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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Frugal Too
By Josiah

(A continuation of the story entitled “A day in the life of Mr. Frugal”)

The clanking sound of the bed side clock woke Rodney up. His eyes cracked open even though it was still dark in the room and he blinked. Once again Rodney reached over to the bedside steel filing cabinet that he used as an end table (and a clock stand) and turned the alarm off. The current time was 5:30AM.

He wound the little alarm in the dark till the spring was tight. It would not need winding again till tomorrow. Why use a plug in clock when the use of this clock is free and performs the same function? Rodeny said, “Waste not, want not. My Momma always said,” mentioned Rodney to no one listening.

Rodney picked up the windup LED flashlight and wound it for a full minute before turning it on and using it for his light this morning. He looked at the light switch and thought of the light it could provide. With the CFL Fluorescent Bulb that only used 14 watts of power (but gave off the equivalent light as a 60watt bulb) it would be easy enough to flip on the light. However, the light from the windup bulb was free and the generator was not running yet. Rodney only ran the genset for a couple hours in the morning and evenings.

In times past at his old house Rodney had grown tired of the power company. They had misread his meter several times. Sometimes Rodney would watch the power company truck just drive buy on the days that they were supposed to read the meter. There was even the time when they branched off Rodney’s utility pole to pull a new line to his neighbor’s house. They stretched the additional power line right across Rodney’s land without even asking. The power rates also increased to the point it was crazy to continue to pay it. Rodney had reached a decision that on the farm he would not be slave to the power company.

He limped down the hall toward the living room/kitchen in the small house. If you were to ask Rodney why he was limping, he would use phrases like “pure stupidity” and “being a knucklehead.” In short, he didn’t see the hole in the late dust hour two days ago when he was doing his chores. Usually if it is late Rodney always wore his Energizer 3LED headlamp. It gave ample light and was powered by 3 rechargeable batteries that Rodney could charge up while the generator was running. However, he had left it inside for some reason and paid the price.

His left ankle twisted sharply as it found the hole. Since he was near the barn when it happened, he hopped and hobbled down stairs to the storage room underneath the barn. Through the secret door and into the main room he made his way. The storage room was basically a lower basement for the barn and was just as big as the barn’s footprint. He hobbled to the side and found a set of crutches he picked up at a thrift store for a dollar. They were in the medical equipment storage area of the basement. Faster than he arrived thanks to the crutches, he returned top side to the house.

It was a simple sprained ankle but it hurt good when he put weight on it the first day. Rodney had been staying off of it and put an ice pack on it the night before. He started to go into town to his doctor, but it was not necessary. The joint just needed time to heal. Rodney’s foot was swollen, but there was no bruising and no deformity to the foot. The swelling had gone down after a couple of hours more with the ice pack and he was able to get around better after the first day. He could now walk lightly on the foot and was doing his chorus with out the aid of the crutches. Needless to say the hole is now filled and the danger removed.

Rodney cleaned out the wood stove and put the ashes in the bucket to be taken to the compost bin. He grabbed a bit of drier lint and his new gadget he just traded for. It was a Coleman Lantern Spark Igniter that simply used a flint (out of an old lighter) to produce a spark. The spark was all the dryer lint needed to start a flame. Rodney then added a fat lighter stick wrapped up in an old fast food bag he found on the side of the road. The fire grew easily and started consuming the finely split wood that Rodney added next.

Next Rodney got dressed, fired up the generator and did his chores. The cows were milked. The rabbits, chickens and cows were fed. Rodney returned to his warmed up house. He grabbed the container out of the freezer and started warming up the cooked ham in the skillet. Grits, eggs and ham was served for breakfast that morning and was ended with the pallet unpleasing taste of a multivitamin tablet. He always took vitamins when he was sick. They sure couldn’t hurt his body when it was trying to repair his ankle.

Rodney loaded the Chevy LUV Diesel truck with four rockers for Sam and for a day of travel. Today Rodney was going to deliver the rockers and see his “banker” in the big city. Dumas was about a little over an hour away at about 65 miles away. However, this was business and a very important trip. It couldn’t be helped.

