Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter 2


Free At Last

“By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity--another man's I mean.”
Mark Twain
I’d been planning for this day for over a year, not too long after what I call – assuming I can bring myself to mention it at all – “the embarrassing doctor incident.”  The older I got the more I understood that there would never be a permanent place for me in Uncle Jerry’s home.  I figured at best I had until Todd Michael was out of school but probably not that long the way Sister Jacob was leading my uncle around by his man parts.
Ok, so maybe I hadn’t been planning for this particular day or getting thrown out in the rain exactly, but I’d sure been planning for one something like it.  And with the way everyone seemed to think the world was coming to an end it seemed as good a time as any to see if my plan was gonna pay off.   
It took almost an hour because I had to detour around deep water where the land swelled and then dipped, capturing and holding the rain in natural gullys and depressions, but I finally got to the house.  It was the same as the day we had left with Uncle Jerry to go to the VFW.  The way the water was rising he wouldn’t be back before the place was flooded and useless to him and the boys.  I let myself in, walked to the kitchen, and then opened the basement door.  Sure enough there was plenty of the wet stuff down there already where it was seeping through the walls. 
The basement was dark and smelled funny, like old closed up places do when they get wet, but I took a wind up flashlight out of my backpack and headed down.  They’d turned the power off to the town a week before to keep people from electrocuting themselves.  I went over to the far corner and using a step stool reached up on one of the tops shelves, behind old holiday decorations that hadn’t seen use in over a decade, and pulled out a couple of taped up storage tubs which I carried upstairs.  Then I grabbed a couple of laundry baskets and trash bags and gathered my few belongings that remained in the house.  It had become my habit not to keep anymore at the house than I had to to keep Uncle Jerry and the boys from being suspicious and that habit paid off.  It meant I had much less to move than I might have otherwise.
I looked outside and saw that it had started to rain in earnest and I knew my time was even shorter than I had thought at first.  I ran across the lot to the empty house that sat kitty corner to Uncle Jerry’s and then to the barn out back of it.  The ground was so soggy that I kicked up mud and who knows what else onto my pants as I splashed along as fast as I could.  When I got inside the barn I brushed away old hay and pulled a tarp back and breathed a sigh of relief when the old pick up hidden underneath came to life with just one crank.
I drove back to Uncle Jerry’s, praying every foot that I wouldn’t get stuck, and spent precious moments loading things up and praying for God to forgive me for being an ungrateful niece.  Because, despite the awfulness of the situation, I couldn’t stop a bubble of happiness from making me feel like I could just about follow Jesus’ example and walk on the water that had risen higher just in the little bit of time I’d been at my task.
After one last run through Uncle Jerry’s house, stuffing a few other things into pillow cases that had belonged to my grandparents handed down through Aunt Penny Lynn, I jumped in the cab, put it in four-wheel, and took off up the ridge.  I took roads when I could but when I couldn’t the truck’s broad tires and strong engine got me through yards or climbing embankments just enough to get around whatever the obstacle was.  The higher I went the less standing water and the better the conditions; I’ll take muddy roads over submerged roads any day.  Mud bogging was fun when it was an occasional treat but having to do it day in and day out made it the opposite of fun and then some. 
Finally I was on what barely qualified as a goat track.  I’d been careful to trim back branches without making the road to my destination too visible to the nosey.  By the time I got to Daddy’s old hunting camp the rain was coming down so hard I could barely breathe when I was running between the truck and the cave opening. 
I knew it was no use waiting for it to let up.  Once it started raining like this it didn’t let up for hours, sometimes days.  The first few times I’d seen it I wondered that there was enough rain in the sky to rain as long and as hard as it did without let up.  Now, weeks later, I no longer wondered.  I knew I would need to get all of my stuff in or risk it being blown out of the back of the truck or soaked if the tarp I had tied down over it let the rain in.
I knew no one (or animal either) had found the cave because my early warning system hadn’t been messed with.  I opened the entry way and then set to work.
Took me close to thirty minutes to bring it all in and I was shivering like crazy by the time I was finished.  Lucky for me the floor of the cave angled up so that any rain that blew in rolled right back out.  When I had finally set on using the cave as my bolt hole I had borrowed some stone mason tools from Mr. Harkins and drilled holes on the inside of the narrowest part of the cave opening and then put an aluminum rod up there.  I had originally meant it for screening to keep the mosquitos out but clear plastic sheeting worked as well to keep the worst of the rain and damp out.
Even though I knew that there was no one up there except for some deer and other wildlife escaping the flood waters I still went into a little side room to change clothes.  It just felt safer to do it that way.  After drying off and changing into something that I wouldn’t catch pneumonia in I came out to take care of everything else.  I took off the tape that the storage tubs were sealed with and grinned as I hauled an amazing amount of junk food – at least it was to me – to my “pantry” and put it in the old metal supply cabinets that I had hauled up the mountain to my new home.  The other tubs had other boxed foods and I put that in another metal cabinet that sat beside the first.
I opened the third set of metal doors and looked at jar upon jar of home preserved foods – my share of various home ec projects in school – as well as stuff that I’d picked up at the grocery store or the scratch-and-dent when I could get it without Uncle Jerry or the boys noticing.  The last two metal supply cabinets held large, sealed #10 cans of basic staple foods.  How I came to have those cans … not to mention the metal cabinets as well as just about everything else I was looking around at … is one of those quirks that happen in life that let you know that God is looking out for you even when you don’t think so.

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