8. Uncle Bob's Place

 

Uncle Bob's house was of stone and mortar, surrounded on all sides by a mote. From an ascetic point of view might be compared to a Scottish castle. There was something about the sheer mass that brought the words "bastion of protection." to mind.  Uncle Bob was a jovial middle aged balding man pleasantly rounded with a few more chins than he needed. His wife had died in a head on, two years prior, and Uncle Bob had been filling the gap in his life with rich pastries and a plentiful supply of wine.

          Nancy stepped onto the entry platform and spoke into this small hole by the door.
         
"Uncle Bob, we're here." she said.

          The door swung open and this automated voice invited us inside. The entry hall floor was finished in polished alabaster, and the walls were lined in mirrors. Uncle Bob was not in sight, but Nancy explained he was probably in the middle of negotiating a land contract, and would be with us shortly. Nancy led us into a raised living room surrounded with south facing windows. Two semicircular couches surrounded a large glass table in the rooms center.

          "Make yourself at home folks," said Uncle Bob. " Nancy 's been telling me about you revolutionaries. At last we meet. The wine is for everyone.”
         
Nancy passed around some shapely goblets and Uncle Bob filled them with a dry burgundy. --- very nice after all that rain.  Uncle Bob plopped himself down on a gray velvet arm chair and addressed us.
         
"So tell me, how do you like
Moose Mountain , folks?"
         
"Beautiful," I said ", simply beautiful.
         
"Ah go on, ya really like the old rock pile?"
         
"Sure do, Mr. Greenfield.
         
"I am glad.
Nancy said you probably would. Don't rightly understand why. The only reason I've held onto it so long is because of Nancy .  Sometimes I think she loves Moose Mountain more than her Uncle Bob."
         
"Oh Uncle Bob! How could you say such a thing?"

          Nancy then sat on her Uncle's lap, and we all had a slug of dry burgundy.

          "So what you folks gona do with all them rocks."
         
"Well it's not all rocks. From what I can see there's still plenty of good bottomland."
         
"You mean swampland."
         
"We should be able to drain most of it."
         
"Can't touch it my boy. That's wetland. The Feds would swoop down on you like pack of wild mountain lions if you try.  Backhoe contractors  who wish to keep their license avoid all wetland work."
         
"How do you know all this."
         
"I'm paid to know these things, Bill; I'm a lawyer and a real estate broker."

         
"How would it be if we drained it by hand?" I said.
         
"My aren't we an ambitious lot. What century do you plan to complete this project?" 
         
"Waite a minute, Uncle Bob," said
Nancy ", remember Melvin.  Doesn't he have a backhoe and dump truck?"
         
 "Oh yes Mel. He don't have a license to loose. That boy will do anything for a buck. He did several excavation jobs for me, but never finished one on schedule. He's always breaking down."
         
"Time is not a major concern. I think we'd like to meet this Melvin," I said.
 
         "Sure, I'll put you in touch, but don't blame me when Mel gets his collection of second hand parts stuck in your riverbed mud."
         
"We'll take our chances. Right gang, "I said.
         
"Sounds fine to
me. ", said Ned. Mike nodded and the girls shrugged their shoulders.
         
"You folks hungry?" said Uncle Bob.

         
We all looked up in grateful anticipation.

          "What's for dinner? inquired Zinsky.
         
"You folks like Spaghetti and mushrooms and chicken?" said Uncle Bob.

         
The heads started bobbing, and Uncle Bob looked up at
Nancy .

          "Show your friends where they can get cleaned up and change into dry clothes," he said.

          We each had time to take a relaxing hot shower and change into some welcome dry close before dinner. Zinsky and Julian were helping Nancy in the kitchen when Ned and Mike and I came downstairs.

          "Nice to see the little women busy in the kitchen hay Bill," said Mike.
         
"Don't worry boys," said
Nancy , "You'll get your chance.  Remember how to do dishes, Professor Cremfield?"
         
"Of course," I said, recalling the time, more then a decade prior, when I put dish to soap on a greasy fork.         

          There was fresh celery, carrot spears, mounds of spaghetti, home made sauce, roasted chicken and garlic bread. Zinsky didn't put her fork down for the first ten minutes. I filled Uncle Bob in on our grand plans for a self sufficient colony capable of meeting and exceeding the basic human needs of its members. I talked about sustained yield productivity and a social system which allowed everyone  the opportunity to become an integral part of their own social evolution.

