By Cindy and Walt
We had about half the shit from one greenhouse ready to begin processing. First Steve and I planted the seeds to try to get a start on the next cycle of seedlings ready. The seedlings for the house we had just completed harvesting were ready to plant as well, but the soil in the house needed to be prepared. That meant we would be doing that as well.
The grooming took only a day since there was less than half a crop. It was a long day to be sure, but it was still just a day. The bags were sealed and ready to transport by 6 PM.
“I know the payday is going to be short this quarter, if you need to cut cost, I don’t really need to be paid. I’ll work for board and cigarette money,” Steve said.
“Funny you should say that. Is someone else paying you?” I asked.
“No I’m between jobs. But like you, I don’t need much,” he said.
“Well tomorrow we will spend the day selling this crop, then come home and start all over again,” I suggested. “That will include paying your salary. There just won’t be a bonus, if that makes you feel better.”
“It does,” Steve said smiling.
That night I read everything I could on how to get the place secured. Hell I was up past midnight making the plan.
The ride into town was especially difficult since I was half asleep. It was hard to get the muscle power matched with the battery for maximum efficiency. Steve had only the gearing to deal with as he worked his way down the road. He actually was within sight of me, when I pulled into the parking lot of the Dairy Queen.
“I am having a bad morning,” I said.
“It doesn’t become you to make excuses,” Steve said. We were at the door when Bart came tooling in.
“You are late,” I suggested to the man who was almost always seated when we arrived.
“Way too much Rita last night,” he explained.
“And that is way too much information,” I said with a laugh.
“Strange, I get the distinct impression you two are getting chummy,” Bart said.
“Bart for god’s sake she is a lawyer,” I replied.
“Well, she wants me to talk to you,” Bart said.
“About what?” I asked.
“Hannah,” Bart said.
“She is going inside,” I guessed.
“Yeah, she doesn’t know for how long, but Hannah knew about the break-in and withheld the information,” Bart said. “I guess the temptation was too much.”
“So she decided being cool was more important than her friends,” I said almost angrily.
“It was new friends versus old friends,” Bart said.
“I suppose so. I guess us old friends weren’t screwing her, so she fucked us,” I said being a little more vulgar than Bart was used to. It wasn’t the first time I said it by any means, it just wasn’t my usual vocabulary.
“Did you know that Sylvia was going to call you?” Bart asked.
“What, are you and Sylvia asshole buddies now?” I asked. I was a little miffed that Sylvia gave people around me information on our relationship.
“You know Rita has been her lawyer since before she was a Sheriff,” he said.
“Yeah back in the good old days, whenever that was?” I asked.
“Yeah like that,” Bart explained. “Anyway she asked Rita how you and Steve were getting on. That’s when she decided to call.
“In that case I will turn my phone off today,” I said. “We are going to Mobile with a load of pot for the USDA warehouse there. I don’t need the distraction.”
“So, you will have to talk to her eventually,” Bart said.
“Sure, when I don’t have fighting off hijackers on my mind,” I agreed.
After breakfast Steve and I dug out the small electric tow motor. With it we pulled a small trailer filled with pot. It required several trips to the back of the truck to move even the smaller than normal load. The path between the sheds and the houses wasn’t wide enough for the truck. It was extra work but I preferred that to collapsing a green house while trying to squeeze the truck into the path between the sheds and the greenhouses.
It was 10 AM before we were on the road to Mobile. The two hour drive made me a little nervous. First of all Steve was driving and that made me nervous. He was a high functioning victim of PTSD. He was also a ticking bomb. Being sympathetic wasn’t the same as denying the truth. He could go off at any time and hurt someone even me.
Steve wasn’t in therapy. He was being warehoused by me in the hopes he would exorcise his demons. He hadn’t been so bad by that time so that I worried about him becoming violent.
“So, how do you like farming,” I asked.
“You know my dad gardened in the back yard. This is a lot like that so far. I never figured out what he got from it. He spent more on tools and crap than he saved. Hell he gave most of the shit away. It all came in at the same time. Now I think I know. It is more about the peace,” Steve confided in me.
“And of course the pot,” I said smiling.
“That too,” he said with a smile.
We didn’t stop even for gas on the way to the warehouse. When we got there Steve stayed with the truck while I made the arrangements. Even though there was a guard on the gate, I didn’t feel secure about the pot. I had been a little paranoid since the break in. I would only feel safe when the pot was out of the truck and I had the money in my account.