He carried a backpack to the truck and threw it in. Rodney mentally went over his check list and made sure he had everything he needed. He drove the truck out the main gate, locked it behind him and then pulled onto the country road. The first stop was Sam’s Store.

Sam’s store was busy as a bee hive this morning. Sam started selling breakfast at his store and the farmers and workers in the area mobbed the store every morning for some of the best biscuits this side of the Mississippi. They served the biscuits with sausage, ham, bacon and eggs. They were a big hit with the locals and the added traffic meant the Rodney’s items that he sold were selling well.

Rodney pulled up to the pump and waved to the clerk at the front counter in the store. She immediately waved back and turned on the fuel pump. Rodney began to fill up the truck with diesel. He had three quarters of a tank and his 20 gallon transfer tank in the bed of the truck was full. However, he wanted to be topped off.

He finished pumping four gallons of gas and pulled the truck over to the side of the store. Sam had already come outside and was smiling as Rodney got out. “Hey Sam. Looks like the breakfast sales are still going good.”

Sam faked a smile, “To tell you the truth, it is getting out of hand. My wife just started this for a little extra money. Little did we know that everyone would love the idea so much. We need to hire someone else to do the cooking or my wife is gonna divorce me. The bad thing is we can’t find anyone and if she throws one more pan at me, ain’t no one gonna work for us.”

Rodney laughed. He had seen Sam’s wife shake her finger and fuss at Sam like a two cats in a sack, but he couldn’t image she would ever leave him.

“Great, I see you brought the rockers,” Sam said. “I have already sold two of them.”

“You have?” asked Rodney.

“Of course. You said you would be by today with them and I knew you always keep your word. So I went ahead and took the money for the chairs.” Sam turned to his son Max, “Get those inside and go ahead and call the folks who already paid for the chairs. Tell them they are available for pick up.”

Max answered, “Yes sir.”

The two men walked inside and Sam deducted from Rodney’s account the cost of the fuel. Sam showed Rodney that his account had increased over one hundred dollars this week alone. Sam assured Rodney that the other chairs would sell easily and he would have close to $300 in the account. Rodney instructed him to send $100 to Verizon Wireless to double pay his bill so he wouldn’t have to worry about it for a while and to order an item for him. The item was a specific charge controller and would be the first part of Rodney’s PV solar panel system. Sam agreed and Rodney was back on the road in a few minutes.

It was 9:02 on the clock when the Chevy LUV headed north down county road 89. Rodney turned on the radio to entertain himself, but the news was getting worse and worse. He took out a Lock/Lock container of homegrown carrot slices and chomped on them while he drove. The Dow Jones had dropped another 500 points yesterday and today it was opening up 50 points down. Some weird weather the past year had already forced up grocery prices up over 30%. It was a good thing that Rodney produced most of his own food and had everything paid for or he would be negatively affected by the news.

The trip was uneventful and Rodney arrived at the Dumas Commons Mall at 10:09. He parked his truck in an area frequented by the security guards and locked the doors. Rodney walked in carrying his plain black computer backpack. When out in public Rodney tried to appear as gray as possible. Being “gray” meant looking like everyone else. Walking around in camoflauge or OD green military clothing sort of stands out and Rodney wanted everyone to ignore him.

Rodney walked, still slightly limping, past the stores of clothes and shoes. He walked past the stores of electronics and music CD’s. He walked past the store of decorative pictures and frames and walked right into the store so named “Executive Jewelry and Coin.” He walked through the front set of doors into what appeared to be a glass walled foyer.

The foyer was not made of glass but a bullet resistant barrier. The second set of doors was opened by a pressure pad on the floor, but would not open till the first set closed. A panic switch, which was worn buy the three employees inside could disable the inner pads and lock the two doors. You might steal something from this place, but you weren’t going to get very far.

A young woman behind the counter smiled at Rodney as he entered, “Welcome. Can I help you with anything today?”

Rodney had not met this woman before thus explaining why she did not recognize him. Her nametag read “Charlotte.” Rodney returned the smile, “Would you please inform Mr. McGaha there is someone here to speak with him please? He is expecting me.”

“And you are?”

Rodney’s smile dropped, “Since he is expecting me, does the process of you informing Mr. McGaha that I am here, require that information?”

