May 6th – I woke up this morning even before Fraidy sang out. I slept better than I expected to, of course I locked the bedroom door like us girls always did when there was a new foster boy in the house. A few extra precautions go a long way. I hadn’t really expected trouble, Fraidy likes Rand but like Daddy was always saying, “Better safe than sorry.”
I decided on something special for breakfast. I know it is kind of silly but I like cooking better when there is someone to share it with. I made thin pancakes and then filled them with warm apple pie filling. I squirted a little bit of caramel ice cream topping on them that I found in the junk food from the lonely woman’s house and then I made something Momma taught me – whipped topping from powdered milk.
First I set a metal bowl and whisk into a pan of freshly pumped well water. If the power was on you would put them in the frig for fifteen minutes but the really cold well water was just as good. Then you take one-third cup of powdered milk, one-third cup of ice water (pump water was ice cold so I used it), one-quarter cup of granulated white sugar, one teaspoon of lemon juice (from some of the packets that I found at the concession stand), and one teaspoon of vanilla extract. You don’t have to use the vanilla but it does give the topping more flavor. You mix all of the ingredients together in the icy cold bowl and then you whisk it until peaks form. This means that you beat the heck out of it until you start to feel like you arm is going to fall off.
When I looked up from beating the topping Rand was standing there looking at me like I had two heads. It was kind of funny. When I explained what I was doing he looked at me like I was growing a third head but he sure didn’t have a problem eating what I fixed. He finally laughed when I told him to slow down or he was going to make himself sick. “You sound like somebody’s granny.” I was very tempted to stick my tongue out at him but I didn’t; that would only have made him feel more superior, boys are like that. And Rand may be twenty but he doesn’t seem all that different from some of the boys that were at my highschool. Well maybe he does but he doesn’t at the same time. Oh, I don’t know how to explain it but I know what I mean.
After breakfast he told me that he needed to figure out a way to get home to his family. He kept asking me if I wanted to come home with him; he was sure his Uncle George wouldn’t have a problem since I knew how to cook. Apparently the girls were still mostly experimenting because his uncle had taken over all the household duties when his wife died and the girls were never encouraged to learn until recently when there wasn’t time for Uncle George to do everything. Even if I hadn’t had Sparkleberry Ranch there was no way I was going to go be chief cook and bottlewasher to some family out of the blue. I’m not housekeeper material and my mouth would probably get me fired before I even started. I liked working at Good Eats but that’s because I didn’t have to deal with the customers and everyone else left me alone most of the time.
The problem was that Rand was in pretty bad shape no matter if he acted like he wasn’t. That’s another thing boys tend to do; they make a mountain out of a mole hill over a hang nail but it their leg was hanging by a single piece of flesh they’d act like they were ready for the Super Bowl. Guys are so weird. I told him if he moved any slower snails would leave him in the dust but there was no talking Rand out of it and I just had to respect that. If it had been me I would have been trying to get back to my family as quickly as possible too.
He had finally stopped asking me to come meet his family after a while so I had to stop asking him to wait a while longer before he took off. I think they call that Detent or something like that; an immovable object meeting an irresistible force. Sounds dorky put that way. Basically we just agreed to disagree and got on with what needed doing.
I found an umbrella that he could use as a walking stick to help him keep his balance and then made him some peanut butter crackers and some dried fruit to take in a poke sack so he’d have something to eat along the way while he put his jeans back on. I sewed up the holes as best I could but I’m not sure how long that’ll hold if he plays rough in them again. I also put a couple of bottles of water in there for him. He was surprised about the water; his family gets their water from the ag well that is used for their cows, it comes from a windmill pump and they just bleed it off from a spigot.
I decided to walk with him as far as the CR49 gate and then decided to walk with him to the intersection of CR49 and US90. I didn’t have anything to do that couldn’t wait and I kinda felt bad about him leaving. I think Rand thought he could convince me to just keep going to meet his uncle. I was thinking of a polite way of trying to get away when we heard hoof beats again. I was all for stepping into the tall grass and weeds but Rand said to wait, that the gang bangers never used horses. Then the crazy guy whistled really loud when he saw the riders and they galloped over to him.
A couple of grown up men and some teenage boys got off their horses and surrounded Rand. I had guessed that the one that grabbed him and hugged him was his uncle so I started back home since Rand didn’t need me anymore. I had gotten several yards away when a boy ran up beside me telling me that Rand wanted to introduce me to everyone. I just wanted to get away before someone figured they had to do something about me. I felt bad about making Rand hobble back towards me so I met him half way while the other boy followed behind.
The center of attention is not my favorite place to be. I wasn’t in the mood to argue but didn’t want to make a bad impression on people that I planned on being neighbors with; on the other hand I didn’t want to be pushed around either. I can be polite enough when it suits me and I didn’t want to shame the memory of my parents by acting like a donkey’s back end so I let myself get introduced.
The man who had hugged Rand was his uncle. I offered my hand to shake and he grinned like I was a cute little thing. Oh brother. No need to wonder where Rand got that particular bad habit from. The other two men were just as nice in that old-fashioned kind of way that some grown up men are. One was called Pastor Ken and the other was a man named Mr. Pike. I don’t know about Mr. Pike but I could tell that Pastor Ken is already working on plans in his head of what the community should do about me. He’s a smart one and didn’t say it out loud but I could see it in his eyes. Nice people are like that and you have to be very careful of them. They go out of their way to try and get tangled up in your life and trying to get untangled has a bad habit of hurting their feelings. They are well-meaning but they have a hard time understanding that there are people in this world that just don’t want to be “helped.” Aunt Wilma was like that and made it worse by trying to manage everyone’s business since they couldn’t seem to do it the way she thought best.