That took another half hour of mostly waiting, but finally we were free to leave the USDA warehouse and purchase center. It was a short drive to the Mobile Family Steak House. We were in time for the late lunch crowd, so we ate in a noisy restaurant. I was extremely pleased that Steve didn’t flip out. With Steve I could never quite be sure he wouldn’t go off on someone.
I turned my phone on during the drive home. Of course there were messages from Sylvia just as Bart had promised. I placed the call and was put right through to her. “Hello Sylvia, what can I do for you?” I asked.
“How is Steve working out?” she asked as an answer.
“He is doing just fine. He might be quite the pot farmer one day soon,” I replied. I knew there was more to the call than asking about Steve.
“How would you like another one?” she asked.
“I don’t really need any more help,” I said.
“I think you might need some more help soon,” she said ominously.
“If Steve and I can’t do it. I’m not sure an army could help me,” I said.
“Rita tells me you are looking for a junk yard dog,” Sylvia said.
“I would prefer you and Rita found something else to talk about,” I suggested.
“Quit being a hard ass and listen,” Sylvia said. “I got a former dog handler and trainer with the army’s rangers. He did two tours in the sandbox and he wants to work with dogs again. You are looking for a dog. If you have a dog, you need a handler. Frankly he needs a soft landing spot.”
“I guess we can find room for him,” I said. “What’s his name?”
“Sterlin Bright, he will be there tomorrow afternoon,” she said.
“You in that big a hurry to get rid of him?” I asked.
“He said he has had enough killing, so he isn’t much use to me,” she said.
“Well we aren’t a war zone here just yet,” I replied. “I want to do something with dogs that is true. Okay, I will find someplace for him to stay.”
“Good and thanks Rose,” Sylvia said.
“Some days I feel that you are still trying to make up for the year in paradise,” I said. “Then other days I believe you want me to run your emotional rehab clinic.”
“Well don’t let it worry you. As long as it works, go with it,” she said, laughed, then hung up on me.
We had plants to go into the house we had harvested already. So we didn’t need to do anything but start doing it. “So I guess I’ll run the tiller in the number one house,” he informed me when we arrived back in the compound.
“Then I’ll get my little stool with wheels and plant the seedlings. Go easy on the fertilizer this time. I don’t want to take any chances with for the next few cycles,” I suggested.
When we returned to the Catfish Farm we began our ambitious late afternoon’s work. The next morning after breakfast we continued working in the number one green house. Sylvia’s latest cast off arrived after noon. Sterlin Bright drove, of all things, a Cadillac sedan. Boy was he going to be out of place here, I thought.
I made the introduction then suggested Sterlin just make himself at home. “We will be making our plans over dinner. If you want you can either familiarize yourself with the place or jump right in and give us a hand.”
“Sylvia said I would be in charge of security for the farm,” Sterlin said. He was standing in the parking lot while he explained his purpose.”
“Yes I suppose that is right. At least at first we still have to discuss the other things,” I said.
“You need blast walls around that gate with a switchback,” he said.
“Sterlin it’s not that kind of threat. Why don’t you drop your bag in the travel trailer for right now? We can work all this out over dinner,” I suggested.
“Okay, but I told Sylvia I ain’t no farmer,” he said.
“That’s cool, we will find something else for you to do,” I suggested. He came back in fatigues and began helping me plant the seedlings. With his hands added to mine we kept Steve working hard to stay ahead of us with the cultivator tool. He pulled it behind the very slow electric tow motor.
“Rose, I really would like to use your shower, I don’t think I can get clean with that small amount of water,” Sterlin said as we put the tools away.
“Sure feel free, just don’t run around my house naked,” I said joking.
“Don’t worry, I promise I’ll behave,” he said.
“There is a cold water sink you can wash up in over in shed where we keep the tools. You can wash your hands there,” I suggested.
“That’s fine,” Sterlin said as he walked to shed one.
“What do you think?” I asked Steve.
“I think he is probably OCD, as well as PTSD,” Steve said. (Note: OCD = Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; PTSD = Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
“Aren’t you just the little therapist,” I said mockingly. “Make yourself useful and go get some steaks and fancy bread. We can cook them outside.”
The farm’s cooker came from Sam. He had taken a metal five gallon bucket and cut a door in the open end. The closed end had a few holes drilled on the side away from the door. There was a metal grill like an oven rack that lays on the top. In a platform of three concrete blocks I built a fire using easy light charcoal. I started it the moment Steve left for the steaks. The bucket went over the fire after I was sure it would stay lit. I wondered how the OCD Sterlin would feel about steak cooked that way.