Charlotte’s eyes grew a bit cold as she looked at Rodney for a few long still moments. Finally came the answer, “Not at all, sir.” She walked behind the counter and into the back room.

A few more moments passed then a very charismatic man in his early thirties walked out and waved Rodney to the back office. Charlotte was standing beside the man and bowed her eyes as Rodney walked past her and the man to the back office. Both men sat down in the smaller office as Rodney started the conversation, “Good to see you again Mike.”

“You too cousin. What is wrong with your leg?”

“Had a bout of stupidity and twisted my ankle. Trying to stay off of it for a day or two more. How is your mother?”

“She is doing great. She says to tell her favorite nephew thank you for the time you spent with her after her stroke. If you hadn’t been able to sit with her for those 3 weeks, I do not know what we would have done.”

“That is what family is for,” said Rodney then paused. “Well, down to business.”

“Sure. We had a pretty good month and I have been selling those gold ounces off for you.” Mike pulled up a screen on his computer. “Minus my cut and the ordered parts you still have twelve hundred nineteen dollars. In addition, there are five remaining unsold gold eagles. If you want to drop the price on them a little, I probably could sell them a little quicker.”

Rodney smiled and rolled his eyes, “You and I both know the spot price keeps going up. They will sell soon. I am probably gonna ask for you to sell a few more.”

Mike smiled, nodded and handed a print out of the ledger to date over to his cousin. “The parts that you wanted have already come in.” Mike picked up the first invoice and read, “First is the 135watt Kyrocera 12 volt Solar Panel. Altenergystore.com had them on sale for fifty dollars off.”

Rodney immediately inhaled through his teeth, “Oh man, I should have went ahead and took advantage of that sale.”

Mike smiled, “Way ahead of you. Instead of just the one panel that you wanted I ordered two. I know that you don’t like me using your money when you don’t know where it is going, so consider it a gift and a serious thank you from Mom and the entire family.”

“Thank you, Mike. I appreciate that. You really didn’t have to, but it will be very appreciated. Did you get the other items?”

“Yes sir. The inverter you specified (that will automatically remote start your genset to charge up the batteries), four six volt two hundred amp hour batteries, cables and connectors. If you will pull around to the back of the store, I will help you load them into the truck.”

“Mike you are the best.” The two men continued to talk concerning the balance of Rodney’s gold and silver at the store and how much should be sold over the next three months. He handed Mike a printout of a list of fruit trees from meyerlemontree.com and had Mike order the 6 trees listed (e.g. 2 Kumquat, 2 Pear and 2 Tangerine). It was always better to plant trees in pairs instead of one tree at a time. It helped the pollination.

They would be shipped Sam’s Store which is where Rodney got all of his supplies shipped to. He also picked up two half ounce gold eagles and twenty silver eagles from Mike to be used to barter for an unrelated bull calf and to have on hand just in case. Rodney made plans to come back in April and order more supplies, and he would decide what the next improvements to the farm would be.

Mike shook Rodney’s hand and left nodding to the lady behind the counter as he walked out the door. Rodney continued straight through the mall and out to the truck. He slid his backpack into the passenger seat and fired up the engine. Two more stops and he would head back home.

Rodney pulled into the Dumas Area Food Bank parking lot. The food bank was a soup kitchen and a place where needed people could get free food from food that was donated to them. Rodney had heard the place was helping many people in the area who had lost their jobs and were otherwise on bad times. It was a quarter to noon and he was getting a little hungry.

There was a small line at the front of the office, but he pulled around back to the delivery door. He got out of his truck and knocked on the door. The door opened and a short slightly overweight and slightly balding man popped his head out saying, “Hello. I am sorry, but you have to go stand in line in the front.”

Rodney giggled, “I am not trying to get food. I am giving.” It was then that Rodney noticed a woman sitting in an older diesel Chevrolet Suburban parked beside him. It was sort of an odd site to see a small petite woman sitting behind the wheel of the larger truck. The Suburban looked as if the paint was peeling off and the tires were a bit worn. It had definitely seen its better days.

“What’s that?” the older man asked.

Rodney turned back to him. “I need to drop off some food for you to pass out,” Rodney said as he smiled to the little man who was actually listening now.