          "Every one will feel a sense of belonging. The elderly will not be "put out to pasture".  We have qualified teachers who will be the educators our children.... And when they can no longer care for our children our children will care for them. We will all care for them. We will all care for each other. We will have social harmony and a sense of belonging and direction in our lives. Eventually we hope the idea of a functioning utopian community will catch on and spread like mushrooms across the face of the planet."
         
"Hold on. Hold on, Professor Cremfield," said Julian "I have this picture of myself limping across this meadow, towards a duck pond, with a child in each hand. It's a fine image, and I don't have any problem with it, but... but... What are we going to do tomorrow?"
         
"Good question, Julian. I figured we could get started on the windmill tomorrow. We're going to need electricity, might as well generate our own."
         
"Come back to earth Bill. We need shelter.
Nancy 's cave is OK, but it's not dooing it for me."
         
"You're welcome to sleep here tonight," said Uncle Bob.
         
"Thanks, Uncle Bob, You've been more than generous with your hospitality."
         
"So what do you suggest, Julian? "I said
        
"I suggest we build a shelter first."
         
"Can we do that?"
         
"Sure, why not?"
         
"How long will it take?"
         
"That depends on what we want, how much we're willing to spend, and how far we have to travel to get the materials."
         
"What can you do with $5,000 and a week?"

         
Julian took out a sketch pad and drew a rectangle. Inside this she drew some boxes and lines and a few circles. In less than one minute she had completed an architectural concept for our first community shelter and had presented it for approval. The proposed rectangle was 16'X64'. It had four bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, a place for a wood stove, and an entire wall of south facing windows.

          "What are all these windows for?" I asked Julian. "One thing we have in abundance is sunshine, Bill. Might as well take advantage. Besides on a sunny day think of all the heat we'll save."
         
"What about the evenings."
         
"At night we'll have to be content with watching the stars."
         
"I like it." said Zinsky.
         
"All in favor." I said.
         
"Waite a minute," said Ned, "Is this how were going to live?"
         
"Wussa--madder--you Neddy boy don't-a-you lika my house?" said Julian.
         
"I didn't know you were Italian."
         
"I'm not."
         
"Oh! Actually your house is fine but don't you think we should attach a wood shed on the north side."
         
"Like this." Julian sketched a little rectangle on the north side.
         
"That's better."
         
"All in favor," I said again.
         
Mike raised his hand in protest. "I don't know, Bill, I think we can do better than this."

          "Yes we can, but expediance and cost are a prime concern right now. This is only the first of many structures, Mike. We're not going to live out our lives in this community shead."

          "I like it," said Zinsky again.
         
"All in favor."
         
Everyone raised their hands including Uncle Bob.
         
"Unanimous decision on our first structure. Way to go colony." I said.

                                   

 

 

 

 

 

9. THE  LONG  HOUSE

 

 

 

          The week that followed was not so pretty. Julian took over. She put Ned to work with a pick ax, and then started firing orders at Mike.

          "Drive that stake here," Said Julian
         
"Too much clay, said Mike. 
         
"That's OK we'll dig it out later."
         
"No way!  You can dig it anytime you want by yourself. I quit."
         
"Do you have problem with authority figures, Mr. Barns."
         
"Not all authority figures, just you, Great Exalted One."

         
Julian put a tape measure in her pocket, placed one hand on the side of her hip, and looked Mike straight in the eye. Just than Ned came over and smiled.

         
"Going at it again, hey?" He said.

          That's when I stepped between them and felt their breath .. hot like enraged bulls. Mike put down a sledge hammer and  looked up. Julian 's eyes were red, and her long dark hair hung  disheveled in the April wind..... and Ned. Ned was laughing.

          "Put a lid on it Ned," I said. "What's going on?"
         
"Ask the engineer. She's the one with all the answers."
         
"Julian, whats the matter?" I said.
         
"Nothing, except that Mike is being very uncooperative."
         
"Well, if being uncooperative means building this bread box on this clay bed flood plain than call me Mr. Uncooperative.
         
"We'll put down footings. It will be fine," said Julian.
         
"It won't last a year. Ask
Nancy , " I said, "See these ripples in the clay. That's where the stream overflows."
         
"Oh yeah, than how come we're not under water right now with all that rain."
         
"A few weeks ago you would have been, when the ice melted up on the mountain. Just ask
Nancy ?"
         