Two of the teenage boys were sons of Mr. Pike, the younger boy that had chased me down was Rand’s cousin Mick and he’s thirteen. The other teenage boy is Rand’s cousin Brendon and boy is he trouble with a capital T. The girls must really go for him. He’s what some of my friends would have called an Adonis and he totally knew it. He kept waiting for me to notice how pretty he was and I just kept ignoring him. I nearly laughed when he kept moving trying to catch my attention without looking like he was trying to catch my attention. Some boys are just so obvious. I figure he has enough girls eating out of his hand I’m not going to belly up to the bar and be another one.
Uncle George … I can’t seem to think of him any other way in my head … did indeed ask me to come back to his farm. I finally convinced everyone that I wasn’t budging but I figure I’ll have some trouble with that along the way now that people know I’m out here and “helpless” since I don’t have a grown up – particularly a male grown up – to take care of me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it but people don’t understand me much. Uncle Charlie used to say I was sixteen going on sixty. And now I’m nearly 17 and after that I’ll be 18 and hopefully no one will be able to tell me where I can live and where I can’t. I’m not stupid enough to think turning 18 will make everything perfect, it’ll probably just bring more problems, but it sure would solve some of my problems right now.
I know I shouldn’t but I’d lie about my age if I thought it would help.. In the end they’d make me prove it and I can’t so it’s just better to stick with the truth than have to remember some made up story that would just trip me up at some point.
It started to rain again and the men wanted to “escort me home.” Normally the idea of riding on a horse would have sounded neat since I’ve never ridden one but I really didn’t want any more people knowing where I live than necessary until I figure out how I was going to handle their well-meaning busybody-ness. What’s done is done but I still need to make sure that people understand that I’m not budging.
Rand tried one last time but Uncle George laughed and told him to stop because it was “only making the girl more mule-ish.” Sounds like something my dad would have said. I could tell Rand was just about give out at that point which made me glad that I wasn’t going to have to worry about whether he made it home or not. They finally got going with Rand riding double with Mick. It was an effort for him to get on the horse and his cousin Brendon basically had to boost him into the saddle. He was still wearing Daddy’s t-shirt but I didn’t mind, somebody should get use out of them and Daddy would have been the first to say that Rand was a “good ‘un” and tell me not to fuss about it.
As I walked back home I couldn’t help but stop and look at the gully and think about how I had listened to the men telling Rand that Jared Harbinger had heard about the attack and gone looking for him with some of his community volunteers. I don’t know what to think about that. I know people need to stick up for themselves but I’ve always heard that vigilantes are dangerous. And I watched a man die violnetly on my property and that can’t be changed back ever. But if Harbinger hadn’t chased the gangbangers and drove them to their reckless driving then maybe it would have been Rand that died. I know you have to stand up to bullies but I wonder where to draw the line; when do the victims that stand up for themselves turn from being defenders to being bullies themselves.
When I finished walking back to the house the sun was right over head so I figured it was noon so that would make it lunch time but I wasn’t hungry for some reason. I decided to continue unboxing stuff from the bonus rooms and spent the remainder of the day doing that. I found lots more books, dishes, and my mom’s thimble collection. I found candles but they are shaped funning from being up in the heat for so long. I think they will still work if I need them to. The votive candles are a little squashed looking but will work with the candle lantern. I suppose I better not use them unless I need to because I sure as heck don’t know how to make candles that don’t come out of an arts and craft kit.
The best find though was a couple of boxes of our old camping gear. I pulled out the sleeping bags, but one has a bad dry rot place on it at the end. I think I’ll be able to cut it off and then turn it into a blanket for the bed for the winter though that seems a long way off. In the camping boxes I also found the old cooking gear; it won’t do me any good without propane but I might be able to use the parts for something. Also found Daddy’s tackle box; I wonder where his fishing poles went to. The tents, old Miss America lunch box that Mom used as a girl and then turned into our family’s first aid kit, and lots of other odds and ends were in there. The best thing though was Daddy’s fire starters.
I’ve got to figure out how to use them. I know you scratch one piece over the other but I couldn’t get it to work. I don’t think those things can break or go bad so I must be doing something wrong. I wish the packaging they came in was still around so I could find the directions. I’ll figure it out; it can’t be all that hard. I need to do it soon though ‘cause I only have a few matches left. If it was winter I’d just keep a fire going but it’s already getting hotter than blue blazes.
“Hotter than blue blazes” is one of those things that my parents used to say. They also said things like “slower than molasses in winter,” “barking up the wrong tree,” “don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched,” and “even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and again.” It makes me smile to remember all the weird ways they had of saying things. Good memories. I guess that is as good a way to end this day as any. At least the memories don’t hurt as much as they used to.
I have plenty to do tomorrow so I better get to bed and get some sleep. Fraidy wanted to be out and about again tonight. I suppose she is hunting … I hope she doesn’t bring me another lizard; that is disgusting.