“Oh, well. In that case, thank you very much. What have you got?”

Rodney motioned to the truck, “Several store bought cans of vegetables and a 5 gallon bucket of white hard wheat.” The store bought vegetable cans were nearing there expiration dates in two more months. The five gallon bucket was from his prepped stores, but it was about to expire in another year and he needed to rotate it out. Rodney was trying to cut back on his carbs and he just couldn’t eat it all himself. He thought about feeding it to the cows, but knew it would do more good here.

“Wheat?! What are we supposed to do with that?”

Rodney’s eyebrows shot up as he answered, “Mill it and then cook it.”

“What does this look like a bakery?” The man paused a moment then continued, “I’ll take the vegetables, but you can keep your wheat.”

Rodney almost told the man to forget it, but his compassionate side stopped him. He handed the man a half of a grocery bag full of canned vegetables. The man smiled, said thanks and went back inside.

He turned back to his truck and the woman was immediately in front of him. He startled for a second as his hand immediately went into his jacket pocket.

Also startled she blurted out, “I am sorry. Oh please, I am sorry.” She nervously paused and her shoulder length brunette hair covered her face a bit. “Did you say you had some food?”

“Yes, I did. Do you need some?”

Her head bowed slightly, “Uh, yes sir, if you don’t mind.” She pulled her coat a little tighter. “They won’t let me have any food because I do not live in this area.”

Rodney motioned to the truck with his left hand as he kept his right hand in his jacket pocket. “It’s just whole wheat, but you can make bread from it easily enough.”

They both walked to the truck as she started talking all at once, “Oh, yes sir. My momma taught me how to cook. I can handle it.” Rodney popped the lid off with the lid wrench and tugged at the mylar bag inside to get the wheat out. It was difficult, but the bag finally slid.

“Sorry but I need the bucket,” Rodney said. She reached with two slender arms and took the bag of wheat.

“Not a problem.” She held it with one hand and offered the other in greetings, “My name is Martha.”

Rodney paused a second before pulling his right hand out and shook her hand. “Rodney.”

She smiled and continued, “Thanks for this,” she said as she jiggled the bag of wheat. “I moved to Dumas eight weeks ago from the country. Only found one job and I got laid off two weeks ago from that. Wouldn’t happen to know of anyone hiring around here would you?”

“Sorry no, I am not from here and the way things are in the economy I think any job will be a bit hard to come by.”

“Ah, well thanks again,” and she nervously made her way back to the car.

Rodney turned back to the truck and left. As he got to the edge of the parking lot he looked back to the unmoved Suburban. Just then he caught a glimpse of her hungrily shoving the wheat grains into her mouth. Rodney knew better than to get involved with someone so desperate, but he pulled the truck back into the parking lot and up to the truck.

She was trying to hide the wheat when Rodney tapped on the window. He saw loose clothes piled in the backseat and some smaller furniture poking out underneath the pile. She rolled down the window slightly.

“Want to go get a bite to eat? On me?” Rodney offered.

Martha looked questioningly at him. “Uh….” Is all she could manage to get out.

“Look, you are hungry, I am about to go eat anyways and I would like to talk to you about a job offer. How good are you with breakfast foods?”

Rodney did not eat out very much. On occasion he ate at the bar-b-que restaurant near his home where he busted tables or a seafood restaurant nearby, but the visits were few and far between. Over the next half hour Rodney and Martha sat, talked and ate at the country style restaurant on the south side of Dumas. Well, actually she did most of the eating and Rodney did most of the talking.

Rodney had never seen anyone eat so fast in his life. After Martha had finished off the main course, she started asking questions about the job offer. Rodney explained the situation at Sam’s Store. Martha agreed that she was interested, but shamefully admitted she was living out of her truck, had no place to live and not enough fuel to get there and back.

After a lengthy phone call to Sam, Rodney and Martha stuck up a deal. Martha would go interview with Sam and if she did not get it, he would pay for her gas back. No harm, no foul. If she did get it, then he would let her park her car at his place until she could locate a place to live. There were a couple of older smaller houses for rent in the area and she might afford one of them. Martha smiled and shook hands to seal the deal.