"OK," I said ",assuming that you and Nancy are correct what do we do now?" 
         
"How about someplace that sheds water water like that mound on the clearing."

          "But that's too far from where we park."

          "So we'll pave a little paradise and put up a parking lot."

          Nancy strolled over. "Mike's right; Mel could scrape out a parking with out much difficulty. He could also clear a nice area for a footing.
         
"Is that OK with everyone." I said.

         
"I suppose, " said Julian.
          "I'm not so sure", said Mike. "I still think we can do better than this long house."
          "Yes, but I'm not so sure now."

         
"Listen Mike and Julian, I won't always be around to help resolve these conflicts. You folks are going to have to speak up and listen to each other . We're all in this together. Julian, did you know that Mike has over ten years experience in construction."

         
"Well no!", said Julian.
          "OK that's my fault. Nancy I'd like you to get a hold of your friend Mel and see if you can get him over here soon so we can can get started with the footing. I'd also like you to pick up some supplies so we can build a temporary shelter. Any Ideas gang?"
   
         "Well we sure could use a chain saw if we're going to do some clearing" said Ned.
            "Toilet paper would be good." said Zinsky.
            " How about a tarp to build a temporary shelter", said Mike.
            " Now you're talking, somebody write this down." I said.
            "Well if we have to resort to living in a tent we'll need some nylon cord", said Julia.
            "Now we're getting somewhere. What do you think of this squabble between Mike and Julia?"
            "Well I sensed a certain tension in Mike from the time we ignored his concerns back at Bob's place. We all have special talents but I think we need to slow down sometimes and listen to each other. This is really why we're here. A shelter can wait. If we need a place to stay I'm sure Nancy's Uncle will take us in as long as we need him. As for me I would like nothing more than a flush toilet and a hot shower, but these creature comforts will have no value if we loose respect for each other. Mike and Julia understand the construction process better than the rest of us so it would be natural to trust their judgment when it comes to the design and construction details for our immediate lodging, but I think we should all have a say in what we feel is important. Bill what do you think is important."
            "a roof over our heads with plenty of screens would be good. I was told that the mosquetoes can get nasty near a swamp."
            "Ned?" " a wood stove and a good stash of wood to keep us warm in the winter."    
            "Julian?" "a solid house we can depend on with at least 10 bedrooms."
            "Nancy?" "As long as my room has a view of Moose mountain I'll be happy."
            "Mike?" "I was thinking of using the entire south facing roof to collect heat. I figure the North facing roof could later be used to mount PV panels when we can afford them."
            "Solar applications will be too expensive I think we should stick to the original one floor long house idea."

"Sounds like we have some house plans to consider. All in favor of letting Julian and Mike alone to hash out a house plan raise their hands."

All hands were up high. Nancy, Ned and Zinsky headed out together in the jeep to commandeer the services of Mel and to pick up hardware supplies and food.

 

 

 

          "Perhaps you and Mike should switch rolls for awhile, and see how it goes."

          Mike's eyes caugth the intensity of the midday sun. He picked up the sledge hammer, placed it over his sholder and started shouting orders:

          "Your attention please ladies and fagots your new commanding officer has just arrived. Gather round. Gather round.   Look alive. Snap to folks. We've got a shead to build. Keep your noses clean and your picks a swing'nand there will be no problem. Is that clear." He shouted.

          "Yes Sir!" Said Ned with a silly smile still on his face.

          "Wipe that smile off, Private," he said.

          "Yes Sir!" Said Ned... brushing his face clean.

          "I don't ever want to see that smile again. Do you understand that, private?"

          "Yes Sir!"

          " Berry that smile."

          "Yes Sir!" said Ned. He picked up a shove and pic and began digging. We all watched with amazement, and were afraid to say anything. Mike was very serious. Mike picked down about four feet into the hard clay.

          "Now berry that smile, Soldier," said Mike.

          Mike pushed dirt back into the hole and stood at attention. We were all standing there playing soldier at least we hoped we were playing soldier. Mike was taller than I had ever seen him.

          "Now we're going to build a little shead on the mound folks. Is that OK with you?"

          Ned and Nancy and I said "Yes Sir!" in a loud audable tone, but Julian mumbled something that Mike found incoherent. He turned to Julian."

          "Is that OK with you, Julian? He said.

          "I guess," she said.

          "I don't hear you soldier?"

          "Yes Sir!" She felt her lips move and herd the sounds, but surely the voice was not hers.