It was simple. He took the metal rack from the can, then went to the tool shed and cleaned it in the sink. When he came back with it, the thing was almost spotless.
We drank beer from the can and talked about the farm and the physical layout. “We have thirty five acres more or less. Ten of them are in this compound. That’s the parking lot, the sheds and the greenhouses,” I said.
“Forget what I said earlier about walls and blast lanes. So tell me what you think you want to do?” Sterlin demanded. He was a little lacking in the social graces for sure.
“I’m thinking eight foot chain link fence with three strands of low voltage barb wire on top,” I said.
“Low voltage is for cattle not the enemy,” Sterlin said.
“If we kill them, we are all going to jail,” Steve explained so I wouldn’t have to.
“Better to be the one on trial, than the one in the morgue,” Sterlin said.
“I have been in prison. I think it is better to be the one who is free, and alive. So let’s make the security work that way. What do you think of the fence and barbed wire running a fifteen volts and five amps?” I asked.
“I think it will sting, but not burn the man or animal. I do assume you plan to go higher than the animals,” Sterlin suggested.
“Eight feet high around the compound not sure about the other twenty five acres. I am open to suggestions at any time,” I said.
“Dog, or dogs, out after dark. Then back in the kennel early in the morning,” Sterlin suggested.
“You know that leaving them out all night will get one or more of them killed, if someone really wants to come in?” Steve suggested.
“I love dogs, but better him than us,” Sterlin said. Something about the way he looked when he said it gave me the impression that being the dog’s killer would not be a recipe for long life.
“Two fences one eight feet and wired, then an inner fence six feet high and five feet inside the other,” Sterlin said.
I nodded, “but make the run ten feet wide.” I did really listen. After that I was comparing the two men. Their hair was a different color. It wasn’t exactly cut the same either. Sterlin was about three or four inches taller and a little heavier but they could easily be mistaken for brothers. Brothers in Sylvia’s little band of cut throats, I thought.
“That’s going to cost a bloody fortune,” Steve said.
“I won’t have my dogs on chains,” Sterlin said.
“Nor will I,” I said in agreement. “But we also need a place for you guys to live and then a place for the dogs. First thing tomorrow Sterlin, Steve will start showing you the farming ropes. You do that in the morning, after lunch you find us a cheap fence builder then a building contractor who knows his ass from first base. If you don’t want to take that on, you can help with the farming while Steve does it,” I said. “It’s your choice.”
“How do I go about finding someone who can build a fence cheap,” Sterlin asked.
“Tomorrow at lunch you go to the diner downtown. You ask for the lunch lady special of the day. You look at the bulletin board while the boxer fixes it. If there are no fence builders on the board, you ask for Miss Sadie. It you find her, ask her if she knows a fence builder,” I said.
“Got it,” Sterlin replied.
“I buy breakfast for my employees, If you want to come Steve will give you the details,” I explained.
After dinner they disappeared. I didn’t know or want to know where they went or what they did. I noticed the lights went out in the trailer at 11 PM. Well that’s a good beginning, I thought. Maybe Sterlin would give Steve someone to talk to and even someone to relate to.
At 5 AM the next morning I rode off to breakfast. I didn’t expect either of them to show, but the Caddy passed me a few hundred yards from the Dairy Queen. When I got into the restaurant, the three men were all seated together. Steve had made the introductions.
“Well don’t you three just look as thick as thieves,” I commented as I sat down.
“There are thing you just wouldn’t understand,” Sterlin said.
I saw Bart start to speak, but I stopped him with a hand signal. Yeah you are right, I wouldn’t understand,” I said. I sat back while they discussed the military. Sterlin was right I had absolutely no idea what they were running on about. I didn’t even get it when they talked about the Swamp. My experience was almost entirely with Church Camp. Sterlin and Steve didn’t seem to have any experience with Church Camp.
“What a bunch of children,” the voice in my head known as Liam said.
“So what are your plans for today?” Bart asked. He sounded almost envious that the three of us were going to be working together.
“First of all we are going to teach Sterlin the basics of growing pot. Then he is going to start reassessing our security situation,” I said.
“Oh what changes do you have in mind?” Bart asked. I just knew he was going to take it personal, that I felt like his buddy’s high tech system was crap.
“We are going with a double fence and dogs,” I suggested. “I have a couple of more things in mind but I’m going to hold off till we get it all ready to go.”