Before they left Martha had asked for a “to go” box where she kept every scrap of food she had left which was basically some fries and a half eaten piece of bread, she pocketed her extra napkin and poured the remaining contents of her glass into a small thermos she kept in her large purse. She even place two packs of catsup in a Ziploc bag that was also in her purse.

For the first few miles of the trip back to Sam’s store, Rodney kept looking in the rear view mirror half expecting the Suburban to turn around back into town. Rodney was surprised after the first 20 minutes had past that the SUV was still following the Luv Truck. He pulled over at a large warehouse looking place.

Martha pulled up next to Rodney’s truck. After rolling the window down, Martha asked why they were stopping? Rodney explained, “Just got a little errand inside.”

“What is this place?” Martha asked.

“It is a surplus store called The Outpost,” Rodney answered. “Want to come in and look around?” As soon as Rodney said it, he had wished he hadn’t. The way she took those things from the table she might be more than just frugal. She might be desperate to actually steal something.

“Sure,” she answered as she got out. She tapped Rodney’s shoulder as they were walking to the surplus store entrance, “How far are we away from the Store?”

“Oh, it is a good 45 minutes more. I promise this will be quick.”

As they walked in Martha spied the bathroom and motioned to Rodney that she was heading that way. Rodney nodded back. Martha made her way through a row of camping gear and noticed a few items on her way.

“Mr. McKaleb!” came the voice of a little girl. Rodney turned to see a blonde pig tailed little girl no more than nine years old bolting toward him. She jumped into the air and hugged his neck.

Rodney faked a backache and lowered the girl to the floor. “Ouch..Oh.. Tonya, you are too big for that. You are growing like a weed girl. You are gonna break my back!” Tonya giggled back at him as she let go. “Where is your Mom?”

“Right here,” came a voice from behind the counter.

Rodney walked to the woman and hugged her neck too as both their faces grew a bit longer. Susan Striblin was the widow of Rodney’s best friend. He had died six years ago in a deadly car accident. Susan had continued running her husband’s store and continued to raise her daughter on her own. Rodney tried to check in on her whenever he could. Of course, her running the only military surplus store for about 300 miles helped him come up with an excuse too.

Just then Martha exited the bathroom and Rodney looked to Susan. “Hey this is an acquaintance of mine, her name is Martha. Be nice, she is sort of down on her luck.” Susan looked at Rodney as innocently as she could and punch him in the shoulder right before Martha looked there way. “Hello there. My name is Susan.”

“Martha…. Martha Lott,” she responded. It just dawned on Rodney he had not even asked her last name. Martha looked around nervously not liking the attention.

“Susan, did you get that package for me?” Rodney asked.

Susan smiled, “Yes, of course. I brought him this morning. Drive around back.”

After driving around back Rodney saw in the back of Susan’s truck a large chicken cage with a young New Hampshire rooster in it. Susan had brought it from a family member's farm. Rodney would use it to add to his small flock of New Hampshire chickens at the farm. Also there was an egg incubator, egg rotator and brooder light. Susan started to load the cage over to Rodney’s truck.

“He looks great,” Rodney said. He had selected the chicken breed of New Hampshire because they were dual purpose egg and meat producers. Rodney had a total of 7 hens back on the farm that he used for egg production. He had 18 when he started but had been culling the flock down and eating the meat they produced. Now he would add the unrelated rooster and the meat production would begin again.

Martha asked, “You raise chickens?”

Rodney smiled, “Yes. I have several animals on my small farm. Chickens were the first animals that I started raising. They were cheap to purchase and are cheap to raise. A decent chicken coop and simple fencing provides a home and will keep them safe. They provide meat, eggs and highly concentrated manure for fertilizer. Not too much to raising them.”

Martha smiled like she was hiding something.

After a few minutes of loading the two got back underway and traveled straight to Sam’s Store. Rodney said a few brief words to Sam and his wife, introduced Martha and then waited by the truck and car for Martha to talk with the couple. The interview was short, for a second Rodney thought it was “too short”. However, Martha was bouncing out of the store with a smile on her face, “They said to be back at 5 AM tomorrow.”

Martha and Rodney traveled to the farm and Rodney showed her where to park her car. Martha got out and evaluated the farm. “Now this is cute. You HAVE got a little farm going. Oh, French Lop rabbits!” she said as she walked to the rabbit cages beside the barn.