          "Again."

          "Yes Sir!" There was that voice again... louder, but somehow not hers.

          "Glad to see we're all in agreement Soldiers," he said ", Right face. Forward. March. Hip two, three. Hip two, three. Hip two, three....

          The march was straight ahead. Puddles, stumps, bushes and rocks were not obstacles. The only obstacles were in the narrow corridors of stubborn pride.  Our colony was now off on another path unbounded by the constraints of consequence... caught up in the rapture of childhood play. Where this path would lead seemed less important than the journey. Mike relinquished command at the mound. He said it was a strain on his voice...

 

The joy of community and self expression had replaced my guilt at having abandoned a conventional, safe, predictable lifestyle. The process of building a shed became our focal point. Zinsky had a way of smacking Mike's butt every time he bent down to pick up a cement block. Our methods were primitive and unstructured, but our task was completed five hours before the original deadline. Zinsky had the opportunity to spend one night in the splendid shed before returning to Montana State University . Since she agreed to actively recruit new members at the university so we decided to wave her first years membership fee.

         

         

           

LOG OFF

 

 

Bill's download pulled me into a virtual reality far from my suburban roots. I wanted to stay on line, but those sad eyes of mine grew heavy and that soft pillow with the deep hole in the center called me. The hall clock chimed twice and my Dell monitor popped into darkness and I fell into a deep sleep.

 

There was a squeal of subway brakes, and the moldy smell of soil, wet steel and the bump in the tunnel. There was a red haired punier with a Mohawk, and a slumped, sagging, careworn bag lady hung low protecting new found treasures....

 

The alarm clock clicked... Howard Stern was doing his Bill Clinton saxophone début for a Delaware County Trump Casino... And the day began.

 

Three hopefuls were waiting patiently on cold oak chairs for a chance at a FHA-PAM.

(Federal Housing Authority Per Approved Loan)

"Fresh coffee anyone?" I announced.

The tall blond with freckles wearing a low cut flower dress said: "No thank's Mr. Cativan." The others shook and starred with a blank expression.

 

"Very well than, who's first?"

The blond rose up full hight, towering four inches above my newly fluffed blow dry.

"Have a seat , and what is your name?" I said.

"Marleen Yazer"

"How may I be of service, Marleen?"  My voice cracked and my ankles stretched to new hights.

 

Her deep red lips sparkled under the newly installed florescent. "I want to buy a house," she said.  Objectivity and professionalism were on the wane. I felt them float  up and disipate into the cieling.

A stack of loan application forms waited on the corner of the desk, but they seemed too far for me to reach.

 

"Will the house be for you alone?", I said.

 "No, Harold, my fiancee, will be in on it."

 

A cold breeze creept across the polished marble floor of the bank, but her smile was too warm and inviting to give up on.

 

"How much of a loan are we talking about?"

"A few hundred thousand would be nice", she said.

"And what kind of carriers will the EAB  depend for payment."

"Oh I'm a waitress at the Garden City Hotell, and make big tips.

"I'm sure you do. How about Harold?"

"Oh Harold is great. You should meet him. He's a machinest you know. Someday he expects to have his own shop and make extrusion equiptment for the growing recycling industries."

"That's very nice, and what gross income can we expect from you folks."

"Forty thousand per year, at least.

"And the down payment?"

"A few months from now I expect will be rolling in it. Ten thousand will be no problem."

"No problem for whom", I thought.

"Marjory It's been wonderful talking with you, and I'm looking forward to meeting with you and Harold when the application is filled out."

 

I stood up, and handed her the EAB form HOL-B. A drop of warm salt water pooled in the corner of my right eye as I watched her walk past the security gard.  I'd never see her again and If  I were to lay eyes upon her  it would be to reject her loan application. Perhaps we'd meet at the GC Hotel. Ah the fanticies of life. How could I live without them.

 

By 2:30 I had interviewed all the perspective loan applications and collected fees in excess of $5,000. Half of these applicants would be lucky and only loose their application fee. The unfortunate ones would  be stuck with a morgage payments requiring a lifetime to pay off. Few live long enough, and those who do usually go to forclosure. That's when the EAB steps in to put the house back on the market so that the process may continue.. It's a wonderful system. I cann't imagine a more sinicure job. By 3:30 I'd be in my little red DMZ , while others are stuck in their factories or stores, what a great life! I decided to log onto the internet and tell ANT.MAN exactly how I felt, and how foolhardy the AUNT FARM extravaganza was. I'd expalin to my dear friend Bill that his childish idealism would only lead him down a dead end street.

