“All the territorial possessions of all the political establishments in the earth--including America, of course--consist of pilferings from other people's wash. No tribe, howsoever insignificant, and no nation, howsoever mighty occupies a foot of land that was not stolen.” – Mark Twain
“What a mess,” Lee griped in disgust.
As irritated as him I said, “I thought most people would normally have better sense.”
Lee shook his head. “Now see, that’s your mistake right there. People with sense are rarities, not the norm.”
Since I couldn’t argue with that given the evidence in front of me I simply looked around, trying to be careful where I put my feet. “Where do you think they’re going?”
“Back down the mountain to stay if they’ve smartened up at all. From there who knows. I just can’t believe they’re leaving all this behind.” Suddenly Lee nearly threw a hissy. “Crap! Look at these frozen cans; they look ready to explode.”
Pulling back a wind-tattered tarp to find several buckets labeled beans and several others labeled things like rice, pasta, and potato flakes I just shook my head. “They’ve got a king’s ransom in supplies right here alone – despite it looking like something packaged up at the commodities store – and even though they lost most of their tents there’s gotta be more that can be salvaged from this mess. I mean, Lord help, look at all that flotsam piled over there. Who’s so rich around here they can just walk away like this?”
Looking around thoughtfully Lee answered, “Didn’t seem like the Richie rich types to me; I bet they were salvagers looking for a place to hole up for a while.”
“Dumb place to do it,” I muttered. To Lee I said, “Whoever or whatever they were, they sure expected them goobermint types to give ‘em a lift on their fancy air boat.”
Lee nodded, “Sure did. And leaving us with this mess ‘cause you know we can’t have this kind of sign so close to the cave.” I agreed and started moving what was salvageable into one pile and what was not into another.
The storm that brought the hail lasted almost four days. Then came a three day break before a stretch of bad weather that lasted twice as long as the other storm had. It blew so hard that what snow tried to come down got chased off before it had time to stick to anything. It was so bad we had to wrap mufflers around our face to bring wood in; if we didn’t our face would get cut to ribbon by the ice particles in the air.
We both wanted out as soon as the second storm let up and so did the animals. It was too cold for them to be out for long but we gave them the full run of cave and entry room while we went to find fallen limbs for the wood pile. We weren’t on the trail long when we had heard arguing.
“Jack, I’m going down. Come or don’t, it’s your choice. But if you don’t, don’t expect me to be waiting on you when you finally get around to it. I miss the kids and I’m going to get them from your mother before the rest of what we worked for gets destroyed, just like this cache has.”
“But Linda …”
Another man said, “She’s right Jack. Let’s just write this one off; it isn’t as good as the other ones anyway. We can go collect all the others and head back home. Weather charts are all off and undependable. It’s safer just to finish early and get back and settled in before things get worse.”
A third man said, “At least let’s take what we can haul out. I didn’t survive that storm to walk out empty handed.”
A second woman said, “You survived, that’s not empty handed. Besides they already told us nothing bigger than a fanny pack and no more than ten pounds. If it is they’ll drop it overboard rather than risk being hung up on a snag or run up on some underwater object. I don’t believe they’re blowing smoke about that either. You know the kind of trouble we had getting here.”
There was some grumbling and cursing but in the end walking out empty-handed is exactly what they did. We’d waited until the air boat had gone out of sight before returning to the ill-conceived campsite to start salvaging.
I asked Lee after he came back with the sled, “I don’t want to cause trouble or draw attention so you reckon they’ll come back for their stuff?”
“Naw. Must a cost a pretty penny to haul all this stuff up here to begin with, can’t see them going to the expense of hauling it back down again so soon.”
“Wonder why they came up here to begin with.”
“If I had to guess, and this is all it is mind you, I bet they expected to find a vacation lodge or cabin to set up in; maybe for the whole winter.”
“Up here on this side? Then they can’t be locals ‘cause they definitely picked a fool’s errand in that.”
“I don’t recognize ‘em that’s for sure, not to mention they don’t sound like they are from around here neither. But with the cabins on the other side of the lake … it wouldn’t exactly be an unreasonable guess by most folks’ standards.”
“I suppose not,” I admitted while I tried to decide whether a bag of clothes was going to be worth the trouble of salvaging. I finally threw it on the “NO” pile and snapped, “What in the blue blazes are we going to do with this mess?! Some of this stuff wasn’t much more than rags before the storm got it.”
“You ain’t gonna like my answer.”
Figuring that out from the look on his face I said, “Tell me anyway.”
“We haul it to a cabin on the other side of the lake. One I’m thinking of has an unfinished basement. If we’re lucky the cabin will finish collapsing in on itself and take our problem with it.”
“Wouldn’t have to be that way if people would just clean up after themselves. I feel like I’m back picking up after a big dinner on the grounds at the park and Reverand Jacob said we had to leave it cleaner than when we found it to set an example for the heathens that weren’t good stewards of God’s world.” Lee snorted because he knew exactly what I was talking about because the adults always seemed to scatter while the young people did the “exampling.”
After a few more minutes and ever increasing frustration I threw another hissy. “God what a lot of work and time wasted just ‘cause some folks ain’t got sense to stay out of the rain!”
Lee was just as irritated but having experienced similar as he worked with the VFW to clean up after the floods at the lower elevations he was more prosaic about it. “Generally how it is Bella. Generally how it is. But if those folks were out-of-towners we may have just dodged a bullet. We’d either wind up having to dig them out of trouble or dig ourselves out of worse. I mean to tell you. Just look here, a plastic bin full of .22lr casings but not a sign of shot or equipement to do any reloading with. And I ain’t got no idea what’s in those two ammo boxes cause the latches are rusted in the locked position.”
“Yeah, well I ain’t no expert but something tells me it would be foolish to try and fire any of those guns you found in that crate; most of them have rust spots on ‘em.”
Lee nodded in disgust. “I’ll break ‘em down and clean the parts but if I can get two decent shotguns out of the eight in there I’ll be surprised. Same for the rifles. God only knows where this stuff started out. I’d lay odds it’s salvage if it sat underwater or just around damp. Somebody looks to have made a pretense of wiping ‘em down to keep the rust at bay but I doubt any of them had a thorough cleaning and going over.”
Angry at finding another case of cans that had been spoiled by freezing I snapped, “This makes me so angry I could just spit. Look at all this waste.”
“Mom and Gram would be burned up about it too and they ain’t the only women you’d have in that choir. It might not be much in the scheme of things but it could have made it a lot easier on my family for a bit.”
Something in his voice made me look up. “You worried about them?”
“Not worried exactly. Just wish I knew how they were doing.” He glanced at me and away quickly before admitting, “I’ve never been away so long before. Just wish …”
I put down the tub I had been dragging to the sled and went over to give him a hug. “We can keep an eye out for your nephews or one of the other boats.”
“And do what? Tell everyone where we are? No,” he sighed. “That’s just asking for trouble; at least right now it is. And until I can find some way to power it the radio I found while I was searching for you isn’t going to do a lick a good either. And there’d have to be a powered up radio on the other end as well and the power was down as much as it was up when I left. Who knows what it’s like now. They said it would be months before they could re-route all the lines out of the flooded areas approach anything like full time power.”
That was true and unlikely to have changed. I still felt bad for Lee though. If anyone knew what it was like to miss family it’d be me.