“You know your rabbits.”

“I will have to admit that I was raised on a small farm. We raised rabbits, chickens, pigs and cows.” Martha said a little shyly. She looked at the dirt filled broken steel pin beneath the rabbit cages. “What is this?”

Rodney used a small stick to scoop up some of the dirt to reveal its tenants. “Worms.”

Martha nodded, “Raising worms?”

“The rabbit droppings feed the worms.”

“Waste not, want not,” they miraculously said together at the exact same time then immediately laughed.

“Right you are. Very smart. I hadn’t thought of that. It also is great fertilizer. You might want to take it a bit farther though and raise some Brim, Catfish or Tilapia fish in a small pond or tank. Use the worms to supplement the feeding of the fish.”

After Rodney fired up the generator, they spent the afternoon introducing the rooster to the hens, feeding the animals, milking the cows and cleaning up a bit. By the time supper came around Rodney was ready to offer Martha a little bit more on the deal. Martha was unpacking a few things from her car when Rodney said, “Listen, there is no need of you to stay out here in the cold. I can sleep on the couch and …”

“No honestly you don’t have to worry I will be fine.” Martha started unpacking what appeared to be a small tent. “If you don’t mind, I can set this up on the back side of the barn and be perfectly fine.”

The tent was a thick canvas material and once erected it was a full 12’x12’ in dimensions. The unique thing is that the tent was outfitted with a chimney hole. Martha pulled out next a very small square stove. She explained it was a Sheepherder’s “Packer” Stove. Within a few minutes she had the tent and stove assembled and ready to go.

Rodney impressed at her resourcefulness showed her to the wood pile and set her up with enough wood for the night. “You don’t have to keep a very big fire going. It is pretty easy to heat the tent enough to stay warm in,” Martha explained.

“Well, would you like to come in for dinner?”

“Please,” Martha answered and then quickly added appearing very appreciative. She then said, "Could I trouble you for a shower?"

Rodney blushed. He had forgotten all about her needing a shower. “Oh, of course.” He immediately headed inside and started the fire in the stove. He decided that since she would be a while he might just go all out and fix a nice dinner for his guest. He took two back pieces of a butchered chicken and placed it into some boiling water on the stove. He also managed to start a small pot of field peas in another boiler before Martha came in.

Within a few moments he had to shown her the bathroom and gotten her settled. He presented her with a small bar of soap and a small bottle of shampoo. These travel sized portions were taken from a hotel that Rodney had used in the past while out of town. He gave her a towel and returned to preparing the meal.

“Is it ok if I take a bath? I will take a shower if a bath would waste too much water.”

Now Rodney was acting shy. “I use a water well. Feel free to use as much as you like.”

Dumplings were pretty simple to prepare. First you boiled some chicken to the point the chicken was falling off of the bone. It did not have to be the breast or other good parts. The back pieces that were generally frowned on would do fine.

As those were boiling you sift flour, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Cut in shortening and then stir in water until mixture forms a ball. Shape the dough into balls. Then roll out the balls and cut the dough into small squares. When the chicken starts to fall off of the bone add the squares to the boiling pot and add salt and pepper to taste. In a few more minutes the chicken and dumplings were ready.

Martha was in the bathroom for a good 35 minutes before the door finally opened. “I do love a good bath. I haven’t had a long one like that in a while,” Martha said as she came into the living room. She now wore a pair of sweat pants and some sort of fleece pull over. Her dirty clothes were in a bag at her side.

Rodney stood looking at her for a slightly uncomfortable moment then said, “Dinner is ready. Chicken and dumplings, field peas and tea.” Martha added her left over bread from lunch and the meal was ready.

The two ate and once again struck up a conversation quickly. The first topic was the plan for the next day. Martha would leave out a little before 5AM to make sure to be there on time and would work until they didn’t need her. Rodney would do his morning chores then back to town to bust tables at the restaurant. Martha agreed to just hang out at the farm until Rodney made it back.

Martha noticed the alternator that was hooked up to the exercise bike and asked about it. Then Rodney explained that it was his way of forcing himself to stay off of the Internet. When his legs wore out he got off the Internet. Rodney commented that with all the information out there he could spend all day online.