"People are incapable of cooperating for the mutual benefit of all." I'd explaine. We are not ants. We're pitiful frightened creatures concerned only with  petty compforts and petty power."

 

Bill responded thus:

Dear Johnny,

Nice to hear from you. I understand exactly what your saying and your right. People are selfish, inconsiderate and petty, but they are also curious, thoughtfull and generous. It all depends on the people and their environment. If you truely feel that the AUNT FARM  is a fruitless endever you woulden't waste time writing me.  I think you still have that childlike curiosity you had on the first day we met at  the Ketchem Elementary School playground. I think you'd love to experience the comunity life, but the burocarcy has you in it's net and you can't find your way out.

 

If  communal interaction makes you feel uncompfortable how'd you like to try a business arrangement?  We could use a salesman to find a market for our products.

 

ANTMAN...

 

 

I had to laugh when I read Biills proposal. There was this vision of a laundry bag full of tie die shirts and a collection of odd smelling oils. I declined by thanking Bill for the offer. How could I possibly leave this easy banker's life for an uncertain future on Mud Mountain ? Each week new logs continued to roll in, and I read them all for my amusement, but I would never consider becoming part of such a wastefull nerveracking endever. The logs went something like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOG ON

 

 

 

Zinsky was buisy at the University recruting new members and our tiny group was at work forming what we hoped would be the nucleus of a new harmonous social order. Our guiding hand would be different from Adam Smits "Competition". Hopefully the fuel used to nurture our AUNT FARM  would come from a more reliable source than greed.  It would be the fuel that recognizes the value of the individual. It would be the boundless fuel of nature working in harmony with the universe. It would be an ordered symbiotic relationship dedicated to the value, growth and benifit of all.

But how ????  Communism and comunes had failed. How would this be any different? 

It would be different because it's source of energy would be pure. An understanding of the laws of nature and the laws of human psychology would lay the foundations of implicit and explicit norms of behaviour. The deliterious effects of monopoly would be understood and delt with. The struggle of AUNT FARM would be the strugle of family. Coowners of the community would naturally  find joy in helping the community grow in the same manner that family members benifit and find joy in the spirit of cooperation. 

 

SELF SUFFICIENCY

 

I had always felt that AUNT  FARM would be a sort of ongoing experimental comunity. As the community  experienced success it would grow and become a viable alternative to the present form of wasteful, aimless socialism.  There are so many beautiful ideas and ideals to explore, but  a stable environment is necessary to bring them into fruition. Satisfying  the basic human requirements of food and shelter are important, but we deserve more than the drudgery of competition to fill the void in our fragile lives. We need to understand and be in harmony with the universe and feel that we are part of one large family. There is more to a viable comunity than self sufficiency, but it's a start.

 

 

The Windmill /Well

 

The amenities of the civilized world beconed us from afar like some great white whale in Herman Melville's time. We missed the convenience of indoor plumbing, the kitchen sink and especially the white porclan flush toilet. Oh the outdoor facility was managable, and we had a plentiful supply of ashes from the wood stove to keep the odors in check, but that simple flush would make life so much easier for us. We had a wonderful hand dug well that supplied us with the finest water anyone could hope for, but no one enjoyed bucket duty and no one looked forward to the arduous task of  bucket bathing. We needed a reliable source of continuously flowing water. Moose mountain had a number of springs, however they would only flow after a heavy rain. A reliable pumping system and an elevated thousand gallon holding tank were in order.

 

Melvin Rock suggested we dig out another well in the flat land where the wind was steady and strong. There we could erect a wind powered pump station adajacent to the well. Michael and Ned collected and washed stones as Melvin scraped up the earth with his backhoe. Julian and I collected brook stones and carted them over to the site of the new well. By noon we had all ammased a sintilating collection of violet, green, crimson, yellow and blue stones to line our well. Julian suggested we purchas some cement.

"Won't need no cement." said Ned , and, Michale agreed.

We talked about the posibilities of cave-in and contamination and soon decided to play it safe. Ned did'nt seen offended by the decission as a matter of fact he suggested we rent a sump pump and a generator.

"What do we need them for?" , I asked.

"How you expect us to lay stone and cement under six feet of water?"

"Good point." I agreed. "So who's going to town."