“So do either of you know who this Miss Sadie is?” Sterlin asked.
“Not a clue,” Steve said.
“Oh so Rose didn’t explain who Miss Sadie is?” Bart asked. “Well I sorta know who she is, but I don’t know if I can explain it satisfactorily.”
“But I’m sure you will figure it out,” I said before Bart let the cat out of the bag. I also didn’t know how she felt about Hannah getting arrested twice.
“Okay, you want him to learn for himself, I get it but he might not be a match for her,” Bart said.
“He will do fine. She isn’t dangerous or anything,” I said with a smile. I would like to have seen Sterlin when he met Miss Sadie, I thought.
After breakfast the three of us went back to work in the greenhouses. I left Sterlin and Steve pressing seeds into little molds filled with rich soil. When I finished the misting, I helped move the seed beds into the edges of the greenhouse that had about three weeks to go till it was to be harvested.
“Okay Sterlin go to the diner in town and get me the name of a contractor that someone vouches for and someone to build the fences at a good price,” I demanded.
“Do you think he can find a builder and a fence company?” Steve asked.
“Oh, I’m sure of it,” I said smiling to myself. Steve didn’t know about Miss Sadie’s huge family, but I did.
Steve and I worked through lunch, but Sterlin brought us meat loaf sandwiches from the diner. It was worth stopping to eat them even if it was 2 PM.
“So did you find a builder someone said good things about?” I asked.
“I did indeed,” Sterlin said. He is going to come out tomorrow afternoon to have a sit down with you.
“Good work. How about your fence man?” I asked with my confidence in Sterlin growing.
“He should be here anytime now,” he said.
“We have the house almost finished planting. I can finish up what little there is to do, why don’t you two draw a bare bones building plan while I finish. If the fence man comes have him come talk to me.”
It was after five when Jason, the fence man, arrived. I had the house planted and the rolling seat back in the potting and harvesting shed when he arrived. I had also just poured myself a coffee.
We met on the picnic table. I had bought it from Hannah’s uncle. Even then we needed a place to sit in the sun when we stopped for lunch. The fence man sat down across from me. He was a large black man who didn’t appear to have done a lot of hard labor.
“Well Miss Martin, I know some things about you and Mr. Bart. So you just tell me what you want and I’ll make it happen,” he said.
“We are going to need a couple of weeks to clear the area for you, but when we do, I am going to want an eight foot chain link fence with three strands of barbed wire on top. The barbed wire has to be inside insulators so it can carry a charge. Then inside that a clear space of ten feet. Then I’m going to want a six foot fence.” I want that all the way around the perimeter of the compound.
“You got any idea how much wire that is going to take?” he asked.
“A hell of a lot I expect,” I said. “Sterlin here will walk you around it, then you come back with an estimate for me. I will most likely get more than one estimate.”
“You can call me when you get the price, and we will go from there,” I said.
“Miss Martin, I know where there is a factory gonna be torn down. It had more than enough eight foot wire but it is old. This wire stays strong forever, but it is rusty here and there,” the fence man said.
“I could give a shit less about what it looks like,” I said.
“I also don’t do electric fence. The factory has the barb wire but it isn’t electric. I can make you a good deal if you skip that part,” Jason said.
“Okay give us the price with the wire, but no current,” I said.
“My son will have to come back and measure the amount of materials I need. I don’t have any idea how that computer works,” he said. Looking at him I decided that he just didn’t want to walk through the woods.
“Make it early when they get here. That is if they want to meet with anyone here,” I said.
After he left I said to Sterlin and Steve, “You two walk the perimeter with a can of spray paint. You can mark the path for the fence with it. Sterlin you take the lead since you are the security and dog man. Get a price for a kennel while you are at it. We just might go into the guard dog business.”
“Do we have a can of paint,” Sterlin asked.
“No but there is a Walmart in Williamston. Go buy a couple of cans of orange.” I reached in the pocket of my jeans for my wallet made from a cereal box. It was really just a long piece of cardboard cut from a cereal box. Then I folded into three sections. It was where I carried my folded cash and drivers license, when I didn’t want to fool with a purse, which was most of the time. From it I removed then handed a twenty dollar bill to Steve.
“Let’s take my Caddy and we can stop for dinner. I’ll even buy,” Sterlin said.
“Aren’t you going with us,” Steve asked.
“No I think one of us should stay here. At least till we get these security issues settled,” I replied.