the Highway Patrol cars my estimation of his feelings went from anger to fury. The look on the Patrolman's face didn't change exactly but it did become very set and his lips thinned out.

Then they both turned in a hurry when one of the young men took a swipe at one of the other Patrolmen ... who turned out to be a Patrolwoman. To say she put him in his place the hard way pretty much sums it up. A couple of the other young men tried to take off into the field and they were brought down and banged on too. I tried to fade into the upholstery. I remember thinking that I was a fool for ever having left the farm.



  1. Very good chapter, yeah being at home looks real good.

  2. What a hard time for her. On the one hand, I'm sure she wants to know, but on the see how bad things are is hard.