"We'll go, Boss." said Michael.

"I'm not your Boss, Mike. We're all in this together. I have confidance that our best solution we'll reflect the concerns of all."

"Whatever you say, Boss." he said.

Melvin offered his  1975 ford pickup to Mike and Ned, but he did so with a warning.

"Take it easy on the brakes boys." he said.

I expressed my concerns, and they both listened carefully and even waved as they bounced down the dusty path toward the highway.

 

I worry a lot, perhaps too much, or perhaps that's my job, the job of a mother hen. The hours rolled by and there was no sign or sound of Melvin's rusty pickup. Julian and I continued to ammas a handsom pile of brook stone, and Mel hit a good pool of water at twelve feet.

"I've gone as deep as I dare." he said.

"The well must go deeper." said Julian.

"Than we'll have to do it by hand." I said.

"You're not getting me down there, Bill." she said. "The walls of this hole are starting to cave in already. After the first eight feet there's nothing but loose sand."

"So what do we do now?" I asked.

"We need to shore up the sides with some timbers and get some tile."

"What do you mean tile?"

"I mean interlocking concrete cylindres three feet in diameter and about two feet long."

"Oh! than what do we do with these stones. We can use the stones to finish off the well above ground.

 

Mel just watched us banter and waited for instructions.

"What next folks," he said.

 

"We're going to need a trench to and up the side of Moose Mountain , and an excavated site for a storage tank."

 

"Why not just erect a tower right here?" said Mel.

"We thought of that, but Julian and I were concerned with the cost and also the problems of freezing."

 

"Yar.  Guess she might freeze up a bit when we get them crispy days in February. So wat ya wana do folks."

"You could start a trench towards Moose mountain Mel. Dam I should have told Michael to pick up some poly pipe.Oh well, we don't have pipe ,but you could still dig a trench, Mel. Julie and I will shore up the well in the meantime."

 

Mel was an artist with the old John Deer. It was hard not to watch him as we worked to shore up the well. He pressed the front bucket just hard enough, then let down the leg stabilizers. The backhoe stretched within four feet of the well. He curled the two foot  scoop and scraped out a long trench a foot deep. The legs sunk a bit and the old John Deer lurched, and squealed. The earth was moving. A mound of sand and stone were dumped unceremoniously to one side. Again and again he scraped and filled the air with those shrill sounds like fingernails scraping slate.  I was transfixed with mouth agape and hands akimbo for a time until Julian placed her mud encrusted hands on my sun burnt neck.

 

Just then Ned and Mike pulled up in Mel's rusty pickup. Mike jumped out and walked toward the well hole.

"Ready for the cement boss?"  

"Julie has a better idea, Mike, she'd like to tile the well. What do you think?

"Sounds high class to me boss. Can we afford it?

"Well Mike, a reliable source of water is esential. I think it time to make a little investment. How many tile do you think we need Julie?'

"I'd say sixteen feet down with a four foot cap would do, so we need ten tile."

"How much do you think that would run, Mike?"

"At $50 a pop it'll set us back $500."

Mel, who'd been ease dropping let his bucket down. Don't mean to bud in folks but it might run you a bit more. The nearest concrete supply is in Thompsonville about fifty miles due north and them boys charge for delivery."

"Could you pick them up for us Mel?"

"Them concrete collers weigh about 200lb each. It would take me a week to transport them Mr. Cremfield."

"OK than we'll call in a delivery. Is there anything else we should be getting? Mike did you rent the generator and pump?

"Well, not exactly Boss."

"How come Mike?"

"There are no rentals, boss. I bought them."

I shuttered a bit, but was able to restrain my disapproval.

"Don't worry boss", said Mike, "We'll make good use of these workhorses."

 

The enthusiasm of  Mike was encouraging, and I was determined to postpone my concerns over our limited  budget.  Derogatory remarks are like rain on a newly kindled camp fire. My main function here I felt was to add fuel rather than douse the delicate flame we have all been fortunate enough to kindle. Nancy called in a C.O.D. and we spent the remainder of the day collecting a beautiful multicolored assortment of cobble stones. The last rays of a red sunset faded before we dragged ourselves back to the shelter and invited Mel in for dinner. It was late and dark when the last of the stewed tomatoes were consumed so we invited Mel to stay for the night?

 

"No thanks folks." he said, I got my own place be it oh so humble."