Martha then turned the conversation to Sam and his wife asking what kind of people they were. Rodney explained that Sam was extremely trustworthy and told her of his arrangement of barter with the items that he sold at Sam’s. She asked if Rodney thought that Sam would create the same deal with her? Rodney simply answered that she would need to take that up with Rodney.

Rodney ended dinner with a small portion of a king sized Hershey’s Chocolate Bar for them both. He had a sweet tooth and just a small piece of the chocolate bar usually hit the spot. The chocolate was wonderful to Martha. It was a welcomed sweet right before bed.

After dinner Martha thanked Rodney and said her good nights. He started to walk her out to make sure she could find her way in the dark, but Martha answered simply, “No need.” She then put her shoes back on and produced a Kaito Voyager hand crank radio/light from the bag. Rodney appeared interested in the device so Martha gave him a closer look at it. The radio had a flashlight built into it and could even be used to charge a cell phone. You could charge the radio itself by plugging it in to an AC outlet, twisting the crank dynamo or use the small built in solar panel.

The day went much as expected except that when Rodney woke and made it outside Martha was already gone. He thought for a second that she might have finally tucked tail and run, but her tent was still here and she did not seem the type to leave something that valuable behind.

It was a bit of a long day. Time seemed to slow down at the restaurant and it was a bit longer today than Rodney remembered it in the past. Rodney’s ankle had started to ache a little after running around on it. Guess the strain had not fully healed yet. He collected his shared tip money from the other servers, said his goodbyes and left. For some reason the Chevy Luv Truck made its way to the local department store. Rodney hated these stores, but he wanted to put together something for Martha.

When he made it back to the farm he saw Martha coming around the barn with a big smile on her face. “Hey there,” he said.

“Hey there yourself,” she answered back. “I got a surprise for you.”

“What surprise?”

She smiled bigger if that was possible, “It is in the back of the barn.” They walked around the barn and she made him cover his eyes. Then with a “Ta Da!” she pulled his hands down and he saw the surprise.

At first he did not understand it. It was an “A” framed little house about 4 feet wide and about 5 feet tall. The top half of the house was closed in with plywood and the bottom was opened. It was like a little triangle house on stilts.

“Now I know that it is not finished, but if you cover the bottom part with chicken wire and put some hinges and latches here so these doors on the top will open, you will have a fully functional chicken tractor.”

Rodney’s eye brow raised up, “A chicken tractor?”

“You put the chickens in it and they scrape and chew up the ground that is lying underneath. They also add their droppings to the soil to fertilize it. Up in the top there are laying bins and a roost. It is also a place to get out of the cold. We can cover the whole thing with a tarp which will add to the insulation.”

Rodney knew he could move a couple of the chickens into the tractor at a time or help raise the meat chickens separate from the main flock. The chicken tractor was a wooden framed enclosure that could be moved around the garden or lawn to allow the chickens access to the grass to sort of free range through the area. When the grass at one place was depleted the tractor could be slid to another fallow area of the garden.

“Where did you get the wood for this?”

Martha was smiling again, “Well, this fellow stopped by the store this morning. His truck was piled with lumber to throw away and I sweet talked him into letting me take the best pieces.”

Rodney’s stomach turned over for a second for some reason. Then Martha continued, “I saw all of your wood working tools and borrowed some of the hand tools and some screws. It didn’t take too much to put together. There is even a ‘left over’ pile. Several more 2x4’s and a little bit of plywood. I thought I needed to repay you for the hospitality you have shown me. So, thank you.”

It was then that Rodney remembered his trip to the store. “Oh I got something for you.” He quickly walked back to the truck and pulled out the bag. “Nothing special. I just thought that you would like them.”

Martha opened the bag to see several different bath soaps with different fragrances, some candles and several types of moisturizing shampoos. As she looked through the bath items smiling more and more as she noticed the next bottle, Rodney walked toward the barn to retrieve some of the stored chicken wire that he had put up in the back of the barn.
 

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Knocked Down But Up Again
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Beautiful!! An excellent work of storytelling, my friend. Will there be more on the Horizon for Rodney and Martha?
 
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