 

With that he bid us good night.  His faithful old Chevy bumped and sputtered a few times before mellowing out into a uniform state of reliable combustion. The old truck clanked down the dusty path that led to the highway. An hour elapsed before we heard a knock on our hand made front door and were greeted by his careworn face.

 

"Does that offer for lodging still stand?", he said.

"Of course Mel. What made you change your mind?"

"Call it fate if you like, but my old Chevy gave out 'bout a mile down the highway in a ditch near the four corner intersection."

"Did you run out of gas?"

"Got plenty of gas. She runs just fine. It's stoppen er where I have the problem. Ya might say I ran out of brake."

 

The night sky was clear. The stars were like sharp crystals. In the dimness we could still see each others breath chugging down this lost and lonely highway on a mission of salvage. Julie offered to drive but Ned and Mike and I were in a silly mood. At the four corners we all pushed together and had the truck on the road within minutes. Mel sat in his pickup with Julie while Mike and Ned rode in the back ready to drag the rust heap to a stop if necessary. The back drum and front disk brakes were just a squeaky memory with scores beyond the legal tolerance.

 

I asked: "How can you drive like this?"

"It's not easy?"

"Why not fix the problem, Mel?" 

"Ya mean get new wheels and brakeshoes and brakedrums and disks and rotors."

"Exactly," I said.

"Not worth it."

"Then why not get another vehical?"

"Money, Honey. " he said.

"It's a vicious cycle don't ya think Mel?"

"What's that?"

"You know money, work, food, sleep and all the rest of it. Do you feel like a dog chasing his tail?"

"Never figured myself like a dog though some folks say I'm just spinnin' my wheels."

"Same thing Mel.”

 

The sky was ink dark and a heavy cold fog rolled off the mountain when we pulled up to the Long House at the foot of Moose Mountain . Mel said he'd able to drive home if he stayed in low gear and took it easy.

 

"Mel," I said, It's late. You'll only have about an hour to flop into youir shack on pine bluff before you crawl back in the morning. Please accept our humble hospitality and spend the night."

"Well if you insist Professor Cremfield. Ya know I like workin' for you folk, but I don't expect me ta become a member of this commie pinko clan.

 

In the morning Ned wipped up a batch of his famous sourdough pancakes. I could here them sputtering in the pan and smell the cooking batter from the far end of the Long House before Ned slammed the breakfast gong. At the table Mike, Julian, Ned and I stuffed it in, but Mel just picked a little.

"You folks got coffee?"

"Coffee's no good for ya Mel, we have postum if ya like."

He took a sip and spit it out.

"How can you drink this mud? It tastes like burnt toast."

"That's right, it's a toasted grain, or a malt" I said, "I miss the taste of coffee too Mel , but you know toasted legumes contain carcinogens so we don't stock them."

"I'm sure you're right. but I sure could use a good stiff cup a black coffee 'bout now.

 

Mel spent most of the day developing a path up the side of Moose Mountain to a spot where we decided to construct a thousand gallon underground holding tank.  There he dug a deep square trench sixteen feet across and ten feet deep. Ned and I dragged some left over plywood up the path to this hole where we constructed a hexagonal form for the concrete holding tank. Meanwhile

Julian and Mike went into town to pick up a few roters and a set of brake drums for Mel's pick up.

Mike wasn't sure which Allen nut held the rotor in place, but he soon learned with Julian's help. Before noon the old Chevy was a stoppable vehicle with showroom brakes. Mel was impressed.

 

"How much I owe ya", he said.

"No charge", said Julian, "Just keep up the fine work."

"Mel," I said, "We all appreciate the work you're doing and have lots more for you, but I don't think we’ll be able to afford you much longer at $30/hr. We had hoped that you would become a member of our community, but we will understand if this is imposible.

 

“Well thaaar Miss Julian I like you folks just fine, but the thought of becoming a commie goes against my grain.”

“What makes you think we’re communists?”

“Well this is a commune, right?”

“Yes I guess you could call it a community of people working towards a sustainable lifestyle”

“OK than yaar a commie. My pa'd crawl out his pine box iffin I were to hook up with your tribe.”

 

WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?
WILL MEL BECOME A MEMBER OF THE COMMUNE?
WHY IS MEL SO RELUCTANT TO JOIN?
WOULD IT BE A MISTAKE TO ALLOW MEL TO JOIN?

Stop in from time to time. Keep tabs on the Aunt Farm.

 

 

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